Iran Is Winning Strategic Struggle for Influence, even as US Cripples Its Economy

By Darius Shahtahmesibi

Source

Assad Khamenei 3619a

A new report has confirmed what some analysts have been saying for some time: that Iran is winning the regional struggle for strategic influence.

The 217-page report, published by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), is entitled “Iran’s Networks of Influence in the Middle East” and details Tehran’s use of proxy forces and networks throughout the region and the effects and benefits of its “minimum output” foreign policy strategy.

It is probably worth mentioning at this point that H.R. McMaster, Trump’s former national security adviser, was once an employee of the IISS. As was James Steinberg, a former US deputy secretary of state. Furthermore, at the end of 2016, the Guardian revealed that the organization had received £25 million ($32 million) from the Bahraini royal family (apparently almost half of its total income has come from Bahrain). Iran and Bahrain aren’t exactly close friends.

Notwithstanding the potential motives and bias of the IISS, the report definitely arrives at some interesting conclusions.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has tipped the balance of effective force in the Middle East in its favor,” the report explains.

But here’s the crazy part. Iran is, and has been for years, completely pummeled to the ground by US-imposed sanctions. Many commentators have for some time now been predicting an impending collapse of the Iranian economy.

On top of that, and likely because of this fact, Iran’s military budget has consistently been low (especially when compared to the United States or any of Washington’s major allied powers in the region). This flies completely in the face of allegations that Iran is a regional aggressor and the number-one state sponsor of terrorism (with what money?), but don’t let this get in the way of a good story.

According to the US Defense Department’s annual review of the country, “Iran’s military doctrine is defensive. It is designed to deter an attack, survive an initial strike, retaliate against an aggressor, and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities while avoiding any concessions that challenge its core interests.”

In other words, despite being under the constant threat of war, whether from the US, Israel or Saudi Arabia, Iran is not looking for a fight. It maintains a much lower military expenditure than Saudi Arabia, Israel, and especially Washington, yet as the recent IISS report notes, it has emerged from the rubble of a war-torn Middle East region as a victor.

As Foreign Affairs (the Council on Foreign Relations’ magazine) explained in a recent article:

“Iran now enters its second year under maximum pressure strikingly confident in its economic stability and regional position.”

It is likely with this newfound confidence that Iran is beginning to dictate some shots of its own to the international community, particularly when it comes to the future of uranium enrichment. Foreign Affairs also explains that Iran has essentially weathered the storm of US sanctions and come up trumps all on its lonesome. Many of the people predicted to come to Tehran’s aid during the United States’ maximum pressure campaign have been nowhere to be seen.

According to the IISS report, Iran has been winning the regional geopolitical struggle for influence by developing asymmetric warfare, such as swarm tactics, drones and cyber-attacks. It has relied upon the Quds arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to increase its operations throughout the Middle East, as well as to provide training, support and weapons to other actors allied to Tehran. The report also notes Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah, its role in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, as well as its role (supposedly) in Yemen.

As my Kung Fu instructor once told me, you serve yourself in a confrontation best by using minimum output for maximum gain. Winning the lottery doesn’t entail that you then go to a casino and put all your money down on your first gamble. Just because you have it, doesn’t mean you have to expend it.

In comparison, Saudi Arabia has expended time, effort, billions of dollars and the lives of many innocent civilians waging a genocidal war in Yemen – and it’s still losing. As Bloomberg once explained:

“Saudi Arabia has better weapons than its enemies in Yemen, no surprise in a war that pits one of the richest Arab countries against the poorest. And still the Saudis are struggling to impose their will.”

Not only is it losing a war, it’s also losing an economic battle. At the beginning of the conflict, Reuters estimated that the war would cost Saudi Arabia approximately $175 million per month. However, even by the end of the first year of the war, the kingdom had to increase its defense spending by $5.3 billion. This trend has continued right throughout the conflict. At the end of 2016, Saudi Arabia had to announce a projected increase of 6.7 percent in defense spending for 2017, bringing its total budget to around $50.8 billion.

If the IISS report’s findings are correct, there may be a deep lesson in here for the US and its allies. Perhaps it’s not that Iran has emerged victorious despite the fact it has not spent billions of dollars invading other nations at any one time; but because it hasn’t been.

At the end of the day, how much influence can you exert when you forcibly invade, occupy and kill those countries you seek to influence?

Sleeping With The Third Reich: America’s Unspoken “Alliance” with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union

By Prof Michael Chossudovysky

Source

3391529-4874273.jpg

Image: Adolph Hitler together with Prescott Bush, grandfather of former President George W. Bush.

Prescott Bush was a partner of Brown Brothers Harriman & Co and director of Union Banking Corporation which had close relations with German corporate interests including Thyssen Steel, a major company involved in the Third Reich’s weapons industry. 

“…[N]ew documents, declassified [in 2003], show that even after America had entered the war [December 8, 1941] and when there was already significant information about the Nazis’ plans and policies, he [Prescott Bush] worked for and profited from companies closely involved with the very German businesses that financed Hitler’s rise to power. It has also been suggested that the money he made from these dealings helped to establish the Bush family fortune and set up its political dynasty” (The Guardian, September 25, 2004)

Without US support to Nazi Germany, the Third Reich would not have been able to wage war on the Soviet Union. Germany’s oil production was insufficient to wage a major military campaign. Throughout the war, the Third Reich relied on regular shipments of crude oil  from US Standard Oil owned by the Rockefeller family.

The main producing countries in the early 1940s were: the United States (50% of global oil production), the Soviet Union, Venezuela, Iran, Indonesia, and Romania.

Without a steady supply of oil, Germany would not have been able to conduct Operation Barbarossa which was launched on June 22, 1941. The invasion of the Soviet Union was intent upon reaching and taking control of the oil resources of the Soviet Union in the Caucasus and Caspian sea regions: the oil of Baku.

