Ex-Saudi Crown Prince under House Arrest after Royal Reshuffling: Report

 June 29, 2017

Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

The deposed crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Nayef, has reportedly been put under house arrest after the recent reshuffling in the country’s royal succession.

On Wednesday, the New York Times cited four current and former American officials and Saudis close to the royal family as saying on condition of anonymity that Mohammed bin Nayef has been barred from leaving the country and confined to his palace in the coastal city of Jeddah.

The guards at Mohammed bin Nayef’s palace in Jidda have reportedly been replaced by guards loyal to Mohammed bin Salman and Nayef has not been allowed to leave his palace since then, the report said.

On June 21, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued a royal decree to replace Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud with his own son. According to the decree, the 31-year-old crown prince is also named deputy prime minister and shall maintain his post as defense minister.

The Saudi internal security services have apparently taken the measure in an attempt to limit any potential opposition for the new crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, the NY report said.

The new restrictions were imposed almost immediately after Mohammed bin Salman’s promotion, the report added.

This is while Saudi state news outlets have extensively tried to portray a smooth transition by repeatedly broadcasting a video showing Mohammed bin Salman kissing the hand of Mohammed bin Nayef, who wishes him well.

The Saudi Information Ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment and it is unclear how long the restrictions will remain in place.

However, a senior Foreign Ministry official who spoke with the NY on the phone described the account as “baseless and false.”

A senior US official said the restriction show that the new crown prince does not tolerate “any opposition.” “He does not want any rear-guard action within the family. He wants a straight elevation without any dissent — not that MBN (Mohammed bin Nayef) was plotting anything anyway.”

American officials have not had any formal contact with Mohammed bin Nayef so far, but they are monitoring the situation closely, the official said.

The restrictions have also been imposed on Mohammed bin Nayef’s daughters, the report said. A married daughter was reportedly told to stay at home, but her husband and their children do not face that restriction.

The power struggle inside the House of Saud came to light earlier this year when the Saudi king began to overhaul the government and offered positions of influence to a number of family members.

Young Mohammed bin Salman was little known both at home and abroad before Salman became king in January 2015.

However, King Salman has significantly increased the powers of his favored son, with observers describing the prince as the real power behind his father’s throne.

As the defense minister, Mohammed bin Salman has faced strong international criticism for the bloody military campaign he launched against neighboring Yemen in 2015 amid rivalry with bin Nayef, the then crown prince and interior minister.

Mohammed bin Salman, according to analysts, appears to have orchestrated the Persian Gulf diplomatic crisis, which has seen a Saudi-led bloc of countries cut ties with Qatar and impose an economic siege on the country.

The diplomatic spat broke out days after a summit in Riyadh attended by US President Donald Trump, a staunch supporter of Saudi rulers and, in particular, Mohammed bin Salman.

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Israel reads the words of Nasrollah and the campaign discloses the allies «الإسرائيلي» يقرأ نصرالله والحملة تكشف الحلفاء

 Israel reads the words of Nasrollah and the campaign discloses the allies

Written by Nasser Kandil,

يونيو 30, 2017يونيو 30, 2017

The commentator who is known for his focus on the Arabs affairs in the “Walla ” site, Avi Issacharoff remarked that the series of the recent developments in the war between the Syrian army and the militants indicates that the relative comfort which Israel was interested from the northern front is getting reduced, in other words, the defeat of ISIS is foreshadowing of probable escalation in the north between Israel and the Syrian army and surely Hezbollah. Issacharoff added that what he called as the last years of the Syrian war have driven Hezbollah to restrict its resources and its capacities for a confrontation with Israel. But in the recent weeks it seemed that this behavior has been changed and the balance has become in favor of the soldiers of the President Bashar Al-Assad, Hezbollah, and Iran. The battles in Mosul in Iraq are getting closer from the end, and it is clear that Raqqa the capital of ISIS in Syria will be the next battle. The Syrian army has achieved notable successes as in Deir Al-Zour in the northern of Syria. Avi Issacharoff indicates that what he called as the different military militias whether those who support Al-Assad or the militants are racing in order to reach the areas from which ISIS withdraws, including the areas which worry Israel more than anything and worry its neighbor from the east Jordan, indicating in this context to the battles which are taking place in Daraa and in the Syrian Golan

While Avi Issacharoff was talking about reflective shells against Israel from time to time, he excluded that there is an intended Syrian shooting, considering that the main Israeli fear is not from sending mortar bombs, however “the most important threat” according to the description of Issacharoff and which its source is the approaching of the allies of the President Al-Assad from the borders with Jordan and the Occupied Palestine. He revealed that there is a coordination with Jordan, but he pointed out that that it is doubtful whether this coordination can prevent or stop what he called the forces supported by Iran specially Hezbollah and its allies of Pakistani, Iraqi, or Afghani origins from approaching the borders with the Israeli entity, adding that what he called as the axis of Hezbollah is progressing while ISIS in no longer exist in this region, concluding that informal Israeli behavior which says” we wish success to the two parties” has become less relevant to the reality after the important successes of one of the parties.

Avi Issacharoff concluded that “the reflection of these successes in Syria and Iraq can be seen and heard in the recent days in Lebanon through the enthusiastic declarations of the Secretary-General of Hezbollah Al Sayyed Hassan Nasrollah who has promised that in the next war with Israel, the airspaces will be open in front of thousands and maybe hundreds of thousands of fighters from all the Arab and the Islamic countries to participate.

Avi Issacharoff is the Middle East analyst for The Times of Israel. Many radio and TV shows host him as a commenter on the Middle East affairs, until 2012, he was the Palestinian and Arab affairs correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, moreover, he is a lecturer in the contemporary Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, he got a bachelor degree with excellence from Ben-Gurion University in the sciences of the Middle East, and got MA from Tel Aviv University in the same subject. He is fluent in Arabic; he is considered the closest analyst to express the military and the security concern and put it to circulation before public opinion. He occupied the position cherished by the famous analyst Ze’ev Schiff until his departure in 2006. His two books which won Israeli awards are “The Seventh War” and “34 Days: Israel, Hezbollah, and the War in Lebanon” they are the most important references for reading the military and the strategic variables that surround Israel’s security.

When you read Issacharoff and listen to Al-Arabiya TV and when you re-read the Saudi campaign in the newspapers funded by Riyadh about the same subject, about what was called by Issacharoff as the echo of the major shifts which threaten the security of Israel entitled Hezbollah, through the words of Al Sayyed Hassan Nasrollah about opening the borders and the airspaces. And when Al Sayyed indicated in his speech to two major shifts that prove the threat, the position of the Popular Crowd and the status of Ansar Allah in the resistance axis, which means common axis with Hezbollah, because the two leaderships of the two teams issued a clear announcement to support Hezbollah in any forthcoming war, and surpassing the borders of the alliance in facing common dangers and the related fate. So after understanding all of that, we conclude that the campaign which targets Hezbollah and the words of Al Sayyed Nasrollah become understood as meeting a request or a decision which started as an Israeli and turned to be American and then it reached to Lebanon and we heard its echoes, but the words of the speech of Al Sayyed are clear, while according to them when the war takes place and if Israel makes an aggression, then there are no place for conditions because the issue becomes the sovereignty of Lebanon, as though, if the aggression occurs it will not affect the sovereignty, so the concern of the objectors is no longer to respond to the assault on sovereignty, but to restrict the confrontation with what does not disturb Israel or confuse it, or maybe it deters it under the pretext of sovereignty, so they volunteered to deter Hezbollah and that was their mission.

 

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

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«الإسرائيلي» يقرأ نصرالله والحملة تكشف الحلفاء

ناصر قنديل

يونيو 28, 2017

– ذكر معلّق الشؤون العربية في موقع «والاه»، آفي يساسخاروف، أن «سلسلة التطورات الأخيرة في الحرب بين الجيش السوري والمسلحين، تشير الى أن مساحة الراحة النسبية التي ملكتها «إسرائيل» على الجبهة الشمالية تتقلّص، وبعبارة أخرى، إن هزيمة «داعش» نفسها، قد تنبئ بتصعيد محتمل في الشمال بين «إسرائيل» وبين الجيش السوري وبالطبع حزب الله.» وأضاف يساسخاروف، أن ما أسماه «السنوات الأخيرة من الحرب السورية دفعت الى تقييد حزب الله بموارده وطاقته أمام مواجهة مع «إسرائيل»، لكن في الأسابيع الأخيرة بدا أن هذا التوجّه تبدّل والميزان يميل لصالح جنود الرئيس بشار الأسد، وحزب الله وإيران. فالمعارك في الموصل في العراق على وشك الانتهاء، ومن الواضح أن التالية ستكون الرقة، عاصمة «داعش» في سورية. حتى على حلبات أخرى فقد سجّل الجيش السوري نجاحات بارزة، مثل منطقة دير الزور شمال الدولة. ويشير آفي يساسخاروف الى أن ما أسماه «الميليشيات العسكرية المختلفة»، سواء المؤيدة للأسد أم المسلحون له، تتسابق الآن على المناطق التي ينسحب منها «داعش»، وبطبيعة الحال منها المنطقة التي تقلق «إسرائيل» أكثر من كل شيء وتقلق أيضًا جارتها من الشرق، الأردن، مشيراً في هذا السياق، إلى المعارك التي تجري في منطقة درعا وكذلك في الجولان السوري.

– وفيما تحدّث يساسخاروف عن وجود قذائف مرتدة نحو الجانب «الإسرائيلي» من حين الى آخر، استبعد أن يكون هنالك إطلاق نار سوري مقصود، معتبراً أنّ الخشية «الإسرائيلية» الأساسية ليست من انزلاق قذائف هاون، وإنما «التهديد الأكثر أهمية»، وفق وصف المعلق يساسخاروف، مصدره اقتراب حلفاء الرئيس الأسد الى الحدود مع الأردن، ومع فلسطين المحتلة، كاشفاً عن وجود تنسيق مع الأردن في هذا الموضوع، لكنه أشار الى أنه من المشكوك فيه إذا كان هذا التنسيق يمكنه أن يمنع أو يوقف اقتراب من أسماها القوات المدعومة من إيران، خصوصاً حزب الله وحلفاءه من القوات ذات الأصول الباكستانية، العراقية، أو الأفغانية الى الحدود مع الكيان «الإسرائيلي»، مضيفاً أنّ ما أسماه بـ«محور حزب الله» يتقدّم بينما تنظيم «داعش» غير موجود في هذه المنطقة، وخالصاً الى أنّ «السلوك الإسرائيلي غير الرسمي الذي يقول: «نتمنّى النجاح للطرفين» أصبح أقلّ ذي صلة بالواقع على ضوء النجاحات المهمة لأحد الأطراف».

– وختم آفي يساسخاروف الى أنّ «انعكاس هذه النجاحات في سورية والعراق يمكن أن نراها ونسمعها في الأيام الأخيرة في لبنان، من خلال التصريحات الحماسية لأمين عام حزب الله حسن نصرالله الذي تعهّد أنه في الحرب المقبلة مع «إسرائيل» ستفتح الأجواء «أمام آلاف، وربما مئات آلاف المقاتلين من الدول العربية والإسلامية كلها، الذين سيصلون للمشاركة فيها.»

– يساسخاروف للذين لا يعرفون الإسم هو محلل شؤون الشرق الأوسط في صحيفة «تايمز أوف إسرائيل»، كما وتستضيفه برامج إذاعية وتلفزيونية عدة كمعلّق على شؤون الشرق الاوسط. حتى عام 2012 شغل يساسخارف وظيفة مراسل الشؤون العربية في صحيفة «هارتس» بالإضافة الى كونه محاضراً في التاريخ الفلسطيني المعاصر في جامعة تل أبيب. تخرّج بامتياز من جامعة بن غوريون مع شهادة بكالوريوس في علوم الشرق الأوسط واستمرّ للحصول على ماجيستير امتياز من جامعة تل أبيب في هذا الموضوع. كما ويتكلم يساسخاروف العربية بطلاقة، ويعتبر المحلل الأقرب للتعبير عن هواجس الجهات العسكرية والأمنية وطرحها للتداول أمام الرأي العام، ويحتلّ المكانة التي احتكرها المحلل الشهير زئيف شيف حتى رحيله عام 2006. وكتابا يساسخاروف اللذان نالا جوائز «إسرائيلية»، هما: «كيف نربح الحرب القادمة»، و«33 يوماً من الحرب مع حزب الله»، يعتبران المرجعين الأهمّ لقراءة المتغيرات العسكرية والاستراتيجية المحيطة بأمن «إسرائيل».

– عندما تقرأ يساسخاروف وتسمع قناة «العربية» وتعيد قراءة الحملة السعودية في الصحف المموّلة من الرياض والموضوع واحد، ما أسماه يساسخاروف بصدى التحوّلات الكبرى التي تهدّد أمن «إسرائيل» وعنوانها حزب الله، والدليل عنده كلام السيد حسن نصرالله عن فتح الحدود والأجواء. وقد أشار السيد ممهّداً لكلامه لتحوّلين كبيرين يجعلان التهديد في مكانه، موقع الحشد الشعبي ومكانة أنصار الله، في محور المقاومة والقصد محور مشترك مع حزب الله، والتحوّلان حديثان لجهة ما صدر عن قيادتي الفريقين من إعلان واضح لعزمهما الوقوف مع حزب الله في أيّ حرب مقبلة، وتخطّي حدود التحالف في مواجهة مخاطر مشتركة ومصير مترابط الحلقات، عندما نفهم كلّ ذلك تصير الحملة التي تستهدف حزب الله وكلام السيد نصرالله مفهومة كتلبية لطلب وقرار بدأ «إسرائيلياً» وصار أميركياً وتعمّم ووصلت اصداؤه إلى لبنان. فبدأنا نسمع بعض الأصوات، بينما الكلام واضح في نص خطاب السيد، عندما تقع الحرب وإذا شنت «إسرائيل» عدواناً، فسقطت عندهم الاشتراطات وصارت القضية عندهم سيادة لبنان، كأن العدوان قد وقع ووقوعه لا يصيب السيادة، وصار هم المعترضين ليس ردّ الاعتداء على السيادة بل حصر المواجهة بما لا يزعج «إسرائيل» ويربكها أو ربما يردعها بذريعة السيادة، فتطوّعوا لردع حزب الله، وتلك هي مهمتهم.

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From the horse’s mouth– Syrian Rebels: ‘We Want Peace With Israel, Real Enemy Is Iran’

 

Breaking Israel News

A leading member of Syria’s political opposition said most Syrians view Iran as the real enemy and not Israel, adding that Israel could do more to help the Syrian people.

“We want peace with Israel, and today, among the opposition in Syria, most people understand that the enemy is Iran and not Israel, so there is a good chance that there will be peace in the future,” said Salim Hudaifa, a former Syrian military officer who serves as a political representative of the opposition’s Free Syrian Army, at the Eurasian Media Forum in Kazakhstan.

Hudaifa is a former intelligence officer who abandoned Syria’s military in the 1990s and eventually gained asylum in Denmark. During the Syrian Civil War, Hudaifa was recruited by the U.S. to head a program to train the Free Syrian Army, but the program was eventually abandoned by the U.S. Defense Department.

“Israel needs to do more and help the rebels. People here are disappointed [with Israel]. There are also quite a few who think that [the Israelis] are helping [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, because they see that the Israeli-Syrian border is quiet,” Hudaifa said during a forum attended by Israeli dignitaries such as Gilead Sher, the Jewish state’s former chief peace negotiator.

“I think [Israel] can be more proactive and help us,” added Hudaifa. “Regarding the treatment of the wounded in your hospitals, it certainly improved Israel’s image in the eyes of Syrians, but only in a limited way. The reason is that the Arab media does not report it.”

Israel is secretly supporting Syrian rebel groups along its border with Syria in the Golan Heights, providing rebels with funds, food, fuel and medical supplies, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.

While Israel has largely refrained from getting involved in the six-year-long civil war, it has periodically carried out airstrikes in Syria when its interests are threatened. These strikes have mainly been against the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which is significantly involved in supporting Assad’s regime in the conflict.

Latest Venezuelan Opposition Coup Attempt Against Maduro Linked to DEA, CIA

More than 80 people miraculously avoided injury or death in a helicopter attack that targeted Venezuelan government buildings this week. The attack may have been part of an attempted coup supported by the U.S. as it seeks to topple Venezuela’s government to gain access to its massive oil reserves.

By Whitney Webb

June 30, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – CARACAS– Opposition efforts to topple Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government are rapidly heating up, as months upon months of opposition protests have failed to make the inroads desired by the more extremist elements of the opposition and their foreign backers, particularly the United States.

With the current regime still hanging on to power despite years of economic sabotage and the funneling of millions from the U.S. to right-wing Venezuelan opposition parties, those determined to see Maduro removed from power have now turned to more drastic, violent measures in order to spark a coup.

