Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could Be Wrong

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

aleppo.jpgThe Iraqi army, backed by US-led airstrikes, is trying to capture east Mosul at the same time as the Syrian army and its Shia paramilitary allies are fighting their way into east Aleppo. An estimated 300 civilians have been killed in Aleppo by government artillery and bombing in the last fortnight, and in Mosul there are reportedly some 600 civilian dead over a month.

Despite these similarities, the reporting by the international media of these two sieges is radically different.

In Mosul, civilian loss of life is blamed on Isis, with its indiscriminate use of mortars and suicide bombers, while the Iraqi army and their air support are largely given a free pass. Isis is accused of preventing civilians from leaving the city so they can be used as human shields.

Contrast this with Western media descriptions of the inhuman savagery of President Assad’s forces indiscriminately slaughtering civilians regardless of whether they stay or try to flee. The UN chief of humanitarian affairs, Stephen O’Brien, suggested this week that the rebels in east Aleppo were stopping civilians departing – but unlike Mosul, the issue gets little coverage.

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Trump’s Terrorist Friends

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

President-elect Donald Trump has gone out of his way to portray himself as a hard man in the fight against terror.

He’d “quickly and decisively bomb the hell” out of the Islamic State (IS), he has claimed, and he’d even deploy US troops into Iraq – as many as 20,000-30,000, to “knock them out fast”.

He has threatened to ban oil imports from Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies unless they provide troops to fight IS.

“Who blew up the World Trade Center? It wasn’t the Iraqis, it was Saudi – take a look at Saudi Arabia, open the documents,” he told Fox News.

But Trump’s rhetoric is much like his orange spray tan: scary, unforgettable… and all too fake.

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WikiLeaks: ‘Yemen Files’ Reveal Scope of US Involvement in Yemen War

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

WikiLeaks has released a new collection of 500 internal documents today from the US Embassy in Sanaa, the latest in a long series of leaks the group has obtained over the years. The documents detail US involvement in Yemen in the lead up to and during the Saudi invasion.

Dubbed the “Yemen Files,” it covers emails from 2009-2015, covering Secretary of States Hillary Clinton and John Kerry’s terms. The files include considerable details of US arming and training of Yemeni military forces in the build up to the Saudi invasion.

Of course, the US also backed Saudi Arabia in their invasion, leading WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to note that most of the bombs that have fallen on Yemen over the course of the war were American made.

Though the US was very public in supporting the invasion by the Saudis at the time, they’ve since moved away from such public endorsement, urging ceasefires and trying to present themselves as at least relatively neutral on the matter

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Iraq War: Chilcot Inquiry Was Set Up ‘To Avoid Blame’

Chris Ames and Jamie Doward report for The Observer:

Image result for Chilcot InquiryThe Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war was designed to “avoid blame” and reduce the risk that individuals and the government could face legal proceedings, newly released documents reveal.

The papers show the thinking and advice at “the highest level of government” prior to Gordon Brown’s announcement of an inquiry. They were disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, after the Cabinet Office lost a two-year battle during which it stated that disclosure threatened to “undermine the inquiry”. They confirm that many officials who took part in the events that the inquiry investigated, including former spy chief Sir John Scarlett, were involved in setting it up.

And they reveal that Sir (now Lord) Gus O’Donnell, cabinet secretary under Brown, went against Whitehall protocol when he appointed a civil servant with significant involvement in Iraq policy during the period covered by the inquiry to the key role of inquiry secretary.

The documents, a series of memos by Whitehall officials, cover a four-week period in May and June 2009. They show the officials favoured from the outset a secret inquiry to be conducted by privy counsellors, based on the Franks inquiry into the Falklands war.

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Amnesty International Warns New Egypt Rights Bill ‘Draconian’

The Associated Press reports:

Image result for Egypt rights billAn international rights group has warned of a new Egyptian bill to regulate civil society, saying that the proposed law amounts to a “death warrant” for relevant organizations.

In a strongly-worded statement, London-based Amnesty International urged President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on Friday not to sign the proposed law, calling it “draconian” and the “most repressive” for the authority it gives the government over civil society work.

The call comes days after the parliament, packed with el-Sissi supporters, voted in favor of the law. It was debated for only two days, and comes into immediate effect once ratified by el-Sissi.

Among the new law’s provisions, groups carrying out field research and surveys without permission could be punished by up to five years in prison.

