Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

Flynn’s Resignation Won’t Stop Trump Admin From Targeting Iran

Jaisal Noor speaks to Ben Norton, reporter for Alternet’s Grayzone Project, who discusses the fallout from the resignation of Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. (The Real News)

‘Human Slaughterhouse’: Amnesty International Claims Up to 13,000 Hanged at Syrian Prison

Amy Goodman speaks to Nicolette Waldman, an Amnesty International researcher who specialises in detention issues, about the report she co-authored which claims that as many as 13,000 people have been hanged in a Syrian government military prison in recent years. (Democracy Now!)

Iran Hawks Take the White House

Philip Giraldi writes for The American Conservative:

The United States is adding new sanctions on Iran over that country’s alleged misdeeds, and nearly all of those allegations are either out-and-out lies or half-truths. It has a familiar ring to it, as demonizing Tehran has been rather more the norm than not since 1979, a phenomenon that has included fabricated claims that the Iranians killed American soldiers after the U.S.’s armed interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. This time around, the administration focused on the perfectly legal Iranian test of a non-nuclear-capable, medium-range ballistic missile and the reported attack on what was initially claimed to be a U.S. warship by allegedly Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi fighters. The ship was later revealed to be a Saudi frigate.

Donald Trump’s national-security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, “officially” put Iran “on notice” while declaring that “The Trump Administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests. The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.”

Ignoring the fact that Iran cannot actually threaten the United States or any genuine vital national interests, the warning and follow-up action from the White House also contradict Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to avoid yet another war in the Middle East, which appears to have escaped Flynn’s notice. The increase in tension and the lack of any diplomatic dialogue mean that an actual shooting war might now be a “false flag,” false intelligence report, or accidental naval encounter away.

READ MORE…

Trump Administration Preparing for Deeper Involvement in Yemen?

Gregory Wilpert speaks to CODEPINK’s Medea Benjamin who says the recent failed US Navy Seal raid shows that the Trump administration’s plans for Yemen will contribute to making the horrific humanitarian crisis there worse. (The Real News)

Alleged Mastermind Tells Obama 9/11 Was America’s Fault

Carol Rosenberg reports for McClatchy:

Khalid Sheik Mohammed poses for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at at the U.S. Navy Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in this undated photo.The alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks wrote former President Barack Obama in a long suppressed letter that America brought the 9/11 attacks on itself for years of foreign policy that killed innocent people across the world.

“It was not we who started the war against you in 9/11. It was you and your dictators in our land,” Khalid Sheik Mohammed, 51, writes in the 18-page letter to Obama, who he addressed as “the head of the snake” and president of “the country of oppression and tyranny.” It is dated January 2015 but didn’t reach the White House until a military judge ordered Guantánamo prison to deliver it days before Obama left office.

[…] The Kuwait-born Pakistani citizen of Baluch ethnic background, lists a long litany of U.S. overseas interventions — from Iraq and Iran to Vietnam and Hiroshima — to justify the worst terror attack on U.S. soil.But he is particularly focused on the cause of the Palestinians, highlights civilian suffering and accuses Obama of being beholden to special interests, notably Israel and “the occupier Jews.” Israel gets 39 mentions while Osama bin Laden gets a dozen, including once to excoriate Obama for the mission that hunted down and killed the founder of the al-Qaida movement for the 9/11 attacks.

READ MORE…

Questioning the “Success” of Trump Raid That Killed 24 Civilians in Yemen

Amy Goodman speaks to Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept, Pardiss Kebriaei, staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Baraa Shiban, the Yemen project coordinator and caseworker with Reprieve, about the questions surrounding the first covert counter-terrorism operation approved by President Donald Trump. (Democracy Now!)

Thousands of Deadly Airstrikes by U.S. Military Have Gone Unreported

Andrew deGrandpre and Shawn Snow report for Military Times:

Image result for Thousands of Deadly Airstrikes by U.S. Military Have Gone UnreportedThe American military has failed to publicly disclose potentially thousands of lethal airstrikes conducted over several years in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, a Military Times investigation has revealed. The enormous data gap raises serious doubts about transparency in reported progress against the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Taliban, and calls into question the accuracy of other Defense Department disclosures documenting everything from costs to casualty counts.