The Unspoken Question. Where did Germany get its oil from?

Prior the December 1941, Texas oil was shipped on a regular basis to Nazi Germany.

While Germany was able  to transform coal into fuel, this synthetic production was insufficient. Moreover, Romania’s Ploesti oil resources (under Nazi control until 1944) were minimal. Nazi Germany largely depended on oil shipments from US Standard Oil.

The Attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) occurred barely six months after the launching of Operation Barbarossa (July 1941). The United States enters World War II, declaring  war on Japan and the axis countries.

Trading with the Enemy legislation (1917) officially implemented following America’s entry into World War II did not  prevent Standard Oil of New Jersey from selling oil to Nazi Germany. This despite the Senate 1942 investigation of US Standard Oil.

While direct US oil shipments were curtailed, Standard Oil would sell US oil through third countries. US oil was shipped to occupied France through Switzerland, and from France it was shipped to Germany:

“… for the duration of the Second World War, Standard Oil, under deals Teagle had overseen, continued to supply Nazi Germany with oil. The shipments went through Spain, Vichy France’s colonies in the West Indies, and Switzerland.”

It should be noted that a large share of Nazi Germany’s oil requirements was met by shipments out of Venezuela which at the time was a de facto US colony.

Venezuela’s US sponsored (War-time) president General Isaías Medina Angarita (May 1941 – October 1945) was there to protect US oil interests as well as “trade with the enemy” from the onset of America’s entry into World War II in December 1941:

John D. Rockefeller Jr. owned a controlling interest in the Standard Oil corporation, but the next largest stockholder was the German chemical company I. G. Farben, through which the firm sold $20 million worth of gasoline and lubricants to the Nazis. And the Venezuelan branch of that company sent 13,000 tons of crude oil to Germany each month, which the Third Reich’s robust chemical industry immediately converted into gasoline.

While Medina Angarita’s government pressured by Washington in the immediate wake of Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) remained officially neutral (de facto aligned with the US, while breaking its relations with Nazi Germany), oil shipments out of Venezuela to Germany were not discontinued. In a rather unusual twist (bordering on ridicule) Venezuela declared war on Germany in February 1945, when the war was almost over.

Without those oil shipments instrumented by Standard Oil and the Rockefellers, Nazi Germany would not have been able to implement its military agenda. Without fuel, the Third Reich’s eastern front under Operation Barbarossa would most probably not have taken place, saving millions of lives. The Western front including the military occupation of France, Belgium and The Netherlands would no doubt also have been affected.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt administration could have taken adopted severe sanctions against Standard Oil with a firm decision to enforce a blockade against Nazi Germany.

The US was not committed to peace: Washington’s unspoken objective was not only to destroy the Soviet Union, it also consisted in undermining Britain’s role  as an imperial power.

Let us be under no illusions. Without the oil shipments instrumented by US Standard Oil and its subsidiaries, Nazi Germany’s imperial design could not have been undertaken.

You cannot wage a war without fuel.

America had been “sleeping with the enemy” throughout World War II.

America’s objective was to destroy the Soviet Union.

Flash Forward to 2019

The European Union has recently adopted a resolution  entitled “Importance of European Remembrance Day for the Future of Europe which reinforces an earlier declaration (September 23, 2008),

The resolution contends that the Second World War:

“was started as an immediate result of the notorious Nazi-Soviet Treaty on Non-Aggression of 23 August 1939, … and its secret protocols, whereby two totalitarian regimes that shared the goal of world conquest divided Europe into two zones of influence”

This is an absurd statement which distorts history. It intimates that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were allies.

It denies the fact that the Soviet Union was the object of Nazi aggression resulting in more than 25 million people killed (more than 10 percent of the population).

The resolution turns the realities of history upside down. The Soviet Union played a central role in defeating both Nazi Germany and Japan, Moreover, there is ample evidence that the US was sleeping with the enemy largely with a view to destroying the USSR and killing its population.

US oil shipments to Nazi Germany (until 1944) were intended to support Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa resulting in millions of deaths. In this regard, the US was complicit is extensive war crimes by supporting Nazi Germany’s military endeavors.

The broader picture of US-Nazi Cooperation

Selling fuel to Nazi Germany was one among several strategies envisaged by the US.

American business interests continued to cooperate with Nazi corporations after Pearl Harbor.

No attempt was made to prevent Ford from retaining its interests for the Germans in Occupied France, nor were the Chase Bank or the Morgan Bank expressly forbidden to keep open their branches in Occupied Paris. It is indicated that the Reichsbank and Nazi Ministry of Economics made promises to certain U.S. corporate leaders that their properties would not be injured after the Führer was victorious. Thus, the bosses of the multinationals as we know them today had a six-spot on every side of the dice cube. Whichever side won the war, the powers that really ran nations would not be adversely affected.

“Wiping the Soviet Union of the Map”

As early as 1942 (at the height of World War II), a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union had been envisaged. According to a secret document (declassified) released on September 15, 1945 (5 weeks after Hiroshima):

the Pentagon had envisaged blowing up the Soviet Union  with a coordinated nuclear attack directed against major urban areas. … The Pentagon estimated that a total of 204 atomic bombs would be required to “Wipe the Soviet Union off the Map”. The targets for a nuclear attack consisted of sixty-six major cities. (For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, December 10, 2017)

A single atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 resulted in the immediate death of more that 100,000 people.

Imagine what would would happen if 204 atomic bombs had been dropped on all major urban areas of the Soviet Union. This diabolical project formulated while the US and the Soviet Union were allies was tantamount to genocide.

