When you follow the gun trail, you sometimes end up in unexpected places

In a third exclusive clip from This Is Not A Movie, a documentary film by Yung Chang about the foreign reporting of Robert Fisk, Robert discusses how he followed the trail of weapons from the front lines of Syria to a small village in Bosnia

We’ve seen the west’s approach to Venezuela before – in Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, need I go on?

Instead of pleading with those who will not support him, the self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela might want to take a closer look at who his foreign friends are

By Robert Fisk

February 13, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –    The closest I ever came to Venezuela, many years ago, was a transit connection at Caracas airport. I noticed a lot of soldiers in red berets and a clutch of goons, and it reminded me, vaguely, of the Middle East.

Now, sitting in the rain squalls of the wintry Levant, I flick through my newspaper clippings of our recent local autocrats – Saddam, Assad, al-Sisi, Erdogan, Mohammed bin Salman (you can fill in the rest for yourself) – and I think of Nicolas Maduro.

The comparisons are by no means precise. Indeed, it’s not the nature of the “strongmen” I’m thinking about. It’s our reaction to all these chaps. And there are two obvious parallels: the way in which we sanction and isolate the hated dictator – or love him, as the case may be – and the manner in which we not only name the opposition as the rightful heir to the nation, but demand that democracy be delivered to the people whose torture and struggle for freedom we have suddenly discovered.

And before I forget it, there’s one other common thread in this story. If you suggest that those who want presidential change in Venezuela may be a little too hasty, and our support for – let us say – Juan Guaido might be a bit premature if we don’t want to start a civil war, this means you are “pro-Maduro”

Just as those who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq were “pro-Saddam”, or those who thought the west might pause before it supported the increasingly violent opposition in Syria were labelled “pro-Assad”.

And those who defended Yasser Arafat – over a long period a super-terrorist, a super-diplomat and then a super-terrorist again – against those who would oust him as leader of the Palestinians, were abused as “pro-Arafat”, “pro-Palestinian”, “pro-terrorist” and, inevitably, “anti-Semitic”. I recall how George W Bush warned us after 9/11, that “you are either with us or against us”. The same threat was made to us about Assad.

Erdogan has used it in Turkey (less than three years ago) and it was a common line in the forgotten 1930s used by none other than Mussolini. And now I quote Trump’s US secretary of state Michael Pompeo on Maduro: “Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side … either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem.”

You get the point. Now is the time for all good people to stand alongside the United States, the EU, the nations of Latin America – or do you support the Russkies, Chinese, Iranian headbangers, the perfidious Corbyn and (of all people) the Greeks? Talking of the Greeks, European pressure on Alexis Tsipras to conform to the EU’s support for Guaido – proving that the EU can indeed bully its smaller members – is a good argument for Brexiteers (though far too complex for them to understand).

But first, let’s take a look at our favourite tyrant, in the words of all who oppose him. He’s a powerful dictator, surrounded by generals, suppressing his people, using torture, mass arrests, secret police murders, rigged elections, political prisoners – so no wonder we gave our support to those who wish to overthrow this brutal man and stage democratic elections.

Not a bad precis of our current policy towards the Maduro regime. But I am referring, of course, word-for-word, to the west’s policy towards the Assad regime in Syria. And our support for opposition democracy there wasn’t terribly successful.

We were not solely responsible for the Syrian civil war – but we were not guiltless since we sent an awful lot of weapons to those trying to overthrow Assad. And last month the notepad of US national security advisor John Bolton appeared to boast a plan to send 5,000 US troops to Colombia

And now let’s tick the box on another Maduro-lookalike – at least from the west’s simplistic point of view: the military-backed elected field marshal-president al-Sisi of Egypt, whom we love, admire and protect. Powerful dictator? Yup. Surrounded and supported by generals? You bet, not least because he locked up a rival general before the last election. Suppression? Absolutely – all in the interest of crushing “terrorism”, of course.

Mass arrests? Happily yes, for all the inmates of Egypt’s savage prison system are “terrorists”, at least according to the field marshal-president himself. Secret police murders? Well, even forgetting the young Italian student suspected by his government to have been allegedly tortured and bumped off by one of Sisi’s top Egyptian cops, there’s a roll call of disappeared activists.

Rigged elections? No doubt about it, although al-Sisi still maintains that his last triumph at the polls – a cracking 97 per cent – was a free and fair election.

President Trump sent his “sincere congratulations”. Political prisoners? Well, the total is 60,000 and rising. Oh yes, and Maduro’s last victory – a rigged election if ever there was one, of course – was a mere 67.84 per cent.

As the late sage of the Sunday Express, John Gordon, might have said: it makes you sit up a bit. So, too, I suppose, when we glance a bit further eastwards to Afghanistan, whose Taliban rulers were routed in 2001 by the US, whose post-9/11 troops and statesmen ushered in a new life of democracy, then corruption, warlordism and civil war.

The “democracy” bit quickly came unstuck when “loya jurgas”, grand councils, turned into tribal playpens and the Americans announced that it would be an exaggeration to think that we could achieve “Jeffersonian democracy” in Afghanistan. Too true.

Now the Americans are negotiating with the “terrorist” Taliban in Qatar so they can get the hell out of the Graveyard of Empires after 17 years of military setbacks, scandals and defeats – not to mention running a few torture camps which even Maduro would cough to look at.

Now all this may not encourage you to walk down memory lane. And I haven’t even listed the sins of Saddam, let alone our continuing and cosy relationship – amazing as it still seems – with that Gulf state whose lads strangled, chopped up and secretly buried a US-resident journalist in Turkey.

Now just imagine if Maduro, tired of a journalist critic slandering him in Miami, decided to lure him to the Venezuelan embassy in Washington and top the poor guy, slice him up and bury him secretly in Foggy Bottom. Well now, I have a feeling that sanctions might have been applied to Maduro a long time ago. But not to Saudi Arabia, of course, where we are very definitely not advocating democracy.

“Now is the time for democracy and prosperity in Venezuela,” quoth John Bolton this week. Oh, yes indeed. Maduro runs an oil-soaked nation yet its people starve. He is an unworthy, foolish and vain man, even if he’s not Saddamite in his crimes. He was rightly described by a colleague as a dreary tyrant. He even looks like the kind of guy who tied ladies to railway lines in silent movies.

So good luck to Guaido. Palpably a nice guy, speaks eloquently, wise to stick to aid for the poor and fresh elections rather than dwell on just how exactly Maduro and his military chums are going to be booted out.

In other words, good luck – but watch out. Instead of pleading with those who will not support him – the Greeks, for example – he might take a closer look at who his foreign friends are. And do a quick track record on their more recent crusades for freedom, democracy and the right to life. And by the way, I haven’t even mentioned Libya.

This article was originally published by The Independent“-

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 The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Spare Me U.S. Tears For Jamal Khashoggi – This Excuse For Trump-bashing Ignores The CIA’s Past Crimes

A generation ago, the CIA’s ‘Operation Phoenix’ torture and assassination programme in Vietnam went way beyond the imaginations of the Saudi intelligence service. And have we forgotten about the thousands of Muslims still perishing under our bombs and missiles and mortars?

By Robert Fisk

December 06, 2018 “Information Clearing House” –     Can I be the only one – apart from his own sycophants – to find the sight of America’s finest Republicans and Democrats condemning the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia for murdering Jamal Khashoggi a bit sickening? “Crazy”. “Dangerous”. A “wrecking ball”. A “smoking saw”. These guys are angry. CIA director Gina Haspel, who was happy to sign off on the torture of her Muslim captives in a secret American prison in Thailand, obviously knew what she was talking about when she testified about Mohammed bin Salman and the agony of Jamal Khashoggi.

US government leaks suggest that Haspel knew all about the shrieks of pain, the suffering of Arab men who believed they were drowning, the desperate pleading for life from America’s victims in these sanctuaries of torment in and after 2002. After all, the desperate screams of a man who believes he is drowning and the desperate screams of a man who believes he is suffocating can’t be very different. Except, of course, that the CIA’s victims lived to be tortured another day – indeed several more days – while Jamal Khashoggi’s asphyxiation was intended to end his life. Which it did.

A generation ago, the CIA’s “Operation Phoenix” torture and assassination programme in Vietnam went way beyond the imaginations of the Saudi intelligence service. In spook language, Khashoggi was merely “terminated with maximum prejudice”. If the CIA could sign off on mass murder in Vietnam, why shouldn’t an Arab dictator do the same on a far smaller scale? True, I can’t imagine the Americans went in for bone saws. Testimony suggests that mass rape followed by mass torture did for their enemies in Vietnam. Why play music through the earphones of the murderers?

But still it goes on. Here’s Democrat senator Bob Menendez this week. The US, he told us, must “send a clear and unequivocal message that such actions are not acceptable on the world’s stage”. The “action”, of course, is the murder of Khashoggi. And this from a man who constantly defended Israel after its slaughter of the innocents in Gaza.

So what on earth is going on here? Perhaps the “world’s stage” of which Menendez spoke was the White House – an appropriate phrase, when you come to think about it – where the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has been no stranger. Yet when at least one recent US presidential incumbent of that high office can be considered guilty of war crimes – in Iraq – and the deaths of tens of thousands of Arabs, how come American senators are huffing and puffing about just one man, Mohammed bin Salman, who (for a moment, let us set aside the Yemen war) is only being accused of ordering the murder and dismemberment of one single Arab?

After all, world leaders – and US presidents themselves – have always had rather a soft spot for mass murderers and those who should face war crimes indictments. Trump has infamously met Kim Jong-un and invited him to the White House. We are all waiting for Rodrigo Duterte to take up his own invitation.

Obama lavished hospitality at the White House on a host of bloody autocrats – from Gambia, Burkina Faso and Cameroon – before we even recall Suharto, whose death squads killed up to half a million people; and Hosni Mubarak, whose secret police sometimes raped their prisoners and who sanctioned the hanging of hundreds of Islamists without proper trials, and his ultimate successor, Field Marshal-President al-Sisi, who has around 60,000 political prisoners locked up in Egypt and whose cops appear to have tortured a young Italian student to death. But Giulio Regeni wasn’t murdered in an Egyptian consulate. This list does not even include Ariel Sharon, who as Israeli defence minister was accused by an Israeli inquiry of personal responsibility for the massacre of 1,700 Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Chatila camps in Beirut in 1982.

So what is this “clear and unequivocal message” that senator Menendez is rambling on about? The message has been clear and unequivocal for decades. The US “national interest” always trumps (in both senses) morality or international crime. Why else did the United States support Saddam Hussein in his attempt to destroy Iran and his use of chemical warfare against Iran? Why else did Donald Rumsfeld plead with Saddam in December 1993 to allow the reopening of the US embassy in Baghdad when the Iraqi dictator (a “strongman” at the time, of course) had already used mustard gas against his opponents? By the time Rumsfeld arrived for his meeting, more than 3,000 victims had fallen amid Iraqi gas clouds. The figure would reach at least 50,000 dead. Which is, in mathematical terms, Jamal Khashoggi times 50,000.

Yet we are supposed to recoil with shock and horror when Haspel – who might herself have a few admissions to make to senators on other matters – suggests that America’s latest favourite Middle Eastern tyrant knew about the forthcoming murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Does Menendez think that Saddam hadn’t signed the death sentences of thousands of Iraqi men and women – which, as we know from his later “trial”, he did – before meeting Rumsfeld? Or that Duterte, who has compared himself to Hitler, doesn’t sign off on the killing of his murdered drug “suspects”? Or that Suharto had absolutely nothing to do with half a million murders in Indonesia?

It’s instructive, indeed, that the thousands of innocents killed in the Yemen war, an offensive undertaken by Mohammed bin Salman himself with logistical support from the US and UK – and it doesn’t need Haspel to tell us this – hasn’t exactly left US senators shocked. Just another bunch of Arabs killing each other, I suppose. Starvation didn’t get mentioned by the senators emerging from Haspel’s closed hearing. Yet the senators know all about the mosque bombings, wedding party bombings, hospital bombings and school bombings in Yemen. Why no tears for these innocents? Or is that a bit difficult when the US military – on every occasion by accident, of course – has bombed mosques, wedding parties, hospitals and schools in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria?

No, the shock and horror and the need for full disclosure about the Saudis is primarily about Trump, and the need to tie him in to the cruel murder of a Washington Post journalist and US resident whose gruesome demise has been blamed by the American president upon a “vicious world”.

But there is something more than this, the appalling fact – albeit only a folk memory, perhaps, for many with scarcely any institutional memory at all – that 15 of those 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, that Osama bin Laden was a Saudi, that George W Bush secretly flew bin Laden family members out of the US after 9/11, that the Saudis themselves are heir to a blighted, rural, cruel version of Sunni Islam – based on the pernicious teachings of the 18th century Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab​ – which has inspired the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Isis and all the other killer cults whom we have proclaimed to be the West’s Enemy No 1.

Nailing Mohammed Bin Salman to a crucifix – a method of execution favoured by the Wahhabis – is an easy kill for US senators, of course. You hit the president and smash those unhappy historical details all in one fell swoop.

But don’t bank on it. Oil and arms are a potent mix. Old Abd al-Wahhab’s home is protected in a new tourist haunt in the suburbs of Riyadh. Come to think of it, the national mosque of Qatar – hostile to rapacious Saudi Arabia but another recipient of US weapons and a supporter of Islamist forces in Syria and Iraq – has a capacity for 30,000 souls, was built only seven years ago and is named after Abd al-Wahhab himself.

This is the dangerous world in which America and its allies now tread, disdainful of the thousands of Muslims who perish under our bombs and missiles and mortars – proxy-delivered by those we should distrust – ignorant of the religious currents which rumble on beneath our feet and beneath the House of Saud. Even the virtually useless information Haspel learned in the CIA’s “black centres” could have told senators this. If they had bothered to ask.

This article was originally published by  The Independent ” 

 

Bush & Blair’s Iraq war was key that opened door to Syria’s current hell

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The ruins of buildings near the Clock Square in Raqqa, Syria, October 18, 2017 © Reuters / Erik De Castro

By John Wight
Source

As with the Vietnamese people, so with the Syrians. Their struggle against imperialism and hegemony has earned them a place at history’s table that can never be relinquished. Because, if you penetrate beyond the obfuscations peddled by Western ideologues, the conflict in Syria at its core has been anti-imperialist in character.

The hell visited on Syrian society has been in many respects a continuation of the hell visited on Iraq in 2003, after 13 years of sanctions had already killed two million of its people, including half a million children.

During this sanctions period, former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, in a rare moment of candor for a functionary of the empire, provided us with an invaluable insight into the pristine barbarism which lurks behind the mask of democracy and human rights that such people usually wear for the purposes of confusing the public mind as to who and what they truly are.

The interviewer, Lesley Stahl, put it to Albright that half a million Iraqi children had died due to the sanctions, and asked if she thought the price “is worth it.” Albright without hesitation answered Yes. “We think the price is worth it.

Getting to the grips with the beast of Western hegemony obligates us to grapple with the salient truth that Albright’s grotesque and perverse worldview, providing her with the ability to insouciantly account for the murder by sanctions of half a million Iraqi children, is the same worldview which drove the US war against Vietnam, that has underpinned the six decades of economic warfare against the Cuban people, the covert military interventions in South and Central America in the 1980s, support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan over the same period, and the ongoing effort to effect regime change in Venezuela.

It is also, be in no doubt, the thinking that informed the West’s approach to Libya in 2011 when the country’s difficulty presented itself as their opportunity.

In other words, it is the worldview of those so sick with the ideology of hegemony there is no monstrous act, no crime or slaughter that cannot be undertaken in its cause, necessitating the abstraction of millions of lives as mere flotsam and jetsam in order to justify their suffering as a “price worth paying.”

Returning to Iraq in 2003, the scourge of Salafi-jihadism that has scarred Syrian society was hatched in the course of that war, wherein ISIS (Islamic State) began life as Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) under one Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. According to Stanford University, an institution not hitherto known to be a hotbed of pro-Assad sentiment, this particular history unfolded thus:

The Islamic State (IS), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) is a Salafi-jihadist militant organization in Syria and Iraq whose goal is the establishment and expansion of a caliphate. The group has its origins in the early 2000s, when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi began training extremist militants. The group was a major participant in the Iraqi insurgency during the American occupation, first under the name Jama’at al-Tawhid wa’al-Jihad and then, after swearing fealty to Al-Qaeda, as Al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

This reason why this trajectory is so important to reaffirm, and why it must detain us, is to emphasize that the roots of what later befell Syria were planted in Iraq by the US-led war unleashed there in 2003. Bush and Blair’s war was the key that unlocked the gates of hell out of which this medieval barbarism sprung to devastating effect. Those who believe otherwise, such as former US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, would do well to ponder that without Iraq being pushed into the abyss of societal collapse, carnage and resulting sectarian bloodletting, the Salafi-jihadism of al-Zarqawi et al would have been denied the conditions required to feed its growth and spread.

Washington not Damascus or Moscow created and incubated the Frankenstein’s Monster of ISIS, in the same laboratory of US imperialism in which the Khmer Rouge was created in the 1970s and Al-Qaeda in the 1980s.

What Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s, Afghanistan in the 1980s, and Syria today have in common, of course, is Moscow’s stance. It is a matter of historical record that without Soviet (Russian) aid to the Vietnamese in the 1960s and 70s, they would not have prevailed, and it is likewise a matter of record that the grim fate to befall Afghanistan in the 1990s was predicated on the forced withdrawal of Soviet forces as the country began to flounder under the weight of the internal contradictions that were to lead to its demise.

Though the cost to the world of the end of the Soviet Union will never be compensated – measured not only in the medieval abyss into which Afghanistan was plunged, but also in the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and the aforementioned decimation of Iraq – without Moscow’s recovery to the point of being able to intervene militarily in Syria in 2015, Damascus today would be occupying a place in the same graveyard.

Iran and Hezbollah have also played an indispensable role in the struggle for Syria’s survival, expending blood and treasure in the event, while the Syrian Arab Army’s sacrifice has been immeasurable.

The glorification of war and conflict, especially among those living safely many miles away from its horrors and brutality, conceals and sanitizes its bitter truths. Those who do glorify it, who view it in the manner of a parlor game, should take a moment to study and imbibe the words of Jeannette Rankin, who said: “You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.”

The war in Syria confirms the abiding truth of those words when we take into account the mammoth destruction it has wrought, the tragic human cost, and how it has shaken Syrian society to the very limits of endurance. It means that while the country’s survival as an independent non-sectarian state may by now be certain, its ability to fully recover from the earthquake Rankin describes is something only time will tell.

But the fact that the country has managed to achieve its survival and, with it, the opportunity to recover, is predominately the achievement of the Syrian Arab Army, whose complexion is a microcosm of the very society and people it has defended – Sunnis, Shia, Druze, Christians, Alawites, etc.

Robert Fisk, whose reports from Syria since the conflict began have been indispensable in helping us navigate its trajectory, informs us that something of the order of 70-80,000 Syrian soldiers have perished. This constitutes a staggering toll in a country whose army stood at 220,000 at the start of the conflict. More crucially, it is a toll that could not possibly have been borne without the solid support of the Syrian people for the army and its government, led by President Bashar Assad, over these past eight years.

Idlib is now the last bastion of militant-held territory in the country and, though of course folly to count chickens, by all accounts events on the ground point inexorably to the complete liberation of the country sooner rather than later. Yet isn’t it an interesting study in the space that exists between the ideology and reality of Western hegemony and unipolarity that not one mainstream journalist has joined the obvious dots between ascribing rebel status to the assorted Salafi-jihadist groups whose conception of a society is a living hell, and the government and armed forces fighting to prevent it from coming into being.

This is never better illustrated than the fact that not one Western journalist denouncing the Syrian government and its motives during the war would have dared to set foot within so much as an inch of militant-held territory, knowing that if they did they would be peremptorily abducted, tortured and slaughtered.