In 2016 alone, U.S. combat aircraft conducted at least 456 airstrikes in Afghanistan that were not recorded as part of an open-source database maintained by the U.S. Air Force, information relied on by Congress, American allies, military analysts, academic researchers, the media and independent watchdog groups to assess each war’s expense, manpower requirements and human toll. Those airstrikes were carried out by attack helicopters and armed drones operated by the U.S. Army, metrics quietly excluded from otherwise comprehensive monthly summaries, published online for years, detailing American military activity in all three theaters.

Most alarming is the prospect this data has been incomplete since the war on terrorism began in October 2001. If that is the case, it would fundamentally undermine confidence in much of what the Pentagon has disclosed about its prosecution of these wars, prompt critics to call into question whether the military sought to mislead the American public, and cast doubt on the competency with which other vital data collection is being performed and publicized. Those other key metrics include American combat casualties, taxpayer expense and the military’s overall progress in degrading enemy capabilities.

READ MORE…

Yemen Conflict All But Ignored By The West

Gouri Sharma reports for DW:

Wie die Medien über den Krieg im Yemen berichten (Murad Subay)When the UN children’s rights organization UNICEF recently released a report stating that at least one child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen, the expectation was that the news would be picked up by international news outlets. But barring a few exceptions, including Al Jazeera and DW, the news was not carried by much of the global media prominently, and some not at all.

In its report, the humanitarian organization estimated that more than 400,000 Yemeni children are at risk of starvation, and a further 2.2 million are in need of urgent care. How could it be that statistics this alarming, the result of a war involving regional superpowers with the backing of the US and UK, does not make headline news?

But people close to the story say this example is just a reflection of how the war in Yemen is covered by the global media.

READ MORE…

Iran Just Officially Ditched the Dollar in Major Blow to US

Alice Salles reports for Anti-Media:

Image result for Iran To Ditch The DollarFollowing President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, the Iranian government announced it would stop using the U.S. dollar “as its currency of choice in its financial and foreign exchange reports,” the local Financial Tribune reported.

Iran governor Valiollah Seif’s central bank announced the decision in a television interview on January 29. The change will take effect on March 21, and it will impact all official financial and foreign exchange reports.

Iran’s difficulties [in dealing] with the dollar,” Seif said, “were in place from the time of the primary sanctions and this trend is continuing,” but when it comes to other currencies, he added, “we face no limitations.”

In a piece published by Forbes, Dominic Dudley contends that this move is significant “in the light of the recent ‘Muslim ban” announced by Trump. Iran nationals were added to the order issued by the current U.S. administration, which prompted the Iranian government to vow to stop issuing visas to U.S. citizens.

READ MORE…

Trump Administration ‘Officially Putting Iran on Notice’, says Michael Flynn

Julian Borger, David Smith, Spencer Ackerman and Saeed Kamali Dehghan report for The Guardian:

Image result for Trump Administration 'Officially Putting Iran on Notice'The Trump administration has said it was “officially putting Iran on notice” in reaction to an Iranian missile test and an attack on a Saudi warship by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen but gave no details about how Washington intended to respond.

The threat was made on Wednesday by the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in his first public statement since taking office.

Speaking in the White House briefing room, Flynn said a missile launch on Sunday and a Houthi attack on a Saudi frigate on Monday underlined Iran’s “destabilizing behavior across the Middle East.”.

Flynn did not specify how the new administration would respond. Asked for clarification, the White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, said the president wanted to make sure the Iranians “understood we are not going to sit by and not act on their actions”.

READ MORE…

Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’ Will Only Make Terrorist Attacks More Likely

Patrick Cockburn reports for The Independent:

muslim-ban-protest.jpgDonald Trump’s travel ban on refugees and visitors from seven Muslim countries entering the US makes a terrorist attack on Americans at home or abroad more rather than less likely. It does so because one of the main purposes of al-Qaeda and Isis in carrying out atrocities is to provoke an overreaction directed against Muslim communities and states. Such communal punishments vastly increase sympathy for Salafi-jihadi movements among the 1.6 billion Muslims who make up a quarter of the world’s population.