ISIS Captives Offer a Convenient Pawn in Turkey’s Syria Chess Game

By Vanessa Beeley

Source

Turkey recently threatened to send 1,200 ISIS terrorists back to their countries of origin in the EU, the U.S., and the UK. Turkey’s Interior Minister, Suleyman Solyu, claimed that extradition would begin on Monday, November 11, ironically on Armistice Day. Ankara claimed it would even send back those whose citizenships have been revoked. How Turkey plans to follow through with this threat is another matter. Turkey’s history of both incubating terrorist groups and blackmailing the European Union is well known.

Peter Ford, former UK Ambassador to Syria and Bahrain, had this to say about the Turkish ISIS deadline:

Turkey has manipulated the ISIS phenomenon from its very beginning, just as Pakistani military intelligence facilitated and manipulated the Taliban and Al Qaida. Just as Bin Laden was found under the noses of Pakistani security forces in Pakistan, so Al Baghdadi was found a couple of miles from the Turkish border in an area (Idlib) crawling with Turkish and pro-Turkish militias.”

Given the complexity of the situation, it is important to examine the reasons behind Ankara’s posturing and Turkey’s support for ISIS fighters when they serve Turkish economic and military interests at home and in Syria. Turkey’s interests may or may not overlap with those of the United States at any given moment, but there is a  synergy concerning oil interests and Syrian territory-annexation or occupation. Coincidentally, U.S. President Donald Trump also threatened to “drop jihadists” at Europe’s borders if the UK, France, and Germany refused to repatriate ISIS nationals. As Peter Ford told me:

Turkey’s threat to send ISIS prisoners to Europe is simple blackmail: stop whinging about Turkey’s behavior in Syria or we open the floodgates. In reality, Turkey has better uses planned for its ISIS foot soldiers and camp followers.”

No other country neighboring Syria has been so heavily invested in harboring terrorist groups on their territory and providing the porous borders required for the passage of these groups, arms, and equipment into externally-created conflict zones inside of Syria since the war against that country began in earnest in 2011. As Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said recently, in an interview with Syrian TV and the al-Ikhbarya channel:

…we are in one arena, the whole Syrian arena is one – a single theatre of operations.  From the furthest point in the south to the furthest point in the north Turkey is the American proxy in this war, and everywhere we have fought we have been fighting this proxy.”

On November 11, President Assad was interviewed by RT Going Underground, during the interview he pointed out:

Since ISIS started smuggling Syrian oil and looting Syrian Oil in 2014, they had two partners: Erdogan and his coterie, and the Americans, whether the CIA or others. ”

A prison break opportunity for ISIS fighters

October 9, 2019. Turkey launches “Operation Peace Spring,” ostensibly to push Kurdish separatist forces back from its borders with Syria. The move effectively allowed Turkey to take control of two cities, Ras Al Ain and Tel Abyad, where clashes are ongoing between Turkish proxy forces, made up of an assortment of extremist fighters that had previously occupied Idlib and other areas of Syria, and the Syrian Arab Army supported partially by the SDF Kurdish forces previously allied with the U.S. and supported by Israel.

A major beneficiary of this unlawful push into Syrian territory has been ISIS brides along with that followers and fighters that were imprisoned in the notorious Al Hol camp and other ISIS holding camps in the region. These dangerous ideologues see the Turkish incursion as an opportunity to escape their Kurdish captors and for the so-called ISIS brides to reunite with their husbands who are already in Turkey, according to their own testimony. One Russian ISIS bride told Kurdistan 24, a Kurdish media outlet:

We want Turkey to attack here. If the Turkish army comes to this area, I will be able to flee and meet my husband, who I know well is in Turkey.”

Turkey Syria ISIS

In the same interview, a French ISIS bride expressed hope that Ankara would invade the camp and enable their flight to Turkey. Under cover of one particular Turkish airstrike, an alleged 800 ISIS-affiliated individuals managed to escape the Ain Al Issa camp according to the same Kurdish media report.

Perhaps in an effort to justify his perceived abandonment of the Kurds, President Trump tweeted that the Kurds were deliberately releasing ISIS prisoners to draw the U.S. back into the conflict, a claim echoed by Turkish officials who claimed that the Kurds were taking money for releasing ISIS fighters or their families.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Brian Kilmeade over at @foxandfriends got it all wrong. We are not going into another war between people who have been fighting with each other for 200 years. Europe had a chance to get their ISIS prisoners, but didn’t want the cost. “Let the USA pay,” they said…

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

….Kurds may be releasing some to get us involved. Easily recaptured by Turkey or European Nations from where many came, but they should move quickly. Big sanctions on Turkey coming! Do people really think we should go to war with NATO Member Turkey? Never ending wars will end!

When Trump previously floated the idea of withdrawal from Syria in December 2018, the Kurdish contras threatened to release 3,200 ISIS fighters. While Kurdish leaders denied that this had ever been considered, the threat was enough to cause Trump to reel back from withdrawing from Syria.

A recent report from the New York Times claims that Al Hol camp contains some of the most violent and steadfast ISIS supporters, 10,000 women and children from 50 countries, two-thirds of the children under the age of 12. In the report, a woman interviewed in the piece stated that she was committed to bringing back the “caliphate” and that her children were on “God’s path” towards violent extremism.

report in the Spanish language El Pais, describes a “radical matriarchy” set up to facilitate escape for ISIS followers and overseen by a tyrannical female Emir. According to the report, these female extremists pay upwards of $ 9,000 to “ISIS traffickers” to bribe their SDF guards. El Pais describes the camp as a radicalization and indoctrination center where women and minors are being converted into extremist military cadres willing to persecute those who do not comply with the religious extremism being forced upon the camp’s inhabitants.