In which direction Syria heads after the fighting ends is without reservation a matter for its people. It is hard to believe that it could hope to return to the status quo that existed before, though, not after the elemental suffering and sacrifice that has been endured and made by so many.

One thing that is quite certain: the nation and society that began life as a colonial construct has, over the course of the conflict, rallied at a seminal point in its history to assert the right never to be colonized by anyone again.

Roger Waters: “You want to start a war with the Russians? Are you crazy?”

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Roger Waters: Israel Is Anti-Semitic

The Saker

August 28, 2018

Translated by Scott Humor

Roger Waters – about his upcoming concerts in Russia, his humanitarian activities and conflict with the “White helmets.”

source: An exclusive interview for the Izvestia newspaper.

At the end of August, Roger Waters, one of the founders of Pink Floyd, will visit Russia as part of his Us+Them World Tour, and the audience in Moscow and St. Petersburg will be able to see his new show. In the capital, the concert will be held at the Olympic stadium on August 31st. On the eve of the concerts, the legendary rock musician talked to the portal iz.ru about things that are common for Russians and Americans, why he opposes demonization of Russia, and reveals some plans on jogging in Moscow.

Q: First, I want to ask you about the upcoming concert. Your show, including its special effects, got a very positive feedback. Some even suggest that you should get an Oscar for it. How did you prepare for this project and how much time it took for you to get it all together?

A: It all started a couple of years ago when a music company Goldenvoice from California asked me to perform in Palm Springs at the Desert Trip music festival. Paul Tollet, the head of the company, had an idea to organize a festival like Coachella, which is held in spring and where I performed back in 2008. But this time he wanted the event to take place in autumn with a small number of performers.

As a result, he planned the performance of six bands, three of which were headliners. I think his idea was to collect The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, and on the sidelines to put Bob Dylan, Neil Young and the band The Who. It was just a crazy idea! Paul (McCartney) contacted me and asked me to represent Pink Floyd, and I agreed. McCartney said, “you’ll be the Beatles, that’s all right.”

At the end we had a performance. I think it was a great opportunity to do something extraordinary. The Desert Trip was the starting point of what we are doing now. It was then I first proposed an idea of having a scenery in the form of the recreated Battersea Power Station at concerts — it became a kind of symbol of the military-industrial complex, which I do not approve of because of its destructive power.

Then the model of the power plant went with us to concerts in Mexico City, and now we are thinking how to get the power plant decorations to appear on stage of indoor venues. I think that in Russia, in Moscow and in St. Petersburg, this part of the performance will be presented.

Q: Have you prepared something special for concerts in Russia? Will they be any different from the other concerts of your tour?

A: We try to do something special for each country. For example, during the show a flying pig appears, circling over the Battersea power station, with a sign saying: “Stay human or die.” We want to translate this inscription into the Russian language.

Also, throughout the concert and during intermissions we will show what difficulties people face in the current conditions, and the careless attitude to human lives that is so prevailing now. We are trying to remind that the world is teetering on the verge of complete disappearance, which can happen, among other things, because of the current struggle against the Russians.

We have stood on the brink of an Apocalypse so many times since 1945. It is simply insane that ordinary people from all over the world cannot come together and demand the destruction of all nuclear weapons, including weapons possessed by Israel. Israel refuses to admit, but it is obvious that they also have it. This is a very dangerous and strange game played by the leaders of the superpowers. We, ordinary citizens, must say: “No, we don’t want this game.” The same is true of climate change. And this once again shows that we are heading towards disappearance of all living creatures. It’s all people’s fault. Is this the life we really want?

By the way, this (Is this the life we really want. ed.) is one of my songs from my last album, from which we will play a few songs at the concert.

Q: A huge number of people listen carefully to your every word. When you called organization the “White helmets” fake, media around the world wrote about this. How did you come to this conclusion?

A: This is a very important question. It happened at a concert in Barcelona last April. Two important events took place then: first, in the evening of April 7th the “White helmets” released a video shot in the Syrian city of Duma. It was a footage of a hospital with many masked children who were being soaked with water all over, and the authors of the video claimed that it was the consequences of a chemical attack.

Based on this video, Donald Trump with his characteristic infantile stupidity, as well as Theresa May and Macron decided to launch a joint bombing attack on Syria. The US, UK and France made this decision based on this one video. And it was obvious that it was a fake, that there was no chemical attack, now we know it for sure. All this happened on April 7, the news came on the 8th, and it so happened that my concert was just that evening.

Then I was approached by a guy, a Frenchman, to support the “White Helmets”. He asked whether it is possible for them to go on stage and to speak in support of the “children of Syria.” I said, ” No, you can’t.” There are too many serious questions about this organization.

Many of their materials were found to be obvious lies. As for Duma, the militants, the jihadists were already leaving the city. With the Syrian army attacks it was obvious that they wouldn’t be able to hold the city, for more than two days. A day later, two journalists arrived at the scene: Robert Fisk from the Independent newspaper and Pearson Sharp from a very conservative Christian television company in Texas. There were no other journalists at that time in Duma.

PEARSON SHARP JOURNALIST IN DOUMA ‘No chemical attack’

They both visited this hospital, talked to the doctors and residents, who weren’t associated with Assad and the Syrian government. They all said the same thing. According to them, the medical personnel stated that there was no chemical attack. No one died in Duma the day it was supposed to happen, not a single person. Because the video claimed that there were about 50 or 60 dead, and the doctors said that the hospital had some people with breathing problems, but these problems were caused by the dust, because of the war activities. That’s why I said from the stage that this is all a falsification and we, the citizens of the United States, France and the UK, should demand from our governments to stop bombing a foreign state based on unproven claims.

This is just an episode of a propaganda war trying to demonize Putin, Assad, Iran and so on. Therefore, we need to be extremely careful and attentive. I said something similar at my concert in Oslo. If there was any evidence that the White Helmets were an organization of ordinary Syrians who wanted to help their fellow citizens, I would support them fully, I would apologize deeply to them. And I’d really like to be wrong about them (the WH).

But, it appears that all the messages that came from the occupied Aleppo pointed out that they were just militants. This is what witnesses say. Now it’s easy to find any information, if you do not follow the general propaganda line.

Q:  Had they offered you money to support them?

A: They tried to attract me in London, a few years back. But I said “no.” Because there are people who are dealing in oil, and they would like to overthrow Assad, and to take everything over. I don’t care about people like that! The whole world policy is based on the protection of human rights, but at the same time — and that’s really pisses me off — they do not care about the people who live there, who were forced to flee, because it became impossible to live there.

Q:  Now, that the conflict in Syria nears its end and the situation is stabilizing. But this war also was the war of fakes and disinformation. When the war in Syria is over, do you think we will be able to find out what was fake and what was true?

A: I don’t know. In general, the winners write history. It’s hard to come back and to revisit the past wars. The Allies rewrote the history of World War II. Some people do research, of course, if they are interested. It requires to study many documents and it’s hard to get to the truth, considering how much is kept secret.

Q: You will come to Russia at a difficult for us time, do you think there will be people who say that you are going to the enemy’s lair?

A: Why would you say that Russia goes through some difficult time, now?

Q: We have the sanctions, “the case of the Skripals”, provocations in Syria and so on…

A: But why does it have to complicate life in Russia? It’s all nonsense. The attack on the Skripals is nonsense. It’s obvious even for those with part of the brain. Many must have no brain at all if they believe this absurdity! I would like to say to the entire world:

“Do you want to start a war with the Russians? What are you, crazy? Do you know who you’re dealing with? The Russians liberated you from the Nazis at the cost of 20 million lives of their countrymen! Do you want to fight them? What have they done to you? What are you talking about?”

The same should be said about Ukraine. Victoria Nuland, (official representative of the US state Department in 2011-2013. Ed. iz.ru) it’s all her fault, she organized it all, and now the country is divided into two parts. I don’t know how Ukraine will get out of this situation, but to blame Russia for this is ridiculous. However, the Americans are good at it, and people believe them, because they control the media and they can twist the situation to benefit themselves.

I myself believe that we won’t have a war with Russia. Russians are brave, persistent and resolute people.  You have a really big and very powerful country.

Q: So, it wasn’t difficult for you to decide to come to Russia?

A: Of course not. People write to me saying that since I am always trying to dissuade artists from performing in Israel, how come I am going to Russia? The Russians have asked me by the thousands to pay attention to how things are going inside the country. The Palestinians also asked me to help to draw the world’s attention to their problems. And I answer those requests.

This concerns the rights and freedoms of citizens. You have a problem with that. But this is your country, and it’s up to you to decide what to do. If you love Putin, then please, it’s not my business! If you don’t love him, it’s none of my business, neither! It’s up to you to choose the government you want.

Q: In the Arab-Israeli conflict, you openly support Palestine. You, as far as we know, even had a conflict with musician Tom York about it. We have a similar situation in Russia with Crimea: some rock stars are still arguing about the status of the peninsula. What do you think about it?

A: I’m not very good at geopolitics. I know that Sevastopol is very important for Russia and Russians. There are many treaties and backed securities, according to which Russia has all rights for this city. The change of power in Ukraine, planned by Washington, just provoked Moscow to further action.

But what I want to say is that now the political elite of the United States does not understand the true meaning of the agreements. They constantly break them and declare that they can do whatever they want. This position scares me because someday it will just kill us all.

Q: Last time you visited Russia seven years ago. After the World Cup, many positive things were said about our country. Even the British fans have noted surprising to them Russian hospitality. Do you expect any surprises from this visit?

A: No, because I have already been to Russia, read your literature and understand your culture. The demonization of Russia, the Russian people and Putin is sad. After all, this isn’t done to fight Russia. This is done to control their own citizens and to earn more money.

Q: A rather philosophical question about your song called The Wall. What kind of walls are being erected in the world now, and what walls are crumbling down?

A: I don’t really understand what you mean by crumbling walls. In fact, now there are now two obvious walls. The first is the wall in Israel, where people’s land, Palestinian land, is being stolen from poor people. And the second is a ridiculous wall on the border with Mexico, which Trump is going to build. It’s absurd, you can’t just stop people who want to cross the border.

We must always remember that no matter what we look like and how we live, we are all brothers and sisters, we are all of the same blood. We are not made to fight against each other. We must help each other in difficult times. This is especially true now, when crowds of refugees are leaving Syria, Libya and West Africa. No matter where they run from, the main thing is that we are to blame. We broke the system down.

And I’m not just talking about Pro-Western forces, I’m talking about all the empires that have ruined everything. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find a force that can help us to organize ourselves and to teach us how to respond to humanitarian crises in a human way. After all, any pressure provokes reciprocal aggression.

It’s like being in a bar when you’re standing and someone’s staring at you and coming closer and closer, raising his fist, and then you’re like, “Hey, you, take it easy. Do you really want a fight?” And all this can really end in a big conflict, and it will be a tragedy. A tragedy for no reason. The only reason for all wars is money.

People who benefit from wars are psychos and sociopaths with no sense of empathy. They do not understand that the pleasure in life lies in the ability to love each other, not in the ability to kill each other. This is something I pay attention to during my show.

Q: You always address the problems of humanity. Which is important. These things are easy to understand, but you keep talking about those issues throughout your life, but it just gets worse… How do you feel about it?

A:  A few years ago, in Washington I was interviewed by your colleagues from the Russia Today. I told them:

“Imagine, we are sitting here, and suddenly all the light go off and electromagnetic waves come. That would mean a hydrogen weapon was used a few hundred miles from here. And in this moment, we might understand that this is it, the end of everything. Who will be interested in all these political disputes, then?

Q: Last question. How do you manage to stay in such good shape?

A: I go to the gym. I have to stay in shape, otherwise, I won’t be able to do what I’m doing right now. I go with my friend: yesterday we ran in the park and today I worked out.

Q: Are you going to run in Moscow parks too?

A: It is a good idea. Running at my age is hard, but necessary, to recharge my batteries, to get myself a boost. I would advise everyone to do some sport activities. The main goal for majority of people is work. We are ready to die at work. But the rich enjoy sports using our money! It’s absolutely great to run in the park and look at birds, instead of sitting in front of the TV at home on the couch. Go to the gym, exercise, or just take a walk!

——-
Comment by the Saker: first, I want to say that it is a big joy for me to see one of my favorite composers, musicians and singers speak up on behalf or Russia and, even more so, on behalf of common sense.  Especially at a time when Russian singers like Boris Grebenshchikov and Iuri Sevchuk display a total lack of moral compass or care and spend all their time either bashing Putin (Sevchuk) or partying with the worst russophobic scum like Saakashvili (Grebenshchikov).  I wrote about this disgraceful behavior here.  As for western singers, let’s not even go there.  They are more concerned with transgender toilets or banning firearms then about an openly Nazi regime in the Ukraine (or in Israel, for that matter).  Generally, I think that artists should stay out of politics because being a good artist does not necessarily qualify you to comment on issues where you have no expertise in whatsoever.  Roger Waters, however, is unique in that 1) he does have the courage to go against the hyper-politically-correct fad of the day and that 2) he has always looked at social, civilizational and political issues, which brings him very close the the Russian tradition of poets and authors being the “conscience of the nation”.

The Ukronazis are, of course, absolutely furious and they have immediately declared that Waters is a “criminal”.  See here for more details on the latest Ukronazi hysterics.  The original Ukie page is here: https://myrotvorets.center/criminal/uoters-rodzher/ (with some Ukropop music with Nazi slogans to boot!).

It is good to see that honest men still exit.

The Saker

‘Assadist list’ nothing more than McCarthyism paired with ‘hoodwink’ science

George Galloway
George Galloway was a member of the British Parliament for nearly 30 years.
He presents TV and radio shows (including on RT).
He is a film-maker, writer and a renowned orator.
‘Assadist list’ nothing more than McCarthyism paired with ‘hoodwink’ science

 

To paraphrase those Hollywood actors when dragged before the arc-lights of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC): “I am not now nor have I ever been an Assadist.”

In the long stand-off between Syria and Iraq, with all its ruinous consequences, I was with Iraq. Between 1980 and 2002 – 22 years – I never set foot in Syria and wouldn’t have been welcome if I had. I have a house named after the Beirut Palestinian refugee camp Tel al-Zaatar which was razed to the ground by the Syrians [Phalange party/Lebanons Forces/Arafat] with many residents massacred. My first ever solidarity mission – more than 40 years ago – was to collect bagpipes for the orphans’ band from Tel al-Zaatar.

Side Bar

  • In his biographical profile of Yasser Arafat, The broken revolutionary, Robert Fisk writes: “When he needed martyrs in 1976, he called for a truce around the besieged refugee camp of Tel el-Zaatar, then ordered his commanders in the camp to fire at their right-wing Lebanese Christian enemies. When, as a result, the Phalangists and “Tigers” militia slaughtered their way into Tel el-Zaatar, Arafat opened a “martyrs’ village” for camp widows in the sacked Christian village of Damour. On his first visit, the widows pelted him with stones and rotten fruit. Journalists were ordered away at gunpoint.”
  •  The Real Story of Tel al-Zaatar

I met the late president Hafez Assad only once – at a World Peace Conference in Damascus where I shared the stage with him, Yasser Arafat and others. I was 26 years old.

I have met the now-president Bashar Assad only twice – both times in formal meetings.

I have zero relations with the government in Syria and never have had. In fact I denounced sections of the regime under examination by Michael Mansfield QC in an inquest not that long ago.

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©

It’s true that in the existential battle for the Syrian Arab Republic between the Assad government and its motley array of enemies I have stood foursquare with the Republic. It’s true that in a fight between the Assad forces and the head-chopping, heart-eating Islamist fanatics of Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and the alphabet soup of extremism they have spawned, I stand with the former rather than the latter. But then what sentient being without an ulterior agenda wouldn’t?

It’s true I have said that Assad is being targeted by imperialism, not for the bad things about his political system, but for the opposite reasons.

The West is not against authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, to the contrary – all of its best friends are such. The West is not against one-party – even one-family – rule in the Middle East, to the contrary – we have preferred them, armed them and had the closest possible relations with such states in the Middle East for a 100 years. The West is not against rigged elections in the Middle East, to the contrary. We have facilitated them ever since such farcical elections began.

Syria as been targeted by imperialism and its local satrapies for other reasons. Because of its historic relationship with Russia, it has been the victim of a proxy war, in effect a war against Russia by other means.

Because it refuses to make a surrender peace with Israel, giving up in the process its sovereign territory on the illegally annexed Golan Heights.

Because it refuses to break relations with the Lebanese resistance, and with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Because it refused to allow its territory to be used as a back-door entry into Iraq to facilitate the Anglo-American illegal invasion and occupation of its neighbor.

For all these reasons I repeat what I have said many times: the Syrian Arab Republic is the last castle of Arab dignity.

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© Omar Sanadiki

But none of that makes me an Assadist. It just makes me an enemy of his enemies.

Yet I have made the Assadist List, compiled by a student scribbler, a Kester Ratcliff, whose name needn’t detain us for long. He is his masters’ voice and his masters are whom we should focus on.

Mind you I am in good company on the list. My friend, Right Honourable Jeremy Corbyn PC MP, Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for one. The multiply-commended award-winning, regularly British Foreign Correspondent of the year Patrick Cockburn is another. The Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott MP is another. As is Mother Agnes Mariam De La Croix, the Mother Superior of the Monastery of St James the Mutilated in Syria. The veteran Trotskyite leader Tariq Ali, who led my first ever demonstration against the war in Vietnam in 1968 when I was 14 years old, is another.

The redoubtable American author and journalist Max Blumenthal is apparently an Assadist, as is the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, as is Noam Chomsky! Baroness Cox of the British House of Lords makes the list as does Ireland’s finest MP Clare Daly. The American comedian Jimmy Dore is an Assadist, don’t you know!

Britain’s best known foreign correspondent Robert Fisk makes the cut as does future US presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard. The world’s most famous journalist Seymour Hersh is there –  an Assadist, who’d a thunk it?

The quintessential English Christian gentleman newspaperman Peter Hitchens is too, as is the doyen of English journalism Simon Jenkins or, Sir Simon Jenkins FSA FRSL, to give him his Sunday name. An Assadist (if only the Queen had known when she tapped his shoulder with her sword at Buckingham Palace).

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FILE PHOTO: Members of the Civil Defence, also known as the 'White Helmets'. © Alaa al-Faqir

Boris Johnson, the erstwhile British Foreign Secretary – he’s an Assadist! (although possibly only because of his “foolishness”)

Owen Jones, the liberal milksop from the Guardian newspaper, who witch-hunted Mother Agnes from public platforms in England on the grounds SHE was an Assadist, well, you’ve guessed it, he’s an Assadist too (though a “milder” Assadist).

The British Shadow Foreign Secretary – a well known “Friend of Israel” – Emily Thornberry is an Assadist. As is the former Associate Editor of the Guardian, Seumas Milne.

I could go on, believe me, there are 151 of us – but you have probably already got the picture. This list of Assadists is a farrago of foolishness, a soupcon of silliness, a pile of what the Pope called at the weekend – “the material of the toilet bowl.”

As such it could be laughed off as the teenage student scribbling that it is.

But just like the McCarthyite witch-hunts in 1950s America, this kind of malignant list-making can have consequences for those listed. Many of those never worked or were able to travel again. For some on this list the potential consequences could be graver still. Some on the Assadist list should be subject to criminal sanctions, according to the author.

It is fitting perhaps that the list comes complete with a diagram which looks like the unhinged green-ink scrawling of a madman in a hospital for the criminally insane. It purports to map all of those listed as somehow connected even though many of us hate each other’s guts. I could make a diagram of the connections between the gun-runners, the financiers and the propagandists for the Jihadists and the crucifying Islamist Pol Pots doing their dirty work. Whilst it would make a more convincing case, ennui I’m afraid precludes it.

