Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

The Enron of Sports: FIFA’s Upheaval, from Corruption Arrests to Rising Death Toll in Qatar

‘In what’s been described as the largest scandal in modern sports history, nine high-ranking soccer officials, including two current vice presidents of soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, were indicted along with five sports marketing executives on federal corruption charges by the U.S. Justice Department. Among those arrested in connection with the probe is Jack Warner, former vice president of FIFA, who is accused of taking a $10 million bribe to cast his ballot for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup. Despite the arrests, FIFA is holding an election today to pick the next president of the organization. FIFA President Sepp Blatter is seeking re-election for the post he has held since 1998. Many commentators have predicted he will be re-elected, though some nations, including the United States, have vowed to vote against him. We speak to sportswriter Dave Zirin and Jules Boykoff, former professional soccer player who represented the U.S. Olympic soccer team.’ (Democracy Now!)

FIFA corruption scandal may prove fortuitous for Israel

Ben Sales reports for The Times of Israel:

Israelis were expecting some big news to come out of the annual FIFA Congress this week. But they probably weren’t expecting this.

[…] The allegations are damning, but frankly, they couldn’t have come at a better time for Israel. Until Wednesday, much of the coverage of the FIFA Congress surrounded whether delegates would vote to suspend Israel from world soccer.

The Palestinian Football Association is introducing the motion to suspend Israel, accusing it of unjustly restricting Palestinian soccer players’ freedom of movement and claiming that Israel’s West Bank settlement teams violate FIFA rules. Israeli officials have called the effort blatantly political and said that the Palestinians’ complaints all concern Israel’s security forces — not Israel’s soccer teams.

For Israel to be suspended, three quarters of delegates would need to approve the motion. If that were a long shot before, it’s even more unlikely now.’

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Corrupt FIFA Has Clinton Foundation Ties; World Cup Host Qatar Gave Millions

Jackie Kucinich reports for The Daily Beast:

The Clinton global charity has received between $50,000 and $100,000 from soccer’s governing body and has partnered with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association on several occasions, according to donor listings on the foundation’s website.

Several top FIFA executives were arrested Wednesday in Zurich and face corruption charges stretching back two decades, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Involvement with the embattled body extends beyond the foundation to Bill Clinton himself. The former president was an honorary chairman of the bid committee put together to promote the United States as a possible host nation for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

When the U.S. lost the 2022 bid to Qatar, Clinton was rumored to be so upset he shattered a mirror.

But apparently Qatar tried to make it up to him.’

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Amid the ruins of Syria, is Bashar al-Assad now finally facing the end?

Martin Chulov reports for The Guardian:

Syria's president Bashar al-AssadOne evening at the end of March, a Syrian rebel leader returned from a meeting across the border in Turkey and called an urgent gathering of his commanders. The five men turned up at their boss’s house in Idlib province expecting to receive the same pleas for patience that they had always heard and more grim news about cash and weapons being hard to find. This time, though, they were in for a shock.

“He arrived looking eager,” said one of the commanders. “That caught our attention straight away. But when he started to speak, we were all stunned.”

The leader, who asked that his unit not be identified, said he told his men that the grinding war of attrition they had fought against the Syrian government since early 2012 was about to turn in their favour.

“And the reason for that was that I could now get nearly all the weapons I wanted,” he told the Observer. “For the first time they were not holding anything from us – except anti-aircraft missiles. The Turks and their friends wanted this over with.”

The leader says he explained that they and every other opposition group in the north, with the exception of Islamic State (Isis), were about to be beneficiaries of a detente between regional powers who had agreed to put their own rivalries aside and focus on a common enemy – the Syrian regime.’

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Syria regime preparing for partition of the country

Sammy Ketz reports for The Times of Israel:

Weakened by years of war, Syria’s government appears ready for the country’s de facto partition, defending strategically important areas and leaving much of the country to rebels and jihadists, experts and diplomats say.

The strategy was in evidence last week with the army’s retreat from the ancient central city of Palmyra after an advance by the Islamic State group.

“It is quite understandable that the Syrian army withdraws to protect large cities where much of the population is located,” said Waddah Abded Rabbo, director of Syria’s al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the regime.

“The world must think about whether the establishment of two terrorist states is in its interests or not,” he said, in reference to IS’s self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’ in Syria and Iraq, and al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front’s plans for its own ’emirate’ in northern Syria.’