The Trump administration justifies its action by claiming that it is only following lessons learned from 9/11 and the destruction of the Twin Towers. But it has learned exactly the wrong lesson: the great success of Mohammed Atta and his eighteen hijackers was not on the day that they and 3,000 others died, but when President George W Bush responded by leading the US into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that are still going on.

Al-Qaeda and its clones had been a small organisation with perhaps as few as a thousand militants in south east Afghanistan and north west Pakistan. But thanks to Bush’s calamitous decisions after 9/11, it now has tens of thousands of fighters, billions of dollars in funds and cells in dozens of countries. Few wars have failed so demonstrably or so badly as “the war on terror”. Isis and al-Qaeda activists are often supposed to be inspired simply by a demonic variant of Islam – and this is certainly how Trump has described their motivation – but in practice it was the excesses of the counter-terrorism apparatus such as torture and rendition, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib which acted as the recruiting sergeant for the Salafi-jihadi movements.

READ MORE..

Obama Killed a 16-Year-Old American in Yemen, Trump Just Killed His 8-Year-Old Sister

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] Few events pulled the mask off Obama officials like this one. It highlighted how the Obama administration was ravaging Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries: just weeks after he won the Nobel Prize, Obama used cluster bombs that killed 35 Yemeni women and children. Even Obama-supporting liberal comedians mocked the Obama DOJ’s arguments for why it had the right to execute Americans with no charges: “Due Process Just Means There’s A Process That You Do,” snarked Stephen Colbert. And a firestorm erupted when former Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs offered a sociopathic justification for killing the Colorado-born teenager, apparently blaming him for his own killing by saying he should have “had a more responsible father.”

The U.S. assault on Yemeni civilians not only continued but radically escalated over the next five years through the end of the Obama presidency, as the U.S. and the UK armed, supported and provide crucial assistance to their close ally Saudi Arabia as it devastated Yemen through a criminally reckless bombing campaign. Yemen now faces mass starvationseemingly exacerbated, deliberately, by the US/UK-supported air attacks. Because of the west’s direct responsibility for these atrocities, they have received vanishingly little attention in the responsible countries.

In a hideous symbol of the bipartisan continuity of U.S. barbarism, Nasser al-Awlaki just lost another one of his young grandchildren to U.S. violence. On Sunday, the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, using armed Reaper drones for cover, carried out a commando raid on what it said was a compound harboring officials of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. A statement issued by President Trump lamented the death of an American service member and several others who were wounded, but made no mention of any civilian deaths. U.S. military officials initially denied any civilian deaths, and (therefore) the CNN report on the raid said nothing about any civilians being killed.

But reports from Yemen quickly surfaced that 30 people were killed, including 10 women and children. Among the dead: the 8-year-old granddaughter of Nasser al-Awlaki, Nawar, who was also the daughter of Anwar Awlaki.

READ MORE…

Trump’s Muslim Immigration Executive Order: If We Bombed You, We Ban You

Zaid Jilani reports for The Intercept:

[…] What all seven countries also have in common is that the United States government has violently intervened in them. The U.S. is currently bombing — or has bombed in the recent past — six of them. The U.S. has not bombed Iran, but has a long history of intervention including a recent cyberattack.

It’s like a twisted version of the you-break-it-you-buy-it Pottery Barn rule: If we bomb a country or help destabilize its society, we will then ban its citizens from being able to seek refuge in the United States.

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy explained this irony in a tweet Wednesday morning:

We bomb your country, creating a humanitarian nightmare, then lock you inside. That’s a horror movie, not a foreign policy.

[…] And consider that Iran, where al Qaeda, ISIS, and other anti-American terrorist organizations have no significant foothold, is included — but Saudi Arabia, where 15 of the 9/11 hijackers came from and which has been a funding source for extremist groups, is not included.

READ MORE…

Yemen Reports First US Drone Strikes Under Trump

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Image result for trump droneA pair of US drone strikes in Yemen’s Bayda Province have killed at least 10 people over the weekend, according to Yemeni officials, marking the first drone strikes to be conducted under President Trump, who was inaugurated on Friday.

