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”.

Fake ‘Aleppo Genocide’ Pics Spread Online amid Renewed Calls for ‘Humanitarian’ War on Syria

Global Research, December 23, 2016
Mint Press News 20 December 2016
Aleppo

‘The atmosphere of misinformation only strengthens the Syrian regime’s insistence that all Western media reports of its forces’ atrocities are false,’ noted one media analyst.

Propaganda about conditions in Aleppo, including photos recycled from other incidents in other places, is spreading online amid efforts to justify war on the Syrian government.

Even mainstream media sources and humanitarian organizations admit that reports of atrocities in the besieged Syrian city are often unverifiable rumors.

An example of the many doctored, fake, and recycled photos that are being disseminted online claiming to be from Aleppo, Syria. (Photo: Twitter @Partisangirl)

For example, on Dec. 9, the Agence France-Presse reported on the deaths of 82 civilians in Aleppo, allegedly the victims of Syrian government forces.

“The U.N. human rights office said it had received reports of ‘pro-government forces killing at least 82 civilians including 11 women and 13 children in four different neighbourhoods,’” Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the U.N. human rights office, told reporters in Geneva.

But the United Nations was unable or unwilling to stand by Colville’s claims, adding in a separate statement provided later to AFP: “We hope, profoundly, that these reports are wrong, or exaggerated, as the situation is extremely fluid and it is very challenging to verify reports.”

Shira Rubin, a reporter at Vocativ, noted on Wednesday that images of atrocities in Aleppo are proliferating wildly on social media. However, Rubin added, “A large portion of those images are fake, sparking an uproar among those who argue the false posts diminish the reality of those suffering and fighting on the ground.”

Syrian geopolitical analyst Mimi Al Laham took to Twitter on Dec. 14 to point out that images purporting to show a terrorist attack came from music videos and an unrelated bombing in Pakistan:

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

story about massacre of civilians in has no evidence so their using fake photos from music videos and Pakistan bombing

The frequent, pervasive rumors make it hard to know which sources of information are trustworthy, particularly as the U.N. and major NGOs frequently appear to exaggerate or even invent reports to support the push for war. Rubin added: “The UN estimates that nearly 400,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, and more than half the population has been displaced. The numbers, which cannot be verified, have led to accusations and rumors as people online try to sort fact from fiction.” Noting that these recycled images and false reports are spread “intentionally … for propaganda purposes as well as by inadvertent social media users,” Rubin wrote, “The atmosphere of misinformation only strengthens the Syrian regime’s insistence that all Western media reports of its forces’ atrocities are false.” Even Eliot Higgins, a security analyst often called on by the mainstream media to promote a Western, pro-war viewpoint, admitted on Twitter on Dec. 13 that many images of alleged Aleppo atrocities appear to be recycled:

I’m not saying it’s not happening, but all the “Aleppo executions” images I’ve seen so far have been old and/or from elsewhere.

While attacks attributed to the Syrian government have been a frequent topic of reporting throughout the Syrian civil war, atrocities by so-called “moderate” rebels, forces with the backing of the United States and its allies in Europe and the Middle East, rarely receive the same enthusiastic treatment in the mainstream media.

Reports have even suggested that some of these groups have blocked efforts to evacuate Aleppo’s civilian population, including Jabhat Al-Sham, an extremist group with both U.S. backing and ties to al-Qaida.

Robert Fisk, a renowned foreign policy analyst, noted in a Dec. 14 report that while Syria’s leader, Bashar Assad, had undoubtedly carried out numerous human rights violations, the West also must be held accountable for its support of extremist groups involved in the conflict. He recounted one recent atrocity he heard from a refugee:

Only a few weeks ago, I interviewed one of the very first Muslim families to flee eastern Aleppo during a ceasefire. The father had just been told that his brother was to be executed by the rebels because he crossed the frontline with his wife and son. He condemned the rebels for closing the schools and putting weapons close to hospitals. And he was no pro-regime stooge; he even admired Isis for their good behaviour in the early days of the siege.

Blaming atrocities in Syria solely on the Syrian government supports the agenda of the U.S. government, which seeks to overthrow the Syrian government and replace it with one more amenable to Western interests and investment by fossil fuel companiesWikiLeaks’ archives of U.S. diplomatic cables show that the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia have sought to unseat Assad since at least 2006.

Saudi Arabia ‘Deliberately Targeting Impoverished Yemen’s Farms

Increasing evidence suggests Kingdom is not merely bombing civilians in neighbouring country, but systematically targeting infrastructure survivors will need to avoid starvation when the war is over

By Robert Fisk

October 27, 2016 “Information Clearing House” – ” The Independent” –  The Yemen war uniquely combines tragedy, hypocrisy and farce. First come the casualties: around 10,000, almost 4,000 of them civilians. Then come those anonymous British and American advisers who seem quite content to go on “helping” the Saudi onslaughts on funerals, markets and other obviously (to the Brits, I suppose) military targets.

Then come the Saudi costs: more than $250m (£200m) a month, according to Standard Chartered Bank – and this for a country that cannot pay its debts to construction companies. But now comes the dark comedy bit: the Saudis have included in their bombing targets cows, farms and sorghum – which can be used for bread or animal fodder – as well as numerous agricultural facilities.

In fact, there is substantial evidence emerging that the Saudis and their “coalition” allies – and, I suppose, those horrid British “advisers” – are deliberately targeting Yemen’s tiny agricultural sector in a campaign which, if successful, would lead a post-war Yemeni nation not just into starvation but total reliance on food imports for survival. Much of this would no doubt come from the Gulf states which are currently bombing the poor country to bits.

Mundy points out that a conservative report from the ministry of agriculture and irrigation in the Yemeni capital Sana’a, gathered from its officers across the country, details 357 bombing targets in the country’s 20 provinces, including farms, animals, water infrastructure, food stores, agricultural banks, markets and food trucks.

These include the destruction of farms in Yasnim, the Baqim district of Saadah province and in Marran. Mundy has compared these attacks with figures in the Yemen Data Project, which was published some weeks ago. Her verdict is a most unhappy one.

“According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2.8 per cent of Yemen’s land is cultivated,” Mundy says. “To hit that small amount of agricultural land, you have to target it.” Saudi Arabia has already been accused of war crimes, but striking at the agriculture fields and food products of Yemen in so crude a way adds merely another grim broken promise by the Saudis.

The kingdom signed up to the additional protocol of the August 1949 Geneva Conventions which specifically states that “it is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock…for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population…whatever the motive…”

The fact that Yemen has long been part of Saudi Arabia’s proxy war against Shiites and especially Iran – which has been accused, without evidence, of furnishing weapons to the Shia Houthi in Yemen – is now meekly accepted as part of the Middle East’s current sectarian “narrative” (like the “good” rebels in eastern Aleppo and the “very bad” rebels in Mosul). So, alas, have the outrageous bombings of civilians. But agricultural targets are something altogether different.

Academics have been amassing data from Yemen which strongly suggests that the Saudis’ Yemen campaign contains a programme for the destruction of rural livelihood.

Martha Mundy, emeritus professor at the London School of Economics, who is currently working in Lebanon with her colleague Cynthia Gharios, has been researching through Yemeni agriculture ministry statistics and says that the data “is beginning to show that in some regions, the Saudis are deliberately striking at agricultural infrastructure in order to destroy the civil society”.

In a lecture in Beirut, Mundy has outlined the grievous consequences of earlier economic policies in Yemen – cheap American wheat from the 1970s and the influx of food from other countries which discouraged farmers from maintaining rural life (terracing of farms, for example, or water husbandry) – and the effect of Saudi Arabia’s war on the land. “The armies and above all air forces of the ‘oil-dollar’,” she said, have “…come to destroy physically those products of Yemeni labour working with land and animals that survived the earlier economic devastation.”

There are photographs aplenty of destroyed farms, factories and dead animals lying in fields strewn with munitions – effectively preventing farmers returning to work for many months or years. Poultry and beehive farms have been destroyed.

Even today, more than half the population of Yemen relies in part – or wholly – on agriculture and rural husbandry. Mundy’s research through the files of other ministries suggests that technical support administration buildings for agriculture were also attacked. The major Tihama Development Authority on the Red Sea coastal plain, which was established in the 1970s – and houses, as Mundy says, “the written memory of years of ‘development’ interventions” – is responsible for a series of irrigation structures. It has been heavily bombed twice.

But I guess that one war – or two – in the Middle East is as much as the world can take right now. Or as much as the media are prepared to advertise. Aleppo and Mosul are quite enough. Yemen is too much. And Libya. And “Palestine”…

A Picture And Its Story: Severe Malnutrition In Yemen

By Abduljabbar Zeyad | HODAIDA, Yemen

October 27, 2016 “Information Clearing House” – Reuters” –  The emaciated frame of 18-year-old Saida Ahmad Baghili lies on a hospital bed in the red sea port city of Hodaida, her suffering stark evidence of the malnutrition spread by Yemen’s 19-month civil war.

Baghili arrived at the Al Thawra hospital on Saturday. She is bed-ridden and unable to eat, surviving on a diet of juice, milk and tea, medical staff and a relative said.

“The problem is malnutrition due to (her) financial situation and the current (war) situation at this time,” Asma Al Bhaiji, a nurse at the hospital, told Reuters on Tuesday.

The 18-year-old is one of more than 14 million people, over half of Yemen’s population, who are short of food, with much of the country on the brink of famine, according to the United Nations.

Her picture is a reminder of the humanitarian crisis in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country where at least 10,000 people have been killed in fighting between Saudi-led Arab coalition and the Iran-allied Houthi movement.

Baghili is from the small village of Shajn, about 100 km (60 miles) southwest of the city of Hodaida, and used to work with sheep before developing signs of malnutrition five years ago, according to her aunt, Saida Ali Baghili.

“She was fine. She was in good health. There was nothing wrong with her. And then she got sick,” Ali Baghili told Reuters.

“She has been sick for five years. She can’t eat. She says her throat hurts.”

After the war began, Baghili’s condition deteriorated with her family lacking the money for treatment.

She lost more weight and in the last two months developed diarrhoea.

