by Stephen Lendman
The recent strike launched by the US-led coalition some 20 miles to the west of al-Raqqah resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths, as the bombs hit a former school that served as shelter for refugees, as it’s been announced by the Turkish Anadolu news agency. It was added that the bombardment targeted more than 50 families who fled the towns of Hamas, Homs and al-Raqqah in a bid to save their lives. Local sources of the same agency have also reported yet another air strike launched in the in the area of Tabqa city, which has claimed at least 40 lives.
Additionally, the US military command confirmed last week that the air strikes it launched in the Syrian province of Aleppo resulted in the death of at least 49 people, which is hardly surprising since the strikes targeted a local mosque in the Al-Jin village during evening prayers. According to local sources, at this time of the day there’s usually around 300 locals praying in the mosque. The Syrian Human Rights Observatory has already stated that the better part of those deceased were civilians. In turn, Le Monde would describe this strike as one of the bloodiest mistakes of the Pentagon since the beginning of its operations in Syrian skies.
It is noteworthy that initially the blame for this strike was pushed on Russian and Syrian air forces, in tune with the Russophobic media campaign that is being pushed upon us all by Washington and a number of European interests. A number Western and Middle Eastern sources were quick to allocate the blame without the slightest piece of evidence to back up their claims.
And the list goes on, with the US-led coalition launching a series of strikes in the southern outskirts of the Syrian city of al-Raqqa on March 12, which resulted in at least 19 civilians being killed, with the air raid being executed during the night hours. Syrian news agency SANA announced that the death toll caused by these air strikes could grew significantly, since a large number of its victims remain in critical condition.
In addition to the tragic incident in the village of Al-Jin, the Pentagon has also confirmed the recent death of 21 civilians in Syria and Iraq that died under US-led coalition bombs. As stated in a recent press release, all the victims died due to the actions carried out within the framework of Operation Inherent Resolve directed against the terrorist organization known as ISIS, in January 2017.
US CENTCOM has also recognized that as a result of military operations on January 29 in the province of Al Bayda in southern Yemen, a number of civilians were killed, including children, as it’s been reported by Reuters. As it’s been clarified by unnamed US officials, an 8-year old American citizen Nawar Anwar al-Awlaki fell victim of US special forces operatives along with a number of local women during a raid launched by NAVY SEALs deep inside Yemeni territory.
In addition to numerous reports on the civilian death toll caused by continuous US air strikes, various media sources are publishing an ever increasing number of reports on the use of depleted uranium in Iraq and Syria by American forces, which may contribute further to the large number of civilian deaths in the long run. It should be noted that depleted uranium is left over from the enrichment of uranium 235. It is exceptionally hard, and has been used by Western military forces both to penetrate armored targets and to reinforce their own vehicles like tanks against enemy fire. Though less radioactive than the original uranium, DU is toxic and is considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be a radiation health hazard when inside the body, since it is capable of causing birth defects and cancer.
Earlier, US officials denied the use of depleted uranium munitions in operations against ISIS in Syria. However, Foreign Policy magazine would reveal with a special reference to US Central Command spokesman Maj. Josh Jacques, that the US military used ammunition with depleted uranium during at least two operations against militants in Syria in 2015. According to him, 5,265 armor-piercing 30 mm rounds containing depleted uranium (DU) were fired by America’s A-10 ground-attack aircraft.
If we add the number of innocent victims of the US Air Force in the Middle East over the last three months that were mentioned above to all those who perished under American bombs throughout Washington’s alleged anti-terrorist struggle in Iraq and Syria, there will be little doubt that those figures can easily outnumber actual terrorists killed by the US-led coalition.
So, how can such a price be justified? And who among US military commanders will bear responsibility for all the innocent souls who fell victim to US military actions in the region?
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”
Some experts argue that the Islamic revolutionary order had been solidified by the Iran-Iraq war [1980-1988], which was fueled by western states and Arab monarchies. The conflict that served to reaffirm the revolution’s anti-imperialist zeal also charted the course for Tehran’s national security agenda.
In the years that followed, the isolated, Shiite-majority state emerged as a regional powerhouse, mastering the process of mobilizing and fighting alongside external ‘non-state actors’, to keep Washington’s dogs of war away from its borders.