Both drone strikes were in roughly the same rural area, with the first killing three “suspects” on motorcycles, and the second strike also hitting a vehicle, and killing seven people. Yemeni officials, as they always do, labeled all of the slain “armed fighters of al-Qaeda.”

READ MORE…

Trump’s Troubling Israel Appointees

Kelley Vlahos writes for The American Conservative:

There is much to learn about what Donald Trump’s foreign policy is going to look like, with one of the most anticipated issues being his approach to Israel. After eight years of the Obama administration, the relationship between the U.S. and its Middle East partner has frayed considerably over significant and seemingly insurmountable differences, those concerning the nuclear deal with Iran and the expanding settlements in the West Bank being the most consequential, if not existential.

Trump started off his campaign signaling he would be “neutral” on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but he has shifted considerably in recent weeks toward the views of the staunchest Zionists. This has included tapping a man considered to be to the right of conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as U.S. ambassador to Israel, choosing another pro-settlement Republican as his international business adviser, welcoming the heretofore marginalized Israeli ambassador into the bosom of his inner circle in Washington, and, just recently, appointing his son-in-law, who is reportedly behind bringing all these players into the fold, as a senior adviser.

Trump’s not-so-subtle slide toward the far right of the spectrum has alarmed more moderate—some would say Democratic—Jewish groups and establishment writers, who sense in this group a strong consensus against a two-state solution for Israeli Jews and Arab Palestinians. Collectively, there is more support here for expanded settlements in contested Palestinian territories, and for moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, than there has been at the levers of Washington power in a long time, if ever. If these forces have their way, an already fragile Middle East could be headed for a new regional conflagration, with the peace process turned back decades.

READ MORE…

Trump Hypes Missile Defense Systems Targeting Iran and North Korea

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Image result for Missile DefenseWithin mere minutes of his inauguration, President Trump’s White House website laid out a series of new policy positions, including a promise to develop a “state-of-the-art” missile defense system to protect against both Iran and North Korea.

The statement was prominently positioned, underscoring it as a point of emphasis for the new administration, but provided no details on what the announcement actually means, and indeed whether or not it marks any change from the existing missile defense systems the US has been throwing money at over the years.

The US started bankrolling anti-Iran missile defense systems way back in the Bush Administration’s waning years, a sore subject in US-Russia relations because Bush was positioning them all right along the Russian frontier, and far outside the range of Iran’s best missiles. In more recent years, the US has been scrambling to get a system in place in South Korea targeting their neighbor to the north as well.

READ MORE…

Trump’s Inaugural Address: A Call For Holy War

Kevin Gosztola writes for Shadowproof:

President Donald Trump at the Inauguration. (Screen shot from White House live stream)President Donald Trump used his inaugural address to call for the “civilized world” to unite “against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.” It received one of the most enthusiastic responses from the crowd in attendance at the National Mall.

The words evoked memory of President George W. Bush and his administration. After the September 11th attacks, Bush referred to the “war on terrorism” as a “crusade.” It suggested the Bush administration meant to fight terrorism as a kind of holy war against Muslims.

Trump did not use the word “crusade,” but there was a distinct Christian theocratic theme to his gung ho declaration to “reinforce old alliances and form new ones” in the fight against “radical Islamic terrorism.”

 

READ MORE…

The Rise of the Strongman Is Bad News for Women

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed reports for The National:

Image result for The rise of the strongman is bad news for womenDark clouds are gathering overhead for the world’s women. With the inauguration of Donald Trump the state of global gender relations will probably face another onslaught.

We’ve seen the bad behaviours against women that he has exhibited at a personal level.

Now what we must face up to is that his powerful public leadership status underscores a resurgence of the demagogic “strongman” in global politics. Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and of course the persistence of the strongman in the Middle East affects the tenor of global politics.

The macho leader, egotistic, unilateral and chest-thumping, worries us because of the grandstanding, bullying and violence that all too often follows in their wake.

