‘Egypt’s arrest and trial of three Al-Jazeera journalists, charged with assisting the Muslim Brotherhood, has prompted outcry around the world. The case helps highlight growing dangers to journalists worldwide, especially in countries caught in war or turmoil. In 2013, 119 members of the press died while on assignment. Alison Bethel McKenzie of the International Press Institute and David Rohde of Reuters join Jeffrey Brown to discuss the hazards.’ (PBS Newshour)
President Vladimir Putin has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, according to director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute Geir Lundestad. The announcement on Wednesday comes at an awkward time as Russia currently stands accused of invading Ukraine, something most people recognize as one of the most un-peaceful things a leader can do.
Voice of Russia notes that the nomination had likely been submitted back in October, when Putin had just acted as a main figure in the deal to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons. This didn’t take into account that Putin was also providing Syria with conventional weapons, but such is the way the Nobel Peace Prize works. It’s a system much like the Pulitzer Prize, where it’s actually surprisingly easy to get nominated for the award and often doesn’t really mean anything.
Since the beginning of this terrible conflict in Syria, I have been closely listening to people’s reactions to the violence and devastation occurring there. What is astonishing is how quickly Syria transformed from a place of relative obscurity to a topic of constant discussion among so many. Even more astonishing, the solutions often offered to stem the violence prove that westerners have simply learned nothing from the lessons of history. These “solutions” tend to follow the same, tired formulae of a colonial mindset that helped put the Levant in this mess in the first place.
Some of the most passionate calls for “humanitarian” intervention and instant, western-led regime change have come from people who, ironically, are still disillusioned by the disastrous Bush Administration lies that led the United States into the heinous Iraq invasion of 2003. Nevertheless, of all the “solutions” that I hear bandied about by those who truly believe they are in the know concerning these grave geopolitical issues, the most idiotic and truly outdated is balkanization, or as I like to call it in the context of Syria, Sykes-Picot II.
Saudi Arabia, the brutal authoritarian theocracy that the democracy-promoting Washington claims as one of its closest allies, has a bit of a history of pressuring the U.S. into Middle East wars. The 1991 First Gulf War to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait was fought largely in defense of Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom also encouraged the Bush administration to invade Iraq in 2003. And the Saudi king has repeatedly urged Washington to attack Iran to secure Saudi interests in the Sunni-Shia regional divide.
Saudi Arabia also has a rather incriminating and duplicitous history of harboring Islamic extremists of the al-Qaeda, jihadist type. They helped the U.S. fund the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis (and they were directed by a Saudi, named Osama bin Laden). There is even a classified record that members of Congress have claimed indicates the Saudi government’s role in the 9/11 attacks.
Since the start of Syria’s civil war, foreign jihadists have been flooding the country – many of them coming from Saudi Arabia.
The Geneva II conference, which claims to be seeking to end the war in Syria, seems designed to fail and instead to provide an excuse for military intervention by the United States and its allies. Human rights activist Ajamu Baraka describes the negotiations as an “Orwellian subterfuge” designed to provide justification for war and a lot of facts support his view.
The negotiations are destined to fail because of the way they have been set up and the preconditions the United States and its allies in the Syrian opposition have made – demanding that President Bashar al-Assad agree to leave government before negotiations go forward.
The set-up for failure begins with the limited participation. The rigged nature of the negotiations was demonstrated when, at the demand of the United States and the Syrian opposition, the UN had to rescind an invitation to Iran to participate. Iran is a close ally of Syria, and keeping Iran out of the negotiations is an effort to weaken and isolate Syria. It is an indication of a desire by the United States for a preordained conclusion rather than a fair negotiation between the parties.
- Sides Trade Insults as Syria Talks End Without Deal
- U.S. denies it sought direct negotiations with Syria in Geneva
- FM: Syria rejected U.S. talks bid without Kerry apology
- Nearly 1,900 killed in Syria during peace talks
- Activists: Syria toll rises to 136,000
- Congress Secretly Approves Arms for Syria Rebels
- Syria becoming magnet for young French Muslims
- Radical preacher rebukes extremists in Syria
- US Intelligence Estimate: 7,000 Foreign Fighters in Syria
- Al-Qaeda’s Oil: Captured Syrian Reserves Bankrolling Civil War
- Syrian Christian Leaders Call On U.S. To End Support For Anti-Assad Rebels
- In Syria Both Sides Fear Annihilation If They Lay Down Arms: Interview with Omar Dahi
- Cynical New PR Stunt Greases Skids For “Humanitarian” Invasion of Syria
The very same week the interim nuclear deal with Iran went into effect, a diplomatic fiasco surrounding the Syrian peace talks underscored how little Western officials think has changed, and that Iran still occupies the position of “hostile power” for them.