“Her father couldn’t (afford to) send her anywhere (for treatment) but some charitable people helped out,” Ali Baghili said, without elaborating who the donors were.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in LONDON Editing by Alison Williams)

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The Real Purpose Behind the “Liberation” of Mosul?

When Mosul falls, Isis will flee to the safety of Syria. But what then?

The entire Isis caliphate army could be directed against the Assad government and its allies – a scenario which might cause some satisfaction in Washington

By Robert Fisk 

October 18, 2016 “Information Clearing House” – “The Independent“- Syria’s army and Hezbollah and Iranian allies are preparing for a massive invasion by thousands of Isis fighters who will be driven out ofIraq when Mosul falls. The real purpose behind the much-trumpeted US-planned “liberation” of the Iraqi city, the Syrian military suspect, is to swamp Syria with the hordes of Isis fighters who will flee their Iraqi capital in favour of their “mini-capital” of Raqqa inside Syria itself.

For weeks now, Western media and the American experts it likes to quote have been predicting a Stalingrad-style battle to the death by Isis inside Mosul – or a swift victory over Isis followed by inter-sectarian Iraqi battles for the city. The UN is warning of massive refugee columns streaming from a besieged city. But the Syrians – after witnessing the sudden collapse and evacuation of Palmyra when their own army retook the ancient Syrian city earlier this year – suspect that Isis will simply abandon Mosul and try to reach safety in the areas of Syria which it still controls.

Already, Syrian army intelligence has heard disturbing reports of a demand by Isis in towns and villages south of Hasaka – a Syrian city held by regime forces and Kurds in the north of the country – for new electricity and water supplies to be installed for an influx of Isis fighters from Mosul. In other words, if Mosul falls, the entire Isis caliphate army could be directed against the Assad government and its allies – a scenario which might cause some satisfaction in Washington. When the Iraqi city of Fallujah fell to Iraqi army and militia forces earlier this year, many Isis fighters fled at once to Syria.

Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader who sent thousands of his men to fight (and die) in the struggle against Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, said in a speech marking the Ashura commemorations last week that the Americans “intend to repeat the Fallujah plot when they opened a way for Isis to escape towards eastern Syria” and warned that “the same deceitful plan may be carried out in Mosul.” In other words, an Isis defeat in Mosul would encourage Isis to head west to try to defeat the Assad regime in Syria.

These suspicions have scarcely been allayed by a series of comments from American generals and US military sources over the past few weeks. The newly appointed US commander in the region, Lt Gen Stephen Townsend – heading what the US has presumptiously called ‘Operation Inherent Resolve’ – has said that not only Mosul but the Syrian city of Raqqa would be captured “on my watch”. But who exactly does he think will capture Raqqa? The Syrian army still intends to fight on to Raqqa from its base on the the Damascus-Aleppo military road west of the city after an attempt earlier this year which was abandoned for political rather than military reasons. Russia apparently preferred to concentrate its firepower on other militias, especially Nusra/al-Qaeda, which both Moscow and Damascus now regard as being far more dangerous than Isis.

Both have noticed how Nusra – which changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the “Support Front for the People of the Levant”, in the hope of escaping its al-Qaeda roots – is increasingly referred to by both Western politicians and journalists as “the rebels”, along with a plethora of other militia outfits fighting the Syrian regime. An unidentified US general was quoted last month expressing his concern that Iraqi Shia forces might seize the town of Tal Afar on the Iraqi-Syrian border in order to trap Isis fighters inside Iraq – and thus prevent their flight into Syria. Isis itself is reported to have abandoned Tal Afar several days ago.

The US-based Military Times online magazine (which, as the saying goes, is “close” to the Pentagon) has argued that General Townsend, who has a mere 5,000 US troops on the ground in both Iraq and the far north of Syria, must “pursue Isis into Syria, where the US has few allies on the ground” – which is quite an understatement – while Townsend himself is talking of “a long, difficult fight” for Mosul. He has also referred to a “siege” of Mosul. These are the dire predictions in which the Syrians do not believe

Assad’s own army, with its 65,000 fatalities in a battle that has now lasted five years, has already been bombed by the Americans at Deir Ezzor at a cost of at least 60 dead – Washington described this as a mistake – and is now preparing to challenge the huge influx of Isis fighters which could cross the border after the collapse of Mosul. Nasrallah himself made an intriguing allusion to this in his speech. He suggested that if Isis forces are not defeated by the Iraqis themselves in Mosul then the Iraqis – presumably the Iraqi Shia militia which are one of the spearheads of the government army – “will be obliged to move to eastern Syria in order to fight the terrorist group”

Given the possibility that Syrian troops and their Russian allies may have to confront this same group, it’s little wonder that they are trying to conclude their capture of eastern Aleppo – whatever the cost in lives – before the fall of Mosul.

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Robert Fisk Reminds of Qana: Shimon Peres was No Peacemaker!

When the world heard that Shimon Peres had died, it shouted “Peacemaker!” But when I heard that Peres was dead, I thought of blood and fire and slaughter.

Qana massacre

I saw the results: babies torn apart, shrieking refugees, smoldering bodies. It was a place called Qana and most of the 106 bodies – half of them children – now lie beneath the UN camp where they were torn to pieces by Israeli shells in 1996. I had been on a UN aid convoy just outside the south Lebanese village. Those shells swished right over our heads and into the refugees packed below us. It lasted for 17 minutes.

Shimon Peres, standing for election as “Israel’s” prime minister – a post he inherited when his predecessor Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated – decided to increase his military credentials before polling day by assaulting Lebanon. The joint Nobel Peace Prize holder used as an excuse the firing of Katyusha rockets over the Lebanese border by the Hizbullah. In fact, their rockets were retaliation for the killing of a small Lebanese boy by a booby-trap bomb they suspected had been left by an “Israeli” patrol. It mattered not.

A few days later, “Israeli” troops inside Lebanon came under attack close to Qana and retaliated by opening fire into the village. Their first shells hit a cemetery…; the rest flew directly into the UN Fijian army camp where hundreds of civilians were sheltering. Peres announced that “we did not know that several hundred people were concentrated in that camp. It came to us as a bitter surprise.”

It was a lie. The “Israelis” had occupied Qana for years after their 1982 invasion, they had video film of the camp, they were even flying a drone over the camp during the 1996 massacre – a fact they denied until a UN soldier gave me his video of the drone, frames from which we published in The Independent. The UN had repeatedly told “Israel” that the camp was packed with refugees.

This was Peres’s contribution to Lebanese peace. He lost the election and probably never thought much more about Qana. But I never forgot it.

When I reached the UN gates, blood was pouring through them in torrents. I could smell it. It washed over our shoes and stuck to them like glue. There were legs and arms, babies without heads, old men’s heads without bodies. A man’s body was hanging in two pieces in a burning tree. What was left of him was on fire.

On the steps of the barracks, a girl sat holding a man with grey hair, her arm round his shoulder, rocking the corpse back and forth in her arms. His eyes were staring at her. She was keening and weeping and crying, over and over: “My father, my father.” If she is still alive – and there was to be another Qana massacre in the years to come, this time from the “Israeli” air force – I doubt if the word “peacemaker” will be crossing her lips.

There was a UN enquiry which stated in its bland way that it did not believe the slaughter was an accident. The UN report was accused of being anti-Semitic. Much later, a brave “Israeli” magazine published an interview with the artillery soldiers who fired at Qana. An officer had referred to the villagers as “just a bunch of Arabs” (‘arabushim’ in Hebrew). “A few Arabushim die, there is no harm in that,” he was quoted as saying. Peres’s chief of staff was almost equally carefree: “I don’t know any other rules of the game, either for the [“Israeli”] army or for civilians…”

Peres called his Lebanese invasion “Operation Grapes of Wrath”, which – if it wasn’t inspired by John Steinbeck – must have come from the Book of Deuteronomy. “The sword without and terror within,” it says in Chapter 32, “shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of grey hairs.” Could there be a better description of those 17 minutes at Qana?

Yes, of course, Peres changed in later years. They claimed that Ariel Sharon – whose soldiers watched the massacre at Sabra and Chatila camps in 1982 by their Lebanese Christian allies – was also a “peacemaker” when he died. At least he didn’t receive the Nobel Prize.

Peres later became an advocate of a “two state solution”, even as the Jewish colonies on Palestinian land – which he once so fervently supported – continued to grow.

Now we must call him a “peacemaker”. And count, if you can, how often the word “peace” is used in the Peres obituaries over the next few days. Then count how many times the word Qana appears.

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

29-09-2016 | 13:54

Saudi Arabia Cannot Pay Its Workers or Bills – Yet Continues To Fund a War in Yemen

Robert Fisk

Almost exactly a year after Salman bin Albdulaziz Al Saud, king of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and head of the House of Saud, hurriedly left his millionaire’s mansion near Cannes with his 1,000 servants to continue his vacation in Morocco, the kingdom’s cash is not flowing so smoothly for the tens of thousands of sub-continental expatriates sweating away on his great building sites.

 


Almost unreported outside the Kingdom, the country’s big construction magnates – including that of the Binladen group – have not been paid by the Saudi government for major construction projects and a portion of the army of Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and other workers have received no wages, some of them for up to seven months.

Indian and Pakistani embassies approached the Saudi government, pleading that their workers should be paid. Economists who adopt the same lickspittle attitude towards the Saudi monarchy as the British Government, constantly point out that the authorities have been overwhelmed by the collapse of oil prices.

They usually prefer not to mention something at which the rest of the world remains aghast: deputy crown prince and defense minister Mohamed bin Salman’s wasteful and hopeless war in Yemen. Since the king’s favorite son launched this preposterous campaign against the “Houthis” last year, supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni president against Shia Muslims, aircraft flown by Saudi and Emirati pilots [aided by British technical “experts” on the ground] have bombed even more hospitals, clinics and medical warehouses than America has destroyed in Serbia and Afghanistan combined since 1999.

The result? A country with 16 per cent of the world’s proven oil reserves, whose Aramco oil company makes more than $1bn a day and now records a budget deficit of $100bn, cannot pay its bills. At first, the Yemen fiasco was called “Operation Decisive Storm”, which – once it proved the longest and least decisive Arab “storm” in the Middle East’s recent history – was changed to “Operation Restore Hope”. And the bombing went on, just as it did in the pre-“hope” “storm”, along with the help of the UK’s “experts”. No wonder the very same deputy crown prince Mohamed announced this year that state spending on salaries would be lowered, yet individual earnings would rise.

