ISIS virtually finished in Lebanon as Hezbollah, Syrian Army speed up offensive

  Map Update

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (1:40 A.M.) – ISIS’ enclave on the border between Lebanon and Syria is imploding at an astonishing pace with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Army and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) all advancing in one big coordinated push.

Over the past 24 hours, counter-insurgency efforts have led to the capture of some 45 square kilometers of ISIS-held territory, thereby paving the way for the complete elimination of the Islamic State’s forces in Lebanon.

The main advance took place at the northern fringes of the pocket according to a military source close to Al-Masdar News. He stressed that pro-government forces from the eastern axis (between Al-Mosul and Sin Fiknah) managed to meet up with allied troops further west (between Al-Foqa and the Balousi Dam) on Tuesday; over a dozen hills were secured in the process while ISIS retreated towards rearguard areas.

 

With ISIS fighters trapped in a smaller and smaller area, they soon face no option but to surrender or die in battle trying to grip onto control of the mountainous West Qalamoun region.

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Trump thinks the USA has been “Nation-Building” & killing terrorists

Trump Unveils New, Dramatic Afghanistan Strategy: “We Aren`t Nation-Building Again, We Are Killing Terrorists”

In a widely anticipated national address, President Donald Trump on Monday announced that he will not pull out U.S. troops from Afghanistan, saying he’s committed to a new strategy aimed at winning the nation’s longest war, now in its 17th year. Admitting that his “original instinct was to pull out” of Afghanistan – Trump’s core campaign pledge was to reduce US intervention in offshore conflicts – Trump effectively admitted he had been wrong, and said he’s arrived at three “fundamental conclusions” about America’s core interests in Afghanistan:

  • U.S. “must seek an honorable and enduring outcome” in which American troops “deserve a plan for victory”
  • The consequences of a rapid exit would be “predictable and unacceptable” adding that “a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11”
  • The security threats U.S. faces “are immense”; and “we cannot repeat the mistake in Afghanistan our leaders made in Iraq.”

Trump also promised to the soldiers gathered for the speech that “One way or another, these problems will be solved. I am a problem solver. And in the end, we will win.”

In other words, Trump is unveiling a dramatic, new offensive in Afghanistan, only instead of giving details on troop deployments, specific dates, or what the definition of victory would be, Trump will keep the details of the new involvement secret, and that “conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on.

We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will. Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power, diplomatic, economic, and military, toward a successful outcome. Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban and Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen. America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field.

Trump also defined what a victory in Afghanistan would mean:

Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition — attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge. We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy, with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own. We are confident they will.

 

Taking a quick detour into domestic politics, Trump said that “the young men and women we sent to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home. We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other.”

Same was true about Obama as with Trump, as soon as they become President their views totally change-Who’s getting to them?

14 Times Trump Warned Against Doing What He Just Did in Afghanistan

Anti-Media – by Aaron Nelson

On the same day millions of Americans were thrilled to witness — and equally distracted by — a total solar eclipse, Donald Trump decided it was time to announce a “dramatically different” foreign policy plan for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

Just how “different” is Trump’s new plan? In reality, the ‘new’ plan is simply more of the same failed policy of the past, one Trump promised to put an end to numerous times over the years prior to moving into the White House. The only difference is the childish language Trump used to justify the decision, repeatedly vowing to “win” the same conflict James Mattis told Congress “we are not winning” back in June.  

On Monday, August 21, 2017, Trump revealed to Fox News that he had signed off on sending 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in what is officially the longest war in the history of the United States. Early Tuesday morning, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg praised Trump’s decision to commit more soldiers to fight on the ground in Afghanistan, reminding allies that NATO is fully committed to backing the ‘new’ plan:

“NATO remains fully committed to Afghanistan and I am looking forward to discussing the way ahead with [U.S. Defense] Secretary [James] Mattis and our allies and international partners,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.

America’s favorite war hawk, John McCain, also praised President Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan. He said in a statement that he believes “the President is now moving us well beyond the prior administration’s failed strategy of merely postponing defeat,” also noting that Trump faces the challenge of keeping “the right level of effort, in the right places, with the right authorities and resources to see this conflict through to success.” He continued:

“To do this, the President must conduct himself as a wartime commander-in-chief. He must speak regularly to the American people, and to those waging this war on their behalf, about why we are fighting, why the additional sacrifices are worth it, and how we will success.”

On Fox News, Lindsey Graham said he was “proud” of Donald Trump’s decision:

“President Trump has the smarts and the moral courage to listen to his generals and take their advice rather than go the political way.”

 

 

“What are we doing there? These people hate us. As soon as we leave, it’s all going to blow up anyway. And you say, ‘What are we doing there?’ We’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars, trillions of dollars on this nonsense. … What are we doing? We’re a debtor nation. We can’t build our own schools, yet we build schools in Afghanistan.”

In December 2011 on CNN, Trump said we should “get out” of Afghanistan, declaring:

“We have to rebuild our country. We’re rebuilding. You know, you go to Afghanistan. There is a school. It gets blown up. We rebuild it. We build a road to the school. They both get blown up. We rebuild. In the meantime, if you want to build a school in Brooklyn or Iowa or California, you can’t build them.”

The only facts that were clear following President Trump’s speech on Afghanistan was that nobody knows what to do, and America is clearly not winning.

Anti-Media

“The War is Worth Waging”: Afghanistan’s Vast Reserves of Minerals and Natural Gas

“The War is Worth Waging”: Afghanistan’s Vast Reserves of Minerals and Natural Gas

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky,

The War on Afghanistan is a Profit driven “Resource War”.

Author’s Note

US and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan almost 16 years ago in October 2001. It’s has been a continuous war marked by US military occupation.

The justification is “counterterrorism”.  Afghanistan is defined as a state sponsor of terrorism, allegedly responsible for attacking America on September 11, 2001. 

The war on Afghanistan continues to be heralded as a war of retribution in response to the 9/11 attacks. US troops are still present and deployed in Afghanistan.

original

The legal argument used by Washington and NATO to invade and occupy Afghanistan under “the doctrine of collective security” was that the September 11 2001 attacks constituted an undeclared “armed attack” “from abroad” by an unnamed foreign power, namely Afghanistan. 

Yet there were no Afghan fighter planes in the skies of New York on the morning of September 11, 2001. 

This article, first published in June 2010, points to the “real economic reasons”  why US-NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11.  

Under the Afghan-US security pact,  established under Obama’s Asian pivot, Washington and its NATO partners have established a permanent military presence in Afghanistan, with military facilities located within proximity of China’s Western frontier.  The pact was intended to allow the US to maintain their nine permanent military bases, strategically located on the borders of  China, Pakistan and Iran as well as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

In recent developments, President Trump in his February 28, 2017 address to a joint session of  Congress vowed to “demolish and destroy” terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq as well as in Afghanistan under a fake counter-terrorism mandate.

According to Foreign Affairs, “there are more U.S. military forces deployed there [Afghanistan] than to any other active combat zone” and their mandate is to go after the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS (which are supported covertly by US intelligence). 

There is both a geopolitical as well as an economic agenda in Afghanistan requiring the permanent presence of US troops.

In addition to its vast mineral and gas reserves, Afghanistan produces more than 90 percent of the World’s supply of opium which is used to produce grade 4 heroin.

US military bases in Afghanistan are also intent upon protecting the multibillion narcotics trade.  Narcotics, at present, constitutes the centerpiece of Afghanistan’s export economy.

The heroin trade, instated at the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979 and protected by the CIA, generates cash earnings in Western markets in excess of $200 billion dollars a year.

“The highest concentration of NATO servicemen in Afghanistan is being accompanied with the highest concentration of opium poppy, ….  That situation causes doubts about the anti-terrorist mission and leads to the conclusion about catastrophic consequences of the eight-year stay [of coalition forces] in Afghanistan,” (Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service head Viktor Ivanov, January 2010)

Michel Chossudovsky,  August 22, 2017

*      *      *

“The War is Worth Waging”: Afghanistan’s Vast Reserves of Minerals and Natural Gas

The War on Afghanistan is a Profit driven “Resource War”.

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

October 2010

The 2001 bombing and invasion of Afghanistan has been presented to World public opinion as a “Just War”, a war directed against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, a war to eliminate “Islamic terrorism” and instate Western style democracy.

The economic dimensions of  the “Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT) are rarely mentioned. The post 9/11 “counter-terrorism campaign” has served to obfuscate the real objectives of the US-NATO war.

The war on Afghanistan is part of a profit driven agenda: a war of economic conquest and plunder,  “a resource war”.

While Afghanistan is acknowledged as a strategic hub in Central Asia, bordering on the former Soviet Union, China and Iran, at the crossroads of pipeline routes and major oil and gas reserves, its huge mineral wealth as well as its untapped natural gas reserves have remained, until June 2010, totally unknown to the American public.

According to a joint report by the Pentagon, the US Geological Survey (USGS) and USAID, Afghanistan is now said to possess “previously unknown” and untapped mineral reserves, estimated authoritatively to be of the order of one trillion dollars (New York Times, U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan – NYTimes.com, June 14, 2010, See also BBC, 14 June 2010).

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said… “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines. (New York Times, op. cit.)

Afghanistan could become, according to The New York Times “the Saudi Arabia of lithium”. “Lithium is an increasingly vital resource, used in batteries for everything from mobile phones to laptops and key to the future of the electric car.” At present Chile, Australia, China and Argentina are the main suppliers of lithium to the world market. Bolivia and Chile are the countries with the largest known reserves of lithium. “The Pentagon has been conducting ground surveys in western Afghanistan. “Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large as those of Bolivia” (U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan – NYTimes.com, June 14, 2010, see also Lithium – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

“Previously Unknown Deposits” of Minerals in Afghanistan

The Pentagon’s near one trillion dollar “estimate” of previously “unknown deposits” is a useful smokescreen. The Pentagon one trillion dollar figure is more a trumped up number rather than an estimate:  “We took a look at what we knew to be there, and asked what would it be worth now in terms of today’s dollars. The trillion dollar figure seemed to be newsworthy.” (The Sunday Times, London, June 15 2010, emphasis added)

Moreover, the results of a US Geological Survey study (quoted in the Pentagon memo) on Afghanistan’s mineral wealth were revealed three years back, at a 2007 Conference organized by the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce. The matter of Afghanistan’s mineral riches, however, was not considered newsworthy at the time.

The US Administration’s acknowledgment that it first took cognizance of Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth  following the release of the USGS 2007 report is an obvious red herring. Afghanistan’s mineral wealth and energy resources (including natural gas) were known to both America’s business elites and the US government prior to the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1988).

Geological surveys conducted by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and early 1980s confirm the existence of  vast reserves of copper (among the largest in Eurasia), iron, high grade chrome ore, uranium, beryl, barite, lead, zinc, fluorspar, bauxite, lithium, tantalum, emeralds, gold and silver.(Afghanistan, Mining Annual Review, The Mining Journal,  June, 1984). These surveys suggest that the actual value of these reserves could indeed be substantially larger than the one trillion dollars “estimate” intimated by the Pentagon-USCG-USAID study.

More recently, in a 2002 report, the Kremlin confirmed what was already known: “It’s no secret that Afghanistan possesses rich reserves, in particular of copper at the Aynak deposit, iron ore in Khojagek, uranium, polymetalic ore, oil and gas,” (RIA Novosti, January 6, 2002):

“Afghanistan has never been anyone’s colony – no foreigner had ever “dug” here before the 1950s. The Hindu Kush mountains, stretching, together with their foothills, over a vast area in Afghanistan, are where the minerals lie. Over the past 40 years, several dozen deposits have been discovered in Afghanistan, and most of these discoveries were sensational. They were kept secret, however, but even so certain facts have recently become known.

It turns out that Afghanistan possesses reserves of nonferrous and ferrous metals and precious stones, and, if exploited, they would possibly be able to cover even the earnings from the drug industry. The copper deposit in Aynak in the southern Afghan Helmand Province is said to be the largest in the Eurasian continent, and its location (40 km from Kabul) makes it cheap to develop. The iron ore deposit at Hajigak in the central Bamian Province yields ore of an extraordinarily high quality, the reserves of which are estimated to be 500m tonnes. A coal deposit has also been discovered not far from there.

Afghanistan is spoken of as a transit country for oil and gas. However, only a very few people know that Soviet specialists discovered huge gas reserves there in the 1960s and built the first gas pipeline in the country to supply gas to Uzbekistan. At that time, the Soviet Union used to receive 2.5 bn cubic metres of Afghan gas annually. During the same period, large deposits of gold, fluorite, barytes and marble onyxes that have a very rare pattern were found.

However, the pegmatite fields discovered to the east of Kabul are a real sensation. Rubies, beryllium, emeralds and kunzites and hiddenites that cannot be found anywhere else – the deposits of these precious stones stretch for hundreds of kilometres. Also, the rocks containing the rare metals beryllium, thorium, lithium and tantalum are of strategic importance (they are used in air and spacecraft construction).

The war is worth waging. … (Olga Borisova, “Afghanistan – the Emerald Country”, Karavan, Almaty, original Russian, translated by BBC News Services, Apr 26, 2002. p. 10, emphasis added.)

While public opinion was fed images of a war torn resourceless developing country, the realities are otherwise: Afghanstan is a rich country as confirmed by Soviet era geological surveys.

The issue of “previously unknown deposits” sustains a falsehood. It excludes Afghanstan’s vast mineral wealth as a justifiable casus belli. It says that the Pentagon only recently became aware that Afghanistan was among the World’s most wealthy mineral economies, comparable to The Democratic Republic of the Congo or former Zaire of the Mobutu era. The Soviet geopolitical reports were known. During the Cold War, all this information was known in minute detail:

… Extensive Soviet exploration produced superb geological maps and reports that listed more than 1,400 mineral outcroppings, along with about 70 commercially viable deposits … The Soviet Union subsequently committed more than $650 million for resource exploration and development in Afghanistan, with proposed projects including an oil refinery capable of producing a half-million tons per annum, as well as a smelting complex for the Ainak deposit that was to have produced 1.5 million tons of copper per year. In the wake of the Soviet withdrawal a subsequent World Bank analysis projected that the Ainak copper production alone could eventually capture as much as 2 percent of the annual world market. The country is also blessed with massive coal deposits, one of which, the Hajigak iron deposit, in the Hindu Kush mountain range west of Kabul, is assessed as one of the largest high-grade deposits in the world. (John C. K. Daly,  Analysis: Afghanistan’s untapped energy, UPI Energy, October 24, 2008, emphasis added)

Afghanistan’s Natural Gas

Afghanistan is a land bridge. The 2001 U.S. led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has been analysed by critics of US foreign policy as a means to securing control  over the strategic trans-Afghan transport corridor which links the Caspian sea basin to the Arabian sea.

