No surprise: israeli defense chief says ISIS in Sinai not a threat

Israeli defense chief says I.S.I.S in Sinai not a threat

isis

I-24 NEWS – Liberman says ISIS’s Sinai affiliate ‘random amateurs’ compared to Hamas, Hezbollah. Israel’s defense minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday downplayed the threat posed by the Islamic State jihadist group’s affiliate in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, saying that while they are “annoying” and “hindersome” they are not a serious concern for Israel’s security.

“If you are talking about Hamas and Hezbollah then [the Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate] is not even a terror group,” Lieberman told Army Radio, describing the group as “random [amateurs] who decided to build themselves an army.”

“We need to see everything in proportion,” he said.

Liberman’s comments came after two projectiles were fired from the Egyptian enclave, landing without incident in open areas in southern Israel. While no group claimed the rocket fire, the Islamic State claimed hours earlier that an alleged Israeli drone strike in northern Sinai had killed five of its militants.

GPO

Asked whether Israel had carried out the strike, Liberman said sarcastically that the terrorists were likely taken out by “the special forces of Lichtenstein,” before adding: “We do not let anything go without a response.”

The jihadist group’s Egyptian affiliate Wilayat Sayna (formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis) has been behind periodic rocket fire toward Israel, most recently claiming a salvo of rockets fired at the nearby Red Sea resort of city of Eilat.

The group said the attack was launched “in order to teach the Jews and the crusaders a proxy war will not avail them of anything.”

The Islamic State group claims to be active on Israel’s northern border as well, announcing though its affiliated Amaq news website that it had expanded its reach in southwestern Syria near in the Golan Heights, which borders Israel.

Syrian rebels and witnesses said ISIS militants launched a surprise attack on towns situated along the Yarmouk river between Syria and Israel.

“In a surprise attack Islamic State made an attack on positions held by the Free Syrian Army FSA groups which no one expected to happen so fast,” Newsweek quotes Colonel Ismail Ayoub, a Syrian opposition army defector, as saying.

Israel has so far largely avoided major ISIS-inspired attacks in the country, though it estimates that around 50 of its citizens have traveled to Syria to fight with Sunni rebels.

ISIS

USA “democracy”. The people choose President & then the DeepState moves in to dictate policy. Same thing happened with Obama

The War Hawks Rolled Donald Trump

SEE ALSO Behind the Headlines: Illusion of democracy: Trump powerless against the Deep State?

President Trump’s first National Security Advisor Mike Flynn got kicked out of office for talking with Russian officials. Such talks were completely inline with Trump’s declared policies of détente with Russia. (I agree that Flynn should have never gotten the NSA job. But the reasons for that have nothing to do with his Russian connections.)

Allegedly Flynn did not fully inform Vice-President Pence about his talk with the Russian ambassador. But that can not be a serious reason. The talks were rather informal, they were not transcribed. The first call is said to have reached Flynn on vacation in the Dominican Republic. Why would a Vice-President need to know each and every word of it?

With Flynn out, the war-on-Russia hawks, that is about everyone of the “serious people” in Washington DC, had the second most important person out of the way that would probably hinder their plans.

They replaced him with a militaristic anti-Russian hawk:

In a 2016 speech to the Virginia Military Institute, McMaster stressed the need for the US to have “strategic vision” in its fight against “hostile revisionist powers” — such as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran — that “annex territory, intimidate our allies, develop nuclear weapons, and use proxies under the cover of modernized conventional militaries.”

General McMaster, the new National Security Advisor, gets sold as a somewhat rebellious, scholar-warrior wunderkind. When the now disgraced former General Petraeus came into sight he was sold with the same marketing profile.

Petraeus was McMaster’s boss. McMaster is partially his creature:

He was passed over for brigadier general twice, until then-Gen. David Petraeus personally flew back to Washington, D.C., from Iraq to chair the Army’s promotion board in 2008.

When Petraeus took over in the war on Afghanistan he selected McMaster as his staff leader for strategy,

McMaster was peddled to the White House by Senator Tom Cotton, one of the most outlandish Republican neocon war hawks.

