Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

64 Years Later, CIA Details Long-Hidden Role in Iran Coup

Aaron Maté speaks with Malcolm Byrne of the National Security Archives about the quiet release of long-awaited and long-hidden CIA documents offering key details on how the U.S. and Britain overthrew Iran’s democratic government in 1953. (The Real News) 

Seymour Hersh: Trump Ignored Intel Before Bombing Syria

Aaron Maté speaks with veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh who reports that President Trump bombed a Syrian military airfield in April despite warnings that U.S. intelligence had found no evidence that the Assad regime used a chemical weapon. His latest piece for Die Welt is titled: Trump’s Red Line(The Real News)

Inside Israel’s Secret Program to Get Rid of African Refugees

Andrew Green reports for Foreign Policy:

[…] For decades after its founding in 1948, Israel welcomed refugees from outside the Jewish faith. The country was an early signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. In his first official act as prime minister in 1977, Menachem Begin granted refuge to 66 Vietnamese who had been rescued at sea by an Israeli ship. During a visit to the United States later that year, he recalled the St. Louis — a ship loaded with more than 900 European Jews who attempted to flee Germany in 1939 — to explain his decision. The St. Louis’s passengers were denied permission to disembark in Cuba, the United States, and Canada and ultimately returned to Europe. A quarter of the passengers are thought to have died in the Holocaust.

“They were nine months at sea, traveling from harbor to harbor, from country to country, crying out for refuge. They were refused,” Begin said. “We have never forgotten the lot of our people … And therefore it was natural that my first act as prime minister was to give those people a haven in the land of Israel.”

In 2007, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert echoed Begin’s act when he granted temporary residency permits to nearly 500 Sudanese asylum-seekers. But as the number of African migrants swelled in subsequent years, Israel’s receptiveness began to flag. The vast majority of the new arrivals were fleeing long-standing authoritarian regimes in Eritrea and Sudan. They chose Israel for many reasons: because it was a democracy, because it was easier to reach than Europe or — for many Sudanese — because it was an adversary of their own government. They hoped that the enemy of their enemy would look kindly on them.

But Israeli authorities soon became overwhelmed. According to the Ministry of Interior, nearly 65,000 foreign nationals — the vast majority from Africa — reached Israel between 2006 and 2013. As the government struggled to accommodate the newcomers, many languished in poor and overcrowded neighborhoods in southern Tel Aviv. Dozens squatted in a park across the street from the city’s main bus station for weeks on end. A handful of high-profile incidents — including the alleged rape of an 83-year-old woman by an Eritrean asylum-seeker in 2012 — dominated media coverage and fueled unease among Israelis, many of whom already fretted that refugees were taking their jobs.

By the time Benjamin Netanyahu secured a third term as prime minister in 2013, the tensions had hardened into outright hostility. That year, Israel sealed off its border with Egypt and implemented a raft of policies aimed at making life more difficult for asylum-seekers already in Israel. Then it began secretly pressuring Eritreans and Sudanese to leave for unnamed third countries, a shadowy relocation effort in which Semene and thousands like him are now ensnared.

Israeli officials have kept nearly everything else about this effort secret, even deflecting requests for more information from UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency. But a year-long investigation by Foreign Policy that included interviews with multiple Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers as well as people involved at various stages of the relocation process — including one person who admitted to helping coordinate illegal border crossings — reveals an opaque system of shuffling asylum-seekers from Israel, via Rwanda or Uganda, into third countries, where they are no longer anyone’s responsibility.

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Trump‘s Red Line

Seymour M. Hersh reports for Die Welt:

Retaliation: Tomahawk missiles from the "USS Porter" on the way to the Shayrat Air Base on April 6, 2017On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.