In any case the great Western effort to overthrow Assad and destroy the Syrian Arab Republic has failed. All their money, all their weapons, all the blood they shed have been to no avail – except for the hundreds of thousands of lives they destroyed. Come to think of it, a hospital for the criminally insane is perhaps the best place for the author and his patrons.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Journalist Exposes Western, Gulf Arming Terrorists in Syria

Global Research, August 20, 2018
Brandon Turbeville 6 August 2018

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In August of 2017, Bulgarian reporter Dilyana Gaytandzhievapublished a report in mainstream outlet Trud in her home country exposing the paper trail documenting the US, NATO, and Gulf countries were shipping weapons to terrorists in Syria. Gaytandzhieva’s reporting was the result of her own travels to Syria where she saw these documents firsthand and her subsequent follow-up investigation after her return home.

That article, “350 Diplomatic Flights Carry Weapons For Terrorists,” is still available and I highly recommend reading it now before going any further in this article.

Now, nearly a year to the day after Gaytandzhieva’s article was released (for which she was summarily fired), journalist Robert Fisk has conducted a similar investigation and come to similar conclusions. In his article for The Independent, “A Bosnian signs off weapons he says are going to Saudi Arabia – but how did his signature turn up in Aleppo?” Fisk traces back the numbers found on shell casings, mortars, and other weapons used by terrorists to their manufacturers in Bosnia and the United States. He writes,

In the basement of a bombed-out al-Qaeda arms storage building in eastern Aleppo last year, I found a weapons log book from a mortar factory in Bosnia – with the handwritten name of one of their senior officials, Ifet Krnjic, on each page. It was dispatched from the Balkans with a cargo of 500 120mm mortars in January 2016. But now, in the forested heart of central Bosnia, I have found Mr Krnjic, who says his company sent the arms to Saudi Arabia.

Sitting on the lawn of his home south of the weapons-manufacturing town of Novi Travnik, he brings his finger down onto the first page of the log book which I showed him. “This is my signature! Yes, that’s me!” Krnjic exclaims loudly. “It’s a warranty for the 120mm mortar launcher – this is Nato standard. It [the shipment] went to Saudi Arabia. It was part of a supply of 500 mortars. I remember the Saudi shipment well. They [the Saudis] came to our factory to inspect the weapons at the beginning of 2016.”

This is astonishing. Not only does Krnjic, the 64-year old newly retired weapons control director of the BNT-TMiH factory at Novi Travnik, acknowledge his signature – but he says he recalls the visits of Saudi officials and military personnel to inspect the mortars before their shipment to Riyadh, and insists all such sales were strictly in accordance with the legal end-user certificates which his company obtained from all customers, stating that the weapons were to be used only by the armed forces of the nations which purchased them.

Please note that Fisk’s article contains screenshots and photos of the documents in question. He continues,

Five-hundred mortars is a massive shipment of weapons – most European armies don’t have that many in their individual inventories – and some of them at least appear to have ended up in the hands of Bashar al-Assad’s Islamist Nusrah Front/al-Qaeda enemies in northern Syria within six months of their dispatch from Bosnia 1,200 miles away. Because the mortars left Bosnia on 15 January 2016 under a BNT-TMiH factory guarantee for 24 months – numbered 779 and with a weapons series number of 3677 – the documents now in The Independent’s possession must have reached Aleppo by late July of 2016, when Syrian government troops totally surrounded the enclave held by armed factions including Nusrah, Isis and other Islamist groups condemned as “terrorists” by the United States.

When The Independent asked the Saudi authorities to respond to the documents in its possession and their discovery in eastern Aleppo, the Saudi embassy in London replied that the Kingdom did not give “practical or other support to any terrorist organisation [including Nusrah and Isis] in Syria or any other country” and described the allegations raised by The Independentas “vague and unfounded”. It said Saudi Arabia had been a “leading voice within the international community in support of a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Syria, while at the same time working with our neighbours and allies to counter the growth of forces of extremism”. It made no comment on the weapon log book and arms control coupons, photographs of which The Independent had asked it to examine.

. . . . .

During this period, however, the city’s Islamist defenders – most of whom later departed under a promise of safe passage for jihadi-held areas of Idlib province – fired barrages of mortar shells at government-held western Aleppo.

In the weeks that followed the mid-December surrender of the fighters in eastern Aleppo, the square miles of wreckage remained sown with mines and booby-traps. There were whole districts still cordoned off when I entered three former military barracks of the Islamist groups in February 2017, rubble sometimes blocking my path; stones, bricks, sheet metal and bomb fragments strewn across the roads and inside still standing, though badly damaged, buildings. Inside one of these, lying half-concealed amid iron fragments and field dressings, I found piles of discarded documents containing firing instructions for machine guns and mortars, all of them in English.

They also included weapons shipment papers and arms instruction booklets from Bosnia and Serbia, the pages still damp from winter rains and some stained by footprints. I stuffed as many as I could in the satchel I always carry in wars, later finding – in another building – a Bulgarian weapons shipment paper for artillery shells. In a deep basement of a third building in the Ansari district, with the words Jaish al-Mujaheddin (Army of the Holy Fighters) crudely painted but still visible on the front, its upper floors clearly bombed by Syrian or Russian jets, lay dozens of empty boxes for anti-armour weapons, all marked with their maker’s name – the Hughes Aircraft Company, of California. The boxes were labelled “Guided Missile Surface Attack” with stock numbers starting with the computer code “1410-01-300-0254”.

These papers, some of them lying amid smashed guns and pieces of shrapnel, provide the most intriguing paper trail yet discovered of just who is producing the weapons that have armed the Assad regime’s most ferocious Islamist opponents – and how they apparently reach the fighters of Syria via countries ‘friendly’ to the west. While claiming that he would have to “search” for documents on the end-user of the 2016 mortar shipment, Adis Ikanovic, the managing director of the Novi Travnik factory, acknowledged to me in his head office that most of his company’s exports went to “Saudi Arabia, probably”. An email reminder to Ikanovic six days after our meeting, for copies of the 2016 end-user certificate papers for the mortar shipment, elicited no reply.

. . . . .

Milojko Brzakovic, managing director of the Zastava arms factory in Serbia, looks through the arms manuals I found in Aleppo – including a 20-page instruction document for the powerful Coyote MO2 machine gun which his company manufactures – and says “there is not a single country in the Middle East which did not buy weapons from Zastava in the past 15 years”. He agrees that the documents I presented to him, which included a 52-page manual for his company’s 7.62mm M84 machine gun, which I also found in the Aleppo ruins beneath a bombed apartment bloc which had ‘Nusrah’ painted in Arabic on its wall, were published by Zastava in Serbia, and that Saudi Arabia and the Emirates were among his customers.

Ifet Krnjic’s account of the mortar shipment from BNT-TMiH in Bosnia is both precise and detailed. “When the Saudis came to our factory to inspect at the beginning of 2016, there was a Saudi ‘minister’… and some Saudi officers who also came to inspect the weapons before receiving them. The officers wore civilian clothes. The minister was in a robe. All our production after the [Bosnian] war is under the control of the Americans and Nato who are always coming here… and they know each and every piece of our weapons which go outside our factory.”

Krnjic, who lives in the tiny village of Potok Krnjic, Bosnian hamlets sometimes carry the names of extended families, south of Novi Travnik, describes how he recognised Nato officers visiting the plant, one of them “a Canadian officer, a black guy whose name is Stephen”. Ikanovic, the BNT-TMiH boss, confirms that all weapons shipments, including those to Saudi Arabia, were checked by the European Union Force Althea (EUFOR), the successor to Nato’s SFOR, and set up under the 1995 Dayton accords which ended the Bosnian war. Ikanovic says an Austrian general visits his factory for inspections, identified to me by other employees as Austrian two star Major General Martin Dorfer, the EUFOR commander. Krnjic says weapons from the plant are exported by Tuzla airport or through Sarajevo.

The Saudis, Krnjic tells me, “were never complaining because we have had a very good reputation for a long time, not only for our weapons but for who can give the shortest delivery date… I know I should not say all of this, but Nato and the EU have given us the green light to do this. Ours is the only mortar that can shoot from asphalt. Each mortar has a base plate, but other base plates [from other countries’ mortars] break – they can only be used on soft ground. With ours, the mortars can also be carried in sacks – they are three shells, one barrel, you shoot at a building and then you disappear. Only Chinese mortars are better than ours – I saw them in Iraq.”

It transpires that although Krnjic has never visited Syria, he was employed in a weapons factory built by BNT-TMiH in Iraq in 1986, during the eight year Iran-Iraq war. “I was working inside the factory in Iraq – I wasn’t waging a war there” he says. “The factory there was more modern than ours [in Novi Travnik] – we were in Fallujah and Ramadi. By that time, we were already doing rocket launchers for Saddam, 260mm with a range of 500km. I saw Saddam three times.”

But Novi Travnik’s fortunes declined when the Bosnian war began in 1992, its once 10,000-strong workforce today reduced to fewer than 900. Much of the factory compound is now overgrown with rusted steel walls around some of its machine shops. Krnjic, a member of Bosnia’s Social Democratic Party and a veteran of the country’s civil war, retired from the company some months before Ikanovic was appointed managing director.

“I cannot export anything without a licence with the approval of five different ministers here in Bosnia, and it [the contract] is overlooked by Nato,” Ikanovic said. “We can only sell to countries which are on Nato’s ‘white list’.” Like Krnjic, and Brzakovic in Serbia, he says that his arms company must receive an internationally recognised end-user certificate for any arms export – but agrees that exporters had neither an obligation nor any way of preventing the further shipment of its weapons to third parties once they had arrived at their initial destination.

Fisk followed up his article with another entitled, “I traced missile casings in Syria back to their original sellers, so it’s time for the west to reveal who they sell arms to,” also published in The Independent. In that article he writes,

Readers, a small detective story. Note down this number: MFG BGM-71E-1B. And this number: STOCK NO 1410-01-300-0254. And this code: DAA A01 C-0292. I found all these numerals printed on the side of a spent missile casing lying in the basement of a bombed-out Islamist base in eastern Aleppo last year. At the top were the words “Hughes Aircraft Co”, founded in California back in the 1930s by the infamous Howard Hughes and sold in 1997 to Raytheon, the massive US defence contractor whose profits last year came to $23.35bn (£18bn). Shareholders include the Bank of America and Deutsche Bank. Raytheon’s Middle East offices can be found in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Egypt, Turkey and Kuwait.

There were dozens of other used-up identical missile casings in the same underground room in the ruins of eastern Aleppo, with sequential codings; in other words, these anti-armour missiles – known in the trade as Tows, “Tube-launched, optically tracked and wire-guided missiles” – were not individual items smuggled into Syria through the old and much reported CIA smugglers’ trail from Libya. These were shipments, whole batches of weapons that left their point of origin on military aircraft pallets.

Some time ago, in the United States, I met an old Hughes Aircraft executive who laughed when I told him my story of finding his missiles in eastern Aleppo. When the company was sold, Hughes had been split up into eight components, he said. But assuredly, this batch of rockets had left from a US government base. Amateur sleuths may have already tracked down the first set of numbers above. The “01” in the stock number is a Nato coding for the US, and the BGM-71E is a Raytheon Systems Company product. There are videos of Islamist fighters using the BGM-71E-1B variety in Idlib province two years before I found the casings of other anti-tank missiles in neighbouring Aleppo. As for the code: DAA A01 C-0292, I am still trying to trace this number.

Even if I can find it, however, I can promise readers one certain conclusion. This missile will have been manufactured and sold by Hughes/Raytheon absolutely legally to a Nato, pro-Nato or “friendly” (i.e. pro-American) power (government, defence ministry, you name it), and there will exist for it an End User Certificate (EUC), a document of impeccable provenance which will be signed by the buyers – in this case by the chaps who purchased the Tow missiles in very large numbers – stating that they are the final recipients of the weapons.

There is no guarantee this promise will be kept, but – as the arms manufacturers I’ve been talking to in the Balkans over the past weeks yet again confirm – there is neither an obligation nor an investigative mechanism on the part of the arms manufacturers to ensure that their infinitely expensive products are not handed over by “the buyers” to Isis, al-Nusra/al-Qaeda – which was clearly the case in Aleppo – or some other anti-Assad Islamist group in Syria branded by the US State Department itself as a “terrorist organisation”.

Of course, the weapons might have been sent (illegally under the terms of the unenforceable EUC) to a nice, cuddly, “moderate” militia like the now largely non-existent “Free Syrian Army”, many of whose weapons – generously donated by the west – have fallen into the hands of the “Bad Guys”; i.e. the folk who want to overthrow the Syrian regime (which would please the west) but who would like to set up an Islamist cult-dictatorship in its place (which would not please the west).

Thus al-Nusra can be the recipients of missiles from our “friends” in the region – here, please forget the EUCs – or from those mythical “moderates” who in turn hand them over to Isis/al-Nusra, etc, for cash, favours, fear or fratricidal war and surrender.

It is a fact, I’m sorry to recall, that of all the weapons I saw used in the 15-year Lebanese civil war (1975-1990), not one was in the hands of those to whom those same weapons were originally sold. Russian and Bulgarian Kalashnikovs sold to Syria were used by Palestinian guerrillas, old American tanks employed by the Lebanese Christian Phalange/Lebanese forces were gifts from the Israelis who received them from the US.

These outrageous weapons shipments were constantly recorded at the time – but in such a way that you might imagine that the transfers were enshrined in law (“American-made, Israeli-supplied” used to be the mantra). The Phalange, in fact, also collected bunches of British, Soviet, French and Yugoslav armour – the Zastava arms factory in the Serbian city of Kragujevac, which I have just visited, featured among the latter – for their battles.
In eastern Aleppo, who knows what “gifts” to the city’s surviving citizens in the last months of the war acquired a new purpose? Smashed Mitsubishi pick-up trucks, some in camouflage paint, others in neutral colours, were lying in the streets I walked through. Were they stolen by al-Nusra? Or simply used by NGOs? Did they arrive, innocently enough, in the lot whose documents, also found in Aleppo, registered “Five Mitsubishi L200 Pick Up” sent by “Shipper: Conflict, Humanitarian and Security Department (Chase), Whitehall SW1A SEG London”?

Of course they did – alongside the Glasgow ambulance I found next to a gas canister bomb dump on the Aleppo front line at Beni Zeid in 2016, whose computer codings I reported in The Independent at great length – five codings in all – and to which the Scottish Ambulance Authority responded by saying they could not trace the ambulance because they needed more details.

But back to guns and artillery. Why don’t Nato track all these weapons as they leave Europe and America? Why don’t they expose the real end-users of these deadly shipments? The arms manufacturers I spoke to in the Balkans attested that Nato and the US are fully aware of the buyers of all their machine guns and mortars. Why can’t the details of those glorious end user certificates be made public – as open and free for us to view as are the frightful weapons which the manufacturers are happy to boast in their catalogues.

It was instructive that when The Independent asked the Saudis last week to respond to Bosnian weapons shipment documents I found in eastern Aleppo last year (for 120mm mortars) – which the factory’s own weapons controller recalled were sent from Novi Travnik to Saudi Arabia – they replied that they (the Saudis) did not provide support of any kind “to any terrorist organisation”, that al-Nusra and Isis were designated “terrorist organisations” by Saudi Royal Decree and that the “allegations” (sic) were “vague and unfounded”.

But what did this mean? Government statements in response to detailed reports of arms shipments should not be the last word – and there is an important question that remained unanswered in the Saudi statement. The Saudis themselves had asked for copies of the shipment documents – yet they did not specifically say whether they did or did not receive this shipment of mortars, nor comment upon the actual papers which The Independent sent them.

These papers were not “vague” – nor was the memory of the Bosnian arms controller who said they went with the mortars to Saudi Arabia and whose shipment papers I found in Syria. Indeed, Ifet Krnjic, the man whose signature I found in eastern Aleppo, has as much right to have his word respected as that of the Saudi authorities. So what did Saudi Arabia’s military personnel – who were surely shown the documents – make of them? What does “unfounded” mean? Were the Saudis claiming by the use of this word that the documents were forgeries?

These are questions, of course, which should be taken up by the international authorities in the Balkans. Nato’s and the EU’s writ still runs in the wreckage of Bosnia and both have copies of the documents I found in Aleppo. Are they making enquiries about this shipment, which Krnjic said went to Saudi Arabia, and the shipping documents which clearly ended up in the hands of al-Nusra – papers of which Nato and the EU had knowledge when the transfer was originally made?

All of this information, however, was documented at least a year ago when Bulgarian reporter Dilyana Gaytandzhieva was provided leaked documents showing Azerbaijani airline Silk Way Airlines was trafficking weapons via diplomatic flights.

The report by Gaytandzhieva entitled, “350 Diplomatic Flights Carry Weapons For Terrorists,” blew the lid on a secret program to provide weapons to terrorists in Iraq and Syria as well as anti-Houthi militants in Yemen. Gaytandzhieva’s report claimed that the documents leaked to her by anonymous sources show that the Azberbaijani airline Silk Way Airlines was contracted by companies in the United States, Israel, and the Balkans to the militaries of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates as well as U.S. Special Ops. Gaytandzhieva’s own on-the-ground reporting also uncovered many weapons related to this secret trade in Aleppo after she had traveled there to investigate the story.

PLEASE NOTE: It is important to visit Gaytandzhieva’s original article in which she presents scanned copies of the documents sent to her. 

Although Gaytandzhieva’s report was months old, it gained wider traction in the alternative media after it was revealed she was subsequently interrogated by Bulgaria’s intelligence services and then fired from her newspaper because of the story.

Gaytandzhieva reported that at least 350 diplomatic flights by Silk Way Airlines (an Azeri state-run company) transported weapons all across the world to various war zones over the past three years. She writes that the planes carried “tens of tons of heavy weapons and ammunition headed to terrorists under the cover of diplomatic flights.” Gaytandzhieva stated that the documents implicating Silk Way Airlines were sent to her on Twitter by Anonymous Bulgaria.

She reported that the documents included correspondence between the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Azerbaijan to Bulgaria. They also include documents which were attached requesting clearance for overflight and/or landing in Bulgaria and many other countries in Europe as well as the United States, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey including others still.

According to Gaytandzhieva, the documents show Silk Way Airlines offering diplomatic flights to private companies and arm manufacturers in Israel, the Balkans, and the United States as well as the UAE, KSA, militaries and U.S. Special Ops Command (USSOCOM). The airline also offered its services to the militaries of Germany and Denmark in Afghanistan and to Sweden in Iraq.

According to Gaytandzhieva, the diplomatic flights were utilized because they are exempt from checks, taxes, and air bills. For that reason, she stated that the Silk Way planes transported “hundreds of tons of weapons to different locations around the world without regulation” and for free. The reporter wrote that the planes made stops ranging from a few hours up to a whole day for no logical reason i.e. repair, refueling, etc., thus lending further evidence that the planes were indeed shipping weapons as a primary mission.

Gaytandzhieva wrote that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) requires that “Dangerous Goods, Regulations, operators, transporting dangerous goods forbidden transportation by civil aircrafts, must apply for exemption for transportation of dangerous goods by air.” She stated that, according to the documents she received, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry sent instructions to its embassies in Bulgaria and other European countries requesting diplomatic clearance for Silk Way Airlines flights. The embassies then sent diplomatic notes to the Foreign Ministry of the host countries to request the exemption. The Foreign Ministry would then send back a note signed by the local civil aviation authorities granting the necessary exemption for the transport of the dangerous goods by air.

These requests, according to the documents and the report, included information about the type and quantity of the goods on board, listed as “heavy weapons and ammunition.” Still, Gaytandzhieva wrote, “the responsible authorities of many countries (Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Turkey, Germany, UK, Greece, etc.) have turned a blind eye and allowed diplomatic flights for the transport of tons of weapons, carried out by civil aircrafts for military needs.”

US Connection

The main customers of the “flights for weapons” program seem to be American companies which supply weaponry to the U.S. military and Special Operations Command. In the cases being addressed by Gaytandzhieva, however, all the weapons being transported are “non-Standard” weapons, meaning those not used by the U.S. military or Special ops.