Several trans-Afghan oil and gas pipeline projects have been contemplated including the planned $8.0 billion TAPI pipeline project (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) of 1900 km., which would transport Turkmen natural gas across Afghanistan in what is described as a “crucial transit corridor”. (See Gary Olson, Afghanistan has never been the ‘good and necessary’ war; it’s about control of oil, The Morning Call, October 1, 2009). Military escalation under the extended Af-Pak war bears a relationship to TAPI. Turkmenistan possesses third largest natural gas reserves after Russia and Iran. Strategic control over the transport routes out of Turkmenistan have been part of Washington’s agenda since the collapse of the Soviet union in 1991.

What was rarely contemplated in pipeline geopolitics, however, is that Afghanistan is not only adjacent to countries which are rich in oil and natural gas (e.g Turkmenistan), it also possesses within its territory sizeable untapped reserves of natural gas, coal  and oil. Soviet estimates of the 1970s placed “Afghanistan’s ‘explored’ (proved plus probable) gas reserves at about 5  trillion cubic feet. The Hodja-Gugerdag’s initial reserves were placed at slightly more than 2 tcf.” (See, The Soviet Union to retain influence in Afghanistan, Oil & Gas Journal, May 2, 1988).

The US.Energy Information Administration (EIA) acknowledged in 2008 that Afghanistan’s natural gas reserves are “substantial”:

“As northern Afghanistan is a ‘southward extension of Central Asia’s highly prolific, natural gas-prone Amu Darya Basin,’ Afghanistan ‘has proven, probable and possible natural gas reserves of about 5 trillion cubic feet.’ (UPI, John C.K. Daly, Analysis: Afghanistan’s untapped energy, October 24, 2008)

From the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979, Washington’s objective has been to sustain a geopolitical foothold in Central Asia.

The Golden Crescent Drug Trade

America’s covert war, namely its support to the Mujahideen “Freedom fighters” (aka Al Qaeda) was also geared towards the development of the Golden Crescent trade in opiates, which was used by US intelligence to fund the insurgency directed against the Soviets.1

Instated at the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war and protected by the CIA, the drug trade developed over the years into a highly lucrative multibillion undertaking. It was the cornerstone of America’s covert war in the 1980s. Today, under US-NATO military occupation, the drug trade generates cash earnings in Western markets in excess of $200 billion dollars a year. (See Michel Chossudovsky, America’s War on Terrorism, Global Research, Montreal, 2005, see also Michel Chossudovsky, Heroin is “Good for Your Health”: Occupation Forces support Afghan Narcotics Trade, Global Research, April 29, 2007)

Towards an Economy of Plunder

The US media, in chorus, has upheld the “recent discovery” of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth as “a solution” to the development of the country’s war torn economy as well as a means to eliminating poverty. The 2001 US-NATO invasion and occupation has set the stage for their appropriation by Western mining and energy conglomerates.

The war on Afghanistan is  a profit driven “resource war”.

Under US and allied occupation, this mineral wealth is slated to be plundered, once the country has been pacified, by a handful of multinational mining conglomerates. According to Olga Borisova, writing in the months following the October 2001 invasion, the US-led “war on terrorism [will be transformed] into a colonial policy of influencing a fabulously wealthy country.” (Borisova, op cit).

Part of the US-NATO agenda is also to eventually take possession of Afghanistan’s reserves of natural gas, as well as prevent the development of competing Russian, Iranian and Chinese energy interests in Afghanistan.

Note

1. The Golden Crescent trade in opiates constitutes, at present, the centerpiece of Afghanistan’s export economy. The heroin trade, instated at the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979 and protected by the CIA, generates cash earnings in Western markets in excess of $200 billion dollars a year.

Since the 2001 invasion, narcotics production in Afghanistan  has increased more than 35 times. In 2009, opium production stood at 6900 tons, compared to less than 200 tons in 2001. In this regard, the multibillion dollar earnings resulting from the Afghan opium production largely occur outside Afghanistan. According to United Nations data, the revenues of the drug trade accruing to the local economy are of the order of 2-3 billion annually.

In contrast with the Worldwide sales of heroin resulting from the trade in Afghan opiates, in excess of $200 billion. (See Michel Chossudovsky, America’s War on Terrorism”, Global Research, Montreal, 2005)

The Battle for Venezuela and Its Oil

The Battle for Venezuela and Its Oil

By Eva Golinger  and Jeremy Scahill

Despite the public battles between the New York Times and President Donald Trump, the two seem to be on a similar page about the unfolding crisis in Venezuela. Last week, the administration announced it had “designated” President Nicolas Maduro and other Venezuelan officials, freezing their U.S. assets and barring Americans from doing business with them. The Times called that the best way to confront the Venezuelan government. The Times, though, went a step further calling on European and other nations to join what it called a “quarantine” of Maduro. It was an interesting word choice. That was also the term used for the early days of the U.S. economic blockade against Cuba. Interestingly, none of these players — Trump or the New York Times — are calling for a boycott on Venezuelan oil, which is heavily consumed by Americans

U.S. hostile posturing toward Venezuela is nothing new. Washington, under both Democrats and Republicans, loathed the late President Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian revolution. Chavez enjoyed sticking it to Washington and viewed each attack against him as a badge of honor in his struggle against Yankee imperialism. But Chavez’s successor, Maduro, does not have nearly the charisma or credibility among Venezuelans and progressive forces in Latin America enjoyed by Chavez. And Maduro’s recent actions have been disturbing even to some of Chavez’s close allies.

On July 30, the Venezuelan government held an election for a constituent assembly to re-draft the country’s constitution. The vote was held after an order issued by Maduro. Why that was necessary was baffling even to former supporters of Chavez, as the Bolivarian movement has often celebrated its constitution as a revolutionary and meticulous document. For many seasoned observers, the whole affair reeked of an effort to consolidate power. The vote for the assembly was boycotted by many Venezuelans and when the official results were announced, it was clear that the tally had been tampered with. It seems likely the government would have won the vote anyway, making the tampering all the more suspect.

Maduro’s forces have also conducted raids to arrest opposition figures and both government forces and opposition forces have been involved in lethal actions during protests. It must be pointed out that Maduro controls the country’s military and intelligence forces and those far outgun all of the combined masses of government opponents. That the United States funds and supports some of the worst elements of the opposition in Venezuela is a fact. There is a long history of Washington meddling in the affairs of Venezuela.

But that is not the entire story. Many ordinary Venezuelans, including progressives and leftists, are fed up with the government and receive no support or funding from shady U.S. entities. Venezuela presents a real challenge for progressive forces in the country and in Latin America more generally. Chavez was extremely popular, as was his movement. Pro-U.S. factions taking power in Venezuela is a real possibility in the event of Maduro’s downfall.

To discuss this complex unfolding situation, I interviewed attorney Eva Gollinger this week on Intercepted. She was one of Hugo Chavez’s most prominent supporters, was very close to the late president and knows many of the players in Venezuela personally, including Maduro. She is the author of several books, including The Chavez Code which is based on documents she obtained detailing U.S. interference in Venezuela, including the brief coup against Chavez in 2002. What follows is an expanded transcript of that interview, an excerpt of which was broadcast on Intercepted.


Extended transcript

Jeremy Scahill: Eva Golinger, welcome to Intercepted.

Eva Golinger: Thanks for having me, Jeremy.

JS: Now there’s a lot I want to get into with you. I want to talk about some of the critique of Maduro coming from the left, not just in Venezuela, but elsewhere in the world. But I want to begin by asking your response to what increasingly feels like a kind of war-posturing from the Trump Administration. Statements came from his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, they’ve now designated Maduro. The New York Times is saying that he belongs in a camp intellectually or personally of people like Kim Jong-un and Bashar al-Assad. Your response to what’s coming out of this administration and from the New York Times about the situation in Venezuela.

EG: There’s been an ongoing escalation coming out of the United States government against the Venezuelan government, since Hugo Chavez was in power. And we’ve seen an increase over the years as the Venezuelan government has sort of dug in deeper with their ideological model, leaning more towards this anti-imperialist alliance internationally, the more they’ve opened themselves up to countries like Russia and China and Iran as their trade partners. And then overall, I mean, taking a position that is adversarial to the U.S.

So it’s nothing new, it’s just that it’s — it’s more direct now. I think that a lot of the interaction before in the posturing of the United States was done more in a lower profile way.

I mean, it was President Obama who declared Venezuela an unusual and extraordinary threat to the United States and put the first sort of sanctions on Venezuela officially. And that was just a couple years ago. And those were renewed this year before Trump really had a full understanding of what was taking place. So it’s really just been an ongoing escalation.

From the time Chavez first was elected in ’98 and those initial years when he didn’t comply with what the U.S. was looking for and always had in Venezuela as a client state that’s when the U.S. backed a coup against Chavez in 2002. And subsequently that sort of aggression just began increasing over the years.

So, I mean, now we’re just seeing sort of the culmination of it and the fact that they’re buckling down more. But, in the end, the relationship between the two countries remains generally the same. Venezuela is one of the principal suppliers of oil to the U.S. I mean, it’s a commercial relationship. They are interdependent. And in the end, there’s a lot of rhetoric back and forth. And, yes, there’s definitely an escalation of it now under Trump because the people sort of — that are pushing this this particular escalation, right now, that have Trump’s ear — are the more reactionary sectors of the Republican Party. Marco Rubio for example.

I mean, that’s what they’ve been looking for. They’ve been looking for a way to push regime change in Venezuela. But it really has nothing to do with a change in policy. It’s been a sort of a state policy of the United States towards Venezuela since the Chavez government.

JS: What did you make of Jeremy Corbyn’s statement this week, where he said he condemns violence on all sides?

EG: Well I mean that’s a giant piece of the narrative that’s been missing on what’s been taking place in Venezuela. You see a lot, I mean particularly here in the U.S. — in the New York Times, in The Washington Post, in the Wall Street Journal, other media CNN, NBC — you hear a lot about these opposition protests being repressed by the government but you’re not getting a full picture.

Because while there is a state reaction taking place, there is repression with tear gas and rubber bullets, you’re not seeing the other side of it, which is that those are not exactly peaceful democratic protests. There are smaller factions. I mean, there are parts of the opposition in Venezuela that act within a democratic framework, but there is a very violent faction that’s gotten out of control. It’s anarchical. I mean, they where they’re using Molotov cocktails, homemade bombs and weapons, and they’re using them against the state security forces.

So I mean, I always think about it is, if this were happening in Washington D.C. or even here in the in the streets of New York where I am, I mean, it wouldn’t last more than an hour. I mean, if we had that where they’re burning buildings, they’re burning buses, they’re burning people — a lot of times innocent people. So far at least, what’s been so far investigated by state officials, being the public prosecutor’s office that’s been critical against the Maduro government recently is that it’s really an equal number of deaths on both sides can be attributed to the violent opposition protesters — in some case inflicting the injuries upon themselves or against innocent bystanders, or against police or national guard forces, and then those on the side of the government. It’s not to justify it in any way; it’s just to show a more accurate picture of what’s going on.

There’s been violence by both sides and overall, I mean, the opposition leadership — the anti-government leadership in Venezuela — have been reluctant to come out and fully condemn those types of violent protests. In fact, they’ve been encouraging them. Because they’ve seen it as sort of this way to heat up the streets to pressure the government to — I mean, overall what they’ve been looking for is for Maduro to resign, for regime change, which they’ve been unsuccessful.

JS: I want to just ask you directly if you believe that this recent voting for a national constituent assembly — do you believe that that was a legitimate, free, fair vote and that the tallies announced by the government are accurate?

EG: There’s a lot of indication that it wasn’t a free and fair vote — that the tallies are not accurate. But there’s another piece of that that also is always missing from any sort of conversation around that. Which is that in the end, it didn’t matter because they pushed forward with this election of delegates to a constituent assembly to rewrite a constitution that was already one of the most lauded constitutions in the world that had been done and written by a very participatory open process that was led, in fact, by Hugo Chavez in 1999. So there was a lot of questioning, including from myself, as to why would this be the answer to Venezuela’s problems now when we already had a constitution there that seemed so all-encompassing of what was necessary to move forward in that country in terms of human rights.

JS: So why did they do it?

EG: Well that’s one of the biggest questions. So I mean, in the end, that vote was just about choosing the slates of people that had already been nominated by the government’s party to participate in rewriting a constitution. It didn’t matter, in the end, how many votes they got. The fact that the numbers may have been fudged by the government is an absolutely absurd move on their part because they were just trying to posture in front of the opposition who had conducted also an unverified and unofficial plebiscite weeks earlier where they say they got over seven million votes saying that they didn’t want this process to happen.

So it was really just sort of a back and forth showoff between both sides, in terms of the numbers. But it wouldn’t have mattered had the government gotten four million votes in the past election on July 30th, it still would have gone forward. So it doesn’t matter. I mean, they were doing it anyway.

JS: Well, it matters because people who play with votes — that is an inherently sort of authoritarian move to fabricate vote tallies. You know, Saddam Hussein used to win by 101 percent of the vote. Now people — my guess would be that he, because of the nature of the repression in Iraq, that he would have probably won anyway in some kind of an election. But the idea that you would tamper with it at all completely undermines the idea that your forces are the pro-democratic forces. No?

EG: Absolutely. Absolutely. But, and there’s no question, I mean, it seems as though the numbers were fudged by more than a million votes, so it put them over the threshold of what the opposition alleges they got in their unofficial plebiscite. So it was just to say, “we have more than you do so then therefore we have a legitimate mandate.”