The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack,  including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president’s determination to ignore the evidence. “None of this makes any sense,” one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth … I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.“

Within hours of the April 4 bombing, the world’s media was saturated with photographs and videos from Khan Sheikhoun. Pictures of dead and dying victims, allegedly suffering from the symptoms of nerve gas poisoning, were uploaded to social media by local activists, including the White Helmets, a first responder group known for its close association with the Syrian opposition.

The provenance of the photos was not clear and no international observers have yet inspected the site, but the immediate popular assumption worldwide was that this was a deliberate use of the nerve agent sarin, authorized by President Bashar Assad of Syria. Trump endorsed that assumption by issuing a statement within hours of the attack, describing Assad’s “heinous actions” as being a consequence of the Obama administration’s “weakness and irresolution” in addressing what he said was Syria’s past use of chemical weapons.

To the dismay of many senior members of his national security team, Trump could not be swayed over the next 48 hours of intense briefings and decision-making. In a series of interviews, I learned of the total disconnect between the president and many of his military advisers and intelligence officials, as well as officers on the ground in the region who had an entirely different understanding of the nature of Syria’s attack on Khan Sheikhoun. I was provided with evidence of that disconnect, in the form of transcripts of real-time communications, immediately following the Syrian attack on April 4. In an important pre-strike process known as deconfliction, U.S. and Russian officers routinely supply one another with advance details of planned flight paths and target coordinates, to ensure that there is no risk of collision or accidental encounter (the Russians speak on behalf of the Syrian military). This information is supplied daily to the American AWACS surveillance planes that monitor the flights once airborne. Deconfliction’s success and importance can be measured by the fact that there has yet to be one collision, or even a near miss, among the high-powered supersonic American, Allied, Russian and Syrian fighter bombers.

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Saudi Arabia’s Bankrolling of Egypt Is Tied to Internal Crackdown

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to the Egyptian film director and writer, Omar Robert Hamilton. In 2011, he co-founded the Cairo-based Mosireen Collective, which worked to film and document the Egyptian revolution. Hamilton’s debut novel is just out, titled The City Always Wins. (Democracy Now!)

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Arundhati Roy on Telling the Truth of the Atrocities in Kashmir Through Fiction

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh speak with acclaimed Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy about Kashmir, which has been one of the most militarised zones in the world. According to Roy, it’s also a territory that’s nearly impossible to capture in nonfiction writing. which she has attempted to do in in her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. You can view the full one hour interview here. Roy also contributed to the book, Kashmir: The Case for Freedom(Democracy Now!)

 

Study: U.S. Only Admits to About One in Five Lethal Drone Strikes

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

A new report compiled by the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic and the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies has found that the United States only admits officially to about one fifth of their drone strikes which end up killing someone, saying this hurts accountability.

That the US has been deliberately evasive about its drone program is hardly news, but this appears to be the first study aimed at specifically figuring exactly how many lethal drone strikes have been officially acknowledged.

This has been a growing problem with US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria as well, with official Pentagon figures on civilian death tolls dramatically lower than those recorded by private NGOs, with the difference often a factor of ten or more as the US downplays the tolls.

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Tillerson Calls for Regime Change in Iran

Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani reports for Think Progress:

The new U.S. policy towards Iran includes regime change, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Tillerson was asked on Wednesday whether the United States supports regime change inside Iran. He replied in the affirmative, saying that U.S. policy is driven by relying on “elements inside of Iran” to bring about “peaceful transition of that government.”

He made the comments in a hearing on the 2018 State Department budget before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) asked Tillerson about U.S. policy towards Iran, including whether the U.S. government would sanction the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and whether the U.S. supported “a philosophy of regime change.”

“They are doing bad things throughout the world, on behalf of terrorism and destroying human rights of many people,” Poe said, referring to the IRGC. “I’d like to know what the policy is of the U.S. toward Iran. Do we support the current regime? Do we support a philosophy of regime change, peaceful regime change? There are Iranians in exile all over the world. Some are here. And then there’s Iranians in Iran who don’t support the totalitarian state. So is the U.S. position to leave things as they are or set up a peaceful long-term regime change?”