According to the “register of federal contracts,” American companies were awarded contracts for $1 billion over the last three years under a program for “non-US standard weapons supplies.” According to the documents analyzed by Gaytanzhieva, all of these companies used Silk Way Airlines for the weapons transport. In some cases where Silk Way Airlines was too busy to accommodate shipment, Azerbaijan Air Force planes were used to transport the weapons. The weapons, however, never reached Azerbaijan.

Gaytanzhieva writes,

The documents leaked from the Embassy include shocking examples of weapon transport. A case in point: on 12th May 2015 an aircraft of Azerbaijan Air Forces carried 7,9 tons of PG-7V and 10 tons of PG-9V to the supposed destination via the route Burgas (Bulgaria)-Incirlik (Turkey)-Burgas-Nasosny (Azerbaijan). The consignor was the American company Purple Shovel, and the consignee – the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan. According to the documents, however, the military cargo was offloaded at Incirlik military base and never reached the consignee. The weapons were sold to Purple Shovel by Alguns, Bulgaria, and manufactured by Bulgaria’s VMZ military plant.

According to the federal contracts registry, in December of 2014 USSOCOM signed a $26.7 million contract with Purple Shovel. Bulgaria was indicated as the country of origin of the weapons.

On 6th June 2015, a 41-year old American national Francis Norvello, an employee of Purple Shovel, was killed in a blast when a rocket-propelled grenade malfunctioned at a military range near the village of Anevo in Bulgaria. Two other Americans and two Bulgarians were also injured. The US Embassy to Bulgaria then released a statement announcing that the U.S. government contractors were working on a U.S. military program to train and equip moderate rebels in Syria. Which resulted in the U.S. Ambassador in Sofia to be immediately withdrawn from her post. The very same weapons as those supplied by Purple Shovel were not used by moderate rebels in Syria. In December of last year while reporting on the battle of Aleppo as a correspondent for Bulgarian media I found and filmed 9 underground warehouses full of heavy weapons with Bulgaria as their country of origin. They were used by Al Nusra Front (Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria designated as a terrorist organization by the UN).

Another U.S. contractor involved in the same program for non-US standard military supplies is Orbital ATK. This company received $250 million over just the past two years. Information as to what type of weapons and to whom those weapons were supplied is classified.

According to the documents, Orbital ATK transported weapons on 6 diplomatic Silk Way Airlines flights in July and August of 2015 flying the route Baku (Azerbaijan)-Tuzla (Bosnia and Herzegovina)-Baku-Kabul (Afghanistan). The weapons were exported by IGMAN j.j. Konjic, (Bosnia and Herzegovina) commissioned by Orbital ATK. The consignee was the National Police of Afghanistan. Interestingly, all these diplomatic flights with weapons had technical landings and a 7 h 30 min stop at Baku before their final destination – Afghanistan.

Military aircrafts of Azerbaijan transported 282 tons of cargo (PG-7VL and other grenades) on 10 diplomatic flights in April and May 2017 to the destination Baku-Rijeka (Croatia)-Baku. The consignor was the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, and the consignee – Culmen International LLC, USA. This same company has been awarded two contracts ($47 million each) along with other contractors for non-US standard weapon supplies on 18 February 2016 and 19 April 2017 respectively. Culmen International LLC has also signed a $26.7 million contract for foreign weapons with the Department of Defense and a $3.9 million contract for newly manufactured non-US standard weapons.
Chemring Military Products is another main contractor in the program for non-US standard weapon supplies to the US army through diplomatic Silk Way Airlines flights. This military supplier has 4 contracts for $302.8 million in total. The weapons were purchased from local manufacturers in Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania and according to documents transported to Iraq and Afghanistan via diplomatic flights.

One of those flights in particular, on 18 October 2016, carrying 15.5 tons of 122 mm rockets bought by Chemring in Belgrade, Serbia, was diverted from its destination – Kabul, and instead landed in Lahore, Pakistan. After a 2-hour stop, the aircraft took off to Afghanistan. The only possible explanation for the extension of the flight by a thousand kilometers is offloading in Pakistan, even though documents stated that the cargo was destined for Afghanistan.

The largest non-US standard weapons supplier to the US army is Alliant Techsystems Operations-USA with contracts totalling $490.4 million. In December of 2016, this company transported tons of grenades (API 23×115 mm, HE 23×115 mm, GSH 23×115 mm) from Yugoimport, Serbia to the Afghani Defense Ministry on diplomatic flights to the destination Baku-Belgrade-Kabul.

The Saudi Connection

The United States is by no means the sole patron of Silk Way Airlines and the diplomatic cover business for arms transfers. As many as 23 diplomatic flights carrying weapons from Bulgaria, Serbia, and Azerbaijan to Riyadh and Jedda were utilized according to Gaytanzhieva’s investigation. The consignees were listed as VMC military plant and Transmobile of Bulgaria, Yugoimport in Serbia, and CIHAZ in Azerbaijan, according to the documents.

It must be noted that KSA was clearly not purchasing those weapons for itself because KSA only uses Western weapons. It seems obvious that, if the documents are accurate, the weapons were those being funneled to terrorists in Syria and Yemen. KSA also provides weapons to southern Africa where wars, civil wars, warlords, and terror are commonplace due to the region’s vast amounts of natural wealth.

Gaytanzhieva writes,

On 28 April and 12 May this year, Silk Way carried out two diplomatic flights from Baku to Burgas-Jeddah-Brazzaville (Republic of Congo). The military cargo on-board of both flights was paid for by Saudi Arabia, according to the documents leaked from Azerbaijan’s Embassy to Bulgarian sources. The aircraft made a technical landing at Jeddah airport with a 12 h 30 min stop for the first flight and 14 h stop for the second one.

The aircraft was loaded with mortars and anti-tank grenades including SPG-9 and GP-25. These very same weapons were discovered by the Iraqi army a month ago in an Islamic State warehouse in Mosul. Islamic State jihadists are also seen using those heavy weapons in propaganda videos posted online by the terrorist group. Interestingly, the consignee on the transport documents, however, is the Republican Guards of Congo.

Coyote machine gun 12,7х108 mm appeared in videos and photos posted online by militant groups in Idlib and the province of Hama in Syria. The same type of weapon was transported on a diplomatic flight via Turkey and Saudi Arabia a few months earlier.

In February and March of 2017, Saudi Arabia received 350 tons of weapons on Silk Way diplomatic flights flying to the route Baku-Belgrade-Prince Sultan-Baku. The cargo included 27 350 psc. 128-mm Plamen-a rockets and 10 000 pcs. 122 mm Grad rockets. The consignor was Tehnoremont Temerin, Serbia to order by Famеway Investment LTD, Cypruss.

On 5 March 2016, an Azerbaijan Air Force aircraft carried 1700 pcs. RPG-7 (consignor: Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan) and 2500 pcs. PG-7VM (consignor: Transmobilе Ltd., Bulgaria) for the Defense Ministry of Saudi Arabia. Diplomatic flights from Burgas Airport to Prince Sultan Airport on 18 and 28 February 2017 each carried a further 5080 psc. 40 mm PG-7V for RPG-7 and 24 978 psc. RGD-5. The weapons were exported by Transmobile, Bulgaria to the Ministry of Defense of Saudi Arabia. Such munitions and RPG-7 originating in Bulgaria can often be seen in videos filmed and posted by the Islamic State on their propaganda channels.

UAE Connection

UAE also uses western standard weapons for its military. However, it is also another country that purchased non-standard weapons which were then apparently transferred to a third party. Gaytanzhieva writes,

On three flights to Burgas-Abu Dhabi-Swaihan in March and April of 2017, Silk Way transported 10.8 tons of PG7VM HEAT for 40 mm RPG-7 on each flight with technical landing and a 2-hour stop in Abu Dhabi. The exporter is Samel-90, Bulgaria, the importer – Al Tuff International Company LLC. The latter company is involved with Orbital ATK LLC, which is the Middle East subsidiary of the American military company Orbital ATK. Although the ultimate consignee is the UAE army, the documents of the flight reveal that the sponsoring party is Saudi Arabia.

Cash And Carry

Gaytanzhieva reported that, on February 26, 2016, an Azeri Air Force plane took off from Baku and landed in UAE. At this point, it loaded two armored vehicles and a Lexus car. The payment, according to the “request for clearance” documents showed that the payment was made in U.S. dollars cash. The plane then landed in North Sudan and, the next day, it landed in the Republic of Congo. Safe Cage Armour Works FZ LLC., UAE was listed as the exporter and the Republican Guards of the Congo was listed as the receiving entity. Saudi Arabia was the sponsoring party.

White Phosphorous

Although not specifically considered a “chemical weapon” in the traditional sense, White Phosphorous is, in effect, a chemical agent. It is used largely for its smoke screening purposes but there is also a psychological element since contact with white phosphorous results in excruciatingly painful deep first, second, and third degree burns.

The use of white phosphorous over heavily populated civilian areas is prohibited under international law. In fact, white phosphorous is only allowed if the agent is being used for the purposes of masking or camouflage. If being used as a weapon, it is banned as a chemical weapon under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

With that in mind, Gaytanzhieva writes,

White Phosphorus is an incendiary weapon whose use is very controversial due to the deadly harms it can inflict. On 31 March 2015, Silk Way transported 26 tons of military cargo including white phosphorus from Serbia (exporter: Yugoimport) and 63 tons from Bulgaria (exporter: Arsenal). On 22 March, another 100 tons of white phosphorus were exported from Yugoimport, Belgrade to Kabul. No contract is attached to the documents of those flights.

On 2 May 2015, a Silk Way aircraft loaded 17 tons of ammunition, including white phosphorus, at Burgas airport. The exporter was Dunarit, Bulgaria. The aircraft made a technical landing and a 4-hour stop at Baku before reaching its final destination – Kabul. The consignee was the Afghani police. No contract is attached as proof.

Baku – The Secret Weapons Hub For The World

Although Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense is routinely listed as the consignee for weapons, it routinely did not receive the arms it was slated to obtain. For instance, according to Gaytandzhieva, on May 6, 2015, an Azeri military plane flew to Burgas, Bulgaria to Incirlik Turkey and back to Burgas. That flight carried aviation equipment from Bulgaria to Turkey with EMCO LTD, Sofia listed as the consigner and the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan listed as the consignee. The cargo, however, was unloaded in Turkey and never even touched down in Azerbaijan.

Gaytanzhieva asserts that some of the weapons carried on diplomatic Azeri flights were used by Azerbaijan against Nagorno-Karabakh against Armenia. Back in 2016, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of using white phosphorous but Armenia denied the Azeri allegations. Armenia accused Azerbaijan of making the story up for propaganda purposes. Indeed, she writes, the only evidence that Azerbaijan could produce was one unexploded grenade discovered by Azeri soldiers. She also asserts that documents from the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Sofia, Bulgaria showed that white phosphorous weapons were transported on a diplomatic flight via Baku in 2015.

She writes,

Baku plays the role of an international hub for weapons. Many of the flights make technical landings with stops of a few hours at Baku airport or other intermediary airports en-route to their final destinations. Moreover, these types of aircrafts flying to the same destinations do not typically make technical landings. Therefore, a landing for refueling is not actually required. Despite this, Silk Way aircrafts constantly made technical landings. A case in point: in December of 2015 Silk Way carried out 14 flights with 40 tons of weapons on each flight to the destination Ostrava (the Czech Republic)-Ovda (Israel)-Nososny (Azerbaijan). The exporter is not mentioned in the documents while the receiver is consistently the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan. Strangely, the aircraft diverted and landed at Ovda airport (a military base in Southern Israel), where it remained for 2 hours.

In 2017, there were 5 flights from Nish (Serbia) via Ovda (Israel) to Nasosny (Azerbaijan). Each flight carried 44 tons of cargo – SPG Howitzer, RM-70/85. The consignor is MSM Martin, Serbia, the consignee: Elbit Systems, Israel, and the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan. All aircrafts landed in Israel and stayed for 2 hours en-route to Azerbaijan.

The same Israeli company Elbit Systems on a flight from Barno (the Czech Republic) via Tel Aviv (Israel) to Bratislava (Slovakia) re-exported armored vehicles (TATRA T-815 VP31, TATRA T-815 VPR9). They were sent by Real Trade, Prague to Elbit Systems. The ultimate consignee, however, was the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan. The aircraft landed in Tel Aviv and then in Bratislava, where the cargo was imported by another company – MSM Martin, Slovakia. It is not clear why the plane flew from Europe to Asia and then back to Europe with the same cargo on-board. Ultimately, it did not reach its final destination – Azerbaijan. This type of aircraft, IL 76TD, can carry cargo of up to 50 tons. This one carried only 30 tons according to the documentation provided. Therefore, it could carry additional cargo of 20 tons. Since the flight was diplomatic, it was not subjected to inspection.

Burkina Faso’s Military Coup

Gaytanzhieva also draws a connection between diplomatic weapons flights landing in Brazzaville, Burkina Faso, dropping off non-standard weapons. A week after the weapons were dropped a coup was attempted in the country. She writes,

Some diplomatic flights carry weapons for different conflict zones crossing Europe, Asia and Africa. Such is the case with two Azerbaijan Air Forces flights to the destination Baku-Belgrade-Jeddah-Brazzaville-Burkina Faso on 30 August and 5 September 2015. The consignors were CIHAZ, Azerbaijan, and Yugoimport, Serbia. The consignee was the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Congo. The aircraft made two technical landings – in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The 41.2-ton cargo from Baku and Belgrade included: 7, 62 mm cartridges, 12 pcs. sniper rifles, 25 pcs. М12 “Black Spear” calibre 12,7х108 mm, 25 psc. RBG 40×46 mm/6M11, and 25 pcs. Coyote machine gun 12,7х108 mm with tripods. The same heavy machine gun appeared in videos and photos posted online by militant groups in Idlib and the province of Hama in Syria a few months later. The aircraft also carried: 1999 psc. M70B1 7,62х39 mm and 25 psc. М69А 82 мм. On 26 February 2016, a video featuring the same М69А 82 mm weapons was posted to Youtube by a militant group calling itself Division 13 and fighting north of Aleppo.

Interestingly, the aircraft that carried the same type of weapons landed in Diyarbakir (Turkey), 235 km away from the border with Syria. Another type of weapon, RBG 40 mm/6M11, which was from the same flight and supposedly destined for Congo too, appeared in a video of the Islamic Brigade of Al Safwa in Northern Aleppo.

After Turkey, the aircraft landed in Saudi Arabia and remained there for a day. Afterwards it landed in Congo and Burkina Faso. A week later, there was an attempted military coup in Burkina Faso.

The Kurdish Connection

Gaytanzhieva also documents how Kurdish groups such as the YPG have been receiving arms transporting by these secret diplomatic flights. She writes,

In March of 2017, over 300 tons of weapons were allegedly sent to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Northern Syria. Six diplomatic flights transported 43 tons of grenades on each flight from VMZ Military Plant, Bulgaria, to the Defense Ministry of Iraq. There are no contracts applied, however. On 28 March, 82 tons of cargo (AKM 7,62×39 mm and AG-7) were sent from Otopeni (Romania) to Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan). The consignor was Romtechnica S.A., the consignee – again the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad. No contracts are provided for this flight either.

On 16 March 2016, yet another Silk Way diplomatic flight carried 40 tons of military cargo from Slovenia to Erbil: the exporter is ELDON S.R.O., Slovakia, the importer – Wide City Ltd. Co, Erbil, the final consignee – the government of Kurdistan.

Wide City Ltd. Co has three offices – in Limassol (Cyprus), Sofia (Bulgaria) and Erbil. The office of the Bulgarian company Techno Defence Ltd is at the address in Sofia. On the website of the company, the owner of Techno Defense Ltd Hair Al Ahmed Saleh claims that he has an office in Erbil and that his company manufactures Zagros weapons in Azerbaijan (K15 zagros, 9×19 mm and automatic K16 zagros). These types of Zagros weapons appeared in propaganda footage posted by the military wing of the Kurdish PKK party, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey. The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliev is also an ethnical Kurd.

Gaytandzhieva states that she reached out to all sides for questions and statements on her investigation but never received an answer or comment.

Gaytandzhieva Fired From Newspaper After Questioning

Although the report was months old, Qatari-based al-Jazeera ran the story and revealed that Gaytanzhieva had been interrogated by the Bulgarian national security services and subsequently fired from her job with the paper. The reporter later tweeted and confirmed that she had indeed been questioned by security services and fired from her job.

Conclusion

Gaytandzhieva’s report was groundbreaking to say the least not simply because she exposed the fact that Western and gulf countries are procuring weapons for conflicts across the globe but also because she exposed the direct mechanism that they have undertaken to accomplish the weapons facilitation.

Her report exposed the fact that these weapons did not simply make it in to the hands of the moderate cannibals known as “rebels” by the Western corporate press but also into the hands of al-Qaeda and al-Nusra. In other words, these weapons found their way into the hands of ISIS since ISIS and Nusra/Qaeda are essentially the same organization.

Fisk’s report is also groundbreaking in that it has not only corroborated the work of Gaytandzhieva but also because it has unearthed further connections and shed light upon some of the exact players in the terrorist funding game.

Taken together, both reports show how NATO standard and non-NATO standard weapons are being shipped to Western-backed terrorists in Syria and how the rat lines of the war contain more than just rats but weapons as well.

*

Brandon Turbeville writes for Activist Post – article archive here – He is the author of seven books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom7 Real ConspiraciesFive Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President, and Resisting The Empire: The Plan To Destroy Syria And How The Future Of The World Depends On The Outcome. Turbeville has published over 1000 articles on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s radio show Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV. His website is BrandonTurbeville.com He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.

Syria Imposes New Rules of Engagement on Israel

by Sayed Hasan translated for the Saker Blog

May 12, 2018

Source : http://sayed7asan.blogspot.fr/2018/05/la-syrie-impose-de-nouvelles-regles-de.html

On Thursday 10th May 2018, an unprecedented exchange of strikes happened between Israel and Syria. The mainstream media, as well as some “alternative” media like Russia Today, were quick to relay the Israeli army version, according to which the Zionist entity “retaliated” to an “Iranian attack by Revolutionary Guards’ Al-Quds Force” consisting of “twenty rockets” fired at Israeli positions in the occupied Golan, four of which were “intercepted by the Iron Dome” and the others “crashed into Syrian territory”, no damage being recorded in Israel. Israel has reportedly responded to this unprecedented “act of aggression” by a “large-scale operation” that would have destroyed “the entire Iranian infrastructure in Syria”, in order to deter the Islamic Republic from any stray impulse of future strikes.

This narrative takes for granted the postulates, data and myths of the Zionist entity’s propaganda – which imposes permanent military censorship on the Israeli media, exposing any offender to a prison sentence; and reading the international media, one might get the idea that, like American economic sanctions, this censorship is extraterritorial – but none of them can withstand scrutiny.

The aggressor is undoubtedly Israel, who carried out more than a hundred strikes against Syria since the beginning of the conflict. After Duma’s chemical stage attacks, this aggresion intensified with attacks on the Syrian T-4 base on April 9, which killed 7 Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Following the US announcement of withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, new Israeli strikes targeted Syrian positions on Tuesday (May 8th) in the southern suburbs of Damascus, and Wednesday (May 9th) in Quneitra, in the south of the country. Undeniably, Syria has only responded to yet another aggression, with a firmness that has shaken Israel and forced it out of the muteness to which it usually confines itself.