In Pakistan, whose soldiers make up a large number of the “Saudi” armed forces, there has been outrage, parliamentarians are asking why three Saudi companies have not paid salaries for eight months, refusing even to provide food for their employees. In some cases, the Pakistanis have paid their own nationals for food supplies.

In Saudi Arabia itself, the government seems unable to cope with the crisis. The Arab News says that 31,000 Saudi and other foreign workers have lodged complaints with the government’s labor ministry over unpaid wages. On one occasion, the Indian consulate and local Indian expatriates brought food to the workers so that their people should not starve. The overall figure that the government owes the construction companies owed may be billions of dollars.

Overtly xenophobic comments have emerged in the Saudi press. Writing in the Saudi Gazette, Abdulrahman Saad Al-Araabi said:

“Many expats hate us and are angry because we are a rich country. Some of them go so far as to say that we, Saudis, do not deserve these blessings and the money we have. That is the reason why some of them become violent when they do not get paid on time.”

Well, I suppose some people are paying a lot of cash to the Jabhat al-Nusra [recently re-named Jabhat Fateh al-Sham al-Nusrah] or Al-Qaeda or Isis lads out there in the line of fire in Syria.

Embassy staff from the Philippines, France and many countries in the Middle East, have raised the problems with the Saudi government. Typical of their responses has been that of Saudi Oger which said it had been “affected by current circumstances [sic] which resulted in some delays in delays in fulfilling our commitments to our employees”.

The Saudi government insisted the company paid its employees. Many of them, it should be added, are Lebanese whose Sunni Muslims come from the Sunni areas of Lebanon who traditionally vote for the Sunni leader’s son Saad.

An official of the company made the extraordinary statement that “the company’s situation is unstable due to the scrapping [sic] of many of its projects it was to execute,

” Meanwhile, workers at United Seemac construction company are complaining they have not been paid for months – or even granted permission to leave the country. Some had apparently not been paid for more than a year and a half. Unlike the big companies such as Binladen and Oger, these men – and they are indeed mostly men – are consumed into the smaller employees. “All the attention is on the big companies – it’s easy to ignore us because we are not so many people.”

All in all, a dodgy scenario in our beloved monarchy-dictatorship, whose war against the Shia Ansarullah – and the Shia Hizbullah, the Shia/Alawite regime in Damascus and Iran – is unending. Wasn’t there an equally dodgy Al-Yamamah arms deal with the Saudis a few years ago?

No cash flow problems then. And what does “yamamah” mean in Arabic? “Dove”? Let us go no further.

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

09-09-2016 | 10:05

 

Robert Fisk: We Love to Talk of Terror – But After The Munich Shooting…

Robert Fisk

The frightful and bloody hours of Friday night and Saturday morning in Munich and Kabul – despite the 3,000 miles that separate the two cities – provided a highly instructive lesson in the semantics of horror and hypocrisy. I despair of that generic old hate-word, “terror”. It long ago became the punctuation mark and signature tune of every facile politician, policeman, journalist and think tank crank in the world.

We Love to Talk of Terror - But After The Munich Shooting...

Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. Or terrorist, terrorist, terrorist, terrorist, terrorist.

But from time to time, we trip up on this killer cliché, just as we did at the weekend. Here’s how it went. When first we heard that three armed men had gone on a “shooting spree” in Munich, the German cops and the lads and lassies of the BBC, CNN and Fox News fingered the “terror” lever. The Munich constabulary, we were informed, feared this was a “terrorist act”. The local police, the BBC told us, were engaged in an “anti-terror manhunt”.

And we knew what that meant: the three men were believed to be Muslims and therefore “terrorists”, and thus suspected of being members of (or at least inspired by) “ISIS”.

Then it turned out that the three men were in fact only one man – a man who was obsessed with mass killing. He was born in Germany (albeit partly Iranian in origin). And all of a sudden, in every British media and on CNN, the “anti-terror manhunt” became a hunt for a lone “shooter”.

One UK newspaper used the word “shooter” 14 times in a few paragraphs. Somehow, “shooter” doesn’t sound as dangerous as “terrorist”, though the effect of his actions was most assuredly the same. “Shooter” is a code word. It meant: this particular mass killer is not a Muslim.

Now to Kabul, where “ISIS” – yes, the real horrific Sunni Muslim Isis of fearful legend – sent suicide bombers into thousands of Shia Muslims who were protesting on Saturday morning at what appears to have been a pretty routine bit of official discrimination.

The Afghan government had declined to route a new power line through the minority Hazara (Shia) district of the country – a smaller electric cable connection had failed to satisfy the crowds – and had warned the Shia men and women to cancel their protest. The crowds, many of them middle-class young men and women from the capital, ignored this ominous warning and turned up near the presidential palace to pitch tents upon which they had written in Dari “justice and light” and “death to discrimination”.

But death came to them instead, in the form of two “ISIS” men – one of them apparently pushing an ice-cream cart – whose explosives literally blew apart 80 of the Shia Muslims and wounded at another 260.

In a city in which elements of the Afghan government are sometimes called the Taliban government, and in which an Afghan version of the Sunni Muslim “ISIS” is popularly supposed to reside like a bacillus within those same factions, it wasn’t long before the activists who organized the demonstration began to suspect that the authorities themselves were behind the massacre. Of course, we in the West did not hear this version of events. Reports from Kabul concentrated instead on those who denied or claimed the atrocity. The horrid Taliban denied it. The horrid “ISIS” said they did it. And thus all reports centered on the “ISIS” claim of responsibility.

But wait. Not a single report, not one newscast, referred to the Kabul slaughter as an act of “terror”. The Afghan government did. But we did not. We referred to the “suicide bombers” and the “attackers” in much the same way that we referred to the “shooter” in Munich.

Now this is very odd. How come a Muslim can be a terrorist in Europe but a mere “attacker” in south-west Asia? Because in Kabul the killers were not attacking Westerners? Or because they were attacking their fellow Muslims, albeit of the Shia Muslim variety?

I suspect both answers are correct. I can find no other reason for this weird semantic game. For just as the terrorist identity faded away in Munich the moment Ali Sonboly turned out to have more interest in the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik than the Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of Mosul, so the real “ISIS” murderers in Kabul completely avoided the stigma of being called terrorists in any shape or form.

This nonsensical nomenclature is going to be further warped – be sure of this – as more and more of the European victims of the attacks in EU nations turn out to be Muslims themselves. The large number of Muslims killed by “ISIS” in Nice was noticed, but scarcely headlined.

The four young Turks shot down by Ali Sonboly were subsumed into the story as an almost routine part of what is now, alas, the routine of mass killing in Europe as well as in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The identity of Muslims in Europe is therefore fudged if they are victims but of vital political importance if they are killers. But in Kabul, where both victims and murderers were Muslim, their mutual crisis of religious identity is of no interest in the West; the bloodbath is described in anaemic terms. The two attackers “attacked” and the “attacked” were left with 80 dead – more like a football match than a war of terror.

It all comes down to the same thing in the end. If Muslims attack us, they are terrorists. If non-Muslims attack us, they are shooters. If Muslims attack other Muslims, they are attackers.

Scissor out this paragraph and keep it beside you when the killers next let loose – and you’ll be able to work out who the bad guys are before the cops tell you.

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team 

25-07-2016 | 15:23

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Inside the air base that held out against Isis for three years – and the death and destruction that was left behind

Israel lost its war. Will Assad's enemies lose, too? - Robert Fisk

The relief of Isis-besieged Kuweires air base last year after an astonishing two-year hold-out was a major symbolic blow against Isis in Syria. Robert Fisk, the first Western journalist to visit the site, finds tales both of death and defiance

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The remains of the Isis fighters still lie on the desert floor outside the sand ramparts of the Kuweires air base in northern Syria. A skull, sockets staring at the sun; bones protruding from a military boot; and rotted torsos beneath a grey tarpaulin lie beside the colossal, burnt-out suicide tank they tried to drive through the earthen wall.

For three years, Syrian government soldiers and air force cadets and cooks and military teachers fought them off. By the count of air force Brigadier General Munzer Zaman, Syrian group commander of Kuweires, around 1,100 men defended their base. Eight hundred of them died.

Twice Isis managed to break through the perimeter of the 15-sq-km air base on the main highway to Raqqa, driving captured Syrian armoured vehicles packed with explosives and smashing them into hangars and an administration block. An intelligence officer called Maher leads us to a 30-metre high pile of concrete.

“Five of my friends died here,” he says. “We found a hand, part of a body, that’s all,” and he held his arms apart to show how little was left of them. The rest still lay beneath the rubble. “One of them was a general,” he says.

If the Syrian army survives this terrible war, the story of the siege of Kuweires, north of the great salt lakes in the desert 38 miles east of Syria’s largest city of Aleppo, will be told and retold as an epic of endurance and bravery. If it is defeated, the battles here will be denigrated as the brutal stand of a regime’s forces against the “martyrs” of Islam, the smashed villages and mosques surrounding the air base testimony to the cruelty of war. The crumpled villages are there all right, shell-holed, roofless, a cupola roof of a mosque lying on its own broken walls, a cemetery of powdered gravestones.

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Syrian Air Force Group Commander Munzer Zamam Commander in his office at Koyeress airbase (Nelofer Pazira)

But after General “Tiger” Suheil and Major Saleh blasted their way down the highway to the relief of Kuweires six months ago, the battle did not end. All day while I am here, the batteries of 122mm guns are still banging their shells across the desert. Brig Zaman constantly breaks off his conversation to receive battlefront requests for artillery support from shouting soldiers, and he scrawls over his computer maps to check their coordinates and give permission to fire. The windows of his office rattle constantly with the blasts.

Even today, the lonely road to Kuweires runs up the eastbound side of the dual carriageway between burnt fields, scorched factories and blasted homes. “Liberating” besieged soldiers is a destructive business. You might find the villages of Fah and Meer el-Hossen on a map. But they are dead. Brig Zaman insists that Syria will be rebuilt “more beautiful than it was before the terrorists came” and one can only hope he is right.