Early last week, the focus was on getting partial ceasefires to slow the Syrian Civil War, and Iranian involvement would’ve been a major boost to that effort. The UN did the “reasonable” thing and invited Iran.
What followed was a total rethink of the talks and 24 solid hours of threats, before Iran was summarily disinvited and the US started insisting the whole point of the Syria talks was regime change and condemning the idea of partial ceasefires as a “distraction.”
Iran remains irked at being invited and uninvited like that, Russia is also angry since the whole point of the talks seems to be changing, and the UN is trying to insist none of this is their fault, and that they just assumed Iran was ready to impose a regime change ousting a close ally and replacing them with a pro-US government.
The Obama administration first learned last November about a harrowing trove of photographs that were said to document widespread torture and executions in Syrian prisons when a State Department official viewed some of the images on a laptop belonging to an antigovernment activist, a senior official said Wednesday.
The United States did not act on the photos for the past two months, officials said, because it did not have possession of the digital files and could not establish their authenticity. Nevertheless, they said, the administration believes the photos are genuine, basing that assessment in part on the meticulous way in which the bodies in the photos were numbered.
The photographs, some of which were released this week on the eve of an international peace conference on Syria, have helped prompt the administration to heighten its demand that President Bashar al-Assad release political prisoners and allow Red Cross inspectors access to the prisons.
But it seems clear that the photos that appear to document the torture and executions will not fundamentally alter American policy, which is to push for a political settlement that will remove Mr. Assad from power but to avoid direct military intervention in the conflict.
The Geneva II talks on the Syrian civil war in Switzerland started today. In the lead up to the conference, the media focus, unfortunately, had been on which parts of the Syrian opposition would attend and whether or not Iran, the Assad regime’s close ally, would attend (the U.S. pressured the UN to uninvite Iran at the last minute for not accepting the Geneva Communique).
And today, the media focused on two developments: (1) Secretary of State John Kerry’s hardline rhetoric about the Syrian regime’s crimes and how Assad cannot be a part of any transition government, and (2) the tense back-and-forth between UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, the latter being nothing more than a disagreement over how much time the foreign minister should have to speak.
From where I’m sitting, the real story of the Geneva II conference was all but ignored. It was summed up by Ban Ki-Moon in a press conference following the talks when he said, “all of the countries who have been providing arms to either side must stop and encourage them to engage in political dialogue.”
- Patrick Cockburn: Moment of Truth for Syria
- Assad spokeswoman on CNN: Isn’t this colonial? What John Kerry said today? To me it’s very colonial
- John Kerry Says President Assad Cannot Be Part Of Transition Government In Syria
- Many Syrians Still See Assad as Indispensable in Saving Their Country
- Lots of Anger, Little Content as Syria Talks Begin
- Major Syrian opposition party withdraws from coalition
- Geneva Talks Underscore Huge Gap Between Syrian Regime and Opposition
- Brutality of Syria War Casts Doubt on Peace Talks
- Syrian Refugees on Geneva II: ‘I Have Learnt That Politics Has No Principles’
- Iran’s Rouhani: Hopes Slim for Syria Peace Talks
- Russia Says Iran’s Absence From Syria Talks Is a Mistake, Not a Catastrophe
- Map: Who Is Invited to the Syria Peace Talks (and Who’s Not)
- Syria TV Shows Opposition Head Alongside ‘Terrorist Crimes’
- Al-Qaeda slaughters on Syria’s killing fields
- Syrian Prison a Breeding Ground for Extremists
- Syrian Kurds Declare Autonomous Region in Northeast
The Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad has funded and co-operated with al-Qaeda in a complex double game even as the terrorists fight Damascus, according to new allegations by Western intelligence agencies, rebels and al-Qaeda defectors.
Jabhat al-Nusra, and the even more extreme Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS), the two al-Qaeda affiliates operating in Syria, have both been financed by selling oil and gas from wells under their control to and through the regime, intelligence sources have told The Daily Telegraph.