McMaster’s best known book is “Dereliction of Duty” about the way the U.S. involved itself into the Vietnam War. McMaster criticizes the Generals of that time for not having resisted then President Johnson’s policies.

He is the main author of an Army study on how to militarily counter Russia. McMaster is likely to “resist” when President Trump orders him to pursue better relations with Moscow.

Trump has now been boxed in by hawkish, anti-Russian military in his cabinet and by a hawkish Vice-President. The only ally he still may have in the White House is his consigliere Steve Bannon. The next onslaught of the “serious people” is against Bennon and especially against his role in the NSC. It will only recede when he is fired.

It seems to me that Trump has been rolled with the attacks on Flynn and the insertion of McMaster into his inner circle. I wonder if he, and Bannon, recognize the same problematic development and have a strategy against it.

 

US Keeps Stealing Iraq’s Oil Despite Mattis Comments: Analyst

Despite remarks by Defense Secretary James Mattis, US presence in Iraq is aimed at “stealing oil,” an analyst says.

Gordon Duff, senior editor at Veterans Today, made the statement while commenting on Monday remarks by Mattis ahead of an unannounced visit to the war-ravaged country.

In an apparent attempt to distance himself from recent remarks by President Donald Trump regarding Iraq and its oil, the Pentagon chief, who was en route to Iraq, asserted that Americans are “not in Iraq to seize” oil.

In the course of one year after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the US “stole 40 percent of Iraq’s oil that was sent out thought the Kirkuk pipeline to the Mediterranean port, south of Seyhan, Turkey,” Duff told Press TV.

“And it was loaded on the tankers owned by, well oddly enough, mostly Exxon corporation.”

The former ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson, currently serves as Trump’s state department secretary.

“Those tankers would be loaded, supertankers one after another, with Iraqi oil that was never paid for and then again we have the issue of ISIS (Daesh) and their 12,000 trucks that the US never saw.”


This AFP file photo taken on October 19, 2016 shows a man taking a selfie in front of a fire from oil that has been set ablaze south of Mosul.

“The oil trade is still going on,” asserted the Ohio-based commentator. “That oil [is] being shipped into Turkey, where it’s processed for the Turkey market or it’s put in the same Seyhan pipeline.”

The stolen oil is also being sold at a “highly discounted price” to ExxonMobil, “and that would be Rex Tillerson.”

Duff noted that Mattis himself “knows all about this.”

There remains the question, he asked, “why does he [Mattis] say this?”

“We are not there in Iraq to steal oil? Or we’re not there to steal oil anymore? Or perhaps we are there to stop stealing oil because the US is still stealing oil from Iraq?”

In March 2003, the US and Britain invaded Iraq in blatant violation of international law, over Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction,” but no such weapons were ever discovered in the country.

Commenting on Iraq in a speech to CIA staff on January 21, Trump said, “We should have kept the oil. But okay. Maybe you’ll have another chance.”

Later he clarified his saying, by stating that the US “should have taken the oil. You wouldn’t have ISIS (Daesh) if we took the oil.”

The success of #fakenews: Americans’ Hostility to Russia Soared After Obama’s 2012 Re-Election

Gallup: Americans’ Hostility to Russia Soared After Obama’s 2012 Re-Election

Gallup: Americans’ Hostility to Russia Soared After Obama’s 2012 Re-Election

Eric ZUESSE | 21.02.2017 | OPINION

Gallup: Americans’ Hostility to Russia Soared After Obama’s 2012 Re-Election

The Gallup organization samples Americans’ approval-disapproval of Russia in February of each year, and the approval-figure for this year is only slightly more than half as high as it had been back in 2012 when Obama publicly mocked his Presidential-campaign opponent Mitt Romney’s famous statement that «Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe».

Gallup poll released on 20 February 2017 showed that Americans’ favorability rating of Russia, immediately after U.S. President Barack Obama left office, is only 28%, which is just above Americans’ 24% favorability toward The Palestinian Authority, and just below the 31% favorability toward Saudi Arabia. Russia hasn’t always been rated down in that low league of American popularity.

Back in 2012, before Obama’s second term, that favorability rating toward Russia was 50%. The year before that, in 2011, it was 51%. It had been reasonably stable until Obama’s re-election (except during 1998-2004 when it gyrated wildly because of Americans’ uncertainty of what the post-Soviet, post-communist, Russian government was like).