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Team Trump’s Message: The Clash of Civilizations Is Back

Michael Hirsh reports for Politico:

161119-Michael-Flynn-GettyImages-599941542.jpg[…] Welcome back, approximately, to the world just after 9/11, when terror hung in the air, fear was raw and palpable and Islamophobia was so rampant that George W. Bush felt compelled to go to a Washington mosque six days after the attacks and declare: “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.” Barack Obama, having inherited a much bigger global war from Bush after the invasion of Iraq, has avoided any talk of Islam at all and insisted on calling the enemy merely “violent extremism.” Obama repeatedly sought to remind Americans that it was precisely the idea of a “clash of civilizations” that Islamists embraced—because it frames the conflict as one against all of Islam and its culture, not just the jihadists.

But the incoming president, Trump, appears open to the clash-of-civilizations idea—one that fits neatly with his view of an America that rejects “globalism,” tightens up its borders against immigrants, and bans most new Muslims from coming in until they can be “vetted.” “I think Islam hates us,” Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper last March. While he said he was speaking of radical Islam, he added: “It’s very hard to define. It’s very hard to separate. Because you don’t know who’s who.” For the Trump team, who did not respond to a request for comment, Muslims appear to be guilty of radical sympathies until proven innocent.

That approach, some scholars say, will be a terrible mistake, 15 years into what is already seen by some as a “Forever War.”

“Sadly, Trump traffics in a similar ‘clash of civilizations’ narrative to that of Al Qaeda and ISIS,” says Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics, author of the recently published book ISIS: A History. “They all view the world in binary terms. … What Trump and his followers do not get is that their inflammatory rhetoric plays into the hands of ISIS and Al Qaeda, who labor hard to convince skeptical Muslims that the West is waging a war against Islam.”

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Trump Could Return Iraq War Boosters To Power

Warren Strobel and John Walcott report for Reuters:

Image result for james woolsey john boltonDespite his professed opposition to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, President-elect Donald Trump is considering several of the major advocates of that war for top national security posts in his administration, according to Republican officials.

Among those who could find places on Trump’s team are former top State Department official John Bolton and ex-CIA Director James Woolsey. Both men championed the Iraq invasion, which many analysts have called one of the major U.S. foreign policy debacles of modern times.

Also involved in transition planning for Trump’s presidency is Frederick Fleitz, a top aide to Bolton who earlier worked at the CIA unit that validated much of the flawed intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs.

Although it is impossible to predict how a Trump foreign policy might evolve, one U.S. official who has served in Iraq said advocates of the 2003 invasion might be more inclined to commit additional U.S. forces to the fight against Islamic State there, despite the absence of a status of forces agreement that protects Americans from Iraqi legal action.

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Clinton Sounded More Interventionist, But The Middle East Crises Trump Inherits Could Suck Him In

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

world-trump-reaction-20.jpg[…] Trump’s instincts generally seem less well-informed but often shrewd, and his priories have nothing to do with the Middle East. Past US leaders have felt the same way, but they usually end up by being dragged into its crises one way or other, and how they perform then becomes the test of their real quality as a leader. The region has been the political graveyard for three of the last five US presidents: Jimmy Carter was destroyed by the consequences of the Iranian revolution; Ronald Reagan was gravely weakened by the Iran-Contra scandal; and George W Bush’s years in office will be remembered chiefly for the calamities brought on by his invasion of Iraq. Barack Obama was luckier and more sensible, but he wholly underestimated the rise of Isis until it captured Mosul in 2014.

The US no longer enjoys the superpower hegemony it had between the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the financial crisis of 2008. Its strength was further limited by failure to gain its ends in Iraq and Afghanistan and the return of Russia as a rival power, but it remains far-and-away the most powerful state in the world. It is a position full of pitfalls such as the prolonged effort by US allies like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel to lure the US into wars in Syria and Iran that will serve their own interests.

Obama resisted the temptation to fight new wars, but if Hillary Clinton had been in charge her record suggests that she might well have done so. How would Donald Trump have responded? There is a bigger gap between his words and deeds than there are with most politicians. But words create their own momentum and his constant beating of the patriotic drum will make it difficult for him to exercise the degree of caution necessary to avoid ensnarement in the Middle East. Over-heated nationalism cannot be turned on and off like a tap. He may want to concentrate on radical change at home, but the vortex of crises in the Middle East will one day suck him in.