The Syrian – and not Iranian – response consisted of more than fifty – and not twenty – rockets against four sensitive Israeli military bases in the occupied Golan, which caused material damage and even casualties according to Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s media. These were not reported by the Israeli press because of the draconian military censorship forbidding mentioning Israel’s initial aggression, more than twenty rockets fired on Israel, the identification of their targets and any hint to the damage inflicted, in order to reassure the population inside and allow the vassal Western capitals to shout their sickening refrain of the sacrosanct-right-of-Israel-to-defend-itself. The Lebanese channel Al-Mayadeen specifically identified the military posts struck: 1/ a military technical and electronic reconnaissance center; 2/ border security and intelligence station 9900; 3/ a military center for electronic jamming; 3/ a military spy center for wireless and wired networks; 4/ a transmission station; 5/ an observatory of precision weapons unit ; 6/ a combat heliport; 7/ the headquarters of the Regional Military Command of Brigade 810; 8/ the command center of the military battalion at Hermon; 9/ winter headquarters of a special alpine unit. And as this channel has reported, even Israeli journalists and analysts have expressed doubts about this unconvincing version according to which these massive strikes, unprecedented since 1974 and therefore unexpected, would have proved harmless. Moreover, as Norman Finkelstein pointed out, nothing has changed for Israel’s wars in Gaza from 2008 to 2014 despite the deployment of the “Iron Dome”, only 5% of the – largely primitive – Hamas rockets being intercepted during “Protective Edge”; and one of the best missile defense specialists, Theodore Postol of MIT, has already revealed the chronic deficiencies of this system. It is unlikely that it was able to cope better with the much more sophisticated Russian, Chinese and Iranian rocket launchers that Syria has.

The success of the Israeli strikes, which, according to Israeli War Minister Avigdor Lieberman, almost destroyed “all of Iran’s infrastructure in Syria”, is largely exaggerated: Russian military officials, whose radars have followed this fight in real time, announced that more than half of the 60 missiles fired by 28 Israeli F-15s and F-16s – as well as 10 ground-to-ground missiles – were intercepted. The Syrian army records 3 dead and 2 wounded, a radar station and ammunition depot destroyed and material damage to Syrian anti-aircraft defense units. The latter have already demonstrated their effectiveness against strikes from Tel Aviv, Washington, London and Paris, unlike the mythical “Iron Dome” whose main role is to reassure the Israeli population.

The very presence of Iranian military bases and / or large Iranian contingents in Syria is a fable: Iran has only a modest presence (essentially composed of military advisers, indeed from the body of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards), unlike Hezbollah or Russia. Robert Fisk points out that “an Israeli statement that the Iranians had missiles in Syria was surely made in concert with the Trump administration”, that the Iranian forces in Syria are “far fewer than the West imagines” and that all Israeli statements should be reported with the utmost circumspection. Any objective reporting on these events should resemble that of Robert Fisk: “The latest overnight Israeli air strikes, supposedly at Iranian forces in Syria after a supposed Iranian rocket attack on Israeli forces in Golan – and it’s important to use the “supposed” and not take all this at face value – must have been known to the Americans in advance.” Indeed, these so-called unexpected attacks had been announced for days by the Israeli army, which had already conducted a so-called “preemptive strike” – rather a provocation – on May 8.

The “red line” that this alleged Iranian presence would pose to Israel is belied by the fact that Tel Aviv has, since the beginning of the conflict, been steadily slowing the progress of the Syrian Arab Army and, using various pretexts (delivery of arms to Hezbollah, response to actual or suspected gunfire from the Golan Heights, etc.), assisting armed terrorist groups in any way possible: weapons, intelligence, airstrikes coordinated with ground offensives, medical care, etc. Israel, the only country in the world that officially does not fear anything (and indeed has nothing to fear) from ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the like, has seen the situation in Syria turn from a dream – see a myriad of terrorist groups tear down the only anti-Israeli Arab regime, back of the Resistance Axis, and bleed Hezbollah – into a nightmare – to face Hezbollah, Syrian and Iran forces more battle-hardened and powerful than ever, and allied with the Palestinian Resistance, Iraq and Yemen, as well as Russia –, is only continuing its destabilizing work under new pretexts, and more directly: Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, had announced that after the defeat of proxies in Syria, their sponsors could either give up or intervene more and more openly.

Iran, whose opposition to the racist and colonialist project of Israel has been a principle and even a dogma since the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, is not easily provoked into an ill-thought reaction, and has always preferred to act with patience for long-term objectives – let us remember its restraint after the massacre of Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan in 1998. The goal of Iran is not to carry out a simple reprisal operation to avenge his officers and soldiers deliberately (or accidentally, as was the case in Quneitra in January 2015) killed by Israel, but to work for the complete liberation of Palestine by putting an end to the illegitimate “Zionist regime”, just like the Apartheid regime in South Africa, which, by the way, collapsed after its military defeat in Angola and Namibia against Cuban mulattoes, then viewed with as much racism as Israeli Jewish supremacism considers ArabushimAs Hassan Nasrallah pointed out, Israel’s direct aggression against Iranian forces in Syria is a major turning point in the history of the Israeli-Arab – or rather, Israeli-Arab-Persian – conflict, and Israel must now get ready to confront the Iranian forces directly – whether in Syria, occupied Palestine or even elsewhere. Moreover, when the Iranian missiles enter the scene, they are launched from the territory of the Islamic Republic and with undeniable success, as shown by the strikes against ISIS at Deir-Ez-Zor on June 18, 2017, in retaliation for terrorist attacks in Tehran.

As we can see, the reality cannot be more different from the fable that has been propagated by the majority of the media. “Journalists” who tamely take over Israel’s talking points turn into IDF propaganda outlets and mere agents of Netanyahu’s “diplomacy of lies”. Israel is indeed constantly lying to the world – and, increasingly, to its own people. And when its reckless actions have disastrous repercussions, it publishes hasty and contradictory communiqués in which it presents itself both as a victim and as a hawkish punisher, while also claiming, through Lieberman and via Russia, to have no intention of stepping into an escalation and hoping things will stop there – proclaiming the success of its retaliatory strikes is also a way to say it does not want/need to go any further. The international media contented itself with repeating these statements immediately after the first attacks, without any critical distance. Rational actors like Iran, Syria and Hezbollah – or Russia – are not in such a hurry to speak out and confirm or deny other’s claims, leaving their opponents getting entangled in their lies, and trusting in the primacy of the battlefield that becomes more favorable to them day by day. Moreover, the fact that a bitter setback for Israel, which literally reverses the strategic situation, is transformed into a military success by Zionist and Atlantist propaganda, and combined with Israeli protests of non-belligerency, can only confirm the Resistance Axis in its choices.

Yoav Kish, a member of the Knesset quoted by Al-Manar, stressed that regardless of the author of the strikes and their results – that censorship forbade from mentioning –, it was a major shift in the history of the wars of Israel, which is being attacked from Syria. Indeed, the Golan military installations are now directly targeted as a result of Israeli aggressions, and not just the Israeli air force, which has already seen its finest – the F-16 – be shot down on February 10, 2018. The journalists and Israeli analysts also pointed out the psychological and economic repercussions of this incident, with more than 20,000 Golan settlers having had to hastily find their way back to the shelters in the middle of the night (how much will they be at the next escalation?), and the beginning of the summer period having been ushered in by a wave of hotel reservation deletions due to fears of a war between Israel and Iran. The Zionist entity, which unabashedly inflicts the greatest loss and damage to the Palestinians and its neighbors, is severely shaken by the slightest losses, unbearable for Israeli society.

The accusation against Iran is explained by essential factors (the inherent racism of Israeli society and its Prime Minister, who more willingly believe in a dangerousness of Persian Iran than in that of Arab Syria) and circumstantial – a refusal to assume the consequences of the suicidal policy of the Netanyahu government, which led him to a direct confrontation with the entire Resistance Axis, not to say with Russia. And most importantly, Israel wants to capitalize on Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal to advance its main obsession, much older than the Syrian crisis, namely Tehran’s ballistic program, which it wants the West to end with, exploiting the perennial nuclear pretext – let us remind that the manufacture, possession and use of nuclear weapons are unlawful in Islamaccording to Imam Khomeini and Ali Khamenei, supreme authorities in Iran. Netanyahu has made it clear that a war with Iran is inevitable, and that it would be better to happen now than later. Since 2005, he vainly strives for the United States to launch it for him, but no negotiation, sanction or aggression will ever deter Iran from its course. And just as the Israeli strikes on April 9, which were supposed to encourage Washington, London and Paris to conduct severe strikes on Syria, ended in a bitter failure, Israel only worsened its own situation yet again and finds itself alone in the face of the disastrous consequences of its actions, to the extent of the blind arrogance that triggered them.

What about Russia? Netanyahu’s presence in Moscow for the commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of the USSR’s victory against Nazism, and reports that Russia would not deliver the S-300s to Syria, must not mislead us. Russia has invested far too much in Syria to allow anyone – be it Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh or Ankara – to reduce its efforts to nothing. Moscow said it would no longer tolerate Western strikes against Syria in case of a new chemical weapons masquerade, and that it is ready to provide Damascus not necessarily with the S-300 anti-aircraft system, but, according to Sergei Lavrov, with “whatever is required to help the Syrian army to deter aggression.” The current Syrian defense systems have already proven their worth – Including the Pantsir, which is much more suited to the needs of the Syrian army –, and allow to envision the day when Israel loses its only advantage, namely the air supremacy – that already was to no avail in 2006 against Hezbollah or 2014 against Gaza –, without which its supposedly “invincible” ragtag army would literally crumble. Israel’s use of ground-to-ground missiles for the first time, and the concentration of attacks on Syrian anti-aircraft defenses – IDF released the video of the destruction of a Pantsir S-1 system, probably inactive – proves that it is well aware of its limitations.

It is obvious that Israeli aggressions against Syria will be increasingly costly, both for the Israeli air force and for its internal military bases and population, because of the determination of Syria and its allies (Hezbollah and Iran) to respond to any aggression, of their experience and new capabilities, and of their successes on the ground. The Resistance Axis – of which Russia is not a part – is now able to face Israel directly on its own, with a united front and without fear of escalation. As for Israel, already overwhelmed by the peaceful demonstrations in Gaza that must culminate on May 15, it is not ready for war against a single member of the Resistance Axis, let alone against several of them simultaneously. The new equation imposed by the Syrian army on May 10 is more fearsome for Israel than the prospect of the loss of another F-16, as Damascus has shown its determination to wage war on enemy territory, and to strike the Zionist entity in its depth.

The Resistance Axis will soon have its eyes fixed on the occupied Golan, that Syria has never given up liberating by armed struggle – a right conferred by international law itself, this territory being recognized as Syrian by all the international community: any Syrian operation there is a legal and legitimate act of resistance against Israel’s 1967 aggression in and subsequent occupation, even without further provocation. As early as May 2013, Hassan Nasrallah announced Hezbollah’s participation in the opening of a new frontline in Golan. In March 2017, the Golan Liberation Brigade was formed by Iraqi Hezbollah, Harakat al-Nujaba, a movement backed by Iran and involved in the liberation of Iraq and Syria from ISIS. Today, Syrian strikes in the occupied Golan unquestionably open up a new chapter in the history of the Israeli-Arab wars, in which Israel will increasingly be forced into a defensive position. Are we going to see the IDF building a wall on the border of the occupied Golan to hinder any future invasion, as is already the case on the Lebanese-Israeli border to prevent Hezbollah’s promised incursion into the Galilee? Anyway, the next war against Israel will drastically change the map of the Middle East.

 

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The Search for Truth in the Rubble of Douma

Robert Fisk

This is the story of a town called Douma, a ravaged, stinking place of smashed apartment blocks – and of an underground clinic whose images of suffering allowed three of the Western world’s most powerful nations to bomb Syria last week. There’s even a friendly doctor in a green coat who, when I track him down in the very same clinic, cheerfully tells me that the “gas” videotape which horrified the world – despite all the doubters – is perfectly genuine.

Douma

War stories, however, have a habit of growing darker. For the same 58-year old senior Syrian doctor then adds something profoundly uncomfortable: the patients, he says, were overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation in the rubbish-filled tunnels and basements in which they lived, on a night of wind and heavy shelling that stirred up a dust storm.

As Dr Assim Rahaibani announces this extraordinary conclusion, it is worth observing that he is by his own admission not an eyewitness himself and, as he speaks good English, he refers twice to the “jihadi” gunmen of Jaish el-Islam [the Army of Islam] in Douma as “terrorists” – the regime’s word for their enemies, and a term used by many people across Syria. Am I hearing this right? Which version of events are we to believe?

By bad luck, too, the doctors who were on duty that night on 7 April were all in Damascus giving evidence to a chemical weapons enquiry, which will be attempting to provide a definitive answer to that question in the coming weeks.

France, meanwhile, has said it has “proof” chemical weapons were used, and US media have quoted sources saying urine and blood tests showed this too. The WHO has said its partners on the ground treated 500 patients “exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals”.

At the same time, inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are currently blocked from coming here to the site of the alleged gas attack themselves, ostensibly because they lacked the correct UN permits.

Before we go any further, readers should be aware that this is not the only story in Douma. There are the many people I talked to amid the ruins of the town who said they had “never believed in” gas stories – which were usually put about, they claimed, by the armed groups. These particular “jihadis” survived under a blizzard of shellfire by living in other’s people’s homes and in vast, wide tunnels with underground roads carved through the living rock by prisoners with pick-axes on three levels beneath the town. I walked through three of them yesterday, vast corridors of living rock which still contained Russian – yes, Russian – rockets and burned-out cars.

So the story of Douma is thus not just a story of gas – or no gas, as the case may be. It’s about thousands of people who did not opt for evacuation from Douma on buses that left last week, alongside the gunmen with whom they had to live like troglodytes for months in order to survive. I walked across this town quite freely yesterday without soldier, policeman or minder to haunt my footsteps, just two Syrian friends, a camera and a notebook. I sometimes had to clamber across 20-foot-high ramparts, up and down almost sheer walls of earth. Happy to see foreigners among them, happier still that the siege is finally over, they are mostly smiling; those whose faces you can see, of course, because a surprising number of Douma’s women wear full-length black hijab.

I first drove into Douma as part of an escorted convoy of journalists. But once a boring general had announced outside a wrecked council house “I have no information” – that most helpful rubbish-dump of Arab officialdom – I just walked away. Several other reporters, mostly Syrian, did the same. Even a group of Russian journalists – all in military attire – drifted off.

It was a short walk to Dr Rahaibani. From the door of his subterranean clinic – “Point 200”, it is called, in the weird geology of this partly-underground city – is a corridor leading downhill where he showed me his lowly hospital and the few beds where a small girl was crying as nurses treated a cut above her eye.

“I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred meters from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”

Oddly, after chatting to more than 20 people, I couldn’t find one who showed the slightest interest in Douma’s role in bringing about the Western air attacks. Two actually told me they didn’t know about the connection.

But it was a strange world I walked into. Two men, Hussam and Nazir Abu Aishe, said they were unaware how many people had been killed in Douma, although the latter admitted he had a cousin “executed by Jaish el-Islam [the Army of Islam] for allegedly being ‘close to the regime'”. They shrugged when I asked about the 43 people said to have died in the infamous Douma attack.

The White Helmets – the medical first responders already legendary in the West but with some interesting corners to their own story – played a familiar role during the battles. They are partly funded by the Foreign Office and most of the local offices were staffed by Douma men. I found their wrecked offices not far from Dr. Rahaibani’s clinic. A gas mask had been left outside a food container with one eye-piece pierced and a pile of dirty military camouflage uniforms lay inside one room. Planted, I asked myself? I doubt it. The place was heaped with capsules, broken medical equipment and files, bedding and mattresses.

Of course we must hear their side of the story, but it will not happen here: a woman told us that every member of the White Helmets in Douma abandoned their main headquarters and chose to take the government-organized and Russian-protected buses to the province of Idlib with the armed groups when the final truce was agreed.

There were food stalls open and a patrol of Russian military policemen – a now optional extra for every Syrian ceasefire – and no-one had even bothered to storm into the forbidding prison near Martyr’s Square where victims were supposedly beheaded in the basements. The town’s complement of Syrian interior ministry civilian police – who eerily wear military clothes – are watched over by the Russians who may or may not be watched by the civilians. Again, my earnest questions about gas were met with what seemed genuine perplexity.

How could it be that Douma refugees who had reached camps in Turkey were already describing a gas attack which no-one in Douma today seemed to recall? It did occur to me, once I was walking for more than a mile through these wretched prisoner-groined tunnels, that the citizens of Douma lived so isolated from each other for so long that “news” in our sense of the word simply had no meaning to them. Syria doesn’t cut it as Jeffersonian democracy – as I cynically like to tell my Arab colleagues – and it is indeed a ruthless dictatorship, but that couldn’t cow these people, happy to see foreigners among them, from reacting with a few words of truth. So what were they telling me?

They talked about the “Islamists” under whom they had lived. They talked about how the armed groups had stolen civilian homes to avoid the Syrian government and Russian bombing. The Jaish el-Islam had burned their offices before they left, but the massive buildings inside the security zones they created had almost all been sandwiched to the ground by air strikes. A Syrian colonel I came across behind one of these buildings asked if I wanted to see how deep the tunnels were. I stopped after well over a mile when he cryptically observed that “this tunnel might reach as far as Britain”. Ah yes, Ms May, I remembered, whose air strikes had been so intimately connected to this place of tunnels and dust. And gas?

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

فيسك: ما تعرض له السكان في دوما يوم الهجوم الكيميائي المزعوم كان نقصا حادا في الأوكسجين

أكد الكاتب الصحفي البريطاني روبرت فيسك أن حملة الأكاذيب التي أثارتها عدد من الدول الغربية بشأن هجوم كيميائي مزعوم في مدينة دوما بالغوطة الشرقية لم تجد من يدعمها في المدينة مع تأكيد طبيب من سكان المدينة نفسها أن الضحايا المزعومين للهجوم كانوا يعانون من نقص حاد في الأوكسجين نتيجة عاصفة غبارية وليس التسمم بالغاز “الكيميائي”.

وقال فيسك في مقال نشره في صحيفة الاندبندنت البريطانية تحت عنوان “البحث عن الحقيقة بين أنقاض دوما”:إنه وخلال لقاء أجراه مع طبيب يدعى عاصم رحيباني من سكان دوما كشف الأخير أن الأشخاص الذين ظهروا كمرضى في أشرطة الفيديو التي صورت الهجوم المزعوم وتم الترويج من خلالها لإصابتهم بأعراض التسمم بغاز كيميائي كانوا في حقيقة الأمر يعانون “من نقص الأوكسجين نتيجة عاصفة غبارية”.

وينقل فيسك عن الطبيب رحيباني قوله في تلك الليلة: “لقد كنت مع عائلتي في المنزل على بعد 300 متر من المشفى لكن كل الأطباء يعلمون ما جرى.. في تلك الليلة كانت هناك اشتباكات وهبت رياح قوية مصحوبة بغيوم ضخمة من الغبار بدأت تتسلل إلى الأقبية والسراديب حيث يقطن الناس وبدأ الناس يصلون إلى المشفى وهم يعانون من نقص الأوكسجين وفجأة صرخ رجل في باب المشفى وهو من (الخوذ البيضاء).. غاز.. وحصل هلع بين الناس وبدأ الناس يرشون الماء على بعضهم البعض.. نعم لقد حصل تسجيل الفيديو هنا ولكن الناس كانوا يعانون من نقص في الأوكسجين وليس من التسمم (بالغاز) “.

وتابع فيسك إنه “ينبغي على القراء أن يدركوا أن رواية الطبيب ليست الوحيدة بهذا المضمون حيث أكد الكثير من الاشخاص الذين التقيتهم في دوما أنهم لا يثقون بروايات الغاز” التي روج لها الإرهابيون.

ولفت فيسك إلى أن ما يسمى “الخوذ البيضاء” التي تتلقى الدعم والتمويل من وزارة الخارجية البريطانية كان لها دور كبير في عمليات المجموعات الإرهابية لافتا إلى أنه اطلع على مكاتب هذه المجموعة في دوما ورأى داخلها اقنعة للغاز ولباسا عسكريا إضافة إلى كبسولات ومعدات طبية مكسورة وملفات.

