Iran Unrest: Protests and Provocations

By Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

Source

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When protests in Hong KongIraq, and Lebanon erupted, I was fully anticipating protests in Iran to follow. In 2018 alone, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) had spent millions of dollars in these countries (and elsewhere) to promote America’s agenda. However, I did not expect unrest in Iran to take place while I was visiting the country. In retrospect, I am glad that I was here to be witness to these latest events.

On Thursday, November 21st, friends took me to a very charming Iranian restaurant in the heart of the city. During our lunch, they talked about there being a price hike in gasoline. After lunch, we walked around the charming downtown area of Tehran, visited shops, and exhausted climbed into a cab. We asked the cab driver if he had heard anything about prices going up. He told us that this was just a rumor. As such, the increase in the price of gasoline took Iranians by surprise. Regrettably, the government of President Rohani had not explained the rationale behind the price increase PRIOR to the increase itself. In several parts of Iran, protests erupted. Perhaps justified, and they were peaceful. One could argue they were disruptive in that cars blocked roads, making it difficult for others, causing traffic jams, but there was no vandalism on the first day – not to my knowledge.

But calm soon gave way to violence. A friend who lives in the suburbs of Tehran, in Karaj, told me that on a single street in that sleepy suburb, protestors had set 4 banks on fire. Elsewhere, police stations were attacked, banks and gas stations set on fire. Businesses were set on fire and destroyed. People were sending text messages to each other giving locations of alleged protests in the hopes of gathering people in one spot or another.

This did not surprise me. I was certain that “swarming” tactic was being implemented (as I believe it was elsewhere mentioned above). First developed by RAND as a military and tactical tool, RAND’s publication “Swarming & The Future of Conflict” states:

In Athena’s Camp, we speculated that swarming is already emerging as an appropriate doctrine for networked forces to wage information-age conflict. This nascent doctrine derives from the fact that robust connectivity allows for the creation of a multitude of small units of maneuver, networked in such a fashion that, although they might be widely distributed, they can still come together, at will and repeatedly, to deal resounding blows to their adversaries. This study builds on these earlier findings by inquiring at length into why and how swarming might be emerging as a preferred mode of conflict for small, dispersed, internetted units. In our view, swarming will likely be the future of conflict.”

“Social conflict also features pack-like organizations, as exemplified by modern-day “soccer hooligans.” They generally operate in a loosely dispersed fashion, then swarm against targets of opportunity who are “cut out” from a larger group of people. The use of modern information technologies—from the Internet to cell phones—has facilitated plans and operations by such gangs (see Sullivan, 1997)”.

Swarming depends on robust information flow and is a necessary condition for successful swarming. In other words, by controlling communication and sending texts to ‘protestors,’ random groups are mobilized together in one or various spots. Chaos ensues, which naturally draws reaction. One is never aware of the origin of the messages. In one of her talks, Suzanne Maloney of Brookings seemed to know the exact number of cell phones in use in Iran. These messages increased in number, as did the vandalism and reaction to the destructive behavior. This was not the first time that this tactic had been used in Iran. But it was the first time that Iran’s adversaries were surprised, shocked even, to see that Iran was capable of shutting down the Internet so quickly in order to put a stop to the spread of violence and restore calm.

I drove around in Tehran from end to end, either with friends or in a cab, and took note of the streets. I watched both Iranian TV news and foreign media such as BBC Persian, VOA, Radio Farda, Saudi funded Iran International broadcasted into Iran through satellite (at times jammed) to encourage people to get out on the streets and to protest. Iran was covered under a blanket of snow. With freezing temperatures, I was amused to see BBC Persian show pictures of ‘demonstrators’ in T-shirts. I was angry to see Reza Pahlavi, the deposed Shah of Iran appear on Iran International encouraging people to get out onto the streets. I felt insulted on behalf of every Iranian when Secretary Pompeo retweeted an old tweet and then tweeted again that ‘he was with the Iranian people’ – not to eat, not to receive medicinal goods, not to address their desire for peace and security, but to endure all kinds of hardship and to be subjected to American terrorism (sanctions) and go out on the streets to protest in order to promote America’s agenda.