The lowest-ever American approval-rating for Russia occurred in Gallup’s poll on 8-11 February 2015, almost a year after the overthrow of Ukraine’s government and the vote of Crimeans to abandon Ukraine’s government and rejoin Russia, when it was 24%. In Gallup’s immediate-prior poll, which was taken right before the 20-26 February 2014 overthrow of the Ukrainian government, the Gallup poll on 6-9 February 2014, 34% of Americans approved of Russia.

No other nation has plunged even nearly as steeply in Americans’ favorability as did Russia, during Obama’s second term. The plunge, from 50% to 28%, which is a 44% plunge in the rating, compares with, as the second-steepest such plunge, Saudi Arabia: it’s a plunge from 42% in 2012, to 31% now, which is a 26% plunge — far less than the 44% plunge for Russia.

The biggest rise during Obama’s second term was for Cuba: 37% favorability-rating in 2012, 51 % today, which is a 38 % rise, during the four years of Obama’s second term.

Cuba’s remarkable rise during Obama’s second term cannot reasonably be attributed to Obama’s having restored, on 20 July 2015, diplomatic relations with Cuba, which had been severed in 1961. The rise instead occurred gradually throughout Obama’s second term. And, prior to 2012, going all the way back to 1998, Americans’ approval-rating of Cuba had been rather stable, within the 25 % to 30 % range. So: apparently throughout Obama’s second term, the U.S. press were providing increasingly favorable ‘news’ coverage of Cuba.

Russia’s chart-topping plunge occurred fairly steadily throughout Obama’s second term. It wasn’t caused entirely by the events in February and March 2014 in Ukraine: the overthrow of President Yanukovych and the plebiscite in which over 90 % of Crimeans (who had voted overwhelmingly for Yanukovych) voted to no longer to be in Ukraine but instead to return to being citizens of Russia, which Crimeans had been until 1954, when the Soviet dictator arbitrarily transferred Crimea from Russia to Ukraine (he was a Ukrainian: Nikita Khrushchev). Obama’s policy on that was to insist that the people of Crimea had no right of self-determination of peoples (which right he agreed with when it pertained to Catalonians in Spain and to Scots in UK but not to Crimeans in Ukraine) but that instead Russia’s acceptance of Crimeans back into Russia is ‘conquest of land’ by Russia, and so Obama imposed economic sanctions against Russia, and NATO poured U.S. and other troops and missiles onto Russia’s borders, allegedly so that there would be no more such ‘conquests’ by Russia (as if there were anything like a plebiscite in Romania or Latvia or Poland etc. in which a majority of the residents there sought for their land to become a part of Russia).

What is especially important to note regarding the plunge in Americans’ approval-rating for Russia is that it didn’t occur only after, but started well before, those events in Ukraine in 2014; it started at the very end of Obama’s first term, in 2012.

Obama’s State Department started planning the overthrow of Ukraine’s government by no later than 2011, when they were probing Julian Assange for information about how to stir revolutions by drawing supporters into online resistance activities. Assange did not know, at that time, what use the U.S. State Department (assisted by Google’s chief, Eric Schmidt) were aiming to make of the information that he provided. However, by the time the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine started on 1 March 2013 its «tech camps» to implement the ‘revolution’, it became clear what use Obama’s people were making of Assange’s insights.

Apparently, the ‘news’ coverage of Russia during the years of the plunge, 2012-2016, was somehow becoming progressively more and more unfavorable, in preparation for the 2014 Ukrainian coup and its aftermath of economic sanctions and the positioning of increasing numbers of U.S. troops and missiles on and near Russia’s borders. The U.S. government even publicly celebrated its propaganda-success.

Manipulating the public in a ‘democracy’ has become so much of a science, so that a person can reasonably doubt whether democracy, in even the limited extents to which it has existed in the past, possesses any realistic meaning in today’s world — or (if so) what meaning.

The basic theories of politics and understandings of ideology — everything that employs the concept «democracy» — are false now, even if they weren’t false earlier, when ‘democracies’ routinely included societies such as ancient Athens, where the majority of citizens owned one or more slaves.