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Assad Has Lost Over 50% of Syria, Country Could Turn Into Another Afghanistan: Interview with Larry Wilkerson

Larry Wilkerson is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and a former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell. In this interview he says that Syria could turn into another Afghanistan with America’s and Saudi Arabia’s policies in support radical groups creating blowback which will be significant to the Middle East region. (The Real News)

Is Iraq Body Count linked to the Pentagon? Interview with Nafeez Ahmed

‘Author, journalist and executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, Nafeez Ahmed, tells “Going Underground” host Afshin Rattansi how casualty-counting British NGO, Iraq Body Count might be linked to Pentagon. He explains that Iraqi civilian casualties numbers might be a lot higher than we were previously told.’ (Going Underground)

Who’s Supporting Assad? Interview with Charles Glass

‘Charles Glass discusses his essay “In the Syria We Don’t Know.” He drove through Syria in October 2014 to see how the country’s civil war had impacted daily life. With Bashar al-Assad benefiting from US-led airstrikes on the Islamic State, and large areas of the country under his regime’s control, Glass found people carrying on at a relatively normal pace amid the conflict. But signs of death and personal loss were inescapable, as resentment mounted among citizens who feel they have no choice but to support Assad or be slaughtered at the hands of Sunni radicals.’ (VICE News)

ISIS and the ‘Costa’ caliphate: what a militant claims the ‘holiday’ state is like

ISIS claims responsibility for Saudi mosque attack

Secret Pentagon report reveals West saw ISIS as strategic asset

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Medium:

A declassified secret US government document obtained by the conservative public interest law firm, Judicial Watch, shows that the Western governments deliberately allied with al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria, to topple Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad.

The document reveals that in coordination with the Gulf states and Turkey, the West intentionally sponsored violent Islamist groups to destabilize Assad, despite anticipating that doing so could lead to the emergence of an ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

According to the newly declassified US document, the Pentagon foresaw the likely rise of the ‘Islamic State’ as a direct consequence of the strategy, but described this outcome as a strategic opportunity to “isolate the Syrian regime.”’

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ISIS magazine Dabiq attacks ‘conspiracy theories’ causing jihadists to flee

Umberto Bacchi reports for International Business Times:

Dabiq Isis Magazine The Islamic State (Isis) group has released a new issue of its slick propaganda magazine Dabiq, featuring articles justifying the enslavement of Yazidi girls and condemning conspiracy theorists, as well as a report by British hostage John Cantlie.

[…] The publication features an article suggesting that the terror group is losing militants to conspiracy theories.

Titled Conspiracy Theory Shirk (Sin) the piece implies that some fighters have grown delusional because of conjectures saying that IS is a puppet in the hands of western intelligence agencies.

“If the mujahedeen liberated territory occupied by the kuffar [infidels], they would say that the kuffar allowed them to do so because kafir [disbelievers] interests’ necessitated a prolonged war,” the article reads.

“According to these theorists, almost all the events of the world were somehow linked back to the kuffar, their intelligence agencies, research, technology, and co-conspirators! Conspiracy theories have thereby become an excuse to abandon jihad.”‘

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Saudi Arabia “seeking to head United Nations Human Rights Council”

Roisin O’Connor reports for The Independent:

Saudi Arabia is reportedly planning to make a bid to head the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, in a move that has been described as the “final nail in the coffin for the credibility” of the HRC.

Reports of the bid come just days after Saudi Arabia posted a job advertisement for eight new executioners. This year it has already put 85 people to death in what has been branded by Amnesty International a “macabre spike” from the 87 people it killed in total last year.

The country will move to assume lead control over the HRC after 2016 when the presidency is awarded to a new nation.

UN Watch, a non-profit human rights group that monitors the international body, disclosed Saudi Arabia’s intentions in a recent report and urged the United States to fight against it.’

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Forget What We Know Now: We Knew Then the Iraq War Was a Joke

Editor’s Note: Matt Taibbi was recently interviewed about the role of the media in the lead up to the Iraq War on Democracy Now!

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

Jeb Bush[…] The media quickly piled on. “Jeb Bush’s Iraq Stumble” was the title of the Wall Street Journal’s “Journal Editorial Report” on Fox. “On Iraq Question, Jeb Bush Stumbles and GOP Hopefuls Pounce,” countered the Washington Post.