And for me, it’s extremely disturbing because Venezuela since 2004 has had one of the most bulletproof election systems, with electronic elections machines that are backed up with a paper ballot and multiple sort of steps along the way to prevent fraud such as: fingerprints, indelible ink, signing a notebook — you know, where you sign in, you show your ID card, it’s checked against the information in the notebook. And I mean, you go through all these steps. In this particular election, almost all of those were eliminated. They had no notebooks. They had no indelible ink. There weren’t consistent fingerprint machines throughout. So, there is a lot of evidence to show that the vote — definitely the number could have been. And that’s unfortunate because it was a highly credible election system and now it’s been put into doubt.

And the thing about it though, Jeremy, is that on every election that the opposition has lost against this Bolivarian revolution or Chavez movement and now Maduro government, they’ve always cried fraud. It didn’t matter how bulletproof the system was. So now, saying fraud, and it may in fact be fraud, it just seems like such a loss on the government side. They should have accepted whatever numbers they had, and said, “Look, in the midst of all this violence and this economic crisis, we were still able to garner around 6.6 million votes.” I mean, that that should be a showing of force.

But unfortunately they took this path and now there’s a constituent assembly in place that is a supra, supreme power that has now declared that they will be in power a minimum — or maybe a maximum — of two years, which is 1999, after Chavez ran on a party platform in 1998 to rewrite the constitution. He was elected by a majority based on that as being one of the primary actions he would take. Then it was put to a vote after he was elected, to whether or not people actually wanted to proceed. More than 70 percent of those participating said yes. Then they elected the members. Then it was done in this extremely open, transparent way. You know, there were drafts of the constitution passed around and discussed in communities. And then it was put to another vote to actually ratify it by the people on a national level.

So I mean, we’re missing almost all of those steps this time around and it lasted four months, it had a mandate of four months. And it wasn’t all-supreme, that it could be a legislator and an executor and an enforcer, which is what we’re seeing now. So that’s why there’s a lot of concern coming from people like myself where I’m saying, “Wait a minute, what happened to our democratic framework that has been so upheld throughout this time period, despite a lot of cracks in the system along the way?” Now we’re seeing a major rupture.

JS: Well — and I don’t know anything about Maduro’s family members and their qualifications, but just the idea that you had his son and his wife now part of this constituent assembly, combined with what seems to be pretty clear case of manipulating the numbers, albeit perhaps unnecessarily as you say. I mean, the aesthetic there is really bad for Maduro.

EG: Of course. The optics are terrible. But you have to understand that corruption and nepotism are parts of Venezuelan society. I mean it’s a major oil producing country. It’s ironic, because when Hugo Chavez won in 1998, his two principal sort of promises in addition to the constitution were eradicating poverty and corruption. So, I mean, it’s not that corruption disappeared under Chavez. Some would say it proliferated. But having myself been on the inside, I could say that Chavez was sort of a controlling force. He was someone who he himself wasn’t corrupt, although many of those around him were. But the governments that were in place before he was elected were extremely corrupt. I mean, that’s why people were so disgusted with the sort of two-party system that was in place in Venezuela since the fall of the last dictatorship in 1958, and they wanted to break free with it.

When I first went to Venezuela in 1993, the country was in complete collapse. There was an economic crisis, the currency was devalued and the inflation was increasing. But I mean, many of the things that are happening now, which is why it’s so ironic. And then there was a suspension of constitutional rights. There was a national curfew. There was a forced military draft. I mean, their poverty had grown to around 80 percent, you know? There was an elite control over the country’s oil wealth and the oil industry despite the fact that it was nationalized in 1976.

So when people voted for Hugo Chavez and this idea of a Bolivarian revolution, they wanted to break free of a corrupt system. So the fact that now it’s sort of coming full cycle and we’re seeing the nepotism reemerging, the corruption proliferating, the exclusionary tactics taking place, the sort of suppression of dissent, the poverty increasing, the inflation, the economy falling. Again, I mean, when one looks at it and says, “Well, is this just the destiny of a country that has the bittersweet curse of oil?”

JS: Well, and I wanted to ask you about that. One of the critiques that both Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky — again, these are North American voices — but one of their critiques has been that there’s been this massive overreliance on oil revenue and that that’s part of what has fueled the anti-democratic realities that we’re seeing unfold in parts of the situation in Venezuela.

Hugo Chavez

EG: Absolutely. But I mean, again, it’s nothing new. It’s how the country has been functioning for decades. It’s just that before, most of that oil wealth was going into the pockets of an elite. And under these governments, Chavez, Maduro — Maduro has essentially tried to continue, ineffectively, the social policies that made Chavez so popular. But Chavez, also when he came to power, oil was at $7 a barrel. So I mean, it’s not as though they always had this $100-a-barrel to thrive off of in the country. The oil prices went up gradually over the years due to the the wars that the, you know, U.S. was engaged in the Middle East, as well as the role that Chavez, Venezuela and other countries played in sort of rejuvenating OPEC, of which Venezuela was a founding member. And they started to get the price of oil up and more focused on the oil producing countries rather than the oil consuming countries.

But certainly, when oil was reaching $60, $70 a barrel, Venezuela was spending lavishly not just on social programs, but on infrastructure, on all kinds of international agreements and buying things. And I mean, one of the — Chavez himself had, and I mean, I recall being in, like, a situational room in the presidential palace where he had a huge map about how his vision for the country was to invest those natural resources and strategic resources. It’s not just oil, it’s gas, it’s all kinds of minerals, heavy metals, to use those instead of just export them. To be able to have the technology inside the country, to use them to build up the infrastructure in other domestic industries to reduce dependency on oil. You know, something that never happened. I mean, they nationalized all these state industries and the people that were charged with it were incredibly corrupt and inept and incompetent. And so they ran them into the ground.

And none of it ever worked. But, I mean, the idea was there and now Maduro talks about it, too, even though there seems to be a complete disconnect between the discourse and the reality. And so, the dependency continues. And certainly, I mean, it’s a huge cause of the crisis the country is facing today is that over dependence and reliance on oil. Not just on the part of the government, but also by the people, who have become dependent on it in terms of expecting their piece of it — you know, the sort of overall entitlement that that people feel when they live in a system like that where the state is all-encompassing and provides so many of their basic services.

JS: It does seem that there is a trend under Maduro that I think echoes some of what we’ve seen in other governments in the region where all of the crises and all of the problems are essentially blamed on the United States or U.S. intervention. Now, of course, you wrote an entire book detailing U.S. dirty tricks and intervention in Venezuela, “The Chavez Code,” where you examined all of this in detail. Clearly the United States is constantly interfering in the affairs of countries around the world, but certainly throughout Central and South America. But it seems that that becomes a little bit too convenient to just constantly say, “Oh, well this is because the United States. This is because of U.S.-backed groups. This is all a U.S.-created opposition.” I mean, am I wrong? I mean, it seems like that that is sort of answer number one from the pro-Maduro camp.

EG: Well, I mean, it’s a little more complex. It’s not a simple yes or no answer. I mean certainly, I think there’s a culture, maybe a worldwide phenomenon of particularly leaders refusing to take responsibility for their actions. But I mean again, I keep going back to Chavez because, I mean, the Maduro government uses Chavez to justify everything they’re doing. So, I keep looking back and sort of studying and recalling his particular behavior in similar situations, or when he was facing a crisis. And one of the things that made Chavez so popular initially was when he engaged in a military rebellion or a coup against this corrupt President in 1992 and it failed. And he was the only one — Hugo Chavez, this young lieutenant colonel, came out in front of the cameras and took responsibility for the failure. And for Venezuelans, it was like a shock and awe moment. I mean, here we have someone in a position of leadership who’s actually saying: “I failed and I take responsibility.” And, you know, there will be more, to be continued. The story will be continued, which it most certainly was.

But, I mean, that was that was sort of a change, a shift that was very attractive to a lot of people in a country where so many had just blamed others for their mistakes or just turned their back on it. And now we’re seeing that again. I mean, that’s been one of my criticisms. Yes, there’s no question. Is the US funding the opposition in Venezuela? Absolutely. They’ve been doing it for years, you know? I mean, I’ve thoroughly documented it by using the Freedom of Information Act and uncovering the U.S.’ own documents where they show that they’re funding the opposition.

Are they backing and pushing for regime change? Totally. I mean, Mike Pompeo said it the other day in a public forum that they’re doing everything they can to seek regime change. I mean, we’ve heard it from Rex Tillerson the other day, the State Department, straight out, saying it. Maduro has to decide whether or not he wants a future, otherwise — I mean, now I’m paraphrasing  — will decide it for him, something to that effect.

So, are they doing that? Yes. Is there some forms of economic warfare, of propaganda war? Yes there is. But are there mistakes and responsibilities on the part of the government? Absolutely. And I mean, there’s been widespread mismanagement. They’ve made horrific economic decisions in terms of the currency and these extreme currency controls that have skyrocketed the inflation in a parallel black market for the dollar. I mean — and then at the same time, the contracts that the government has engaged with companies to supply food products and all kinds of other consumer products to the countries, they’ve been rife with corruption. There’s been commissions skimmed off the top. I mean, there’s over $300 billion dollars that have been embezzled out of the country over probably the past, like, four or five years that have been unaccounted for.

So I mean, the government can’t just say, “Well we have no role in this.” Or the fact that so many of these nationalized industries, not the oil as much, but even so — I mean, that they’re not functioning to capacity. Some has to do with external sabotage, refusal to supply parts that are needed, to fix things, stuff like that, but other others have to do with the government’s own decision.

So I mean, it’s not always the boogeyman’s fault. But the U.S. certainly has a role — an open, notorious role in not only backing an anti-government, undemocratic in many ways, opposition in Venezuela and promoting regime change.

I mean — and that’s the other factor in this, is that the government of course is in power, the Maduro government, so they bear always a larger responsibility for what’s happening in the country than those outside of it. But there’s no question that the opposition represents sort of the old school wealthy elite that control the private enterprises that have run Venezuela for decades. And, they’ve played a role in hoarding products and just overall sort of sabotage to try to use that concept that that was applied in Chile against Salvador Allende in the early 1970s make the economy scream.

JS: But you’re of course talking about some of these groups that have received an enormous amount of support and money and consultants, et cetera, from the United States and other powers that have intervened. But certainly, you also have a significant swath of Venezuelan society that also is opposed to Maduro that is not on the U.S. payroll.

EG: Absolutely. I mean, it would be outrageous to say that they’re all on a payroll, or they’re paid protesters. That reminds me of Donald Trump saying that about anyone who protests against him. It’s ridiculous. No. I mean the thing is that now — Chavez was in office from essentially 1999 until he passed away in early 2013, and now Maduro’s been in office ever since.

So, we’re looking over nearly 18 years, basically. I mean, there’s a generation, a complete generation that has grown up only knowing this government. And so, of course, I mean it, that they blame this government for the problems that they are experiencing in the country — rightfully so. They have no reference of how it was before. I mean, a lot of times this government likes to say this government in Venezuela, “Oh they have no idea how it was before, when things were repressive, when there was real persecution, when there was torture and when there was no distribution of the oil wealth and when the poverty rates were so high.”

I mean, that for many people today is an unknown past. They only care about what’s happening now. So there’s a percentage of the population that sticks by this government because they don’t want what they see as the old guard to get back into power because they fear that things will return to how they were before. They fear that they’ll become invisible again and marginalized and excluded and persecuted. And they’re probably right, in a lot of that. Especially because when these same opposition sort of leaders that are today facing off with Maduro, were the ones who executed the coup in 2002 against Chavez. And when they took over for a brief 48-hour period, that’s exactly what they did. They dissolved the constitution, all the powers. They persecuted and killed people in the streets that were identified with Chavez, with Chavismo, you know? They started to roll back everything they possibly could and wanted to privatize everything.

So I mean, there’s a reference for the fact that people stick by this government. What they say essentially is: “Yeah, we know they’re corrupt. Yeah, we know things aren’t great, but the alternative is worse.” And then you have on the opposition side, those saying: “No way. This is a terrible government. Things are terrible for us, we just want a change.” And they don’t really care.

I mean, Venezuela’s a crisis of leadership because the opposition is not offering any kind of alternative leadership that really gives people something that they can look at in a positive way for the future. It’s either sort of the older guard or the current guard, you know? And both have shown that they haven’t governed in a way that’s been favorable to the people. At least in terms of the Maduro government now and those in the opposition leadership in the past.

JS: Right. And I most certainly agree with your history there about the outside forces that supported that coup and then what the coup masters wanted to do. What I find more interesting when someone like you and someone like me is discussing this is sort of how the left views this situation. And I’ve been reading various statements from groups of people — some of them people that served as foreign ministers, academics, political figures under Hugo Chavez, others that are from broader coalitions within Latin America — and, on the one hand, you have certain people within Venezuela and in the region who believe that defending the Venezuelan state, even with its flaws, is necessary because it’s an anti-imperialist and popular government. And then you have other groups that are recognizing everything you’re saying about the nature of some of the opposition groups, but are calling Maduro’s government increasingly delegitimize and authoritarian.

And I wanted to ask you, given that you knew Hugo Chavez well, that you wrote this book exposing U.S. interference in Venezuela, based on the United States government’s own documents: Do you believe that what Maduro and his allies are doing right now betrays the legacy of Hugo Chavez?

EG: I think in some ways it’s on that path, certainly. I think that there’s a lot of — there certainly isn’t a conscientious effort to betray Chavez’s legacy, but one of my main issues —

JS: I think it’s a pretty conscientious effort when you cook the books on a referendum.

EG: Well, right, that type of behavior to me is completely unacceptable and obviously betrays that legacy and not just the legacy of Chavez, but of the whole Venezuelan democratic structure that’s been reinforced, one was hoping, in this sort of more participatory democracy over the past — or at least up until about 2012, when before things started to completely fall apart.

But yeah, I mean, I think, it’s difficult because these are the people that were charged with sort of leading the movement forward, but at the same time there’s a circle of people in there — in power now in Venezuela — who were notoriously corrupt. Actually some of them, Chavez himself removed from government, wasn’t forceful enough in terms of imposing or having them go through a justice system, due process, but remove them for corruption. And now they’re back in.

So, in those ways to me that’s a betrayal of the fact that there’s a much more — an elitist structure in place. That even though the rhetoric, a lot of the rhetoric, remains the same, and even though there is still — and I mean that’s a main part of the narrative that’s missing. We can criticize the actions of the Maduro government, and we can say some of them are betraying Chavez’s legacy, but they’re not the only ones who matter here.