Shortly after Ankara’s military operation began, a senior Iraqi security expert, Hafez Al-Basharah, claimed that Washington was attempting to transfer 3,000 ISIS terrorists from Syria to Iraq where they would be transferred to a “safe area.” The U.S. would use the Turkish occupied zones inside Syria as a holding base for the ISIS fighters until their transfer to the three chosen bases inside Iraq.

Various Arabic language media outlets have reported that the United States is planning to produce a Super ISIS – an even more radical, violent version of the group’s previous incarnation. Hessam Sho’aib, a Syrian military expert on terrorist organizations, announced to Sputnik Arabic that various reports from U.S. “think tanks” indicate the heralding in of an ISIS renaissance in Syria and Iraq. The reports, according to Sho’aib, also allude to U.S. intelligence involvement in the birth of ISIS, its apparent demise, as well as its rebirth. A rebirth that would ensure the sustained recycling of terrorism and the perpetual destabilization of the region.

Certainly the U.S. faux withdrawal, the invasion of Turkish extremist proxies, the retreat of SDF prison guards as well as the apparent corruption of the remaining SDF factions in charge of the camps, have all contributed to the latter-day ISIS “Operation Breaking the Walls” which appears to be allowing followers and fighters to regroup, expand and reinforce their military capability on the borders with Syria. At the same time, the ISIS prison break gives Turkey the opportunity to blackmail other NATO member states into ignoring the atrocities and war crimes being committed by the assortment of extremist groups under Ankara’s command inside Syria.

Turkey plays both ends against the middle

The Turkish repatriation of foreign ISIS fighters has already begun, according to a report in Middle East Monitor. One American fighter has already been deported and travel plans are in place for seven German nationals affiliated with the terrorist group. It appears that Turkey’s threat was not idle and that the U.S.-led alliance in Syria may be about to reap what it has sown for the past nine years.

Turkey Syria ISIS

Waseem Ramli, a short-lived Syrian honorary consul representative in Montreal before the multiple neoconservative interests in Trudeau’s government campaigned to have him removed on the pretext of being loyal to the elected and internationally recognized Syrian government, referred to Ankara’s betrayal of their own NATO allies thusly:

For the past years we have been warning the western governments of what may happen if they continue supporting the continuation of the war in Syria but they never expected to be backstabbed by one of their own NATO allies!

Guess we will be seeing these governments scrambling to figure out how to deal with this situation  while they continue to refuse to acknowledge that their best option is opening a line of communication with the Syrian government.”

President Assad alluded to Ankara’s strategy in his interview with RT Going Underground:

Actually, the relation between Erdogan and the EU is two ways: they hate him but they want him. They hate him, they know that he is fanatic Islamist, they know this, and they know that he’s going to send them those extremists or maybe terrorists.”

Turkey is essentially playing both ends against the middle. ISIS was first allowed into Syria from Turkey. The Caliphate’s economy was able to flourish, enriched by millions of dollars of oil smuggled into Turkey and sold to Israel. ISIS was the perfect invention to fulfill Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman aspirations of toppling the Syrian government, annexing more Syrian territory, plundering resources, pillaging industry and finally eliminating the PKK Kurdish factions. Former Ambassador Ford asserts that U.S. Coalition policy makers were effectively acting in accordance with Turkey’s Syria policy:

The U.S. knew all this and turned a blind eye. As long as ISIS was advancing towards Damascus, what was not to like? Turkey got a free pass to support a terror group which curiously never mounted a significant attack against the U.S. beyond a few provocative beheadings but which gave the U.S. Coalition a pretext to put forces in Syria.”

Ford also pointed out that ISIS periodically commits atrocities on Turkish soil, conveniently, Ford says, “whenever Turkish assistance and subsidies were reduced for some reason. It appears, as Ford concluded, that “ ISIS was in the mafia protection business after all.”

Indeed, Turkey apparently used the thousands of conveniently collected ISIS prisoners held in Syria as additional manpower to reinforce the ranks of the swiftly rebranded “Syrian National Army,” a cynical attempt to portray former extremists and terrorist groups as a pseudo-nationalist “legitimate liberating force” under Ankara’s command. Ford says that many of the captured ISIS fighters were caught on their way to bolster the ranks of the pro-Turkish FSA and other extremist groups occupying Idlib.

It is no accident that many of the fighters who were caught in the end of days for the Caliphate were on their way to Idlib, to be recycled as pro-Turkish FSA. Or HTS (Hayat Tahrir Ash Sham), the Al Qaeda affiliate, tolerated when not actively assisted by Turkey. So Turkish help in freeing ISIS prisoners is no fanciful conspiracy theory.” (emphasis added)

The move would not be without precedent either, as Turkey allegedly recruited and retrained ISIS fighters to participate in Ankara’s Afrin land grab in February of 2018.

The latest bogeyman in the global terror portfolio

The U.S. Coalition has effectively given Turkey free rein to maneuver and recycle terrorist and extremist factions with impunity in order to achieve its political ambitions in Syria. That campaign has failed miserably, western journalists fleeing the north-east of Syria during the start of the Turkish operation came face to face with the monsters unleashed upon the Syrian people for nine years, by their governments in the West and their allies in the Gulf States and Israel.

Having described these extremist, sectarian gangs as “moderate rebels” for nearly a decade, the media was suddenly confronted by their bloodcurdling brutality and were tripping over their own narratives in their haste to condemn the Turkish proxies for their unbridled aggression against the U.S. and Israeli-backed Kurdish contras, media darlings for the anti-anti-war left in the West and Israel’s partitioning instrument to secure Syrian territory east of the Euphrates.

Israel Kurds Syria

The irony of the situation is not lost on Waseem Ramli, or indeed upon Peter Ford, who concluded:

Whatever the case, the irony is that Western governments would rather tie themselves in knots than accept the obvious solution which would be adopted automatically if these countries were serious about the ‘international rules-based system’ they preach at others: hand over the jihadis to face Syrian justice. Their crimes were committed on Syrian soil, overwhelmingly against Syrian victims. If a Syrian jihadi committed a crime on British soil, would we not absolutely demand they faced British justice? Instead, we behave like a tinpot dictatorship ourselves, autocratically stripping British citizens of their nationality.”