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On Tuesday, one of the more dramatic incidents of the most recent phase of the Venezuelan crisis took place when a stolen police helicopter opened fire on the Supreme Court and the Interior Ministry. At the time the attack occurred – about 5 p.m. local time – there were an estimated 80 people still inside the Interior Ministry and the Supreme Court was in session. No deaths or injuries were reported, a fact that the Venezuelan government attributed to a quick response by national guard forces, who repelled the attacking helicopter before it could do more damage.

Maduro condemned the attack soon after it occurred, calling it a “terrorist attack” that “could have caused dozens of deaths.” Ernesto Villegas, Venezuela’s Communications and Information Minister, stated that the attack was intended to be part of an attempted coup led by extremist groups within the opposition, with full U.S. government support said to be behind them.

Villegas’ assertion that the U.S. was involved in this attack is not based on mere speculation. Pérez has been known to work for Miguel Rodríguez Torres, a former general and former minister of Venezuela’s Department of Interior Relations, Justice and Peace who is currently being investigated for his ties to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the CIA. The charges first surfaced when the Venezuelan news agency Últimas Noticias obtained an official DEA document that described Rodríguez Torres as a “key information provider” for the agency and recommended that he be secured as a protected source for the DEA and U.S. government. It also noted that 40 percent of his assets and wealth are held in the U.S. under his wife’s name.

The U.S. has long sought to oust the left-wing regime that was brought to power in Venezuela by Hugo Chávez in the late 1990s. Since Chávez’s election, the U.S. is believed to have spent between $50 to $60 million to strengthen the country’s right-wing opposition in the hope that they would win elections. Former U.S. President Barack Obama alone dedicated $5 million to “support political competition-building efforts” in Venezuela.

More recently, the U.S. Senate has been mulling over new legislation that would provide an additional $20 million for “democracy promotion” efforts in Venezuela. However, some of these efforts in the past have led to right-wing politicians and their affiliates paying protesters in cash to violently escalate opposition rallies.

Such rallies have turned increasingly violent in recent weeks, with three people burned alive by opposition protesters just in the last week. Journalists have also been targeted, with some being directly shot at and others threatened with being lynched or set aflame. Despite the violence, the Venezuelan opposition is likely to continue receiving funding from the U.S., which is eager to gain control of Venezuela’s oil reserves – the largest in the world – no matter the cost.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress contributor who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, 21st Century Wire, and True Activist among others – she currently resides in Southern Chile.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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مصر نحو «كامب ديفيد» ثانية

اجتماع أمني و سري رفيع بالقاهرة بحضور إسرائيلي وسعودي والملفمستقبل غزة

د. وفيق إبراهيم

يونيو 30, 2017

انتظرت مصر طويلاً تنفيذ مشروع مارشال أميركي اقتصادي يضعها في خانة الدول المتقدّمة، حسب ما وعدها الأميركيون عشيّة توقيع مصر معاهدة «كامب ديفيد» مع «إسرائيل» في 1979. هذه المعاهدة التي أخرجتها من الصراع العربي «الإسرائيلي»، وأطاحت النظام العربي العام على هامشيّته وزعزعت استقرارها.

مصر اليوم تتّجه إلى كامب ديفيد جديد أخطر من سابقه، ويضعها في خدمة المشروع «الإسرائيلي» السعودي مع وعود بتقديمات اقتصادية تفكّ لها تعثّرها. ومجدّداً، تقع مصر ضحية الوعود الخيالية، ولا تكتفي بوقوعها ضحية مشروع مارشال كامب ديفيد الأولى، فها هي تندفع للسقوط في لعبة كامب ديفيد الثانية، وبعد 38 عاماً على توقيع المعاهدة الأولى التي لم تُفضِ إلّا إلى انهيار مصر ومعها العالم العربي.

اقتصادياً، يقبع خمسون في المئة من المصريين تحت خط الفقر، إلى جانب 25 في المئة من الفقراء.. أمّا الباقون فيتوّزعون بين أقليّة تنهب البلاد وتعينها طبقة وسطى لا تتجاوز 15 في المئة. ينعكس هذا التدهور الاقتصادي على الوضع الاجتماعي السياسي، فيصبح المصريون قابلين للانضواء ضمن أُطر معادية للنظام، كما يعمل قسم منهم في خدمة الأزمات الإقليمية.. فهل يمكن للأدوار الأميركية السعودية «الإسرائيلية» أن تغطي هذا الانهيار؟ أم أنّها ذاهبة مجدّداً للإدمان على مسكّنات لا قدرة لها على علاج فقرها البنيوي؟

تنقسم مصر إلى تيار يؤمن «بمصرنة» مصر ونأيها عن صراعات الإقليم، مقابل عروبة منهكة وأمميّة إخوانية مصابة بالإعياء والإحباط… فشل التيار الأول الذي أسّسه أنور السادات على أساس عزلة مصر، فخسر قيادة العالم العربي من دون أن يربح وضعاً اقتصادياً مريحاً، فيما انزوت العروبة في مربعات من المثقفين الذين يطلقون خطباً «موديل 1960» في القرن الحادي والعشرين، فيبدون فولكلوراً ممجوجاً.

أمّا التيار الأممي الإسلاموي، فأُصيب بضربة عسكرية من المشير السيسي أبعدته عن السلطة واعتقلت الرئيس مرسي الإخواني وزجّت به في غياهب السجن، بتأييد سعودي أميركي.

وهناك تيارات شعبية صغيرة تحاول التأثير على نزق النظام بواسطة التحركات الشعبية والإعلام، لكنّ القمع يدفعها إلى الانزواء… إلى جانب الحركات الصوفية المعتدلة التي تبدو حالياً كمن أُصيب بغيبوبة سياسية، سببها عدم تمركز هذه الحركات في بناء مركزي موحّد، ما أدّى إلى ضمور دورها واقتصاره على الابتهال والتواشيح الدينية.

أمّا الأزهر الشريف، فمقسوم بدوره بين أجنحة موالية للسلطة، وأخرى للسعودية الوهابية، وثالثة للإخوان إلى جانب قوى مستقلّة ليست بذات وزن. لذلك يتجاهل الأزهر الأوضاع الداخلية، رافضاً اتهام الإرهاب بالكفر ومصرّاً على أنّهم يرتكبون أخطاء. ويعتبر أنّ الصراع دائر بين مسلمين، فلا يضيع شيء لمصلحة «الفرنجة والكفار»، على حدّ تعبير شيوخه.

لذلك تستغلّ التنظيمات الإرهابية المشتقة من «القاعدة والإخوان» هذا التفكك لمهاجمة مراكز الجيش المصري وكنائس الأقباط في الصعيد والمحافظات الفلاحية وصحراء سيناء، وحتى المدن والعاصمة. واللافت أنّ الأقباط لا يعملون على أيّ مشروع سياسي تقسيمي قد يبرّر استهدافهم، ما يضع هذه الهجمات في خانة الأعمال الطائفية الصرفة المنسّقة مع «إسرائيل» وواشنطن.

هذا هو المشهد المصري اليوم… انهيار اقتصادي متدحرج يتقاطع مع تراجع هائل في الموارد السياحية والصناعية والزراعية… اضطرابات أمنية متواترة، وعدم استقرار سياسي مقابل علاقات عميقة بواشنطن و»تلّ أبيب».

ولمعالجة هذا التدهور المريع السياسي الاقتصادي الأمني، أعلنت مصر ولاءها للسعودية في قمّة الرياض بزعامة الرئيس الأميركي ترامب. وفي مبادرة لحسن النيّة، أعادت إليها جزيرتي تيران وصنافير في حركة لاقت استياءً مصرياً شعبياً لم يتمكّن حتى الآن من التعبير عن نفسه. كما انضمّت إلى المحور السعودي الإماراتي البحريني المطالب بعزل دولة قطر، وصولاً إلى حدود إلغاء النظام القطري.

ماذا تريد القاهرة من هذا التماهي مع السعودية؟

يبدو أنّها تذهب إلى كامب ديفيد جديد بخلفيّتين: تحسين وضعها الاقتصادي، وضرب الإخوان المسلمين المعتمدين على التحالف القطري التركي. أمّا في العمق، فيبدو أنّها تتأقلم مع مشروع أميركي جديد يبتدئ من الخليج ومصر و»إسرائيل» ليشمل لاحقاً دولاً عربية وإسلامية أخرى.

من ناحية الاقتصاد، تسأل جهات عليمة كيف يمكن للدولة المصرية أن تعتمد على بلاد تراجعت مداخيلها ستين في المئة دفعة واحدة بسبب انخفاض أسعار النفط؟

وكيف يمكن لها المراهنة على ضرب الإخوان المسلمين في قطر، وهم متجذّرون في مصر ويستفيدون من التعثّر السياسي والعسكري والاقتصادي لنظام الرئيس السيسي؟ كما أنّ لتركيا الصّلة الأكبر بالإخوان، وهي تدعمهم في اليمن ومصر وليبيا وتونس ولبنان وسورية والعراق وبلدان أخرى؟

أمّا عن الطموح المصري بضرب أوضاع الغاز في قطر للسماح للشركات الأجنبية بالاستثمار في استخراج الغاز المصري، فهذه عملية تحتاج إلى 15 عاماً كي تستفيد مصر من بيع مواردها الغازيّة.. فهل بوسع الوضع الداخلي المصري الانتظار؟ وإلّا الانفجار؟

مصر السيسي تطمح إلى مسكّنات خليجية وأميركية وأوروبية تعزّز من قابليّتها على انتظار الاستثمار في مواردها الغازيّة، وتعتقد أنّ ضرب الإخوان المسلمين من شأنه تعزيز قدراتها على الإنتاج الزراعي والصناعي والسياحي.

لكنّ الحقيقة أنّ الدولة المصرية ذاهبة للالتحاق بالمحور الأميركي السعودي «الإسرائيلي» في مواجهة إيران وروسيا في حركة تبعيّة قد تُفضي إلى أخطر من النتائج التي رست عليها معاهدة كامب ديفيد الأولى.

فهذا الاستلحاق لا يعني أبداً إمكان تحسّن الوضع الداخلي «للمحروسة» وشعبها، بقدر ما يرتبط بمشاريع القضاء على القضية الفلسطينية والمساعدة في دعم الدور السعودي الإرهابي في الخليج وسورية والعراق وأمكنة أخرى. فواشنطن طامحة إلى تأسيس تحالف شرق أوسطي تقوده السعودية بمعاونة مصرية «إسرائيلية»، ولاحقاً تركية.

فهل ينجح السيسي، حيث فشل السادات ومبارك ومرسي؟

لا شكّ في أنّ المصريين يتّسمون بصفة الصبر، إنّما مع التزامهم بحدود يليها عادة انفجار قد يطيح بالسيسي والإخوان، ويُعيد إلى مصر خطّ انفتاحها التاريخي على بلاد الشام على قاعدة أنّ تحسين أوضاعها رهن بتطوّرها الداخلي، وليس بالاستتباع للخارج الذي نال من هيبة أرض الكنانة.

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Are There any Limits to U.S. Hypocrisy?

By Anna Jagerun

June 28, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – Having ordered the attack on the al-Shayrat air field near the western Syrian city of Homs, U.S. President Donald Trump knew that the Syrian government hadn’t used any chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun. At the same time the current U.S. administration was making every effort to develop an information campaign against Damascus.

This was reported by Welt am Sonntag, a German Sunday newspaper. An American investigative journalist and political writer Seymour Hersh stressed that actually the Syrian Air Force had targeted a two-story building, where extremists from various terrorist groups held meetings. According to Hersh, a bomb, dropped by the Syrian aircraft in Khan Shaykhun, caused a number of detonations. The explosion led to the formation of a cloud of noxious vapour. Washington was knowledgeable about that.

The attack became an ideal occasion for the U.S. to make further accusations against Damascus. After a short time, the world media started to spread staged footage and photos from Khan Shaykhun. Those materials showed injured people, who were allegedly dying in a suspected sarin chemical attack.

Permanent representatives of a number of Western countries to the UN also made every effort to put all responsibility for the incident on the Syrian government, headed by President Bashar al-Assad. Thus, Nikki R. Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, at a Security Council meeting even showed photos, allegedly proving the ‘crimes’ of the Syrian authorities against Syrians.

In addition, the U.S., France, Britain proposed the UN SC draft several resolutions on the Syrian gas attack. The documents were aimed to provide an international investigation with flight plans and logs, the names of all helicopter squadron commanders and to provide access to air bases where investigators believe attacks using chemicals were launched.

It also should be mentioned that despite Syria’s readiness to cooperate with the specialists from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an official investigation into the incident in Khan Shaykhun has not been launched yet. Moreover, Western countries continue to expand sanctions against Syria to escalate the economic situation in the country and drag it into an endless war.

Seymour Hersh, referring to information received from a senior adviser in the U.S. intelligence services, reported that Washington had no evidence that the Syrian Army used sarin gas. The CIA also informed the White House that no poisonous substances were found in the al-Shayrat air field, and al-Assad had no reason to commit political suicide.

According to many Syrian experts, it is possible that the world will soon become aware of the United States’ participation in other major scandals and incidents in Syria.

This article was first published by Dissident Voice

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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300 Al-Qaeda, ISIS members arrested after Lebanese Army cracks down on refugee camps

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (3:30 P.M.) – On Friday morning, the Lebanese Army raided two major refugee camps in the Jird Arsal area near the eastern border with Syria amid credible report they had been infiltrated by outlawed groups.

During the large-scale crackdown, Lebanese security forces went from door-to-door in the Al-Nour and Al-Qaroyah camps and arrested some 300 suspected Islamic State and Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (Syrian Al-Qaeda) militants after informants supplied a full list of designated terrorists to the government.

Amid the surprise raid, at least 10 jihadist militants were killed after opening fire on the Lebanese Army as it stormed through the camps. In addition, a couple ISIS suicide bombers detonated their explosive belts, thereby inflicting casualties on approximately 30 Lebanese soldiers and non-combattants of Syrian nationality.

The preemptive crackdown took place after rumours indicated that terrorist operations were in the making, aimed at terrorizing the population living in government-held urban areas.

Both ISIS and Al-Qaeda maintain a minor presence in the West Qalamoun region despite being targeted frequently by government forces. Thus far, the Shia-led Hezbollah has largely refrained from involvement to deter sectarian tensions in the predominately Sunni border area.

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Who Killed theTunisian singer Thekra?

Who dare to Say مين يجرا يقول

Her Last Song Tells

 

Singer killed because she made a song against Saudi Arabia kingdom and the political system in KSA

Thikra’s family accuses Jamal Mubarak of her murder

Family of the late Tunisian singer Thikra has exploded a bomb stating that they possess solid evidence proving that Jamal Mubarak, son of ousted Egyptian President Husni Mubarak, is involved in her murder.

Tawfiq Al Dali, Thikra’s brother, has made a call out to all those that have any information about Thikra’s murder to come forward. Forensic reports have shown that Ayman Al Suwaidi, Thikra’s husband and who is accused of killing her while being intoxicated, suffers from stomach problems and therefore was not drunk during the time the murder happened.

Thikra’s family doubts her husband shot her and then committed suicide, but rather strongly believes Jamal Mubarak had a strong hand in the murder of both. The family assured that it holds vital evidence that the former overthrown Tunisian and Egyptian governments fabricated evidence and placed the blame on her husband.

It is said that there was a relationship between Thikra and Jamal. Thikra’s family has called on all members of the press and lawyers from Tunisia and Egypt to help in uncovering all the fact. In addition, Thikra’s family has released phone numbers, emails, and created a page on the social network Facebook for people with information to contact them.

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Syrian Army Liberates Entire Ithriyah-Resafa Road, Encircles ISIS Units East Of Khanasir

BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:29 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) – led by the elite Tiger Forces – has expanded its zone of control over the entire Ethiryah-Rusafa highway and de facto besieged any ISIS forces that may have not yet retreated from the region of Khanasser.

According to a military source, the SAA has, over the last week, repeatedly tried to force ISIS to retreat from the Khanasser region (the terrorist group’s last stronghold in Aleppo Governonate) by leaving open a 20 kilometre-wide corridor of un-liberated space along the Ethriyah-Rusafa highway through which a strategic withdrawal was possible. In any case, it appears that ISIS forces in Khanasser have not taken up the unannounced, yet obvious, offer to withdraw in relative safety and as of this morning, the patience of the Tiger Forces expired.

The Tiger Forces started their operation to expel ISIS from its last string of footholds along the Ethriyah-Rusafa road during the early dawn hours. The operation led to the successful capture of the Zakiyah junction and the liberation of the villages of Salah al-Awad and Jib Ajaj. The Tiger forces stormed these areas from their positions around Rusafa, advancing from the western direction until they linked up with SAA units advancing eastbound via Ethriyah. The ultimate operational result was a general collapse of ISIS forces in the face of their being completely out-manned, out-gunned and out-maneuvered by the SAA.