 30,000 Syrian children ‘starving’ on Jordan border

“Terrorists” means Isis and the al-Nusrah Front – Zaman makes no difference between them – and he has a bleak, harsh memory of the battles to defend his air base. “Our enemy,” he says, “had two choices: death and death. There was no other.” When I ask if he knew the Syrian pilot, Major Nowras Hassan, who had just bailed out over Nusrah territory on the Syrian-Lebanese border far to the west and been promptly executed by his captors, Brig Zaman nods. “Of course I knew him well. He was a married man, no children. But the ways of terrorists will not terrorise us. Our base was under siege for three and a half years. It was the largest siege in history after Stalingrad.”

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Captured homemade Isis mortar on the Syrian airbase at Koyeress (Nelofer Pazira)

The casualties and the geography may be a miniature version of the German Sixth Army’s siege of the Soviet city, although there were some clear historical parallels. The “liberation” of Kuweires earlier this year could not have been achieved without Russian air support; and the graveyard of smashed Mig fighter-bombers, shell holes, dismembered trees and gun-pits have a distinctly Second World War flavour. So do the casualties. Nine air force students died when a suicide truck was crashed into the hangar in which they were sleeping. The Syrians buried their dead in cemeteries around the runways, 79 of them in separate graves beside the air-base swimming pool.

“Our mufti said prayers over them under the shellfire but there were no shots fired over their graves,” a major says. “When we were liberated, the bodies were dug up one at a time and placed in new coffins and inside was a glass jar with their names and details.” A wooden board with “grave No. 7” on it is marked: “Ahmed Ali Zohoud from Lattakia, died 7 July 2015.” Almost exactly a year ago. A mile away, rows of captured homemade mortars constructed by Isis mechanics lie in the grass near to an American-made construction vehicle attached to a massive iron drill that had ben used to build tunnels beneath the base.

“They tried to call up the officers on the base,” Brig Zaman says. “They sent papers over the walls with numbers of mobile phones our men could ring to defect. They offered safety corridors from the base if they wanted to desert. But our men were loyal. I even received a message with telephone numbers to ring in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. I gave the numbers to our intelligence people. These countries work for the Americans and for Israel. The only slogan we sent back was that we will win or face the consequences of being martyrs.”

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Missile with origin defaced, fired at Syrian troops at Koyeress airbase 40 km east of Aleppo (Nelofer Pazira)

For two years, helicopters could still land under fire in the base, but then flights became too dangerous. They then relied on air drops for essential supplies. General Hasham Mohamed Younis, a teacher at the air academy at Kuweires, was in charge of air drops throughout the siege. “Our helicopters flew over at an altitude of 4km,” he says. “Our problems were wind, the weight of the 75kg and 120kg packages – because the parachutes used in the drops were made for the weight of men – and the terrorists shooting at the drops when they were parachuted down to us. Some drifted down over the enemy, but not many. We successfully received most of the diesel and kerosene and food and letters for cadets from their families.”

War stories there were aplenty. Gen Younis recalls how one package of food from a cadet’s family was packed beneath a parachute which was blown down into the Isis lines. After a few hours, a message was thrown over the wall addressed to the cadet. “The enemy said they had enjoyed his mother’s food,” Younis recounts. “They asked him to tell his mother to send more for them.”

One fuel-carrying helicopter was shot down en route to Kuweires, all but one of its crew burnt to death. The other, Pilot Ali Hosman, jumped out of the machine holding on to one of the parachutes and landed on a 14-year old boy on the ground. The boy lived. Hosman died five minutes later.

Driving across the runways and perimeter ramparts of this huge air base – the first Western journalist ever to visit Kuweires – it isn’t difficult to see what a prestigious target it made for Isis. Battered Mig jets – one with its tail broken off – stand beside more captured ordnance, two unexploded missiles clearly bear Latin letters and numbers of Western origin, another bears the inscription of an Arab government depot with its country of origin carefully scratched out. The tanks and BMP armour Isis used appear to have been captured from the Syrians at the start of the war – they include a T-72 tank which has its own Isis numbering (“311” is stencilled below the rear chassis) and it is remarkable that any serviceable aircraft still survive. But I drive past untouched Hind helicopters and several new Migs.

The soldiers at Kuweires are in some ways lucky. At least one other air base was overrun by Isis and its defenders captured – they were then beheaded on film. No wonder Brig Zaman is harsh in his commentary of war.

“We had no messages for our enemies – we replied with our weapons. These people who have this ideology, you can’t change them – but you can kill them.”

And he makes a reference to Hama in 1982, where Syrian forces killed thousands following a Muslim Brotherhood uprising. His lesson is a grim if rather startling one.

“In Syria, we are defending all the world’s humanity. If Syria is defeated, even Britain will not escape, nor France, nor Turkey, nor Jordan. They will be darkened with the same blood.”

There are many, however, who would point out that Britain has not escaped Isis, nor France, nor Turkey, nor Jordan. All countries which – along with America, Israel and the Gulf – Syria blames for the “conspiracy” to destroy the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

After Splitting with Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra is Being Presented to West as Moderate Force. It’s Nothing of the Sort!

Robert Fisk

So ol‘ Doc Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s chief executive successor, has told the Syrian Jabhat al-Nusra that it can dissociate itself from Al-Qaeda. Good public relations: Nusra doesn’t like the “ISIS” “caliphate” very much, but as long as it remains a Qaeda clone, it can’t get off America’s terrorist list and qualify to join the [non-existent] 70,000 Syrian “moderates” dreamed up by David Cameron and a lot of American television networks.

After Splitting with Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra is Being Presented to West as Moderate Force. It’s Nothing of the Sort!

Qatar’s relations with Nusra raises questions. It denies direct ties with the group, and yet six months ago the Qatari al-Jazeera channel interviewed Nusra’s leader, Mohamed al-Jolani, who said that it had nothing against Christians, Alawites or Americans – only that pesky president in Damascus who’s got Hizbullah, Iran and Russia on his side.

Have no doubts about the Qatar link. Nusra boys have just released three Spanish journalists held in northern Syria for the past 10 months, after which the Qatari state news agency boasted that the Qatari authorities were involved in freeing them. You bet they were. Had the unlucky three fallen into the hands of those other morbid sons-of-the-desert, “ISIS” [for whom many Saudis seem to have an unhappy affection], then the reporters would have had their throats cut on videotape against a soundtrack of yet more mushy “nasheed” music.

When a group of Christian nuns fell into Nusra hands in Syria in 2013, Qatar helped to bail them out via Lebanon – at a reported price of more than $1m a nun – and was duly thanked by the Lebanese security authorities. If readers are getting a little bit suspicious, perhaps wondering if the Qataris are trying to take over the armed Syrian opposition from “ISIS” and its Saudi Salafist brothers, they may well be right.

But now the flip side of the story. Just a week ago, an essay appeared in Foreign Policy magazine, the bi-weekly co-founded by the late Samuel Huntington [of Clash of Civilizations infamy] and now owned by the Washington Post, no less. The author Charles Lister’s thesis, if such it can be called, is that al-Qaeda is trying to take total control of the Nusra and overshadow Isis through an unprecedented debate within its ranks to “integrate into the ‘mainstream opposition’”. The “mainstream opposition” presumably refers to the fictional 70,000-strong legions beloved of Dave Cameron and, presumably, the future US President Hillary Clinton.

Nusra, according to Lister, is “rebuilding a military coalition and plans to soon initiate major offensive operations south of Aleppo” in order to spoil US and Russian efforts for a truce in the city. The best way of thwarting al-Qaeda’s ambitions “is to dramatically scale up assistance to vetted [sic] military and civil components [sic, again] of the mainstream opposition inside Syria,” he writes. All this, of course, because we’ve so far given “insufficient backing” to those “moderate elements of the opposition” who can’t compete with the “battlefield power and capacity to control territory” of Nusra.

So far, so good. Far from breaking free of al-Qaeda, Lister’s version of Nusra suggest that it’s been ever more deeply penetrated by al-Qaeda – or “al-Qaeda Central”, as he calls it – to the point where Saif al-Adel, “the most influential living al-Qaeda figure other than Zawahiri”, has arrived in Syria. And Adel has done so “almost certainly”, as Lister adds reassuringly, with “three other key al-Qaeda figures”.

These guys are now supposedly discussing the setting up of yet another “emirate” in Syria’s Idlib province. But the recent cessation of hostilities “catalyzed a dramatic re-empowerment of Syria’s moderate protest movement and the revitalization of the most [sic, yet again] moderate elements of the opposition”.

An anonymous Free Syrian Army [i.e.: ‘moderate’] commander is quoted by Lister as confirming that al-Qaeda forces “represent everything we are opposed to, they are the same as the regime. But what can we do when our supposed friends abroad give us nothing to assert ourselves?” What “a broad spectrum of Syria’s opposition” need, therefore, is “a substantial expansion of military, political and financial assistance”.

These Free Syrian Army groups, Lister says, now number 50 – phew! – vetted by the CIA, all of which “operate in coordination with locally legitimate [sic yet once more] civil, political and judicial bodies”.

So who is the writer Charles Lister? Among his various academic duties, he’s a senior consultant for the “Shaikh Group’s Track II Syria Initiative”. The “shaikh” in question is not a Middle East potentate but Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Centre in Qatar and fellow at the Centre for Middle East Policy, formerly the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy [the “Saban” being Haim Saban, the American-Israeli film and television mogul who donated $13m to the centre and has given substantial funds to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign].

Lister, according to his various CVs, was a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Centre and has helped negotiate a process of “engagement with the leaderships of over 100 Syrian armed opposition groups”. Which is an awful lot of rebels – far more than the 70,000 conjured up by Dave Cameron.

So what’s going on down in Doha? The Brookings Doha Centre belongs to the Brookings Institute and its co-chair is Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber bin Thani al-Thani, a member of the Qatari ruling family and former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. Is the real debate, therefore – far from being thrashed out in Idlib province – really going on down in Qatar, whose present leadership has gone a long way to clean up Nusra’s reputation and to present it as the real moderate “opposition” which deserves all that CIA help?

A final point. “ISIS” has been bloody quiet recently, in every sense of the word. No gory videos, no nasheed songs. Why? Because it’s losing ground to the Syrians and their allies? Because it lost Palmyra?