Where lies reign, what meaning has ‘democracy’? Has it become merely one more lie? This is a serious question.

Pentagon Wars and US Hegemony at the Root of Instability and Dislocation

Source

By Abayomi Azikiwe,

Washington Seeks to “Reassure” Europe at Munich Security Conference

europe_america_friends

Pentagon wars and capitalist exploitation at the root of instability and dislocation

Members of the United States government spoke in Germany at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) held from February 17-19 in an effort to assuage growing fears in Europe over the apparent escalating official and public disaffection from the administration of President Donald Trump.

Vice President Mike Pence told the MSC that the U.S. commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was “unwavering.” Pence later said that the Russian Federation would be held accountable for actions internationally dispelling the myth that a Trump White House will lessen tensions with Moscow.

Republican Senator John McCain, however, raised questions about the stability of the current regime in Washington assessing that the Trump presidency was in “disarray and had a lot of work to do.” He cited the recent scandal and departure of National Security Advisor Gen. Michael Flynn as firm evidence for his viewpoint on the White House.

Everyday across the U.S. there are demonstrations being held against Trump’s policies which are being enacted through executive orders and presidential memorandums.

From the concerns over escalating military tensions with Iran and China to the domestic protests against the targeting of Muslims, immigrants, women, African Americans, etc., people have come out in the millions to register their opposition. At the same time, high-ranking Democratic Party spokespersons have sought to blame unverified claims of interference from the Russian Federation into the 2016 national presidential elections for the contradictions in the present administration.

Excessive propaganda against Moscow has reached levels not seen since the years prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Socialist states of Eastern Europe. Trump is falsely portrayed by the corporate media as being too close to Russia while at the same time his appointees within the administration are continually voicing hostilities towards the Kremlin.

Sanctions enacted against Russia by former President Barack Obama remain in effect. The Pentagon military buildup within the NATO states in the closing days of the previous administration has not been withdrawn.

These are some of the factors that are fueling speculation over the stability and internal consistency of the Trump White House. During the period leading up to his inauguration, Trump held a conversation with the Taiwanese leader indicating a possible shift in the “one China” policy which has been in operation since 1979. Nevertheless, in recent days it has now been reported that Trump engaged in a conversation with the People’s Republic of China government saying that the “One China” policy is still enforce.

Background to the Munich Security Conference

The annual gathering of the MSC brings together officials and analysts to discuss the major questions surrounding the continuing hegemony of imperialism. Amid economic difficulties and massive population shifts throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Europe, the capitalist ruling class of Europe and North America are concerned over the impact of these developments.

This meeting was not only addressed by officials of the leading western imperialist states in Europe and North America. Contrastingly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke as well calling for the creation of a ‘Post-West World Order.” He described NATO as a relic of the cold war which is not serving the interests of peace and stability.

People’s Republic of China Foreign Minister Wang Yi utilized the summit to express the Asian nation’s opposition to the U.S. defense missile system known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). The Republic of Korea government is scheduled to deploy the system by the end of 2017 ostensibly in response to missile developments taking place in the neighboring Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

In a post on its website, the MSC says: “Over the past five decades, the Munich Security Conference (MSC) has become the major global forum for the discussion of security policy. Each February, it brings together more than 450 senior decision-makers from around the world, including heads-of-state, ministers, leading personalities of international and non-governmental organizations, as well as high ranking representatives of industry, media, academia, and civil society, to engage in an intensive debate on current and future security challenges.”

This same entry goes on noting that: “In addition to its annual flagship conference, the MSC regularly convenes high-profile events on particular topics and regions and publishes the Munich Security Report. All its activities aim at offering the best possible platforms for a frank and open exchange of ideas and opinions.”

Nonetheless, there is a seemingly unease between the White House and the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany combined with the Brussels-based and U.S.-directed NATO military alliance.

Moreover, Merkel has clashed with other European states of the former socialist bloc such as Hungary in a dispute over the influx of migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asian-Pacific countries. Pressure is emerging strongly from right-wing political parties not only in Germany but many other states including the Netherlands, Britain and France who are saying that the existing governments are not going far enough in curtailing immigration from these above-mentioned nations along with Eastern Europe.