The hostile foreign media even showed pictures of a ‘protestor’ handing out flowers to security personnel – a symbol first used against the Pentagon in 1967 by a woman protesting the war in Vietnam (and later in the 2014 US-backed coup in Ukraine). Except I could not tell if the picture I saw streaming through the foreign media’s satellite television was Iran or not. The viewer was told it was. The symbol was powerful, but I doubt very much that it was an indigenous one.

With the Internet disconnected, foreign media propaganda then had its viewers believe people were calling from inside Iran; eyewitnesses were reporting events. A voice telling BBC, or Iran International, or …… what was going on. Just a voice which would not doubt then be picked up as eyewitness testimony and shared in all media outlets. The ease with which individuals in various target countries always manage to get directly through television stations has always fascinated me. No automated answer – just straight to the newsroom.

In all this, I can’t help but ask why it was that none of the banks and gas stations set on fire, buildings burnt and businesses ruined, were not located in the pro-West parts of Tehran. Their life continued without a hitch – homes safe, business safe. After all, the main reason for the gasoline price increase was to help the less affluent and the poor. Perhaps as Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute said of the CIA’s role behind the uprisings, Michael D’Andrea, aka “Ayatollah Mike” wanted them safe. Regardless of the reason, CIA/NED spent millions and failed – again.

Syrian Civilians Killed and Wounded due to Al-Nusra Front Shelling on Aleppo Neighborhoods

By Khaled Iskef

Source

al Nusra front targeting neighborhoods of Aleppo ac970

Seven people were killed and more than 30 others were injured on Thursday evening as a result of targeting Aleppo neighborhoods in northern Syria with homemade rockets and missiles by Al-Nusra Front militants.

Al-Nusra militants carried out their attacks from their positions in Al-Rashideen / 4 /area southwest of Aleppo city, where the shells hit Al-Jamailia, Al-Hamdaniya, Halap Al-Jadida , Al-Zebdieh, Al-Mashhad, Salah Al-Din and Al-A’zamiya neighborhoods.

Most of the casualties who reached hospitals were from Salah al-Din neighborhood in the south-east of the city, as the crowded popular market in the neighborhood was targeted, which also led to several fires in cars and houses. According to medical sources, an 8-year-old boy died along with three other adults as a result of being burned in a car that was hit directly by a missile.

Al-Nusra militants shelling continued for about 3 hours, after which the pace of the shells subsided in conjunction with Syrian Army intense targeting with rockets the positions of the militants in al-Rashideen area and the town of Khan al-Assal located in western Aleppo countryside.

The city of Aleppo recently has witnessed an increasing escalation by the militants of “Al-Nusra front” stationed in its surroundings through targeting residential neighborhoods with various types of shells, as was the case on Wednesday evening, which witnessed targeting Al-Hamdania, Aleppo.

Al-Jadida, Nile Street and Shahbaa neighborhoods with dozens of shells that resulted in material damages only.

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

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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.

 

A Generation Deleted: American Bombs in Yemen Are Costing an Entire Generation Their Future

By Ahmed Abdulkareem

Source

ADAA, NORTHERN YEMEN — Third-grader Farah Abbas al-Halimi didn’t get the UNICEF backpack or textbook she was hoping for this year. Instead, she was given an advanced U.S bomb delivered on an F-16 courtesy of the Saudi Air Force. That bomb fell on Farah’s school on September 24 and killed Farah, two of her sisters, and her father who was working at the school. It will undoubtedly have an irrevocable effect on the safety and psyche of schoolchildren across the region.

Over the course of Yemen’s pre-war history, which locals fondly refer to as the happy Yemen years, never has an entire generation been subjected to the level of disaster and suffering as that levied upon Farah’s generation by the Saudi-led Coalition, which has used high-tech weapons supplied by the United States and other Western powers to devastating effect since it began its military campaign against Yemen in 2015.

Last week a new school year in Yemen began, the fifth school year since the war started, and little has changed for Yemen’s schoolchildren aside from the fact that the Coalition’s weapons have become more precise and even more deadly, leaving the futures of the country’s more than one million schoolchildren in limbo.