The last two decades, defined by the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the war effort against the Damascus government, only reaffirmed Tehran’s chosen path, hardening its resolve.
In many respects, the arrival of Donald Trump is simply a continuation of this process, reassuring the Iranian public and political establishment that their decades-long approach towards Washington’s regional agenda has always been spot-on.
And while Trump’s election polarized the western world, it served to strengthen the unity of the Iranian nation and bridge any existing gaps between the country’s reformist and conservative camps.
“Thank you, Mr. Trump”
During the 38th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution on February 7, the Supreme Leader, His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei, mockingly addressed the Trump administration’s hostile stance towards Tehran.
“Thank you, Mr. Trump, for showing the true face of America,” Sayyed Khamenei said.
Iranian president Sheikh Hassan Rouhani also addressed the crowds gathered to laud the Revolution.
“We are not after tensions in the region and the world,” he said. “We are united in the face of bullying and any threat.”
Interestingly, the nationwide rallies, which came at a time of sharp anti-Iranian rhetoric in Washington, further highlighted Tehran’s ability to exercise restraint and its constant readiness for dialogue.
According to the New York Times, the national holiday was marked “with far less of the usual vitriol for the United States.”
“Most notably, there were no missiles on display, as had been customary in previous years,” NYT’s Thomas Erdbrink writes.
“[Tehran] does not want any confrontation with the US. Don’t be surprised, we have no interest with tensions,” said the Iranian political analyst Farshad Ghorbanpour.
Of course, all of this should hardly come as a surprise, given that the Islamic Republic has absolutely nothing to gain by ratcheting up tensions across the region.
It is very difficult to understand President Trump’s reasoning behind his decision to slap fresh sanctions on Iran. It is equally difficult to analyze the key components of the Trump administration’s foreign policy agenda, especially with respect to the enduring climate of instability in the Middle East.
Despite the fact that Trump’s campaign rhetoric often promised to undo the Iranian nuclear agreement, no concrete steps have been taken in this regard. Suggestions that the American president could simply tear up the multilateral accord reached between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries should be taken with a grain of salt, given that such a move lacks any semblance of serious international support.
Instead, the Trump administration appears to believe that a new round of negotiations with Tehran over its growing role in the region, which includes its alliances with Damascus and Hezbollah, is still possible. Trump’s reset with the Arab monarchies and ‘Israel’ is designed to send a message that his administration is unwilling to accept the new realities on the ground, particularly in Syria, where a long-term Iranian presence is looking increasingly likely.
Recent ‘Israeli’ airstrikes, which struck targets deep in Syrian territory, as well as the deployment of hundreds of additional American soldiers to Syria, suggest that Trump wants to be heard, and that the current state of affairs in the Middle East is not acceptable for the US president.
But the sheer notion that Tehran would be willing to negotiate over its regional alliances – one of the defining features of its national security policy since the early years of the Islamic Revolution – has been dismissed as a nonstarter in Iran.
To what degree this lack of common ground, combined with the increasingly desperate Tel Aviv and Riyadh may contribute to further regional instability, is still an open question.
A senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment and professor at Georgetown University, Karim Sadjadpour, offers a pessimistic outlook of the future.
“In Donald Trump’s first term, there is a serious possibility of a military conflict, whether intentional or inadvertent, between the United States or ‘Israel’ and Iran,” Sadjadpour, who also reports on Iran, writes for The Atlantic.
And a combination of mistrust, aggressive action and isolated incidents could set the course towards a direct military confrontation, which, needless to say, is clearly not in any regional or international player’s interest at the moment.
25-03-2017 | 07:44
Commander: Troops Needed to ‘Degrade’ ISIS Forces
In a press briefing at the Pentagon today, African Command leader Gen. Thomas Waldhauser announced that the US intends to keep ground troops in Libya for the foreseeable future to support “friendly forces,” and to “degrade” the ISIS forces that remain in the country.
Waldhauser did not specify how many US troops are in Libya now, or how many will stay, but did estimate that there were less than 200 ISIS fighters left in Libya. The US had announced the end of the anti-ISIS campaign in Libya back in December, but never fully withdrew from the country.
