Category Archives: Syria

Endless enemies: How the US is supporting the Islamic State by fighting it

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

‘[…] So on the pretext of fighting Assad, the US armed and funded extremist Syrian rebels through its regional allies, including al-Qaeda in Iraq, which went on to spawn the “Islamic State”.

The US is now intent on fighting Assad’s enemy, IS, in turn bolstering Assad.

Simultaneously, Assad’s ambiguous strategic and energy relationship with IS is empowering the movement, and the US is coordinating with Assad to execute airstrikes against Assad’s chief regional enemy, IS.

But, the US is still working with its allies to arm a coalition of “moderate” rebels to fight both IS and Assad.

That “moderate” coalition, however, includes al-Qaeda’s Syria arm, Jabhat al-Nusra, which is being supported due to its rivalry with IS. Yet al-Nusra maintains tactical alliances with IS, while other FSA “moderates” also coordinate with IS to counter Assad, to the point that Western, Gulf and Turkish supplies to “moderates” are at risk of being systematically diverted to al-Nusra and IS.

If you have difficulty understanding this, don’t worry. I don’t understand it either. But what’s clear is that the ever shape-shifting US war on al-Qaeda, IS and Assad, is propping up al-Qaeda, IS and Assad.

On top of all this, the general Syrian population is increasingly cognisant of these contradictions, and disillusioned about the US-led strategy and its motives, not to mention angered at ongoing civilian casualties from airstrikes. That, too, is driving ordinary people into the arms of extremists.

It doesn’t really matter whether you think all this is a result of incompetence or conspiracy, or a bit of both. The upshot is unequivocal: This strategy is not going to eliminate terrorism or make us safer. On the contrary, it is a perfect recipe for endless war.’

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British pilots took part in anti-ISIS bombing campaign in Syria

Josh Halliday, Ewen MacAskill and Frances Perraudin report for The Guardian:

British pilots have carried out air strikes in Syria, marking a significant expansion of the UK’s role in the campaign against Islamic State.

The UK pilots were embedded with coalition forces, including the US and Canada, and the number involved is understood to have been in single figures.

Details of British personnel’s involvement in strikes by allied nations’ forces were revealed by a freedom of information request from the pressure group Reprieve.

The House of Commons voted against military action in Syria in 2013 and parliamentary authorisation has so far only been given to UK air strikes against Isis in neighbouring Iraq.

[…] The revelation is likely to infuriate MPs who voted against the military intervention. John Baron, the Tory MP for Basildon and Billericay and a member of the foreign affairs select committee, called for the immediate end to UK military strikes in Syria and urged Fallon to explain himself to parliament.

“What this does show is at the very minimum an insensitivity to parliament’s will,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.’

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ISIS, a year of the caliphate: Have US tactics only helped to make Islamists more powerful?

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

The “Islamic State” is stronger than it was when it was first proclaimed on 29 June last year, shortly after Isis fighters captured much of northern and western Iraq.

Its ability to go on winning victories was confirmed on 17 May this year in Iraq, when it seized Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, and again four days later in Syria, when it took Palmyra, one of the most famous cities of antiquity and at the centre of modern transport routes.

The twin victories show how Isis has grown in strength: it can now simultaneously attack on multiple fronts, hundreds of miles apart, a capacity it did not have a year ago. In swift succession, its forces defeated the Iraqi and Syrian armies and, equally telling, neither army was able to respond with an effective counter-attack.

Supposedly these successes, achieved by Isis during its summer offensive in 2014, should no longer be feasible in the face of air strikes by the US-led coalition. These began last August in Iraq and were extended to Syria in October, with US officials recently claiming that 4,000 air strikes had killed 10,000 Isis fighters. Certainly, the air campaign has inflicted heavy losses on Isis, but it has made up for these casualties by conscripting recruits within the self-declared caliphate, an area the size of Great Britain with a population of five or six million.’