And we can also come out against any kind of U.S. intervention or efforts to impose regime change, as would be the same in any country around the world — violating the sovereignty of another nation is unacceptable. But, at the same time, there still are millions of people in grassroots movements who are fighting for their democracy, and they have their issues as well with the people who are in power. But they’re not willing to let go and give up and cede their space to those on the far right wing who would take power were this present government to lose power.

I mean, Venezuela doesn’t have any middle ground at this time, you know? So that’s why I think there’s a lot on the people on the outside, on the left, who are saying let’s just criticize and speak up against foreign intervention in Venezuela, and say nothing about Maduro. There are those who are saying, “No, no, we need to talk about the increasing authoritarian characteristics of this government. The betrayal, maybe, of aspects of Chavez’s legacy and all that was achieved under a Bolivarian Revolution that we’re now seeing come unraveled.” And there are those saying, “No, we need to stick by Maduro and just back him and keep our mouths shut.”

And I think it all is so nuanced. I mean, all of that debate needs to be had. At the same time, you have to look at, well, what is the role of people who are not directly involved in that movement, and which are the voices and the people who really matter who are in that movement. Is it Maduro himself, and the people right around him in the structure of power at the top, or is it the grassroots, the social movements, the workers, the community organizers, the people who are actually the ones trying, struggling to hold on to anything that’s left of this movement that they have been building and empowering themselves with now over the past fifteen years or so?

I mean, I think that’s the conversation that needs to be had. Those people are missing from the narrative. We hear from the opposition and the U.S. media all the time, we hear from all the critics, but we never hear from people. I’m not saying people who come out and say, “Oh, I love Maduro. I support Maduro.” But people in communities, the poorer people and the working class. I mean, that’s the majority of people really who comprise the Chavez movement in Venezuela. It’s this elite power structure that’s corrupted at the top.

JS: Who are the most powerful opposition figures in Venezuela right now?

EG: You have these sort of family, wealthy family legacies like Leopoldo Lopez, who’s in the headlines as a political prisoner. He comes from one of the wealthiest families in the nation, big business owners and old wealth. Henrique Capriles Radonski, who was the candidate who lost against Maduro and had previously lost against Chavez in presidential runs. They come from different parts — the opposition is comprised of over a dozen different parties.

Then you have, like — and Henry Ramos Allup, who was a leader of the older AD party, Democratic Action, or he’s in an adeco, as they say. And other parties have sort of fallen apart and regrouped a lot of that with funding from the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID. But still there are, there’s a group of different parties. You have far right reactionaries like Maria Corina Machado, another one who comes from the old guard, wealthy elite, family wealth in Venezuela who ran the country before.

So I mean, what you don’t have on the opposition side are leaders who have come from the grassroots like you have on the government side, you see? Because Maduro himself — we can say all kinds of things about him today, but he’s from the working class — he was a bus driver, he was a union organizer just as Chavez was, from a poor working-class family from the plains of Venezuela.

And a lot of the people around Maduro are not people who came from wealth or people who are from the working class. So, I mean, that’s part of it, is that the opposition has a complete disconnect with the majority of Venezuelans. Yes, they connect with the upper-middle classes, which are the voices you see and you hear in most international media, particularly in the U.S., because they’re well educated. They speak English. A lot of them live here, you know? They are involved in the groups of power and circles of power in Washington and here in New York financial circles. And so, they’re the ones that you hear the most. But that’s not — their voices are valid. I would never say that they’re not valid and that they don’t have a significant representation in the country today. But certainly there’s a huge piece that’s missing, which is the vast majority of Venezuelans that are only there not necessarily looking for an ideological component in their government, they’re looking for a government that’s going to meet their needs. That’s going to help the country move forward.

And that’s why Chavez initially connected with that large percentage of people in the country — because that was his promise and he identified with them. And they identified with him. And so that sort of propelled his leadership forward. And initially he was successful with those policies that catered to that majority and provided for them.

And so now that the economy has hit rock bottom and the country doesn’t have the same type of economic situation that it had just a few years ago, those people’s needs aren’t being met in the same way. And so they’re looking for change. But the change isn’t necessarily ideological for a lot of people in Venezuela. They just want leaders that are going to be sincere and honest, and who are going to govern in favor of the majority of people in the country. And not looking to get wealthy off of the oil, which is what the opposition did before and which seems to be what some of the people in power are doing today.

JS: Eva, describe what your book, “The Chavez Code,” investigated, and just give a kind of brief thumbnail sketch of your research that went into that book and what the conclusions were.

EG: So, “The Chavez Code,” which was my first book — I’ve written several since then — but “The Chavez Code” was the result of an investigation I did using the Freedom of Information Act to declassify U.S. government documents. And initially the idea was to do it in real time, because the coup against Chavez had just happened in 2002 and it was an unknown whether or not the U.S. government would release any documents just a year after, which is when the investigation began and I began doing the FOIA requests.

And that must have been, either Venezuela wasn’t a priority or they weren’t thinking about any kind of impact on releasing those documents. But I literally got thousands of documents from different U.S. agencies, including some top-secret CIA briefs around the days of the coup that clearly indicated the U.S. not only was funding the opposition before and after, but also had the who, what, where, when and why of everything about the coup. And there was military involvement. There were all kinds of different aspects that came out in those documents.

So, that that book in particular, “The Chavez Code,” really focused on what the documents the U.S. government documents themselves revealed about a U.S. role in the coup against Chavez and sort of what was behind that, what were they looking to do.

I also had a lot of documents since then that date back into the 90s, which is interesting just to mention. I did a book on some of these documents that showed— and I know that WikiLeaks has recently published also, as well some older documents from the U.S. government about Venezuela, which just shows what the priority was. And even State Department cables from back in the early ‘90s talked about how important Venezuela was to U.S. interests, not just because of the oil, but because of its geopolitical positioning in the region as the port of South America and the fact that they needed Venezuela to be the example of democracy for the region — as you know, a democracy that was clearly subordinate to U.S. agenda so that other countries would replicate that model.

Again, we saw that completely turned around when Chavez won office and then began a model that became replicated throughout the region, in terms, some have called it the pink tide, but we saw leftist governments winning in Bolivia and Ecuador and Argentina and Brazil and things sort of — the tables turned. And now we’re seeing them turn back again as the right wing and U.S.-favorable governments have risen again in Latin America.

JS: Now with the exception of designating Maduro, the Trump Administration seems to be essentially continuing, albeit with its own sort of spin, the basic U.S. policy toward Venezuela, at least publicly. What does this mean that Maduro has been designated and that assets have been frozen?

EG: Well it doesn’t mean much inside Venezuela. In fact, it’s seen as a badge of honor. Every time someone has been singled out by the U.S. government in recent years and given one of these sanctions, they have been awarded by Maduro himself recently, this sword of Bolivar, which is a replica of Simon Bolivar’s sword, the founding father of Venezuela and other countries in South America. And it’s seen as one of the highest honors.

And actually they were running a hash tag sort of campaign a few days ago saying #iwantmysanction. So it seems to kind of backfire because it really rallies the people and the troops around the government in the face of an external threat.

I know that the U.S. thinks that this is a strategy that they will turn Maduro himself into a pariah president or dictator, but, in the end, I mean, the Western world can come out against Venezuela. First of all, they’re not cutting off the oil supply. Were they to do that, they would harm more U.S. interests probably than in Venezuela practically, since it’s 30 percent of the oil supply to the United States and they have six refineries here in the United States. And Venezuela owns the Citgo gas chain, which has thousands of gas stations throughout the country.

But, as long as Venezuela maintains their commercial ties and their strategic alliance with countries like Russia and China, they’re not going to back down in the face of an external threat. They’re just going to get stronger in terms of doubling down. And, I mean, I think that’s something that it seems that to me that the U.S. government, or those who have the ear of whoever’s conducting that particular foreign policy fail to understand. And they underestimate the impact of it.

JS: Right, but I also want to point out, I mean, it’s also fascinating that in the New York Times editorial — not an op-ed, but an actual unsigned editorial from the New York Times editorial board — they caution against sanctions by the United States. And I just want to read you this sentence: “Any sanctions by the United States, aside from the dubious moral authority of the Trump Administration, feed Mr. Maduro’s claims of an imperial America seeking to crush Venezuela.” It’s interesting that that’s what they identify as the downside of sanctions, without mentioning the fact that they have the refineries in America, that they own the Citgo gas chain, that they’re a major supplier to the United States. It’s just, well, this would feed Maduro’s ego and his claim to be standing up to the imperialist Yankee.

EG: Right. And I mean, it goes beyond that. Well, first of all, there was an extreme lobbying effort that’s been going on over the past few weeks in Washington by U.S. oil companies and other supply companies against any kind of broader sanctions against Venezuela’s oil industry. So obviously that’s been successful so far.

But, it goes beyond just the fact that the U.S. needs the oil. They also don’t want to just hand all of it over to Russia and China and open the whole door to their return into this hemisphere. So there’s that geopolitical importance as well, as somehow maintaining that sort of bizarre tie with Venezuela, despite the rhetoric on both sides coming out of Venezuela as well. I mean, one day you have Maduro saying, “I aspire to shake Trump’s hand.” And the next day you have him saying, “Trump, Yankee go home.” You know? I mean, so it’s the same. It’s like this schizophrenic discourse on both sides because they can’t get away from that dependency that both countries have.

And at the same time, I mean, I — having known personally Nicolas Maduro — I know that he strives for that type of legitimacy. He was elected with less than two points. He’s undergone severe crises since he’s been in office. He never aspired to be president. It’s not something he dreamed of or worked for his whole life. And now he’s in this position where he’s become this international pariah in the Western world and he’s striving for legitimacy, not just amongst his own people, but also internationally. And that, unfortunately, starts with the United States.

So they’ve been making all kinds of overtures to the Trump Administration since late last year — lobbying efforts — and they even gave over a half a billion dollars to Trump’s inauguration fund. I mean, it’s amazing the efforts people undergo to try to get on the good side of a government that’s clearly hostile as the U.S. has been to Venezuela.

But certainly I think that the sanctions — I don’t think the U.S. really has many options at this stage there. They’ve been trying to work regionally to promote regime change. Those efforts have failed. Even though right wing governments have come back in a lot of Latin America, it’s not uniform and there are many of those governments still would refuse to endorse any kind of intervention into Venezuela. That would just set a precedent that would be very bad for the whole region. It could work against them as well.

JS: Well, and if Venezuela was producing vegetable oil instead of black gold, I think we’d see a very different situation. Eva, as we as we wrap up, I want to ask you: Given that you know personally so many of the players in this government in Venezuela, but also in broader Venezuela society — that you talk to people from a lot of different factions and perspectives — what do you think would be the most effective path forward given now that the United States has publicly taken this very hostile position toward Maduro, and that you have an increasing chorus of voices including people that are certainly not on the U.S. payroll, basically saying, “Look, Maduro, you’re tilting toward authoritarianism here.” What should happen going forward in order to resolve this?

EG: I wish that they hadn’t moved forward with this rewriting of the constitution and creating this sort of supra government, because it does make it more difficult to find a solution to the crisis. But I do believe, and I would continue to push for a dialogue between all the different factions in the country and to look for more reasonable elements as well within them as — and then of course holding elections. The problem with the elections — they’re supposed to be regional elections. They were supposed to have been last year for governors and mayors and then presidential elections next year. The problem now is that because of the fact that the electoral system may have been compromised — most likely was in this past election — because of the fact that, now there’s a supra government body in place that could decide whether or not elections take place. Or even if those elections take place, they’ll still have power above whoever wins office. So, it seems as though there needs to be some negotiating going on in terms of setting clear lines and a structure for how things are going to evolve. There has to be an electoral way out. There cannot be a regime change, not a coup, not any kind of anarchical, violent protests in the streets to push the country further to a civil war.

Venezuela is a country with a lot of guns and it’s grown increasingly violent over the years. People have become more and more sort of radicalized in their positions, and it is bordering that type of a situation. And I think all efforts, internationally, as well as those internally — the different power factions — should be looking for a negotiated way out that would have to include some kind of truth and justice commission, amnesty for those who have been involved in all the events and developments over the past couple years. Because you can’t find a way out of the situation if people feel as though they’re going to be persecuted once they’re out of power.

On both sides there have been crimes and it’s just an unfortunate reality. So, if we want to move Venezuela forward to a more peaceful resolution and away from a civil war, which is what it could become, then there needs to be some kind of a truth and justice commission, similar to what we’ve seen in neighboring Colombia, which is obviously a much different situation, where you have a broader amnesty for those who have been involved in the political developments over the past couple years. So that way at least, you know, there will be a feeling that people can move on and pass this without persecution.

JS: Should the U.S. players who interfered in Venezuela be part of that?

EG: I don’t think the U.S. should be a part of it at all.

JS: But I meant more about having accountability from some sort of a truth commission.

EG: Since when has the U.S. ever been held accountable for their actions in another country? I mean, we could denounce U.S. intervention and strategies and tactics of aggression against Venezuela until we’re blue in the face and still wouldn’t get anywhere. I think at this stage, what’s most important is that regionally, Latin America support a process in Venezuela. And I know there have been offerings. The French president, Emmanuel Macron has made an offer to participate in that process. The Pope, as well as others that play a more neutral role — which is what Venezuela needs. They don’t need any antagonistic players involved in a solution to the country’s current crisis.

JS: Alright. Eva Golinger, we’re going to leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us on intercepted.

EG: Thanks, Jeremy.

JS: Eva Golinger is an attorney and author of several books. Among them, “The Chavez Code.”

 

ExxonMobil, Kochs, israel Pushing Washington to Partition Iraq and Syria

ExxonMobil, Kochs, Israel Pushing Washington to Partition Iraq and Syria

By Whitney Webb,

The currently stateless Kurds sit astride the Iraq-Syria border on land blessed/cursed with oil, other resources, and geopolitical significance. Is it any wonder that mega-corporations and their client states are looking to use the Kurds, stoke conflict, and exploit the situation?