Rebels and defectors say the regime also deliberately released militant prisoners to strengthen jihadist ranks at the expense of moderate rebel forces. The aim was to persuade the West that the uprising was sponsored by Islamist militants including al-Qaeda as a way of stopping Western support for it.
The allegations by Western intelligence sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, are in part a public response to demands by Assad that the focus of peace talks due to begin in Switzerland tomorrow be switched from replacing his government to co-operating against al-Qaeda in the “war on terrorism”.
For the first time since Europe withdrew its ambassadors from Syria, European intelligence agencies met recently with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to discuss extremists—and the move is sparking concern among Assad’s opponents. The purpose of the meetings was to share information on European jihadists who are currently working with militant groups in Syria, such as the al-Qaeda-affiliated group ISIS; Europe is concerned about these extremists returning to their home countries even more radicalized—and trained. But opponents of Assad see the meetings as a sign that Western powers are resigned to the fact that Assad won’t be stepping aside anytime soon, the Wall Street Journal reports.
They’re also concerned that the meetings, which have also touched on the growing influence of al-Qaeda in Syria, will “lead to a broader cooperation,” says one opposition member. Such an anti-terror cooperation could boost Assad’s position; he has long argued that he is the best leader to fight al-Qaeda in Syria. The meetings, which started in midsummer, so far have involved Britain, Germany, France, and Spain. (The US, though not involved in these meetings, has similar concerns about extremism.) Meanwhile, the Geneva II conference will be held a week from today; the opposition is set to meet with Assad’s government in an attempt to end the conflict. And as the humanitarian crisis continues, with more than 130,000 dead and 8 million displaced, the US has announced $380 million in further aid. Together with Kuwait’s offer of $500 million, that’s the UN’s largest-ever combined humanitarian appeal, BusinessWeek reports.
In a public appearance filmed and posted online, members of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, one brandishing a knife, held up a bearded head before a crowd in Aleppo. They triumphantly described the execution of what they said was a member of an Iraqi Shia militia fighting for President Bashar al-Assad.
But the head was recognised from the video as originally belonging to a member of Ahrar al-Sham, a Sunni Islamist rebel group that often fights alongside ISIS though it does not share its al-Qaeda ideology.
Only on the complex and bloody battlefields of Syria could there emerge a schism that would seem absurd elsewhere: “good” al Qaida vs. “bad” al Qaida.
That concept is becoming increasingly accepted as Syrian fighters intensify their campaign to reclaim the mantle of the rebel cause from extremists who’d become as formidable an enemy as President Bashar Assad, the autocrat they’ve failed to topple after nearly three years of war.
Analysts who monitor the Syrian insurgency caution that the rebel forces fighting or taking territory from the feared Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, are themselves no champions of a Western-style democratic plan for Syria. The fighters run the spectrum from avowed al Qaida loyalists to ultraconservatives who want no cooperation with the West to two new groupings of more mainstream rebels who complain that the Obama administration has abandoned their struggle.
As a result, the analysts say, a development that from afar might appear to be encouraging – rebels uniting to isolate the most ruthless faction – in fact comes with a host of caveats and new concerns, not least that ISIS will return with a vengeance.
And it doesn’t resolve the fact that the United States still lacks a proven rebel partner in the conflict, a major snag to U.S. plans to build a strong opposition delegation to sit across from regime representatives at a long-anticipated peace summit that’s scheduled to begin in just two weeks.
The sectarian bloodbath in Syria is such a threat to regional security that a victory for Bashar al-Assad’s regime could be the best outcome to hope for, a former CIA chief said.
Washington condemned Assad’s conduct of the conflict, threatened air strikes after he was accused of targeting civilians with chemical weapons and has demanded he step down.
The United States is also supplying millions of dollars in “non-lethal” aid to some of the rebel groups fighting Assad’s rule.
But Michael Hayden, the retired US Air Force general who until 2009 was head of the Central Intelligence Agency, said a rebel win was not one of the three possible outcomes he foresees for the conflict.
“Option three is Assad wins,” Hayden told the annual Jamestown Foundation conference of terror experts.
“And I must tell you at the moment, as ugly as it sounds, I’m kind of trending toward option three as the best out of three very, very ugly possible outcomes,” he said.