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Trump Won’t Rip Up Iran Deal, Adviser Confirms

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Key Trump foreign policy adviser Walid Phares today offered clarification on the president-elect’s plans for the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, confirming that he intends to “review” the deal, but has no intention of trying to unilaterally rip it up.

Trump’s election has sparked a flurry of speculation about things he might do, and one of the major ones has been non-stop speculation that the P5+1 deal is effectively dead, even though a lot of international officials were quick to point out that the multi-lateral agreement isn’t something a US president could just destroy on a whim.

Sens. John McCain (R – AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R – SC) bought into this idea too, announcing yesterday that they believe Trump agrees with them on Iran, by which they mean he would be ripping up the deal with an eye toward eventually starting a war.

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John Pilger On The U.S. Election: ‘The Truth Is… There Was No One To Vote For’

Afshin Rattansi speaks to author and documentary filmmaker John Pilger about the U.S. election result, giving his views on what has been revealed by Donald Trump becoming president and what it means for the Middle East.(Going Underground)

Arabs Have No Great Expectations Of The Next U.S. President

Gilad Shiloach reports for Vocativ:

USAThe U.S presidential elections have drawn the attention of many people across the Middle East, with a great number of Arabs convinced that when it comes to their part of the world, neither a Hillary Clinton nor a Donald Trump White House will be good for them.

Vocativ analyzed tens of thousands of tweets posted on Tuesday with hashtags including #TheAmericanPresidency and #HillaryClinton, which were trending across Saudi Arabia and the region.

Exiled Syrian opposition leader Bassam Jaara tweeted: “Trump is a friend of Putin and Hillary is a friend of the Iranians. Which poison will you want for your death, Russian or Iranian?” He added that those who think a new administration would change its position towards Syria were “deluded” and criticized “those who wait for Clinton.” Others wrote: “those who wish for a Hillary Clintonvictory like she is the savior of the Islamic nation should check themselves! The killers are the same, I wonder how the victim is happy for the victory of his killer!”

Many echoed the sentiment that “both are crazy” and “two sides of the same coin.” One wrote “the Arabs and Muslims should know that whatever will be the results, this election will be against them for sure.”

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Are CIA and Western Intelligence Services Covering Up Algerian Sponsorship of Islamist Jihadists?

Sharmini Peries speaks to investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed about his latest piece: ‘Intelligence agencies are running al-Qaeda camps in North Africa ‘. (The Real News)

Afghanistan: The War Trump and Clinton Have Ignored

Deb Riechmann and Robert Burns report for the Associated Press:

In this Oct. 3, 2016 file photo, Afghan civilians watch the site of a bicycle bomb explosion targeted an army vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have said next to nothing about how they would handle the war in Afghanistan.

That’s remarkable, given the enormous U.S. investment in blood and treasure over the past 15 years — including two American deaths on Thursday — the resilience of the Taliban insurgency and the risk of an Afghan government collapse that would risk empowering extremists and could force the next president’s hands.

In addition to the two service members killed on Thursday, four others were wounded while assisting Afghan forces in the northern city of Kunduz.

President Barack Obama escalated the war shortly after he took office, but he fell short of his goal of compelling a political settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The next president will face a new set of tough choices on Afghanistan early in his or her term, including whether to increase or reduce U.S. troop levels and, more broadly, whether to continue what might be called Obama’s minimalist military strategy.

The difficulty of these choices may explain, at least in part, why Trump and Clinton have been largely silent on Afghanistan. They ignore it while campaigning; it came up only in passing during the first Trump-Clinton debate and was not mentioned at all during second and third debates.

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How World War III Could Start

Jonathan Marshall writes for The National Interest:

If humanity ever suffers a Third World War, chances are good it will start in some locale distant from the United States like the Baltic or South China Seas, the Persian Gulf, or Syria, where Washington and its rivals play daily games of “chicken” with lethal air and naval forces.

Far from enhancing U.S. security, the aggressive deployment of our armed forces in these and other hot spots around the world may be putting our very survival at risk by continuously testing and prodding other military powers. What our military gains from forward deployment, training exercises, and better intelligence may be more than offset by the unnecessary provocation of hostile responses that could escalate into uncontrollable conflicts.

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Massive Protests In Morocco Following Death of Fish Seller: Interview with Miriyam Aouragh

Amy Goodman speaks with Miriyam Aouragh, a Dutch-Moroccan anthropologist and democracy activist based in Britain. She’s a lecturer at the University of Westminster in London, and she is writing a book on the February 20 movement in Morocco. (Democracy Now!)