“Jeb Bush’s Revisionist History of the Iraq War,” wrote New York Times Editorial Page editor Andrew Rosenthal. “Yeah, Jeb Bush’s argument that the Iraq War was right even in retrospect is insane,” tweeted current New York and erstwhile New Republic writer Jonathan Chait early in the story cycle, when Jeb was still defending the war.

A few writers, like Steve Chapman at the Chicago Tribune, criticized Jeb for not disavowing the “reckless adventurism” of the Bush II era that led to the war in the first place. In other words, Chapman blasted Jeb for being wrong then and now.

But the substance of most of the media mockery in the last week was to whale on Jeb for not admitting quickly enough that the war, in hindsight, given “what we know now,” was a huge mistake.

We can call this the “None of us pundits would have been wrong about Iraq if it wasn’t for Judith Miller” line of questioning. This rhetoric goes something like this: since we invaded, the war has gone epically FUBAR, so it’s obvious now that it was a mistake, and so we can mock you for not admitting as much.’

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Palestinian Israel FIFA Vote: Sepp Blatter fears suspension vote could set precedent

The Hypocrisy World Cup

Campaigners target Qatar World Cup: Interview with Andrew Jennings

Andrew Jennings a British investigative journalist who has been covering corruption involving FIFA and the IOC for many years. He is the author of a number of books including The Great Olympic Swindle, FOUL! and Omerta. All of which are available via his website, Transparency In Sport.

Clinton Friend’s Memos on Libya Draw Scrutiny to Politics and Business

Nick Confessore and Michael S. Schmidt report for The New York Times:

[…] An examination by The Times suggests that Mr. Blumenthal’s involvement was more wide-ranging and more complicated than previously known, embodying the blurry lines between business, politics and philanthropy that have enriched and vexed the Clintons and their inner circle for years.

While advising Mrs. Clinton on Libya, Mr. Blumenthal, who had been barred from a State Department job by aides to President Obama, was also employed by her family’s philanthropy, the Clinton Foundation, to help with research, “message guidance” and the planning of commemorative events, according to foundation officials. During the same period, he also worked on and off as a paid consultant to Media Matters and American Bridge, organizations that helped lay the groundwork for Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

Much of the Libya intelligence that Mr. Blumenthal passed on to Mrs. Clinton appears to have come from a group of business associates he was advising as they sought to win contracts from the Libyan transitional government. The venture, which was ultimately unsuccessful, involved other Clinton friends, a private military contractor and one former C.I.A. spy seeking to get in on the ground floor of the new Libyan economy.’

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US Special Ops raid killing five ISIS chiefs had to be coordinated with Syria and Russia

DEBKAfile reports:

US Delta raid - from CNN reconstructionThe US Delta Special Operations raid that killed ISIS oil chief Abu Sayyaf Saturday, May 16, could not have taken place without prior US coordination with Damascus and Moscow, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. The National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan announced after the raid: “The US government did not coordinate with the Syrian regime, nor did we advise them in advance of the operation.” But that statement did not preclude a possible US notice of the coming raid to Moscow, which then passed it on to Damascus.

The operation therefore fixed more than one new Middle East landmark: Not only did the US put its first boots on the ground in Syria, but the US, Russia and the Assad regime seem to be pulling together for the first time against the Islamic State – much in the same way as Washington is funneling its cooperation with Iran against ISIS through Baghdad.

Our military sources note that the area of operation – Al-Amar some 20 km southeast of Deir El-Zour in eastern Syria – is bristling with Syrian air defense units, while Russian air defense facilities cover the distance from there to Damascus.  How likely is it that they all missed the helicopters which dropped US troops?’

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After Syria Raid Will There Be More U.S. Boots On The Ground?

Egypt: Islamists warn of backlash over Mohamed Morsi death sentence

Patrick Kingsley reports for The Guardian:

Egyptian Islamists have warned that the world should brace itself for a backlash after the country’s first freely elected president, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, was given a provisional death sentence nearly two years after he was overthrown by the army following mass protests against his rule.

Morsi was among over 100 men sentenced to death on Saturday for allegedly escaping prison during the 2011 uprising that toppled Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. Morsi and his colleagues were convicted of conspiring with Hamas, the Brotherhood’s Palestinian offshoot, whom judges decided had helped the prisoners leave jail in January 2011.

The sentence is provisional until the government’s most senior Islamic cleric gives his opinion. A final decision is due on 2 June. Even if the execution is upheld, analysts doubt that the Egyptian regime will follow through with such a provocative act. In a separate espionage case on Saturday, Morsi was sentenced to life in prison and, in a third case last month, to 20 years for incitement to violence.’