Lastly, it is also worth nothing that this most recent accomplishment by the SAA has a second strategic benefit in the form of a new, and more direct, line of communication that has now been opened to pro-government forces stationed in the area of Rusafa (south of Tabaqah); the original supply line to this area was exceptionally longer, running from Ethriyah, to Aleppo, to Deir Hafer, to Maskanah, and then finally to Rusafa. The new line of supply runs directly to Rusafa via Ethriyah, shaving many precious hours off the original logistical haul. The capture of this stretch of critical highway will increase the sustainability of any future operations that the SAA may undertake to strike at Deir Ezzor from the northern direction.

South Front

Syrian Army Liberates Entire Ithriyah-Resafa Road, Encircles ISIS Units East Of Khanasir

Click to see the full-size map

On Friday, Syrian government forces, led by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) Tiger Forces, liberated the Ithriyah-Resafa road.

According to the Hezbollah media wing in Syria, the SAA liberated 13 villages during its advance, including Bir Abu Allaj and Khirbat Qasir al-Maniyah.

During its operation, The SAA killed six ISIS commanders: Abu Adam al-Shishani, Abdul Raouf Salman, Abu Jaber al-Sabawi, Abu Khabab Tahir al-Aliwi, Abu Turki al-Bansilian, Abu Buthaina al-Shishani.

The Syrian Opposition Observatory claimed that the SAA captured all villages that had been under ISIS control in the eastern Aleppo countryside after the withdrawal of all ISIS fighters from the area. However, pro-government sources said that dozens of ISIS fighters including suicide attackers and snipers still holed up in several positions east of the Khanasir road.

The SAA will now be able to supply the Resafa front directly from Ithriyah.  It is also expected that the operation against ISIS in the eastern Hama countryside will be launched soon with the participation of the Desert Hawks Brigade. Uqayribat is considered the main target for the SAA. The town is the last ISIS traffic point from the militant-held areas in Idlib.

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Russia-gate Is No Watergate or Iran-Contra

Many comparisons have been made between Russia-gate and the earlier scandals of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but the similarities are at best superficial, explains Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Russia-gate, the sprawling investigation into whether Russia meddled in last year’s U.S. election, is often compared to the two big political scandals of the latter half of the Twentieth Century, Watergate and Iran-Contra. Sometimes you even hear that Russia-gate is “bigger than Watergate.”

Yet what is perhaps most remarkable about those two Twentieth Century scandals is how little Official Washington really understands them – and how these earlier scandals significantly contrast, rather than compare, with what is unfolding now.

Although the historical record is still incomplete on Watergate and Iran-Contra, the available evidence indicates that both scandals originated in schemes by Republicans to draw foreign leaders into plots to undermine sitting Democratic presidents and thus pave the way for the elections of Richard Nixon in 1968 and Ronald Reagan in 1980.

As for Russia-gate, even if you accept that the Russian government hacked into Democratic emails and publicized them via WikiLeaks, there is still no evidence that Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Kremlin to do so. By contrast, in the origins of Watergate and Iran-Contra, it appears the Nixon and Reagan campaigns, respectively, were the instigators of schemes to enlist foreign governments in blocking a Vietnam peace deal in 1968 and negotiations to free 52 American hostages in Iran in 1980.

Though Watergate is associated directly with the 1972 campaign – when Nixon’s team of burglars was caught inside the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate building – Nixon’s formation of that team, known as the Plumbers, was driven by his fear that he could be exposed for sabotaging President Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks in 1968 in order to secure the White House that year.

After Nixon’s narrow victory over Vice President Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover informed Nixon that Johnson had a secret file, complete with wiretapped phone calls, detailing the Nixon campaign’s backchannel messages to South Vietnamese officials convincing them to boycott Johnson’s Paris peace talks. Later, Nixon learned that this incriminating file had disappeared from the White House.

So, in 1971, after the leaking of the Pentagon Papers, which recounted the lies that had been used to justify the Vietnam War through 1967, Nixon fretted that the missing file about his peace-talk gambit in 1968 might surface, too, and would destroy him politically. Thus, he organized the Plumbers to find the file, even contemplating fire-bombing the Brookings Institution to enable a search of its safe where some aides thought the missing file might be found.

In other words, Watergate wasn’t simply a break-in at the Democratic National Committee on June 17, 1972, in pursuit of useful political intelligence and Nixon’s ensuing cover-up; the scandal had its origins in a far worse scandal, the derailing of peace talks that could have ended the Vietnam War years earlier and saved the lives of tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and possibly more than 1 million Vietnamese.

Iran-Contra Parallels

Similarly, the Iran-Contra scandal exploded in 1986 with revelations that President Reagan had authorized secret arms sales to Iran with some of the profits going to fund the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, but the evidence now indicates that the connections between Reagan’s team and Iran’s revolutionary regime traced back to 1980 when emissaries from Reagan’s campaign worked to stymie President Jimmy Carter’s negotiations to free 52 American hostages then held in Iran.

According to multiple witnesses, including former Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs Nicholas Veliotes, the pre-election contacts led to the opening of a weapons pipeline to Iran (via Israel), after Reagan was sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981, which was the precise moment when Iran finally released the American hostages after 444 days.

Some key players in the 1980 Reagan-Iran contacts reappeared four years later at the start of direct (again secret) U.S. arms shipments to Iran in 1985, which also involved Israeli middlemen. These key players included Iranian CIA operative Cyrus Hashemi, former CIA clandestine services chief Theodore Shackley, Reagan’s campaign chief and then-CIA Director William Casey, and former CIA Director and then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.

In other words, the Iran-Contra weapons shipments of 1985-86 appear to have been an outgrowth of the earlier shipments dating back to 1980 and continuing under Israeli auspices until the supply line was taken over more directly by the Reagan administration in 1985-86.

Thus, both the Watergate scandal in 1972 and the Iran-Contra Affair in 1986 could be viewed as “sequels” to the earlier machinations driven by Republican hunger to seize the enormous powers of the U.S. presidency. However, for decades, Official Washington has been hostile to these underlying explanations of how Watergate and Iran-Contra began.

For instance, The New York Times, the so-called “newspaper of record,” treated the accumulation of evidence regarding Nixon’s 1968 peace-talk gambit as nothing more than a “rumor” until earlier this year when a scholar, John A. Farrell, uncovered cryptic notes taken by Nixon’s aide H.R. Haldeman, which added another piece to the mosaic and left the Times little choice but to pronounce the historical reality finally real.

Grasping the Watergate Narrative

Still, the Times and other major news outlets have failed to factor this belated admission into the larger Watergate narrative. If you understand that Nixon did sabotage President Johnson’s Vietnam War peace talks and that Nixon was aware that Johnson’s file on what LBJ called Nixon’s “treason” had disappeared from the White House, the early “Watergate tapes” from 1971 suddenly make sense.

Nixon ordered White House chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger to locate the missing file but their search came up empty. Yet, some Nixon aides thought the file might be hidden at the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank in Washington. So, in his desperate pursuit of the file, Nixon called for a break-in at Brookings, possibly even fire-bombing the building as a cover for his team of burglars to slip in amid the confusion and rifle the safe.

The old explanation that Nixon simply wanted to find some file related to Johnson’s 1968 pre-election Vietnam bombing halt never made sense given the extreme steps that Nixon was prepared to take.

The relevant portions of Nixon’s White House tapes include an entry on June 17, 1971, coincidentally one year to the day before the Watergate burglars were caught. Nixon summoned Haldeman and Kissinger to the Oval Office and pleaded with them again to locate the file.

“Do we have it?” Nixon asked Haldeman. “I’ve asked for it. You said you didn’t have it.”

Haldeman: “We can’t find it.”

Kissinger: “We have nothing here, Mr. President.”

Nixon: “Well, damn-it, I asked for that because I need it.”

Kissinger: “But Bob and I have been trying to put the damn thing together.”

Haldeman: “We have a basic history in constructing our own, but there is a file on it.”

Nixon: “Where?”

Haldeman: “[Presidential aide Tom Charles] Huston swears to God that there’s a file on it and it’s at Brookings.”

Nixon: “Bob? Bob? Now do you remember Huston’s plan [for White House-sponsored break-ins as part of domestic counter-intelligence operations]? Implement it.”

Kissinger: “Now Brookings has no right to have classified documents.”

Nixon: “I want it implemented. Goddamn-it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.”

Haldeman: “They may very well have cleaned them by now, but this thing, you need to “

Kissinger: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Brookings had the files.”

Haldeman: “My point is Johnson knows that those files are around. He doesn’t know for sure that we don’t have them around.”

But Johnson did know that the file was no longer at the White House because he had ordered his national security adviser, Walt Rostow, to remove it in the final days of Johnson’s presidency.

Forming the Burglars

On June 30, 1971, Nixon again berated Haldeman about the need to break into Brookings and “take it [the file] out.” Nixon suggested using former CIA officer E. Howard Hunt to conduct the Brookings break-in.

“You talk to Hunt,” Nixon told Haldeman. “I want the break-in. Hell, they do that. You’re to break into the place, rifle the files, and bring them in. Just go in and take it. Go in around 8:00 or 9:00 o’clock.”

Haldeman: “Make an inspection of the safe.”

Nixon: “That’s right. You go in to inspect the safe. I mean, clean it up.”

For reasons that remain unclear, it appears that the Brookings break-in never took place (nor did the fire-bombing), but Nixon’s desperation to locate Johnson’s peace-talk file was an important link in the chain of events that led to the creation of Nixon’s burglary unit under Hunt’s supervision. Hunt later oversaw the two Watergate break-ins in May and June of 1972.

While it’s possible that Nixon was still searching for the file about his Vietnam-peace sabotage when the ill-fated Watergate break-ins occurred a year later, it’s generally believed that the burglary was more broadly focused, seeking any information that might have an impact on Nixon’s re-election, either defensively or offensively.

However, if you think back on 1971 when the Vietnam War was tearing the country apart and massive antiwar demonstrations were descending on Washington, Nixon’s desperation to locate the missing file suddenly doesn’t seem quite so crazy. There would have been hell to pay if the public learned that Nixon had kept the war going to gain a political advantage in 1968.

Through 1972 – and the early days of the Watergate scandal – former President Johnson had stayed silent about Nixon’s sabotage of the Paris peace talks. But the ex-President became livid when – after Nixon’s reelection in 1972 – Nixon’s men sought to pressure Johnson into helping them shut down the Watergate investigation, in part, by noting that Johnson, too, had deployed wiretaps against Nixon’s 1968 campaign to obtain evidence about the peace-talk sabotage.

While it’s not clear whether Johnson would have finally spoken out, that threat to Nixon ended two days after Nixon’s second inaugural when on Jan. 22, 1973, Johnson died of a heart attack. However, unbeknownst to Nixon, Johnson had left the missing file, called “The X-Envelope,” in the care of Rostow, who – after Johnson’s death – gave the file to the LBJ presidential library in Austin, Texas, with instructions that it be kept under wraps for at least 50 years. (Rostow’s instructions were overturned in the 1990s, and I found the now largely declassified file at the library in 2012.)

So, with the “The X-Envelope” squirreled away for more than two decades at the LBJ library and with the big newspapers treating the early sketchy reports of Nixon’s peace-talk sabotage as only “rumors,” Watergate remained a scandal limited to the 1972 campaign.

Still, Nixon’s cover-up of his campaign’s role in the Watergate break-in produced enough clear-cut evidence of obstruction of justice and other offenses that Nixon was forced to resign on Aug. 9, 1974.

A Failed Investigation

The 1979-81 hostage confrontation with Iran was not nearly as devastating a crisis as the Vietnam War but America’s humiliation during the 444-day-long ordeal became a focus of the 1980 election, too, with the first anniversary of Iran’s seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran coincidentally falling on Election Day 1980.

President Carter’s failure to gain freedom for the 52 embassy personnel turned what had been a close race into a landslide for Ronald Reagan, with Republicans also gaining control of the U.S. Senate and ousting some of the most influential Democratic senators.

In 1984, Reagan won reelection in another landslide, but two years later ran afoul of the Iran-Contra scandal. Reagan’s secret arms sales to Iran and diversion of profits to the Contras “broke” in November 1986 but focused only on Reagan’s 1985-1986 arms sales and the diversion. Still, the scandal’s crimes included violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the so-called Boland Act’s prohibitions on arming the Contras as well as perjury and obstruction of justice. So there was the prospect of Reagan’s impeachment.

But – from the start of Iran-Contra – there was a strong pushback from Republicans who didn’t want to see another GOP president driven from office. There was also resistance to the scandal from many mainstream media executives who personally liked Reagan and feared a public backlash if the press played an aggressive role similar to Watergate.

And, moderate Democrats, such as Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana who co-chaired the congressional investigation, sought to tamp down the Iran-Contra fires and set up firebreaks to prevent the investigation from spreading to related crimes such as the Reagan administration’s protection of Contra cocaine traffickers.

“Ask about the cocaine,” pleaded one protester who was dragged from the Iran-Contra hearing room, as the congressional investigators averted their eyes from such unseemly matters, focusing instead on stilted lectures about the Congress’s constitutional prerogatives.

It was not until 1990-91 that it became clear that secret U.S.-approved arms shipments to Iran did not start in 1985 as the Iran-Contra narrative claimed but traced back to 1981 with Reagan’s approval of arms sales to Iran through Israel.

Reagan’s politically risky move of secretly arming Iran immediately after his inauguration and the hostage release was nearly exposed when one of the Israeli flights strayed into Soviet airspace on July 18, 1981, and crashed or was shot down.

In a PBS interview nearly a decade later, Nicholas Veliotes, Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, said he looked into the incident by talking to top administration officials.

“It was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment,” Veliotes said.

In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes came to believe that the Reagan camp’s dealings with Iran dated back to before the 1980 election. “It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”

However, in 1981, Veliotes said, the State Department issued misleading press guidance to cover the administration’s tracks and the Washington media failed to follow up. Thus, the U.S.-Israeli arms pipeline to Iran stayed secret from the American people until November 1986 when — despite Reagan’s long-running insistence that he would never trade arms with a terrorist state like Iran — the operation was exposed.

When I re-interviewed Veliotes in 2012, he said he couldn’t recall who the “people on high” were who had described the informal clearance of the Israeli shipments of U.S.-manufactured weapons, but he indicated that “the new players” were the young neoconservatives who were working on the Reagan campaign, many of whom later joined the administration as senior political appointees.

Documents that I discovered at the Reagan presidential library revealed that Reagan’s neocons at the State Department, particularly Robert McFarlane and Paul Wolfowitz, initiated a policy review in 1981 to allow Israel to undertake secret military shipments to Iran.

McFarlane and Wolfowitz also maneuvered to put McFarlane in charge of U.S. relations toward Iran and to establish a clandestine U.S. back-channel to the Israeli government outside the knowledge of even senior U.S. government officials.

Another Failed Investigation

In 1991, faced with the accumulating evidence of a prequel to the Iran-Contra scandal, Congress grudgingly agreed to take a look at these so-called “October Surprise” allegations. But Republicans, then led by President George H.W. Bush and his White House team, mounted an aggressive cover-up to “spike” the story.

And, with the congressional inquiry largely in the hands again of Rep. Hamilton, the Democrats timidly folded their tent despite a growing body of evidence that the Reagan team was indeed guilty.

Much of that evidence flowed into the House Task Force in December 1992 when President George H.W. Bush had already been defeated for reelection and the Democrats were looking forward to their renewed control of Washington. So, instead of giving a careful review to the new evidence, the House Task Force ignored, disparaged or buried it.

The late-arriving material included sworn testimony on Dec. 18, 1992, from David Andelman, the biographer of French intelligence chief Alexandre deMarenches, describing how deMarenches had confided that he had helped arrange the Republican-Iranian contacts. Andelman, an ex-New York Times and CBS News correspondent, said that while he was working on deMarenches’s autobiography, the arch-conservative spymaster admitted arranging meetings between Republicans and Iranians about the hostage issue in the summer and fall of 1980, with one meeting held in Paris in October.

Andelman said deMarenches ordered that the secret meetings be kept out of his memoirs because the story could otherwise damage the reputations of his friends, William Casey and George H.W. Bush. Andelman’s testimony corroborated longstanding claims from a variety of international intelligence operatives about a Paris meeting involving Casey and Bush. But the Task Force report brushed this testimony aside, paradoxically terming it “credible” but then claiming it was “insufficiently probative.”

The Task Force’s report argued that Andelman could not “rule out the possibility that deMarenches had told him he was aware of and involved in the Casey meetings because he, deMarenches, could not risk telling his biographer he had no knowledge of these allegations.”

In the last weeks of the investigation, the House investigators also received a letter from former Iranian President Bani-Sadr detailing his behind-the-scenes struggle with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his son Ahmad over their secret dealings with the Reagan campaign. But the House investigators dismissed Bani-Sadr’s first-hand account as hearsay and thus also lacking “probative value.”

I later unearthed some of the evidence in unpublished Task Force files. However, in the meantime, Official Washington had dismissed the “October Surprise” and other Iran-Contra-connected scandals, like Contra drug trafficking, as conspiracy theories.