Or because it’s waiting to find out whether Nusra is going to be the darling of the Syrian opposition – and thus America and Europe – or targeted by all of us as an even more apocalyptic version of “ISIS”?

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

11-05-2016 | 13:45

World played with fire in Syria, scholar says

The BRICS Post

April 26, 2016, 7:21 pm

Smoke rises from a building struck by artillery in north Damascus [Xinhua]

Smoke rises from a building struck by artillery in north Damascus [Xinhua]

John Rosenthal is a European-based journalist and political analyst who writes on European politics and transatlantic issues.

He has also written extensively about the Syrian Civil War.

His articles have appeared in such publications as Al-Monitor, World AffairsThe Wall Street Journal EuropeLes Temps Modernes, and Die Weltwoche. He is the author of the recent book The Jihadist Plot: The Untold Story of Al-Qaeda and the Libyan Rebellion.

The BRICS Post recently interviewed Rosenthal about developments in Syria.

TBP: The Syrian military delivered ISIL it’s greatest defeat in two years by recapturing the ancient city of Palmyra on March 27. But Robert Fisk criticized Western powers for not cheering ISIL’s demise in Palmyra.

Coming a week after ISIL’s brutal attack in Brussels, shouldn’t the EU at least have seen this as payback?

Rosenthal: Like the United States, the major European powers have put themselves in an impossible position. For five years now, they have been telling us that Bashar al-Assad and the Assad “regime”, as they say, are the root of all evil in Syria – so awful that it was even worth facilitating the rise of openly jihadist forces in Syria, in order to hasten the regime’s demise.

The most extreme variant of this “root-of-all-evil” hypothesis is the idea that the Assad regime itself was responsible for the rise of ISIL and has continued, in one form or another, to collude with it.

This idea has become commonplace on both sides of the Atlantic. If ISIL is responsible for the Brussels attacks, as it claims, then, of course, Western leaders should be celebrating ISIL’s defeat at Palmyra.

But since that defeat has come at the hands of regime forces, this would be to admit they were wrong. And one thing these people will never do is admit they are wrong.

Hence the embarrassed silence vis-à-vis Palmyra.

There has been much criticism in the past few years of how Western press have covered the Syrian civil war.

As a journalist who has written about the conflict, is this criticism warranted?

Absolutely. In fact, even though my writing is 99 per cent just factual, I was less and less able to write about the conflict, because the media did not want to publish the facts in question.

One of the publications to which I had been a regular contributor – National Review Online, the website of the American conservative weekly National Review – went so far as to “bar” me from publishing.

In other words, they blacklisted me. At least this is what the journalist Michael Weiss claims, and I think Weiss is right.

The editors at National Review did not tell me I was “barred,” but they never again accepted a submission from me and eventually ceased responding altogether.

Weiss, incidentally, is one of the main American proponents of the “Assad-as-root-of-all-evil” view of the Syrian conflict, and he clearly believes that my barring was well deserved.

The reason for my barring was an article I published in June 2012 on the Houla massacre. The massacre represented a major turning point in the Syrian conflict.

Responsibility was almost instantaneously attributed to regime forces and/or affiliated militias, and Western governments responded by cutting off diplomatic relations with Damascus.

Two weeks later, however, Germany’s paper-of-record, Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, published a report suggesting that these initial attributions were mistaken and that the perpetrators of the massacre were in fact rebel forces.

I am a specialist in European languages and politics, and it struck me as normal, under the circumstances, to try to make the gist of this report accessible to the English-speaking public.

But very quickly I heard from a contact at National Review that my sources were suspected of being “beholden to Assad”.

The notion that the leading paper of Europe’s richest and most powerful nation is somehow “beholden to Assad” is downright laughable.

But it is a measure of the parochialism of some of America’s would-be “opinion-makers” that it appears to have been taken seriously by the editors at National Review.

Such insinuations – and, I suppose, the fact that I had the temerity to defend the credibility of the report against irrelevant smears – was enough to get me barred.

Another example: As you know, in April 2014 the Dutch priest Father Frans van der Lugt was killed in a rebel-controlled Christian neighborhood of Homs.

Father Frans’s death made headlines around the world and he was widely eulogized for his good works in Syria. Examining Father Frans’s publications in Dutch, however, I discovered that his own first-hand observations of the beginnings of the anti-Assad rebellion contrasted sharply with the standard view in the Western media.

Undoubtedly most significantly, Father Frans insisted that the protests that sparked the rebellion in 2011 were not strictly peaceful, as they have been almost universally presented to the Western public, but rather contained an armed and violent element from the start. He also accused rebel forces of committing atrocities and then blaming them on the regime.

By this time, needless to say, I could not even have dreamed of pitching an article on Father Frans’s observations to National Review. But I could not place one in any other Stateside outlet either, including venues with which I had an established relationship.

Despite their obvious relevance and newsworthiness – or rather: precisely because of the latter – Father Frans’s views were taboo.

If he had still been alive and his observations had become known, he would surely have been attacked as an Assad “propagandist” – as other Syria-based Christian clergy who made similar observations in fact have been.

I could give numerous other examples.

Once Washington and its European allies had established the terms of the politically “correct” narrative of the Syrian crisis, facts that failed to jibe with that narrative were unwanted and anyone who tried to report them was inevitably attacked as “pro-Assad”.

European intelligence services are now chasing ISIL veterans who returned from the Middle East to roost at home.

You’ve been writing about these networks and how ill informed European agencies have been about their sheer numbers.

Could the Brussels attack have been thwarted?

A publicly distributed picture from the Aleppo Media Centre shows rebel fighters evading government troops [AMC via AP]

A publicly distributed picture from the Aleppo Media Centre shows rebel fighters evading government troops [AMC via AP]

Well, if we consider just the immediate background to the attacks, it is hard to say. There is some evidence that these guys acted when they did precisely because they believed they were about to be caught.

Obviously, one cannot say that Belgian authorities have been incredibly efficient about breaking up terror plots. But neither can one say that about the French.

Although it tends to escape notice, a major component of the November Paris attacks – namely, the attack on the Bataclan Theatre – was a strictly French operation. And, of course, there was the Charlie Hebdo attack and numerous other recent attacks in France – almost all of them carried out by French jihadists.

But if we take a longer view, the answer is already implicit in your question, and I’m afraid your formulation is entirely apt. These guys have indeed come home to roost.

With the sole exception of Salah Abdeslam, all the known perpetrators of the November Paris attacks were returnees from Syria.

Four of the five suspected perpetrators of the Brussels attacks are known to have either been in Syria or attempted to get there.

By providing moral and diplomatic and, in some cases, material support to the anti-Assad jihad in Syria, and by allowing jihadist safe havens to be carved out of Syrian territory, the European powers helped to create the most important incubator of terror that the world has yet seen.

Obviously, Belgium bears less responsibility in this regard. It is not small states like Belgium that lay down the broad lines of European foreign policy. It is the major EU powers: France, Germany and, for the moment, the UK.

The problem is not one of nuts-and-bolts counter-terrorism. The problem is one of policy. By fomenting jihad in Syria, the European powers and the US have been playing with fire.

Citizens of Europe are now paying the price.

How does media coverage of Syria compare with coverage of before/after the 2003 Iraq war?

At least as concerns the US media, the situation today is incomparably worse. There was a long debate in the run-up to the war, and in the aftermath no one had any problems questioning the grounds for intervention or even indeed outright accusing the Bush administration of having lied.

This became entirely commonplace. The stifling of debate and the homogenization of the media as regards hot-button foreign policy issues really began under the Obama administration: most notably, in the context of the Libyan war.

But at the time, it was at least still possible to bring up conflicting information in “new” media and indeed in some conservative media.

I published numerous articles on the Islamist roots of the Libyan rebellion and the presence in it of Al-Qaeda-linked militants precisely at National Review Online.

In the aftermath of the war – i.e. when it no longer mattered to policy – even the mainstream US media would to some extent acknowledge this presence; and then, of course, the US experienced its own sort of “chickens-coming-home-to-roost” moment in the form of the September 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi.

I suppose it is because the Syrian “playbook”, so to speak, so closely resembled the Libyan one that the screws had to be turned even tighter.

Why is David Cameron So Silent on the Recapture of Palmyra from the Clutches of ’ISIS’?

Robert FiskThe biggest military defeat that “ISIS” has suffered in more than two years. The recapture of Palmyra, the Roman city of the Empress Zenobia. And we are silent. Yes, folks, the bad guys won, didn’t they? Otherwise, we would all be celebrating, wouldn’t we?

Why is David Cameron So Silent on the Recapture of Palmyra from the Clutches of

Less than a week after the lost souls of the ‘Islamic Caliphate’ destroyed the lives of more than 30 innocent human beings in Brussels, we should – should we not? – have been clapping our hands at the most crushing military reverse in the history of “ISIS”. But no. As the black masters of execution fled Palmyra this weekend, Messers Obama and Cameron were as silent as the grave to which “ISIS” have dispatched so many of their victims. He who lowered our national flag in honor of the head-chopping king of Arabia [I’m talking about Dave, of course] said not a word.

As my long-dead colleague on the Sunday Express, John Gordon, used to say, makes you sit up a bit, doesn’t it? Here are the Syrian army, backed, of course, by Vladimir Putin’s Russkies, chucking the clowns of “ISIS” out of town, and we daren’t utter a single word to say well done.

When Palmyra fell last year, we predicted the fall of Bashar al-Assad. We ignored, were silent on, the Syrian army’s big question: why, if the Americans hated Isis so much, didn’t they bomb the suicide convoys that broke through the Syrian army’s front lines? Why didn’t they attack “ISIS”?

“If the Americans wanted to destroy “ISIS”, why didn’t they bomb them when they saw them?” a Syrian army general asked me, after his soldiers’ defeat, his son had been killed defending Homs. His men had been captured and head-chopped in the Roman ruins. The Syrian official in charge of the Roman ruins [of which we cared so much, remember?] was himself beheaded. “ISIS” even put his spectacles back on top of his decapitated head, for fun. And we were silent then.