بدوره انضم “بيرسون شارب” مراسل قناة “ون أميركا نيوز نيتوورك” الأميركية إلى فيسك في تفنيده لرواية الهجوم الكيميائي المزعوم في دوما مؤكدا أنه لم يعثر على أي آثار لمثل هذا الهجوم وقال: إن “السكان المحليين الذين التقاهم هناك لم يروا أو يسمعوا شيئا عن هذا الحادث”.
وأشار شارب إلى أن أحد الأطباء الذي وجد في مستشفى المدينة في يوم الهجوم المزعوم أخبره أن مجموعة من الأشخاص المجهولين اقتحمت المستشفى في السابع من نيسان الماضي زاعمة وقوع هجوم كيميائي وعمد هؤلاء إلى صب الماء على أشخاص أحضروهم إلى المستشفى مصورين كل شيء بواسطة آلة التصوير ثم غادروا المستشفى.

وكانت العديد من الوثائق التي عثر عليها الجيش العربي السوري في المناطق التي حررها من الإرهاب حيث تعمل جماعة “الخوذ البيضاء” كشفت ارتباطها العضوي بالتنظيمات الإرهابية ودعمها لها وخصوصا “جبهة النصرة” بالترويج لاستخدام الأسلحة الكيميائية ضد المدنيين وهذا ما حدث في الغوطة الشرقية بريف دمشق عدة مرات وفي مناطق بحلب لاتهام الجيش العربي السوري.

بينما أكد الكاتب الأميركي كارتا لوتشي أن جماعة “الخوذ البيضاء” ليست إلا “واحدة من المسرحيات الأميركية المضللة للرأي العام وهي منظمة مشبوهة”.

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If I Were MBS, I’d Be Cynical About This Visit

Robert Fisk

08-03-2018 | 10:52

Thank heavens Theresa May is giving a warm welcome today to the illustrious Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, His Royal Majesty Mohammad bin Salman. For it is meet and right that she should do so. His Royal Highness is a courageous Arab reformer, keen to drag his wealthy nation into the 21st century in a raft of promises – women’s rights, massive economic restructuring, moderate Islam, further intelligence gathering on behalf of the West and an even more vital alliance in the “War on Terror”.

MBS

Thank God, however, that Theresa May – in her infinite wisdom – is not going to waste her time greeting a head-chopping and aggressive Arab Crown Prince whose outrageous war in Yemen is costing thousands of lives and tainting the United Kingdom with his shame by purchasing millions of dollars in weapons from May to use against the people of Yemen, who is trying to destroy his wealthy Arab brothers in Qatar and doing his best to persuade the US, Britain and sundry other Westerners to join the Saudi war against the Shias of the Middle East.

You see the problem? When it comes to money, guns and power, we will cuddle up to any Arab autocrat, especially if our masters in Washington, however insane, feel the same way about him – and it will always be a “him”, won’t it? And we will wash our hands with them if or when they have ceased to be of use, or no longer buy our weapons or run out of cash or simply get overthrown. Thus I can feel some sympathy for young Mohammad.

I have to add – simply in terms of human rights – that anyone who has to listen to Theresa “Let’s Get On With It” May for more than a few minutes has my profound sympathy. The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, a very intelligent Richelieu, must surely feel the same impatience when he listens to the patently dishonest ramblings of his opposite number. Boris Johnson’s contempt and then love for the Balfour Declaration in the space of less than 12 months is recognized in the Arab world as the cynical charade that it is.

Human rights groups, Amnesty and the rest are angrily calling Crown Prince Mohammad to account this week. So are the inevitable protesters. Any constable who raises a baton to keep order will be “doing the Saudis’ work”, we can be sure. But I fear that the Crown Prince should be far more concerned by the Government which is now groveling to his leadership. For he is dealing with a Western power, in this case the Brits. And the only advice he should be given in such circumstances is: mind your back.

A walk, now, down memory lane. When Gaddafi overthrew King Idris, the Foreign Office smiled upon him. A fresh face, a safe pair of hands with an oil-bearing nation whose wealth we might consume, we thought Gaddafi might be our man. The Americans even tipped him off about a counter-coup, just as we much later helped Gaddafi round up his opponents for torture. Then Gaddafi decided to be an anti-colonial nationalist and eventually got mixed up with the IRA and a bomb in a West Berlin nightclub – and bingo, he became a super-terrorist. Yet come the “War on Terror” and the invasion of Iraq, Gaddafi was kissed by the Venerable Blair and became a super-statesman again. Until the 2011 revolution, at which point he had to become a super-terrorist once more, bombed by NATO and murdered by his own people.

Talking of Iraq, Saddam had a similar experience. At first we rather liked the chap and the Americans even tipped him off on the location of his communist opponents. He was a head-chopper, to be sure, but as long as he invaded the right county, he was a super-statesman. Hence we helped him in his invasion of Iran in 1980 but declared him a super-terrorist in 1990 when he invaded the wrong country: Kuwait. And he ended up, like Gaddafi, killed by his own people, albeit that the Americans set up the court which decided to top him.

Yasser Arafat – not that we even think of him these days – was a Palestinian super-terrorist in Beirut. He was the center of World Terror until he shook hands with Yitzhak Rabin and Bill Clinton, at which point he became a super-statesman. But the moment he refused to deviate from the Oslo agreement and accept “Israeli” hegemony over the West Bank – he was never offered “90 per cent” of it, as the American media claimed – he was on the way to super-terrorism again. Surrounded and bombarded in his Ramallah hovel, he was airlifted to a Paris military hospital where he conveniently died. The “Israelis” had already dubbed him “our bin Laden”, a title they later tried to confer on Arafat’s luckless successor Mahmoud Abbas – who was neither a super-terrorist nor a super-statesman but something worse: a failure.

It should not be necessary to run through the other Arab transmogrifications from evil to good to evil again. Nasser, who helped to overthrow the corrupt King Farouk, quickly became a super-terrorist when he nationalised the Suez Canal and was called the “Mussolini of the Nile” by Eden – a slightly measly comparison when you remember that Saddam became the “Hitler of the Tigris” in 1990. [His eminence Imam] Khomeini was a potential super-statesman in his Paris exile when the Shah was overthrown. Then he became a super-terrorist-in-chief once he established the Islamic Republic. The French Jacobins thought that Hafez al-Assad was a potential super-statesman but decided he was a super-terrorist when Bashar al-Assad – lionized in France after his father’s death – went to war on his opponents, thus becoming a super-terrorist himself. The Brits quickly shrugged off their loyalties to Omani and Qatari emirs when their sons staged coups against them.

Thus Mohammad bin Salman, may his name be praised, might be reminded by Adel al-Jubeir as he settles down in London: “Memento homo”, the gladiator’s reminder to every emperor that he is only “a man”. What if the Yemen war is even bloodier, what if the Saudi military become increasingly disenchanted with the war – which is almost certainly why the Crown Prince staged a putsch among his commanders last month – and what if his Vision2030 proves a Saudi South Sea Bubble? What if the humiliated and vexatious princes and billionaires he humbled in the Riyadh Ritz Hotel come to take their revenge? What if – dare one speak his name? – a future British prime minister reopened the Special Branch enquiry into the Al-Yamamah arms contract? And, while we’re on the subject, what if someone discovers the routes by which US weapons reached Isis and their chums after 2014?

Or a real war breaks out with Iran? Please note, no mention here of the Sunni-Shia struggle, the 2016 butchery of Shia opponents in Saudi Arabia – most described as “terrorists”, most of them decapitated – and absolutely no reference to the fact that Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist doctrines are the very inspiration of Isis and al-Qaeda and all the other ‘jihadi” mumbo-jumbo cults that have devastated the Middle East.

Nope. The truth is, you can’t just tell who your friends are these days.

Wasn’t it the Brits who double-crossed the Saudi monarchy’s predecessors in Arabia by promising them an Arab empire but grabbing Palestine and Transjordan and Iraq for themselves?

Wasn’t it the Brits who published the Balfour Declaration and then tried to betray the Jews to whom they’d promised a homeland and the Arabs whose lands they had promised to protect?

Wasn’t it – since we are talking autocrats – the Brits who gave Ceaucescu an honorary knighthood and then took it back when he was deposed? We gave Mugabe the same gong and then took it back. Incredibly, we gave one to Mussolini too. Yes, we took it back in 1940.

So have a care, Crown Prince Mohammad. Don’t trust perfidious Albion. Watch your back at home, but also abroad. Thanks for all the arms purchases. And thanks for all the intelligence bumph to help us keep track of the lads who are brainwashed with the Wahabi faith. But don’t – whatever you do – be tempted by an honorary knighthood.

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

If Trump Declares Al-Quds the Capital of ‘Israel’, Chaos Will Reign


06-12-2017 | 10:11

Amid three catastrophic Middle East wars, it would be difficult to imagine anything more provocative, dangerous – or just plain insane – than for the Americans to move their embassy from Tel Aviv to [Al-Quds] ‘Jerusalem’. Yet that is just what Donald Trump is this week thinking of doing. In a way, we should have expected this: mad presidents do mad things.
 

AlQuds


But is there no one in the White House able to restrain him? Not even Jared Kushner, who is supposed to be Trump’s Middle East hand? Or is Kushner too bound up in his latest scandal – just revealed by Newsweek that he failed to disclose his co-directorship of a foundation funding illegal Jewish colonies in the West Bank when he filed financial records with the Office of Government Ethics this year – to speak out?

For it’s not that the embassy itself is just a symbolic move. It means that the United States would acknowledge that the city of al-Quds, sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians, is the capital of ‘Israel’, and that the Palestinians can never share it. The slovenly “peace process” – abandoned by the ‘Israelis’, then by the Palestinians and then by the Americans years ago, although “statesmen” still talk about it in the dream world in which they live – would no longer exist even in our imaginations.

That’s why everyone from Macron to Erdogan, from the Saudis to the EU, and of course the poor old Palestinians, have been variously criticizing and condemning Trump’s potential decision. If he doesn’t sign the old waiver – which has to be renewed every six months – to the US law to move the embassy, then he will indeed, to quote the Palestinian leadership, be risking an “ethnic” conflict.

Aren’t there enough wars in the Middle East to keep even the crazed White House busy? Trump has long ago taken the Sunni side in the Sunni-Shia conflict – but now he risks turning up the heat by infuriating both of them. The Arabs all know – and many ‘Israelis’ agree – that President Trump is bananas. But the ramifications of any movement of the embassy – or acceptance by Trump that al-Quds is indeed the ‘capital’ of ‘Israel’ – will be enormous. It will tell the Arabs, both Muslims and Christians, that their second most holy city belongs to the Jews of ‘Israel’ and not to them. It will tell the Iranians the same. It will mean the same to all the Muslim countries of the world.

Could Trump expect another warm welcome and traditional sword dance in Riyadh? Would the Saudis choose to buy all those billions of weapons from the US if it hands al-Quds to the ‘Israelis’? Muslims generally believe that the Prophet, born in Arabia, ascended from al-Quds to heaven.

In the West, it will further tear apart the relationship between Washington and the EU, it will damage Canadian-American relations – for Ottawa is surely not going to follow Washington’s move – and the EU, still fondly believing in the famous “peace process”, is certainly not going to respond by moving its own embassies to al-Quds. There are, of course, European consulates in al-Quds – but to cover the East al-Quds and the West Bank, not ‘Israel’.

Bibi Netanyahu and his extraordinarily right-wing ‘Israeli’ government will certainly be happy, for it will unleash a new and far greater expansion of Jewish colonies – which we still oddly call “settlements” – on Arab land, further aggravating the Palestinians. The ‘Israelis’ have been stealing land from their legal Arab owners for years, but President Trump would be taking from them even the hope of a capital in East al-Quds.

And how would the Palestinians of the refugee camps in Lebanon respond? There is scarcely a Palestinian home without a photograph of the al-Aqsa mosque on the wall. How will Hezbollah respond? Can they merely satisfy themselves with rhetoric – or will they need to fire some missiles over the ‘Israeli’-Lebanese border to express their fury?

And the Russians, the greatest ally of Syria – where Bashar al-Assad would surely declare his regime the standard bearer in a new battle for a “liberated al-Quds” – can scarcely let such a moment pass without taking the Arab side. And selling them the warships, fighter aircraft and missiles which they have hitherto bought from the Americans.

An ‘Israeli’ dream might come true if Trump announces al-Quds as ‘Israel’s’ capital. But so will an Arab nightmare. At least when al-Quds remained the subject of ‘Israeli’-Palestinian negotiations, the Arabs of the West Bank could believe in the vague hope of a share of the city. But if Trump goes ahead, then America can never field another “peace process”, even an imaginary one. “A colossal blunder” will be the least the world will say about the United States if Trump does not sign the waiver.

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

The Balfour Anniversary

The 1ooth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration was two days ago. Below is as collection of videos, including Theresa May’s Downing Street reception of Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as comments by Palestinians given in response, and finally a commentary by British journalist Robert Fisk.

“Balfour had more right to offer a state in Wales than Palestine” says @kamelhawwash vice chair of the British Palestinian Policy Council.

***

Everything Wrong with Theresa May’s Ridiculous Assertion that We Should Feel Proud of the Balfour Declaration

By Robert Fisk

So now it’s time for us all to follow Theresa May’s bone-headed suggestion that we feel “proud” of the iniquitous Balfour Declaration on its hundredth anniversary this week. The Israelis will be celebrating – and why not, for it set Britain’s seal on the future Israeli state in Palestine. Perhaps Israel would not have been created without it. But the fearful suffering and tragedy of the Palestinian refugees which was to follow in the coming years suggest that the Balfour letter – through its very wording – was certain to create a terrible wrongdoing which to this day curses the place we used to call the Holy Land.

Even more disgraceful than May’s foolish words – for many Britons may well feel shame or prefer silence when they contemplate this episode of history – were Mark Regev’s remarks this week that citizens of the United Kingdom, to which he is currently accredited as ambassador – are “extremists” if they oppose the Balfour Declaration.

Thus, the man whose nauseous excuses for the slaughter in Gaza we had to put up with when he was an Israeli government spokesperson, continues that “those who oppose the Balfour Declaration are exposing themselves for the extremists they are. If you oppose a Jewish national home, that means you think Israel should be destroyed. And let’s be clear: that’s the position of the Iranian government; that’s the position of terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.”

So I get it. Instead of giving the Israeli ambassador a dressing down for such undiplomatic language towards her own citizens, May preferred to keep a cowardly silence while Israel’s ambassador told us what to think about the Balfour Declaration – and that if we didn’t agree with him, we were all extremists, terrorists, and therefore presumably antisemites, racists, Nazis, not to mention sympathisers of Hamas.

What gall this man has. Does Regev not even realise – as at least one Israeli journalist has pointed out – that the Balfour Declaration may itself have been, by extension, antisemitic? It followed only a few years after Britain passed laws specifically introduced to prevent further Jewish immigration to the UK from Russia and Eastern Europe. In 1917, we certainly wanted the support of the Jews of Europe and America in the First World War – but we preferred any Jewish immigrants to avoid dank London and head for sunny Palestine.

Yet let’s point out something right away. Israel – whether or not Balfour was its original foreign sponsor – exists, and will only disappear if it destroys itself (which its prime minister’s continued policy of thieving even more Arab land for Israeli colonists might ultimately bring about).

As one of Israel’s finest historians, now an Oxford scholar, has rightly pointed out, Israel’s existence might have been grossly unjust to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes – now a diaspora of more than six million refugees – but it is legal and came into existence legally. It is internationally recognized – though its colonies in the West Bank are not – and it is a member of the United Nations and has diplomatic relations with 159 countries.

This, however, does not excuse Theresa May’s “pride”. Indeed, it was instructive to note that in her remarks, she placed Britain’s trade relations in front of the terrifying injustice done to the Palestinians. Of course she did. For she cares more about the results of Brexit than she cares about millions of refugees. This, remember, is the lady who held Donald Trump’s hand.

Here, for the record, is what she actually said about Balfour: “I am … pleased that good trade relations and other relations that we have with Israel we are building on and enhancing. We must also be conscious of the sensitivities that some people do have about the Balfour Declaration and we recognise that there is more work to be done. We remain committed to the two-state solution in relation to Israel and the Palestinians.” And that is about as disgraceful as the Balfour Declaration itself.

So let’s remember what this document actually said in 1917: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

The obvious lie in this single sentence – a charter for “refugeedom” if ever there was one – is that while Britain would support a Jewish “homeland”, the majority of the population (700,000 Arabs as opposed to 60,000 Jews, according to Hanan Ashrawi) are not regarded as having a “homeland” at all – but merely referred to as “existing non-Jewish communities”. They are not even called Arabs or Muslims – which most of them were – but as just “communities” which “exist”. And which of course might be persuaded one day to exist somewhere else.

We can forget that Balfour and his chums admitted within months that they didn’t intend to give the Arabs any attention. They certainly didn’t get any. Within just over 30 years, Israel itself was created and the Palestinian tragedy began. And in this, Theresa May takes “pride”.

I did particularly enjoy those “sensitivities” she referred to. Not, presumably, the “sensitivities” of the Palestinian refugees, but perhaps a few Tory MPs and, I suppose poor Jeremy Corbyn who’s getting his usual whipping, this time for not attending the Balfour Declaration formal dinner in London. If only he could be as forthright as this over Brexit and denounce the whole shambles of leaving the EU – but alas, he’s more worried about his Labour constituencies.

Anyway, for May, there is “more work to be done” and she still supports a two-state solution. More “work” to do? When the occupied Arab West Bank is still being concreted over? When any sane person realises that the “peace process” has collapsed?

This is a tragedy, of course, for Israelis as well as Palestinians. Israel’s achievement is that it has stayed alive – with massive and uncritical support and subventions from the United States, to be sure – and actually does exist as a state. But without peace with its neighbours and an end to Jewish colonisation of other people’s land, and without a Palestinian state – which alas, I suspect will never exist – Israel will always be at war, always live in fear and always have enemies. But there you go.

Feel plenty of “pride” like Theresa. And if you don’t, consider yourself a Nazi.

Why ‘Israel’ and Saudi Arabia Are United?

Robert Fisk 

Once upon a time, the Saudi head-choppers and ‘Israeli’ occupiers united into an alliance.

Theresa May


When the wealthiest Saudis fall ill, they have been known to fly into Tel Aviv on their private jets for treatment in the Zionist entity’s finest hospitals. And when Saudi and ‘Israeli’ bombers take to the air, you can be sure they’re going to bomb Shia – in Yemen or Syria respectively.

And when King Salman – or rather Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad – points the finger at Iran as the greatest threat to Gulf security, you can be sure that Bibi Netanyahu will be doing exactly and precisely the same thing, replacing “Gulf security”, of course, with “‘Israeli’ security”. But it’s an odd business when the Saudis set the pace of media suppression only to be supported by that beacon of freedom, democracy, human rights and liberty known in song and legend as ‘Israel’.

For if an unwritten alliance really exists between Saudi Arabia and ‘Israel’, then all options – as US presidents and secretary Hillary Clinton used to say – are “on the table”.

Imprisonment without trial, extrajudicial executions, human rights abuses, corruption, military rule – let’s say this at once: all these characteristics belong to “almost all” Arab nations – and to ‘Israel’ in the lands it occupies.

If you ask why ‘Israel’ has never bombed terrorists based in the Middle East – indeed, ask why ‘Israel’ has given hospital treatment to wounded militants from the al-Nusra terrorist group- in other words, al-Qaeda, the perpetrators of 9/11.

Besides, we must not forget that America’s insane President and his weird regime is also part of the Saudi-‘Israeli’ anti-Shiite confederation. Trump’s obscene $350bn arms sales to the Saudis, his fingering of Iran and his hatred of the world’s press and television channels makes him an intimate part of the same alliance.

Indeed, when you look at one of Trump’s saner predecessors – George W Bush, who also hated Iran, kowtowed to the Saudis and actually talked to Tony Blair of bombing Al Jazeera Channel’s headquarters in Qatar, he who made sure the wealthy bin Laden family were flown out of the States after 9/11 – this American-Saudi-‘Israeli’ covenant has a comparatively long history.