“I want to go to school, I can’t wait any longer,” a relative of six-year-old Ayman al-Kindi told MintPress, recalling how Ayman, surrounded by proud family members, waited impatiently to leave for his first day of school. Ayman would never make it to school; in fact, he never even made it outside. “Ayman wanted to become a doctor but a bomb took him away from school. What these American bombs do to our children is terrifying,” his relative told us.

In late June 2019, Coalition aircraft targeted Ayman’s family home located on their farm in the Warzan area, south of Taiz province in southwestern Yemen. Six of Ayman’s family members were killed, including three children aged 12, nine and six. According to  Amnesty International, the laser-guided precision weapon used in the attack was made by Raytheon. Amnesty’s arms experts analyzed photos of the remnants of the weapon recovered from the scene of the attack by family members and identified it as a U.S.-made 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II.

The use of a U.S.-made weapon in the attack on the al-Kindi home was no anomaly: most of the weapons possessed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which between them have carried out a quarter of a million raids on Yemen since the beginning of the war, are American-made. This week, families who lost loved ones in Coalition airstrikes held an exhibition called “Criminal Evidence” in the city of Sana`a. The event was an opportunity to consolidate evidence of potential war crimes and prompted hundreds of Yemeni civilians to attend the event with remnants of U.S.-made weapons in tow, remnants recovered from the rubble of the attacks that killed their loved ones.

Yemen Raytheon

The airstrike on the al-Kindi home was one of nearly a dozen carried out by Saudi Arabia using U.S. weapons that were included in a recent UN report. A team of investigators appointed by the UN Human Rights Council found numerous cases of Saudi airstrikes that violated international humanitarian law and, for the first time, directly implicated the United States, Britain, France and Australia for supplying the weapons used in the attacks.

Charles Garraway, a former military lawyer and one of the experts behind the report, recently told PBS, “We have a war that’s going on. It’s causing immense suffering and frankly most of that suffering is caused by arms.” Garraway continued, “The tragedy in Yemen is so awful at the moment that somehow one has got to reach some form of settlement to stop the war.”

Despite the abundance of evidence proving that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have routinely targeted schools and other civilian facilities, the United States continues to replenish the Coalition’s arsenal. Earlier this year, the Trump administration tried to force through an $8.1 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan; and, despite growing opposition within his own government, President Donald Trump seems determined to maintain the flow of U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Not your normal “back-to-school” day

Eleven-year-old Mohammed AbdulRaham al-Haddi is one the few schoolchildren to have survived the horrific August 9, 2018, Saudi airstrike on a school bus on the outskirts of Dahyan in Yemen’s northwestern province of Saada. The attack killed more than 35 of his classmates, but Mohammed miraculously survived. Today, he returns to school for the first time since the deadly attack, but to an underserved school and without his classmates. Al-Faleh, Mohammed’s new school, lies nestled in a dusty valley near Yemen’s northeastern border with Saudi Arabia

Yemen War Children

The attack on Mohammed’s school bus was carried out using a Mark 82 (MK-82) bomb, jointly manufactured by U.S. weapons companies Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. The MK-82, along with other general-purpose MK-series bombs, has been sold to the Saudi-led Coalition by the United States through a series of contracts made in 2016 and 2017. In addition to last year’s atrocity, the Coalition has used the MK-82 to target Yemeni civilians in the past, such as its bombing of a funeral in 2016 that left over 140 dead and 525 wounded.

As the war in Yemen enters its fifth year, the tragic consequences of these weapons deals are difficult to describe, but their effects are noticed everywhere. Some 3,526 educational buildings have been at least partially destroyed by bombs since the war began, with most yet to be rebuilt. Of those, 402 were completely destroyed, according to a new field survey conducted by the Ministry of Education. Approximately 900 of Yemen’s schools are still being used as shelters for the internally displaced. And 700 schools have been closed as a result of ongoing clashes.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that two million children are out of school in Yemen. “A fourth of the two million Yemeni children have dropped out since the beginning of the Saudi war in March 2015,” UNICEF representative in Yemen Sara Beysolow Nyanti said in a statement released last Wednesday.

Beysolow raised concerns about the future of Yemeni children, saying:

[They] face increased risks of all forms of exploitation including being forced to join the fighting, child labor and early marriage. They lose the opportunity to develop and grow in a caring and stimulating environment, ultimately becoming trapped in a life of poverty and hardship.”