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What Connects Brexit, the DUP, Dark Money and a Saudi Prince?

Fintan O’Toole reported for The Irish Times in May:

Arlene Foster told the BBC in February she did not even know how much the mystery donor had given the party.  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA WireIf Northern Ireland were a normal democracy, the election campaign would be dominated by a single question: how did the Democratic Unionist Party end up advancing the cause of a united Ireland through its support for Brexit? More specifically: what role did dark money play in that extraordinary decision? This story has all the makings of a John le Carré thriller but democracy on this island needs facts, not fiction.

To recap briefly: two days before the Brexit referendum last June, the Metro freesheet in London and other British cities came wrapped in a four-page glossy propaganda supplement urging readers to vote Leave. Bizarrely, it was paid for by the DUP, even though Metro does not circulate in Northern Ireland. At the time, the DUP refused to say what the ads cost or where the money came from.

We’ve since learned that the Metro wraparound cost a staggering £282,000 (€330,000) – surely the biggest single campaign expense in the history of Irish politics. For context, the DUP had spent about £90,000 (€106,000) on its entire campaign for the previous month’s assembly elections. But this was not all: the DUP eventually admitted that this spending came from a much larger donation of £425,622 (€530,000) from a mysterious organisation, the Constitutional Research Council.

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Theresa May Blames ‘Tolerance of Extremism’ But UK Policies Help Terrorists

Aaron Mate speaks with investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed who says British government policies benefit extremists and endanger civilians. (The Real News)

Gideon Levy: What I’ve Seen in 30 Years of Reporting on the Israeli Occupation

Gideon Levy writes for Haaretz:

[…] I began to write about the occupation almost by chance, after many years during which, like all Israelis, I had been brainwashed, convinced of the justice of our cause, certain that we were David and they Goliath, knowing that Arabs don’t love their children the way we do (if at all) and that they, in contrast to us, were born to kill.

Dedi Zucker, then a Ratz MK, suggested that we go see a few olive trees that had been uprooted in the grove of an elderly Palestinian, who was living in the West Bank. We came, we saw, we lost. That was the beginning, gradual and not planned, of exactly three decades of coverage of the crimes of the occupation. Most Israelis didn’t want to hear about it and still don’t want to hear about it. In the eyes of many citizens, the very act of covering this subject in the media is a transgression.

Treating the Palestinians as victims and the crimes perpetrated against them as crimes is considered treasonous. Even the depiction of Palestinians as human beings is viewed as provocative in Israel. What a furor was generated in 1998 by Ehud Barak’s answer to the simple question of what he would have done if he’d been born a Palestinian (it’s likely he would have joined one of the resistance organizations, he said).

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Iranian Revolutionary Guard Blames Saudi Arabia for Tehran Attack

Middle East Eye reports:

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) pointed the finger at Saudi Arabia for twin attacks on Iran’s parliament and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini on Wednesday morning which left 12 people dead.

The attacks, which took place a few kilometres south of the capital, were the first in the country to be claimed by the Islamic State group.

“This terrorist attack happened only a week after the meeting between the US president (Donald Trump) and the (Saudi) backward leaders who support terrorists,” said the IRGC in a statement, published by Iranian media.

“The fact that Islamic State has claimed responsibility proves that they were involved in the brutal attack.”

A security guard was killed when four gunmen burst into Tehran’s parliament complex, while a gardener was reported dead when several armed assailants entered the grounds of Khomeini’s mausoleum in the south of the city, according to the ISNA news agency.

“Fighters from Islamic State attacked Khomeini’s shrine and the Iranian parliament in Tehran,” IS’s news agency Amaq said.