How Israel Became a Hub for Surveillance Technology

Alex Kane reports for The Intercept:

[…] Increasingly, the skills developed by spying and waging cyberwarfare don’t stay in the military. Unit 8200 is a feeder school to the private surveillance industry in Israel, the self-proclaimed “startup nation” — and the products those intelligence veterans create are sold to governments around the world to spy on people. While the companies that Unit 8200 veterans run say their technologies are essential to keeping people safe, privacy advocates warn their products undermine civil liberties.

In August, Privacy International, a watchdog group that investigates government surveillance, released a report on the global surveillance industry. The group identified 27 Israeli surveillance companies — the highest number per capita of any country in the world. (The United States leads the world in sheer number of surveillance companies: 122.) Unit 8200 veterans either founded or occupy high-level positions in at least eight of the Israeli surveillance companies named by Privacy International, according to publicly available information. And that list doesn’t include companies like Narus, which was founded by Israeli veterans of Unit 8200 but is now owned by Boeing, the American defense contractor. (Privacy International categorized Narus as an American company because it’s headquartered in California.) Narus technology helped AT&T collect internet traffic and billions of emails and forward that information to the National Security Agency, according to reporting in Wired magazine and documents from the Snowden archive.

“It is alarming that surveillance capabilities developed in some of the world’s most advanced spying agencies are being packaged and exported around the world for profit,” said Edin Omanovic, a research officer at Privacy International. “The proliferation of such intrusive surveillance capabilities is extremely dangerous and poses a real and fundamental threat to human rights and democratization.”

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Spies For Hire: How the UAE Is Recruiting Hackers to Create the Perfect Surveillance State

Jenna McLaughlin reports for The Intercept:

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 03: View from the observation deck "At The Top" located on the 124th floor of Burj Khalifa tower on January 3, 2010 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The tower, designed by Chicago architect Adrian Smith, is the tallest free-standing structure on Earth. (Photo by Kuni Takahashi/Getty Images)[…] The idea of a UAE-based company recruiting an army of cyberwarriors from abroad to conduct mass surveillance aimed at the country’s own citizens may sound like something out of a bad Bond movie, but based on several months of interviews and research conducted by The Intercept, it appears DarkMatter has been doing precisely that.

Most of those who spoke with The Intercept asked to remain anonymous, citing nondisclosure agreements, fear of potential political persecution in the UAE, professional reprisals, and loss of current and future employment opportunities. Those quoted anonymously were speaking about events based on their direct experience with DarkMatter.

Margaritelli isn’t the only one who insists that DarkMatter isn’t being truthful about its operations and recruitment. More than five sources with knowledge of different parts of the company told The Intercept that sometime after its public debut last November, DarkMatter or a subsidiary began aggressively seeking skilled hackers, including some from the United States, to help it accomplish a wide range of offensive cybersecurity goals. Its work is aimed at exploiting hardware probes installed across major cities for surveillance, hunting down never-before-seen vulnerabilities in software, and building stealth malware implants to track, locate, and hack basically any person at any time in the UAE, several sources explained. As Margaritelli described it in an email to me, “Basically it’s big brother on steroids.”

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Heart-Wrenching Photos Document Severe Malnutrition in Yemen as Bloody War Rages On

Chris Sommerfelt reports for the New York Daily News:

Saida Ahmad Baghili is one of the brutal civil war's many victims suffering from severe malnutrition.More than 14 million people are on the brinks of starvation in Yemen, and experts fear that an entire generation “could be crippled by hunger” as the war-torn country’s bloody civil war continues to claim lives.

Among the war’s many victims is 18-year-old Saida Ahmad Baghili, who was admitted to a hospital this past Saturday. Shocking photos of the teenager shows her emaciated on a bed, surviving on juice, milk and tea as she is unable to eat.

“She was fine. She was in good health. There was nothing wrong with her. And then she got sick,” Baghili’s aunt, Saida Ali Baghili, told Reuters. “She has been sick for five years. She can’t eat. She says her throat hurts.”

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At Hillary Clinton’s Favorite Think Tank, a Doubling Down on Anti-Iran, Pro-Saudi Policy

Zaid Jilani reports for The Intercept:

The Center for American Progress hosted a sort of preview of Hillary Clinton’s Middle East policy on Tuesday, with a Clinton adviser and a Gulf state diplomat agreeing that the next president should double down on support for the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, while ramping up action against Iran.