What a strongman at the head of a nation also does is to impact our ideas of what it means to be a “man” and what is acceptable male behaviour at an ordinary day-to-day level. It sets a precedent about how men can or even must behave in order to be men and gives permission for treating women – or minorities – badly. It gives permission to regressive notions of gender relations which still fall desperately short of balance for the genders.

READ MORE…

The Role of General James Mattis in the Fallujah and Haditha Massacres

Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman speak to Aaron Glantz, a senior reporter at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. Glantz covered the siege of Fallujah as an unembedded journalist during the Iraq War, and his latest investigation examines whether President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for defense secretary committed war crimes there while leading U.S. troops in 2004. (Democracy Now!)

Andrew Bacevich and John Mearsheimer on Obama’s Legacy

Derek Davison writes for LobeLog:

obama-356133_960_720With Donald Trump set to take the oath of office and become America’s 45th president in a matter of days, this is an appropriate time to begin to evaluate Barack Obama’s presidency. To help analyze his performance on foreign policy and national security, I spoke with two eminent foreign policy analysts: historian Andrew Bacevich of Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies and political scientist John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago. In part one of our discussion, we look at Obama’s foreign policy and look ahead to what the Trump administration’s foreign policy may bring.

READ MORE…

UN Reports Yemen Death Toll Has Passed 10,000

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Image result for yemen warUN envoy Ould Chiekh Ahmed is in Aden yesterday to talk with Yemen’s “president” Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, seeking to convince him to return to discussions of a peace deal to end the Saudi invasion of Yemen as other UN officials reported the death toll of the war has exceeded 10,000.

Hadi was “elected” as president of Yemen in February 2012 in a single candidate election, for a two-year term. He extended the term unilaterally in 2014, and resigned in January 2015, when an attempt to crack down on the Shi’ite Houthi movement failed dramatically and ended with Houthi control of the capital city. Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in March 2015, vowing to reinstall Hadi militarily.

Efforts at brokering a peace deal in Yemen initially centered on Saudi demands of unconditionally returning Hadi to power, but more recently have sought to end the war, and the soaring civilian death toll, with the deal centering on an interim unity government that would allow Hadi a position as a figurehead leader with little to no power.

The Houthis have endorsed the plan, and the Saudis appear to be on board too, but Hadi has rejected the idea out of hand, and appears to be averse to any scheme that doesn’t end with him returning to a position of absolute power. Though at some point the Saudis can simply force the issue by pulling the plug on his support, for the time being they are letting the war drag on, hoping the UN can convince Hadi of the wisdom of a negotiated settlement.

READ MORE…

U.S. Military Loves the Obama Doctrine, But Can It Survive Trump?

Kevin Baron writes for Defense One:

U.S. soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division train Iraqi soldiers during a live-fire movement exercise at Camp Taji, Iraq, April 12, 2015.There’s no welcome sign at this U.S military base discreetly tucked into the corner of the Kurdistan International Airport in northern Iraq. It doesn’t even have a name. But it’s here. Thousands of troops are here, including Americans, Germans, Italians, Finns, and Brits. And this time, it seems the U.S. military is in Iraq to stay.

The temporary tents and dining hall erected to house American forces — including special operators, CIA agents, and private military contractors who hunt, kill, and interrogate for America — are being replaced with permanent buildings. At least five types of U.S. military helicopters criss-cross the bright September skies over Kurdistan’s peaceful, bustling capital city, some ferrying generals up from Baghdad, others heading north into Syria with bearded special operators’ feet dangling from Black Hawk doors, or banking west toward Mosul, bringing Americans to the front lines of war.

It sounds busy and feels familiar, but today’s war in Iraq is a far cry from the mammoth effort of a decade ago. Gone are the hundreds of thousands of American troops and contractors occupying hundreds of sprawling bases and outposts across the country. Gone is the Bush administration’s total war and total occupation of a country. In its place is the Obama Doctrine.