- Confessions Of A Syrian Activist: “I Want Assad To Win”
- Syria says Assad will remain in power
- Ex-army chief Halutz: Israel prefers Assad over Islamists in Syria
- Israeli border village backs Syria’s Bashar al-Assad
- Assad Likely to Remain in Power, Many Rebels Admit
- For The First Time U.N. Accuses Syrian President Assad Of War Crimes
- UN Rights Chief Quickly Backs Off Statement Because List of Suspects Is Secret
- Syrian women raped, used as shields and kidnapped by both sides in war
- SOHR: Syria death toll hits nearly 126,000
- Report: Over 11,000 Syrian children killed in war, most by explosives
- UN Envoy: Both Sides of Syrian War Agree There’s No Military Solution
- Nasrallah: Hezbollah in Syria for long haul
- North Korea denies aiding Syria in fight against rebels
- UNESCO sounds alarm about illicit Syria archeology digs
- Amid civil war, a battle to preserve Syria’s historical heritage
The Obama administration is willing to consider supporting an expanded Syrian rebel coalition that would include Islamist groups, provided the groups are not allied with al-Qaeda and agree to support upcoming peace talks in Geneva, a senior U.S. official said Thursday.
In addition, the official said, the Americans would like the Islamic Front groups to return U.S. vehicles, communications gear and other non-lethal equipment they seized last weekend from warehouses at the Syria-Turkey border.
The seized material, which had been provided to the U.S.-backed Supreme Military Council (SMC) of Syrian opposition fighters, led the administration this week to suspend aid shipments through Turkey.
The emergence last month of the Islamic Front has presented the administration with a dilemma as it seeks to maintain military pressure on the Syrian government before an opposition-government peace conference next month that it hopes will lead to the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad and the installation of a transitional government.
- CIA to Train Moderate Rebels, but Not So Many That They Win
- Hagel Says America’s Syria Policy in Turmoil
- With Islamists now in firm control of Syria rebellion, civil war might last years
- Islamist Wave Is Driving Out Syria’s Revolutionaries
- Obama Advisor: ‘Extremism’ Could Be Key to Ending Syrian Civil War
- Outmuscled Syrian opposition seeks protection from al Qaeda
- Pro-US Syrian Rebels Try to Change Narrative Amid Aid Freeze
- Sinister Fruits of The West’s Alliance with Jihad Warriors in Syria
- Syrian Christians fear extremist rebels
- News Organizations Call On Syrian Rebels to End Kidnappings
- Jihadist site urges Syria militants to free journalists
- Syria’s Foreign Fighters
The spectre is looming of a second Syrian civil war with the head of the opposition’s official forces declaring that he is prepared to join regime troops in the future to drive out al-Qa’ida-linked extremists who have taken over swathes of rebel-held territories.
General Salim Idris, the commander of the Free Syrian Army warned that in particular Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham), with thousands of foreign fighters in its ranks, was “very dangerous for the future of Syria” and needs to be confronted before it becomes even more powerful.
Western security agencies now believe that Syria poses the most potent threat of terrorism in Europe and the US from where hundreds of Muslims have gone to join the jihad. MI5 and Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch recently tackled the first case of men sent from there specifically to carry out attacks in London.
- Is Obama Changing Tack on Syria?
- Iraqi FM Warns of Jihadi ‘Emirate’ in Syria
- Seizure of Nuns Stokes Syrian Christian Fears
- Foreign jihadists ‘use Turkey safe houses’
- A jihadist spark that could ignite the Israeli-Syrian border
- Syria’s “bride of the revolution” mourns freedom in al Qaeda’s grip
- E.U. security officials note increased flow of fighters to Syria’s civil war
- Beheadings and spies help al Qaeda gain ground in Syria
- U.S. point man for Syrian rebels is sidelined, powerless
- From Rebellion to Extortion: The Free Syrian Army Is Changing
- Kurdish Women Join Militias in Syria to Fight al-Qaeda
- Britain Courting Islamist Factions to Keep Syria War Going
- Rebels, Inc.