Exxon's own research in the 1980s indicated that without major reductions in fossil fuel combustion, "[t]here are some potentially catastrophic events that must be considered." (Photo: Luc B / Flickr)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Analysis) — Years before the U.S. illegally invaded and then occupied Iraq, plans were circulating within the Pentagon to partition the country along “sectarian” lines, with the express purpose of allowing the U.S. and its regional allies to better control oil resource production and movement within the Middle East.

In Syria, the same narrative of partition has more recently been circulated as the “only” solution to the nation’s sectarian divisions, divisions which did not emerge until they were artificially created in 2011 when the current conflict began and later fomented by hostile foreign actors.

While the Bush and Obama administrations pushed for the partition of Iraq on several occasions, it was largely corporate actors during that time that took the most active steps towards creating an independent state within the Iraqi region controlled by the U.S.-allied Kurds, an area with sizeable energy reserves and other strategic resources.

The area of Syria controlled by the U.S.-backed Kurds conveniently connects directly with the Kurdish “statelet” in Iraq, making the possibility of a larger independent Kurdistan more feasible. This area also boasts the largest concentration of many of Syria’s most critical resources.

While past administrations avoided openly recognizing the partition of Iraq, the administration of President Donald Trump is striking a different tone, largely due to the influence within the administration of some of the biggest players who actively sidestepped Iraq’s government in favor of the Kurds years ago.

Chief among such players was ExxonMobil — whose CEO at the time, Rex Tillerson, is now Trump’s Secretary of State — along with other corporations whose financial and political support for the Trump administration is well-documented.

The geopolitical and economic motives for a partitioned Iraq

The corporatist, neoconservative dream of partitioning Iraq has been around for well over a decade, first materializing a year before the U.S.’ ill-fated 2003 invasion of that nation. The plan, drafted by former Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitzcontemplated the division of Iraq into three autonomous, sectarian “statelets” for Iraqi Muslim Sunnis, Muslim Shi’as, and ethnic Kurds, who are also predominantly Muslim. This partition, it was believed, would allow the U.S. and its regional allies to more easily dominate Iraq and its important fossil fuel resources, along with conferring other “strategic advantages.”

As U.S.-based private intelligence firm Stratfor noted in 2002, the invasion and destruction of Iraq would pave the way for partition and thus greater U.S. control over Iraq and the entire Middle East:

“After eliminating Iraq as a sovereign state, there would be no fear that one day an anti-American government would come to power in Baghdad, as the capital would be in Amman [Jordan]. Current and potential U.S. geopolitical foes Iran […] and Syria would be isolated from each other, with big chunks of land between them under control of the pro-U.S. forces.

Equally important, Washington would be able to justify its long-term and heavy military presence in the region as necessary for the defense of a young new state asking for U.S. protection – and to secure the stability of oil markets and supplies. That, in turn, would help the United States gain direct control of Iraqi oil and replace Saudi oil in case of conflict with Riyadh.”

Creating the divisions needed to justify partition

The big problem for the partition plan, however, was the simple fact that these diverse groups had coexisted with minimal sectarian violence in Iraq for centuries. This meant, of course, that the sectarianism that was needed to justify partition had to be engineered. The U.S., in its invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, happily obliged, sponsoring sectarian violence through the military training – including torture techniques – it gave to Iraqi militias, police and military forces that divided along particular ethnoreligious lines.

Many of these organizations have been found to be repeat human rights offenders and have targeted particular ethnoreligious groups within Iraq. Despite their egregious track record, the U.S. continues to financially support these armed groups.

The U.S. has also worked to create and strengthen ethnoreligious divisions within the country by promoting Iraqi organizations founded on religion or ethnicity rather than along political lines.

Though some analysts believe that the biggest winners in the U.S.-created environment of Iraqi sectarianism were the Iraqi majority population of the Shi’a – which, after all, was given control of the post-invasion government – it was really the Kurds who gained the most as a result of the U.S.’ machinations to divide and conquer Iraq.

The Kurds are the largest group of nomadic people in the world and have long existed without their own state. As journalist Sarah Abed has noted,

“This fact has allowed Western powers to use the ‘stateless’ plight of the Kurdish people as a tool to divide, destabilize and conquer Iraq and Syria, where colonial oil and gas interests run deep.”

Although the most powerful Kurdish political parties in these countries do not see themselves as pawns, history shows that Western colonial powers have used them that way in the past and continue to do so, often with their willing cooperation.

In recent decades the U.S. government and military have openly supported Kurdish separatist elements, though they have stopped short of recognizing “Kurdistan” as a state completely independent of the Baghdad-based government. This role fell instead to U.S. corporations, such as ExxonMobil, a major force in the fossil fuel industry. In 2011, ExxonMobil unilaterally brokered an oil deal with the Kurdistan region, bypassing Iraq’s central government in the process.

According to ExxonMobil, the move was partly motivated by problems it was having contracting with Iraq’s central government regarding oilfields in southern Iraq. However, the promise of oil reserves in Kurdistan said to be “one of the world’s most promising regions for the future [of] hydrocarbon discovery,” was also a clear motivator. As a result, ExxonMobil sided with the Kurdish separatists over the central government, giving clout to Kurdish goals of greater regional autonomy – and thus furthering their shared goal of a divided Iraq.

Other oil corporations – including Chevron and Gazprom, among others – followed Exxon’s lead..

By 2014, more than 80 foreign energy corporations had struck deals with Kurdistan. Oilman Ray Hunt, whose Hunt Oil Co. signed its own unilateral agreement with Kurdistan in 2007, has consistently heaped praises upon Kurdistan and has also made clear his vision for the future of Iraq: “In the end, you’ll end up with a soft partition of Iraq.”

Corporate connection to Trump’s change of heart on Iraq partition

12,000 Oil Smuggling Trucks Photographed Crossing Into Turkey From Iraq

A photograph released by Russian intelligence depicting thousands of trucks laden with oil crossing from Syria into Turkey. December, 2015.

Over the years since these deals were struck, the Kurdish separatist parties in Iraq have benefited immensely, though more recently they have been hit hard by the global drop in oil prices. In 2014, they were exporting 280,000 barrels of oil every day. And, despite troubles with foreign companies brought on by falling oil prices and the rise of Daesh (ISIS), the Kurds – as of the end of 2016 – were exporting nearly 600,000 barrels a day.

Though Daesh was painted by the media as a scourge to the Kurds, they have in fact benefited from Daesh’s invasion of large swaths of Iraq. Indeed, the Kurds – trained, armed and provided with airstrike support by the U.S. and Israel – have taken control of many former Daesh territories and have thereby expanded the size of their own territory.

The U.S. and its regional allies have said that the Kurds’ ability to confront Daesh essentially entitles them to “have their way.” As Sadad Ibrahim al-Husseini, former head of exploration and development for the Saudi state oil company Aramco told The New York Times in 2014:

“At the end of the day, the Kurds will have their way, because they are the only credible Sunni group that can confront ISIS.”

Not surprisingly, the Kurd’s oil riches have brought them into direct conflict with Iraq’s central government, which has since cut off national funding for the Kurdish region and threatened any country or company buying Kurdish oil with legal action for violating the nation’s constitution by not sharing its oil sale revenue equally among all Iraqis.

However, countries like Turkey and Israel continue to buy significant amounts of oil, as well as natural gas, from the Kurds. Turkey’s case is particularly interesting given Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s well-known hatred of the Kurds and opposition to Kurdish independence in Syria. However, when it comes to Iraqi Kurdistan at least, economic factors have won out, with Turkey’s ruling party having stated that Kurds in Iraq have the right to self-determination.

Kurdish control of Iraq’s oil-rich north is key to the partitioning plan. As Michael Makovsky, a former Pentagon official, told The New York Times:

“I think Iraqi Kurdish independence is inevitable, at least eventually. They have natural allies in the United States because of the oil companies involved in drilling there. And the Turks and Europeans need their gas.”

Though candidate Trump had not voiced support for a partition of Iraq, spurred by his administration’s strong ties to the oil industry, Washington has become even more friendly to the Kurds – and to the idea of Kurdish secession – since Trump took office.

However, when the State Department was asked by journalist Nafeez Ahmed whether it still stood by the traditional position of supporting a unified Iraq, a department spokesperson answered:

“With respect to the unity of Iraq, you’re right; that is something we make a point of saying. But ultimately, these are all internal political discussions that Iraq needs to have with all ethnic groups resident in the country.”

As Ahmed notes, this is the first time that the State Department has officially announced the U.S.’ willingness to consider the partition of Iraq.

Why the sudden change of heart?

Ali Khedery, pictured far left, watches as U.S. President George W. Bush signs an agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. (Photo: Public Domain)

Ali Khedery, pictured far left, watches as U.S. President George W. Bush, sings an agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. (Photo: Public Domain)

ExxonMobil once again emerges as a key player — not surprisingly, given that current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was Exxon’s CEO when the unilateral contract with the Kurds was forged. Tillerson, however, is not the only former ExxonMobil employee with ties to the Trump administration. Ali Khedery — a former Pentagon official who served in the U.S. coalition authority in Iraq, and a former ExxonMobil executive — has repeatedly promoted the division of Iraq.

Khedery is also the founder of Dragoman Ventures, a firm connected to the Committee to Destroy ISIS, which has been instrumental in bringing about the Trump administration’s change of opinion regarding Iraq’s partition. The Committee’s executive director, Sam Patten, also shares deep connections to members of Trump’s campaign and transition teams, as well as to certain Iraqi oligarchs suspected of having ties to U.S. intelligence and insurgent elements in Iraq.

Nor is oil the only resource that has swayed the Trump administration and its corporate allies to view partition favorably. Iraq’s Anbar province was recently found to contain nearly a tenth of the world’s total deposits of phosphates, a key ingredient in the production of nitrogen fertilizer. Now — with control of more than 70 percent of the world’s phosphate supply, and with markets reaching a point where demand is beginning to outstrip supply — the world’s largest producer of nitrogen fertilizer is eager for access to Anbar province.

That company, Koch Fertilizer Inc., is owned by the infamous Koch Brothers. Fully one-third of Trump’s entire transition team had ties to Koch Industries.

The role of Israeli ties in pushing the partition plan

Ethnic Kurdish Israelis protest outside the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, July 8, 2010.

Ethnic Kurdish Israelis protest outside the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, July 8, 2010.

The Trump administration’s close ties to Israel may also be a factor in Trump’s willingness to consider Iraq’s partition. Though the U.S. is clearly driving partition in both Iraq and Syria, it is not alone. Israel stands to gain greatly from a partition of Iraq and has worked, like the U.S., to engineer sectarianism there and strengthen the Kurds. The Kurds have received weapons, training, and more from Israel — well before the rise of Daesh, with ties dating back to the 1960s.

Israel has also directly supported the Kurds’ economy. In 2015, despite warnings from Baghdad, Israel was importing as much as 77 percent of its oil supply from Iraqi Kurdistan, funneling much-needed money to the cash-stripped Kurdish regional government.

Israel has long recognized the potential role of the Kurds in dividing countries it and its allies seek to weaken. It is hardly a coincidence that Israel’s Greater Israel project aligns almost perfectly with “Kurdistan.” In the Oded Yinon plan, or the plan for a “Greater Israel,” the use of the Kurds is considered imperative as a means for dividing neighboring countries in order to aid in Israeli plans for greater domination and territorial expansion.

In addition, Israel considers the Kurds an important part of its long-standing goal to destabilize Iran. For instance, WikiLeaks revealed in 2010 that Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad had expressed interest in using the Kurds and other ethnic minorities to topple the Iranian government by manufacturing the country’s division. Given that the partition of Iraq would isolate Iran from Syria, Israel – like the U.S. – views partition as serving multiple goals, ultimately enabling Israel to dominate the entire Middle East.

Syria partition plan follows the Iraqi partition playbook

Iraq is by no means the only Middle Eastern country that Western powers are seeking to partition. The partition of Syria has been repeatedly sold to the public as the “only” solution to Syria’s ongoing “sectarian” conflict, now well into its seventh year. However, this sectarianism was engineered and stoked by foreign powers to bring about the current conflict in SyriaWikiLeaks revealed that the CIA was involved in instigating anti-Assad and “sectarian” demonstrations as early as March 2011. Declassified CIA documents show the plan to engineer sectarianism in order to weaken the Syrian state dates back to at least the 1980s.

The partition idea was also repeatedly touted by the Obama administration, which stated that it “may be too late” to keep Syria whole.

In 2011, when the conflict was in its infancy, the U.S. and its allies – namely Israel, Qatar, Turkey, France, the U.K. and Saudi Arabia – began supplying tons upon tons of weapons to insurgent and sectarian elements within Syria, heavily arming the so-called “moderate” Wahhabi opposition like the Free Syrian Army and the Kurds. As the conflict raged on – and the “moderate” opposition was exposed time and again as sharing close ties with internationally recognized terror organizations like al-Qaeda – Washington’s support began to shift increasingly towards the Kurds.

As in Iraq, the spread of Daesh in the area became a pretext for the U.S. not only to arm the Kurds but also to allow them to take control of areas, such as Raqqa, once held by Daesh. Media and government sources repeatedly told the public that the Kurds must be armed, as they were the only group that had proven “effective” in countering Daesh. This past March, the Kurds declared the formation of a Kurdish federation under democratic self-rule. This declared federation has yet to obtain international recognition, but – given what has transpired in Iraq and in U.S.-Syrian relations – such an achievement doesn’t seem far off.

The Kurds and their U.S. allies currently have gained effective control of Syria’s north, which comprises about a quarter of the entire country but boasts over 90 percent of Syrian oil and gas potential. According to Yeni Şafak, the U.S. along with the Saudis, Egypt, and Kurdish officials have held meetings where decisions were made to extract, process and market the oil, with the Kurds being given a handsome share of the profits. As of 2015, they were said to be earning in excess of $10 million every month.

Syria’s Kurdistan exports its oil to Iraq’s Kurdistan, with which it conveniently shares a border. It is then refined and sold to Turkey. Though no corporations are explicitly involved, the deal between Syrian and Iraqi Kurds was brokered by unnamed “oil experts” and “oil investors.” The Kurds in Syria and Iraq did not even sign the agreement in person. They were subsequently “informed” and instructed to supervise the operation.