ISIS is the latest bogeyman in the global terror brand portfolio, serving a neoconservative agenda in the Middle East. Turkey has been the midwife and the curator of this and other terrorist groups on behalf of its NATO allies who are intent upon ushering in a new government in Syria and fomenting regional unrest. In 2017, Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, the political and media advisor to President Assad, predicted that Erdogan would turn on his former allies. Two years later that prophecy is being fulfilled.

I hope that Europeans will discover who he is before it becomes too late. I mean it. Because two years ago when Merkel came to him to discuss the issue of refugees I said she is coming to the source of the problem. He is the origin of the problem.”

Al-Baghdadi Killing: Knocking off the Odd Man Out

By David Macilwain

Source

WH sit room Baghdadi strike f83a6

Following the alleged US raid and destruction of a house in NW Syria on 28th October where the notional leader of Da’esh was allegedly living, I spent some time analyzing photographs and satellite images of the site. While the main focus of commentary and skepticism was over whether Abu Bakr al Baghdadi had really died, in the way so graphically and poetically described by Donald Trump, inconsistencies and peculiarities surrounding the existence and destruction of the house went largely unnoticed.

And there were many! The first report from Al Jazeera, who had a local correspondent walking over the bombed site the following morning, conveniently identified its location near the village of Barisha in a “zoom-in” from Google’s satellite map, and the map displayed in their report was the same as the one that came up when I found it in a search on the 30th October. Inexplicably at the time, the house appeared to have already been destroyed!

Perhaps this also confused Al Jazeera, as they had identified one of the neighboring houses as the “suspected compound” hit in the strike, despite this house being clearly visible in the video report from Alaa Eddine Youssef which followed. This was before the Pentagon released drone footage of the operation and video of the subsequent airstrike, and before local scavengers and militants had removed material and altered the site’s appearance.

There were two possibilities to explain the aberrant Google satellite image, which showed a partly built or partly destroyed building as well as what appeared to be a large crater. The image accredited to Maxar Technologies 2019 could have predated the construction of the house, or post-dated its destruction, with the latter option obviously giving the lie to the US claims they had just launched the operation and that Al Baghdadi had only recently arrived there.

Given the appearance of the bombed site and the unconvincing and changing story from the White House, I chose to investigate this “conspiracy” option, postulating that the house shown in other satellite images in the media and in the Pentagon videos had been targeted months earlier, and the site then covered with loads of broken concrete and stone. Examining details in other areas of Syria demonstrated that the current Google satellite photo was taken later than mid-2017, and I assumed that the house must have been older than that.

Wrong assumption! On the verge of submitting this contentious claim, I noticed that one of the satellite images used in the media showing Abu Mohammed Al Halabi’s house also showed foundations of a new house nearby that didn’t appear in the currently available image on Google maps. Reports from different media sources had variously claimed that Al Halabi – a commander with the Hurras al-Din terrorist group – had bought the house two years ago, or sold it, or that the house had been built only two years ago.

Only at that point did I discover that “historic” satellite images can be viewed on Google Earth – but only on the downloaded desktop version and not on Google Chrome. Below is a composite of images from 2016, when none of the current buildings was present, up to the latest available there dating from September last year, when Al Halabi’s house was newly completed. The current satellite image on Google dates to January 2018, when excavations and preparations were being made. At the bottom right is an image from the Independent’s article of 28th October, supplied by Maxar but curiously printed upside down, in common with images displayed in other mainstream media reports. The foundations of a new house not visible in the image from September 2018, of which the walls now appear completed in current photographs, suggest the Independent’s image is from mid-2019.

Barisha house site changes 2016 19 1df5f

*(Satellite images 2016 to 2019, W Barisha. Open the image in new tab to enlarge.)

In the Al Jazeera report, Youssef states that the house was owned by Abu Mohammed al Halabi (“the Aleppan”), but that “he was not the target”. This implies that he might well have been the target – and for good reason; Al Halabi had a long dubious record of association with Hurras Al-Din, an extreme Salafist group closely allied to Da’esh, and one which the US claims to have been targeting. In recent months the US has launched a number of such strikes in Western Syria targeting members of Hurras Al-Din, including a recent one in a town not far from Barisha.

Abu Mohammed al Halabi, the nom de guerre of Mohammed Salama, who was notorious in Aleppo as a “trader and smuggler”, was also well known as a fighter and commander from back in 2014, when Liz Sly of the Washington Post wrote about his activities around the Turkish border crossing of Azaz, and his allegiance to Al Qaeda. At that time rival armed groups fought for control of this important point, which was a main supply route for “rebel-occupied” Aleppo. Bel Trew writing in the Independent also provides much detail on the circumstances and nature of Mohammed al Halabi’s relationship with Baghdadi, which sounds feasible but cannot be easily verified.

More to the point is the degree of cooperation between Turkish intelligence and these extremist groups, indicated by the evident freedom with which fighters could pass over the border crossing at Azaz, but also the crossing at Bab al Hawa – which coincidentally lies very close to where Al Halabi built his house last year. On one particularly notable occasion in late 2016, Turkey facilitated the transport of bus-loads of Al Qaeda fighters out of Syria at Bab al Hawa and back in through the Azaz crossing, where they went to provide support to the besieged insurgents in East Aleppo.

Halabi house pre strike Pentagon 47bb7

*(Halabi house pre-strike by Pentagon.)