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Saudis “to get nuclear weapons”

Toby Harnden and Christina Lamb report for The Sunday Times:

King Salman with his son Prince Mohammad. Saudi Arabia has long been suspected of bankrolling Pakistan’s nuclear programme ‘Saudi Arabia has taken the “strategic decision” to acquire “off-the-shelf” atomic weapons from Pakistan, risking a new arms race in the Middle East, according to senior American officials.

The move by the Gulf kingdom, which has financed much of Islamabad’s nuclear programme over the past three decades, comes amid growing anger among Sunni Arab states over a deal backed by President Barack Obama, which they fear could allow their arch foe, Shi’ite Iran, to develop a nuclear bomb.

The agreement, which is due to be finalised by the end of next month and involves the permanent members of the UN security council and Germany, is designed to roll back part of Tehran’s nuclear programme in return for an easing of UN sanctions.

There are concerns that Saudi Arabia joining the nuclear club might provoke Turkey and Egypt to follow suit.’

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SisiLeaks: Secret Tapes of the 2013 Egypt Coup Plot Pose a Problem for Obama

Mark Hertsgaard reports for The Daily Beast:

Former Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi sits behind bars with other Muslim Brotherhood members at a court in the outskirts of Cairo, December 29, 2014. Mursi and 35 other top Islamists are charged with conspiring with foreign groups to commit terrorist acts in Egypt, implicating the Palestinian group Hamas, the Shi'ite Islamist government of Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW) - RTR4JJO4[…] The authenticity of the secret tapes has been verified forensically at the request of Morsi’s lawyers by J. P. French Associates, a British company that specializes in voice analysis, the Guardian newspaper has reported. The Egyptian government denies the finding, denouncing the tapes as “fabrications.”

If genuine, the tapes raise embarrassing questions for U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in particular.  Besides rigging the legal case against Morsi, the tapes describe the Egyptian military’s role in fomenting the street protests that el-Sisi used to justify Morsi’s removal—a revelation that undercuts the military’s assertion that it took power as part of a popular “revolution,” not a coup.

U.S. law prohibits supplying advanced military equipment to a government that seized power in a coup.

Obama froze U.S. military aid to Egypt immediately after Morsi’s overthrow, but recently reversed course.’

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How NATO deliberately destroyed Libya’s water infrastructure

Nafeez Ahmed writes at The Cutting Edge:

‘The military targeting of civilian infrastructure, especially of water supplies, is a war crime under international law and the Geneva Conventions.

Yet this is what NATO did in Libya, and the results have worsened today.

Numerous reports comment on the water crisis that is escalating across Libya as consumption outpaces production. Some have noted the environmental context in regional water scarcity due to climate change, but what they ignore is the fact that the complex national irrigation system that had been carefully built and maintained over decades to overcome this problem was targeted and disrupted by NATO.

During the 2011 military invasion, press reports surfaced, mostly citing pro-rebel sources, claiming that pro-Gaddafi loyalists had shut down the water supply system as a mechanism to win the war and punish civilians.

This is a lie.’

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Good News: UK counter-extremism plans could be used to silence Katie Hopkins

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

[…] As the collapse of post-NATO Libya has accelerated, so have the number of migrants trying to escape the Mediterranean to the shores of the European powers, which had claimed to be saving them.

Now that the villain is IS, not Gaddafi, the Britain-led EU plan for a new military intervention under the guise of “gunboat diplomacy” is all about stopping those victims from escaping the violent extremists we “British taxpayers” helped NATO install.

Thankfully, there appears to be a glimmer of light flickering beguilingly at the end of the tunnel.

This morning, UK Home Secretary Theresa May helpfully explained the government’s exciting – if slightly vague – plan to ban “hate speech” by “extremists” that would undermine “British values” like tolerance, equality, the rule of law, and so forth – including shutting down premises used to promote “extremism,” and vetting the online communications of extremist groups and individuals via Twitter, Facebook and so on.

Under these illustrious proposals, along with other powers recently obtained, the British public can at last look forward to the imminent day when Katie Hopkins will be duly deported after the confiscation of her passport, hopefully to somewhere like Libya where she can witness her version of “British values” in action.

The good news is that today’s Sun frontpage, with surprising nobility and humility, endorsed the Tory counter-extremism proposal under the fitting headline “WAR ON HATE.”