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Erik Prince’s Dark Plan for Afghanistan: Military Occupation for Profit

Matthew Pulver reports for Salon:

Erik Prince's dark plan for Afghanistan: Military occupation for profit, not securityLost in the cascade of stories of potential White House criminality and collusion with foreign governments is the Erik Prince affair. It is reported that Prince, the brother of controversial  Education Secretary Betsy Devos who established his power in Washington with his mercenary army Blackwater during the Iraq war, met with Russian intermediaries in an obscure Indian Ocean archipelago to establish back-channel communication with Moscow, possibly in coordination with the efforts of Jared Kushner, who last week was reported to have sought a White House back channel to the Kremlin.

Bloomberg reports that during the presidential transition late last year “Prince was very much a presence, providing advice to Trump’s inner circle, including his top national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.” While President-elect Trump, in reality show style, paraded administration applicants through the gilded front doors of of Trump Tower for the gauntlet of cameras, Prince “entered Trump Tower through the back,” reports Bloomberg.

Prince met at least several times with the Trump team, according to the multiply sourced reporting, including once on a train from New York to Washington, where Prince met with Peter Thiel associate Kevin Harrington, who would later join the National Security Council and be tasked with “strategic planning.” Prince is said to have advised Harrington, Flynn and others on the Trump transition team on the “restructuring of security agencies” and “a thorough rethink of costly defense programs.”

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Manchester Bomber Met With ISIS Unit in Libya, Officials Say

Eric Schmitt and Rukmini Callimachi report for The New York Times:

The bomber who killed 22 people at a pop concert in Manchester, England, last month had met in Libya with members of an Islamic State unit linked to the November 2015 Paris terrorist attack, according to current and retired intelligence officials.

The content of the communications between the attacker, Salman Abedi, and the terrorist cell remains unknown. But the possibility that he was directed or enabled by Islamic State operatives in Libya, as opposed to Syria, suggests that even as the group’s Middle East base is shrinking, at least one of its remote franchises is developing ways to continue attacks within Europe.

On visits to Tripoli as well as to the coastal Libyan town of Sabratha, Mr. Abedi met with operatives of the Katibat al-Battar al-Libi, a core Islamic State unit that was headquartered in Syria before some of its members dispersed to Libya.

Originally made up of Libyans who had gone to Syria to fight in the civil war, the unit became a magnet for French and Belgian foreign fighters, and several were dispatched to carry out attacks abroad. Some of the terrorist group’s most devastating hits in Europe, including the coordinated attack in Paris in 2015, were shaped by alumni of the brigade.

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London Terrorism: Trump Attacks Mayor, Corbyn Calls for May to Step Down as PM

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh speak with Guardian columnist and author Paul Mason after three attackers killed seven people and injured 48 more on Saturday night in London. The three attackers were shot dead by police. It’s the third terror attack in the U.K. in three months. British Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed a sweeping review of the nation’s counterterrorism strategy. All of this comes as the country gears up for national parliamentary elections scheduled for this Thursday. Prime Minister May has also called for increased web surveillance so the internet is no longer a “safe space” for terrorists. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump used the London attacks to call for the United States to impose his proposed Muslim travel ban. (Democracy Now!)

Saudi Arabia Lobbying Efforts in U.S. Under the Spotlight

Lydia Dennett reports for POGO:

Saudi Arabia FlagLast week POGO Investigator Lydia Dennett spoke on Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson regarding the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s recent lobbying efforts. Their investigation found that weak enforcement of foreign lobbying laws left US military veterans lobbying on behalf of Saudi Arabia in 2016 and 2017 unaware they were doing so. Their multi-million dollar lobbying effort included 22 different lobbying firms.

Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), lobbyists working for foreign governments must disclose information about their activities to the Department of Justice. The law is intended to provide transparency into how federal policies are made and how foreign influence plays a part.  FARA registration and disclosure requirements are a good first step, but Full Measure’s investigation shows that without adequate enforcement it’s impossible to know if we’re getting the whole story.