Turkey’s support for various militant groups in NW Syria is hardly a secret, nor its early cooperation with the US in acting as a staging post for fighters and weapons from North Africa and elsewhere. Not to mention the long covert cooperation with IS in the oil-smuggling trade out of Eastern Syria. So we might greet with some skepticism Erdogan’s announcement that several members of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s family have just been detained in Azaz. One wonders if they may have been living there since the newly formed ISIL took over that section of the Turkish border in late 2013!

While this historic collaboration between Turkey and the US/CIA in assisting terrorist groups in Syria including Al Qaeda and Da’esh may appear to be currently faltering over the Kurdish question, their collaboration must go deeper than this, and a joint operation to “kill Baghdadi” must be considered feasible. But as with Bin Laden, the object of killing the terrorist group leader was not because he personally presented any further danger; confecting his death would achieve the same objectives.

Those objectives must be seen as the opposite of what they appear; rather than sealing the end of Baghdadi’s caliphate they allow it to be reborn under a different leader and with a different form. Just as Al Qaeda needed to die so that ISIS could be born from its ashes, so Baghdadi’s ISIS now needed to die so that its replacement – even under the same name – can provide the necessary Trojan Horse for the renewed war – on Iran. Mention of the “Khorasan” group in this context is worrying, as Khorasan is a region northeast of Tehran from where its leaders are presumed to come.

Having thus provided a rationale for the staging of a strike to kill Baghdadi, whose timing and actual target were not of primary importance, we may view the images of Al Halabi’s destroyed house without prejudice. Immediately it can be seen that the site does NOT look like that of a house that was bombed only the previous night. In fact, it doesn’t look much like the site of a bombed house at all!

Bombed houses Idlib comparison 0515b

*(Two bombed houses in Idlib.)

One of the things which sticks in the mind from the innumerable images of bombed buildings in Syria we have seen for the last eight years is the persistence of reinforced concrete slabs, such as would have formed the roof of Al Halabi’s house. The absence of any such slabs or visible fragments of that roof is remarkable by itself. Instead, in the area where the house stood is what appears to be a pile of pulverized and flattened material, surrounded by piles of rubble.

A close study and comparison of images of the remains of Mohammed Al Halabi’s house published in various different media on the 29th and 30th October reveals some strikingly aberrant features that make it impossible to believe the Pentagon’s – and the White House’s claim that the strike was carried out on the previous night. In the images below I have circled two piles of stone and concrete rubble which do not appear to have come from the house as a result of the explosion following the US airstrike. While the blast appears to have knocked over the perimeter wall quite cleanly on the south and west sides, there is simply no explanation for the presence of a large mound of rubble in that south-west corner of the compound, marked ‘1’.  If its origin was Al Halabi’s house, then it was pushed there with heavy machinery.

Halabi house site East and West views annotated 20f99

*(Halabi house east and west view, annotated.)

The second marked pile of rubble might have come from the garage beside the gates into the compound, whose angled broken roof slabs can be seen there, but it lies on the house side of where the building stood, and beside a small but living olive tree. By contrast, there are charred remains of two smaller buildings on the east side which look recent, as well as a large area of blackened olive trees extending from the north side of the compound towards a neighboring house. In initial reports of the bombing, shaky video of a fire and some small explosions taken from Barisha village were shown, and we might assume this was the result.

The exact position of these rubble heaps in relation to the house can be seen in the composite image below, where I have aligned and superimposed the walls of the compound visible in the Pentagon’s drone image with the line of the walls still clearly visible in a drone image of the site taken following the announcement of the bombing. The Pentagon image immediately preceded the bombing of the building, which was hit first at the point indicated by a purple cross, towards the southwest corner of the roof.

Drone view with house outline annotated 16e34

*(Drone view w/house superimposed, annotated.)

Other features visible more clearly in this view are the small truck – which appears to have been pushed over to the wall, and behind rubble heap ‘1’, and the outlines of the basement or “tunnel” entrance, which lay beneath the building’s tower section and the circular pad in front of it.

As is so often the case where false claims are made, it only takes one clearly observable fault to demolish the whole case; if one tip-truck load of rubble is where it shouldn’t be, why not the whole site? And why not the whole story?

The word “cover-up” springs to mind, and it will take more than a few truck-loads of concrete rubble to cover up the crimes committed by the Western allies and their proxies in Syria.

The Repression of Free Inquiry and Academic Debate Concerning 9/11 and Israel/Palestine Relations

By Prof Anthony Hall

Source

Anthony James Hall a7c9c

During the New Horizon Conference in Beirut earlier this autumn, the event’s Chair, Nader Talebzadeh, discussed with Prof. Anthony Hall the trials and tribulations of trying to render public service by contributing to public discussion on controversial topics. In the free-ranging conversation on the Nader Show, references were made to comparisons that can be drawn between the illegal tactics deployed against both discussants. In 2016 the administration of the University of Lethbridge suspended Prof. Hall without any due process whatsoever, even as in 2019 the US Treasury branch designated Dr. Talebzadeh as a “Global Terrorist” for the supposed crime of hosting intellectual exchanges at international conferences.

Both cases demonstrate the widening of the concept of “pre-emptive war” after 9/11. The concept of striking first, worrying about proof and evidence later, is fast being extended into the realm of civil society and international relations. In placing extensive emergency powers in the realm of executive discretion after 9/11, many of the protections attached to the principle that people are have been nullified and withdrawn. The war party is thus strengthened by putting in its hands many new means of unilaterally stifling the voices of its critics.

After 9/11 rights-bearing citizens were transformed into criminal suspects as police state and surveillance state tactics proliferated. The most recent examples of this approach are demonstrated by the imposition of new types of sanctions on Iranian as well as on Lebanese institutions and individuals. The attacks on the economic viability and reputations of the designated targets are advanced through unilateral actions mounted by Zionist cells deep within the US Treasury Department.