A source in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) told NOW News that

“with regard to southern Kurdistan, it was a company and not the KRG that signed the deal, and it is [the company] that directly hands over the sums in cash every month.”

Given that over 80 foreign companies are involved in the KRG’s oil trade, most of them based in the U.S., we can safely assume that many of the same players have also been involved in developing the oil trade of Syria’s Kurdistan.

Non-oil assets of Syrian Kurdistan also tempt corporations and governments

Kurdish Fighters take positions at the top of Mount Annan overlooking the Tishrin dam, after they captured from ISISmilitants, south of Kobani, Syria December 27, 2015. (Photo: Rodi Said)

Kurdish Fighters take positions at the top of Mount Annan overlooking the Tishrin dam, after they captured it from ISIS militants, south of Kobani, Syria December 27, 2015. (Photo: Rodi Said)

In addition to oil, the “Kurdistan” of Syria also includes much of Syria’s freshwater, including its three largest reservoirs, as well as much of its electricity (hydropower via Tabqa) and its agricultural resources. The growth of Syria’s Kurdistan also has major implications for one of Syria’s other key assets: its location. In 2013, The New York Times noted that “Syria’s prime location and muscle make it the strategic center of the Middle East.”

Syria’s strategic location makes it crucial to the regional flow of hydrocarbons. Having the northern section of Syria — and potentially the eastern as well, if the U.S. gets its way — under the control of a U.S. ally could have a profound effect on future and existing pipelines. Notably, it would complicate the land route between Syria and Iran, Syria’s staunchest regional ally and long-time foe of the U.S. and Israel — a scenario highlighted by U.S.-based intelligence firm Stratfor back in 2002.

The words of late journalist and historian Patrick Seale – “Whoever would lead the Middle East must control Syria” – ring true for the U.S. government now more than ever. With internal reports warning of the U.S.’ waning position as the “world’s only superpower,” the division of Iraq and Syria is essential to Washington’s designs to maintain its influence, as well as the influence of the corporate powers it protects.

 

Depleted Uranium and Radioactive Contamination in Iraq: An Overview

Depleted Uranium and Radioactive Contamination in Iraq: An Overview

The amount of devastation caused by the Depleted Uranium (DU) weaponry used against Iraq during the consecutive US led wars is historically unprecedented in modern warfare. The devastating magnitude of the complications and damage caused as a result of the use of such radioactive and toxic weapons on the environment and the human population was intensified as a result of the intentional concealment, denial and misleading information released by the Pentagon about the quantities, characteristics, and Iraqi area’s within which these weapons were used.

Information revealed about a severe illness known as the ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ which spread amongst US Army veterans who were exposed to DU while using theseweaponry, helped Iraqi researchers and Medical Doctors to understand the nature of the effect of these weapons, and the means required to investigate further into this issue.

DU is a chemically toxic and radioactive heavy metal produced as waste by the nuclear power industry. It is used in weapons because it is an extremely hard material capable of piercing armor.

The synergistic impact on health due to the 1991post-Gulf War1 economic sanctions, and DU related radioactive and toxic contamination, raised the number of casualties in contaminated areas such as in Southern Iraq.

During 2003, the invading forces used additional rounds of DU in heavily populated areas such as Baghdad, Samawa, Fallujah, Diyala, Najaf, Salahuddin, Basra and Nasiriya (again), and other cities.

The continual use of DU after-Gulf War I in 1991, then during and after the US led military operations in 2003 invasion of Iraq increased the total contamination area with DU in Iraq. Consequently, civilians in previously contaminated areas received an extra dose of radioactivity after 2003. An action that can only be interpreted as committing unseen genocide against the unarmed civilian population in these areas.

Accordingly, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have received higher doses of radioactivity than those received from standard natural sources of radiation. As a result, a multifold increase of diseases related to Low Level Radiation (LLR) exposure have been registered amongst Iraqis since 1995, including an increase of children’s leukemia, congenital malformations, breast cancer etc…

The leukemia incidence rates for instance, shifted towards younger children during these recent years, and its association with geographically distributed contaminated areas, offers strong evidence of the correlation between LLR exposure, and the resulting health damages.

Through this paper, an overview of major scientific DU conclusions will be presented, drawn from investigations and research conducted since the year 1991 by Iraqi researchers and MDs. This research was never published outside Iraq because of the comprehensive sanctions imposed on Iraq from (1991-2003). They were published only in Iraqi University peer reviewed journals and two related conferences.  Schemes of the research papers can be classified into three categories:

  1. DU contamination detection and exploration programs.
  2. DU effects on human body cells.
  3. DU related epidemiological studies.

1.0 Introduction:

Depleted Uranium (DU) weaponry has been used against Iraq since the Gulf War 1 in 1991. An estimated (DU) expenditure of 320 – 800 tons were shot mainly on the withdrawing Iraqi troops from Kuwait to the north of Basra City [ 1].

The use of (DU) ammunition on Iraqi territory never stopped since 1991. Different generations of (DU) supported Tomahawk missiles & Bunker Buster Bombs [1] have been used during the 90’s on what were known as the No-Fly Zones (Northern & Southern regions of Iraq), and during the attack on Iraq in 1998. Bombing Iraq with DU continued during the military operations of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, then afterwards in other cities which resisted the occupation of Iraq [2].

With the comprehensive sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1991, the United States & its allies used radioactive & toxic weapons to exhaust Iraq’s institutions & population to prepare for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Using extra hundreds of tons of (DU) expenditure   during the invasion of Iraq made the radioactive contamination situation more complicated.

For many years the US-UK led armed forces avoided any release of information about the amounts, types, and locations of the targets destroyed by these weapons within Iraqi territories [2]. As a result, thousands of Iraqi children and their families in West Basra were repeatedly exposed for extended durations to DU low-level radiation (LLR) and toxic effects. Many researchers have found a direct correlation between this exposure, and the significant increase of certain diseases such as congenital malformations, malignancies, congenital heart diseases, chromosomal aberration, and multiple malformations in Basra [3].

Right after Gulf War 1, European and American Anti-DU activists and NGO’s issued many publications identifying the harmful effects of DU on-Gulf War veteran health and Iraqi population. These publications helped Iraqi researchers start a series of exploration research programs to define DU contaminated areas in Iraq, and to estimate the radiation doses the civilian population in Southern Iraq and the Iraqi troops located there were exposed to during military operations in 1991. The programs also set out to assess the risk level related to contamination levels in the surrounding environment.

These exploration research programs were performed under severely constrained conditions allowing very limited technical resources because of the US imposed economic sanctions on Iraq during the 90’s posing a serious scientific challenge at the time.

Conducting these researches under the tight conditions and very limited technical and other resources under the economic sanctions was a serious scientific challenge at the time since the American and British occupation forces:

  • Forbidding any release of information related to types, amounts, and locations of targets destroyed by DU projectiles, and any statistics related to Iraqi army and civilian casualties after the occupation of 2003 [4].
  • Refusal to clean up contaminated areas (as was performed by the same named troops) in Kuwait [5].
  • International agencies were prohibited the right to conduct full (DU) related exploration programs and risk assessments by US led occupying forces [6] the way they did in Kosovo [7]. Such an act indicates that these forces are relying on time to dissipate these contaminants with the purpose that the evidence of this crime be lost. Such assessment with proper resources, experts, and technology would link, with conclusive evidence, the harmful health impacts with exposure to DU oxidesamong the population of the contaminated areas.

Using such weapon and related misleading information can be considered as war crimes. They represent grave breach of the Geneva Convention and international law becausethese weapons have caused and continue to cause undifferentiated harm and suffering to civilian populations in all contaminated areas long after the end of the military operations [8].

DU contamination mechanism and health impacts

Dr Rosalie Bertell, a radiology scientist wrote in 2006 [9]; when DU munitions hit the target, they ignite prophetically and generate heat that reaches a temperature of (3000-6000°C). This heat causes a sublimation of DU and other metals to form a gas or aerosol in the forming DU nanoparticles. The nanoparticles can cross the lung-blood barrier and gain entrance to the cells resulting in the creation of free radicals. This is an effect of ionizing radiation. The other effect of DU comes from the fact that it is classified as a toxic heavy metal. Heavy metal toxicity attacks the proteins in the human tissue cells which normally fights the free radicals and creates additional free radicals [9]. This causes an oxidative stress that leads to failure of protective enzymes, damaging the cellular communication system and the mitochondria. Free radicals can also disrupt the protein’s folding process of (DNA). This misrouting of proteins causes certain diseases such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes insipidus and cancer. The amassing and accumulation of misfolded proteins leads to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease. Gulf veterans have manifested many of the symptoms of these neurodegenerative diseases. Other effects are:

  • Immune and Hormonal systems’ damage
  • Distribution of thyroid function
  • Mycoplasmal Invasion to human body
  • Teratogenic Toxicity, where soluble DU oxides crosses the placenta to the fetus. As a result, damages might range from behavioral problems to mental retardation and congenital malformations.

Studies have shown that the Gulf War1 male veterans were twice as likely- and female veterans almost three times as likely- to report children with birth defects than counterparts who did not serve in the first Gulf War [9].

In her analysis, Dr. Bertell further emphasized that the carcinogenic properties of Uranium are linked the weakening the immune system of individuals, and showing that a depressed immune system often changes the status of subclinical cancer into clinically diagnosable cancer. Other related important studies related to these aspects are of Miller, A. et al [10] [11], Hindin et al [12], and Schroder [13].

The existence of radioactive DU oxides in these areasis considered ascontinuous source of exposure to both toxins and harmful radioactivity. It also represents a continuous and systematic attack on the civilian population each time DU oxide contaminated dust storm blow on the city of Basra and all surrounding areas tens of years to come.

In this paper, the genuine scientific efforts of the Iraqi scientists and researchers who tried hard to define DU contaminated areas in Southern Iraq after Gulf War 1 of 1991, and to show a correlation with its perceived consequences on general population health, all while under the US-UK led economic sanctions imposed on Iraq will be reviewed.

Most of these studies couldn’t find their way to internationally peer-reviewed journals because of the comprehensive sanctions imposed on Iraq, even though they have been published in Iraqi University peer-reviewed scientific journals in addition to the proceedings of two DU and War Consequences scientific conferences (1998, 2002).

It is also an obligation to let the world know that some of these studies cost the authors their lives after the occupation of Iraq in 2003. One of them is Dr. Alim Abdul Hameed Yacoub (Dean of Basra Medical College) who was killed, along with his son, when his car was forced off the highway on the way to his home town of Basra after being attacked and threatened twice at his home by pro-occupation militias two weeks before his death. They cost other researchers their freedom, such as Dr. Huda Ammash who was accused of being (Lady Anthrax) and imprisoned without any real accusation for 3 years just because she conducted very important research on Iraqi Armed Forces veterans who were exposed to DU weapons.

In addition to the assassination of about 500 Iraqi scientists after the US led invasion of Iraq by US trained Death Squads and pro-occupation militias, in what appears to be measures taken to discontinue any kind of scientific research in Iraq including DU-related research [14] in occupied Iraq.

2.0 Schemes of DU related research that have been conducted and published in Iraq (1991-2003):

Studies in this paper are classified into the following schemes:

  1. Detection and modeling of DU contaminated areas through site measurements and laboratory tests
  2. Epidemiological Studies Related to (DU) Contamination Health Effects.
  1. Pathological Studies of DU Effects on Human Health

2.1 Detection and modeling of DU contaminated areas through site measurements and laboratory tests

In 1993 the first Iraqi team of researchers from the Iraqi Atomic Commission and the College of Science in University of Baghdad [15][16] investigated with very limited information and a Sampling Program the increase of DU related radioactivity in selected areas West of Basra. Destroyed Iraqi tanks and vehicles contaminated upon destruction with DU ammunition were still laying around these areas. The areas included: Northern Rumaila oil fields, Al-Shamia, Kharanje, Southern Rumaila oil field, and Jabal Sanam. Exposure measurements revealed the existence of DU contamination in the studied areas. Tables 1, 2, and 3 show the results of these measurements. As we can see from the results not allsampled tanks and Iraqi artilleries have been destroyed by DU projectiles.

Table (1) Field Measurements of 1993 at North Rumela Area [15]

Table (2): Field Measurements of 1993 at Shamia Airfield /Khudairat al-Audhaimi Area [15]

Table (3): Field Radioactivity Measurements of 1993 at DMZ and Surrounding Area [15]

In 1996 Al-Azzawi, S.N. and her team conducted a comprehensive exploration program through the Environmental Engineering Department in University of Baghdad [17] [18] [19][20][21] [22][23].  The program involved taking hundreds of exposure measurements, soil and destroyed targets smear samples, surface water and channels sediments samples, bio-samples from vegetation cover, fish, and grazing animal tissues.  Sampling included areas of heavy military engagement during the first Gulf War of 1991 such as Safwan, Jabal Sanam, al-Zubair, Northern Rumaila oil fields, and Southern Rumaila Oil Fields (Figures 1 and 2). The measurements and tests were part of the academic requirements of three Masters of Engineering degree thesis in Environmental Engineering.

A BGS-4 gamma-ray scintillation counter was used to measure onsite exposure. The counters were used for 124 field exposure measurements in and around the destroyed tanks and other military vehicles. High purity germanium detectors were used to test 124 soil and sediment samples, 58 surface and groundwater samples and 158 bio-samples in the Laboratory of Environmental Radiation in the Iraqi Atomic Organization. All field measurements were supervised and by specialists from Iraqi atomic energy organization and according to IAEA related standards. Also, all laboratory tests were conducted during continuous visits and checking of UN/US inspection teams to all the latter organization’s activities.

Selected measurements from 1996 exploration program results are shown in (Table 5). Modeling pollution transport from hundreds of destroyed artilleries to surrounding areas till 1996 shows the spreading of DU contamination in the area from 1991 – 1996 [17] [18] [19]:

  • 1,718 km² of soil contaminated with DU oxides and particles,
  • 140,000 m² of channel sediments,
  • 845,100 tons of vegetation cover

Table 5: Selected Exposure and Soil Radioactivity Measurements From the 1996 exploration program [17] [18]

T: Destroyed Tank        A: Destroyed Armored Vehicle

Risk assessment related to previous measurements showed that people in the Western part of Basra City, and the Iraqi and American troops received a total whole body radioactive dosage of (442 – 577) mSv [24], mostly during the first six months of the 1991 Gulf War military operations. Comparing this value with the background annual radioactivity vlue of (2.4 mSv) we can see that this amount is about 200 times more than normal natural radioactivity the human body receives. Findings of  the predicted health damages related to these doses were defined and published at the time[25].