In this MSC context what is often not discussed in detail are the reasons behind the current instability and dislocation around the world. The wars of occupation and genocide waged against the peoples of Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Libya, Syria and Yemen are to blame in part for the current crisis.

At the same time the role of international finance capital is also responsible for the mass poverty and economic underdevelopment. Over the last two years the impact of the over production of oil and natural gas has triggered problems of declining growth rates, growing unemployment and poverty. People are fleeing their home countries due to the horrendous social conditions that are in existence.

Several years prior, reports abounded of the phenomenal economic growth that was taking place in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. However, the dependence upon oil revenues in countries such as Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Russia, Nigeria, Angola, etc., has plunged millions back into poverty and uncertainty.

Domestic War Against People in the U.S.

Simultaneously huge sections of the U.S. population are being targeted for political and economic reasons by the administration.

A travel ban on people from seven African and Middle Eastern states was temporarily halted as a result of mass demonstrations and court actions. The Federal Court of Appeals in the Ninth Circuity unanimously upheld a temporary restraining order on the implementation of the ban placed by a lower Federal Court in Washington State.

These efforts by the Trump administration represent the continuation of U.S. military policy against Africa and the Middle East. The populations of these states have been displaced by the war and economic policies of the imperialist governments led by the U.S. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNRA) has declared that the degree of displacement internationally is the worst on record so far in history.  Approximately 75 million people have been driven from their homes both internally and outside of their geographic borders.

Compounding the domestic attacks against people from Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iran and Iraq, the administration has intensified its targeting, detention and deportations of people from Mexico and other Central and South American countries. Many of these migrants have been displaced as well due to the economic policies of Washington which has made agricultural production and energy extraction largely non-viable industries within their national economies.

Trump administration Secretary of Homeland Security Gen. John Kelly stated in a draft memorandum that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) along with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will hire 10,000 new agents to pursue, detain and deport so-called “criminal aliens” from the U.S. Other reports which have been denied by the White House advance proposals which will federalize 100,000 National Guard troops to assist in the search and remove policy towards people considered as undesirables.

These policy initiatives are related to the promise made by Trump during the national presidential elections of 2016 to construct a wall along with border between the U.S. and the Republic of Mexico. Trump insists that the funding taken from the tax dollars of working families to build the wall will be authorized by Congress. Nonetheless, he says that a tariff on imported goods to Mexico will serve as a reimbursement for the expenses related to the building of the wall.

Any reasonable observers within the European Union (EU) member-states as well as the Russian Federation realize that the situation inside the U.S. is quite politically fluid. The burgeoning hostility towards the administration from various sectors of the population is bound to influence the attitudes of governments and civilian organizations in Europe.

 

Croatia Sells Record Number of Light Weapons to Saudi Arabia, Channelled to ISIS and Al Nusra Terrorists?

Croatia Sells Record Number of Light Weapons to Saudi Arabia, Channelled to ISIS and Al Nusra?

By Lawrence Marzouk, Ivan Angelovski, and Jelena Svircic

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Zagreb sold a record amount of aging weapons and ammunition to Saudi Arabia in 2016, ignoring evidence the arms are regularly being diverted to Syria.

Croatia has drastically increased its sales of decades-old arms and ammunition to Saudi Arabia despite mounting evidence that the deliveries are being diverted to Syria in breach of European Union (EU) and international law.

The Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, part of the Free Syrian Army, using a Croatian-made RAK-12 in April 2016. Credit: YouTube

Though it has one of the best and most expensively equipped armies in the Middle East, the Gulf Kingdom imported US$ 81.7 million in aging ammunition, including bullets, mortars, rockets, and rocket and grenade launchers worth $5.8 million from Croatia during the first nine months of 2016. This total is already double Croatia’s sales to Saudi Arabia over the previous four years, and the final value will likely be higher, as figures for the last quarter have not yet been published.

Igor Tabak, a Croatian defense analyst, said that the country does not currently produce ammunition. “It is quite likely that the exports come from old ammunition,” he said, “possibly from the inventory of the former Yugoslavia and Eastern [Bloc] production.”