The Trump government’s imposition of sanctions without due process or any right of appeal makes a mockery of the United Nations and of international law. The degradation of the international system after 9/11 can be highlighted through the illumination of a telling contrast. Consider the differences between the unilateral impositions amounting to economic warfare on Iran and the thick walls of obstructions put in the way of the imposition of sanctions on Israel through the BDS campaign.

 

US increases funding to White Helmets who are persecuting Syrian Christians in Idlib

By Vanessa Beeley

Source

US President Donald Trump has not only reversed his “withdrawal from Syria” policy, he has recently attempted to revive the flagging credibility of the terrorist-affiliated White Helmets with a $4.5 million cash injection.

This week, the UK Minister for the Middle East Andrew Murrison met the “chairman” of the White Helmets, the extremist-connected Raed Saleh, for a discussion on the situation in Idlib. Murrison highlighted the “massive disinformation campaign” being waged against the White Helmets by Russia and Syria while never addressing the multiple accusations being made by Syrian civilians against the group which include claims of child abduction and organ trafficking.

Andrew Murrison

@AWMurrison

The White Helmets continue to provide life-saving service to the people of Syria. Today I met Chairman @RaedAlSaleh3 to discuss the terrible situation on the ground in Idlib and reiterated the UK’s unwavering support.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

White Helmets’ persecution of Syrian Christians in Idlib

On a recent trip to Latakia, I had the opportunity to interview a former resident of Yakubiyah, a predominantly Syrian Christian (Armenian and Catholic) town located west of Idlib city and around 10km from the Syrian border with Turkey. Aline K (her full name is withheld for her security) was in Lebanon when the armed gangs first entered her hometown in 2012/13 but she decided to return to Yakubiyah to assess the situation.

When Aline returned to her home she found it occupied by a mother and children. Aline asked them to leave but when she came back the next morning, armed militants had taken control of the house and Aline, like so many of her neighbours, was forced to abandon her house. She told me:

The terrorists looted all the houses, they entered houses and checked what’s inside it, another group came and took everything inside, they took everything they could carry, they emptied houses, they emptied them.

Aline described a campaign of desecration of the three churches in Yakubiyah, the removal of the ancient stone crosses and artefacts, the familiar eradication of Christian culture, that has been witnessed across Syria, by the so-called “peaceful revolutionaries” sponsored by the West. Meanwhile the West hypocritically claims to be protecting Christians while financing, arming, and promoting their persecutors. Aline and all the women in Yakubiyah were forced to wear the hijab. Aline spent most of her time in hiding, terrified to go out, fearful of reprisals or punishment. Many of the younger inhabitants fled, leaving behind only the elderly and those who did not have the means to escape.

Aline told me that the White Helmets began to appear alongside the armed groups in 2015.

They established their center in a complex of school and church buildings. When they arrived they were dressed like the terrorists, you couldn’t tell them apart but the White Helmets are a subsidiary of the terrorist groups. Most of the White Helmets were Syrian but the situation was chaotic, we didn’t know who was who, there were many foreigners among them.

According to Aline, the White Helmets were working with and for the terrorist groups. Aid received from outside was distributed first to the armed groups before meagre supplies were handed out to civilians. Aline did not see the White Helmets performing “humanitarian” activities, they were focused on further looting and the destruction of historic buildings, including the churches.

In 2018, “moderate rebel” promoter Charles Lister attempted to claim that the White Helmets were benevolent caretakers of Christian artefacts and communities in Yakubiyah. This cynical remodelling of reality was swiftly exposed by former resident and Syria commentator, Camille Otrakji.

Otrakji went on to ridicule the concept that the White Helmets were protecting or defending the cultural identity of the town’s inhabitants.

Aline also responded to the White Helmet marketing campaign, saying:

They (White Helmets and terrorists) left nothing untouched or unbroken. They were like locusts, they left no tree or building untouched. They stole our livelihood, our trees. They destroyed everything, reduced it to trash, our homes, our buildings, all destroyed.

Aline confirmed that all the White Helmets carried guns and would use them to threaten and intimidate civilians. Aline also described the supply of weapons to the terrorist group’s child soldiers, teenagers under 16, this was carried out by the White Helmets and the armed group leaders. This must raise the question of who is supplying the aid and weapons so liberally distributed to designated terrorist groups like Al Qaeda/Nusra Front present in Yakubiyah?

We should remind ourselves that the UK alone has provided £ 2.81 billion in “humanitarian” aid since 2012. Over the past 18 months alone, the UK government has poured $150 million into Idlib, funds that will be received and managed by groups like the White Helmets.

Aline demonstrated the familiar confusion that I have experienced when interviewing civilians who have lived under the occupation of armed groups and their White Helmet auxiliaries. It is hard for these traumatised individuals to differentiate between the two groups, they are interchangeable, working in lockstep to terrorise communities and individuals they perceive to be ideologically “different” or loyal to the Syrian government. It is this ambiguity over their identity that suggests that one of the many roles of the White Helmets is as a Western proxy benefactor to the armed groups they are intermingled with.

Chemical weapon hoaxes staged by extremist, sectarian White Helmets

Many journalists who have worked to expose the White Helmets perceive that the White Helmet brand has outrun its usefulness yet the billionaires and governments who have promoted and protected this group from reputation loss are still peddling the “humanitarian” image of this US/UK intelligence asset operating alongside some of the most brutal, sectarian armed groups still in Syria.

The White Helmets have been cornered alongside HTS (Hayat Tahrir Al Sham) in the “largest Al Qaeda haven since 9/11” which is Idlib in the north-west of Syria. The White Helmets operate alongside the sectarian, extremist groups and share their ideology which seeks to eliminate or subjugate all sects and minorities in Syria that do not belong to their exclusive, tyrannical club.