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Samantha Power: Liberal War Hawk

Robert Parry writes for Consortium News:

President Barack Obama talks with Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, following a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Sept. 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)[…] Though Power is a big promoter of the “responsibility to protect” – or “R2P” – she operates with glaring selectivity in deciding who deserves protection as she advances a neocon/liberal interventionist agenda. She is turning “human rights” into an excuse not to resolve conflicts but rather to make them bloodier.

Thus, in Power’s view, the overthrow and punishment of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad takes precedence over shielding Alawites and other minorities from the likely consequence of Sunni-extremist vengeance. And she has sided with the ethnic Ukrainians in their slaughter of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.

In both cases, Power spurns pragmatic negotiations that could avert worsening violence as she asserts a black-and-white depiction of these crises. More significantly, her strident positions appear to have won the day with President Barack Obama, who has relied on Power as a foreign policy adviser since his 2008 campaign.

Power’s self-righteous approach to human rights – deciding that her side wears white hats and the other side wears black hats – is a bracing example of how “human rights activists” have become purveyors of death and destruction or what some critics have deemed “the weaponization of human rights.”’

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How the US fuelled the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq

Seumas Milne writes for The Guardian:

Eva Bee illustration[…] A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which uncannily predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became Isis) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.

Raising the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality”, the Pentagon report goes on, “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran)”.

Which is pretty well exactly what happened two years later. The report isn’t a policy document. It’s heavily redacted and there are ambiguities in the language. But the implications are clear enough. A year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of “Islamic state” – despite the “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity – as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.

That doesn’t mean the US created Isis, of course, though some of its Gulf allies certainly played a role in it – as the US vice-president, Joe Biden, acknowledged last year. But there was no al-Qaida in Iraq until the US and Britain invaded. And the US has certainly exploited the existence of Isis against other forces in the region as part of a wider drive to maintain western control.’

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General Petraeus: U.S. “Probably Losing” ISIS War, New Strategy Needed

Ex-intel officials: Pentagon report proves US complicity in ISIS

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Insurge Intelligence:

As I reported on May 22nd, the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document obtained by Judicial Watch under Freedom of Information confirms that the US intelligence community foresaw the rise of ISIS three years ago, as a direct consequence of the support to extremist rebels in Syria.

The August 2012 ‘Information Intelligence Report’ (IIR) reveals that the overwhelming core of the Syrian insurgency at that time was dominated by a range of Islamist militant groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). It warned that the “supporting powers” to the insurgency — identified in the document as the West, Gulf states, and Turkey — wanted to see the emergence of a “Salafist Principality” in eastern Syria to “isolate” the Assad regime.

The document also provided an extraordinarily prescient prediction that such an Islamist quasi-statelet, backed by the region’s Sunni states, would amplify the risk of the declaration of an “Islamic State” across Iraq and Syria. The DIA report even anticipated the fall of Mosul and Ramadi.’

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Al Qaeda Syria Boss Says That His “So-Called Khorasan Group Doesn’t Exist”

Murtaza Hussein reports for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Al Qaeda Syria Boss Says That His “So-Called Khorasan Group Doesn’t Exist”In early September 2014, an Associated Press story quoted unnamed U.S. officials discussing an imminent threat from a previously unknown, Syria-based terror outfit called the “Khorasan Group.” U.S. officials told the AP that the jihadist group was stocked with al Qaeda veterans and was plotting imminent attacks against U.S.-bound airline flights. Officials also suggested that the level of danger posed by the group exceeded that of ISIS, the militant group which now controls much of Iraq and Syria.

Weeks later, after similarly breathless coverage of the so-called Khorasan Group from the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NBC News, CBS News and others, American airstrikes against Syria commenced, including strikes that were said to have specifically targeted this shadowy new organization.

In the immediate aftermath of the strikes, something remarkable happened. American officials almost immediately began retracting their claims about the level of danger posed by the Khorasan Group. FBI Director James Comey, addressing previous assertions that the group posed an imminent threat to American interests, said, “I don’t know exactly what that word means … ‘imminent.’”’