Netanyahu wants to close down Al Jazeera’s office in occupied al-Quds. Crown Prince Mohammad wants to close down Al Jazeera’s office in Qatar. Bush actually did bomb Al Jazeera’s offices in Kabul and Baghdad. Theresa May decided to hide a government report on funding terrorism, lest it upset the Saudis – which is precisely the same reason Blair closed down a UK police enquiry into BAE-Saudi bribery 10 years earlier.

And we wonder why we go to war in the Middle East. And we wonder why Daesh [ISIS/ISIL] exists, un-bombed by ‘Israel’, funded by Gulf Arabs, its fellow Sunni Salafists cosseted by our wretched presidents and prime ministers…

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

11-08-2017 | 15:20

كاتب بريطاني: أثرياء السعودية يطيرون بطائرات خاصة للعلاج في مستشفيات (إسرائيل) الفخمة

نشرت صحيفة “إندبندنت” البريطانية مقالا لمحررها لشؤون الشرق الأوسط، الكاتب البريطاني المعروف روبرت فيسك، تناول خلاله الأزمة الخليجية وتداعياتها الخارجية، كما تناول أيضا قضية غلق قناة “الجزيرة” القطرية.

وقال فيسك، إنه “عندما تطلب السعودية وإسرائيل بغلق قناة “الجزيرة” الفضائية القطرية، فيجب أنها تفعل شيئاً صحيحاً”. و”لكن لا تكن رومانسياً جداً حول هذا الموضوع. فعندما يمرض السعوديون الأثرياء، كان من المعروف أنهم يطيرون إلى تل أبيب على طائراتهم الخاصة لتلقي العلاج في أرقى المستشفيات في إسرائيل. وعندما تقلع المقاتلات السعودية والإسرائيلية إلى الهواء، يمكنك التأكد من أنها سوف تقصف اليمن أو سوريا”.

وأضاف “عندما يشير الملك سلمان — أو بالأحرى ولي العهد السعودي الأمير محمد بن سلمان — بإصبعه على أن إيران هي أكبر تهديد لأمن الخليج، يمكنك أن تتأكد من أن نتنياهو سوف يفعل بالضبط وعلى وجه التحديد نفس الشيء، ولكن يحل محل “أمن الخليج” بطبيعة الحال “الأمن الإسرائيلي”. لكنه عمل غريب عندما يرتبط رفع السعوديون وتيرة قمع وسائل الإعلام بدعم من “منارة الحرية والديمقراطية وحقوق الإنسان” إسرائيل ونتنياهو وحكومته”.

ويقول فيسك بسخرية “لذلك دعونا نعرض باختصار آخر مظاهر التسامح الإسرائيلي تجاه حرية التعبير التي نؤيدها جميعا ونعززها ونحبها ونعشقها ونعتبرها حجر الزاوية لديمقراطيتنا وما إلى ذلك، وما إلى ذلك، وما إلى ذلك. خلال هذا الأسبوع، كشف أيوب كارا، وزير الاتصالات الإسرائيلي، عن خطط لسحب تصاريح صحفيي “الجزيرة”، وإغلاق مكتبها في القدس، ووقفها من محطات البث التي تقدم خدمات الكابلات والأقمار الصناعية المحلية”.

ويضيف “اتهم نتنياهو منذ وقت طويل قناة “الجزيرة” بالتحريض على العنف في القدس، وخاصة في تقاريرها عن عمليات القتل الأخيرة في القدس، ولكن كل صحفي أجنبي في “إسرائيل” وخارجها تجرأ على انتقاد الدولة في وقت أو آخر اتهم بالتحريض وكذلك معاداة السامية وغيرها من “الأكاذيب”.

ويقول فيسك “لقد وجدت أنا شخصيا أن تقارير “الجزيرة” من إسرائيل مثيرة للشفقة جداً، لقد كانت تتودد وتبجل بوضوح عندما ظهرت مذيعتها القطرية التي أعربت للمتحدث باسم الحكومة الإسرائيلية على الهواء عن تعازي قناتها في وفاة أرييل شارون، وهو المسؤول عن مذبحة صبرا وشاتيلا التي وقعت في عام 1982 والتي أدت إلى مقتل 1700 فلسطيني”.

ويتابع فيسك في مقاله “مع ذلك اتخذ أيوب كارا نفس موقف زملائه العرب. وقال إن على “إسرائيل” أن تتخذ خطوات ضد “وسائل الإعلام التي تتهمها جميع الدول العربية تقريباً بتأييد الإرهاب”. “إذا كان هناك تحالف غير مكتوب بين المملكة العربية السعودية وإسرائيل، فإن جميع الخيارات — كما قال الرئيس الأمريكي وهيلاري كلينتون — كانت على الطاولة”. “فالسجن دون محاكمة والإعدام خارج نطاق القانون وانتهاكات حقوق الإنسان والفساد والحكم العسكري — كل هذه الخصائص تنتمي إلى “جميع” الدول العربية تقريبا — وإسرائيل في الأراضي التي تحتلها”.

ويضيف “أما بالنسبة لكونها “مؤيدة للإرهاب” (أقتبس من الوزير الإسرائيلي كارا مرة أخرى)، يجب أن نسأل أولا لماذا صدر العرب الخليجيون مقاتليهم وأموالهم إلى الإسلاميين الأكثر شراسة في الشرق الأوسط. ثم نسأل لماذا لم تقصف “إسرائيل” هذه المخلوقات الخبيثة نفسها، بل نسأل لماذا أعطت “إسرائيل” العلاج بالمستشفيات للمقاتلين الجرحى من “جبهة النصرة” أي تنظيم “القاعدة”.

ويتابع فيسك “كما يجب ألا ننسى أن الرئيس الأمريكي ونظامه الغريب هو أيضا جزء من الكونفيدرالية السعودية — الإسرائيلية المناهضة للشيعة. ترامب أبرم صفقات مبيعات أسلحة بـ350 مليار دولار للسعوديين، وموقفه من إيران وكراهيته للصحافة والتلفزيون في العالم يجعله جزءاً حميما من نفس التحالف.

ويضيف “لكن لا يزال هناك إسرائيليون شرفاء يطالبون بدولة للفلسطينيين. وهناك سعوديات متعلمات جيداً يعترضن على “الوهابية المظلمة” التي تأسست عليها مملكتهن، وهناك الملايين من الأميركيين من البحر إلى البحر، الذين لا يعتقدون أن إيران عدوهم ولا السعودية صديقتهم. ولكن المشكلة اليوم في كل من الشرق والغرب هي أن حكوماتنا ليست أصدقائنا. هم مضطهدينا أو أسيادنا، ويقمعون الحقيقة وحلفاء للظالم”.

ويضيف “يريد نتانياهو إغلاق مكتب “الجزيرة” في القدس. وولي العهد السعودي الأمير محمد بن سلمان يريد إغلاق مكتب “الجزيرة” في قطر. بوش فعلا قصف مكاتب “الجزيرة” في كابول وبغداد. وقررت تيريزا ماي إخفاء تقرير حكومي عن تمويل “الإرهاب”، خشية أن يزعج السعوديين — وهذا هو بالضبط السبب الذي أخفاه بلير في تحقيق أجرته الشرطة البريطانية بشأن الرشوة المزعومة من قبل السعودية قبل عشر سنوات”.

“سبوتنيك”

This Is The Real Story Behind The Crisis Unfolding In Qatar

Only Shakespeare’s plays could come close to describing such treachery – the comedies, that is

By Robert Fisk

June 11, 2017 “Information Clearing House” –

The Qatar crisis proves two things: the continued infantilisation of the Arab states, and the total collapse of the Sunni Muslim unity supposedly created by Donald Trump’s preposterous attendance at the Saudi summit two weeks ago.

After promising to fight to the death against Shia Iranian “terror,” Saudi Arabia and its closest chums have now ganged up on one of the wealthiest of their neighbours, Qatar, for being a fountainhead of “terror”. Only Shakespeare’s plays could come close to describing such treachery. Shakespeare’s comedies, of course.

For, truly, there is something vastly fantastical about this charade. Qatar’s citizens have certainly contributed to Isis. But so have Saudi Arabia’s citizens.

No Qataris flew the 9/11 planes into New York and Washington. All but four of the 19 killers were Saudi. Bin Laden was not a Qatari. He was a Saudi.

But Bin Laden favoured Qatar’s al-Jazeera channel with his personal broadcasts, and it was al-Jazeera who tried to give spurious morality to the al-Qaeda/Jabhat al-Nusrah desperadoes of Syria by allowing their leader hours of free airtime to explain what a moderate, peace-loving group they all were.

Saudi Arabia cuts ties with Qatar over terror links

First, let’s just get rid of the hysterically funny bits of this story. I see that Yemen is breaking air links with Qatar. Quite a shock for the poor Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, since Yemen – under constant bombardment by his former Saudi and Emirati chums – doesn’t have a single serviceable airliner left with which to create, let alone break, an air link.

The Maldives have also broken relations with Qatar. To be sure, this has nothing to do with the recent promise of a Saudi five-year loan facility of $300m to the Maldives, the proposal of a Saudi property company to invest $100m in a family resort in the Maldives and a promise by Saudi Islamic scholars to spend $100,000 on 10 “world class” mosques in the Maldives.

And let us not mention the rather large number of Isis and other Islamist cultists who arrived to fight for Isis in Iraq and Syria from – well, the Maldives.

Now the Qatari Emir hasn’t enough troops to defend his little country should the Saudis decide to request that he ask their army to enter Qatar to restore stability – as the Saudis persuaded the King of Bahrain to do back in 2011. But Sheikh Tamim no doubt hopes that the massive US military air base in Qatar will deter such Saudi generosity.

When I asked his father, Sheikh Hamad (later uncharitably deposed by Tamim) why he didn’t kick the Americans out of Qatar, he replied:

“Because if I did, my Arab brothers would invade me.”

Like father, like son, I suppose. God Bless America.

All this started – so we are supposed to believe – with an alleged hacking of the Qatar News Agency, which produced some uncomplimentary but distressingly truthful remarks by Qatar’s Emir about the need to maintain a relationship with Iran.

Qatar denied the veracity of the story. The Saudis decided it was true and broadcast the contents on their own normally staid (and immensely boring) state television network. The upstart Emir, so went the message, had gone too far this time. The Saudis decided policy in the Gulf, not miniscule Qatar. Wasn’t that what Donald Trump’s visit proved?

But the Saudis had other problems to worry about. Kuwait, far from cutting relations with Qatar, is now acting as a peacemaker between Qatar and the Saudis and Emiratis. The emirate of Dubai is quite close to Iran, has tens of thousands of Iranian expatriates, and is hardly following Abu Dhabi’s example of anti-Qatari wrath.

Oman was even staging joint naval manoeuvres with Iran a couple of months ago. Pakistan long ago declined to send its army to help the Saudis in Yemen, because the Saudis asked for only Sunni and no Shia soldiers; the Pakistani army was understandably outraged to realise that Saudi Arabia was trying to sectarianise its military personnel.

Pakistan’s former army commander, General Raheel Sharif, is rumoured to be on the brink of resigning as head of the Saudi-sponsored Muslim alliance to fight “terror”.

Five things to know about Qatar’s first 2022 World Cup stadium

President-Field Marshal al-Sissi of Egypt has been roaring against Qatar for its support of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood – and Qatar does indeed support the now-banned group which Sissi falsely claims is part of Isis – but significantly Egypt, though the recipient of Saudi millions, also does not intend to supply its own troops to bolster the Saudis in its catastrophic Yemen war.

Besides, Sissi needs his Egyptian soldiers at home to fight off Isis attacks and maintain, along with Israel, the siege of the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

But if we look a bit further down the road, it’s not difficult to see what really worries the Saudis. Qatar also maintains quiet links with the Assad regime. It helped secure the release of Syrian Christian nuns in Jabhat al-Nusrah hands and has helped release Lebanese soldiers from Isis hands in western Syria. When the nuns emerged from captivity, they thanked both Bashar al-Assad and Qatar.

And there are growing suspicions in the Gulf that Qatar has much larger ambitions: to fund the rebuilding of post-war Syria. Even if Assad remained as president, Syria’s debt to Qatar would place the nation under Qatari economic control.

And this would give tiny Qatar two golden rewards. It would give it a land empire to match its al-Jazeera media empire. And it would extend its largesse to the Syrian territories, which many oil companies would like to use as a pipeline route from the Gulf to Europe via Turkey, or via tankers from the Syrian port of Lattakia.

For Europeans, such a route would reduce the chances of Russian oil blackmail, and make sea-going oil routes less vulnerable if vessels did not have to move through the Gulf of Hormuz.

So rich pickings for Qatar – or for Saudi Arabia, of course, if the assumptions about US power of the two emirs, Hamad and Tamim, prove worthless. A Saudi military force in Qatar would allow Riyadh to gobble up all the liquid gas in the emirate.

But surely the peace-loving “anti-terror” Saudis – let’s forget the head-chopping for a moment – would never contemplate such a fate for an Arab brother.

So let’s hope that for the moment, the routes of Qatar Airways are the only parts of the Qatari body politics to get chopped off.

This article was first published by The Independent

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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Where are ISIS supporters tweeting from the most? Saudi Arabia!
Imagine my shock.
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Looking to the Past, not ISIS, for the True Meaning of Islam

Emir Abdelkader, 19th century Muslim humanist and sheikh

[Ed. note – British journalist Robert Fisk has published an interesting historical retrospect on Abdelkader ibn Muhieddine, or Emir Abdelkader, an Algerian Muslim leader of the 19th century who fought against French imperialism and was a great champion of human rights–of all people. Abdelkader intervened at one point to save a community of Christians in Damascus, Syria, where he spent a portion of his life, and while Fisk doesn’t bother to point it out, his act of saving Syrian Christians is something he shares in common with the present-day leader of Syria, Bashar Assad.

I thought it timely to post such an article since we’ve just seen a deranged individual arrested in Portland, Oregon after allegedly stabbing three people, killing two of them, while spouting hatred for Muslims–a man whose last name is “Christian” no less. So you’ll see a lengthy excerpt from Fisk’s essay on Abdelkader, along with a link to the original article, and just below that I’m also tossing in a video of a group of Syrians, including about 3,000 students, taking a walking tour of Aleppo’s recently-liberated historic areas. A Syrian woman you’ll see interviewed in the video, Anushka Arakelyan, says she hopes that the city will one day be “the same as it was before the war.”

“There are no nationalities here. All people love each other; all live together, rejoice together, cry together and wait together,” she added.

“Aleppo will be the same as it was before the war. We hope and wait,” Arakelyan said.

“As one Russian song says, we hope and wait, and we will wait and hope,” she added.

“We love Aleppo very much. Aleppo is a very good city, very hospitable city. I’m very happy to live here. Here, there are no nationalities. All people love each other; all live together, rejoice together, cry together and wait together,” she concluded. (Uprooted Palestinians )

It would seem, from this lady’s remarkable words, that there are plenty of Muslims who today carry on in the spirit of Abdelkader, and that therefore we don’t have to look to the past to find “the true meaning of Islam”–plenty of examples we can point to in the present. ]

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We must look to the past, not Isis, for the true meaning of Islam

By Robert Fisk

After the Manchester massacre… yes, and after Nice and Paris, Mosul and Abu Ghraib and 7/7 and the Haditha massacre – remember those 28 civilians, including children, killed by US Marines, four more than Manchester but no minute’s silence for them? And of course 9/11…

Counterbalancing cruelty is no response, of course. Just a reminder. As long as we bomb the Middle East instead of seeking justice there, we too will be attacked. But what we must concentrate upon, according to the monstrous Trump, is terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. And fear. And security. Which we will not have while we are promoting death in the Muslim world and selling weapons to its dictators. Believe in “terror” and Isis wins. Believe in justice and Isis is defeated.

So I suspect it’s time to raise the ghost of a man known as the Emir Abdelkader – Muslim, Sufi, sheikh, ferocious warrior, humanist, mystic, protector of his people against Western barbarism, protector of Christians against Muslim barbarism, so brave that the Algerian state insisted his bones were brought home from his beloved Damascus, so noble that Abe Lincoln sent him a pair of Colt pistols and the French gave him the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour. He loved education, he admired the Greek philosophers, he forbade his fighters to destroy books, he worshipped a religion which believed – so he thought – in human rights. But hands up all readers who know the name of Abdelkader.

We should think of him now more than ever.

He was not a “moderate” because he fought back savagely against the French occupation of his land. He was not an extremist because, in his imprisonment at the Chateau d’Amboise, he talked of Christians and Muslims as brothers. He was supported by Victor Hugo and Lord Londonderry and earned the respect of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III) and the French state paid him a pension of 100,000 francs. He deserved it.

When the French invaded Algeria, Abdelkader Ibn Muhiedin al-Juzairi (Abdelkader, son of Muhiedin, the Algerian,1808-1883, for those who like obituaries) embarked on a successful guerrilla war against one of the best equipped armies in the Western world – and won. He set up his own state in western Algeria – Muslim but employing Christian and Jewish advisors – and created separate departments (defence, education, etc), which stretched as far as the Moroccan border. It even had its own currency, the “muhamediya”. He made peace with the French – a truce which the French broke by invading his lands yet again. Abdelkader demanded a priest to minister for his French prisoners, even giving them back their freedom when he had no food for them. The French sacked the Algerian towns they captured, a hundred Hadithas to suppress Abdelkader’s resistance. When at last he was defeated, he surrendered in honour – handing over his horse as a warrior – on the promise of exile in Alexandria or Acre. Again the French betrayed him, packing him off to prison in Toulon and then to the interior of France.

Yet in his French exile, he preached peace and brotherhood and studied French and spoke of the wisdom of Plato and Socrates, Aristotle and Ptolemy and Averoes and later wrote a book, Call to the Intelligent, which should be available on every social media platform. He also, by the way, wrote a book on horses which proves he was ever an Arab in the saddle. But his courage was demonstrated yet again in Damascus in 1860 where he lived as an honoured exile. The Christian-Druze civil war in Lebanon had spread to Damascus where the Christian population found themselves surrounded by the Muslim Druze who arrived with Isis-like cruelty, brandishing swords and knives to slaughter their adversaries.

Abdelkader sent his Algerian Muslim guards – his personal militia – to bash their way through the mob and escort more than 10,000 Christians to his estate. And when the crowds with their knives arrived at his door, he greeted them with a speech which is still recited in the Middle East (though utterly ignored these days in the West).

“You pitiful creatures!” he shouted. “Is this the way you honour the Prophet? God punish you! Shame on you, shame! The day will come when you will pay for this … I will not hand over a single Christian. They are my brothers. Get out of here or I’ll set my guards on you.”

Muslim historians claim Abdelkader saved 15,000 Christians, which may be a bit of an exaggeration. But here was a man for Muslims to emulate and Westerners to admire.

His fury was expressed in words which would surely have been used today against the cult-like caliphate executioners of Isis. Of course, the “Christian” West would honour him at the time (although, interestingly, he received a letter of praise from the Muslim leader of wildly independent Chechnya). He was an “interfaith dialogue” man to please Pope Francis.

Abdelkader was invited to Paris. An American town was named after him – Elkader in Clayton County, Iowa, and it’s still there, population 1,273. Founded in the mid-19th century, it was natural to call your home after a man who was, was he not, honouring the Rights of Man of American Independence and the French Revolution? Abdelkader flirted with Freemasonry – most scholars believe he was not taken in – and loved science to such an extent that he accepted an invitation to the opening of the Suez Canal, which was surely an imperial rather than a primarily scientific project. Abdelkader met De Lesseps. He saw himself, one suspects, as Islam’s renaissance man, a man for all seasons, the Muslim for all people, an example rather than a saint, a philosopher rather than a priest.