According to the Geneva-based human rights monitoring organization, SAM, four hundred thousand schoolchildren in Yemen suffer from acute malnutrition, exposing them to the risk of sudden death, 7 million schoolchildren face hunger, and more than 2 million do not go to school.

Even before the war began, the education system in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, was not in good health; a lack of equipment, unqualified teachers, and a shortage of textbooks plagued the country’s schools, which were bursting at the seams with overcrowding. Coalition bombs and a blockade supported by the United States have effectively destroyed what was left, just as schools were beginning to show signs of recovery.

Many of Yemen’s teachers have not received a paycheck in years and some, unable to eke out a living, have sought work as soldiers-for-hire on Yemen’s battlefields, leaving millions of children without prospects for education and the country as a whole with a 70 percent rate of illiteracy. Beysolow warned that the education of a further 3.7 million Yemeni children is at risk, as teachers have not received their salaries for over two years, adding that one fifth of schools in Yemen can no longer be used as a direct result of the conflict. “Violence, displacement and attacks on schools are preventing many children from accessing school,” she said.

In a bid to stop teachers from leaving schools, the Ministry of Education, based in Sana`a, has imposed a fee on students of $2 per month to pay teacher salaries, but that seemingly nominal fee has added a huge burden to families with more than one child, many of whom are living in extreme poverty as a result of the war and siege. “I have six students, meaning that I need to pay $12 a month; I can’t save that amount,” one mother told us. She lost her husband in the clashes that erupted between the former president Ali Saleh and opposition tribes on Hasabah Street in 2011. Now, her only source of income is begging and it is not enough to feed her six children, let alone send them to school.

To make matters worse, just weeks before the new school year began, the Saudi-led Coalition prevented 11 oil tankers from entering Yemen. The move sparked an acute shortage of fuel, which meant that school buses could no longer run, leaving even those with the means to pay school fees unable to send their children to school.

The severe psychological toll

The effect of U.S.-made weapons upon Yemen’s children does not end there. Children who have survived the fighting are often left with physical disabilities and severe and chronic psychological symptoms, turning their environment into the worst place in the world, according to UNICEF.

Beyond the direct casualties from airstrikes, the largely unnoticed and unrecorded (by the world) sounds of explosions and buzzing warplanes are leaving Yemen’s children with irreversible psychological damage.

Yemen War Children

Like other students, Mohammed often gets distracted while at home or sitting in class, unable to focus and laden with severe anxiety. While students the world over occupy their minds with the day-to-day matters that should accompany adolescence, Yemen`s students, especially those who live in border districts, are filled with an ever-present fear of an impending airstrike.

Since the school year began on September 15, the Saudi-led Coalition has reportedly dropped more than a thousand bombs and missiles in 400 separate airstrikes targeting border districts including Sadaa, Hajjah, Sana`a, Amran, Dhali, and Hodeida. The hundreds of sorties are accompanied by frightening whizzing noise and have left great panic in the hearts of civilians, especially Yemen’s schoolchildren.

“Before the war, the sound of planes meant happiness for families who were expecting loved-ones returning [from abroad], but now the sound of planes mean destruction, death, blood,” Dr. AbdulSalam Ashish, a consultant for psychological and neurological diseases, told MintPress. Dr. Ashish continued, “Now, the planes bring nothing but fear and panic and are a reminder of tragedies and crimes that were committed with U.S., British, and French weapons.”

“It was 1:45 p.m., when we heard a missile strike; we were able to calm the students down but when the third strike hit we lost control of the students as they began to scream and chaos spread throughout the school,” Hana Al Awlaqi, a school agent at the  “Martyr Ahmed Abdul Wahab Al Samawi” School, said, recounting the moment a Saudi attack took place just tens of meters away from the school. “The sound of the fourth bomb made matters worse, as the school was being broken into by panicked parents and many teachers were fainting.”

Yemen War Children

Al Awlaqi went on to say that many students convulse into spasms when they hear the sound of airplanes, while others have refused to come back to school. “The sound of an explosion or the buzz of the aircraft stays in the mind. The sound of an aircraft can send these children into severe panic attacks and anxiety,” Dr. Ashish confirmed.