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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)

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

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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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?

Why don’t people remember David Cameron’s insane rush to war in Syria?

From Another Angry Voice:

Is it just me or has almost everyone forgotten how David Cameron tried to wade into the Syrian civil war on the same side as ISIS (then known as Iraqi Al Qaeda) in 2013, but was defeated by parliament?

Does anybody remember how David Cameron, William Hague and the right-wing press did absolutely everything in their power to try to persuade parliament and the British public that wading into a foreign conflict on the same side as a bunch of murderous Islamist fanatics was a brilliant idea?

Does anybody remember how it was pointed out over and again that the Islamist fanatics that David Cameron was trying to ally himself with were responsible for all kinds of atrocities (the killing of civilians, the torture and murder of prisoners of war, child killing, use of chemical weapons, book burning, misogyny, destruction of cultural artifacts …), yet Cameron and Hague carried on their insane rush to war regardless?

In the run up to the General Election why has hardly anyone mentioned the historic parliamentary vote in which David Cameron’s insane rush to war was defeated? Why are so few people talking about the fact that Cameron’s absurd desire to side with a bunch of brutal Islamist fanatics combined with his incredibly poor leadership resulted in him becoming the first UK Prime Minister to lose a war vote since 1782?’

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Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

[…] It amazes me that all these warriors of the air don’t regularly crash into each other as they go on bombing and bombing. And since Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines is the only international carrier still flying over Syria – but not, thank heavens, over Isis’s Syrian capital of Raqqa – I’m even more amazed that my flights from Beirut to the Gulf have gone untouched by the blitz boys of so many Arab and Western states as they career around the skies of Mesopotamia and the Levant.

The sectarian and theological nature of this war seems perfectly clear to all who live in the Middle East – albeit not to our American chums. The Sunni Saudis are bombing the Shia Yemenis and the Shia Iranians are bombing the Sunni Iraqis. The Sunni Egyptians are bombing Sunni Libyans, it’s true, and the Jordanian Sunnis are bombing Iraqi Sunnis. But the Shia-supported Syrian government forces are bombing their Sunni Syrian enemies and the Lebanese Hezbollah – Shia to a man – are fighting the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Sunni enemies, along with Iranian Revolutionary Guards and an ever-larger number of Afghan Shia men in Syrian uniforms.’

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Syria: Turkish Military Provided ‘Support Fire’ in al-Qaeda Takeover of Town

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Syria’s Foreign Ministry was quoted on the nation’s state media today as blaming Turkey in large measure for al-Qaeda’s takeover of the border town of Jisr al-Shughour, saying Turkish military forces providing both logistics support and providing “support fire” for advancing Islamists.

This is not the first time Syria has blamed Turkey for al-Qaeda’s recent gains, as they similarly accused Turkey of having orchestrated the offensive which put them in control of the city of Idlib, not far away.’

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From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

Few recall that David Cameron led Britain into one war in Libya that overthrew Gaddafi, but was disastrous for most Libyans. Without this conflict, the drowned bodies of would-be emigrants to Europe would not be washing up in their hundreds on Libyan beaches. To get the full flavour of what went wrong, it is worth watching a YouTube clip of Cameron grandstanding on a balcony in Benghazi on 15 September 2011, as he lauds Libya’s new freedom. Then turn to almost any recent film of Benghazi or Tripoli showing militias battling in streets and buildings shattered by shellfire.

Another scene worth revisiting via YouTube is the House of Commons on 29 August 2013, when Cameron lost the vote which would have opened the door to British military intervention in Syria. Ostensibly this was in response to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government in Damascus, but would have had an effect only if it had turned into a Libyan-type air campaign to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. There is every reason to believe that al-Qaeda-type movements would have filled the vacuum and Syria would have descended even deeper into anarchy.