But of course, Abdelkader’s native Algeria is a neighbour of Libya from where Salman Abedi’s family came, and Abdelkader died in Syria, whose assault by US aircraft – according to Abedi’s sister – was the reason he slaughtered the innocent of Manchester. And so geography contracts and history fades, and Abedi’s crime is, for now, more important than all of Abdelkader’s life and teaching and example. So for Mancunians, whether they tattoo bees onto themselves or merely buy flowers, why not pop into Manchester’s central library in St Peter’s Square and ask for Elsa Marsten’s The Compassionate Warrior or John Kiser’s Commander of the Faithful or, published just a few months ago, Mustapha Sherif’s L’Emir Abdelkader: Apotre de la fraternite?

They are no antidotes for sorrow or mourning. But they prove that Isis does not represent Islam and that a Muslim can earn the honour of the world.

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Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

After two days lecturing a collection of head-choppers, dictators, torturers and land thieves, Donald Trump at last met a good guy on Wednesday. Pope Francis didn’t ask for a $100bn (£77.2bn) arms deal for the Vatican. He wouldn’t go to war with Iran. He didn’t take the Sunni Muslim side against the Shia Muslim side in the next Middle East conflict. He didn’t talk about Palestinian “terror”. And he looked, most of the time, grim, unsmiling, even suspicious.

So he should have been. Trump’s broad, inane smile on confronting the Holy Father might have been more appropriate for the first of the Borgias, Alexander VI, whose 15th century womanising, corruption and enthusiasm for war would match Trump’s curriculum vitae rather well. But the poor man’s pope, who last year suggested that Trump wasn’t much of a Christian because he wanted to build walls, didn’t seem to be very happy to see the man who called him “disgraceful” for questioning his faith. “One offers peace through dialogue, the other security of arms,” one of Francis’ advisers said of the visit. Which pretty much sums it up.

It was indeed an odd sight to see the head of the Catholic church – whose anti-war, anti-corruption, anti-violence and pro-environment beliefs must surely now represent the secular world – greeting the present if very temporary leader of the secular world, whose policies are most surely not those of the Western people he would claim to represent. For more and more, the Good Old Pope is coming to represent what the Trumps and Mays will not say: that the West has a moral duty to end its wars in the Middle East, to stop selling weapons to the killers of the Middle East and to treat the people of the Middle East with justice and dignity.

No wonder the 29 minutes which the insane president and the sane pope spent together – Francis himself suggesting that they both keep away from the microphones – remain secret. Until, I suppose, Trump starts twittering again. They supposedly chatted about climate change, immigration, even arms sales. O fly upon the wall, speak up. And they talked, we are told, about “interreligious dialogue” and the need to protect Christians in the Middle East. They shared, we were finally informed, “a commitment to life, and freedom of speech and conscience” – which is more than most of Trump’s other hosts would have approved of these past two days.

Trump duly handed over a bunch of books by Martin Luther King which he hoped Pope Francis would enjoy – whether he had read them himself remains a mystery – and the Pope gave Trump some of his own writings on the environment. “Well, I’ll be reading them,” said the US President. A likely story.

When the Pope emerged from his private meeting with Trump, he was smiling in a relieved, almost charming way – like a man who had just left the dentist’s chair – and his joke with the veiled Melania about Croatian cookies, if not quite understood, showed that even a distressed pontiff can retain a sense of humor amid spiritual darkness. Trump thought it all “a great honor”. Not for the Pope, one imagines.

And there was the inevitable send-off from Trump, the kind he probably gave to all the greedy kings and criminals of the Middle East. “I won’t forget what you said,” he told Pope Francis as he left. O but he will, reader, he will.

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

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Why The U.S. Really Attacked Syrian Militia Convoy

Exclusive: For the Pentagon to suggest that this was a sideshow to Washington’s battle against Isis was to stretch the truth beyond credibility

By Robert Fisk

May 19, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – According to the Syrians, the US destroyed not one but four T-62 tanks and a Shilka ZSU-23-4 Soviet-made radar-guided anti-aircraft vehicle manned by both Shia Iraqi militiamen loyal to Damascus and a unit of armed Iranians who were travelling in pick-up trucks to establish positions – on the instructions of the Syrian army – in the desert west of al-Tanf. Their intention – to set up strongpoints in the vast and largely empty land in advance of the American-trained forces – was an attempt by the Syrian government to keep open the route between Iraq and Syria now that the ISIS-held Syrian city of Raqqa far to the north has been almost surrounded by largely Kurdish fighters loyal to Washington.

Six of the pro-Syrian militiamen were killed in the American air strike and 25 wounded – it is unclear whether the casualties were Iraqi or Iranian – but forces under the command of the Syrian army intend to continue their reconnaissance missions towards al-Tanf. Anti-aircraft gunners aboard one of the pick-up trucks accompanying the pro-Syrian units that were attacked, opened fire on the US jets and, according to the Syrians, forced the American aircraft to fly higher.

At this point, Syrian air defence units north-east of Damascus prepared to fire Soviet-made S-200 Angara ground-to-air missiles (an older version of the S-300 which the Russians have since delivered to the Syrian military) at the Americans – but the US jets had by then left Syrian airspace. One of the five T-62 tanks attacked by the Americans was undamaged.

Nonetheless, the brief action in the Syrian desert was of great importance. The Syrians were obviously trying to test America’s resolve to move its anti-Assad militia forces deeper into the south-east of the country – and the US was prepared, albeit on a small scale, to show that it was prepared to press on. But the Syrian-Iraqi frontier town of al-Tanf may turn out to be a key strategic point in the struggle of the Assad government to regain its national territory and keep open its border to Iraq and, by extension, to Iran. It lies only 30 miles from Iraq – but because the Jordanian-Syrian-Iraqi borders join immediately to the south – al-Tanf also lies the same distance from Jordan – where the American-trained militia are based.

Although US jets were involved in Thursday’s air strikes, the forces on the ground comprised largely proxy fighters – belonging to both the American-trained ‘rebel’ opposition and to the Syrian military. If US personnel were accompanying the ‘rebel’ forces, then they were lucky that neither the Russians nor Syrian Army personnel were present on the other side. For the Pentagon to suggest that this was a sideshow to Washington’s battle against Isis was to stretch the truth beyond credibility in the Middle East. Cutting Syria off from Iraq – and thus from Iran – appears to be a far more immediate operational aim of US forces in Syria than the elimination of the Sunni “Caliphate” cult that Washington claims to be its principal enemy in the Middle East.

This article was first published by The Independent

See also

Int’l coalition’s attack on Syrian military site exposes its fake claims of fighting terrorism; The attack, which took place at 16:30 pm on Thursday, left a number of people dead, in addition to causing material damage, the source said.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

 

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Donald of Arabia: Trump in the Middle East

Not since Ibn Batuta, travelled the Middle East in the 14th century has anyone set out with higher ambitions that Donald Trump. Batuta, a Moroccan Muslim traveller and scholar, had a few things in common with Trump. He reached what is now Saudi Arabia. He went to Jerusalem. He even had a keen eye for nubile ladies – there were a few wives, not to mention a Greek slave girl to be groped. But there the parallels end. For Ibn Batuta was sane.

Yet now we know that Trump thinks he’s touching the three monotheistic religions because he’s going to Riyadh, Jerusalem and then the Vatican (not quite in the Middle East but what’s a hundred miles for a guy like Trump). A few problems, of course. He can’t go to Holy Mecca because Christians are banned and the old king of Saudi Arabia represents a head-chopping Wahabi autocracy some of whose citizens have paid for – and fought alongside – the dreaded Isis which Trump thinks he is fighting.

Then when he goes to Jerusalem, he will meet Benjamin Netanyahu who hardly represents world Jewry and plans to go on thieving Arab lands in the West Bank for Jews, and Jews only, whatever Trump thinks. Then he’ll turn up at the Vatican to confront a man who – great guy though he may be – only represents Roman Catholics and doesn’t much like Trump anyway. Ibn Batuta was away from home for around a quarter of a century. Thank heavens Trump’s cutting that back to three days.

Of course, he’s no more going to be talking to “Islam” in Saudi Arabia than he is “Judaism” in Jerusalem. The Sunni Saudis are going to talk about crushing the “snake” of Shia Iran – and we must remember that Trump is the crackpot who shed crocodile tears over the Sunni babies killed in Syria last month but none for the Shia babies killed in Syria a few days later – and hope they can re-establish real relations between their execution-happy kingdom with the execution-happy US. Trump might just try to read UN rapporteur Ben Emmerson’s latest report on the imprisonment of human rights defenders and the torture of “terror” suspects in Saudi Arabia. No. Forget it.

Anyway, the king is no imam. Any more than Netanyahu is a rabbi. But Jerusalem will be a great gig because Trump will be able to ask Netanyahu for help against Isis without – presumably – realising that Israel bombs only the Syrian army and the Shia Hezbollah in Syria but has never – ever – bombed Isis in Syria. In fact, the Israelis have given medical aid to fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra, which is part of al-Qaeda which (maybe Trump has heard of this) attacked the United States on 9/11. So maybe the Vatican will be a relief.

Of course, Trump might have dropped by Lebanon to meet Patriarch Beshara Rai, a Christian prelate who at least lives in the Middle East and who might have been able to tell Trump a few home truths about Syria. Or, since Trump would be “honoured” to meet the Great Leader of North Korea, he might even have shocked the world by dropping by for a couple of hours with Bashar al-Assad. At least Ibn Batuta got to Damascus.

But no, Trump is searching for “friends and partners” to fight “terrorism” – something which has never, of course, been inflicted on Yemen by Saudi Arabia or on Lebanon and the Palestinians by Israel. Nor will it be mentioned by the boys and girls of CNN, ABC and all the US media titans who will – in the interest of promoting their importance by pretending that their President is not mad – grovellingly follow their crackpot President around the region with all the usual nonsense about “policies” and “key players” and “moderates” (as in “moderate Saudi Arabia”) and all the other fantastical creatures which they inject into their reports.

Oh yes, and Trump also wants to bring “peace” to the Holy Land. And so he will move from the king of head choppers to the thief of Palestinian lands and end up with the poor old Holy Father who is wisely giving the President only a few early-morning minutes before his weekly general audience. Since the Pope described Trump’s views as “not Christian” – an unsaintly thing for Pope Francis to say of a mentally ill man – and Trump called the Pope’s words “disgraceful”, this is not going to be a barrel of laughs.

But then again, the Pope shook the hand of the Sultan of Egypt only a week ago, the equally saintly Field Marshal President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, whose coup overthrew an elected president and who now “disappears” his enemies. Trump should be a piece of cake after that. Ibn Batuta, by the way, got as far as Beijing in his travels but was never “honoured” to meet the “smart cookie” who was ruling in Korea (which did actually exist in the 14th century).

But being a verbose chap, Ibn Batuta did record his homecoming in these words: “I have indeed … attained my desire in this world, which was to travel through the Earth, and I have attained this honour, which no ordinary person has attained.” That’s a real “honour” by the way. But you couldn’t fit Ibn Batuta into a tweet.

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

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Theresa May wants British people to feel ‘pride’ in the Balfour Declaration

Source

By Robert Fisk

Balfour initiated a policy of British support for Israel which continues to this very day, to the detriment of the occupied Palestinians of the West Bank and the five million Palestinian refugees living largely in warrens of poverty around the Middle East, including Israeli-besieged Gaza. Surely we should apologise

Theresa May told us that Britain will celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration this summer with “pride”. This was predictable. A British prime minister who would fawn to the head-chopping Arab autocrats of the Gulf in the hope of selling them more missiles – and then hold the hand of the insane new anti-Muslim president of the United States – was bound, I suppose, to feel “pride” in the most mendacious, deceitful and hypocritical document in modern British history.

As a woman who has set her heart against immigrants, it was also inevitable that May would display her most venal characteristics to foreigners – to wealthy Arab potentates, and to an American president whose momentary love of Britain might produce a life-saving post-Brexit trade agreement. It was to an audience of British lobbyists for Israel a couple of months ago that she expressed her “pride” in a century-old declaration which created millions of refugees. But to burnish the 1917 document which promised Britain’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine but which would ultimately create that very refugee population – refugees being the target of her own anti-immigration policies – is little short of iniquitous.

The Balfour Declaration’s intrinsic lie – that while Britain supported a Jewish homeland, nothing would be done “which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” – is matched today by the equally dishonest response of Balfour’s lamentable successor at the Foreign Office. Boris Johnson wrote quite accurately two years ago that the Balfour Declaration was “bizarre”, a “tragicomically incoherent” document, “an exquisite piece of Foreign Office fudgerama”. But in a subsequent visit to Israel, the profit-hunting Mayor of London suddenly discovered that the Balfour Declaration was “a great thing” that “reflected a great tide of history”. No doubt we shall hear more of this same nonsense from Boris Johnson later this year.

Although the Declaration itself has been parsed, de-semanticised, romanticised, decrypted, decried, cursed and adored for 100 years, its fraud is easy to detect: it made two promises which were fundamentally opposed to each other – and thus one of them, to the Arabs (aka “the existing non-Jewish communities”), would be broken. The descendants of these victims, the Palestinian Arabs, are now threatening to sue the British government over this pernicious piece of paper, a hopeless and childish response to history. The Czechs might equally sue the British for Chamberlain’s Munich agreement, which allowed Hitler to destroy their country. The Palestinians would also like an apology – since the British have always found apologies cheaper than law courts. The British have grown used to apologising – for the British empire, for the slave trade, for the Irish famine. So why not for Balfour? Yes, but…. Theresa May needs the Israelis far more than she needs the Palestinians.

 

Balfour’s 1917 declaration, of course, was an attempt to avoid disaster in the First World War by encouraging the Jews of Russia and America to support the Allies against Germany. Balfour wanted to avoid defeat just as Chamberlain later wanted to avoid war. But – and this is the point – Munich was resolved by the destruction of Hitler. Balfour initiated a policy of British support for Israel which continues to this very day, to the detriment of the occupied Palestinians of the West Bank and the five million Palestinian refugees living largely in warrens of poverty around the Middle East, including Israeli-besieged Gaza.

This is the theme of perhaps the most dramatic centenary account of the Balfour Declaration, to be published this summer by David Cronin (in his book Balfour’s Shadow: A Century of British Support for Zionism and Israel), an Irish journalist and author living in Brussels whose previous investigation of the European Union’s craven support for Israel’s military distinguished him from the work of more emotional (and thus more inaccurate) writers. Cronin has no time for Holocaust deniers or anti-Semites. While rightly dismissing the silly idea that the Palestinian Grand Mufti, Haj Amin al Husseini, inspired the Holocaust of the Jews of Europe, he does not duck Haj Amin’s poisonous alliance with Hitler. Israel’s post-war creation as a nation state, as one Israeli historian observed, may not have been just – but it was legal. And Israel does legally exist within the borders acknowledged by the rest of the world.

There lies the present crisis for us all: for the outrageous right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu is speeding on with the mass colonisation of Arab land in territory which is not part of Israel, and on property which has been stolen from its Arab owners. These owners are the descendants of the “non-Jewish communities” whose rights, according to Balfour, should not be “prejudiced” by “the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. But Balfour’s own prejudice was perfectly clear. The Jewish people would have a “national home” – ie, a nation – in Palestine, while the Arabs, according to his declaration, were mere “communities”. And as Balfour wrote to his successor Curzon two years later, “Zionism … is … of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices [sic] of 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land”.

Cronin’s short book, however, shows just how we have connived in this racism ever since. He outlines the mass British repression of Arabs in the 1930s – including extrajudicial executions and torture by the British army – when the Arabs feared, with good reason, that they would ultimately be dispossessed of their lands by Jewish immigrants. As Arthur Wauchope, the Palestine High Commissioner, would write, “the subject that fills the minds of all Arabs today is … the dread that in time to come they will be a subject race living on sufferance in Palestine, with the Jews dominant in every sphere, land, trade and political life”. How right they were.

Even before Britain’s retreat from Palestine, Attlee and his Cabinet colleagues were discussing a plan which would mean the “ethnic cleansing” of tens of thousands of Palestinians from their land. In 1944, a Labour Party statement had talked thus of Jewish immigration: “Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out as the Jews move in.” By 1948, Labour, now in government, was announcing it had no power to prevent money being channelled from London to Jewish groups who would, within a year, accomplish their own “ethnic cleansing”, a phrase in common usage for this period since Israeli historian Illan Pappe (now, predictably, an exile from his own land) included it in the title of his best-known work.

The massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians at Deir Yassin was committed while thousands of British troops were still in the country. Cronin’s investigation of Colonial Office files show that the British military lied about the “cleansing” of Haifa, offering no protection to the Arabs, a policy largely followed across Palestine save for the courage of Major Derek Cooper and his soldiers, whose defence of Arab civilians in Jaffa won him the Military Cross (although David Cronin does not mention this). Cooper, whom I got to know when he was caring for wounded Palestinians in Beirut in 1982, never forgave his own government for its dishonesty at the end of the Palestine Mandate.

Cronin’s value, however, lies in his further research into British support for Israel, its constant arms re-supplies to Israel, its 1956 connivance with the Israelis over Suez – during which Israeli troops massacred in the Gaza camp of Khan Younis, according to a UN report, 275 Palestinian civilians, of whom 140 were refugees from the 1948 catastrophe. Many UN-employed Palestinians, an American military officer noted at the time, “are believed to have been executed by the Israelis”. Britain’s subsequent export of submarines and hundreds of Centurion tanks to Israel was shrugged off with the same weasel-like excuses that British governments have ever since used to sell trillions of dollars of weapons to Israelis and Arabs alike: that if Britain didn’t arm them, others would.

In opposition in 1972, Harold Wilson claimed it was “utterly unreal” to call for an Israeli withdrawal from land occupied in the 1967 war, adding that “Israel’s reaction is natural and proper in refusing to accept the Palestinians as a nation”. When the Palestinians first demanded a secular one-state solution to Palestine, they were denounced by a British diplomat (Anthony Parsons) who said that “a multinational, secular state” would be “wholly incompatible with our attitude toward Israel”. Indeed it would. When the PLO opposed Britain’s Falklands conflict, the Foreign Office haughtily admonished the Palestinians – it was “far removed” from their “legitimate concerns”, it noted – although it chose not to reveal that Argentine air force Skyhawk jets supplied by Israel were used to attack UK forces, and that Israel’s military supplies to Argentina continued during the war.

A year later, Margaret Thatcher, according to a note by Douglas Hurd, included “armed action against military targets of the occupying power” as a definition of “terrorism”. So the Palestinians could not even resist their direct occupiers without being criminals.

On an official visit to Israel in 1986, Thatcher said that she regarded discussion of Jerusalem as “internal politics”. In 2001, Tony Blair’s government granted 90 arms exports licences to Israel for “defensive” weapons – including torpedoes, armoured vehicles, bombs and missiles. There is much, much more of this in Cronin’s book, including Blair’s useless and disgraceful period as “peace” envoy to the Middle East and the growing business contracts between British companies and Israeli arms providers – to the extent that the British army ended up deploying Israeli-made drones in the skies of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Outside the EU, Theresa May’s Britain will maintain its close relations with Israel as a priority; hence May’s stated desire less than a month ago to sign a bilateral free trade agreement with Israel. This coincided with an Israeli attack on Gaza and a Knesset vote to confiscate – ie, steal – yet more lands from Palestinians in the West Bank.

From the day that Herbert Samuel, deputy leader of the Liberal Party and former (Jewish) High Commissioner for Palestine, said in the House of Commons in 1930 that Arabs “do migrate easily”, it seems that Britain has faithfully followed Balfour’s policies. More than 750,000 Palestinians were uprooted in their catastrophe, Cronin writes. Generations of dispossessed would grow up in the camps. Today, there are around five million registered Palestinian refugees. Britain was the midwife of that expulsion.

And this summer, we shall again be exhorted by Theresa May to remember the Balfour Declaration with “pride”.

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