The Full Measure investigation focused on lobbyists working to stop the passage of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a bill that would allow family members of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for any involvement in the terrorist attacks. In the weeks following the introduction of the bill in fall 2016, Saudi Arabia added 12 US lobbying firms to their roster in attempt to prevent its passage.

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Saudi Arabia Lavishes Conservative U.K. Officials With Gifts, Travel, And Plum Consultancies

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

New figures released by British Parliament show that, at a time when U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s ties to Saudi Arabia have become an election issue, conservative government officials and members of Parliament were lavished with money by the oil-rich Saudi government with gifts, travel expenses, and consulting fees.

Tory lawmakers received the cash as the U.K. backs Saudi Arabia’s brutal war against Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has made the U.K.’s uneasy alliance with the Saudis an election issue, with voters going to the polls on June 8. The Tories’ ties to Saudi Arabia, Labour leaders charge, have resulted in record weapons sales — conservative governments have licensed £3.3 billion ($4.2 billion) in arms sales to the Saudi military since the onset of the Yemen campaign — and a reluctance to criticize human rights abuses.

While Tory politicians have defended the arms sales to Saudis as a move to shore up Britain’s allies in the region, Tory members of Parliament have collected £99,396 ($128,035) in gifts, travel expenses, and consulting fees from the government of Saudi Arabia since the Yemen war began.

The kingdom’s financial ties to Tory parliamentarians are detailed in the register of financial interests, a disclosure published by Parliament.

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Trump Uses London Attack to Call for SCOTUS to Back Travel Ban Blocked by Multiple Courts

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh speak with Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, about President Trump launching a tweet storm after the London attacks calling for the United States to impose his proposed Muslim travel ban, which would prohibit all refugees and citizens of six majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. (Democracy Now!)

‘Sensitive’ UK Terror Funding Inquiry May Never Be Published

Jessica Elgot reports for The Guardian:

Image result for 'Sensitive' UK Terror Funding Inquiry May Never Be PublishedAn investigation into the foreign funding and support of jihadi groups that was authorised by David Cameron may never be published, the Home Office has admitted.

The inquiry into revenue streams for extremist groups operating in the UK was commissioned by the former prime minister and is thought to focus on Saudi Arabia, which has repeatedly been highlighted by European leaders as a funding source for Islamist jihadis.

The investigation was launched as part of a deal with the Liberal Democrats in exchange for the party supporting the extension of British airstrikes against Islamic State into Syria in December 2015.

Tom Brake, the Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, has written to the prime minister asking her to confirm that the investigation will not be shelved.

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Manchester Attacks: John Pilger Asks ‘What Did the Prime Minister Know?’

Afshin Rattansi speaks with filmmaker and journalist John Pilger about MI6’s connection to the Libya-Manchester atrocity ahead of Sunday’s Arianna Grande’s benefit gig for those affected by the Manchester attack. Pilger’s latest article is titled ‘Terror In Britain: What Did the Prime Minister Know?‘ (Going Underground)

3,050 Killed in Iraq During May

Margaret Griffis reports for Antiwar:

Image result for 3,050 Killed in Iraq During MayAt least 3,050 people were killed in violent acts during May. Another 922 were wounded. The number of fatalities dropped by almost a thousand since last month, but the number of wounded in reports increased. In April, 4,033 were killed, and 629 were wounded.

The breakdown as compiled by Antiwar.com is as follows. At least 770 civilians, 166 security personnel, 2,066 militants, and 48 members of the Kurdistan Workers party were killed during May. Another 759 civilians, 146 security personnel, and 17 militants were wounded.

These figures should be considered lowball estimates. Reports from behind enemy lines are scant, and the Iraqi government has refused to release casualty figures for its personnel. The Iraqi government also may be padding the number of militants killed. Some of the “militant” casualties may actually belong to civilians. It is impossible to know the true scope of the violence.