The Russian Report

Ironically, another piece of late-arriving evidence was a January 1993 report from a national security committee of the Russian parliament about the Kremlin’s intelligence data confirming that key Republicans, including George H.W. Bush and William Casey, had met with Iranian officials in Europe regarding the hostages during the 1980 campaign.

Hamilton had requested the Russian assistance before the U.S. election in 1992, but the report was not sent until there were only two weeks left in George H.W. Bush’s presidency.

Lawrence Barcella, who served as the Task Force chief counsel, later told me that so much incriminating evidence arrived late that he asked Hamilton to extend the inquiry for three months but that Hamilton said no (although Hamilton told me that he had no recollection of denying Barcella’s request).

The other fatal flaw of the House investigation was that it left much of the actual investigating up to President George H.W. Bush’s White House counsel’s office and the State Department, although Bush was one of the chief suspects and, in 1991-92, was running for re-election, a campaign that would have been derailed if the 1980 October Surprise allegations were confirmed.

The naivete of this decision was underscored years later when I located a memo at Bush’s presidential library stating that the State Department had informed the White House counsel’s office that Casey had traveled to Madrid in 1980, corroborating a key October Surprise allegation.

The confirmation of Casey’s trip was passed along by State Department legal adviser Edwin D. Williamson to Associate White House Counsel Chester Paul Beach Jr. in early November 1991, just as the October Surprise inquiry was taking shape, according to Beach’s “memorandum for record” dated Nov. 4, 1991.

Williamson said that among the State Department “material potentially relevant to the October Surprise allegations [was] a cable from the Madrid embassy indicating that Bill Casey was in town, for purposes unknown,” Beach noted.

Two days later, on Nov. 6, 1991, Beach’s boss, White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, arranged an inter-agency strategy session and explained the need to contain the congressional investigation into the October Surprise case. The explicit goal was to ensure the scandal would not hurt President Bush’s reelection hopes in 1992.

In 2013, when I interviewed Hamilton about the Beach memo, he lamented that the Madrid information had not been shared with his investigation, saying “you have to rely on people” in authority to comply with information requests.

“We found no evidence to confirm Casey’s trip to Madrid,” Hamilton told me. “We couldn’t show that. The [George H.W. Bush] White House did not notify us that he did make the trip. Should they have passed that on to us? They should have because they knew we were interested in that.”

Asked if knowledge that Casey had traveled to Madrid might have changed the Task Force’s dismissive October Surprise conclusion, Hamilton said yes, because the question of the Madrid trip was key to the task force’s investigation.

Not Moving the Needle

However, the Madrid trip revelation and other post-investigation disclosures failed to move the needle on Official Washington’s disdain for the October Surprise story.

The later disclosures included a 1993 interview in Tel Aviv in which former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said he had read the 1991 book, October Surprise, by Carter’s former National Security Council aide Gary Sick, which made the case for believing that the Republicans had intervened in the 1980 hostage negotiations to disrupt Carter’s reelection.

With the topic raised, one interviewer asked, “What do you think? Was there an October Surprise?”

“Of course, it was,” Shamir responded without hesitation. “It was.”

And, there were other corroborating statements as well. In 1996, for instance, while former President Carter was meeting with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Arafat in Gaza City, Arafat tried to confess his role in the Republican maneuvering to block Carter’s Iran-hostage negotiations.

“There is something I want to tell you,” Arafat said, addressing Carter in the presence of historian Douglas Brinkley. “You should know that in 1980 the Republicans approached me with an arms deal [for the PLO] if I could arrange to keep the hostages in Iran until after the [U.S. presidential] election,” Arafat said, according to Brinkley’s article in the fall 1996 issue of Diplomatic Quarterly.

In 2013, after the movie “Argo” appeared regarding an early facet of the Iran-hostage crisis, former Iranian President Bani-Sadr elaborated on his account of Republican overtures to Iran in 1980 and how that secret initiative prevented release of the hostages.

In a Christian Science Monitor commentary, Bani-Sadr wrote, “Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan had organized a clandestine negotiation which prevented the attempts by myself and then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 U.S. presidential election took place. The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the election in favor of Reagan.”

Then, Bani-Sadr added a new detail, that “two of my advisors, Hussein Navab Safavi and Sadr-al-Hefazi, were executed by Khomeini’s regime because they had become aware of this secret relationship between Khomeini, his son Ahmad, … and the Reagan administration.” [For more details on the October Surprise case, see Robert Parry’s Trick or Treason and America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Compare and Contrast

So how do Watergate and Iran-Contra compare and contrast with Russia-gate? One key difference is that in Watergate in 1972-73 and Iran-Contra in 1985-86, you had clear-cut crimes (even if you don’t want to believe the two “prequels” from 1968 and 1980, respectively).

In Watergate, five burglars were caught inside the DNC offices on June 17, 1972, as they sought to plant more bugs on Democratic phones. (An earlier break-in in May had installed two bugs, but one didn’t work.) Nixon then proceeded to mount a cover-up of his 1972 campaign’s role in funding the break-in and other abuses of power.

In Iran-Contra, Reagan secretly authorized weapons sales to Iran, which was then designated a terrorist state, without informing Congress, a violation of the Arms Export Control Act. He also kept Congress in the dark about his belated signing of a related intelligence “finding.” And the creation of slush funds to finance the Nicaraguan Contras represented an evasion of the U.S. Constitution.

There was also the attendant Iran-Contra cover-up mounted both by the Reagan White House and later the George H.W. Bush White House, which culminated in Bush’s Christmas Eve 1992 pardons of six Iran-Contra defendants as special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh was zeroing in on possible indictment of Bush for withholding evidence.

By contrast, Russia-gate has been a “scandal” in search of a specific crime. President Barack Obama’s intelligence chieftains have alleged – without presenting any clear evidence – that the Russian government hacked into the emails of the Democratic National Committee and of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta and released those emails via WikiLeaks and other Internet sites. (The Russians and WikiLeaks have both denied the accusations.)

The DNC emails revealed that senior Democrats did not maintain their required independence regarding the primaries by seeking to hurt Sen. Bernie Sanders and help Clinton. The Podesta emails pulled back the curtain on Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street banks and on pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation.

Hacking into personal computers is a crime, but the U.S. government has yet to bring any formal charges against specific individuals supposedly responsible for the hacking of the Democratic emails. There also has been no evidence that Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians in the hacking.

Lacking any precise evidence of this cyber-crime or of a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign, Obama’s Justice Department holdovers and now special prosecutor Robert Mueller have sought to build “process crimes,” around false statements to investigators and possible obstruction of justice.

Railroading Flynn

In the case of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, acting Attorney General Sally Yates used the archaic Logan Act of 1799 to create a predicate for the FBI to interrogate Flynn about a Dec. 29, 2016 conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, i.e., after Trump’s election but before the Inauguration.

The Logan Act, which has never resulted in a prosecution in 218 years, was enacted during the period of the Alien and Sedition Acts to bar private citizens from negotiating on their own with foreign governments. It was never intended to apply to a national security adviser of an elected President, albeit before he was sworn in.

But it became the predicate for the FBI interrogation — and the FBI agents were armed with a transcript of the intercepted Kislyak-Flynn phone call so they could catch Flynn on any gaps in his recollection, which might have been made even hazier because he was on vacation in the Dominican Republic when Kislyak called.

Yates also concocted a bizarre argument that the discrepancies between Flynn’s account of the call and the transcript left him open to Russian blackmail although how that would work – since the Russians surely assumed that Kislyak’s calls would be monitored by U.S. intelligence and thus offered them no leverage with Flynn – was never explained.

Still, Flynn’s failure to recount the phone call precisely and the controversy stirred up around it became the basis for an obstruction of justice investigation of Flynn and led to President Trump’s firing Flynn on Feb. 13.

Trump may have thought that tossing Flynn overboard to the circling sharks would calm down the sharks but the blood in the water only excited them more. According to then-FBI Director James Comey, Trump talked to him one-on-one the next day, Feb. 14, and said, “‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Trump’s “hope” and the fact that he later fired Comey have reportedly led special prosecutor Mueller to look at a possible obstruction of justice case against Trump. In other words, Trump could be accused of obstructing what appears to have been a trumped-up case against Flynn.

Of course, there remains the possibility that evidence might surface of Trump or his campaign colluding with the Russians, but such evidence has so far not been presented. Or Mueller’s investigation might turn over some rock and reveal some unrelated crime, possibly financial wrongdoing by Trump or an associate.

(Something similar happened in the Republican investigation of the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attack, a largely fruitless inquiry except that it revealed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent and received official emails over a private server, which Comey decried during last year’s campaign as “extremely careless” but not criminal.)

Curb the Enthusiasm

Another contrast between the earlier scandals (Watergate and Iran-Contra) and Russia-gate is the degree of enthusiasm and excitement that the U.S. mainstream media and congressional Democrats have shown today as opposed to 1972 and 1986.

Though The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein aggressively pursued the Watergate scandal, there was much less interest elsewhere in major news outlets until Nixon’s criminality became obvious in 1973. Many national Democrats, including DNC Chairman Bob Strauss, were extremely hesitant to pursue the scandal if not outright against it.

Similarly, although Brian Barger and I at The Associated Press were pursuing aspects of Iran-Contra since early 1985, the big newspapers and networks consistently gave the Reagan administration the benefit of the doubt – at least before the scandal finally burst into view in fall 1986 (when a Contra-supply plane crashed inside Nicaragua and a Lebanese newspaper revealed U.S. arms shipments to Iran).

For several months, there was a flurry of attention to the complex Iran-Contra scandal, but the big media still ignored evidence of a White House cover-up and soon lost interest in the difficult work of unraveling the convoluted networks for arms smuggling, money laundering and cocaine trafficking.

Congressional Democrats also shied away from a constitutional confrontation with the popular Reagan and his well-connected Vice President George H.W. Bush.

After moving from AP to Newsweek in early 1987, I learned that the senior executives at Newsweek, then part of The Washington Post Company, didn’t want “another Watergate”; they felt another such scandal was not “good for the country” and wanted Iran-Contra to go away as soon as possible. I was even told not to read the congressional Iran-Contra report when it was published in October 1987 (although I ignored that order and kept trying to keep my own investigation going in defiance of the wishes of the Newsweek brass until those repeated clashes led to my departure in June 1990).

So, perhaps the biggest similarity between Russia-gate and Watergate is that Richard Nixon and Donald Trump were both highly unpopular with the Washington establishment and thus had few influential defenders, while an important contrast with Iran-Contra was that Reagan and Bush were very well liked, especially among news executives such as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham who, by all accounts, did not care for the uncouth Nixon. Today, the senior executives of The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major news outlets have made no secret of their disdain for the buffoonish Trump and their hostility toward Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In other words, what is driving Russia-gate – for both the mainstream news media and the Democrats – appears to be a political agenda, i.e., the desire to remove Trump from office while also ratcheting up a New Cold War with Russia, a priority for Washington’s neoconservatives and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks.

If this political drama were playing out in some other country, we would be talking about a “soft coup” in which the “oligarchy” or some other “deep state” force was using semi-constitutional means to engineer a disfavored leader’s removal.

Of course, since the ongoing campaign to remove Trump is happening in the United States, it must be presented as a principled pursuit of truth and a righteous application of the rule of law. But the comparisons to Watergate and Iran-Contra are a stretch.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

This article was first published by Consortium News

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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الأتراك في جزيرة العرب بعد مئة عام.. ها قد عدنا يا شريف حسين

 

على خلفية الأزمة بين قطر والسعودية والإمارات، فعل سريعا البرلمان التركي  قرارا يسمح بنشر قوات تركية في قطر كجزء من اتفاقية بين البلدين خاصة بإنشاء قاعدة عسكرية تركية في قطر، حصل هذا في الأيام الأولى للأزمة كما هو معروف.

وكما هو مجرب أيضا فإن القوات التركية لا تدخل  أرضا خارج حدودها وتخرج منها ، وأمامنا تجربة العراقيين مع القوات التركية في معسكر بعشيقة قضاء الموصل.

هناك تحول هذا الوجود إلى أزمة بين البلدين، رفضت تركيا الخروج تحت أي ظرف، بل خرج خطاب تركي من دفاتر التاريخ يتحدث عن الوضع التاريخي للموصل  كإحدى ولايات الدولة العثمانية حتى نهاية الحرب العالمية الأولى.

ذاك خطاب التاريخ الذي أيقظه حزب العدالة والتنمية منذ حكم تركيا وازادت وتيرته ووضوحه، مع اندلاع الأحداث الدامية في عالمنا العربي، خاصة في سوريا، التي دخل إلى شمالها الجيش التركي قبل عام مباشرة، بعد أن اعتمد أنقرة  لسنوات على مجموعات مسلحة تابعة لها هناك، وذات خطاب التاريخ عن الموصل سمعناه عن حلب، لا أحد يستطيع أن يقدر الآن متى وكيف ستخرج القوات التركية من شمال سوريا.

أما الوضع في جزيرة العرب ومع قطر تحديدا فهو مختلف . صحيح أن القوات التركية دخلت الدول العربية الثلاث إثر أزمات، الا ان في حالة قطر فالقوات التركية تدخلها ضمن اتفاق بين دولتين. الأمر قد يبدو اعتياديا في حالة دولتين متحالفتين تشعر إحداهما بالخطر.

بيد  أن الخطاب السياسي والإعلامي القطري وكذلك التركي شن حملات ضد سوريا على خلفية استعانتها بقوات إيرانية حليفة، وهي كانت امام  خطر وجودي كان خلفه دول بينها تركيا وقطر، والآن ذات الإعلام الذي عاب ماقام به الرئيس الأسد، يعتبر قرار الأمير تميم قرارا سياديا.

في نهاية المطاف جاءت القوات التركية إلى جزيرة العرب بعد مئة عام على رحيلها.

الأمر الذي يدفعنا للربط بين العثمانيين المحتلين للأرض العربية في الزمن الغابر  وبين القوات التركية المتسللة اليوم إلى ذات البقاع ، هو فكر وخطاب حزب العدالة والتنمية الحاكم في تركيا ورئيس البلاد رجب طيب أردوغان اليوم، وهم يتحدثون عن العثمانية الجديدة وأحياء السلطنة العثمانية، ويعملون في الداخل والخارج ضمن هذه المرجعية التاريخية.

قبل ما يقرب المئة عام قاد الشريف “حسين بن علي”  الثورة العربية الكبرى لطرد العثمانيين من جزيرة العرب ، ورغم كل ما مرت به المنطقة العربية من كوارث بعدها ، إلا أن الأتراك لم يدخلوها من ذاك التاريخ.

واليوم يسجل التاريخ وصول القوات التركية على خلفية الأزمة بين دول الخليج، وربما لن يخرجوا منها سواء كان الأمير تميم حاكما لقطر أو أيا كان، وسواء كانت السعودية دولة أو مجموعة دول.  لأن هذا الهزال والوهن والهوان والعبث العربي لن يفضي إلا إلى هذه النتيجة. وهذا الطريق الذي يسلكه هؤلاء القادة العرب جميعهم وليس فقط قادة الخليج لن يورث المنطقة إلا  العودة الاحتلال والتبعية المباشرة، والوصاية ممن هم أكثر نضجا وإدراكا لمصالحهم ومصالح شعوبهم.

يقول المؤرخون عندما احتل الفرنسيون دمشق عام 1920، توجه الجنرال الفرنسي “غورو” قائد القوات الغازية إلى قبر صلاح الدين الأيوبي، وضربه بقدمه قائلا “هاقد عدنا يا صلاح الدين”.

فهل سيقولها الأتراك قريبا فوق ضريح الشريف” حسين بن علي” الذي طرد العثمانيين من جزيرة العرب، “هاقد عدنا يا “حسين بن علي”.

كاتب واعلامي فلسطيني

رأي اليوم

Military Situation In Eastern Aleppo And Western Raqqah On June 29, 2017 (Map Update)

Military Situation In Syria On June 30, 2017 (Map Update)

Click map to enlarge

This map provides a look at the military situation in eastern Aleppo and western Raqqah on June 29, 2017. Syrian government forces are advancing against ISIS along the Ithriyah-Resafa road and east of Khanasir.

UAE Asked US to Bomb Al Jazeera, Says 2003 Cable

By Alex MacDonald

Diplomatic cable, published by Wikileaks, refers to Mohammed bin Zayed asking for Qatari channel to be targeted

By Alex MacDonald

June 28, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – Abu Dhabi’s crown prince asked the US to bomb Al Jazeera as America was planning its invasion of Iraq, according to a diplomatic cable detailing his conversation with a top US state department mandarin.

According to the cable, Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) “laughingly recalled” to Richard Hass a conversation between his father, Sheikh Zayed, and the emir of Qatar, Hamad Al-Thani, in which Hamad had complained MBZ had asked for the US “to bomb Al Jazeera”.

“According to MBZ, Zayed [his father] derisively responded: ‘Do you blame him?'”