- Syrian rebels’ competition for limited money and weapons turns brutal
- U.S.: American fighters in Syria a security risk
- Video shows execution of Syrian rebels by al-Qaeda-linked group
- The Syrian rebels who have ‘no problem’ fighting alongside Al Qaeda
- Poisonous rivalries between commanders end in defeat for Free Syrian Army
- Fears Rise of ‘Taliban-Style’ Justice in Syria
- Al-Qaeda in Syria raids wedding party, warns against music and singing
- Syrian Rebel Factions Unite as ‘Islamic Front’
- Syrian Rebels Acquiring Anti-Aircraft Missiles
- Saudi Arabia to spend millions to train new rebel force
- Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch opens complaints department
Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.
The Pentagon said on Friday that the warship moved through the Suez Canal and into the Red Sea and is expected to be back at its home port on the West Coast before Christmas, the Associated Press reported.
The decision was made after the aircraft carrier was ordered to be present in the region because the White House planned to attack Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.
U.S.-Russian plans for a long-delayed summit on Syria appeared to collapse Tuesday, with the United Nations’ special envoy to Syria suggesting that the opposition’s perpetual disarray was to blame for the failure to begin negotiations on a political settlement to the conflict.
U.N. and Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi spoke at a news conference in Geneva, where U.S., Russian and U.N. officials met in hopes of a breakthrough that would allow them to announce a date for a “Geneva 2 conference,” so called because it builds on an earlier framework for talks to end the war that’s raged for more than two years, with a death toll beyond 100,000.
No such agreement was reached, however, and Brahimi strongly suggested that the onus lay on the Syrian Opposition Coalition, which has been unable to resolve its internal differences and assemble what Brahimi called a “credible delegation” to meet with members of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government. He said the United States, Russia and the U.N. would meet again Nov. 25 to assess progress after scheduled opposition meetings, though he appeared skeptical of the opposition’s ability to do even that. “I don’t know whether they’ll meet or not,” he said.
Using strikingly blunt language for a veteran diplomat, Brahimi declared the opposition “not ready.” “They’re divided; it’s no secret to anybody,” he said.
- Syria opposition says no to peace talks without Assad exit (Daily Star)
- Syria rebel groups brand Geneva talks ‘treason’ (AFP)
- U.N. envoy says no preconditions for Syria peace talks (Reuters)
- Syria Vice PM Fired Over Secret Meeting With US Envoy (Antiwar)
- Al-Qaeda Complicates Syria Peace Talks (Antiwar)
- Assad compares Syria war to Algeria conflict (AFP)
- UN envoy warns of ‘Somalisation’ of Syria (The National)
- Damascus, rebels coordinate to let 1,800 civilians flee siege (Reuters)
- Damascus says ‘only Syrians’ will choose leader (AFP)
Saudi Arabia, having largely abandoned hope that the United States will spearhead international efforts to topple the Assad regime, is embarking on a major new effort to train Syrian rebel forces. And according to three sources with knowledge of the program, Riyadh has enlisted the help of Pakistani instructors to do it.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, along with the CIA, also supported the Afghan rebels against the Soviet-backed government during the 1980s. That collaboration contains a cautionary note for the current day: The fractured Afghan rebels were unable to govern after the old regime fell, paving the way for chaos and the rise of the Taliban. Some of the insurgents, meanwhile, transformed into al Qaeda and eventually turned their weapons against their former patrons.
While the risk of blowback has been discussed in Riyadh, Saudis with knowledge of the training program describe it as an antidote to extremism, not a potential cause of it. They have described the kingdom’s effort as having two goals — toppling the Assad regime, and weakening al Qaeda-linked groups in the country. Prince Turki, the former Saudi intelligence chief and envoy to Washington, said in a recent interview that the mainstream opposition must be strengthened so that it could protect itself “these extremists who are coming from all over the place” to impose their own ideologies on Syria.
The ramped up Saudi effort has been spurred by the kingdom’s disillusionment with the United States. A Saudi insider with knowledge of the program described how Riyadh had determined to move ahead with its plans after coming to the conclusion that President Barack Obama was simply not prepared to move aggressively to oust Assad. “We didn’t know if the Americans would give [support] or not, but nothing ever came through,” the source said. “Now we know the president just didn’t want it.”