Putin noticed this, and talked about it, and accurately predicted the retaking of Palmyra. His aircraft attacked “ISIS”- as US planes did not – in advance of the Syrian army’s conquest. I could not help but smile when I read that the US command claimed two air strikes against “ISIS” around Palmyra in the days leading up to its recapture by the regime. That really did tell you all you needed to know about the American “war on terror”. They wanted to destroy “ISIS”, but not that much.

So in the end, it was the Syrian army and its Hizbullah chums from Lebanon and the Iranians and the Russians who drove the Isis murderers out of Palmyra, and who may – heavens preserve us from such a success – even storm the “ISIS” Syrian ‘capital’ of Raqqa. I have written many times that the Syrian army will decide the future of Syria. If they grab back Raqqa – and Deir el-Zour, where the Nusra front destroyed the church of the Armenian genocide and threw the bones of the long-dead 1915 Christian victims into the streets – I promise you we will be silent again.

Aren’t we supposed to be destroying “ISIS”? Forget it. That’s Putin’s job. And Assad’s. Pray for peace, folks. That’s what it’s about, isn’t it? And Geneva. Where is that, exactly?

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

28-03-2016 | 12:15

Saudi Arabia turns on Lebanon for its unfaithfulness and lack of gratitude after decades of largesse

After pouring billions into rebuilding the country following successive Israeli invasions and air raids, the Saudis find that they cannot prevent the Shia from expressing their fury at Riyadh

If you drive from Sunni Muslim Sidon to Shia Muslim southern Lebanon, you can travel from Saudi Arabia to Iran in 10 minutes. Sidon – like Lebanon’s other great Sunni majority city, Tripoli – has always basked in the favour of the Saudi monarchy.

The south, with its mass of Hezbollah fighters – armed and paid for by Tehran, its “martyr” photographs plastered across the walls of every village – has long been a lung through which Saudi Arabia’s Iranian enemies breathe. But now Saudi Arabia, blundering into the civil war in Yemen and threatening to send its overpaid but poorly trained soldiers into Syria, has turned with a vengeance on Lebanon for its unfaithfulness and lack of gratitude after decades of Saudi largesse.

  After repeatedly promising to spend £3.2bn on new French weapons for the well-trained but hopelessly under-armed Lebanese army, Saudi Arabia has suddenly declined to fund the project – which was eagerly supported by the US and, for greedier reasons, by Paris. Along with other Gulf states, Riyadh has told its citizens not to visit Lebanon or – if they are already there – to leave. Saudi Airlines is supposedly going to halt all flights to Beirut. Lebanon, according to the Saudis, is a centre of “terror”.

What prompted all this spite was a ferocious attack on the House of Saud by Hezbollah’s chairman, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, whose battalions are fighting and dying alongside Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers in Syria and killing the Islamist rebels who share a Sunni Wahabi faith with the Saudis.

After pouring billions into Lebanon for decades – rebuilding the country after successive Israeli invasions and air raids – the Saudis find that they cannot prevent the Shia, whose government representatives include Hezbollah party members, from expressing their fury at Riyadh, especially after the Kingdom chopped the head off the popular and learned Saudi Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr. Why, the Saudis say, did Lebanon not even join in the chorus of condemnation against Iran when Saudi diplomats were assaulted in Tehran?

Bahraini Sheikh Jaffer al-Alawi speaks during a protest held in Beirut, against Shiite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr’s execution by Saudi authorities, in January (Getty)

The Saudis will probably regret this assault. Pulling Lebanon’s financial magic carpet away opens the country up to other “friends”, not least Iran which, according to the latest Beirut reports, would be happy to fund the Lebanese army to the tune of £7bn – providing, of course, the newly purchased weapons come from Tehran, and not from Paris.

The Americans and the British, desperate to prop up the secular Lebanese army with enough weapons to protect the country from Isis – which briefly took over the north-eastern Lebanese town of Ersal and still holds nine Lebanese soldiers captive – are pleading with the Saudis to keep their original £3.2bn promise.

But this latest crisis since the last greatest crisis in the drama of Lebanon – which currently has no president and no proper functioning parliament and not even a rubbish collection – is not without its own unique comedy.

 Protests follow execution

Saudis will find no problem in abandoning Saudi Airlines’s lacklustre hospitality en route to Beirut in favour of the infinitely more luxurious aircraft of Emirates Airlines. And warnings of “terror” are not going to stop Saudis desperate for the fleshpots of the Levant from travelling to Beirut once the temperatures boil up in the streets of Riyadh and Jeddah.

The nightclubs and high-class sex workers of Lebanon will not fall victim to the aggressive politics of the Kingdom’s young and newly powerful princes. And then there is the unfortunate case of “Prince Captagon”, the Saudi royal family member still in a Lebanese prison for allegedly trying to smuggle drugs on to his private jet at Beirut airport last year.

The moment he was arrested, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon called up the Lebanese foreign minister and haughtily announced that his immediate release was a “political” imperative.

 The Sunni Lebanese Future Movement’s leader and former Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, is a Saudi citizen – as was his assassinated ex-prime minister father Rafiq – and is now quite taken aback by the wilful actions of a nation to which he has always given as much allegiance as he has to Lebanon. The Future Movement, it seems, did not try hard enough to ameliorate Lebanon’s official criticism of Saudi Arabia in the Arab League and should have prevented Hezbollah from destabilising Yemen and Bahrain – even though there is no physical proof that either Hezbollah or Iran have actually been involved in the Yemeni war or the Shia revolt against the Bahraini autarchy, where a Sunni king rules over a Shia majority.

Needless to say, the Sunnis of Tripoli are issuing proclamations of their undying gratitude to the Saudi royal family for the ceaseless flow of dollars which has smothered them in years gone by.

Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek, the head of Hezbollah’s Shariah Council, insisted that it was the Saudis who should apologise to Lebanon which “has always been on the side of the Arab nation”. The country, he said – and this was a prim way of alluding to the Saudis’ abiding interest in the sleazier side of Lebanon’s entertainment industry – was “not a farm for the al-Saud family and others”. But the Hezbollah have their own sniffy way of reacting to insults.

 Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is taken aback by the actions of Saudi Arabia (EPA)

“Spontaneous” Shia protest demonstrations  were held in the southern suburbs of Beirut when a local television station lampooned the unassailable Sayyed Nasrallah. A cartoon had depicted the Hezbollah leader proclaiming his total and absolute denial of all Iranian influence – until a hand marked “Iran” appeared from the left-hand side of the screen, at which point the cartoon Nasrallah slobbered all over it.

 The sad truth is that the Saudis are publicly praised and secretly reviled across the Muslim Middle East because they are very rich and most of their fellow Arabs, comparatively, are very poor. Generous the Saudis have been – propping up their favourite political causes, constantly repairing Lebanon, building hideous new mosques in Bosnia and spending in the casinos of Europe – but open-minded they are not.

No wonder some in Beirut are asking whether, crushed by the collapse of oil prices, the cost of its Yemeni adventure and facing a lake of poverty among its own people, Saudi Arabia isn’t simply running out of money. In which case, a newly desanctioned Iran would be happy to take the monarchy’s place as the financial saviour of Lebanon – as well as play the new policeman of the Middle East, courtesy of the US. Strange, isn’t it, that the name “Israel” hasn’t once popped up in this saga?

The Independent: The Untold Story of the Siege of Nubl and Zahra Villages – How the World Turned Blind Eye

Robert Fisk

This is the untold story of the three-and-a-half-year siege of two small Shia Muslim villages in northern Syria. Although their recapture by the Syrian army… caught headlines for a few hours three weeks ago, the world paid no heed to the suffering of these people, their 1,000 “martyrs”, at least half of them civilians, and the 100 children who died of shellfire and starvation.

The Independent: The Untold Story of the Siege of Two Small Shia Villages - How the World Turned Blind Eye

For these were villages that remained loyal to the Syrian government and paid the price – and were thus unworthy of our attention, which remained largely fixed on those civilians suffering under siege by government forces elsewhere.

Nubl and Zahra should be an 18-minute drive off the motorway north-east of Aleppo but the war’s front lines in the sharp-winded north of Syria have cut so deeply into the landscape that to avoid the men of the Jabhat al-Nusra and “ISIS”, you have to drive for two hours along fields and broken country roads and through villages smashed and groined by the Syrian offensive.

Syrian and Iranian flags now hang from telegraph poles outside the damaged village mosques, a powerful symbol of an alliance that brought these people’s years of pain to an end. Among them were at least 100 Sunni Muslim families – perhaps 500 souls – who, way back in 2012 chose to take refuge with their Shia countrymen rather than live under the rules of the “Islamists”.

The police commander, Rakan Wanous, kept meticulous records of the siege and deaths in Nubl and Zahra and recorded, with obviously bitter memories, the threatening phone calls he took from the Nusra forces surrounding his two villages. Wanous was also officially in charge of many other towns that had fallen to Nusra. Yes, he said bleakly, the calls came from the neighboring Sunni village of Mayer. “Once, they told me they were going to come and slaughter us – and slaughter me – and I told them: ‘Well, let’s wait until you get here and see.’ On another occasion, they threatened to shower us with chemical weapons.”

Wanous was deeply upset in recalling this. Had some of the calls came from people he knew personally? I asked. “Yes”, he said. “The ones who threatened me often were from my own police force. They came from my own policemen – of course, they had my mobile number. Some calls came from sons of my own friends.” Of Wanous’s 15‑man police force, five stayed loyal to him. The other 10 defected to Nusra.

From the start, Nubl and Zahra were defended by their own pro-government fighters, a force perhaps 5,000-strong who were armed with rifles, rocket launchers and a few mortars. Up to 25,000 of the original 100,000 civilian inhabitants managed to flee to Turkey in the early days of the fighting. The rest were trapped in their homes and in the narrow, shell-blasted streets. “We reached a period after a year when we were in despair,” one of the local civil administrators, Ali Balwi, said. “We never expected this to end. Many of the civilians died because their wounds could not be cared for. We ran out of petrol early on. They cut off all electricity.”