In his comments, made in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, MBZ warned that public opinion in the Arab world over the invasion – which he described as “containable” if the war was short and efficient – could be heavily inflamed by the Qatar TV network’s coverage and advised that its influence be reined in.

MBZ said

“it was a mystery to him why the Qataris continued to inflame public opinion” through Al Jazeera… “and suggested that the US use its weight to pressure Doha”.

The cable added that MBZ had “emphasised the need for US engagement with the Qataris to rein in Al Jazeera”.

In April 2003, the Al-Jazeera office in Baghdad was struck by a US missile killing one staff member and wounding another, though a US Central Command spokesman told BBC News the station “was not and never had been a target.”  In 2001 the station’s Kabul office was hit by two bombs in another US attack, although there were no casualties.

The statement appears to show decades-long emnity between Qatar and the UAE over Al Jazeera, which has boiled to the surface once again with a Saudi, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt-led blockade of Qatar and demands to close the network down.

Last week Riyadh laid down a list of 13 demands for Qatar, which also included ending Doha’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a downgrade of diplomatic ties with Iran and the shutting of a Turkish military base outside Doha.

According to the cable, however, MBZ downplayed tensions between the Saudis and Qataris, noting the two populations “share Wahhabi roots”.

More concerning, he said, were UAE-Saudi relations, which MBZ reportedly described as “far more complex”.

He drew his attention to Abu Dhabi’s “nagging bilateral border dispute with Riyadh (the al-Shayba oil field)”.

“Nevertheless, the ever pragmatic Emiratis recognised the need to deal with the Saudis and have thus maintained good relations with Riyadh.”

However, the cable noted that MBZ took a “dim view” – in one case literally – of some senior members of the Saudi government – “sardonically noting that interior minister Nayef’s bumbling manner suggested that ‘Darwin was right’,” and went on to say that King Fahd was not “in complete control of his faculties”.

Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud is the father of Mohammed bin Nayef – who was last week stripped of his position of crown prince by the king, Salman, who instated his son Mohammed bin Salman as heir.

Bin Nayef is thought to have held personal antipathy to MBZ.

Recently leaked emails sent from the Emirati ambassador to the US indicated that the UAE was involved in trying to move bin Salman into a position of power in Saudi Arabia.

“I think we should all agree these changes in Saudi are much needed,” said Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the US.

“Our job now is to do everything possible to ensure MBS succeeds.”

The 2003 cable also highlights MBZ’s then apparent tacit support for the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, whose removal from power the Gulf nations are now officially committed to.

MBZ “encouraged continued USG (US government) engagement with Bashar, noting that otherwise, ‘the wrong guys’ will fill the vacuum.”

“In MBZ’s estimation, Bashar is active and ‘wants to do good,’ although his relative youth and inexperience are real drawbacks.”

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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Trump‘s Red Line

President Donald Trump ignored important intelligence reports when he decided to attack Syria after he saw pictures of dying children. Seymour M. Hersh investigated the case of the alleged Sarin gas attack.

On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.

The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack,  including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president’s determination to ignore the evidence. “None of this makes any sense,” one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth … I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.“

Within hours of the April 4 bombing, the world’s media was saturated with photographs and videos from Khan Sheikhoun. Pictures of dead and dying victims, allegedly suffering from the symptoms of nerve gas poisoning, were uploaded to social media by local activists, including the White Helmets, a first responder group known for its close association with the Syrian opposition.

The provenance of the photos was not clear and no international observers have yet inspected the site, but the immediate popular assumption worldwide was that this was a deliberate use of the nerve agent sarin, authorized by President Bashar Assad of Syria. Trump endorsed that assumption by issuing a statement within hours of the attack, describing Assad’s “heinous actions” as being a consequence of the Obama administration’s “weakness and irresolution” in addressing what he said was Syria’s past use of chemical weapons.

To the dismay of many senior members of his national security team, Trump could not be swayed over the next 48 hours of intense briefings and decision-making. In a series of interviews, I learned of the total disconnect between the president and many of his military advisers and intelligence officials, as well as officers on the ground in the region who had an entirely different understanding of the nature of Syria’s attack on Khan Sheikhoun. I was provided with evidence of that disconnect, in the form of transcripts of real-time communications, immediately following the Syrian attack on April 4. In an important pre-strike process known as deconfliction, U.S. and Russian officers routinely supply one another with advance details of planned flight paths and target coordinates, to ensure that there is no risk of collision or accidental encounter (the Russians speak on behalf of the Syrian military). This information is supplied daily to the American AWACS surveillance planes that monitor the flights once airborne. Deconfliction’s success and importance can be measured by the fact that there has yet to be one collision, or even a near miss, among the high-powered supersonic American, Allied, Russian and Syrian fighter bombers.

Russian and Syrian Air Force officers gave details of the carefully planned flight path to and from Khan Shiekhoun on April 4 directly, in English, to the deconfliction monitors aboard the AWACS plane, which was on patrol near the Turkish border, 60 miles or more to the north.

The Syrian target at Khan Sheikhoun, as shared with the Americans at Doha, was depicted as a two-story cinder-block building in the northern part of town. Russian intelligence, which is shared when necessary with Syria and the U.S. as part of their joint fight against jihadist groups, had established that a high-level meeting of jihadist leaders was to take place in the building, including representatives of Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaida-affiliated group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. The two groups had recently joined forces, and controlled the town and surrounding area. Russian intelligence depicted the cinder-block building as a command and control center that housed a grocery and other commercial premises on its ground floor with other essential shops nearby, including a fabric shop and an electronics store.

“The rebels control the population by controlling the distribution of goods that people need to live – food, water, cooking oil, propane gas, fertilizers for growing their crops, and insecticides to protect the crops,” a senior adviser to the American intelligence community, who has served in senior positions in the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, told me. The basement was used as storage for rockets, weapons and ammunition, as well as products that could be distributed for free to the community, among them medicines and chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial. The meeting place – a regional headquarters – was on the floor above. “It was an established meeting place,” the senior adviser said. “A long-time facility that would have had security, weapons, communications, files and a map center.” The Russians were intent on confirming their intelligence and deployed a drone for days above the site to monitor communications and develop what is known in the intelligence community as a POL – a pattern of life. The goal was to take note of those going in and out of the building, and to track weapons being moved back and forth, including rockets and ammunition.

One reason for the Russian message to Washington about the intended target was to ensure that any CIA asset or informant who had managed to work his way into the jihadist leadership was forewarned not to attend the meeting. I was told that the Russians passed the warning directly to the CIA. “They were playing the game right,” the senior adviser said. The Russian guidance noted that the jihadist meeting was coming at a time of acute pressure for the insurgents: Presumably Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham were desperately seeking a path forward in the new political climate. In the last few days of March, Trump and two of his key national security aides – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley – had made statements acknowledging that, as the New York Times put it, the White House “has abandoned the goal” of pressuring Assad “to leave power, marking a sharp departure from the Middle East policy that guided the Obama administration for more than five years.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told a press briefing on March 31 that “there is a political reality that we have to accept,” implying that Assad was there to stay.

Russian and Syrian intelligence officials, who coordinate operations closely with the American command posts, made it clear that the planned strike on Khan Sheikhoun was special because of the high-value target. “It was a red-hot change. The mission was out of the ordinary – scrub the sked,” the senior adviser told me. “Every operations officer in the region” – in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, CIA and NSA – “had to know there was something going on. The Russians gave the Syrian Air Force a guided bomb and that was a rarity. They’re skimpy with their guided bombs and rarely share them with the Syrian Air Force. And the Syrians assigned their best pilot to the mission, with the best wingman.” The advance intelligence on the target, as supplied by the Russians, was given the highest possible score inside the American community.

The Execute Order governing U.S. military operations in theater, which was issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  provide instructions that demarcate the relationship between the American and Russian forces operating in Syria. “It’s like an ops order – ‘Here’s what you are authorized to do,’” the adviser said. “We do not share operational control with the Russians. We don’t do combined operations with them, or activities directly in support of one of their operations.  But coordination is permitted. We keep each other apprised of what’s happening and within this package is the mutual exchange of intelligence.  If we get a hot tip that could help the Russians do their mission, that’s coordination; and the Russians do the same for us. When we get a hot tip about a command and control facility,” the adviser added, referring to the target in Khan Sheikhoun, “we do what we can to help them act on it.” “This was not a chemical weapons strike,” the adviser said. “That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon – you’ve got to make it appear like a regular 500-pound conventional bomb – would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear. Military grade sarin includes additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that comes out is maximized for death. That is why it is made. It is odorless and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce a weapon that people can run away from?”

The target was struck at 6:55 a.m. on April 4, just before midnight in Washington. A Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the U.S. military later determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb triggered  a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground. According to intelligence estimates, the senior adviser said, the strike itself killed up to four jihadist leaders, and an unknown number of drivers and security aides. There is no confirmed count of the number of civilians killed by the poisonous gases that were released by the secondary explosions, although opposition activists reported that there were more than 80 dead, and outlets such as CNN have put the figure as high as 92. A team from Médecins Sans Frontières, treating victims from Khan Sheikhoun at a clinic 60 miles to the north, reported that “eight patients showed symptoms – including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation – which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds.” MSF also visited other hospitals that had received victims and found that patients there “smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine.” In other words, evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.

The internet swung into action within hours, and gruesome photographs of the victims flooded television networks and YouTube. U.S. intelligence was tasked with establishing what had happened. Among the pieces of information received was an intercept of Syrian communications collected before the attack by an allied nation. The intercept, which had a particularly strong effect on some of Trump’s aides, did not mention nerve gas or sarin, but it did quote a Syrian general discussing a “special” weapon and the need for a highly skilled pilot to man the attack plane. The reference, as those in the American intelligence community understood, and many of the inexperienced aides and family members close to Trump may not have, was to a Russian-supplied bomb with its built-in guidance system. “If you’ve already decided it was a gas attack, you will then inevitably read the talk about a special weapon as involving a sarin bomb,” the adviser said. “Did the Syrians plan the attack on Khan Sheikhoun? Absolutely. Do we have intercepts to prove it? Absolutely. Did they plan to use sarin? No. But the president did not say: ‘We have a problem and let’s look into it.’ He wanted to bomb the shit out of Syria.”

At the UN the next day, Ambassador Haley created a media sensation when she displayed photographs of the dead and accused Russia of being complicit. “How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” she asked. NBC News, in a typical report that day, quoted American officials as confirming that nerve gas had been used and Haley tied the attack directly to Syrian President Assad. “We know that yesterday’s attack was a new low even for the barbaric Assad regime,” she said. There was irony in America’s rush to blame Syria and criticize Russia for its support of Syria’s denial of any use of gas in Khan Sheikhoun, as Ambassador Haley and others in Washington did. “What doesn’t occur to most Americans” the adviser said, “is if there had been a Syrian nerve gas attack authorized by Bashar, the Russians would be 10 times as upset as anyone in the West. Russia’s strategy against ISIS, which involves getting American cooperation, would have been destroyed and Bashar would be responsible for pissing off Russia, with unknown consequences for him. Bashar would do that? When he’s on the verge of winning the war? Are you kidding me?”

Trump, a constant watcher of television news, said, while King Abdullah of Jordan was sitting next to him in the Oval Office, that what had happened was “horrible, horrible” and a “terrible affront to humanity.” Asked if his administration would change its policy toward the Assad government, he said: “You will see.” He gave a hint of the response to come at the subsequent news conference with King Abdullah: “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies – babies, little babies – with a chemical gas that is so lethal  … that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line . … That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me. Big impact … It’s very, very possible … that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”

Within hours of viewing the photos, the adviser said, Trump instructed the national defense apparatus to plan for retaliation against Syria. “He did this before he talked to anybody about it. The planners then asked the CIA and DIA if there was any evidence that Syria had sarin stored at a nearby airport or somewhere in the area. Their military had to have it somewhere in the area in order to bomb with it.” “The answer was, ‘We have no evidence that Syria had sarin or used it,’” the adviser said. “The CIA also told them that there was no residual delivery for sarin at Sheyrat [the airfield from which the Syrian SU-24 bombers had taken off on April 4] and Assad had no motive to commit political suicide.” Everyone involved, except perhaps the president, also understood that a highly skilled United Nations team had spent more than a year in the aftermath of an alleged sarin attack in 2013 by Syria, removing what was said to be all chemical weapons from a dozen Syrian chemical weapons depots.

At this point, the adviser said, the president’s national security planners were more than a little rattled: “No one knew the provenance of the photographs. We didn’t know who the children were or how they got hurt. Sarin actually is very easy to detect because it penetrates paint, and all one would have to do is get a paint sample. We knew there was a cloud and we knew it hurt people. But you cannot jump from there to certainty that Assad had hidden sarin from the UN because he wanted to use it in Khan Sheikhoun.” The intelligence made clear that a Syrian Air Force SU-24 fighter bomber had used a conventional weapon to hit its target: There had been no chemical warhead. And yet it was impossible for the experts to persuade the president of this once he had made up his mind. “The president saw the photographs of poisoned little girls and said it was an Assad atrocity,” the senior adviser said. “It’s typical of human nature. You jump to the conclusion you want. Intelligence analysts do not argue with a president. They’re not going to tell the president, ‘if you interpret the data this way, I quit.’”

The national security advisers understood their dilemma: Trump wanted to respond to the affront to humanity committed by Syria and he did not want to be dissuaded. They were dealing with a man they considered to be not unkind and not stupid, but his limitations when it came to national security decisions were severe. “Everyone close to him knows his proclivity for acting precipitously when he does not know the facts,” the adviser said. “He doesn’t read anything and has no real historical knowledge. He wants verbal briefings and photographs. He’s a risk-taker. He can accept the consequences of a bad decision in the business world; he will just lose money. But in our world, lives will be lost and there will be long-term damage to our national security if he guesses wrong. He was told we did not have evidence of Syrian involvement and yet Trump says: ‘Do it.”’

On April 6, Trump convened a meeting of national security officials at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The meeting was not to decide what to do, but how best to do it – or, as some wanted, how to do the least and keep Trump happy. “The boss knew before the meeting that they didn’t have the intelligence, but that was not the issue,” the adviser said. “The meeting was about, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do,’ and then he gets the options.”

The available intelligence was not relevant. The most experienced man at the table was Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general who had the president’s respect and understood, perhaps, how quickly that could evaporate. Mike Pompeo, the CIA director whose agency had consistently reported that it had no evidence of a Syrian chemical bomb, was not present. Secretary of State Tillerson was admired on the inside for his willingness to work long hours and his avid reading of diplomatic cables and reports, but he knew little about waging war and the management of a bombing raid. Those present were in a bind, the adviser said. “The president was emotionally energized by the disaster and he wanted options.” He got four of them, in order of extremity. Option one was to do nothing. All involved, the adviser said, understood that was a non-starter. Option two was a slap on the wrist: to bomb an airfield in Syria, but only after alerting the Russians and, through them, the Syrians, to avoid too many casualties. A few of the planners called this the “gorilla option”: America would glower and beat its chest to provoke fear and demonstrate resolve, but cause little significant damage. The third option was to adopt the strike package that had been presented to Obama in 2013, and which he ultimately chose not to pursue. The plan called for the massive bombing of the main Syrian airfields and command and control centers using B1 and B52 aircraft launched from their bases in the U.S. Option four was “decapitation”: to remove Assad by bombing his palace in Damascus, as well as his command and control network and all of the underground bunkers he could possibly retreat to in a crisis.

“Trump ruled out option one off the bat,” the senior adviser said, and the assassination of Assad was never considered. “But he said, in essence: ‘You’re the military and I want military action.’” The president was also initially opposed to the idea of giving the Russians advance warning before the strike, but reluctantly accepted it. “We gave him the Goldilocks option – not too hot, not too cold, but just right.” The discussion had its bizarre moments. Tillerson wondered at the Mar-a-Lago meeting why the president could not simply call in the B52 bombers and pulverize the air base. He was told that B52s were very vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) in the area and using such planes would require suppression fire that could kill some Russian defenders.  “What is that?” Tillerson asked. Well, sir, he was told, that means we would have to destroy the upgraded SAM sites along the B52 flight path, and those are manned by Russians, and we possibly would be confronted with a much more difficult situation. “The lesson here was: Thank God for the military men at the meeting,” the adviser said. “They did the best they could when confronted with a decision that had already been made.”

Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles were fired from two U.S. Navy destroyers on duty in the Mediterranean, the Ross and the Porter, at Shayrat Air Base near the government-controlled city of Homs. The strike was as successful as hoped, in terms of doing minimal damage. The missiles have a light payload – roughly 220 pounds of HBX, the military’s modern version of TNT. The airfield’s gasoline storage tanks, a primary target, were pulverized, the senior adviser said, triggering a huge fire and clouds of smoke that interfered with the guidance system of following missiles. As many as 24 missiles missed their targets and only a few of the Tomahawks actually penetrated into hangars, destroying nine Syrian aircraft, many fewer than claimed by the Trump administration. I was told that none of the nine was operational: such damaged aircraft are what the Air Force calls hangar queens. “They were sacrificial lambs,” the senior adviser said. Most of the important personnel and operational fighter planes had been flown to nearby bases hours before the raid began. The two runways and parking places for aircraft, which had also been targeted, were repaired and back in operation within eight hours or so. All in all, it was little more than an expensive fireworks display.