READ MORE…

Exxon’s Climate Change Denial and Human Rights Record Make Rex Tillerson Unfit to be U.S. Secretary of State

In the first interview, Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman speak to oil and energy journalist Antonia Juhasz about the Senate confirmation hearing for Secretary of State nominee and former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. Juhasz’s recently wrote an article titled ‘Rex Tillerson Could Be America’s Most Dangerous Secretary of State‘. In the second interview, Sharmini Peries speaks to CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin, author of Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection. In the third interview, Kim Brown speaks to Jamie Henn and Antonia Juhasz about whether Tillerson would conduct U.S. foreign policy in the interest of the oil and natural gas industry. And in the fourth interview, Kim Brown speaks to Kathy Mulvey of the Union of Concerned Scientists about Exxon continuing to avoid accountability for its climate change disinformation campaign. Mulvey worked on The Climate Accountability Scorecard(Democracy Now!/The Real News)

Erik Prince’s Mercenaries Are Bombing Libya

Arnaud Delalande reports for War Is Boring:

On Jan. 11, 2017, Intelligence Online — a professional journal covering the world’s intelligence services — revealed that the pilots of Air Tractor attack planes flying from Al Khadim air base in Libya are private contractors working for Erik Prince, the founder of the company formerly known as Blackwater.

War Is Boring’s own sources in Libya confirmed the assertion. Our sources said that the pilots flying the United Arab Emirates Air Force IOMAX AT-802 Air Tractors — converted crop-dusters — are mercenaries and aren’t Arabs.

Most of the for-profit aviators are American, according to IOL. Prince denied involvement in the UAE air operations.

READ MORE…

Exposé Uncovers SEAL Team 6’s Ghastly Trail of Atrocities, Mutilations, Killings

Amy Goodman speaks to The Intercept’s national security reporter Matthew Cole who spent two years investigating accounts of ghastly atrocities committed by members of Seal Team 6, including mutilating corpses, skinnings and attempted beheadings. According to sources, senior command staff were aware of the misconduct but did little to stop it—and often helped to cover it up. Cole’s article is titled: The Crimes of Seal Team 6(Democracy Now!)

James Mattis Calls for U.S. Military to Be More Lethal at Defense Secretary Confirmation Hearing

Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak with retired Colonel Andrew Bacevich, author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, Aaron Glantz, a senior reporter at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, and Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council. Mattis’s 41-year career in the Marine Corps included field commands in the Persian Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan. He led U.S. troops during the 2004 battle of Fallujah, earning himself the nickname “Mad Dog” Mattis. In May 2004, Mattis ordered an attack on a small Iraqi village that ended up killing about 42 people attending a wedding ceremony. He went on to lead United States Central Command from 2010 to 2013, but the Obama administration cut short his tour over concerns he was too hawkish on Iran. (Democracy Now!)

Why The Arabs Don’t Want Us In Syria

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote for Politico in late February 2016:

In part because my father was murdered by an Arab, I’ve made an effort to understand the impact of U.S. policy in the Mideast and particularly the factors that sometimes motivate bloodthirsty responses from the Islamic world against our country. As we focus on the rise of the Islamic State and search for the source of the savagery that took so many innocent lives in Paris and San Bernardino, we might want to look beyond the convenient explanations of religion and ideology. Instead we should examine the more complex rationales of history and oil — and how they often point the finger of blame back at our own shores.

America’s unsavory record of violent interventions in Syria — little-known to the American people yet well-known to Syrians — sowed fertile ground for the violent Islamic jihadism that now complicates any effective response by our government to address the challenge of ISIL. So long as the American public and policymakers are unaware of this past, further interventions are likely only to compound the crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry this week announced a “provisional” ceasefire in Syria. But since U.S. leverage and prestige within Syria is minimal — and the ceasefire doesn’t include key combatants such as Islamic State and al Nusra — it’s bound to be a shaky truce at best. Similarly President Obama’s stepped-up military intervention in Libya — U.S. airstrikes targeted an Islamic State training camp last week — is likely to strengthen rather than weaken the radicals. As the New York Times reported in a December 8, 2015, front-page story, Islamic State political leaders and strategic planners are working to provoke an American military intervention. They know from experience this will flood their ranks with volunteer fighters, drown the voices of moderation and unify the Islamic world against America.

To understand this dynamic, we need to look at history from the Syrians’ perspective and particularly the seeds of the current conflict. Long before our 2003 occupation of Iraq triggered the Sunni uprising that has now morphed into the Islamic State, the CIA had nurtured violent jihadism as a Cold War weapon and freighted U.S./Syrian relationships with toxic baggage.