- Persian Gulf officials, tired of waiting for U.S., move to boost aid to rebels (Washington Post)
- Iran Revolutionary Guards commander killed in Syria (Reuters)
- Syria Kurds rout jihadists across northeast (AFP)
- Al-Qaeda’s Influence Grows Stronger in Syria: Interview with Vijay Prashad (TRNN)
- Saudi-proposed UN resolution would condemn ‘gross’ rights violations by Syrian government (AP)
- Wahhabi Cleric Breaks Statue of the Virgin Mary: We Won’t Accept Anything but Wahhabism in Syria
- Beleaguered Syrian Christians fear future, increasingly targeted by jihadis (Washington Post)
- Saudi religious leader urges youths not to fight in Syria (Reuters)
The United Nations estimates that around 9.3 million people in Syria or about 40 percent of the population need humanitarian assistance due to the country’s 2-1/2-year civil war, the U.N. humanitarian office said on Monday.
“The humanitarian situation in Syria continues to deteriorate rapidly and inexorably,” U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told the U.N. Security Council behind closed doors, according to her spokeswoman Amanda Pitt.
“The number of people we estimate to be in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria has now risen to some 9.3 million,” Pitt said, summarizing Amos’ remarks to the 15-nation council. “Of them, 6.5 million people are displaced from their homes, within the country.”
The population of Syria is around 23 million.
- Watchdog: More than 120,000 killed in Syria war (AP)
- From England, one man feeds Western media on Syria (AP)
- Largest camp for Syrian refugees becoming a city (AP)
- Cost of hosting Syrian refugees in Jordan $5.3 bn (AFP)
- Minister: Syria war costs industry $2.2 billion (AFP)
- Polio outbreak in Syria threatens whole region, WHO says (Reuters)
- Syria: Foreign Jihadis Said Responsible for Polio (AP)
- On Zaatari’s Street of Widows, Syria refugees survive on kindness (Al Jazeera)
There’s absolutely no evidence to back the allegation, and indeed ample evidence in the form of reports from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to the contrary, but the US is still expressing “skepticism” about Syria’s chemical disarmament.
It was US demands that led the UN Security Council to set artificially early deadlines for several stages of the disarmament, and the OPCW has confirmed Syria has met every single one with time to spare.
- Syrian chemical weapons mission funded only until end of month (Reuters)
- Strange silence on success in removing Syria’s chemical weapons (Washington Post)
- Chemical arms experts hail cooperation from Syria (Press TV)
- UN report on chemical weapon use in Syria delayed until early December (HRI)
- A Critique of the Report of the UN Mission to Investigate the Use of Sarin in Damascus (Denis R. O’Brien)
- Vince Cable refuses to name firms that tried to export chemicals to Syria (Independent)
THE leading companies behind arms shipments to Bashar Assad’s murderous Syrian government are owned by a group of shadowy companies the Eye has discovered have extensive interests in the UK’s toxic shell company network, indicating a central British role in sustaining the corrupt trade by laundering its proceeds.
A study by Washington-based researchers C4ADS into the “Odessa Network” of shippers running weapons largely out of the Ukrainian Black Sea port and its neighbour Oktyabursk, in the city of Nikolaev, reveals cargoes apparently headed through the Bosphorus for Syrian ports, with voyages often concealed from authorities by disabling the “transponders” that enable ships to be located. By piecing together the ships’ movements and disappearances around the Mediterranean, together with their previous record of delivering arms for the Russian government, however, the researchers conclude with near certainty that these are key arms deliveries.
Israel is fuming with the White House for confirming that it was the Israeli Air Force that struck a military base near the Syrian port city of Latakia on Wednesday, hitting weaponry that was set to be transferred to Hezbollah.
Israel has not acknowledged carrying out the strike, one of half a dozen such attacks widely ascribed to Israel in recent months, but an Obama administration official told CNN on Thursday that Israeli warplanes had indeed attacked the Syrian base, and that the target was “missiles and related equipment” set for delivery to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Israel’s Channel 10 TV on Friday night quoted Israeli officials branding the American leak as “scandalous.” For Israel’s ally to be acting in this way was “unthinkable,” the officials were quoted as saying.
A second TV report, on Israel’s Channel 2, said the leak “came directly from the White House,” and noted that “this is not the first time” that the administration has compromised Israel by leaking information on such Israeli Air Force raids on Syrian targets.
Syria’s declared equipment for producing, mixing and filling chemical weapons has been destroyed, the international watchdog says.
This comes a day before the deadline set by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The weapons have been placed under seal, an OPCW spokesman said.