Jalal Al-Omeisi, a pediatric nurse at the Psychiatric and Neurological Hospital in Sana`a told MintPress that most of the cases that arrive at the hospital are from areas subjected to intensive Saudi Coalition raids, such as Sana`a, Hodeida, and Saada, as well as the border areas. Al-Omeisi went on to say that most medics lack the training to deal with the complex psychological issues that these children are developing.

Such experiences in children go well beyond the temporary impact on their education and, without proper care and the knowledge necessary to address treat these psychological issues, many will suffer life-long consequences that hinder their ability to obtain an education. This is especially true in light of the lack of programs, centers or hospitals for the rehabilitation of war-affected children in Yemen.

Asking Americans to open their eyes

Schoolchildren living along Yemen’s porous border with Saudi Arabia and throughout its southern districts face a reality even more grim than that faced by their peers. Many are recruited or even forced to join the fight to defend the Saudi border via local trafficking networks, which funnel children into training and recruitment camps in the southern Saudi provinces of Jizan and Najran, as well as to Yemen’s southern districts.

According to a recent report by SAM, Saudi Arabia has been enlisting thousands of Yemeni children to fight along its southern border with Yemen over the past four years. Those have who died as a result of the fighting at the border are often buried in the Kingdom without their families’ knowledge. At least 300 had to have their limbs amputated as a result of their military injuries.

Yemen Child Soldiers

MintPress managed to speak to dozens of school-aged Yemeni children who were captured in a recent Houthi operation that saw thousands of militiamen, including dozens of schoolchildren, and Saudi officers taken into captivity. Fifteen-year-old Adel was among those captured. He left his home in the southern city of Taiz, chasing promises of a regular paycheck of up to 3,000 Saudi riyals ($800). Adel told MintPress: 

We were left alone in Wadi Abu to face our destiny. Older recruits were fleeing on pickup trucks and armored personnel carriers; Saudi airstrikes hit us as we were surrendering to the Houthis.”

Saudi warplanes targeted the captured mercenaries in Wadi Abu Jubarah, killing more than 300 of their own recruits.

Adel, who left school for the promise of a paycheck, went on to say, “Me and the others were recruited to wash the clothes of Saudi soldiers but they gave us rifles and forced us to go to battlefields.” When asked what he would do when freed, Adel said simply, “I want to go back to my mom and school. I don’t want to fight.”

The recruitment of Yemeni children by Saudi Arabia is not without precedent. Although the Kingdom signed the international protocol banning the involvement of children in armed conflict in 2007 and again in 2011, it was accused of recruiting Sudanese children from Darfur to fight in Yemen on its behalf as late as 2018.

Mohammed, who often visits the memorial to his classmates located only a few hundred meters away from his new school, said he will continue to attend school every day, regardless of how much bombing there is. He asked that Americans open their eyes to see what their weapons are doing to Yemen’s children.

Hong Kong, Kashmir, Palestine: Ruins of British empire on fire

By Hamid Dabashi

Source

The people of Hong Kong, Kashmir and Palestine have long histories of resistance to oppression.

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A demonstrator stands on a British flag during an anti-Israel rally in Karachi July 21, 2006 [File: Zahid Hussein/Reuters]

Continued mayhem in Palestine, increasing bloodshed in Kashmir, mass protest in Hong Kong – how do we connect these dots? Are they related?

Well, of course: The sun never set on the Union Jack! In the sunset of that empire – as is inevitable for all empires – chaos and turmoil were destined to follow.

“The world is reaping the chaos the British Empire sowed,” Amy Hawkins recently wrote in Foreign Policy, “locals are still paying for the mess the British left behind in Hong Kong and Kashmir.” The author left out Palestine, chief among places around the globe, where the British empire spread discord and enmity to ease its rule and prepare the ground for disaster after its exit.

Indeed, the anticolonial uprisings in the Indian subcontinent, China, the Arab world and elsewhere did not result in freedom or democracy for the nations ruled by the British Empire.

In Kashmir, the British left a bleeding wound amid the partition of colonial India.