READ MORE…

Inquiry Points Toward a Pentagon Plot to Subvert Obama’s Syria Policy

Gareth Porter reports for Truthdig:

Airstrikes by the United States and its allies against two Syrian army positions Sept. 17 killed at least 62 Syrian troops and wounded dozens more. The attack was quickly treated as a non-story by the U.S. news media; U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) claimed the strikes were carried out in the mistaken belief that Islamic State forces were being targeted, and the story disappeared.

The circumstances surrounding the attack, however, suggested it may have been deliberate, its purpose being to sabotage President Obama’s policy of coordinating with Russia against Islamic State and Nusra Front forces in Syria as part of a U.S.-Russian cease-fire agreement.

Normally the U.S. military can cover up illegal operations and mistakes with a pro forma military investigation that publicly clears those responsible. But the air attack on Syrian troops also involved three foreign allies in the anti-Islamic State campaign named Operation Inherent Resolve: the United Kingdom, Denmark and Australia. So, the Pentagon had to agree to bring a general from one of those allies into the investigation as a co-author of the report. Consequently, the summary of the investigation released by CENTCOM on Nov. 29 reveals far more than the Pentagon and CENTCOM brass would have desired.

Thanks to that heavily redacted report, we now have detailed evidence that the commander of CENTCOM’s Air Force component attacked the Syrian army deliberately.

READ MORE…

U.S. Airstrikes in Afghanistan May Now Be Riskier For Civilians

Abigail Fielding-Smith and Ruhullah Khapalwak report for Newsweek and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

Predator Drone[…] By early 2015, the American war against the Taliban was supposed to be over. President Barack Obama had drawn down the troop force—roughly 100,000 at its height—to about 10,000, most of which remained only to train the Afghan security forces. U.S. planes continued to kill militants loyal to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group (ISIS), but airstrikes against the Taliban were allowed only in self-defense.

There was one exception, however: American aircraft could pursue the Taliban when Afghan allies were about to be overrun. This scenario became increasingly common as the insurgent group took advantage of the security vacuum created by U.S. troop withdrawals in 2014 and 2015. Losses among Afghan security forces shot up by nearly 30 percent in those two years. Last September, the Taliban took control of most of the northern city of Kunduz. U.S. commandos set out to help Afghan forces retake it, and American gunships scrambled to support them. In the fog of the ensuing battles, the U.S. accidentally bombarded a Doctors Without Borders hospital, killing 42 doctors and patients.

Later, as the Taliban continued to rampage through Kunduz and Helmand provinces, America adjusted its rules. In June, the U.S. announced its forces would now be allowed to attack the Taliban proactively.

This has resulted in an anomalous situation: a conventional aerial campaign but with virtually no American forces on the ground to provide reliable intelligence to guide it. The U.S. is now broadly dependent on its Afghan partners and the notoriously limited insights of drones.

READ MORE…

How Many Bombs Did the United States Drop in 2016?

Micah Zenko and Jennifer Wilson write for the Council on Foreign Relations:

Sources: Estimate based upon Combined Forces Air Component Commander 2011-2016 Airpower Statistics; CJTF-Operation Inherent Resolve Public Affairs Office strike release, December 31, 2016; New America Foundation (NAF); Long War Journal (LWJ); The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ); Department of Defense press release; and U.S. Africa Command press release. As President Obama enters the final weeks of his presidency, there will be ample assessments of his foreign military approach, which has focused on reducing U.S. ground combat troops (with the notable exception of the Afghanistan surge), supporting local security partners, and authorizing the expansive use of air power. Whether this strategy “works”—i.e. reduces the threat posed by extremists operating from those countries and improves overall security and governance on the ground—is highly contested. Yet, for better or worse, these are the central tenants of the Obama doctrine.

In President Obama’s last year in office, the United States dropped 26,171 bombs in seven countries. This estimate is undoubtedly low, considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and a single “strike,” according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions. In 2016, the United States dropped 3,027 more bombs—and in one more country, Libya—than in 2015.

READ MORE…