The US forces were in Libya trying to help the “unity” government defeat ISIS in the city of Sirte. US officials repeatedly claimed the city was totally surrounded, and that no ISIS fighters would get away, though when the fighting finally ended, a substantial number of ISIS fighters did in fact get away.
Waldhauser hinted that the US operations in Libya would primarily be airstrikes going forward, saying that the US needs to have troops on the ground for “precision airstrikes” and “close-air support operations.” He added that the last US airstrikes, in January, involved US troops meeting face-to-face with allies on coordinating the strikes.
Insists Keeping Troops in Iraq Is in the ‘National Interest’
With US officials still hopeful that Iraq’s ongoing offensive in Mosul is the beginning of the end of ISIS’ presence in that country, top Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, are also eager to point out that it’s not going to mean the end of the US military presence in Iraq.
In comments to Congressional committees over the course of the week, Mattis was very clear about the need to keep US troops in Iraq, calling it a “national interest” and insisting US forces need to stabilize Iraq, while downplaying the idea that this would be nation-building.
It’s not going to be a short process either. While Mattis wasn’t very specific on how long this post-ISIS US military presence would last, he made it clear that it would be “years,” and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Joe Dunford said the same thing later.
Pentagon officials have been insisting since last year that the deployment to Iraq this time is more or less permanent. That they are couching this as a matter of “years” now does not necessarily mean that the timespan is going to be finite, but that they don’t want to admit, believing the war is closer to ending, that they intend to stay in an open-ended manner.
Illegal U.S. Occupation Forces in Syria and Iraq: Pentagon Intends Establishing “Interim Zones of Stability”
Addressing members of America’s imperial war coalition in Washington Wednesday, Rex Tillerson said Washington intends establishing “interim zones of stability” in Syria and Iraq – without further elaboration.
US-installed Iraqi puppet leader Haider al-Abadi was pressured to let US forces operate in Iraqi territory.
He’s silent on relentless Pentagon terror-bombing, massacring Mosul civilians, ones escaping saying they fear US warplanes as much as ISIS.
Pentagon special forces and marines in Syria are “invaders,” operating illegally, Bashar al-Assad explained. They’re aiding anti-government terrorists pursue US regime change plans.
No-fly or safe zones in foreign countries are illegal without Security Council authorization – not forthcoming with near certain Russian and likely Chinese veto power. US pressure will likely get Abadi to go along. If not, expect a new puppet leader installed to replace him.
Assad rejects them, earlier saying they won’t protect civilians. Domestic safety is only possible when peace, stability and security are restored. Safe zones imposed by foreign powers are illegal and unrealistic.
Why were Syrians displaced in the first place, he asked? For two reasons, he explained:
— “terrorist acts and support from the outside,” as well as
— “the (US) embargo on Syria,” creating enormous hardships for ordinary people through much of the country.
Syrians will again be safe when terrorism is defeated, the embargo lifted, and illegal sanctions rescinded.
Longstanding US/Israeli plans call for redrawing the Middle East map, including partitioning Iraq and Syria – governments in both countries, Iran and Lebanon replaced by pro-Western puppet regimes.
Turkey wants northern Syria and Iraq annexed. Establishing safe zones in either or both countries would require thousands of troops for enforcement.
Last November, Trump endorsed the idea, deplorably saying
“(b)uild a big, beautiful safe zone, and you have whatever it is so people can live, and they’ll be happier.”
Hillary Clinton earlier urged establishing a no-fly zone, the same scheme she used to launch US-led NATO aggression on Libya.
Russia rejects what Assad and his government oppose. CENTCOM commander General Joseph Votel supports safe zones in “areas that have already been secured,” he said.
Nothing is secure in war theaters. Baghdad is repeatedly targeted by car-bombings and other terrorist attacks, taking a horrendous human toll.
Endless US imperial wars rage in Syria, Iraq, the horrendous human toll harming civilians most.
All US wars are based on Big Lies, waged for imperial conquest and dominance, unrelated to humanitarian intervention, liberating oppressed people or democracy building.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago
In the immediate aftermath of what police are describing as a terrorist incident in and around Parliament, at least three facts stand out suggesting that the attacks are similar to those carried out over the last two years by “ISIS” supporters in Paris, Nice, Brussels and Berlin.