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C.I.A. Names New Iran Chief in a Sign of Trump’s Hard Line

Matthew Rosenberg and Adam Goldman report for The New York Times:

He is known as the Dark Prince or Ayatollah Mike, nicknames he earned as the Central Intelligence Agency officer who oversaw the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the American drone strike campaign that killed thousands of Islamist militants and hundreds of civilians.

Now the official, Michael D’Andrea, has a new job. He is running the C.I.A.’s Iran operations, according to current and former intelligence officials, an appointment that is the first major sign that the Trump administration is invoking the hard line the president took against Iran during his campaign.

Mr. D’Andrea’s new role is one of a number of moves inside the spy agency that signal a more muscular approach to espionage and covert operations under the leadership of Mike Pompeo, the conservative Republican and former congressman, the officials said. The agency also recently named a new chief of counterterrorism, who has begun pushing for greater latitude to strike militants.

Iran has been one of the hardest targets for the C.I.A. The agency has extremely limited access to the country — no American embassy is open to provide diplomatic cover — and Iran’s intelligence services have spent nearly four decades trying to counter American espionage and covert operations.

The challenge to start carrying out President Trump’s views falls to Mr. D’Andrea, a chain-smoking convert to Islam, who comes with an outsize reputation and the track record to back it up: Perhaps no single C.I.A. official is more responsible for weakening Al Qaeda.

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Terror in Britain: What Did the Prime Minister Know?

John Pilger writes:

Image result for Terror in Britain: What Did the Prime Minister Know?The unsayable in Britain’s general election campaign is this. The causes of the Manchester atrocity, in which 22 mostly young people were murdered by a jihadist, are being suppressed to protect the secrets of British foreign policy.

Critical questions – such as why the security service MI5 maintained terrorist “assets” in Manchester and why the government did not warn the public of the threat in their midst – remain unanswered, deflected by the promise of an internal “review”.

The alleged suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, was part of an extremist group, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, that thrived in Manchester and was cultivated and used by MI5 for more than 20 years.

The LIFG is proscribed by Britain as a terrorist organisation which seeks a “hardline Islamic state” in Libya and “is part of the wider global Islamist extremist movement, as inspired by al-Qaida”.

The “smoking gun” is that when Theresa May was Home Secretary, LIFG jihadists were allowed to travel unhindered across Europe and encouraged to engage in “battle”: first to remove Mu’ammar Gadaffi in Libya, then to join al-Qaida affiliated groups in Syria.

Last year, the FBI reportedly placed Abedi on a “terrorist watch list” and warned MI5 that his group was looking for a “political target” in Britain. Why wasn’t he apprehended and the network around him prevented from planning and executing the atrocity on 22 May?

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Did $1 Billion Worth of Lost U.S. Weapons End Up in the Hands of ISIS?

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Sheikh speak with Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s arms control and human rights researcher, about a newly declassified Pentagon audit which shows the U.S. Army failed to keep track of more than $1 billion worth of weapons and military equipment sent to Iraq and Kuwait, including tens of thousands of assault rifles and hundreds of armored vehicles. The audit found improper record-keeping, including duplicated spreadsheets, handwritten receipts and a lack of a central database to track the transfers. (Democracy Now!)

Kabul’s Horrific Bomb Attack Reminds the World of the Afghan Conflict

Patrick Cockburn reports for The Independent:

Image result for Kabul's Horrific Bomb Attack Reminds the World of the Afghan Conflict[…] The war in general in Afghanistan is close to a stalemate, though the Taliban has been making ground since international forces withdrew at the end of 2014. They control or contest areas inhabited by more than 40 per cent of the Afghan population, though the government of President Ashraf Ghani holds all the provincial capitals. US air strikes limit the ability of the Taliban to win strategic victories or capture and hold urban centres.

President Trump is considering sending a further 3,000 to 5,000 troops to bolster the 10,000 who are already there as a “counter-terrorism mission”.  It became clear during the past two years that the Afghan government could not survive without foreign assistance, much of it from the US. While President Obama tended to play down its growing military engagement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, Mr Trump plays up more air strikes or troop reinforcements as a sign of stronger US resolution under his leadership.