What is striking here is not so much that Cameron never seemed to have much idea about what was going on in Libya or Syria as the degree to which his culpability has never been an issue. Contrast this with the way in which Tony Blair is still pilloried for the decisions he took over going to war in Iraq in 2003. Focus on the decisions taken in the lead-up to the invasion has become a national obsession in which Blair is a scapegoat, as if most of the British establishment and popular opinion did not support him at the time. Admittedly this support was partly the result of concocted evidence about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent WMD, but there is something absurd about the fact that it is almost impossible these days to meet a diplomat or a general who does not claim to have been deeply, if silently, opposed to the whole venture at the time.’

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Former Saddam Hussein spy masterminded the rise of ISIS, says Spiegel report

Reuters reports:

Isis fighters on the border of Syria and IraqOne of Saddam Hussein’s former intelligence officers masterminded Islamic State’s takeover of northern Syria after becoming embittered by the US-led invasion of Iraq, according to a report by the German magazine Der Spiegel

Documents uncovered in Syria reveal meticulous planning for the group’s structure and organisation, the report says, with the 31 pages of handwritten charts, lists and schedules amounting to a blueprint for the establishment of a caliphate in Syria.

The documents were the work of a man identified by the magazine as Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, a former colonel in the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein’s air defence force, who went by the pseudonym Haji Bakr, Spiegel says.

The files suggest that the takeover of northern Syria was part of a meticulous plan overseen by Haji Bakr using techniques – including surveillance, espionage, murder and kidnapping – honed in the security apparatus of Saddam Hussein.

Bakr was “bitter and unemployed” after the US authorities in Iraq disbanded the army by decree in 2003, the article says. Between 2006 to 2008 he was reportedly in US detention facilities, including Abu Ghraib prison.’

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NBC’s Conduct in Engel Kidnapping Story is More Troubling than the Brian Williams Scandal

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] The Brian Williams scandal is basically about an insecure, ego-driven TV star who puffed up his own war credentials by fabricating war stories: it’s about personal foibles. But this Engel story is about what appears to be a reckless eagerness, if not deliberate deception, on the part of NBC officials to disseminate a dubious storyline which, at the time, was very much in line with the story that official Washington was selling (by then, Obama was secretly aiding anti-Assad rebels, and had just announced – literally a week before the Engel kidnapping — “that the United States would formally recognize a coalition of Syrian opposition groups as that country’s legitimate representative”). Much worse, the NBC story was quite likely to fuel the simmering war cries in the West to attack (or at least aggressively intervene against) Assad.

That’s a far more serious and far more consequential journalistic sin than a news reader puffing out his chest and pretending he’s Rambo. Falsely and recklessly blaming the Assad regime for a heinous kidnapping of Western journalists and directly linking it to Iran and Hezbollah, while heralding the rebels as heroic and compassionate — during a brewing “regime change” and intervention debate — is on the level of Iraqi aluminum tubes.’

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Did NBC Cover Up Role of U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army in 2012 Kidnapping of Richard Engel?

‘NBC News is at the center of a new controversy, this time focused on its chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. Back in 2012 he and five other members of an NBC News team were kidnapped by armed gunmen in Syria. They were held for five days. Just after his release Engel spoke on NBC News and said this about his captors: “This is a government militia. These are people who are loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. They are Shiite.” Well, earlier this week, a New York Times investigation prompted Engel to revise his story and reveal he was actually captured by Sunni militants affiliated with the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army. In an article published on Wednesday, Engel said the kidnappers had “put on an elaborate ruse to convince us they were Shiite shabiha militiamen.” According to the Times investigation, NBC knew more than it let on about the kidnappers. We speak to As’ad AbuKhalil, professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He runs the Angry Arab News Service blog. He expressed serious doubts about the circumstances surrounding Engel’s captivity and release when the story first broke in December 2012.’ (Democracy Now!)

Neocons, R2Pers and Hypocrisy

Robert Parry writes for Consortium News:

Sometimes I’m challenged over my linking belligerent neoconservatives with “liberal interventionists” who justify U.S. military invasions under the “humanitarian” banner of “responsibility to protect” – or R2P – meaning to intervene in war-torn countries to stop the killing of civilians, like the 1994 slaughter in Rwanda.