2012 Report by the Croatian Ministry of Defense
2013 Report by the Croatian Ministry of Defense
2014 Report by the Croatian Ministry of Defense

While Croatia has consistently refused to acknowledge that it is profiting from liquidating its old stocks on the Syrian battlefields, defense ministry documents reviewed by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) show a major surge in sales from its stockpile coinciding with the start of the civil war in 2012.

According to those reports, the Ministry of Defense, which has a stockpile of around 18,000 tons, sold at least 5,000 tons of surplus ammunition in 2013 and 2014—as much as it had sold in the preceding decade.

A still photo on the left from a video posted by Sword of al-Sham on May 18, 2016, shows Croatian-made RAK-12 rockets marked “AL.” The right photo shows a Croatian soldier with an identical rocket showing the same markings.

The Ministry of Defense did not respond to a request for additional information on who bought the armaments and whether additional sales were made in 2015 and 2016.

Arms Exports: A State Secret

Croatia was among the first countries to supply weapons to Syrian rebels in the winter of 2012. The shipment was routed via Jordan with logistical support from the CIA and paid for by Saudi Arabia, according to a 2013 investigation by the New York Times.

Following a flurry of embarrassing news coverage, Croatia abruptly started removing key information, such as the final destination of its exports, from official reports in an attempt to keep the details of this trade out of the headlines.

A still from a video published by the Fist Coastal Division on August 5, 2015, shows a box containing RAK-12 rocket marked KS (believed to indicate the defunct Koncar factory in Sesvetski Kraljevec, Croatia) produced in 1995. Credit: YouTube

The Ministry of Economy, which is responsible for issuing import/export licenses for weapons and ammunition, told BIRN and OCCRP that a 2012 law on personal data protection prohibits it from giving out this information. This is disputed by the Croatian Data Protection Agency, which said the legislation applies only to individuals, not to companies or governments.

Five non-governmental organizations described the removal of information as a “troubling decline in transparency” in their submission to a United Nations (UN) Human Rights Panel on Croatia in March 2015.

Reporters, however, obtained the data via a little-known UN database, Comtrade, which contains annual international trade statistics from more than 170 countries.

The UN database revealed that Croatia exported $36 million worth of ammunition to Jordan in the two years since the Syrian conflict began in 2012. After Croatia’s role became public, Saudi Arabia took over importing more than $124 million worth of ammunition since 2014 – two thirds in the first nine months of 2016 alone.

A still from a video published by the Fist Coastal Division on June 16, 2015, shows a RAK-12 rocket marked KS (believed to indicate the defunct Koncar factory in Sesvetski Kraljevec, Croatia) produced in 1994. The photo also shows a RAK-12 multiple rocket launcher, also produced in Croatia. Credit: YouTube

The two countries also imported more than $21 million in weapons, including rocket and grenade launchers, since 2012.

Prior to 2012, the arms trade between Croatia, Jordan and Saudi Arabia was virtually nonexistent. Since 2012, all but a few hundred thousand dollars of Croatia’s ammunition sales have gone to Jordan or Saudi Arabia.

A spokesperson of the Croatian Ministry of Economy said that the latest exports took place in accordance with licenses approved in 2015. He also added that some export licenses to Saudi Arabia were rejected in 2015, and none were issued in 2016 but refused to provide any further detail.

An earlier investigation by BIRN and OCCRP revealed that Croatia approved $302 million worth of arms export licenses over this period. Unless these licenses are revoked, millions of dollars in future exports are approved to go forward.

Falling Into the Wrong Hands

While experts have previously highlighted video and photographic evidence of Croatian-made RBG-6 grenade launchers and RAK-12 multiple-launch rocket systems in Syria, Croatian officials have disputed their origin, pointing out that similar weapons are produced elsewhere.

However, new analysis by BIRN and OCCRP of the social media profiles used by brigades fighting in Syria, as well from online enthusiasts who monitor the spread of weapons, provide clear evidence that these weapons are Croatian-made.