In practice, it has been unlikely over the past decade that the Taliban would lose so long as it had a strong core of indigenous support and the covert backing of Pakistan, where its forces could always seek sanctuary. Though aware of this, the US has always balked at a confrontation with Pakistan as a leading US ally in South Asia and a nuclear armed military power. It has likewise been unlikely that the Taliban would win because of sectarian and ethnic limitations to their support in Afghanistan and the financial and military backing of the US for the government in Kabul

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The Biggest Bills for the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars Are Yet to Come

Linda J. Blimes reports for Defense One:

An Afghan National Army Humvee in the Paktika province, Afghanistan in 2011.Each Memorial Day, we pay respects to the fallen from past wars – including the more than one million American soldiers killed in the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam.

Yet the nation’s longest and most expensive war is the one that is still going on. In addition to nearly 7,000 troops killed, the 16-year conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost an estimated US$6 trillion due to its prolonged length, rapidly increasing veterans health care and disability costs and interest on war borrowing. On this Memorial Day, we should begin to confront the staggering cost and the challenge of paying for this war.

The enormous figure reflects not just the cost of fighting – like guns, trucks and fuel – but also the long-term cost of providing medical care and disability compensation for decades beyond the end of the conflict. Consider the fact that benefits for World War I veterans didn’t peak until 1969. For World War II veterans, the peak came in 1986. Payments for Vietnam-era vets are still climbing.

The high rates of injuries and increased survival rates in Iraq and Afghanistan mean that over half the 2.5 million who served there suffered some degree of disability. Their health care and disability benefits alone will easily cost $1 trillion in coming decades.

But instead of facing up to these huge costs, we have charged them to the national credit card. This means that our children will be forced to pay the bill for the wars started by our generation. Unless we set aside money today, it is likely that young people now fighting in Afghanistan will be shortchanged in the future just when they most need medical care and benefits.

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20th-Century Libyan Jihadism’s Role in the Manchester Attack

Jason Pack writes for Al-Monitor:

If every criminal has a back story, the horrific terror attack that happened May 22 in Manchester, England, was preceded by a sordid mystery novel combining depression, social ostracization, radicalization and multigenerational hate — exactly the kind of story the Islamic State (IS) seeks to prey upon and publicize.

As the investigation into British-born Libyan suicide bomber Salman Abedi continues, the question of whether Abedi was acting alone or affiliated with a larger scheme likely holds the key to unlocking his motivations and the geostrategic significance of his act. Was his crime motivated by his gang connections, his social marginalization or his family’s long history within Libya’s tight-knit activist Salafi movements? Abedi’s back story may represent a unique combination of these elements, but it fits firmly within a similar pastiche of other young people who, due to personal predilections and psychological problems on the one hand and familial and social connections on the other, fall easily into the radical Islamist milieu.

IS media was quick to claim responsibility for the attack, but there is scant evidence that Abedi was acting on IS’ direct orders. That is not how terrorism in 2017 works — millennials are the “me” generation, prone to doing things their own way. IS is capitalizing on their initiative. While Abedi’s bomb-making technique matches IS’ trademark methods in previous attacks, the complexity of its construction, including a backup triggering mechanism, exceeds those of the past. In short, Abedi did not seem to be a novice making a bomb by following a YouTube video tutorial. This should come as no surprise given his multiple trips back and forth to Libya — where his family is widely associated with the Salafi jihadi movement. His trips provided ample opportunity for such advanced training and the ability to operationalize his prior contacts in Manchester.