“It was a totally Trump show from beginning to end,” the senior adviser said. “A few of the president’s senior national security advisers viewed the mission as a minimized bad presidential decision, and one that they had an obligation to carry out. But I don’t think our national security people are going to allow themselves to be hustled into a bad decision again. If Trump had gone for option three, there might have been some immediate resignations.”

After the meeting, with the Tomahawks on their way, Trump spoke to the nation from Mar-a-Lago, and accused Assad of using nerve gas to choke out “the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many … No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” The next few days were his most successful as president. America rallied around its commander in chief, as it always does in times of war. Trump, who had campaigned as someone who advocated making peace with Assad, was bombing Syria 11 weeks after taking office, and was hailed for doing so by Republicans, Democrats and the media alike. One prominent TV anchorman, Brian Williams of MSNBC, used the word “beautiful” to describe the images of the Tomahawks being launched at sea. Speaking on CNN, Fareed Zakaria said: “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States.” A review of the top 100 American newspapers showed that 39 of them published editorials supporting the bombing in its aftermath, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

Five days later, the Trump administration gathered the national media for a background briefing on the Syrian operation that was conducted by a senior White House official who was not to be identified. The gist of the briefing was that Russia’s heated and persistent denial of any sarin use in the Khan Sheikhoun bombing was a lie because President Trump had said sarin had been used. That assertion, which was not challenged or disputed by any of the reporters present, became the basis for a series of further criticisms:

– The continued lying by the Trump administration about Syria’s use of sarin led to widespread belief in the American media and public  that Russia had  chosen to be involved in a corrupt disinformation and cover-up campaign on the part of Syria.

– Russia’s military forces had been co-located with Syria’s at the Shayrat airfield (as they are throughout Syria), raising the possibility that Russia had advance notice of Syria’s determination to use sarin at Khan Sheikhoun and did nothing to stop it.

– Syria’s use of sarin and Russia’s defense of that use strongly suggested that Syria withheld stocks of the nerve agent from the UN disarmament team that spent much of 2014 inspecting and removing all declared chemical warfare agents from 12 Syrian chemical weapons depots, pursuant to the agreement worked out by the Obama administration and Russia after Syria’s alleged, but still unproven, use of sarin the year before against a rebel redoubt in a suburb of Damascus.

The briefer, to his credit, was careful to use the words “think,” “suggest” and “believe” at least 10 times during the 30-minute event. But he also said that his briefing was based on data that had been declassified by “our colleagues in the intelligence community.” What the briefer did not say, and may not have known, was that much of the classified information in the community made the point that Syria had not used sarin in the April 4 bombing attack.

The mainstream press responded the way the White House had hoped it would: Stories attacking Russia’s alleged cover-up of Syria’s sarin use dominated the news and many media outlets ignored the briefer’s myriad caveats. There was a sense of renewed Cold War. The New York Times, for example – America’s leading newspaper – put the following headline on its account: “White House Accuses Russia of Cover-Up in Syria Chemical Attack.” The Times’ account did note a Russian denial, but what was described by the briefer as “declassified information” suddenly became a “declassified intelligence report.” Yet there was no formal intelligence report stating that Syria had used sarin, merely a “summary based on declassified information about the attacks,” as the briefer referred to it.

The crisis slid into the background by the end of April, as Russia, Syria and the United States remained focused on annihilating ISIS and the militias of al-Qaida. Some of those who had worked through the crisis, however, were left with lingering concerns. “The Salafists and jihadists got everything they wanted out of their hyped-up Syrian nerve gas ploy,” the senior adviser to the U.S. intelligence community told me, referring to the flare up of tensions between Syria, Russia and America. “The issue is, what if there’s another false flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.”

The White House did not answer specific questions about the bombing of Khan Sheikhoun and the airport of Shayrat. These questions were send via e-mail to the White House on June 15 and never answered.   

Seymour M. Hersh

https://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article165905578/Trump-s-Red-Line.html

 

Dr. Mohammad Abdo Al-Ibrahim

alibrahim56@hotmail.com

http://syriatimes.sy/index.php/the-chemical-attack-on-ghouta

U.S. Buildup All About Iran

Requiring an American wedge between Syria and Iraq.

DAMASCUSAs the drive to push ISIS out of its remaining territories in Syria and Iraq rapidly advances, the U.S. and its allied forces have entrenched themselves in the southeastern Syrian border town of al-Tanaf, cutting off a major highway linking Damascus to Baghdad.

Defeating ISIS is Washington’s only stated military objective inside Syria. So what are those American troops doing there, blocking a vital artery connecting two Arab allied states in their own fight against terrorism?

“Our presence in al-Tanaf is temporary,” says Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force of Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS, via phone from Baghdad. “Our primary reason there is to train partner forces from that area for potential fights against ISIS elsewhere…and to maintain security in that border region.”

Dillon adds for emphasis: “Our fight is not with the (Syrian) regime.”

But since May 18, when U.S. airstrikes targeted Syrian forces and their vehicles approaching al-Tanaf, American forces have shot down two Syrian drones and fired on allied Syrian troops several times, each time citing “self-defense.” In that same period, however, it doesn’t appear that the al-Tanaf-based U.S.-backed militants have even once engaged in combat with ISIS.

Bouthaina Shaaban, political and media advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is left bemused by that rhetoric:

“When asked what they’re doing in the south of Syria, they say they’re there for their ‘national security,’ but then they object to the movements of the Syrian army – inside Syria?”

She has a point. Under international law, any foreign troop presence inside a sovereign state is illegal unless specifically invited by the recognized governing authority – in this case, Assad’s government, the only Syrian authority recognized by the UN Security Council. Uninvited armies try to circumvent the law by claiming that Syria is “unable or unwilling” to fight ISIS and the threat to international security it poses. But “unwilling and unable” is only a theory, and not law, and since the Russians entered the Syrian military theater to ostensibly fight ISIS with the Syrians, that argument thins considerably.

Colonel Dillon acknowledges the point but argues that the Syrian army

“only just showed up recently in the area. If they can show that they are capable of fighting and defeating ISIS, then we don’t have to be there and that is less work for us and would be welcome.”

It’s not clear who made the U.S. arbiters of such a ruling. Syria’s fight against ISIS has picked up considerably in recent months, since four “de-escalation zones” were established during May negotiations in Astana among Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Reconciliation agreements among government forces and some militant groups in those zones – and the transfer of other militants to the northern governorate of Idlib – has meant that Syrian allied forces have been able to move their attention away from strategic areas in the west and concentrate on the ISIS fight in the east of the country.

An April 2017 report by IHS Markit, the leading UK security and defense information provider, asserts that the Islamic State fought Syrian government forces more than any other opponent over the past 12 months.

“Between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017,” says the organization, “43 percent of all Islamic State fighting in Syria was directed against President Assad’s forces, 17 against the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the remaining 40 percent involved fighting rival Sunni opposition groups – in particular, those who formed part of the Turkey-backed Euphrates Shield coalition.”

In other words, during the period when IS territorial losses were most significant, Syrian forces fought ISIS more than twice as often as U.S.-backed ones.

An American Wedge Between Syria and Iraq

So what’s with the continued U.S. presence in al-Tanaf, an area where there is no ISIS presence and where the Syrian army and its allies have been making huge progress against their militant Islamist opponents?

The above map commissioned by the author.

If you look at the map commissioned by the author above, there are approximately three main highway crossings from major Syrian centers into Iraq. The northern-most border highway is currently under the control of U.S.-backed Kurdish forces who seek to carve out an independent statelet called Western Kurdistan.

The Homs-to-Baghdad highway in the middle of the map cuts through ISIS-besieged Deir ez-Zor, where up to 120,000 civilians have been protected by some 10,000 Syrian troops since ISIS stormed its environs in 2014. While that border point to Iraq is currently blocked by the terror group, Syrian forces are advancing rapidly from the west, north, and south to wrest the region back from ISIS control.

The Damascus-to-Baghdad highway in the south of the country, which allied Syrian forces have largely recaptured from militants, could have easily been the first unobstructed route between Syria and Iraq. Until, of course, U.S.-led forces entrenched themselves in al-Tanaf and blocked that path.

The Syrians cleared most of the highway this year, but have been inhibited from reaching the border by a unilaterally-declared “deconfliction zone” established by U.S.-led coalition forces.

“It was agreed upon with the Russians that this was a deconfliction zone,” says CJTF spokesman Dillon.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov begs to differ: “I don’t know anything about such zones. This must be some territory, which the coalition unilaterally declared and where it probably believes to have a sole right to take action. We cannot recognize such zones.”

Since regime-change plans fell flat in Syria, Beltway hawks have been advocating for the partitioning of Syria into at least three zones of influence – a buffer zone for Israel and Jordan in the south, a pro-U.S. Kurdish entity along the north and north-east, and control over the Syrian-Iraqi border.

But clashes with Syrian forces along the road to al-Tanaf have now created an ‘unintended consequence’ for the U.S.’s border plans. Syrian allied troops circumvented the al-Tanaf problem a few weeks ago by establishing border contact with Iraqi forces further north, thereby blocking off access for U.S. allies in the south. And Iraqi security forces have now reached al-Waleed border crossing, on Iraq’s side of the border from al-Tanaf, which means U.S.-led forces are now pinned between Iraqis and Syrians on the Damascus-Baghdad road.

When Syrians and Iraqis bypassed the al-Tanaf area and headed northward to establish border contact, another important set of facts was created on the ground. U.S. coalition forces are now cut off – at least from the south of Syria – from fighting ISIS in the northeast. This is a real setback for Washington’s plans to block direct Syrian-Iraqi border flows and score its own dazzling victory against ISIS. As Syrian forces head toward Deir ez-Zor, U.S.-backed forces’ participation in the battle to liberate that strategic area will now be limited to the Kurd-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the north, while Syrian forces have established safe passage from the north, south, west – and potentially from the east, with the aid of allied Iraqi forces.

Why Washington Wants That Border

Re-establishing Syrian control over the highway running from Deir ez-Zor to Albu Kamal and al-Qaim is also a priority for Syria’s allies in Iran. Dr. Masoud Asadollahi, a Damascus-based expert in Middle East affairs explains: “The road through Albu Kamal is Iran’s favored option – it is a shorter path to Baghdad, safer, and runs through green, habitable areas. The M1 highway (Damascus-Baghdad) is more dangerous for Iran because it runs through Iraq’s Anbar province and areas that are mostly desert.”

If the U.S. objective in al-Tanaf was to block the southern highway between Syria and Iraq, thereby cutting off Iran’s land access to the borders of Palestine, they have been badly outmaneuvered. Syrian, Iraqi, and allied troops have now essentially trapped the U.S.-led forces in a fairly useless triangle down south, and created a new triangle (between Palmyra, Deir ez-Zor, and Albu Kamal) for their “final battle” against ISIS.

“The Americans always plan for one outcome and then get another one that is unintended,” observes Iran’s new envoy to Syria, Ambassador Javad Turk Abadi.

He and others in Damascus remain optimistic that the border routes long been denied to regional states will re-open in short order.

“Through the era of the Silk Road, the pathway between Syria, Iran, and Iraq was always active – until colonialism came to the region,” explains Turk Abadi.

In the same way that Western great powers have always sought to keep Russia and China apart, in the Middle East, that same divide-and-rule doctrine has been applied for decades to maintaining a wedge between Syria and Iraq.

“In the history of the last half century, it was always prevented for Syria and Iraq to get close, to coordinate. When (former Syrian president) Hafez al-Assad and (former Iraqi president) Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr almost reached a comprehensive agreement, Saddam Hussein made a coup d’etat and hung all the officers who wanted rapprochement with Syria,”says Shaaban, who has just published a book on Hafez Assad’s dealings with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Saddam then launched an eight-year war against the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the latter lost road access through Iraq for more than two decades.

In early 2003, U.S. troops invaded Iraq, deposed Saddam, and occupied the country for the next nine years. During that era, Iranian airplanes were often ordered down for inspections, instigated by U.S. occupation forces interested in thwarting Iran’s transfer of weapons and supplies to the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah and other allies.

By the time U.S. troops exited Iraq in late 2011, the Syrian conflict was already under way, fully armed, financed, and supported by several NATO states and their Persian Gulf allies.

“When those borders are re-opened,” says Asadollahi, “this will be the first time Iran will have a land route to Syria and Palestine” – though others point out that the Iranians have always found ways to transport goods undetected.

“Our army is now almost at the border and Iraqis are at their border – and we are not going to stop,” insists Shaaban.

Syrian and Iraqi forces have not yet checkmated American forces operating in their military theaters. There is still talk of an escalation that may pit the United States against Syria’s powerful Russian ally, a dangerous development that could precipitate a regional or global war.

But in Baghdad, the U.S.-led coalition spokesman Colonel Dillon struck a slightly more nuanced tone from the more belligerent threats sounded in Washington:

“We’re not in Syria to grab land. If the Syrian regime can show they can defeat ISIS, then we’re fine with that. The Waleed border crossing is a good sign that shows these capabilities. We are open to secure borders both on the Syrian and Iraqi side. We’re not there with the intent to block anything, we’re there to defeat ISIS and train forces for that.”

The fact is, US-trained militants in the al-Tanaf garrison are not fighting ISIS today, and they suffered a “crippling defeat” in June 2016 when they last launched a major offensive against the terror group, 200 miles from al-Tanaf. Factoring in geography, balance of field forces and momentum, it is implausible that US troops and their proxies on the southern Syrian-Iraqi border can achieve their stated objectives. It is time for them to surrender their positions to the Syrian state.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Mideast geopolitics, based in Beirut.

Russia Says Latest US Threat Against Syria is ‘Warning Sign of Intervention’

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova is calling it a “warning sign” of a possible US troop buildup and all-out military intervention in Syria. She is referring to Washington’s claim earlier this week that it believes Syria is planning a chemical attack.

The announcement was made Monday night by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who insisted the US has seen indications that the “Assad regime” is planning a chemical attack that would “likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

Zakharova described the public comments as an “information attack” that may be a precursor to an actual war

“The current information attack is very likely a warning sign of an intervention. The story will be the same: an incident happens on the territory controlled by the terrorists, civilian casualties follow. The so-called opposition – de facto the same jihadists, not very different from IS [Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL] and Al-Qaeda, but who are still getting help from the US and allies – announce yet another ‘crime by the regime,’” Zakharova said.

A particularly ominous aspect to all of this is that the US has threatened to make Syria pay a “heavy price” should such an attack take place–and Zakharova sees this as a threat aimed not only at Syria, but also at Russia:

“The situation seems to be a massive provocation, both military and information-wise, a provocation which targets not only the Syrian leadership, but also Russia,” she said.

What has happened to the anti-war movement in America?

When the US invaded Iraq in 1991, there were huge protests in a number of American cities. And in 2003, when the US again sent forces into Iraq, protests were widespread and in some places quite large. Why are we not seeing similar protests now against US troops being sent to Syria?

The pretexts are just as flimsy as they were in 2003, but the anti-war movement is either out to lunch or in permanent retirement.

The only protests we see on American streets these days are protests focusing narrowly on such things as race, sexual orientation, gender identity–i.e. identity politics. The country has been divided along these lines. And as a result, there are no genuine anti-war protests taking place. How did it get to this point?

American society has been overtaken by a mass collective psychosis. This psychosis has a breath and life of its own.

Instead of seeing Russia, a Christian country, as our friends in the fight against terrorism, we see Russians as our enemies; instead of recognizing Bashar Assad as what he is–a benevolent, enlightened leader who has allowed freedom of worship and protected Middle East Christians–we have become convinced he is a dictator intent on killing his own people. These are a few of the characteristics of the psychosis which has overtaken us.

There are others. Accusations are also flying over personalities. This person’s a racist. That person’s a bigot. Politicians are corrupt. So are the media. And not all the anger is based upon illusions or misconceptions. Some of it is genuine. America is in a permanent state of road rage. The psychosis was spawned by the media, but as I say, it has taken on a life of its own, and the media are even now becoming its victims.

Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned here. Maybe this is what happens when a nation loses touch with its roots and discards its spiritual faith. When America was solidly Christian, the country was unified. But gradually, the country moved away from religion. Prayer was outlawed in schools. And the culture began to be debased with film, music and TV shows promoting decadence and degeneracy. The result is what we see now. And it is not pretty.

As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.  “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

(Luke 8:23-25)

The solution is a return to our Christian faith. It is the antidote to the psychosis. And it will lead to the downfall of the psychopaths in Washington.