The Independent: The Untold Story of the Siege of Two Small Shia Villages - How the World Turned Blind Eye

The villages’ sole link with the outside world was the mobile phone system that operated throughout the siege so that civilians and fighters could keep in touch with families and friends in Aleppo. Mohamed Nassif, a 61-year old civil servant, recalled how he had, in desperation, called the UN in New York to plead for help and humanitarian aid for the villages. “I spoke to someone – he was a Palestinian lawyer – at the UN Human Rights office in New York and I asked if there was any way the UN could lift this siege and help us. I asked for humanitarian aid. But they did nothing. I did not hear back from them.”

When the siege began, Wanous said, the Syrian government resupplied the villagers with food, bread, flour and medicine. The helicopters also dropped ammunition. There were three or four flights every day during the first year. “Then at about five o’clock, at dawn, on 30 June 2013, a helicopter came to us with some returning villagers from Aleppo and a staff of seven teachers for our schools who were to hold the school exams here,” Wanous said. “Someone in Mayer fired a rocket at the helicopter and the pilot managed to steer it away from the village and it crashed on the hillside outside in a big explosion. There were 17 on board, including the pilot and extra crewman. Everyone died. The bodies were in bits and all were burnt. That was the last helicopter to fly to us.” The wreckage of the helicopter still lies on the hillside.

But there were Syrian Kurdish villages to the north of Nubl and Zahra and Kurdish fighters from Afrin tried to open a road to the besieged Shia; yet Nusra managed to block them. So the Kurds smuggled food to their Syrian compatriots by night. There are differing accounts of what happened next. Some in the village admitted that food prices became so high that poor people could not afford to eat. The authorities say that at least 50 civilians died of hunger. Fatima Abdullah Younis described how she could not find medicine for her sick mother – or for two wounded cousins who could not be cared for and died of their injuries. “God’s help was great for us and so we were patient,” she said. “But we suffered a lot and paid a heavy price in the blood of our martyrs.” During the siege, Ms Younis learned that her nephew, Mohamed Abdullah, had been killed in Aleppo. She and her husband have lost 38 members of their two families in the war.

But the war around Nubl and Zahra is far from over. I drove along the route from Bashkoi, which the Syrian and Iranian forces took to reach the villages, and found every house, mosque and farm destroyed, the fields ploughed over, olive trees shredded by the roadside. Big Russian-made tanks and trucks carrying anti-aircraft guns blocked some of the roads – driven in one case by Iraqi Shia fighter with “Kerbala” written on their vehicle – and just to the east of one laneway a Syrian helicopter appeared out of the clouds and dropped a bomb on the Nusra lines half a mile away with a thunderous explosion and a massive cloud of brown smoke. Ramparts of dark, fresh earth have been erected alongside many roads because snipers from Nusra and “ISIS” still shoot at soldiers and civilians driving out to Aleppo.

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

23-02-2016 | 11:51

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Robert Fisk: Everyone Wrote off the Syrian Army. Take Another Look Now

The Independent

While the world still rages on at Russia’s presumption in the Middle East – to intervene in Syria instead of letting the Americans decide which dictators should survive or die – we’ve all been forgetting the one institution in that Arab land which continues to function and protect the state which Moscow has decided to preserve: the Syrian army. While Russia has been propagandising its missiles, the Syrian military, undermanned and undergunned a few months ago, has suddenly moved on to the offensive. Earlier this year, we may remember, this same army was being written off, the Bashar al-Assad government said to be reaching its final days.

 Syrian Army


We employed our own army of clichés to make the case for regime change. The Syrian army was losing ground – at Jisr al-Shugour and at Palmyra – and so we predicted that the whole Assad state had reached a “tipping point”.

Then along came Vladimir Putin with his air and missile fleets and suddenly the whole place is transformed. While we huffed and puffed that the Russians were bombing the “moderate” rebels – moderates who had earlier ceased to exist according to America’s top generals – we’ve been paying no attention to the military offensive which the Syrians themselves are now staging against the Nusra Front fighters around Aleppo and in the valley of the Orontes.

Syrian commanders are now setting the coordinates for almost every Russian air strike. They were originally giving between 200 and 400 coordinates a night. Now the figure sometimes reaches 800. Not that the Russians are going after every map reference, of course. The Syrians have found that the Russians do not want to fire at targets in built-up areas; they intend to leave burning hospitals and dead wedding parties to the Americans in Afghanistan. This policy could always change, of course. No air force bombs countries without killing civilians. Nor without crossing other people’s frontiers.

But the Russians are now telling the Turks – and by logical extension, this information must go to the Americans – their flight coordinates. Even more remarkable, they have set up a hotline communications system between their base on the Syrian Mediterranean coast and the Israeli ministry of defence in Tel Aviv. More incredible still is that the Israelis – who have a habit of targeting Syrian and Iranian personnel near the Golan Heights – have suddenly disappeared from the skies. In other words, the Russians are involved in a big operation, not a one-month wonder that is going on in Syria. And it is likely to continue for quite a time.

The Syrians were originally anxious to move back into Palmyra, captured by Isis last May, but the Russians have demonstrated more interest in the Aleppo region, partly because they believe their coastal bases around Lattakia are vulnerable. The Nusra Front has fired several missiles towards Lattakia and Tartous and Moscow has no desire to have its air force targeted on the ground. But the Syrian army is now deploying its four major units – the 1st and 4th Divisions, Republican Guards and Special Forces – on the battle fronts and are moving closer to the Turkish border.

Russian air strikes around the Isis “capital” of Raqqa may or may not be hurting Isis, although the Syrians like to boast that they have plenty of intelligence coming to them from the city. Interesting, if true, because Isis personnel are specialists in torturing to death “agents of the regime” and it would be a brave man to pass on information to Damascus. Yet travelers’ tales can be true. There’s a regular civilian bus route from Raqqa to Damascus – buses have an odd habit of crossing front lines in most civil wars – and if passengers prefer not to talk to journalists, they will talk of what they have seen when they get home.

All this is only the beginning of Mr Putin’s adventure. He is proving to be quite a traveler to the Middle East – and has already made firm friends of another pillar of the region, that President-Field Marshal who scored more than 96 per cent at the polls and who currently rules Egypt. But the Egyptian army, fighting its little war in Sinai, no longer has strategic experience of a major war. Nor, despite their dalliance in the air over Yemen, Libya, Syria and other targets of opportunity, do the present military authorities in Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Jordan have much understanding of how a real war is fought. Libya’s own army is in bits. Iraq’s military has scarcely earned any medals against its “Islamist” enemies.

But there is one factor which should not be overlooked.

If it wins – and if it holds together and if its manpower, which is admittedly at a low level, can be maintained – then the Syrian military is going to come out of this current war as the most ruthless, battle-trained and battle-hardened Arab army in the entire region. Woe betide any of its neighbors who forget this.

19-10-2015 | 12:18


River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

   

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The West Rightly Condemns ’ISIL’ Vandalism of Ancient Sites – But Not Saudi Arabia’s

Robert Fisk 

Explosives pulverize historic sites in the Middle East, bulldozers erase ancient tombs and shrines, historic forts are torn down and Ottoman facades destroyed. The home of the favorite wife of the most revered man in an entire religion is even turned into a block of toilets. How can the world prevent this wicked desecration and extinction of a heritage that belongs to all mankind? I am, of course, referring to those iconoclastic Wahhabi-Salafist Muslim head-choppers … the Saudis!

 Palmyra Historic Site

And the world will do absolutely nothing. It will screech and rage and curse as the iconoclastic Wahhabi-Salafist Muslim head-choppers of “ISIL” blow to bits the Roman ruins of Palmyra, but will never dare – and has never dreamed – of uttering a pussy-cat’s protest against Saudi Arabia’s willful destruction of the ancient graves, homes, shrines and buildings of Islam’s Prophet Mohamed and his closest relatives and companions. Naturally, we could conclude that Roman remains are more valuable than the antiquities of Islam. But this would be about as racist a reaction as suggesting that the Roman Empire was more important than the Islamic empire.

No, the real reason we ignore the vandalizing of so many Muslim sites is that we cannot – will not, must not – criticize the Saudis whose grotesque wealth silences all of us to such obscene lengths that our Prime Minister flies our flags at half-mast when its autocratic ruler dies. No suggestion must be made – not even the softest whisper must be uttered – that might connect our Saudi friends with the apocalyptic cult called “ISIL”, which follows with absolutist determination the Wahhabi Sunni faith adopted 270 years ago by the ancestors of the present Saudi monarchy.

In the past few days, we have rightly bewailed the pulverization of the magnificent Arch of Triumph at Palmyra, 1,800 years old – probably erected to commemorate the Emperor Aurelius’s victory over Queen Zenobia who was later dragged, “ISIL”-style, through the streets of Rome – and the loss of the entrance to the magnificent and roofless Roman colonnade which, we must all fear, will also be levelled by the time the Syrian army, with its Russian air cover, recaptures  city. the

Historic Site of Palmyra 

The reduction of Palmyra to rubble is a war crime, according to the UN. But when the country with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of “ISIL” supporters – and donors – wipes out the Islamic history of Arabia, including 90 per cent of Mecca’s millennium-old sites, we pay as much attention to this mass vandalism as we do to the damage of a nativity window in a Co Kerry church.

Take a glance at what has come to pass in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A library has been built over the dwelling where the Prophet Mohamed was born in Mecca in AD570 – even this may now be replaced by skyscrapers – and the fine Bilal mosque, dating from this same period, has been bulldozed. Mohamed’s first wife, Khadijah, lived in a Mecca house which has been turned into toilets…

Hundreds of old Ottoman houses have been destroyed in Saudi Arabia and Ottoman architecture around the Great Mosque is being torn down for pilgrimage “expansion” projects. Five of the famous “Seven Mosques”, built by Mohamed’s daughter and four companions, were demolished 90 years ago. And, after the Lebanese Professor Kamal Salibi published a book in 1985 suggesting that many Saudi villages bore biblical Jewish place names, the bulldozers arrived to erase them.

This grotesque destruction of Muslim history is directly linked to “ISIL’s” own purgation of the past by the Wahhabi faith, which the Saudis adopted from the teachings of the 18th-century Mohamed ibn Abdul Wahhab – who preached that Islam should return to the purity of its earliest principles. From these ideas came the notion that almost any historical monument represents an excuse for idolatry, a precept adopted with ferocious enthusiasm by the Saudi tribes. 