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The Manchester Bombing is Blowback from the West’s Disastrous Interventions and Covert Proxy Wars

Max Blumenthal writes for AlterNet:

The heinous suicide bombing by British-born Salman Abedi of an Arianna Grande concert in Manchester was not merely the work of an “evil loser,” as Donald Trump called it. It was blowback from interventionist policies carried out in the name of human rights and “civilian protection.” Through wars of regime change and the arming and training of Islamist proxy groups, the US, UK and France played out imperial delusions across the Middle East. In Syria and Libya, they cultivated the perfect petri dish for jihadist insurgency, helping to spawn weaponized nihilists like Abedi intent on bringing the West’s wars back home.

The son of anti-Qaddafi immigrants to the UK, Abedi grew up in Manchester’s community of Libyan exiles. A  report in the London Telegraph indicated that he had traveled just weeks before his attack to Libya, where Salafi-jihadi militias are competing for control of the destabilized country. Abedi had also reportedly traveled to Syria to join up with the extremist rebels that have waged a six-year-long insurgency against the country’s government, with billions of dollars in assistance from the West and its Gulf allies. According to French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, it was in these conflict zones where Abedi was radicalized.

The impressionable 22-year-old returned to the UK with enough training to make a fairly sophisticated bomb that massacred 22 concert goers, many of them children. “It seems likely — possible — that he wasn’t doing this on his own,” Britain’s home secretary, Amber Rudd, told the BBC. She described the bomb as “more sophisticated than some of the attacks we’ve seen before.”

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‘Sorted’ by MI5: How UK Government Sent British-Libyans to Fight Gaddafi

Amandla Thomas-Johnson and Simon Hooper report for Middle East Eye:

The British government operated an “open door” policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders, Middle East Eye can reveal.

Several former rebel fighters now back in the UK told MEE that they had been able to travel to Libya with “no questions asked” as authorities continued to investigate the background of a British-Libyan suicide bomber who killed 22 people in Monday’s attack in Manchester.

Salman Abedi, 22, the British-born son of exiled dissidents who returned to Libya as the revolution against Gaddafi gathered momentum, is also understood to have spent time in the North African country in 2011 and to have returned there on several subsequent occasions.

British police have said they believe the bomber, who returned to Manchester just a few days before the attack, was part of a network and have arrested six people including Abedi‘s older brother since Monday.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said that Abedi was known to security services, while a local community worker told the BBC that several people had reported him to the police via an anti-terrorism hotline.

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The British Establishment Is Putting Our Lives At Risk With Its Support For Saudi Arabia

Mark Curtis, author of Secret Affairs and Web of Deceit, writes:

Image result for The British Establishment Is Putting Our Lives At Risk With Its Support For Saudi ArabiaThe country is in shock after the worst terrorist attack in 12 years. The deranged extremist who detonated the bomb bears sole responsibility for the outrage and is not a soldier – for Islam or whoever – but a murderer. The Manchester suicide bombing is an act of barbarism inflicted on entirely innocent people.

This wave of terrorism driven by Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the attack, derives from a complex infrastructure of forces, working over time. But it springs ultimately from the ideology promoted by the ruling family in Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, who were at least until recently funding and backing IS: they have done so to support their goal of overthrowing Assad in Syria and championing Sunni Islam in the face of rivalry with Iran. These are Britain’s allies. Whitehall has a deep, long-standing special relationship with the extremist Saudis: it is arming them, backing them, apologising for them, and supporting their regional policies. At the same time, the Saudis have been helping to create the monster that now threatens the British public. So, too, have the policies of the British government.

This is terrible, in the true sense of the term: the British establishment is putting our lives at risk in its obsessive obsequiousness in backing the Saudi state. We have to recognise that we are caught between two extremisms – that of IS and that of our own state’s priorities.

The British elite is perfectly aware of the insidious role that Saudi Arabia plays in fomenting terrorism. In October 2014, General Jonathan Shaw, a former Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff, told the Telegraph that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were primarily responsible for the rise of the extremist Islam that inspires IS terrorists. He said:

“This is a time bomb that, under the guise of education, Wahhabi Salafism is igniting under the world really. And it is funded by Saudi and Qatari money and that must stop.”

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