Fakery, Fakery, and More Fakery

“I think if it is accurate, I think it’s a disgrace to all of media, to all of journalism. I think that we have gone to a place where if the media can’t be trusted to report the news, then that’s a dangerous place for America.”

So says Sarah Huckabee-Sanders. The video the White House press secretary was referring to apparently is Project Veritas’  “American Pravda” report. That video–(in case you haven’t seen it, you can check it out here )–shows some private comments made by a CNN producer named John Bonifield, who apparently did not know he was being filmed. In the conversation, recorded covertly, Bonifield admits that CNN’s Russia coverage is “mostly bullshit” and that President Trump is right when he accuses the media of engaging in “witch hunting.” He also says the Russia coverage has been driven by ratings.

As for Huckabee-Sanders, her comments, shown in the video above, were made on Tuesday, June 27, one day after the Veritas video was uploaded.

“And I think if that is the place that certain outlets are going, particularly for the purpose of spiking ratings, and if that’s coming directly from the top, I think that’s even more scary and certainly more disgraceful,” she said.

It’s hard to ague with words such as these. Certainly reporting by the mainstream media has been disgraceful–not just on Russia but in a number of other areas as well. And certainly this malfeasance on the part of the media has taken us to a dangerous place in America.

But Huckabee-Sanders’ comments came less than 24 hours after her colleague in the Trump administration, Sean Spicer, made a preposterous accusation against the Syrian government while providing no evidence to back it up. According to Spicer, the US “has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

Spicer added, by way of warning, that if “Mr. Assad  conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

This is the Trump administration–the same administration that has been accusing the media of purveying fake news.

On April 6, US forces launched Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base over claims made by the media that Syria had carried out a chemical weapons attack in Idlib Province, killing dozens of people. This was one day after the New York Times had reported on what it referred to as the “worst chemical attack in years in Syria.”

“Dozens of people, including children, died–some writhing, choking, gasping or foaming at the mouth–after breathing in poison that possibly contained a nerve agent or other banned chemicals, according to witnesses, doctors and rescue workers,” the Times’ April 5 report said.

One of the reporters sharing a byline on that story was Michael R. Gordon, the same New York Times reporter who, along with Judith Miller, had reported on Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction back in 2002.

It’s almost like a revolving wheel, isn’t it?

And so now we have the White House claiming Assad is plotting to kill children–where pray tell did they get this information? Hard to say for sure, but certainly it’s possible it was fed to them by the Israelis. And the gullible idiots in the Trump administration either believed it…or simply followed orders and had Spicer go out, hold a press conference, accuse the Syrian president of mass murder, and threaten to attack the country again.

As I have said in previous posts, everything in America these days is centered around fakery. Even the people who accuse others of being fakes, are fakes themselves. The irate reporter who accuses Huckabee-Sanders of being “inflammatory” in the video above? What a charming segment! It’s almost like watching two fakes argue over who is the more talented.

A report published several days ago by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh suggests that the “chemical weapons attack” which prompted Trump’s April 6 attack upon Syria was not a deliberate chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, as was reported, but in fact a bombing of a jihadist meeting site and which used a conventional bomb dropped from the air.

The meeting, consisting of high level operatives from Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, was held in a two story cinder block building that was used for a variety of purposes including storage of fertilizers, weapons and ammunition, propane, cooking oil, insecticides, medicine, and chlorine-based decontaminants. Moreover, according to Hersh’s sources, the Americans even knew in advance that the attack was going to take place because the Russians had tipped them off to it (this was back when the Americans and the Russians in Syria were still speaking with, and coordinating their military movements with, each other).

The bombing of the building, says Hersh, “triggered a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground.”

So this is what was portrayed in the media as a deliberate chemical attack by the Assad government. Hersh’s sources claim President Trump was advised as to the true details of the attack but that he deliberately chose to ignore it. Whether this is a self-serving statement on the part of an anonymous intelligence agent would be hard to say for sure, but here, in any event. is how Hersh reports it:

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president’s determination to ignore the evidence. “None of this makes any sense,” one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth … I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.”

Hersh’s report was published by the German newspaper Die Welt. A commentary on it has also been published by Jonathan Cook, who makes some valid observations of his own–namely that those attempting to make a case for Assad’s use of chemical weapons must concede certain particulars that are highly implausible. Among these are that:

  1. Assad is so crazed and self-destructive – or at the very least so totally incapable of controlling his senior commanders, who must themselves be crazed and self-destructive – that he has on several occasions ordered the use of chemical weapons against civilians. And he has chosen to do it at the worst possible moments for his own and his regime’s survival, and when such attacks were entirely unnecessary.
  2. That Putin is equally deranged and so willing to risk an end-of-times conflagration with the US that he has on more than one occasion either sanctioned or turned a blind eye to the use of sarin by Assad’s regime. And he has done nothing to penalise Assad afterwards, when things went wrong.

He also makes a point about Hersh’s critics–i.e. that to validate their case they must assume that Hersh “has decided to jettison all the investigatory skills he has amassed over many decades as a journalist to accept at face value any unsubstantiated rumours his long-established contacts in the security services have thrown his way.”

Russia’s response to the Trump administration’s latest fantasia on Syria came from Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

“We heard about this statement,” Peskov told reporters. “We do not know what is the basis for this. And of course we categorically disagree with the ‘another attack’ wording.

“We also consider any similar threats to the legitimate leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic unacceptable,” he added.

“Unacceptable” is pretty strong language for Russian officials, who aren’t especially prone to making “inflammatory” statements. America, long touted for its supposed freedom of the press, is indeed in a “dangerous place.”  Huckabee-Sanders has at least that much right. It would be ironic if World War III, and possible planetary annihilation, were triggered by a long jet stream of fake news streaking across the sky, but that seems like a distinct possibility at this point.

Of course, none of this is intended to be “inflammatory” toward the poor, hardworking reporters at CNN who, naturally, are “only trying to do their job.”

Seymour Hersh leaks the true story about the pseudo-chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun (MUST READ)

source

June 26, 2017

Trump with his aides at Mar-a-Lago
Trump with his aides at Mar-a-Lago

Quelle: picture alliance/ASSOCIATED PRESS/AP Content

Intelligence officials doubted the alleged Sarin gas attack at Khan Sheikhoun. WELT AM SONNTAG presents a chat protocol of a security advisor and an active American soldier on duty at a key base in the region.

Intelligence officials doubted the alleged Sarin gas attack at Khan Sheikhoun. WELT AM SONNTAG presents a chat protocol of a security advisor and an active American soldier on duty at a key base in the region.  This conversation was provided to Seymour Hersh. It is betweeen a security adviser and an active US American soldier on duty on a key operational base about the events in Khan Sheikhoun. We have made abbreviations: American soldier (AS) and Security Advisor (SA). WELT AM SONNTAG is aware of the location of the deployment. For security reasons, certain details of military operations have been omitted.

(Note: emphasis in the text added by me, the Saker)

April 6, 2017

American Soldier: We got a fuckin‘ problem

Security-Adviser: What happened? Is it the Trump ignoring the Intel and going to try to hit the Syrians? And that we’re pissing on the Russians?

AS: This is bad…Things are spooling up.

SA: You may not have seen trumps press conference yesterday. He’s bought into the media story without asking to see the Intel. We are likely to get our asses kicked by the Russians. Fucking dangerous. Where are the godamn adults? The failure of the chain of command to tell the President the truth, whether he wants to hear it or not, will go down in history as one of our worst moments.

AS: I don’t know. None of this makes any sense. We KNOW that there was no chemical attack. The Syrians struck a weapons cache (a legitimate military target) and there was collateral damage. That’s it. They did not conduct any sort of a chemical attack.
Anzeige

AS: And now we’re shoving a shit load of TLAMs (tomahawks) up their ass.

SA: There has been a hidden agenda all along. This is about trying to ultimately go after Iran. What the people around Trump do not understand is that the Russians are not a paper tiger and that they have more robust military capability than we do.

AS: I don’t know what the Russians are going to do. They might hang back and let the Syrians defend their own borders, or they might provide some sort of tepid support, or they might blow us the fuck out of the airspace and back into Iraq. I honestly don’t know what to expect right now. I feel like anything is possible. The russian air defense system is capable of taking out our TLAMs. this is a big fucking deal…we are still all systems go…

SA: You are so right. Russia is not going to take this lying down

SA: Who is pushing this? Is it coming from Votel (General Joseph L. Votel, Commander of United States Central Command, editor‘s note) ?

AS: I don’t know. It’s from someone big though. . . . This is a big fucking deal.

AS: It has to be POTUS.

AS: They [the russians] are weighing their options. Indications are they are going to be passive supporters of syria and not engage their systems unless their own assets are threatened..in other words, the sky is fucking blue.’

April 7, 2017

SA: What are the Russians doing or saying Am I correct that we did little real damage to Russia or Syria?

AS: We didn’t hit a damn thing, thankfully. They retrograded all their aircraft and personnel. We basically gave them a very expensive fireworks display.

AS: They knew where ships were and watched the entire strike from launch to end game.

AS: The Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real Intel and know the truth about the weapons depot strike.

AS: They are correct.

AS: I guess it really didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump. Fuck.

AS: No one is talking about the entire reason we’re in Iraq and Syria in the first place. That mission is fucked now.

SA: Are any of your colleagues pissed or is everyone going along with it and saying this is OK

AS: It’s a mad house. . . .Hell we even told the Russians an hour before impact

SA: But they clearly knew it was coming

AS: Oh of course

AS: Now Fox is saying we chose to hit the Syrian airfield because it is where the chemical attacks were launched from. Wow. Can’t make this shit up.

SA: They are. I mean, making it up

AS: It’s so fuckin evil

SA: Amen!!!

April 8, 2017

AS: Russians are being extremely reasonable. Despite what the news is reporting they are still trying to deconflict and coordinate the air campaign.

SA: I don’t think the russia yet understands how crazy Trump is over this. And i don’t think we appreciate how much damage the Russians can do to us.

AS: They’re showing amazing restraint and been unbelievably calm. They seem mostly interested in de-escalating everything. They don’t want to lose our support in the help with destroying Isis.

SA: But I get the get the feeling are simply trying this approach for as long as they feel it might work. If we keep pushing this current aggressive stance they’re going to hit back.’


Seymour Hersh’s analysis of what really happened.

Source: https://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article165905578/Trump-s-Red-Line.html

Trump‘s Red Line

On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.

The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack, including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president’s determination to ignore the evidence. “None of this makes any sense,” one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth … I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.“

Within hours of the April 4 bombing, the world’s media was saturated with photographs and videos from Khan Sheikhoun. Pictures of dead and dying victims, allegedly suffering from the symptoms of nerve gas poisoning, were uploaded to social media by local activists, including the White Helmets, a first responder group known for its close association with the Syrian opposition.

The provenance of the photos was not clear and no international observers have yet inspected the site, but the immediate popular assumption worldwide was that this was a deliberate use of the nerve agent sarin, authorized by President Bashar Assad of Syria. Trump endorsed that assumption by issuing a statement within hours of the attack, describing Assad’s “heinous actions” as being a consequence of the Obama administration’s “weakness and irresolution” in addressing what he said was Syria’s past use of chemical weapons.

To the dismay of many senior members of his national security team, Trump could not be swayed over the next 48 hours of intense briefings and decision-making. In a series of interviews, I learned of the total disconnect between the president and many of his military advisers and intelligence officials, as well as officers on the ground in the region who had an entirely different understanding of the nature of Syria’s attack on Khan Sheikhoun. I was provided with evidence of that disconnect, in the form of transcripts of real-time communications, immediately following the Syrian attack on April 4. In an important pre-strike process known as deconfliction, U.S. and Russian officers routinely supply one another with advance details of planned flight paths and target coordinates, to ensure that there is no risk of collision or accidental encounter (the Russians speak on behalf of the Syrian military). This information is supplied daily to the American AWACS surveillance planes that monitor the flights once airborne. Deconfliction’s success and importance can be measured by the fact that there has yet to be one collision, or even a near miss, among the high-powered supersonic American, Allied, Russian and Syrian fighter bombers.

Russian and Syrian Air Force officers gave details of the carefully planned flight path to and from Khan Shiekhoun on April 4 directly, in English, to the deconfliction monitors aboard the AWACS plane, which was on patrol near the Turkish border, 60 miles or more to the north.

The Syrian target at Khan Sheikhoun, as shared with the Americans at Doha, was depicted as a two-story cinder-block building in the northern part of town. Russian intelligence, which is shared when necessary with Syria and the U.S. as part of their joint fight against jihadist groups, had established that a high-level meeting of jihadist leaders was to take place in the building, including representatives of Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaida-affiliated group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. The two groups had recently joined forces, and controlled the town and surrounding area. Russian intelligence depicted the cinder-block building as a command and control center that housed a grocery and other commercial premises on its ground floor with other essential shops nearby, including a fabric shop and an electronics store.

“The rebels control the population by controlling the distribution of goods that people need to live – food, water, cooking oil, propane gas, fertilizers for growing their crops, and insecticides to protect the crops,” a senior adviser to the American intelligence community, who has served in senior positions in the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, told me. The basement was used as storage for rockets, weapons and ammunition, as well as products that could be distributed for free to the community, among them medicines and chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial. The meeting place – a regional headquarters – was on the floor above. “It was an established meeting place,” the senior adviser said. “A long-time facility that would have had security, weapons, communications, files and a map center.” The Russians were intent on confirming their intelligence and deployed a drone for days above the site to monitor communications and develop what is known in the intelligence community as a POL – a pattern of life. The goal was to take note of those going in and out of the building, and to track weapons being moved back and forth, including rockets and ammunition.

One reason for the Russian message to Washington about the intended target was to ensure that any CIA asset or informant who had managed to work his way into the jihadist leadership was forewarned not to attend the meeting. I was told that the Russians passed the warning directly to the CIA. “They were playing the game right,” the senior adviser said. The Russian guidance noted that the jihadist meeting was coming at a time of acute pressure for the insurgents: Presumably Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham were desperately seeking a path forward in the new political climate. In the last few days of March, Trump and two of his key national security aides – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley – had made statements acknowledging that, as the New York Times put it, the White House “has abandoned the goal” of pressuring Assad “to leave power, marking a sharp departure from the Middle East policy that guided the Obama administration for more than five years.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told a press briefing on March 31 that “there is a political reality that we have to accept,” implying that Assad was there to stay.

Russian and Syrian intelligence officials, who coordinate operations closely with the American command posts, made it clear that the planned strike on Khan Sheikhoun was special because of the high-value target. “It was a red-hot change. The mission was out of the ordinary – scrub the sked,” the senior adviser told me. “Every operations officer in the region” – in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, CIA and NSA – “had to know there was something going on. The Russians gave the Syrian Air Force a guided bomb and that was a rarity. They’re skimpy with their guided bombs and rarely share them with the Syrian Air Force. And the Syrians assigned their best pilot to the mission, with the best wingman.” The advance intelligence on the target, as supplied by the Russians, was given the highest possible score inside the American community.

The Execute Order governing U.S. military operations in theater, which was issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provide instructions that demarcate the relationship between the American and Russian forces operating in Syria. “It’s like an ops order – ‘Here’s what you are authorized to do,’” the adviser said. “We do not share operational control with the Russians. We don’t do combined operations with them, or activities directly in support of one of their operations. But coordination is permitted. We keep each other apprised of what’s happening and within this package is the mutual exchange of intelligence. If we get a hot tip that could help the Russians do their mission, that’s coordination; and the Russians do the same for us. When we get a hot tip about a command and control facility,” the adviser added, referring to the target in Khan Sheikhoun, “we do what we can to help them act on it.” “This was not a chemical weapons strike,” the adviser said. “That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon – you’ve got to make it appear like a regular 500-pound conventional bomb – would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear. Military grade sarin includes additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that comes out is maximized for death. That is why it is made. It is odorless and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce a weapon that people can run away from?”

The target was struck at 6:55 a.m. on April 4, just before midnight in Washington. A Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the U.S. military later determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb triggered a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground. According to intelligence estimates, the senior adviser said, the strike itself killed up to four jihadist leaders, and an unknown number of drivers and security aides. There is no confirmed count of the number of civilians killed by the poisonous gases that were released by the secondary explosions, although opposition activists reported that there were more than 80 dead, and outlets such as CNN have put the figure as high as 92. A team from Médecins Sans Frontières, treating victims from Khan Sheikhoun at a clinic 60 miles to the north, reported that “eight patients showed symptoms – including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation – which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds.” MSF also visited other hospitals that had received victims and found that patients there “smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine.” In other words, evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.