The similarities with the events today are in the targets of the attacks which in all cases were ordinary civilians, but the means of trying to cause mass casualties differs. In Nice, Berlin and London no fire arms were used by the attackers, while in Paris and Brussels there was a coordinated assault in which guns and explosives were employed.
In Nice on 14 July 2016 a truck killed 86 people and injured hundreds, driving at speed through crowds watching a firework display on the Promenade des Anglais until the driver was shot dead by police. “ISIS” claimed that he was answering their “calls to target citizens of coalition nations that fight ‘ISIS'”. Britain is a member of the coalition with aircraft and Special Forces troops in action against “ISIS” in Iraq and Syria.
“ISIS” claimed responsibility for a lorry which drove into a Christmas market in 19 December 2016, killing 12 and injuring dozens. As with Nice, this appears to resemble what happened on Westminster Bridge, going by first reports.
The overall location of the attacks today may be significant and would fit in with the way that “ISIS” normally operates when carrying out such atrocities. This is to act in the center of capital cities or in large provincial ones in order to ensure 24/7 publicity and maximize the effectiveness of the incident as a demonstration of “ISIS’s” continuing reach and ability to project fear far from its rapidly shrinking core areas in Syria and Iraq.
“ISIS” is sophisticated enough to know that such attacks carried out in news hubs like London or Paris will serve their purposes best. In cases of attack with a knife or a vehicle then “ISIS” would not need to provide more than motivation, though individuals seldom turn out to have acted alone. It may no longer have cells in Europe capable of obtaining fire arms or making bombs.
It could be that the attacks were carried out by another group, the most obvious candidate being one of the affiliates of al-Qaeda in Yemen. Syria or elsewhere. On 11 March 2017 Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda, carried out two bombing attacks in Damascus, killing 59 people, mostly Shia pilgrims from Iraq visiting holy sites. But the Syrian arm of al-Qaeda, while carrying out suicide bombings against targets in Syria, has previously avoided doing so abroad in order to make itself more diplomatically palatable than “ISIS”.
Could the attacks on Westminster Bridge and in Parliament be linked to the siege of Mosul where “ISIS” has lost the east of the city and half the west since an Iraqi army offensive started o n17 October? “ISIS” has traditionally tried to offset defeats on the battlefield, by terrorist attacks aimed civilians that show they are still very much a force to be feared. The same logic led to the ritual decapitation, drowning and burning of foreign journalists and domestic opponents.
The most likely speculation at this early stage is that the attacks in London are inspired or directed by “ISIS”, but there is too little evidence to make the connection with any certainty. “ISIS” often holds off claiming such atrocities for several days to increase speculation and intensify terror.
Source: Independent, Edited by website team
23-03-2017 | 11:22
Over 130 Civilians Killed in Attack on a Single Building in Western Mosul
As the US airstrikes in the Iraqi city of Mosul are increasingly concentrated around densely populated neighborhoods in the city’s west, the death toll from those airstrikes in spiraling rapidly out of control, with the most recent figures out of the area suggesting around 230 civilians were killed overnight in US and coalition strikes in just a single neighborhood.
That’s an enormous toll, of course, but is reported from several sources telling largely the same story, including that a single US airstrike against a large building full of civilians in Mosul killed over 130 people, while the other 100 or so were killed in the surrounding area.
Central Command said that they were “aware of the loss of life” and were carrying out “further investigation,” while insisting that all of their strikes against Mosul overnight “comply with the Law of Armed Conflict.” Centcom’s official report for the overnight strikes claimed they’d hit “11 fighting positions” and didn’t mention killing hundreds of civilians.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported that the civilian death toll was mostly women and children, saying that the bulk of the bodies were pulled from just three adjoining residences in the Jadida neighborhood. They speculated the civilians were “human shields” for ISIS snipers in the area.
That would be an awful lot of human shields, of course, and there wouldn’t be much point of stashing them inside buildings where the US forces clearly either didn’t know where they were or didn’t feel it amounted to a deterrent to bombing those buildings anyhow.
If the toll is ultimately confirmed by Centcom, which is a huge “if” given how often well documented incidents never end up on their official reports, it would roughly double the number of civilians the US has admitted to killing in Iraq and Syria over the ISIS war. NGOs have suggested the US strikes have killed well over 2,000 civilians already, and that’s not including last night’s massive toll.