Among the weapons and ammunition identified in large quantities in Syria are the RBG-6 grenade launchers and RAK-12 multiple-launch rocket systems, as well as rockets and mortar shells manufactured in the mid-1990s, after Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia:

  • Two videos of arms stashes captured from rebels by Syrian government troops – filmed in December 2016 by Russia Today – reveal unused Croatian-made mortar shells and rockets.
  • Three images shared on Twitter in 2015 and 2016 show grenade-launchers marked RBG-6 in use or for sale in Syria. This model is made only in Croatia.
  • Two videos also show the First Army and the Noureddine Zanki movement, which are moderate, US-backed factions in Syria, using rocket launchers with RAK visible on their sides. Croatia was the only producer of RAK-12s.

But so-called moderate Syrian opposition groups are not the only military formations to have secured Croatian-made weaponry. “We’ve now seen groups like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra using these weapons, although how they acquired them is unclear,” said Eliot Higgins, a London-based citizen journalist.

“[These weapons] could have been looted from other groups, sold between groups, or provided directly (…)” he said. Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat, which uses open source information and social media to track weapons in conflict areas. He was one of the first to identify Balkan-sourced armaments in use in the Syrian war.

Both Amnesty International and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy reported that ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra obtained Croatian and Yugoslav-made rocket and grenade launchers as early as 2013.

Government Denials

Darko Kihalic, head of Croatia’s arms licensing department at the Ministry of Economy, told BIRN and OCCRP that Zagreb has no qualms about selling arms to Saudi Arabia as long as it provides the correct documents.

He said there were no restrictions on exporting to Saudi Arabia and Croatian firms have a right to earn an income.

A photo from a December 28, 2016 RT report about a captured rebel arsenal shows a RAK-12 rocket marked KS (believed to indicate the defunct Koncar factory in Sesvetski Kraljevec, Croatia) produced in 1993. Credit: Youtube

Asked whether he was aware that Croatian weapons bought by Saudi Arabia were turning up in Syria, Kihalic said: “There is nothing more for us to check, as the [export] document says their ministry of defense or police forces [in Saudi Arabia] will use it [the weapon] and that they won’t resell it or export it.”

Human rights groups dispute Kihalic’s view. Patrick Wilcken, an arms researcher for Amnesty International, said that Croatia is obliged to take measures to prevent both weapons from being diverted to another country, and from being used to commit serious human rights violations. Given the mounting evidence of the systematic diversion of arms from Saudi Arabia to armed groups in Syria, Croatia’s failure to take due diligence to prevent further diversion could result in a breach of the EU Common Position and the Arms Trade Treaty.

Bodil Valero, a Green Party member of the European Parliament from Sweden and the parliament’s rapporteur on arms, criticized Croatia and called on the EU to tighten its grip on its members’ arms exports.

“Croatia has used Saudi Arabia as it is not allowed to export to Syria, and it ends up in the hands of ISIS and the Kurds,” she told BIRN and OCCRP. “We have to do much more.”

When it comes to humanitarian concerns the west prefers #fakenews from Syria rather than real news from Yemen

The West’s Moral Hypocrisy on Yemen

Exclusive: The West’s “humanitarian interventionists” howl over bloody conflicts when an adversary can be blamed but go silent when an ally is doing the killing, such as Saudi Arabia in Yemen, reports Jonathan Marshall.

By Jonathan Marshall

Only a few months ago, interventionists were demanding a militant response by Washington to what George Soros branded “a humanitarian catastrophe of historic proportions” — the killing of “hundreds of people” by Russian and Syrian government bombing of rebel-held neighborhoods in the city of Aleppo.

Billionaire currency speculator George Soros. (Photo credit: georgesoros.com)

Leon Wieseltier, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former New Republic editor, was denouncing the Obama administration as “a bystander to the greatest atrocity of our time,” asserting that its failure to “act against evil in Aleppo” was like tolerating “the evil in Auschwitz.”

How strange, then, that so many of the same “humanitarian” voices have been so quiet of late about the continued killing of many more innocent people in Yemen, where tens of thousands of civilians have died and 12 million people face famine. More than a thousand children die each week from preventable diseases related to malnutrition and systematic attacks on the country’s food infrastructure by a Saudi-led military coalition, which aims to impose a regime friendly to Riyadh over the whole country.

“The U.S. silence has been deafening,” said Philippe Bolopion, deputy director for global advocacy at Human Rights Watch, last summer. “This blatant double standard deeply undermines U.S. efforts to address human rights violations whether in Syria or elsewhere in the world.”