The obviously sectarian aspect of the group has been admitted by the British mercenary and founder of the White Helmets, James Le Mesurier, but is never picked up by the colonial media in their relentless defence of the White Helmets.

The REAL Syria Civil Defence (established in Syria in 1953), on the other hand, is made up of volunteers from across all sects and minorities in Syria and represents the pluralism and secular nature of Syrian culture and society.

Perhaps Trump’s relatively small donation of $4.5 million to this failing propaganda construct is a last ditch attempt to secure their performances in a final “chemical weapon” swansong in Idlib. This is a dangerous strategy if that is the case. After the Douma revelations and the undeniable corruption of the OPCW’s independence, I cannot help but feel that a new staged attack in Idlib would be met with more ridicule than outrage and that public consensus would be tipped resolutely in favour of Syrian sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the upholding of international law as opposed to support for further pretexts for FUKUS globalist “banditry” and war crimes in the region.

The White Helmets should be condemned as the parody of humanitarianism they really are but they should also be held publicly accountable for their role in perpetuating misery and bloodshed in Syria. Failure to do so will result in their rebranded appearance in another country and another “humanitarian” war sanctioned by their presence, another heinous crime against humanity, another oil jihad fuelled by the US coalition of terror. It is time to say “enough.”

Former British Ambassador to Syria: UK complicit in Trump’s Syria Oil Grab

By Peter Ford

Source

With the UK Parliament already on alert, how long will it be before Congress wakes up to this scandal-in-the-making?

The cat is out of the bag. The UK is potentially complicit in a war crime. With typical insouciance the U.S. military dropped this bombshell by tweet and apparently without realizing the implications for U.S. partners:

OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III

@OIRSpox

.@USArmy troops in 4-118th Infantry Regiment, @30thabct, @NCNationalGuard attached to the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, @SCNationalGuard, load M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles to support the @CJTFOIR mission in Deir ez Zor, Syria.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III

@OIRSpox

We are repositioning @CJTFOIR forces to Deir ez Zor to continue partnering w/ to defeat ISIS remnants, protect critical infrastructure, & deny ISIS access to revenue sources. Mechanized forces provide infantry, maneuver, and firepower.

OIR is Operation Inherent Resolve, which is the name behind which the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS cloaks its military activities. (Think NATO wearing a thobe.) CJTFOIR is the Combined Joint Task Force for Operation Inherent Resolve.

If, as per the spokesman’s statement, the forces being redeployed to Syria’s oil-producing areas are Inherent Resolve forces, it follows that those troops are doing so in the name and under the aegis of the Coalition. Simple. Ah yes, but awkward for the British government to admit – awkward for practical, political and legal reasons. 

In practice, if this is a Joint Task Force Operation as we are told by the U.S. spokesman, it would be next to impossible for the deployment in Deir Ez Zor province to be taking place without some input from the senior UK officers embedded with the U.S. military in the Coalition Joint Task Force headquarters (the Deputy Commander is a British general) and active in carrying out Operation Inherent Resolve.

Politically this matters because hitherto all the opprobrium leveled at President Trump for allegedly ‘looting’ Syria’s oil has spared other participants in Inherent Resolve, including the UK, France, and Germany. How awkward it might be for Boris Johnson, facing an election, to find himself tarred with yet another Trump brush to put alongside Trump’s alleged grab for the UK National Health Service.

Legally this matters because if Trump puts into practice his promise to seize Syrian oil production, that will constitute, according to authoritative legal experts, a violation of international law against ‘pillaging’ enshrined in the Fourth Geneva Convention and thus constitute a war crime. Any party complicit in pillaging, and that would surely include other parties in the Joint Task Force, even if only headquarters staff and not boots on the ground, could also be culpable. The British government might find itself challenged in a UK court even if no international court could be found willing to act.

A nightmare for British government lawyers

This is the stuff of nightmares for British government lawyers.

Parliament is already alerted. The independent peer Baroness Cox prompted the following exchange with a government minister by putting down a tricky parliamentary question.

UK Parliament Syria inquiry

We can take that as an embarrassed ‘yes’.

Lord Ahmed, an FCO Minister, gave a similarly evasive answer to another question asked by Baroness Cox:

UK Parliament Syria inquiry 2

You can picture Lord Ahmed squirming.

It gets worse.

The British government may soon find itself complicit in harboring and funding terrorists because of Inherent Resolve’s involvement in pillaging Syria’s oil.

The U.S. says it will work with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to ‘safeguard vital infrastructure’ and will route proceeds of oil sales to the SDF to pay for its role, described as being anti-ISIS. What this overlooks is that the oilfields are not in Kurdish areas, which are mainly in the north, near the Turkish border, but in southern Deir Ez Zor province, which is dominated by Sunni Arabs who formed a core constituency for ISIS. This area is not far from Raqqa. The nominally SDF forces in the area, with which the U.S. will have to work, are mainly Arab and notoriously marbled with ISIS fighters. This part of the SDF has been described as ‘SDF by day, ISIS by night’. Not that they will not make excellent guards. These fighters, far from attacking the U.S., will likely be delighted to find the U.S. not only creating a safe haven for them but funding them as well.

Aiding terrorism, committing war crimes: a prospect to make any UK politician gulp. No wonder the parliamentary answers were evasive, even more so than usual with the grand yet nebulous ‘Global Coalition’. (In answer to another awkward question asking how many ISIS the Coalition had killed or detained in Syria in the last two years the FCO claimed implausibly that the government ‘does not hold this information’, no doubt to avoid having to acknowledge that the number is tiny and that the main purpose of the Coalition is to deny territory to Assad.)

With the UK Parliament already on alert, how long will it be before Congress wakes up to this scandal-in-the-making?

%d bloggers like this: