Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

US Already Breaking Afghan Troop Deal, Night Raids Latest “Concession” to Fall

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘[…] Undiscussed in the Afghan parliament was the fact that the Obama Administration openly plans to violate that pact on multiple fronts now, and has the apparent blessing of Ghani, elected earlier this year and a fraud-laden run-off vote.

On Friday, it was revealed President Obama had already signed a “secret order” that would ignore the training and advisory limit, and ensure that US ground troops remain in direct combat throughout at least 2015, the first year of the deal.

Today, reports are that Ghani has quietly agreed to lift another of the limitations, the ban on night raids against civilian homes in Afghanistan, beginning in 2015.’

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SIGAR: Pentagon’s economic development in Afghanistan ‘accomplished nothing’

Joe Gould reports for Military Times:

‘The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says he is investigating the Pentagon’s efforts to spark that country’s economic development, which cost between $700 million and $800 million and “accomplished nothing.”

SIGAR’s chief, John Sopko, told reporters Tuesday, that the agency has opened an “in-depth review” into the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), a Defense Department unit aimed at developing war zone mining, industrial development and fostering private investments.

[…] More broadly, Sopko faulted the US government’s economic development efforts in Afghanistan as “an abysmal failure,” saying it lacked a single leader, a clear strategy or accountability. An avenue of inquiry for SIGAR’s investigation into TFBSO could be Afghanistan’s underdeveloped mining industry.’

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After Vowing to End Combat Mission in Afghanistan, Obama Secretly Extends America’s Longest War: Interview w/ Dr. Hakim & Kathy Kelly

‘President Obama has secretly extended the U.S. role in Afghanistan despite earlier promises to wind down America’s longest war. According to the New York Times, Obama has signed a classified order that ensures U.S. troops will have a direct role in fighting. In addition, the order reportedly enables American jets, bombers and drones to bolster Afghan troops on combat missions. And, under certain circumstances, it would apparently authorize U.S. air-strikes to support Afghan military operations throughout the country. The decision contradicts Obama’s earlier announcement that the U.S. military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year. Afghanistan’s new president Ashraf Ghani has also backed an expanded U.S. military role. Ghani, who took office in September, has also reportedly lifted limits on U.S. airstrikes and joint raids that his predecessor Hamid Karzai had put in place. We go to Kabul to speak with Dr. Hakim, a peace activist and physician who has provided humanitarian relief in Afghanistan for the last decade. We are also joined by Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who has just returned from Afghanistan.’ (Democracy Now!)

U.S. Firms Accused of Enabling Surveillance in Despotic Central Asian Regimes

Cora Currier reports for The Intercept:

Featured photo - U.S. Firms Accused of Enabling Surveillance in Despotic Central Asian Regimes‘U.S. and Israeli companies have been selling surveillance systems to Central Asian countries with records of political repression and human rights abuse, according to a new report by Privacy International. The U.K.-based watchdog charges that the American firms Verint and Netronome enable surveillance in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Verint’s Israeli arm provides those countries with monitoring centers “capable of mass interception of telephone, mobile, and IP networks,” the report says, as does the Israeli company NICE systems. Verint also enlisted California-based Netronome to give Uzbek agents the ability to intercept encrypted communications, Privacy International says, though it’s not clear whether the program was carried out successfully.

The report provides a broad picture of surveillance in a region that is marked by repression. Kazakhstan has been condemned for laws restricting free speech and assembly, flawed trials, and torture. As for Uzbekistan, Human Rights Watch bluntly characterizes the country’s human rights record as “atrocious.”

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The Syrian Labyrinth: A review of Reese Erlich’s new book ‘Inside Syria’

Conn Hallinan recently reviewed Reece Erlich’s new book ‘Inside Syria’ for Foreign Policy In Focus:

InsideSyria‘Reese Erlich’s informative and insightful book Inside Syria (Prometheus, 2014) brings to mind the Greek myth of a vast maze under the palace at Knossos, with one exception: King Minos’ labyrinth on Crete concealed a single Minotaur, whereas Syria is teeming with the beasts.

Erlich has spent almost three decades reporting from the Middle East, and he brings his considerable knowledge of the region into this analysis of the Syrian civil war. A winner of the Peabody Award and the Society of Professional Journalists’ explanatory journalism award for his radio documentary “Inside the Syrian Revolution,” Erlich combines on-the-ground reporting with an encyclopedic background in the region’s history. It is a combination that is particularly useful for a subject as complex and nuanced as the current war—one that has gradually drawn in Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Iran, and the monarchies of the Persian Gulf, along with the United States, France, and Britain.

The mainstream media generally considers history an afterthought, which explains why it does such an awful job reporting on the Middle East. Journalists like Erlich, Robert Fisk, and Patrick Cockburn understand that the history of the region and current events are one and the same—a sort of paraphrase of William Faulkner’s observation that history is as much about the present as the past.’

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US Statements, Actions on Syria Starkly Different

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘Vice President Joe Biden spent four hours today in private meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The topic: how to impose regime change on Syria, Turkey’s war-torn neighbor to the south.

Publicly, the US has been in favor of regime change for years, and had been backing “moderate” rebel factions on and off in hopes of installing one of them.

Since entering a direct war with ISIS in Syria two months ago, the US war focus has been on ISIS and other rebel factions, strikes which the US concedes are benefiting the Assad government.

Over the past few weeks, the US has been reiterating, over and over, that their policy is regime change, but their actions in the ISIS war are supporting the exact opposite, and when asked point blank, President Obama conceded earlier this week that no actions were being taken to try to remove Assad from power at this point.’

SOURCE

Antiwar Voices Absent from Corporate TV News Ahead of U.S. Attacks on Iraq and Syria: Interview with Peter Hart

‘A new analysis of corporate TV news has found there was almost no debate about whether the United States should go to war in Iraq and Syria. The group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found that of the more than 200 guests who appeared on network shows to discuss the issue, just six voiced opposition to military action. The report, titled “Debating How — Not Whether — to Launch a New War,” examines a two-week period in September when U.S. involvement in Iraq and Syria dominated the airwaves. The report also finds that on the high-profile Sunday talk shows, out of 89 guests, there was just one antiwar voice — Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation. We speak to Peter Hart, activism director at FAIR.’ (Democracy Now!)

America Just Launched Its 500th Drone Strike

Micah Zenko wrotes for the Council on Foreign Relations:

Drone strikes statistics_11.21.14 smallerThe most consistent and era-defining tactic of America’s post-9/11 counterterrorism strategies has been the targeted killing of suspected terrorists and militants outside of defined battlefields. As one senior Bush administration official explained in October 2001, “The president has given the [CIA] the green light to do whatever is necessary. Lethal operations that were unthinkable pre-September 11 are now underway.” Shortly thereafter, a former CIA official told the New Yorker, “There are five hundred guys out there you have to kill.” It is quaint to recall that such a position was considered extremist and even morally unthinkable. Today, these strikes are broadly popular with the public and totally uncontroversial in Washington, both within the executive branch and on Capitol Hill. Therefore, it is easy to forget that this tactic, envisioned to be rare and used exclusively for senior al-Qaeda leaders thirteen years ago, has become a completely accepted and routine foreign policy activity.

Thus, just as you probably missed the tenth anniversary—November 3, 2012—of what I labeled the Third War, it’s unlikely you will hear or read that the United States just launched its 500th non-battlefield targeted killing.

As of today, the United States has now conducted 500 targeted killings (approximately 98 percent of them with drones), which have killed an estimated 3,674 people, including 473 civilians. Fifty of these were authorized by President George W. Bush, 450 and counting by President Obama. Noticeably, these targeted killings have not diminished the size of the targeted groups according to the State Department’s own numbers.’

SOURCE

Obama Extends U.S. Role in Afghan Combat

Mark Mazzetti And Eric Schmitt report for The New York Times:

President Obama decided in recent weeks to authorize a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, a move that ensures American troops will have a direct role in fighting in the war-ravaged country for at least another year.

Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions.

In an announcement in the White House Rose Garden in May, Mr. Obama said that the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year, and that the missions for the 9,800 troops remaining in the country would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the “remnants of Al Qaeda.”’

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House Panel Rejects Benghazi Conspiracies

John Johnson reports for Newser:

The House Intelligence Committee spent two years investigating conspiracy theories about the 2012 Benghazi attack and has concluded they’re mostly just hot air. Here’s the takeaway paragraph from the AP:

  • The investigation “determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.”

Yes, then UN ambassador Susan Rice wrongly stated that the attacks were the result of a protest against an inflammatory video, but the panel found that Rice had been given bad intelligence and that neither she nor anyone else in the White House deliberately tried to mislead the public.

The report further finds no evidence that CIA officers were ordered to “stand down” during the attack or were intimidated afterward to avoid testifying, reports CNN. “We concluded that all the CIA officers in Benghazi were heroes,” says Republican panel chairman Mike Rogers and ranking Democrat CA Dutch Ruppersberger. The panel does, however, fault the State Department for having weak security at the US consulate, and Politico expects that criticism to resonate. This is not the end of the Benghazi inquiries: A House select committee appointed in May is still conducting its own investigation.’

SOURCE

Prince Harry ‘banging the drum for UK plc’ in Oman

‘Prince Harry is visiting Oman today, led by arguably the world’s longest surviving dictator, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said al Said. He has been lauded for creative diplomacy, maintaining ties with countries NATO opposes like China, Russia and Iran. But as the former Media Manager to Prince Charles, Dickie Arbiter, pointed out on this show, the government have ulterior motives for sending the Royals to a country. Harry will be ‘banging the drum for UK plc.’ not far from the UAE, which is currently fighting a proxy war in Libya against Qatar. And UAE’s allies, Bahrain, are accused by Amnesty International of using the threat of rape of children to extort confessions.’ (Going Underground)

If the war on terror fuels terrorism, how does terrorism actually end?

With 13 years of the war on terror resulting in a sharp increase in terrorism, Kathy Gilsinan asks ‘how does terrorism actually end?’ in the The Atlantic:

[…] Much of that period corresponded with massive international military efforts to root out terrorism. And as the U.S. winds up its war in Afghanistan—a country that saw a 13-percent increase in terrorism-related fatalities last year—and considers the extent to which it wants to intervene militarily to halt the spread of ISIS, it’s worth asking: How does terrorism actually end? The question is one that the Rand Corporation addressed in a 2008 study that the Global Terrorism Index authors cite. That report examined 268 terrorist groups that halted their attacks between 1968 and 2006. In only 7 percent of those cases, the report found, military intervention brought about the end of a terrorist group.

That finding suggests the debate over whether to put boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria—and whose boots, and how many, and whether they should be combat boots or just training-and-advisory boots—misses a larger point about the conditions that are most associated with terrorism. The report’s authors devote the final section of the study to examining the factors that correlated with higher levels of terrorism in 2012-2013; among the most significant they found were ethnic and religious tensions, as well as levels of state repression including, for example, human-rights abuses and extrajudicial killings. “This can be viewed in two ways,” the authors write. “Either increased terrorism leads governments to implement stricter, authoritarian and illegal acts toward its citizens through torture or state violence, or the repression results in terrorist acts as retaliation. This can create a vicious cycle of violence making it difficult to clearly identify causality.”

These correlations also speak to the relationship between terrorism and conflict more broadly. “The most common context for the onset of terrorist violence is within an ongoing conflict,” the authors write. About 70 percent of the fatal terrorist attacks recorded in the Global Terrorism Database between 1970 and 2013 took place in countries with serious ongoing conflicts.

This point—that war breeds violence—is not particularly novel or satisfying. But the fact that Afghanistan and Iraq continue to top the list of countries most affected by terrorism does highlight the limitations of foreign military intervention in ending terrorist violence. And warnings about threats to the homeland notwithstanding, it’s not primarily Americans who suffer for it.’

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Top US Military Officer Predicts ISIS War Will Last up to 4 Years

Brendan McGarry reports for Military.com:

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin DempseyThe chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff estimates the U.S.-led fight against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria will last up to four years.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey made the estimate on Wednesday during an interview at Atlantic Media’s Defense One conference in Washington, D.C. about the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

The U.S. started launching airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria to thwart the organization’s advances in some areas, though the militants still control vast parts of northern and western Iraq and eastern Syria.

Under Secretary of Intelligence Mike Vickers later agreed with Dempsey’s estimate warning about the time it will take to train a force inside Iraq and Syria to defeat ISIS.

Dempsey first mentioned the timeline in regards to the challenges the military faces in funding the many conflicts across the globe. He listed the deployment of more American troops to Europe and Africa, as well as the “protracted probably three or four year campaign in the Middle East.”‘

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  1. Joint Chiefs Chairman Predicts ISIS War Will Last Four Years
  2. Joint Chiefs Chairman: Ground Role for Troops in Iraq Likely
  3. Panetta Predicts ’30-Year War’ Against ISIS

If You Thought the ISIS War Couldn’t Get Any Worse, Just Wait for More of the CIA

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

As the war against the Islamic State in Syria has fallen into even more chaospartially due to the United States government’s increasing involvement there – the White House’s bright new idea seems to be to ramping up the involvement of the intelligence agency that is notorious for making bad situations worse. As the Washington Post reported late Friday, “The Obama administration has been weighing plans to escalate the CIA’s role in arming and training fighters in Syria, a move aimed at accelerating covert U.S. support to moderate rebel factions while the Pentagon is preparing to establish its own training bases.”

Put aside for a minute that the Central Intelligence Agency has been secretly arming Syrian rebels with automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and antitank weapons since at least 2012 – and with almost nothing to show for it. Somehow the Post neglected to cite a front-page New York Times article from just one month ago alerting the public to the existence of a still-classified internal CIA study admitting that arming rebels with weapons has rarely – if ever – worked.

The Times cited the most well-known of CIA failures, including the botched Bay of Pigs invasion and the arming of the Nicaraguan contra rebels that led to the disastrous Iran-Contra scandal. Even the agency’s most successful mission – slowly bleeding out the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s by arming the mujahideen – paved the way for the worst terrorist attack on the US in its history.’

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ISIS ‘Comes To Libya’

Editor’s Note: Despite the spin, CNN acknowledges that the presence of Islamic fighters in Libya is nothing new (Al Qaeda actually planted their flag in Benghazi back in 2011). The CNN report states that radical Islamic elements have existed in Derna for a while but were “marginalized during the Gadhafi era”. It also states that the city provided the largest number of fighters in Iraq from any town in the Middle East. Libyan fighters, after overthrowing Gaddafi with NATO’s assistance, also left to go fight Assad in Syria. So it’s not like radical Islam has just shown up, it’s kind of always been there but is only now gaining a foothold. 

Did Military Burn Pits Make U.S. Soldiers Sick?

’20th Hijacker’ Zacarias Moussaoui Claims Saudi Involvement In 9/11

Kristina Sgueglia and Deborah Feyerick report for CNN:

Zacarias Moussaoui.(Reuters / Sherburne County Sheriffs Office)From his cell in a maximum security prison, terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui is reviving old allegations and making new ones against al Qaeda and a handful of Saudi royals.

The 46-year old French national is claiming that Saudi Embassy officials were involved in a plot to shoot down Air Force One to assassinate Bill Clinton and/or Hillary Clinton during a trip to the United Kingdom.

Moussaoui says he met with a Secret Service agent several months ago and told him what he knew. CNN has reached out to the Secret Service for comment.

In two handwritten letters filed this month in federal court in New York and Oklahoma, Moussaoui claimed that, during the time he was taking flying lessons in Norman, Oklahoma, he met with a Saudi prince and princess and that she “gave me money,” and provided funding for 9/11 hijackers.

Lawyers for the Saudi government have repeatedly denied connections, maintaining Saudi Arabia was cleared by the 9/11 Commission.’

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Five Companies That Have Profited From War

Global terror attack deaths rose sharply in 2013, says report

Helier Cheung reports for BBC News:

GTI2014‘The number of deaths from terrorism increased by 61% between 2012 and 2013, a study into international terrorism says.

There were nearly 10,000 terrorist attacks in 2013, a 44% increase from the previous year, the Global Terrorism Index 2014 report added.

The report said militant groups Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and the Taliban were behind most of the deaths.

Iraq was the country most affected by terrorism, the report said.

The report by the Institute for Economics and Peace says that nearly 18,000 people died from terrorist attacks in 2013.

“Not only is the intensity of terrorism increasing, its breadth is increasing as well,” it notes.’

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On Media Outlets That Continue to Describe Unknown Drone Victims As “Militants”

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

It has been more than two years since The New York Times revealed that “Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties” of his drone strikes which “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants…unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” The paper noted that “this counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths,” and even quoted CIA officials as deeply “troubled” by this decision: “One called it ‘guilt by association’ that has led to ‘deceptive’ estimates of civilian casualties. ‘It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants. They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.’”

But what bothered even some intelligence officials at the agency carrying out the strikes seemed of no concern whatsoever to most major media outlets. As I documented days after the Times article, most large western media outlets continued to describe completely unknown victims of U.S. drone attacks as “militants”—even though they (a) had no idea who those victims were or what they had done and (b) were well-aware by that point that the term had been “re-defined” by the Obama administration into Alice in Wonderland-level nonsense.’

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Study finds little opposition to attacks on Iraq, Syria in U.S. media

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting reports:

Debate, corporate media style:  Two pro-war guests go at it. While Congress may soon debate the ongoing US wars in Iraq and Syria, a new FAIR study shows that at the critical moments leading up to the escalation of US military action, mainstream media presented almost no debate at all.

The study of key TV news discussion programs from September 7 through 21 reveals that guests who opposed war were scarce.

The study evaluated discussion and debate segments on the Sunday talk shows (CNN’s State of the Union, CBS‘s Face the Nation, ABC‘s This Week,Fox News Sunday and NBC‘s Meet the Press), the PBS NewsHour and a sample of cable news programs that feature roundtables and interview segments (CNN‘s Situation Room, Fox News Channel‘s Special Reportand MSNBC’s Hardball).’

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Stephen Walt’s Top 5 Foreign Policy Lessons of the Past 20 Years

Stephen Walt writes for Foreign Policy:

‘Tell me, friend: do you find the current world situation confusing? Are you having trouble sorting through the bewildering array of alarums, provocations, reassurances, and trite nostrums offered up by pundits and politicos? Can’t tell if the glass is half-full and rising or half-empty, cracked, and leaking water fast? Not sure if you should go long on precious metals and stock up on fresh water, ammo, and canned goods, or go big into equities and assume that everything will work out in the long run?

Today’s world is filled with conflicting signals. On the one hand, life expectancy and education are up, the level of violent conflict is down, and hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty over the past several decades. Private businesses are starting to take human rights seriously. And hey, the euro is still alive! On the other hand, Europe’s economy is still depressed, Russia is suspending nuclear cooperation with the United States, violent extremists keep multiplying in several regions, the odds of a genuine nuclear deal with Iran still looks like a coin toss, and that much-ballyhooed climate change deal between the United States and China is probably too little too late and already facing right-wing criticisms.

Given all these conflicting signals, what broader lessons might guide policymakers wrestling with all this turbulence? Assuming governments are capable of learning from experience (and please just grant me that one), then what kernels of wisdom should they be drawing on right now? What do the past 20 years or so reveal about contemporary foreign policy issues, and what enduring lessons should we learn from recent experience?’

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U.S. Secretary of Defense to Consider Ground Troops in Iraq

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

In comments over the weekend, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel conceded that he is going to have to “consider” the deployment of ground troops to Iraq, though he reiterated that they would not be “combat troops.”

The distinction is increasingly ill-defined, as there are in point of fact already some 3,000 US ground troops in Iraq, and some of them are already on the front lines in the Anbar Province in an “advisory” capacity.

What this new escalation short of combat troops would be, then, is totally unclear, and Hagel did not attempt to clarify the matter. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, however, has been talking up the idea of combat troops as likely necessary at some point in the future.

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Gulf Nations Split With Qatar Over Terror Funding Ends

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)’s very high profile eight month split with member nation Qatar has come to an end today, as Saudi officials announced an “understanding” had been reached.

The dispute centered around Qatar’s funding for the Muslim Brotherhood, which increased significantly after last summer’s Egyptian coup. The other GCC nations have been more favorable to the Egyptian junta, and accused Qatar of undermining stability both in Egypt and in their own nations.’

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Journalists Detained for Talking Politics in Cairo Cafe

Robert Mackey reports for The New York Times:

Two years ago, as the forces of revolution and counterrevolution struggled for control in Egypt, a mysterious public service announcement warned Egyptians against the seemingly innocuous behavior of chatting with foreigners in cafes.

The ad, which seemed to equate grumbling to foreign journalists with revealing state secrets to spies, was widely mocked by young Internet activists as a crude attempt by Egypt’s security services to instill paranoia in the public on the eve of the country’s first free presidential election.

After it was shown a few times on public and private television channels, the ad was pulled from the airwaves in June 2012, but an event this week in Cairo suggested that its message still resonates.

As the Cairene news site Mada Masr reported, a prominent French journalist and two Egyptian companions were detained and questioned by the police in the capital on Tuesday after a concerned citizen overheard them discussing local politics in a cafe and reported them to the authorities.’

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Britain has sold its soul with the Qatari deal

Editor’s Note: Britain sold its soul a long time ago, the Qatari deal is just business as usual.

Andrew Gilligan writes for The Telegraph:

Under scrutiny: Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al Thani joined the Queen and Lord Vestey in the Royal Procession at Ascot[…] This is Qatar, the country with which David Cameron has just signed a defence and security agreement. Did the deal, perhaps, include a promise by the Qataris to stop this sort of behaviour [hosting terror financiers]? Did it commit Qatar to end its support for the Islamist militias who have helped reduce Libya to anarchy, or to kick out the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood? It did not.

In fact, it was Britain that made the concessions, committing to share its classified intelligence and expertise with the Qatari state, and agreeing to work more closely with its security forces. We were told that Mr Cameron would talk tough at his meeting with the Emir of Qatar last week. Instead, he seems to have spent much of his time asking for money.

In the words of the Downing Street statement, he “encouraged the Emir to consider more opportunities across [Britain], particularly the Government’s plan to establish a Northern powerhouse by connecting our great northern cities and the development of high-speed rail”. The trinket offered to us is that if we are sufficiently nice to them, the Qataris will buy some of our weapons.’

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ISIS to mint new coins to fight West’s ‘tyrannical monetary system’

The Associated Press/Haaretz report:

Sketches of coins ISIS says it will mintThe Islamic State group says its leader has ordered that the organization start minting gold, silver and copper coins for its own currency — the Islamic dinar.

A website affiliated with the militant group said late on Thursday that its leader, Abu Bakr Baghdadi, has instructed his followers to start minting the coins to “change the tyrannical monetary system” modelled on Western economies that “enslaved Muslims.”

The posting says the order was approved by the group’s Shura Council, an advisory board.’

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Syrian ‘hero boy’ video faked by Norwegian director

Anne-Marie Tomchak and Charlotte McDonald report for BBC News:

A film being shot in a desert settingMillions of YouTube viewers have been captivated by the ‘Syrian hero boy‘ who manages to rescue a little girl while under gunfire. Now a group of Norwegian filmmakers have told BBC Trending they are behind it. They say it was filmed on location in Malta this summer with the intention of being presented as real.

Lars Klevberg, a 34-year-old film director based in Oslo, wrote a script after watching news coverage of the conflict in Syria. He says he deliberately presented the film as reality in order to generate a discussion about children in conflict zones.

“If I could make a film and pretend it was real, people would share it and react with hope,” he said. “We shot it in Malta in May this year on a set that was used for other famous movies like Troy and Gladiator,” Klevberg said. “The little boy and girl are professional actors from Malta. The voices in the background are Syrian refugees living in Malta.”‘

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ISIS Chief Returns, Calls For ‘Volcanoes of Jihad’

David D Kirkpatrick and Rick Gladstone report for the New York Times:

AP MIDEAST ISLAMIC STATE I FILE IRQDispelling rumors of his injury or death, the leader of the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State issued a new call to arms on Thursday in a 17-minute speech, belittling President Obama’s plan to send more soldiers to Iraq and urging disciples to “erupt volcanoes of jihad everywhere.”

An audio recording of the speech by the leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was distributed online, along with Arabic, English and Russian transcripts. It was first reported by the SITE Intelligence Group, a jihadist monitoring organization.

Mr. Baghdadi’s speech appeared to end days of rumors that he had been killed or grievously wounded in an airstrike carried out in northwestern Iraq on Saturday by the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State.’

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Isis and al-Qaeda agree ‘to end fighting and join against their opponents’

Kashmira Gander reports for The Independent:

Militant leaders from the Isis and al-Qaeda terrorist groups have agreed to stop fighting each other in order to join against their opponents.

Isis, which calls itself the Islamic State (Isis), and al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, have been engaged in bitter fighting for more than a year in an attempt to dominate the bloody rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The accord set between the extremists groups in northern Syria last week could spell problems for the US-led coalition in its fight against Isis, as it complements its air strikes by arming “moderate” rebel factions to fight on the ground.

Now, if the two terrorist groups fulfil their agreement and unite as one force, this would further weaken US-backed rebels – who are viewed as relatively disorganised.’

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