Official acquiescence — or worse — from Washington and other major capitals is encouraging the relentless killing of Yemen’s civilians by warplanes from Saudi Arabia and its allies. Last week, their bombs struck a funeral gathering north of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, killing nine women and a child and injuring several dozen more people.

A day earlier, officials reported a deadly “double-tap” airstrike, first targeting women at a funeral in Sanaa, then aimed at medical responders who rushed in to save the wounded. A United Nations panel of experts condemned a similar double-tap attack by Saudi coalition forces in October, which killed or wounded hundreds of civilians, as a violation of international law.

The Tragedy of Mokha

On Feb. 12, an air strike on the Red Sea port city of Mokha killed all six members of a family headed by the director of a maternal and childhood center. Coalition ground forces had launched an attack on Mokha two weeks earlier.

Xinhua news agency reported, “the battles have since intensified and trapped thousands of civilian residents in the city, as well as hampered the humanitarian operation to import vital food and fuel supplies . . . The Geneva-based UN human rights office said that it received extremely worrying reports suggesting civilians and civilian objects have been targeted over the past two weeks in the southwestern port city . . . Reports received by UN also show that more than 200 houses have been either partially damaged or completely destroyed by air strikes in the past two weeks.”

The U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator further reported that “scores of civilians” had been killed or wounded by the bombing and shelling of Mokha, and that residents were stranded without water or other basic life-supporting services.

That could be Aleppo, minus only the tear-jerking photos of dead and wounded children on American television. However, unlike Syria, Yemen’s rebels don’t have well-financed public relations offices in Western capitals. They pay no lip service to the United States, democracy, or international human rights. Their foe Saudi Arabia is a friend of Washington, not a long-time adversary. In consequence, few American pundits summon any moral outrage at the Saudi-led coalition, despite findings by a United National Panel of Experts that many of its airstrikes violate international law and, in some cases, represent “war crimes.”

Aiding and Abetting

The United States hasn’t simply turned a blind eye to such crimes; it has aided them by selling Saudi Arabia the warplanes it flies and the munitions it drops on Yemeni civilians. It has also siphoned 54 million pounds of jet fuel from U.S. tanker planes to refuel coalition aircraft on bombing runs. The pace of U.S. refueling operations has reportedly increased sharply in the last year.

Saudi King Salman bids farewell to President Barack Obama at Erga Palace after a state visit to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 27, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Obama administration initially supported the Saudi coalition in order to buy Riyadh’s reluctant support for the Iran nuclear deal. Over time, Saudi Arabia joined with anti-Iran hawks to portray Yemen’s rebels as pawns of Tehran to justify continued support for the war. Most experts — including U.S. intelligence officials — insist to the contrary that the rebels are a genuinely indigenous force that enjoys limited Iranian support at best.

As I have documented previously, all of the fighting in Yemen has damaged U.S. interests by creating anarchy conducive to the growth of Al Qaeda extremists. They have planned or inspired major acts of terrorism against the West, including an attempt to blow up a U.S. passenger plane in 2009 and a deadly attack on the Parisian newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. The Saudis tolerate them as Sunni allies against the rebels, in the name of curbing Iran.

Though the Obama administration is gone, the Trump administration is flush with ideologues who are eager to take a stand against Tehran through Yemen and look tough on “terrorism.” Within days of taking office, President Trump approved a commando raid targeting an alleged Al Qaeda compound in central Yemen that went awry, killing an estimated 10 women and children. The administration has also diverted a U.S. destroyer to patrol Yemen’s coast.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to his credit, has cited “the urgent need for the unfettered delivery of humanitarian assistance throughout Yemen,” according to a department spokesman. But no amount of humanitarian aid will save Yemen’s tormented people from the bombs made in America and dropped from U.S.-made warplanes, with little protest from Washington’s so-called “humanitarian interventionists.”

Jonathan Marshall is author of many recent articles on arms issues, including “Obama’s Unkept Promise on Nuclear War,” “How World War III Could Start,” “NATO’s Provocative Anti-Russian Moves,” “Escalations in a New Cold War,” and “Ticking Closer to Midnight.”

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