It is a signal that a future Clinton administration would overwhelmingly favor the Gulf states in their ongoing, Middle East-wide power struggle with Iran, implicitly rebuking President Obama, who has come under fire from Gulf states for mild criticism of their foreign policy and his nuclear deal with Iran.

The founder of the Center for American Progress, John Podesta, is the campaign chair for Clinton’s presidential bid; many of the candidate’s closest advisors are alumni of CAP and it is widely viewed as a launching pad for policy staff for Democratic presidents. The center is currently helmed by Clinton transition co-chair Neera Tanden.

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HyperNormalisation by Adam Curtis

Documentary by British filmmaker Adam Curtis released on 16th October 2016 exclusively on BBC iPlayer. (BBC)

What the New York Times Left Out About Obama’s ‘Secret War’ in Somalia

Sharmini Peries speaks to Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report who recounts what was left out of a recent New York Times story on the U.S. role in Somalia, namely the more than two decades of American involvement there. (The Real News)

Hillary Clinton Reaffirms Commitment to a No-Fly Zone in Syria

Paul Jay speaks to Max Blumenthal and Medea Benjamin after the conclusion of the third presidential debate where host Chris Wallace challenged Clinton by saying a no-fly zone would lead to confrontation with Russia in Syria. (The Real News)

The Foreign-Policy Elite Are Extremely Ready for More War in Syria

Eric Levitz writes for New York Magazine:

In an election cycle that has pushed American politics to new heights of partisan acrimony, the Washington foreign-policy elite has represented a singular bastion of bipartisan comity. A large segment of the GOP’s neoconservative wing broke with Donald Trump in the early days of his general-election campaign. A significant number took shelter in Hillary Clinton’s coalition, where they’ve gotten along amiably with liberal interventionists who share their belief that Obama has betrayed America’s obligation to lead.

That point of agreement has now been ratified in a flurry of new reports — from an array of think tanks that span partisan divide — all calling for an escalation in U.S. military involvement in the Syrian civil war.

[…] The foreign-policy elite’s frustration with President Obama’s reluctance to engage in a large-scale military intervention in Syria is nothing new. And the desire to do something to ameliorate the suffering of the Syrian people is, of course, understandable.

But there are a few problems with the narrative advanced by the papers and foreign-policy thinkers quoted in the Washington Post

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Obama DOJ Drops Charges Against Alleged Broker of Libyan Weapons

Kenneth Vogel and Josh Gerstein report for Politico:

160410-clinton-obama-libya-1160The Obama administration is moving to dismiss charges against an arms dealer it had accused of selling weapons that were destined for Libyan rebels.

Lawyers for the Justice Department on Monday filed a motion in federal court in Phoenix to drop the case against the arms dealer, an American named Marc Turi, whose lawyers also signed the motion.

The deal averts a trial that threatened to cast additional scrutiny on Hillary Clinton’s private emails as Secretary of State, and to expose reported Central Intelligence Agency attempts to arm rebels fighting Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi.

Government lawyers were facing a Wednesday deadline to produce documents to Turi’s legal team, and the trial was officially set to begin on Election Day, although it likely would have been delayed by protracted disputes about classified information in the case.

A Turi associate asserted that the government dropped the case because the proceedings could have embarrassed Clinton and President Barack Obama by calling attention to the reported role of their administration in supplying weapons that fell into the hands of Islamic extremist militants.

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A No-Fly Zone For Aleppo Risks a War That Could Engulf Us All

Jonathan Steele writes for The Guardian:

Much was made in this week’s Commons debate on Syria of the need for a no-fly zone over Aleppo. Given that the Syrian government and the Russians have a monopoly of air power over the city, the idea of denting or deterring it might seem attractive. Hillary Clinton also advocated such a zone in Sunday’s presidential TV debate.

In 1991 the US and Britain imposed a successful no-fly zone over northern Iraq to protect the Kurds. But they were already at war with Saddam Hussein, having just defeated him in Kuwait. Saddam was on his own internationally, despised and isolated. He had no support from Russia or any Arab allies. The last thing he wanted was to confront the US any further. Enforcing a no-fly zone (even though it had no clear UN security council authorisation) involved no risk to the US or UK. Saddam made little effort to resist and not one of their manned aircraft was shot down.