No doubt, once the envisaged powers pass into law, The Sun will gladly hand Hopkins over to the UK Border Agency, voluntarily close down its office, invite the police to vet all its online communications, and apologise for radicalising vast numbers of Britons into hating and disrespecting immigrants, ethnic minorities, asylum seekers, and women.’

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Journalists split over Sy Hersh’s bin Laden killing claims: Interview with Gareth Porter

‘The new report on the assassination of Osama bin Laden by famed journalist Seymour Hersh has been garnering major criticism from mainstream press outlets. Ben Swann speaks with investigative journalist Gareth Porter about the flaws in Hersh’s report and where the mainstream media has been failing the public.’ (RT America)

Critics Attack Seymour Hersh After Bin Laden Raid Story Goes Public

‘Seymour Hersh published a HUGE article on what actually happened during the Osama bin Laden raid in Pakistan. There’s a lot of dispute about this article, and Cenk comes out somewhere in the middle. The critics are saying that the reporting is thinly sourced. Cenk Uygur (host of The Young Turks) goes over the disputed details, and goes on to show and discusses the attempts to smear Hersh’s “The Killing of Osama bin Laden“.’ (The Young Turks)

Muslim-Bashing Can Be Very Lucrative

Dean Obeidallah writes for The Daily Beast:

Muslim-Bashing Can Be Very LucrativePeople keep asking me why does Pam Geller spew so much anti-Muslim crap? Is it part of her work as a pro-Israel activist? Did she once get food poisoning at a Middle Eastern restaurant? Is it simply because she really, really hates Muslims?

Probably all the above, but one other thing is certain: Geller gets paid pretty well to demonize Muslims. I’m talking to the tune of $200,000 a year. True, that might be walking around money for Donald Trump (who actually bashed Geller this week for her draw the Prophet Mohamed cartoon contest), but that puts her in the top 5 percent of all Americans in terms of annual income. Now, $200,000 doesn’t make a person rich these days (although the $9 million in combined divorce settlement and life-insurance payments she reportedly got certainly qualifies her). But for what she does, it’s handsome pay.

In fact, many of the people identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the Center for American Progress (CAP) as the leaders of the anti-Muslim industry in America are paid well for their efforts. I’m talking so much money I almost want to start hating on Muslims—and I’m Muslim.’

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An interview from Democracy Now! in February 2015 with Yasmine Taeb, the co-author of an investigative report by the Center for American Progress titled: “Fear, Inc. 2.0, The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America.”

Seymour Hersh Interviewed on Bin Laden Killing Story, Responds to White House and Media Backlash

Editor’s Note: This is a 20-minute exceprt from Hersh’s interview on Democracy Now! You can watch the final 10-minutes here.

‘Four years after U.S. forces assassinated Osama bin Laden, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh has published an explosive piece claiming much of what the Obama administration said about the attack was wrong. Hersh claims at the time of the U.S. raid, bin Laden had been held as a prisoner by Pakistani intelligence since 2006. Top Pakistani military leaders knew about the operation and provided key assistance. Contrary to U.S. claims that it located bin Laden by tracking his courier, a former Pakistani intelligence officer identified bin Laden’s whereabouts in return for the bulk of a $25 million U.S. bounty. Questions are also raised about whether bin Laden was actually buried at sea, as the U.S. claimed. Hersh says instead the Navy SEALs threw parts of bin Laden’s body into the Hindu Kush mountains from their helicopter. The White House claims the piece is “riddled with inaccuracies.” Hersh joins us to lay out his findings and respond to criticism from government officials and media colleagues.’ (Democracy Now!)

NBC Confirms Hersh: Pakistani Official Turned in bin Laden

Ben Kamisar reports for The Hill:

The CIA discovered Osama bin Laden’s location from a Pakistani intelligence official before the American Special Forces raid that killed the al Qaeda leader, NBC News reports.

A Special Forces operator told the network that the government used a cover story to assert that bin Laden’s courier tipped off the CIA in order to protect the identity of the Pakistani official who gave up the information. The military official added that Pakistani intelligence was hiding bin Laden in the country.

The news comes just one day after a controversial report from journalist Seymour Hersh in the London Review of Books alleged that a Pakistani intelligence official gave up bin Laden’s location to the CIA.

But Hersh’s report also asserts the Pakistani intelligence services cooperated with the mission by helping U.S. helicopters enter the country. It also claims that American forces faced no resistance in bin Laden’s compound because the guards were ordered to stand down.’

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