The internet swung into action within hours, and gruesome photographs of the victims flooded television networks and YouTube. U.S. intelligence was tasked with establishing what had happened. Among the pieces of information received was an intercept of Syrian communications collected before the attack by an allied nation. The intercept, which had a particularly strong effect on some of Trump’s aides, did not mention nerve gas or sarin, but it did quote a Syrian general discussing a “special” weapon and the need for a highly skilled pilot to man the attack plane. The reference, as those in the American intelligence community understood, and many of the inexperienced aides and family members close to Trump may not have, was to a Russian-supplied bomb with its built-in guidance system. “If you’ve already decided it was a gas attack, you will then inevitably read the talk about a special weapon as involving a sarin bomb,” the adviser said. “Did the Syrians plan the attack on Khan Sheikhoun? Absolutely. Do we have intercepts to prove it? Absolutely. Did they plan to use sarin? No. But the president did not say: ‘We have a problem and let’s look into it.’ He wanted to bomb the shit out of Syria.”

At the UN the next day, Ambassador Haley created a media sensation when she displayed photographs of the dead and accused Russia of being complicit. “How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” she asked. NBC News, in a typical report that day, quoted American officials as confirming that nerve gas had been used and Haley tied the attack directly to Syrian President Assad. “We know that yesterday’s attack was a new low even for the barbaric Assad regime,” she said. There was irony in America’s rush to blame Syria and criticize Russia for its support of Syria’s denial of any use of gas in Khan Sheikhoun, as Ambassador Haley and others in Washington did. “What doesn’t occur to most Americans” the adviser said, “is if there had been a Syrian nerve gas attack authorized by Bashar, the Russians would be 10 times as upset as anyone in the West. Russia’s strategy against ISIS, which involves getting American cooperation, would have been destroyed and Bashar would be responsible for pissing off Russia, with unknown consequences for him. Bashar would do that? When he’s on the verge of winning the war? Are you kidding me?”

Trump, a constant watcher of television news, said, while King Abdullah of Jordan was sitting next to him in the Oval Office, that what had happened was “horrible, horrible” and a “terrible affront to humanity.” Asked if his administration would change its policy toward the Assad government, he said: “You will see.” He gave a hint of the response to come at the subsequent news conference with King Abdullah: “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies – babies, little babies – with a chemical gas that is so lethal … that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line . … That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me. Big impact … It’s very, very possible … that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”

Within hours of viewing the photos, the adviser said, Trump instructed the national defense apparatus to plan for retaliation against Syria. “He did this before he talked to anybody about it. The planners then asked the CIA and DIA if there was any evidence that Syria had sarin stored at a nearby airport or somewhere in the area. Their military had to have it somewhere in the area in order to bomb with it.” “The answer was, ‘We have no evidence that Syria had sarin or used it,’” the adviser said. “The CIA also told them that there was no residual delivery for sarin at Sheyrat [the airfield from which the Syrian SU-24 bombers had taken off on April 4] and Assad had no motive to commit political suicide.” Everyone involved, except perhaps the president, also understood that a highly skilled United Nations team had spent more than a year in the aftermath of an alleged sarin attack in 2013 by Syria, removing what was said to be all chemical weapons from a dozen Syrian chemical weapons depots.

At this point, the adviser said, the president’s national security planners were more than a little rattled: “No one knew the provenance of the photographs. We didn’t know who the children were or how they got hurt. Sarin actually is very easy to detect because it penetrates paint, and all one would have to do is get a paint sample. We knew there was a cloud and we knew it hurt people. But you cannot jump from there to certainty that Assad had hidden sarin from the UN because he wanted to use it in Khan Sheikhoun.” The intelligence made clear that a Syrian Air Force SU-24 fighter bomber had used a conventional weapon to hit its target: There had been no chemical warhead. And yet it was impossible for the experts to persuade the president of this once he had made up his mind. “The president saw the photographs of poisoned little girls and said it was an Assad atrocity,” the senior adviser said. “It’s typical of human nature. You jump to the conclusion you want. Intelligence analysts do not argue with a president. They’re not going to tell the president, ‘if you interpret the data this way, I quit.’”

The national security advisers understood their dilemma: Trump wanted to respond to the affront to humanity committed by Syria and he did not want to be dissuaded. They were dealing with a man they considered to be not unkind and not stupid, but his limitations when it came to national security decisions were severe. “Everyone close to him knows his proclivity for acting precipitously when he does not know the facts,” the adviser said. “He doesn’t read anything and has no real historical knowledge. He wants verbal briefings and photographs. He’s a risk-taker. He can accept the consequences of a bad decision in the business world; he will just lose money. But in our world, lives will be lost and there will be long-term damage to our national security if he guesses wrong. He was told we did not have evidence of Syrian involvement and yet Trump says: ‘Do it.”’

On April 6, Trump convened a meeting of national security officials at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The meeting was not to decide what to do, but how best to do it – or, as some wanted, how to do the least and keep Trump happy. “The boss knew before the meeting that they didn’t have the intelligence, but that was not the issue,” the adviser said. “The meeting was about, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do,’ and then he gets the options.”

The available intelligence was not relevant. The most experienced man at the table was Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general who had the president’s respect and understood, perhaps, how quickly that could evaporate. Mike Pompeo, the CIA director whose agency had consistently reported that it had no evidence of a Syrian chemical bomb, was not present. Secretary of State Tillerson was admired on the inside for his willingness to work long hours and his avid reading of diplomatic cables and reports, but he knew little about waging war and the management of a bombing raid. Those present were in a bind, the adviser said. “The president was emotionally energized by the disaster and he wanted options.” He got four of them, in order of extremity. Option one was to do nothing. All involved, the adviser said, understood that was a non-starter. Option two was a slap on the wrist: to bomb an airfield in Syria, but only after alerting the Russians and, through them, the Syrians, to avoid too many casualties. A few of the planners called this the “gorilla option”: America would glower and beat its chest to provoke fear and demonstrate resolve, but cause little significant damage. The third option was to adopt the strike package that had been presented to Obama in 2013, and which he ultimately chose not to pursue. The plan called for the massive bombing of the main Syrian airfields and command and control centers using B1 and B52 aircraft launched from their bases in the U.S. Option four was “decapitation”: to remove Assad by bombing his palace in Damascus, as well as his command and control network and all of the underground bunkers he could possibly retreat to in a crisis.

“Trump ruled out option one off the bat,” the senior adviser said, and the assassination of Assad was never considered. “But he said, in essence: ‘You’re the military and I want military action.’” The president was also initially opposed to the idea of giving the Russians advance warning before the strike, but reluctantly accepted it. “We gave him the Goldilocks option – not too hot, not too cold, but just right.” The discussion had its bizarre moments. Tillerson wondered at the Mar-a-Lago meeting why the president could not simply call in the B52 bombers and pulverize the air base. He was told that B52s were very vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) in the area and using such planes would require suppression fire that could kill some Russian defenders. “What is that?” Tillerson asked. Well, sir, he was told, that means we would have to destroy the upgraded SAM sites along the B52 flight path, and those are manned by Russians, and we possibly would be confronted with a much more difficult situation. “The lesson here was: Thank God for the military men at the meeting,” the adviser said. “They did the best they could when confronted with a decision that had already been made.”

Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles were fired from two U.S. Navy destroyers on duty in the Mediterranean, the Ross and the Porter, at Shayrat Air Base near the government-controlled city of Homs. The strike was as successful as hoped, in terms of doing minimal damage. The missiles have a light payload – roughly 220 pounds of HBX, the military’s modern version of TNT. The airfield’s gasoline storage tanks, a primary target, were pulverized, the senior adviser said, triggering a huge fire and clouds of smoke that interfered with the guidance system of following missiles. As many as 24 missiles missed their targets and only a few of the Tomahawks actually penetrated into hangars, destroying nine Syrian aircraft, many fewer than claimed by the Trump administration. I was told that none of the nine was operational: such damaged aircraft are what the Air Force calls hangar queens. “They were sacrificial lambs,” the senior adviser said. Most of the important personnel and operational fighter planes had been flown to nearby bases hours before the raid began. The two runways and parking places for aircraft, which had also been targeted, were repaired and back in operation within eight hours or so. All in all, it was little more than an expensive fireworks display.

“It was a totally Trump show from beginning to end,” the senior adviser said. “A few of the president’s senior national security advisers viewed the mission as a minimized bad presidential decision, and one that they had an obligation to carry out. But I don’t think our national security people are going to allow themselves to be hustled into a bad decision again. If Trump had gone for option three, there might have been some immediate resignations.”

After the meeting, with the Tomahawks on their way, Trump spoke to the nation from Mar-a-Lago, and accused Assad of using nerve gas to choke out “the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many … No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” The next few days were his most successful as president. America rallied around its commander in chief, as it always does in times of war. Trump, who had campaigned as someone who advocated making peace with Assad, was bombing Syria 11 weeks after taking office, and was hailed for doing so by Republicans, Democrats and the media alike. One prominent TV anchorman, Brian Williams of MSNBC, used the word “beautiful” to describe the images of the Tomahawks being launched at sea. Speaking on CNN, Fareed Zakaria said: “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States.” A review of the top 100 American newspapers showed that 39 of them published editorials supporting the bombing in its aftermath, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

Five days later, the Trump administration gathered the national media for a background briefing on the Syrian operation that was conducted by a senior White House official who was not to be identified. The gist of the briefing was that Russia’s heated and persistent denial of any sarin use in the Khan Sheikhoun bombing was a lie because President Trump had said sarin had been used. That assertion, which was not challenged or disputed by any of the reporters present, became the basis for a series of further criticisms:

– The continued lying by the Trump administration about Syria’s use of sarin led to widespread belief in the American media and public that Russia had chosen to be involved in a corrupt disinformation and cover-up campaign on the part of Syria.

– Russia’s military forces had been co-located with Syria’s at the Shayrat airfield (as they are throughout Syria), raising the possibility that Russia had advance notice of Syria’s determination to use sarin at Khan Sheikhoun and did nothing to stop it.

– Syria’s use of sarin and Russia’s defense of that use strongly suggested that Syria withheld stocks of the nerve agent from the UN disarmament team that spent much of 2014 inspecting and removing all declared chemical warfare agents from 12 Syrian chemical weapons depots, pursuant to the agreement worked out by the Obama administration and Russia after Syria’s alleged, but still unproven, use of sarin the year before against a rebel redoubt in a suburb of Damascus.

The briefer, to his credit, was careful to use the words “think,” “suggest” and “believe” at least 10 times during the 30-minute event. But he also said that his briefing was based on data that had been declassified by “our colleagues in the intelligence community.” What the briefer did not say, and may not have known, was that much of the classified information in the community made the point that Syria had not used sarin in the April 4 bombing attack.

The mainstream press responded the way the White House had hoped it would: Stories attacking Russia’s alleged cover-up of Syria’s sarin use dominated the news and many media outlets ignored the briefer’s myriad caveats. There was a sense of renewed Cold War. The New York Times, for example – America’s leading newspaper – put the following headline on its account: “White House Accuses Russia of Cover-Up in Syria Chemical Attack.” The Times’ account did note a Russian denial, but what was described by the briefer as “declassified information” suddenly became a “declassified intelligence report.” Yet there was no formal intelligence report stating that Syria had used sarin, merely a “summary based on declassified information about the attacks,” as the briefer referred to it.

The crisis slid into the background by the end of April, as Russia, Syria and the United States remained focused on annihilating ISIS and the militias of al-Qaida. Some of those who had worked through the crisis, however, were left with lingering concerns. “The Salafists and jihadists got everything they wanted out of their hyped-up Syrian nerve gas ploy,” the senior adviser to the U.S. intelligence community told me, referring to the flare up of tensions between Syria, Russia and America. “The issue is, what if there’s another false flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.”

The White House did not answer specific questions about the bombing of Khan Sheikhoun and the airport of Shayrat. These questions were send via e-mail to the White House on June 15 and never answered.

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“It Is The Presstitutes, Not Russia, Who Interfered In The US Presidential Election”

Written by Paul Craig Roberts; Originally appeared at Paulcraigroberts.org

Unlike Oliver Stone, who knew how to interview Vladimir Putin, Megyn Kelly did not. Thus, she made a fool of herself, which is par for her course.

"It Is The Presstitutes, Not Russia, Who Interfered In The US Presidential Election"

Now the entire Western media has joined Megyn in foolishness, or so it appears from a RT report. James O’Keefe has senior CNN producer John Bonifield on video telling O’Keefe that CNN’s anti-Russia reporting is purely for ratings:

“It’s mostly bullshit right now. Like, we don’t have any big giant proof.”

CNN’s Bonifield is reported to go on to say that “our CIA is doing shit all the time, we’re out there trying to manipulate governments.”

And, of course, the American people, the European peoples, and the US and European governments are being conditioned by the “Russia did it” storyline to distrust Russia and to accept whatever dangerous and irresponsible policy toward Russia that Washington comes up with next.

Is the anti-Russian propaganda driven by ratings as Bonifield is reported to claim, or are ratings the neoconservatives and military/security complex’s cover for media disinformation that increases tensions between the superpowers and prepares the ground for nuclear war?

RT acknowledges that the entire story could be just another piece of false news, which is all that the Western media is known for.

Nevertheless, what we do know is that the fake news reporting pertains to Russia’s alleged interference in the US presidential election. Allegedly, Trump was elected by Putin’s interference in the election. This claim is absurd, but if you are Megyn Kelly you lack the IQ to see that. Instead, presstitutes turn a nonsense story into a real story despite the absence of any evidence.

Who actually interfered in the US presidential election, Putin or the presstitutes themselves? The answer is clear and obvious. It was the presstitutes, who were out to get Trump from day one of the presidential campaign. It is CIA director John Brennan, who did everything in his power to brand Trump some sort of Russian agent. It is FBI director Comey who did likewise by continuing to “investigate” what he knew was a non-event. We now have a former FBI director playing the role of special prosecutor investigating Trump for “obstruction of justice” when there is no evidence of a crime to be obstructed! What we are witnessing is the ongoing interference in the presidential election, an interference that not only makes a mockery of democracy but also of the rule of law.

The presstitutes not only interfered in the presidential election; they are now interfering with democracy itself. They are seeking to overturn the people’s choice by discrediting the President of the United States and those who elected him. The Democratic Party is a part of this attack on American democracy. It is the DNC that insists that a Putin/Trump conspiracy stole the presidency from Hillary. The Democrats’ position is that it is too risky to permit the American people—the “deplorables”— to vote. The Democratic Party’s line is that if you let Americans vote, they will elect a Putin stooge and America will be ruled by Russia.

Many wonder why Trump doesn’t use the power of the office of the presidency to indict the hit squad that is out to get him. There is no doubt that a jury of deplorables would indict Brennan, Comey, Megyn Kelly and the rest. On the other hand, perhaps Trump’s view is that the Republican Party cannot afford to go down with him, and, therefore, as he is politically protected by the Republican majority, the best strategy is to let the Democrats and the presstitutes destroy themselves in the eyes of flyover America.

What our survival as Americans depends on is the Russians’ view of this conflict between a US President who intended to reduce the tensions between the nuclear powers and those determined to increase the tensions. The Russian high command has already announced its conclusion that Washington is preparing a surprise nuclear attack on Russia. It is not possible to imagine a more dangerous conclusion. So far, no one in Washington or any Western government has made an effort to reassure Russia that no such attack is being prepared. Instead, the calls are for more punishment of Russia and more tension.

This most extraordinary of failures demonstrates the complete separation of the West from reality.

It is difficult to imagine a more extreme danger than for the insouciant West to convince Russia that the West is incapable of rational behavior.

Syrian War Report – June 29, 2017: Desert Hakws Brigade Deploys Large Reinforcements For Battle Against ISIS

Voiceover by Harold Hoover

The Desert Hawks Brigade has deployed large reinforcements in order to support the expected Syrian army advance against ISIS in the Eastern Hama countryside.

A video showing a Desert Hawks Brigade military convoy appeared online showing two Shilka vehicles, 3 modified BMP-1 vehicles, 3 new BMP-2 vehicles, a T-72B1 battle tank, three T-90A battle tanks, and three Gvozdika self-propelled guns.  According to sources from the brigade, this convoy is just a part of the force that will participate in the operation.

Government forces are aiming to liberate the strategic ISIS town of Aqirbat as well as secure the road heading to the Palmyra.

The Syrian Army and its allies set up a fortified military base south of the Zaza triangle at the Al Tanf road.  The base includes fortifications, artillery pieces, and armored vehicles.  The Syrian army aims to strengthen its presence in the area in order to be ready for any possible advance by US-backed militant groups.

Government forces have captured some positions from ISIS 10 km east of the Arak gas field in the countryside of Palmyra.  The army also established control of nearly the entire road between the T2 and T3 pumping stations.

A battle is ongoing near the strategic Humaima village, located within 80 km from the ISIS-held town of al-Bukamal.  Humaima and the T2 pumping station are mid-term goals of the Syrian military.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed up by the US-led coalition, have captured Hattin district and advanced on ISIS in the Nahda district of Raqqah city where an intense fight is ongoing.

Local sources report that the US-led coalition air force and military strikes by US Marines play a key role in the SDF strategy inside the city.  The SDF simply calls in military strikes on any ISIS strong point that it sees in the nearby area.  However, ISIS actively uses tunnels preventing SDF units from rapid advances.

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