In Palestine, they left a European settler colony and called it “Israel” to rule in their stead and torment Palestinians.

In Hong Kong, they left a major cosmopolis that is neither truly an independent entity, nor a part of mainland China.

They picked up their Union Jack and departed, leaving behind a ruinous legacy for decades and generations to bleed. Those consequences are not just historical and buried in the past. They are still unfolding.

When the sun finally set 

Ironically, today the United Kingdom is struggling to hold itself together, as the Brexit debacle tears it apart. One looks at the country and marvels at the poetic justice of wanton cruelty coming back to haunt the former empire.

The UK finds itself face to face with its imperial past, with the Irish and Scottish once again defying English nationalists and their schizophrenic belief in their own exceptionalism. How bizarre, how just, how amazing, how Homeric, is that fate!

We may, in fact, be witness to the final dissolution of the “United” Kingdom in our life-times. But there was a time when, from that very little island, they ruled the world from the Americas in the west to Asia and Australia in the east.

The terror of British imperialism – wreaking havoc on the world not just then but now as well – is the most historically obvious source that unites Hong Kong, Kashmir, and Palestine as well as the many other emblematic sites of colonial and postcolonial calamities we see around us today. But what precisely is the cause of today’s unrests?

In Hong Kong, Kashmir, and Palestine we have the rise of three nations, “baptised” by fire, as it were – three peoples, three collective memories, that have refused to settle for their colonial lot. The harsher they are brutalised, the mightier their collective will to resist power becomes.

Britain took possession of Hong Kong in 1842 after the First Opium War with China. It transformed it into a major trading and military outpost, and insisted on keeping it long after its empire collapsed. In 1997, Britain handed Hong Kong over to China, conceding to the idea of a “one country, two systems” formula that allows for a certain degree of economic autonomy for Hong Kong. But what both China and Britain had neglected to consider was the fact that a nation of almost eight million human beings throughout a long colonial and postcolonial history had accumulated a robust collective memory of its own, which was neither British nor mainland Chinese – it was distinct.

Kashmir came under British influence shortly after Hong Kong – in 1846, after the British East India Company defeated the Sikh Empire that ruled the region at that time. A century later, Kashmir was sucked into the bloody partition of India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the British departure from the subcontinent, with both post-colonial states having a mutually exclusive claim on its territory. Here, too, what India and Pakistan forget is the fact that almost 13 million Kashmiris have had a long history of countless troublesome colonial and postcolonial experiences, making Kashmir fundamentally different from either one of them.

The same is the case with Palestine, which fell under British rule in 1920 after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. Before the British packed their colonial possessions and left almost three decades later, they installed a successor settler colony in the form of a Zionist garrison state. Decades of unrelenting struggle against the barbarities of the British and the Zionists have left Palestinians in possession of one of the most courageous and steadfast histories of resistance to colonial domination.

Memories of resistance

In revolting against China, India, and Israel, these three nations in Hong Kong, Kashmir, and Palestine have become three nuclei of resistance, of refusal to let go of their homelands.

They have narrated themselves into a history written by powers who have systematically tried to erase them and their collective memories. “Homeland” is not just a piece of land. It is a memorial presence of a history.

Those memories, corroborated by an entire history of resistance to imperial conquest and colonial occupation have now come back to haunt their tormentors.

China, India, and Israel have to resort to naked and brutish violence to deny the veracity of those defiant memories, now evident as facts on the ground. In doing so, these powers have picked up where the British empire left off.

They too seek to terrorise, divide and rule, but by now those they try to subdue have mastered resistance; their struggle has outlived one imperial oppressor, it can surely survive another.

In other words, no amount of imperial brutality, settler colonialism or historical revisionism can make the distinct identities, memories and histories of these people disappear.

Today people in Palestine, Kashmir, and Hong Kong see themselves as stateless nations ruled with brutish military occupation. In the postcolonial game of state formation, they have been denied their national sovereignty.

The more brutally they are repressed and denied their sovereignty, the more adamantly they will demand and exact it.

Neither China in Hong Kong, nor India in Kashmir, nor Israel in Palestine can have a day of peaceful domination until and unless the defiant nations they rule and abuse achieve and sustain their rightful place in the world.

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