In 1999 – 2000 a follow-up exploration program in the same contaminated area of West Basra was conducted by (Al-Azzawi and Al Nuiamy, 2002) [24] [25]. The program included radioactivity measurements of site exposure, soil sediments, water samples, and laboratory tests. Samples were collected from previously studied areas plus areas where most of the DU contaminated tanks and wreckage were collected and unfortunately placed on the banks of Wafaa Al Qaied waterway causing further contamination.

Results of this program indicated the existence of higher than natural background radioactivity in some of the soil samples and sediments from nearby surface water channels sediments in the areas but in general the radioactivity was less than that of 1996. Sand and dust storms with the weathering process contributed to the dispersion of these contaminants to nearby populated areas.More than (127) days of dust storms used to hit that area since the Nineties of last century [26].

Also in 1999-2000 Al-Azzawi, Maarouf and Al-Mousori conducted an exploration program to check of the possibility of radiological contamination in Ninevah Governorate and its center Mosul City, after being attacked in 1998 by new generations of Cruise missiles (AGM 154 J50W) on three targets on the Eastern bank of Tigris River in Mosul city. The program also involved checking the extension of The Chernobyl Plume on Iraqi territories after 13 years [27].

The field measurements using Portable Scintillation Counter have proved that there is clear radiological pollution in the study area. The measured average exposure rate was 11.38 µR.h-1 in Mosul city and 10.11 µR.h-1 in Nineveh governorate which are more than the background level of the study area that amounted to 7.0 µR.h-1.

The laboratory tests have also shown an increase in Ra-226 concentrations which is one daughter of the decay series of U-238. The tested maximum concentration of Ra-226 is 146 Bq.kg-1 in Mosul City and 107 Bq.kg-1 in Nineveh governorate, while the background level calculated in these regions should be 55 Bq.kg-1. This is an indication that the increase can be attributed to the pollution of the study area by Uranium weaponry and that the missiles used to destroy these targets contain Uranium radioisotopes.

The Pentagon kept denying the existence of radiological contamination and the harmful effects of DU on human population and environment. They also accused the findings of the Iraqi research teams during the Nineties as (Iraqi regime propaganda).

After 4 years under the US occupation of Iraq comes the proof from the occupation assigned Iraqi government that all our work was genuine and scientifically credible.

During the National Meeting on Radiological Pollution in Iraq, held in Mansur Melia Hotel in Baghdad, the Minister of Environment in Iraq Narmeen Othman presented the results of the environmental radiological assessment that were conducted in 2007 in some areas of Iraq including Northern and Southern Oil Fields in Southern Iraq after a significant increase of registered cancer cases (as being mentioned in that meeting) [28]. Results of that assessment shows the following:

  • In Rumaila Oil Fields 48 sites were found radiologically contaminated
  • Among the 17 stations of Northern Rumaila Oil Fields, eight sites were found contaminated with radioactive radionuclide
  • Also Phase one of that environmental radiological assessment showed 264 radiologically contaminated samples as follows:
  • In Samawa area 202 samples were collected. 71 soil samples, 10 water samples, 106 dust smear samples. And one vegetation cover sample. Contaminated samples were 36 sample.
  • In Zubair area, 62 samples. 41 of them contaminated.
  • In Basra area, 103 samples. 62 samples were radiologically contaminated.
  • In Nasrya area, 153 samples. 49 of them were contaminated.

It is noteworthy to highlight the fact that these findings come after 15 years of the original exploration programs we have conducted in these areas [ ] [ ].

Tawfiq, N. F. et al in 2000 [29] measured alpha-emitters concentrations in soil samples from different Iraqi cities using Solid State Nuclear Track detectors CR-39 and CN-85. Her team found high concentration radioisotopes measurements of (7.8) ppm in Muthana governorate (Samawa City).

The Dutch troops later in 2003 refused to camp in Samawa City, due to high DU related radioactivity detected by those troops [30]. After few days, they finally moved to a nearby desert area. It was also confirmed that New York Guardsmen serving in Samawa city during 2003 were exposed to DU [31].

Tawfiq research team also confirmed that other cities with higher radioisotope concentrations in soil than that of the area’s background levels which typically range in (1.02-2.2) PPM were: Basra (7.2) ppm, Nasirya (Al-Shatra city) (6.2) ppm. These locations fell on withdrawing Iraqi troops withdrawal route from Kuwait in Jan 1991. The same route the Iraqi troops were intercepted and destroyed by US DU weapons.

In 2000, Al-Gurabi, S. and her team measured DU related increases in radioactivity along the areas bordering Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. They also measured Northern Rumaila Oil Field and areas to the Northwest of Basrah City [32]. Results showed higher activity concentrations of DU related radioisotopes in all investigated areas except the center of Basrah City.

Butras, Wartan and Butras in (2000-2001) [33] measured radioactivity in three different areas of Basrah using Alpha and Beta measuring LB1200 detectors. The measured areas:

A: Iraqi-Saudi-Kuwaiti borders

B: Qurna city, Zubair city, Faw and Umm Kasir seaports.

C: Shatt Al-Arab district in Basra

Results proved the existence of higher radioactivity measurements than background levels of (18*10-3) mRem/hr in area (A) after 10 years of the war. Umm Kasir area registered (10 * 10-3) mRem/hr, compared to normal background levels in the area are within the range of (7 * 10-3) mRem/hr [33].

During the year 2000, Al-Kinani, et al [34] collected (11) soil samples from Safwan, Southern Rumaila and the unarmed border zone using a gamma radiation detector. Results indicated that (7) of these samples were contaminated with DU radioisotopes. Sample (SSI) U235/U238 ratio was found to be (0.00351) which indicates high DU contamination a destroyed tank in that area. Other ratios ranged between (0.0041-0.0037).

Dozens of other studies were conducted and published in Arabic or English peer-reviewed scientific journals of various Iraqi universities. Those published investigation programs were all conducted by well-known professors and researchers who followed the IAEA and other international scientific standards’ procedures.  Researches and radiological laboratory tests that were done in conjunction with the environmental department of the Iraqi Atomic Commission were searched and reviewed by periodic UN inspection teams’ visits and the IAEA teams. These teamswere inspecting all the activities throughout the nineties until the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Radiation Protection Centre (RPC) has also identified between 300 and 365 contaminated sites by 2006. Most of them located in the Basra region in Southern Iraq [35 ]

2.2 Epidemiological Studies Related to (DU) Contamination Health Effects:

Many epidemiological studies were conducted in contaminated cities to define the correlation between (DU) contamination and the increase of malignancy incidence rates and congenital malformation in Basra Governorate for example. Most of these studies were performed by faculty members of Al-Basra College of Medicine since 1995. Some of these studies were published in the University of Basra Medical Journal. Others were presented in the two Iraqi conferences about the effect of economic sanction and (DU) weaponry used against humans and the environment in Iraq, held in 1998 and 2002 respectively.

Results of these studies pointed out a very clear trend concerning the existence of correlation between contamination and the resulted increase of the related diseases in geographically contaminated areas. Among others, the following studies are specifically important:

  • Alim Yacoub et al, 1998 [36] [37] presented an analysis of recorded cases of registered malignant diseases among children under 15 years of age in Basra for the period (1990 – 1997). This analysis showed a rise of 60% in children’s leukemia from 1990 to 1997. Also, a 120% increase in all malignant cases among children under the age of 15 for the same period were registered. The study also showed the shift of age distribution of leukemia cases towards younger than 5 years of age from 13% in 1990 to 41% of total cases in 1997.
  • Al-Sadoon, et al, 1998 [38] showed a threefold increase in congenital malformations registered cases in 1998 compared to 1990 in Basra city. Congenital heart diseases, chromosomal aberrations, and multiple malformations all indicate exposure to teratogenic environmental factor.
  • Alim Yacoub, et al, 1999 [39] also introduced an analysis of the incidence and pattern of malignant diseases in Basra from the analysis of the histopathological reports of Basra University Teaching Hospital for the period 1990-1997.

The study indicated that there was a rise of about 160% in reported cases of uterine cancer in 1997 compared to 1990 and an increase of 143% in thyroid cancer cases in 1997 compared to 1990 recordings. Also, a 102% increase in breast cancer and 82% rise in lymphomas in 1997 compared to 1990.

The records also indicated a shift in the types of the five major leading malignancies in Basra in 1997 such as breast, bladder, lymphomas, uterine, and skin cancers. While those of 1990 were malignant diseases of bladder, skin, breast, lung, and larynx.

  • Alim Yacoub, Imad Al-Sadoon and Jenan Hasan, 2002 presented a paper [40] that examines the association between exposure to DU radiation and the rising incidence of malignancies among children in Basra through time sequence criteria, and dose-response criteria through the geographical shift of the increase of incidence rates in Al-Zubair and other Western areas from less than 5/100,000 prior to 1993 to 22/100,000 in 2000  compared to only Al-Hartha area (North of Basrah) only prior to 1993 (with the highest incidence rates of 10/100,000 in 1993). They also tested the biological plausibility criteria through the shift of the increase of leukemia incidence rate towards younger ages of less than 5 years old after 1995.

Yacoub et al, 2002, couldn’t explain the reason behind the constant increase of malignancies incidence rates among children in Al-Hartha district in Northern Basra City, figure from (10 incidents / 100,000) to (42.7 / 100,000) in the year 2000.

This increase can be attributed to the existence of the largest electrical power generation and transformation facilities in Iraq of 800 MW. This power plant was destroyed during air raids several times first week of bombing in 1991. Nobody measured the radioactivity in Al-Hartha power plant, which might be also destroyed with DU expenditure.

We must be aware that these epidemiological studies were limited to Basra General Hospital, which is the education hospital of Basra Medical College. The mentioned number of cancer incidence cases and congenital malformations would be a lot higher if the studies involved all hospitals of Basra.

  • Abbas Ali & Jawad al Ali, 2002 [41] presented an evaluation of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) annual incidence which started to rise from 1995 up to the year 2000, when the increase began to plateau.
  • Pathological Studies of DU Effects on Human Health

Dr. Huda Ammash- Professor of Molecular Biology in the College of Science in University of Baghdad, 1998, presented a paper on the mechanisms of toxicity induced by free radicals resulting from irradiation with DU and ionization of the atmosphere in Iraq [42] [43]. This paper pinpointed the need for DU toxicity studies on enzymes (SOD), Caralase, hydrogenates and Glyceraldehydes Dehydrogenates levels. She also presented the multi aborative cases on the DNA level where out of 50 studied cases, 29 cases were found with DNA abnormalities (with no hereditary evidence). Other multi aborative cases investigating the toxoplasmosis effect showed that out of 130 cases, over 65% more were infected than those recorded in 1989.

Muhammed, Z.T. et al, 2002, [44] published a paper about the effects of DU radiation on the human immune system enzyme. A group of (26) Iraqi veterans who were exposed to DU radiation with (43) control individuals were all subjected to tests for Adenosine DA Amines (ADN) enzyme activity. Results indicated mean activity of the enzyme of the exposed individuals of (0.184 ±0.016) U/gm protein, while the unexposed individual’s enzyme activity (0.291 ±0.022) U/gm protein.

ADA enzyme activity in the exposed individuals were found to be significantly lower than the control group. P<0.05 significant correlation coefficient was found between ADA activity as an important immune enzyme and related clinical signs and symptoms related to defective cellular immune functions.

Ammash, H., Alwan, L. and Marouf, B.A.,2002, published a paper (in Arabic) [45] about the results of Genetic hematological analysis for a group of individuals who live in DU contaminated areas in Southern Iraq. Blood tests for the (47) individuals who lived in Basra contaminated areas and other (30) individuals as a control group who lived in Baghdad. The research included other clinical and correlated factors.

Blood tests included hemoglobin concentration, packed cell volume test (PCV), total count (WBC) test and chromosomal changes and defects tests. Factors such as exposure type and exposure time due to nature of work were taken into consideration (45% of the studied groups are from Iraqi troops who were involved in military engagements of the Gulf War 1). The others were civilians who lived in contaminated areas.

The test results of the study clearly showed that a 21% of the studied individuals in Basra group suffered a reduction in hemoglobin concentration of (9-13) g/dl.

The other 79% of the individuals from Al-Basrah studied groups with normal hemoglobin concentrations of (12-15) g/dl and (13-18) g/dl for males and females in the group respectively.

The blood Packed Cell Volume (PCV) test results showed that 25.5% of the Basrah study group showed abnormal (PCV) rates of (30-39) % less than the normal rate. One male’s individual blood (PCV) was 3% higher than normal. Other individuals’ blood (PCV) in the studied group had normal rates ranging between (40-54) %.

Total count of white blood cells (WBC) test results showed that 8% of the individuals in the Basrah study group had less than normal (WBC) which is 4000 c/ml or higher than the normal rate or (11000) c/ml. Control group individuals all had normal (WBC).

Compound chromosomal changes in the lymphocytes of peripheral blood of the individuals of the Basra study group had been found to have a ratio of (0.1118) % which is significantly higher than that of the control group. The ratio of dicentric and ring centric chromosomal abnormality fraction was found to be (0.04479) which is also higher than the ordinary ratio. Chromosomal damages were mostly in male veteran individuals. One case was that of a 13-year-old at the time of exposure in Al-Zubair contaminated area.

From the Veterinary College of Basra University, Khadier, A.A. et al, 2000[46] conducted a study to detect levels of DU related radioactivity in pastures and animals within the contaminated areas of Safwan, Al-Zubair, N. Rumaila, Jabal Sanam, Kharanj Village, etc.

Blood samples from sheep and other grazing animals were collected. Analysis of blood samples using Lyoluminescence and Track Detectors proved the existence of very small concentrations of radioisotopes in a few sheep that fed from and around the destroyed artillery and tanks within the studied areas. It is believed the polluted dust on the leaves was the source of radioisotopes in the tested blood samples.