Today’s situation in Syria is different. The Syrian air force is fully engaged and will not back down in its campaign to defeat its enemies in Aleppo. After three years of military stalemate, Bashar al-Assad feels he has regained the upper hand and is determined to retake his country’s largest city.

More importantly, the Russians are also active in the air. Imposing a no-fly zone unilaterally (it would never gain a security council mandate) would be a declaration of war on Russia as well as on Assad.

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US Officially Enters War with Yemen Amid Charges of Saudi War Crimes

Nadia Prupis reports for Common Dreams:

The U.S. officially entered war with Yemen late Wednesday, launching strikes on Houthis for the first time, purportedly in retaliation for attempted missile attacks on American warships earlier this week.

An anonymous U.S. spokesperson said the strikes destroyed three radar installations used to target the USS Mason over the past four days. The American warship had been operating out of the Bab al-Mandeb waterway between Yemen and East Africa, the Guardian reports.

U.S. officials claimed to Reuters that there were “growing indications” the rebels or allied forces had carried out strikes on Sunday, which saw two coastal cruise missiles launched at the warship, but not reaching it. However, Houthi rebels have denied any involvement, stating that allegations otherwise from U.S. officials were pretext to “escalate aggression and cover up crimes committed against the Yemeni people.”

In addition to making the U.S. an official combatant in the war, the strikes further complicate a tense situation on the ground in Yemen, where the Saudi Arabia-led coalitionbombed a funeral ceremony on Saturday, killing by some estimates at least 155 people. It prompted human rights advocates on Capitol Hill and beyond to implore the U.S. to stop supporting the Saudi campaign, although the Obama administration recently authorized a $1.13 billion arms sale to the Gulf kingdom.

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Obama Is Killing Yemen: A Yemeni Journalist Speaks Out After US-Backed Bombing Strikes Funeral

Amy Goodman speaks with Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee and Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch, about the US-backed Saudi war in Yemen. (Democracy Now!)

Obama’s Syria Policy and the Illusion of US Power in the Middle East

Gareth Porter writes for Middle East Eye:

With the collapse of the US-Russian ceasefire agreement and the resumption and escalation of the massive Russian bombing campaign in Aleppo, the frustration of hawks in Washington over the failure of the Obama administration to use American military power in Syria has risen to new heights.

But the administration’s inability to do anything about Russian military escalation in Aleppo is the logical result of the role the Obama administration has been playing in Syria over the past five years.

The problem is that the administration has pursued policy objectives that it lacked the means to achieve. When Obama called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down in September 2011, the administration believed, incredibly, that he would do so of his own accord. As formerHillary Clinton aide and Pentagon official Derek Chollet reveals in his new book, The Long Game, “[E]arly in the crisis, most officials believed Assad lacked the necessary cunning and fortitude to stay in power.”

Administration policymakers began using the phrase “managed transition” in regard to US policy toward the government, according to Chollet. The phrase reflected perfectly the vaulting ambitions of policymakers who were eager to participate in a regime change that they saw as a big win for the United States and Israel and a big loss for Iran.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be out front pushing for a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a “transition” in Syria.

But US regional Sunni allies – Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – would provide the arms to Syrian fighters. The only US role in the war would be a covert operation devised by then CIA director David Petraeus to provide intelligence and logistical assistance to those allies, to get arms to the groups chosen by the Sunni regimes that would pay for them.

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Afghanistan’s Killing Fields

Everything you need to know about the Afghanistan war in a seven minute excerpt from episode two of Abby Martin’s Empire Files. (The Empire Files)

Between Hope and Fear: Photographer Paula Bronstein Captures 15 Years of the Afghanistan War

Lizzie Dearden reports for The Independent:

paula-bronstein-7.jpgFifteen years after US-led forces invaded Afghanistan in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the country remains at war.

More than 5,000 civilians have been killed and injured this year alone as Isis and al-Qaeda compete with the Taliban in a bloody insurgency against the Afghan government and “invader” forces.

The UK has lost almost 500 troops in the conflict, which it entered alongside 17 other countries in the wake of the September 11 attacks, with the stated aim of bringing down terror groups, driving out the Taliban, quashing the drug trade and furthering democracy and development.

But the extremists remain, opium production has increased to one of the highest levels ever recorded and 2.7 million refugees have fled, becoming the largest nationality – behind Syria – making desperate sea journeys to Europe this year.

Paula Bronstein, an award-winning American photographer, has recorded the evolution of the war through her lens, arriving as the Taliban was driven out of its last city stronghold.

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