Historic Site of Palmyra 

When Abdul Aziz ibn Saud moved into Mecca in the 1920s, his first actions included the destruction of the graveyard in which Khadijah was buried, along with the tomb of one of the Prophet’s uncles. The same fate awaited the tombs of Mohamed’s daughter Fatima and his grandson Hasan ibn Ali.

Thus began the vandalism of graveyards, tombs, shrines and historic buildings across south-west Asia: from Shia shrines in Pakistan to the magnificent Buddhas of Bamiyan to the ancient libraries of Timbuktu; from the antiquities of Mecca to the churches of Mosul and the Roman ruins of Palmyra. Even beautiful – though war-damaged – Bosnian mosques hundreds of years old have been torn down in favor of the Saudi-funded concrete monstrosities that are now appearing in the Balkans. This hatred of history is part and parcel of the retrograde Wahhabi belief in which the past has only a spiritual presence, its physical remains a reminder only of imperfection.

It’s not that Saudi Arabia’s self-destruction of history is unknown – The Independent was one of the first Western newspapers to give it publicity in pre-“ISIL” days. Nor, may the saints preserve us from such folly and the kingdom’s lawyers, must we ever suggest that the Saudi regime supports “ISIL”. But if we are to understand just what “ISIL” is – and what it represents and who admires it – then we must study much more carefully the frightening religious habits that connect “ISIL”, the Taliban and al-Qaeda to the people of a country whose king calls himself the “Caretaker of the Two Noble Sanctuaries” of Mecca and Medina.

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

12-10-2015 | 14:34

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Fisk: Iran Reborn As Major Middle East Nation after Lausanne

Local Editor

Lausanne talksAfter the nuclear deal with world powers, western writers started to predict how the American – Iranian relations will be in future, considering the agreement a rebirth of Tehran as major power in the Middle East.

“Iran was reborn as a major Middle East nation. The framework could one day return the 36-year-old Islamic Republic to the status of a regional superpower ” Robert Fist wrote in the British The Independent newspaper on Saturday.

The UK author described Iran as “America’s new best friend”, the fact which turned the Saudi Arabia so angry and may seriously damage its privileged alliance with the United States.

“A kingdom that violates human rights in its treatment of women and fails to adapt to any form of free speech was never a ‘natural’ ally of Washington,” Fisk believed.

“If Iran and the West keep their word, however, and the distrust which even Secretary of State John Kerry admits still exists, turns into mutual confidence, then this week’s compromise agreement … could have an enormous political effect on the region. Iran could, over time, become America’s “policeman in the Gulf” as it was under the Shah’s reign,” he added further.

Fisk stated that if Iran-US ties changes into better conditions, the United States will begin to re-examine its relationship with the Wahhabi Saudis who gave the world Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11.

As for Syria, Fisk wrote, the Lausanne agreement looks like the best news President Bashar al-Assad has had in Syria.

“Indeed, more and more Arabs will be inclined to believe that his life expectancy could be as long as that of his father, Hafez,” he elaborated.

Regarding the Zionist concerns of the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic, the British writer concluded his article by asking “How soon will Iran suggest that a Palestinian state should be an important part of its new relationship with America?”

Source: Websites

04-04-2015 – 14:50 Last updated 04-04-2015 – 14:50

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Robert Fisk: SAA Strongest Institution, FSA Doesn’t Exist, Rebels Targeting Christians [VIDEO]

Nov 12, 2014, Eretz Zen

Robert Fisk, the Independent’s long-standing Middle East correspondent, discusses during an interview on ABC’s (Australia) Lateline, his view of the current situation in Syria after returning from a trip there.

He states that the Syrian Army has become the sole strongest institution in Syria, where many soldiers display strong sense of patriotism. He also confirms that the so-called “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) does not exist.

He discusses the issue of the destruction of Syria’s ancient Christian community, including a recent attack by al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra on an Armenian church in Deir Ezzor that housed the archives of the Armenian genocide and remains of people who perished during that event.

Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

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ISIS Fires American-Made Missiles At Syrian Army

 

Art – Susan Ohanion

Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post

The fact that the United States and NATO are arming the death squads fighting the secular government of Bashar al-Assad is, by now, accepted news in both the alternative and mainstream media circles. However, due to the U.S. State Department’s and its media mouthpieces’ incessant claims that there is such a thing as “moderate” rebels vs. extremist rebels in Syria, it is not considered “credible” or mainstream to suggest that the United States is, in fact, arming extremists.

Of course, the reality is that there is no such thing as “moderate rebels” in Syria. The truth is that the FSA, largely presented as “moderate,” is, in actuality, the same thing as Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra, and ISIS.

Regardless, the mainstream press and the governments that it represents continue to push the deception of “moderates” as well as the claim that NATO is opposed to ISIS. These claims, however, are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain as more and more evidence emerges from the Syrian front demonstrating them to be patently false.

Such evidence involves reports producing evidence of ISIS’ possession of American military hardware and strong suspicion that the United States is providing direct guidance and assistance to the terrorist organization.

For instance, in a report published by The Independent, entitled, “How did Islamists receive American weapons? See the evidence from guided missile that exploded near Syrian front line,” Robert Fisk writes that

Syria’s special forces troops are strung out across a pinnacle of hills here just north east of Lattakia on one of the country’s most dangerous front lines, under daily missile attack from reinforced rebel forces now supported by Isis.

The officers, all of whom are paratroopers, speak of new tactics and upgraded weapons used against them since Isis seized the Iraqi city of Mosul – and some of the radio traffic they listen to from their enemy is in the Chechen or Georgian languages.

Intelligence reports speak of a unification of various rebel factions calling themselves the “Legion of the Coast”, a clear sign that the Isis-inspired rebels – including Isis supporters themselves – intend to strike westwards towards the Mediterranean, scarcely eight miles away.

It’s fair bet that a big battle is shaping up in these pine-covered mountains.

[…]

The soldiers themselves talk of the thermal heat-seeking missiles fired at them with detailed knowledge, and agree that the mixture of Islamist groups above and to the east of them are carrying out daily probing attacks to test their defences.

Intriguingly, their surveillance patrols are returning at dawn to report the sound of unidentified night-time aircraft flying into Syrian airspace from Turkey and then east, deep into Syria.

The aircraft flying overhead at nighttime is obviously suspected to be American or at least NATO-operated flights, although the Syrian forces are unsure of exactly who the aircraft belongs to or even if the flights are actual planes or drones.

Fisk continues with his description of the arms that ISIS militants have recently procured by writing,

But their officers talk of the new TOW anti-armour weapons that have appeared in rebel hands.

One officer showed me an Islamist website videotape of rebels firing a heat-seeking rocket at his own encampment just to the north of here at Qastel Ma’af. The missile can be seen exploding but in fact disintegrated against concrete revetments around a tank.

Most notably, Fisk recounts how parts of an ISIS-fired missile, which were brought in for evaluation by the Syrian Special Forces, actually contained damning proof that the weapons were American made. He writes,

But when a corporal dragged a sack load of missile parts into a room in this Syrian hill-top fortress, it contained some fascinating evidence of the rebel armoury. Most missiles fragment into thousands of pieces on detonation but just over a month ago – on 26 September – a guided missile exploded deep beneath sand and earth and the fragments clearly show the name of its American arms manufacturer, circuit boards and the coding of the weapon.

Part of the missile identifies the “Eagle-Piche IND (Indiana) INC.” company as the manufacturer and says, in English, that it is “helium charged”, adding – rather ironically as it turns out — the words: “CAUTION — CONTAINS 6400 PSIG He (high explosive), FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS TRANSPORATION IF REFILLED — PENALTY UP TO $25,000 AND FIVE YEARS IMPRISONMENT (49 USC 1809). The Syrians do not know how this weapon – which appears to have been manufactured as long ago as 1989 – made its way from the US to the hands of their country’s Islamist rebels – but it would not be difficult for the Americans to find out. Its full computer coding reads: DOT-E7694 NRC6400/11109/M1033 79294 ASSY 39317 MFR 54080.

A battery tube from another missile fired on the fourth of last month carries an inscription indented in the metal: “132964 Battery thermal MFG DATE 12/90 LOT No (indecipherable numeral then 912 S/N 005959.”

These codes should make it easy for the Americans to identify the purchaser – or receiver – of the weapon, if they choose to do so.

Fisk goes on to ask the pertinent question of “How did the Islamists receive these American weapons? On the international arms market? Or from ‘moderate’ rebels who were given American weapons and then sold them to the highest bidder?”

The answer, of course, is clear.

ISIS received these weapons because the United States and NATO have been funding and arming ISIS from the very beginning. The U.S. has been arming the terrorists ever since 2010, whenviolence, shootings, and indiscriminate killings erupted in Syria (reported as “peaceful protests” in Western media). Before, during, and ever since, the United States and NATO have continued to support, train, arm, fund, and direct the death squads attempting to overthrow the Assad government.

From covert CIA assistance to actual coordination from death squad experts like Robert Ford, the United States and NATO were directly responsible for the Syrian crisis. By supporting the “rebels” early on, NATO was, in fact, supporting ISIS, since ISIS is nothing more than the current name for what was already in place in Syria when NATO embarked on its destabilization campaign in 2010.

Similar assistance was provided by Syria’s neighbors and fellow Middle Eastern countries with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and a number of other Gulf State Feudal monarchies providing many of the terrorists and the money needed to pay and supply them. Jordan provided training grounds and logistics, Turkey provided the conduit and air support, and Israel provided air cover and intelligence.

Such coordination and military support continues in 2014, with the U.S. now engaging in air strikes that are aimed not at ISIS but at Syrian infrastructure.

In addition, many death squad fighters were recently re-armed by having arms passed from the United States to terrorist brigades that are presented as “moderate” by the mainstream media. These terrorists then immediately passed these arms to Jobhat al-Nusra.

While the revelations that ISIS forces have access to as well as possession of U.S.-made missiles are by no means shocking revelations, they are yet one more puzzle piece fitting together the tangled web of deception that the United States and NATO have woven in their effort to overthrow Bashar Al-Assad and the secular Syrian government.

Recently from Brandon Turbeville:

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real ConspiraciesFive Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1and volume 2, and The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Turbeville has published over 300 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV.  He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com. 

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