Al-Sadi, H.I. and Sawad, A. 2002 [47] from the Veterinary College of the University of Basrah also presented a study about the pathological conditions of the animals in Basrah. The study reported the existence of three types of animal neoplasm; seminoma in rams, mesotheliomas in buffalo, and ovarian cystadenomas in female dogs.

These types of neoplasms have never been reported in these regions before the Nineties. Also, some types of congenital defects in farm animals have been described.

2.4 Other related studies after the occupation of Iraq (post 2003)

The American and British armed forces used Depleted Uranium weapons during the military operations of Iraq’s invasion and occupation in 2003. As usual they wouldn’t admit or release information where and the amounts they have used to prevent the civilian population the extra exposure to more of these toxic and radioactive munitions. The UK government in 2010 admitted that British forces fired less than three tons of DU in 2003 [48].

The American armed forces kept lying and misleading the public until the findings of a DU related research published by the European organization PAX in collaboration with the ICBDUW and George Mason University of America. The research confirmed the use of about 181000 shells of depleted uranium or about 200 tons (Wim Zwijnenburg and Doug Weir, 2016). The research also identified the places where it was used [2]. Maps and illustrations showed that US forces fired these DU projectiles in most densely populated cities this at the time, including Basra, Baghdad, Najaf, Amarah, Tikrit, Karbala, Falluja and Baquba, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Areas bombed by DUweapons during the 2003 Iraqi occupation in 2003[2].

In 2006 and 2007 technical staff from the Iraqi Radiation Protection Centre collected environmental samples at four selected sites in Southern Iraq, namely As Samawah, Al Nassiryah, Al Basrah and Al Zubayr [49]. Since no information from US/UK armed forces defines where they used the DU ammunition in 2003!!because this information wasreleased in 2016 [2]. It seems clear that the samples were collected from previously identified DU contaminated areas of 1991.

A total of 520 samples of soil, water, vegetation, and smear tests, were taken. collected samples were shipped from Iraq to the Spiez Laboratory in Switzerland, which, on behalf of UNEP, analyzed them using Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectroscopy (ICP-MS). The radioanalytical results were then made available to the IAEA to make a prospective estimation of the radiation doses to the Iraqi population living in the above-mentioned four locations and the associated radiological risks [49].

The results of that very limited investigation program stated that:

“annual radiation doses to the public that could arise from the various types of exposure scenarios were calculated. based on the measurements carried out on the samples collected in this study. The radiation doses from DU were found sufficiently low not pose a radiological hazard to the population living at the four studied locations” [49 ].

That meansIAEA built their dose calculations on measured radioactivity in 2006, while contamination in these areas exist since 1991 (because all these areas were included in our exploration programs and researches in the Nineties as mentioned previously) [17] [18 ] [29] The risk assessment should have included cumulative radiation doses of all paths for the period 1991 to 2006,  and not as they calculated from the instant they measured in 2006 (as an isolated event).

Soil concentration and activity values of the contaminants also should have been calculated back to their 1991 values and not its value in 2006 where its been dissipating and decaying for more than 15 years.

The risk assessment calculations IAEA adopted, depending on the following pathways [49 ]:

I Inhalation of soil re-suspended by the action of wind or human activities;

II Inhalation of re-suspended dust inside military vehicles hit by DU munitions;

III. Ingestion of soil;

  1. Ingestion of vegetables;
  2. Ingestion of and drinking water.”

Remember that in IAEA risk calculations they considered the exposed population live above these areas??, while dominant wind direction in Iraq and during dust storms is NW-SE [50].  That means they should have measure additional doses from contaminants blowing down from Samawa city on Nasiriya, Basra, and Zubair cities from 1991-2006, and so on of all other cities, check locations of these cities in figure.

Figure 5: Map of Iraq showing locations of cities involved in IAEA risk assessment(Samawa, Nasiriya, Basra, and Zubair).

IAEA risk assessment missed two other important pathways:

  1. Ingestion of contaminated meat, milk, and other items of food chain.
  2. Absorption of DU oxides through skin and immersion in emitted Radon cloud.

If we take all these factors in the calculation of the risk assessment the value would be hundreds of times higher than what IAEA team calculated.

During 2004 and 2005, after the US military assault on Falluja and the destruction of more than 50% of it, tests on city residents who had children or lost embryos suffered from congenital malformations showed that there were more concentrations of uranium than normal in their bodies (Alaani et al.,2012) [51]

Alaani et al, 2012 [52] published results have drawn attention to increases in congenital birth anomalies and cancer in Fallujah Iraq blamed on teratogenic, genetic and genomic stress thought to result from depleted Uranium contamination following the battles in the town in 2004.  Hair samples from 25 fathers and mothers of children diagnosed with congenital anomalies were analyzed for Uranium and 51 other elements suggest the enriched Uranium exposure is either a primary cause or related to the cause of the congenital anomaly and cancer increases. Thus, raised about the characteristics and composition of weapons now being deployed in modern battlefields.

Chris Busby, Malak Hamdan, and Entesar Ariabi, 2010 [53] Published a paper that concludes  results confirm the reported increases in cancer and infant mortality which are alarmingly high in Falluja. Also, the paper confirms a remarkable reduction in the sex ratio in the cohort born one year after the fighting in 2004 identifies that year as the time of the environmental contamination.

Samira T. Abdulghani, et al. [54] paper about “Perinatal and neonatal mortality in Fallujah General Hospital, Fallujah City, Anbar Province, west of Iraq.” Scientific Research, Open Access.  http://www.scirp.org/journal/OpenAccess.aspx.

Dr Jawad al Ali, 2005 [55] published a paper about variable degrees of increased rates of cancers in Basra, particularly breast cancer, lymphomas, lung, colo-rectal ovaries, soft tissues and kidneys.

He added that Cancers which show no increase include the cancers of stomach, uterus and skin cancers. The overall incidences over the year showed tangible increase particularly during the year 2005.

Geographical distribution: the highest rate was in the west of Basra followed by the center of Basra, eastern area and the lowest is at the northern area. The age risk: the data showed massive increase in risk with age. The lowest rate is for the children less than five years (11.4/100.000). The highest rate was for the age group more than 65 years

(541.9/100.000). The total incidence rate was 59.1/100.000.

Conclusion

  • The USA and UK continuously used Depleted Uranium weapons against the population and environment in Iraq from 1991 until today.
  • Occupation intentionally denied and covered up the types, locations and amounts of DU projectiles that have been used in Iraq to prevent taking measures that could have reduce health damages on civilians resulting from the exposure to cumulative doses of these contaminants.
  • Occupation forces prohibited UNEP, WHO and other international agencies to conduct any exploration programs to detect DU contamination and assess the health risks and clean up remedies during the way it has been conducted in Serbia and Kosovo.
  • Forbidding the release of any casualties statistics by the health ministry of the occupation assigned government in Iraq right after the occupation of Iraq is another crime to cover up the magnitude of human lives losses related to the occupation of Iraq.
  • Exploration programs and site measurements proved without a doubt that the existence of DU related radioactive contamination all over most of Iraq (except the northern area of Kurdistan).
  • Published epidemiological studies in Basrah introduced a clear correlation between DU related exposure and the multifold increase of malignancies, congenital malformations, and multiple malformations among the population in DU contaminated areas.
  • Other pathological and hematological studies indicated the existence of chromosomal and DNA aberrations and abnormalities in the 1991 Iraqi Gulf War veterans. Other studies proved their effects on lowering the activities of the human immune system in exposed individuals.
  • Intentional continuous use of DU against the people and environment of Iraq is a crime against humanity due to its undifferentiated harmful health impacts on civilian long times after the military operations. Existing DU contamination in the surrounding environment is a continuous source of exposure to civilian’s population, and can be considered as systematic attacks on civilians in each DU contaminated dust storm blown on these cities. Article 4 of the official regulations and Article 7 of the ICC.

Notes 

[1] William, Dai. 2002. “Hazards of Uranium weapons in proposed war on Iraq”, sept. 22nd, 2002. The Eos life-work resource center.

Updated 27 October 2002. http://www.eoslifework.co.uk/u231.html.

[2] Wim Zwijnenburg and Doug Weir, 2016. Targets of Opportunity; Analysis of the use of depleted uranium by A-10s in the 2003 Iraq War. A joint investigation by PAX and ICBUW. Published on http://www.paxforpeace.nl website.

[3] Asaf Durakoviæ.1999.” Medical Effects of Internal Contamination with Uranium”. CMJ online. March 1999 (Volume 40, Number 1).

http://www.fukuleaks.org/edanoleaks/Scribble_Japan_Earthquake/pdfs/medical_effects_cmj.pdf.

[4] USA Today, 2003, Iraq’s Health Ministry ordered to stop counting civilian dead from war, Dec. 12 2003.

[5] Kirby, A., 2003, “US rejects Iraq DU clean-up”, BBC news online, April 14th 2003.

[ 6] Sunday Herald, “WHO suppressed scientific study into depleted uranium cancer fears in Iraq”. Feb 22, 2004.

[7] Depleted Uranium sites in Kosovo detailed by UNEP. http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=189&ArticleID=2741.

[8] Karen Parker,  2007.”War Crimes Committed by the United States in Iraq and Mechanisms for Accountability”. Consumers for peace. Oct.10, 2007.

[9] Rosalie Bertell, 2006. “Depleted Uranium: All the Questions about Du and Gulf War Syndrome are Not Yet Answered”. International journal of Health services.

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2190/13JL-9LHM-FMR4-0V7B.

[10] Miller, A. et al. “Genomic instability in human osteoblast cells after exposure to depleted Uranium: Delay lethality and micronuclei formation”. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. vol.64(2-3), 2003 (PP 247-259).

[11] Miller, A. et al, “Effect of the military-relevant heavy metal, depleted uranium and heavy metal tungsten-alloy on gene expression in human liver carcinoma cells (HepG2).” Mol. Cell Biochem. vol. 255(1-2). Jan. 2004 (PP. 247-56).

[12] Hindin, R., Brugge, D. and Panikkar, B. (2005), ‘Teratogenicity of Depleted Uranium aerosols: A review from an epidemiological perspective’, Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source, 4:17, http://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1476-069X-4-17.

[13] Chroder, H. et al. “Chromosome aberration analysis in peripheral lymphocytes of Gulf War and Balkans War veterans”. Radiation Prot. Dosimetry. Vol. 103(3) 2003 (PP. 211-219).

[14] Spanish Campaign against the Occupation and for the Sovereignty of Iraq.

Iraq Solidaridad 2005-2013. “The killing of Iraqi Academics: A War to Erase the Future and Culture of Iraq.” List of Iraqi academics assassinated in Iraq during the US-led occupation. http://www.iraqsolidaridad.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/List-of-Iraqi-academics-assassinated-November-2013.pdf.

[15] International Conference on DU, 2000, “Health, ecological, legal, and economic aspects of conventional radioactive weapons”, Committee of Solidarity   with the Arab Cause, Nov. 26-2, 2000, Gehone, Spain.

[16] Iraq Foreign Affairs Ministry, 1995, “Radiation effects”, an official paper submitted by the Iraqi delegation to the briefing meeting on nuclear liability during the 42nd Session of the General Conference, Vienna, 1995.

[17] Al-Azzawi, S., Maarouf, B., Seleh, M.J., Al-Saji, M., Al-Hilli, W., and Maguar, A., 1997.  “Damages resulted from the use of DU weaponry against Iraq”. Technical Report published in Arabic, Environmental Engineering Dept. College of Engineering, University of Baghdad. Baghdad, Iraq, 157pp.

[18] Al-Azzawi, S.N., Ma’arof, B.A., Mahmmod, M.A., Al-Hili, W.M., Al-Saji,, M., Jada’an, A.M. 1999. “Environmental Pollution Resulting from The Use of Depleted Uranium Weaponry Against Iraq in 1991.” Journal of Arabic Universities Association. College of engineering. University of Baghdad, vol. 6, no. 2, Baghdad, Iraq. Published in Arabic. Pp.47-62.

[19] Al-Azzawi, S. et al, “Environmental Pollution Resulting from the Use of Depleted Uranium Weaponry Against Iraq During 1991, World International Conference on DU, Hamburg, Germany, 2003.

[20] Al-Azzawi, S., and Al-Saji, M., 1998. “Effects of DU radioactive pollution on surface and ground water in selected regions in southern Iraq”. Journal of Arabic Universities Association, vol. 6, no. 1, Baghdad. Iraq. (Arabic language).

[21] Al-Hilli, W., 1998. “Effects of radioactive weapons on soil and air quality in Iraq”, M. Sc. Thesis in environmental engineering. College of Engineering. University of Baghdad. Baghdad, Iraq, 1998.

[22] Al-Saji, M., 1998, “Effects of radiological weapons on surface and groundwater quality in selected areas southern Iraq”. M. Sc. thesis in environmental engineering. College of Engineering, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq.

[23] Maguar, A.,1998. “Effects of radiological pollution on human and living environment in southern Iraq”. MSc. thesis, environmental engineering. College of engineering. University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq.

[24] Al-Azzawi, S., and Al Naemi, A. 2002, “Assessment of radiological doses and risks resulted from DU contamination in the highway war zone in al-Basrah governorate”. Proceedings of the conference on the effects of the use of DU weaponry on human and environment in Iraq. March 26-27/ 2002. Baghdad, Iraq.

[25] Al-Azzawi, S., and Al Naemi, A., 2002, “Risk assessment related to radiological contamination resulted from the use of DU ammunition in al-Basrah war zone”, proceedings of the conference on the effects of the use of DU weaponry on human and environment in Iraq, March 26-27, 2002, Baghdad, Iraq.

[26] TW, 2016.” Significant increase in frequency and intensity of sandstorms in the Middle East over the past 15 years”. The Watchers Website (WT). June 17, 2016.

https://watchers.news/2016/06/17/significant-increase-in-frequency-and-intensity-of-sandstorms-in-the-middle-east-over-the-past-15-years.

[27] Al-Azzawi, S., Maarouf, B., and Mazouri, N., 2002. “Environmental radiological pollution from the use of DU weaponry against Ninevah governorate during the war”, proceedings of the conference on the effects of the use of DU weaponry on human and environment in Iraq, March 26-27 2002, Baghdad, Iraq.

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