And, most people would agree that there are extraordinary situations in which the timely arrival of an external military force might prevent genocide or other atrocities, which was one of the intended functions of the United Nations. But my overall impression of R2Pers is that many are careerist hypocrites who voice selective outrage that provides cover for the U.S. and its allies to do pretty much whatever they wish.

Though one can’t generalize about an entire group – since some R2Pers act much more consistently than others – many of the most prominent ones operate opportunistically, depending how the dominant narrative is going and where the power interests lie.’

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US counts on arming, training foreign forces despite years of failure

David J. Lynch reports for Bloomberg:

The U.S. is trying to stabilize Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria using a tactic that’s rarely worked: training and equipping foreign forces.

The effort to defeat terrorists and insurgencies without using American troops is failing in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and other Sunni nations have now intervened. It still faces long odds and long wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

For now, President Barack Obama is doubling down on getting other nations to fight by boosting arms sales to the Gulf states, resuming military aid to Egypt and supporting the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen.’

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The US isn’t winding down its wars – it’s just running them at arm’s length

Seamus Milne writes for The Guardian:

Joe Magee Illustration on Saudi-led action in Yemen[…] Since the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan, the US and its allies are reluctant to risk boots on the ground. But their military interventions are multiplying. Barack Obama has bombed seven mainly Muslim countries since he became US president. There are now four full-scale wars raging in the Arab world (Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen), and every one of them has involved US and wider western military intervention. Saudi Arabia is by far the largest British arms market; US weapons sales to the Gulf have exceeded those racked up by George Bush, and last week Obama resumed US military aid to Egypt.

What has changed is that, in true imperial fashion, the west’s alliances have become more contradictory, playing off one side against the other. In Yemen, it is supporting the Sunni powers against Iran’s Shia allies. In Iraq, it is the opposite: the US and its friends are giving air support to Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting the Sunni takfiri group Isis. In Syria, they are bombing one part of the armed opposition while arming and training another.

The nuclear deal with Iran – which the Obama administration pushed through in the teeth of opposition from Israel and the Gulf states – needs to be seen in that context. The US isn’t leaving the Middle East, as some imagine, but looking for a more effective way of controlling it at arm’s length: by rebalancing the region’s powers, as the former MI6 officer Alastair Crooke puts it, in an “equilibrium of antagonisms”.’

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Patrick Cockburn’s Five Part Series on Life Under ISIS

Patrick Cockburn is an award winning Middle East correspondent for The Independent, and he recently published a five-part series on the what daily life is like living under the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Cockburn is also the author of The Rise of the Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution. You can listen to a recent interview he did about his five part series on the Scott Horton Show here.

Humanitarians for War on Syria

Rick Sterling writes for CounterPunch:

‘A massive campaign in support of foreign intervention against Syria is underway. The goal is to prepare the public for a “No Fly Zone” enforced by US and other military powers. This is how the invasion of Iraq began. This is how the public was prepared for the US/NATO air attack on Libya.

The results of western ‘regime change’ in Iraq and Libya have been disastrous. Both actions have dramatically reduced the security, health, education and living standards of the populations, created anarchy and mayhem, and resulted in the explosion of sectarianism and violence in the region. Now the Western/NATO/Israeli and Gulf powers, supported by major intervention-inclined humanitarian organizations, want to do the same in Syria. Is this positive or a repeat of past disasters?’

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New age of water wars portends ‘bleak future’

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

Behind the escalating violence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, as well as the epidemic of civil unrest across the wider region, is a growing shortage of water.

New peer-reviewed research published by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) shows that water scarcity linked to climate change is now a global problem playing a direct role in aggravating major conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa.

Numerous cities in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia are facing “short and declining water supplies per capita,” which is impacting “worldwide” on food production, urban shortages, and even power generation.’

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