Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

The War Against the Assad Regime Is Not a “Pipeline War”

Gareth Porter writes for Truthout:

Crude oil is refined into diesel and other products near al-Jawadiyah, Syria, on Oct. 24, 2015. (Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)[…] That argument has been made in a number of places over the last few years, but the most widely republished version is an essay by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in Politico, arguing that the Obama administration began to lay the groundwork for overthrowing the Assad regime in 2009 after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rejected a pipeline proposed by Qatar. That planned pipeline agreed to by Qatar and Turkey, Kennedy argues, would have linked Qatar’s natural gas to European markets through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey, so it would have deprived Russia of Europe’s dependence on its natural gas.

But Assad not only prevented the realization of the Qatari plan but signed up with Iran for an alternative pipeline that would make Iran, not Qatar, the principal Middle East supplier of natural gas to European energy markets, according to the “pipeline war” account, so the Obama administration decided that Assad had to be removed from power.

It’s easy to understand why that explanation would be accepted by many anti-war activists: it is in line with the widely accepted theory that all the US wars in the Middle East have been “oil wars” — about getting control of the petroleum resources of the region and denying them to America’s enemies.

But the “pipeline war” theory is based on false history and it represents a distraction from the real problem of US policy in the Middle East — the US war state’s determination to hold onto its military posture in the region.

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Ravaged by Conflict, Yemen’s Coast Faces Rising Malnutrition

Ahmed Al-Haj reports for the Associated Press:

Mideast Yemen MalnutritionSitting by her son’s hospital bed, Houdaid Masbah looks at her 5-year-old boy’s skeletal body and sunken cheeks, helplessness engulfing her like a thick cloud — a desperation she shares with many other mothers in Hodeidah.

Even before the war, Hodeidah was one of the poorest cities in Yemen, the Arab world’s most impoverished nation. Now, the destruction of the port city’s fishing boats and infrastructure by the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes over the past 18 months of war has deprived the townspeople of their prime livelihood.

The U.N. estimates that about 100,000 children under the age of five in the city and the surrounding province, also called Hodeidah, are at risk of severe malnutrition.

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Colin Powell in Leaked Email Says Israel Has 200 Nukes

Jack Moore reports for Newsweek:

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin PowellFormer U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell alleged that Israel has a nuclear arsenal of 200 warheads, a thorny subject that Israel never comments on, according to an email that Russian hackers leaked earlier this week.

Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity, refusing to speak about its rumored nuclear arsenal and never even going as far as to admit that it has possession of nuclear weapons.

But Powell may have given away the size of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Speaking to Democratic party donor Jeffrey Leeds about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress focusing on the Iranian nuclear deal, he wrote that Iran would never use a nuclear weapon if it was able to develop one. He then stated that Israel has hundreds of nukes and Washington thousands, suggesting that such firepower would deter any Iranian action.

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The Kingmaker Club

Stephen Kinzer writes for The Boston Globe:

epa05501742 A Houthi militiaman keeps watch as Yemenis attend a rally in support of the newly formed supreme political council, Sana'a, Yemen, 20 August 2016. According to reports, the supreme political council, formed by Houthi rebels and ex-president Ali Saleh three weeks ago, called on Saudi Arabia to direct negotiations to put an end to the 17-month conflict in Yemen, in an attempt to bypass stalled UN-sponsored peace talks between the Houthis and Yemen's Saudi-backed government. EPA/YAHYA ARHABViolently intervening in the affairs of other countries has brought the United States much grief over the last century. We are hardly the only ones who do it. The club of interventionist nations has a shifting membership. During the current round of Middle East conflict, two new countries have joined: Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Both have succumbed to the imperial temptation. Both are paying a high price. They are learning a lesson that Americans struggle to accept: Interventions have unexpected consequences and often end up weakening rather than strengthening the countries that carry them out.

Turkey’s long intervention in Syria has failed to bring about its intended result, the fall of President Bashar Assad. Instead it has intensified the Syrian conflict, fed a regional refugee crisis, set off terrorist backlash, and deeply strained relations between Turkey and its NATO allies. As this blunder has unfolded, Saudi Arabia has also been waging war outside its territory. Its bombing of neighboring Yemen was supposed to be a way of asserting regional hegemony, but it has aroused indignant condemnation. The bombing campaign has placed Saudi Arabia under new scrutiny, including more intense focus on its role in promoting global terror, which the Saudi royal family has managed to keep half-hidden for years.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia intervened in foreign conflicts hoping to establish themselves as regional kingmakers. Both miscalculated. They overestimated their ability to secure quick victory and failed to weigh the strategic costs of failure or stalemate. If the Turks and Saudis had studied the history of American interventions, they would have been more prudent. We know the sorrows of empire. From Iran to Cuba to Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq, the legacy of our interventions continues to haunt us. Ambitious powers, however, continue to ignore the stark lesson that American history teaches. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are the latest to repeat our mistake. It is the same mistake that has undermined many nations and empires. They overestimated their ability to shape events in foreign lands. Now they are paying for their delusional overreach.

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Crispin Blunt, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, on Whether War Should Have Waged on Libya

Afshin Rattansi speaks to British MP Crispin Blunt, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, about the new report on the 2011 military intervention in Libya. (Going Underground)

MPs Deliver Damning Verdict on David Cameron’s Libya Intervention

Patrick Wintour and Jessica Elgot report for The Guardian:

David Cameron’s intervention in Libya was carried out with no proper intelligence analysis, drifted into an unannounced goal of regime change and shirked its moral responsibility to help reconstruct the country following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, according to a scathing report by the foreign affairs select committee.

The failures led to the country becoming a failed a state on the verge of all-out civil war, the report adds.

The report, the product of a parliamentary equivalent of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, closely echoes the criticisms widely made of Tony Blair’s intervention in Iraq, and may yet come to be as damaging to Cameron’s foreign policy legacy.

It concurs with Barack Obama’s assessment that the intervention was “a shitshow”, and repeats the US president’s claim that France and Britain lost interest in Libya after Gaddafi was overthrown. The findings are also likely to be seized on by Donald Trump, who has tried to undermine Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy credentials by repeatedly condemning her handling of the Libyan intervention in 2011, when she was US secretary of state.

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9/11 Then and Now: Terror, Militarism, War, and Fear

Rami G Khouri writes for Al Jazeera:

We do not know how many have been killed or injured in the dozen countries across the Middle East and South Asia where the so-called 'global war on terror' continues unabated, writes Khouri [Getty]Terrorism is a terrible thing, but it is made even more terrible and tragic when people and governments fail to react to it intelligently and allow it to perpetuate itself and expand – which is precisely what is happening today, 15 years after the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaeda against the United States.

I was in Boston on September 11, 2001, and I find myself in Boston again this week. As I watch the public’s mood here, I see a very bizarre combination of militaristic triumphalism, political perplexity, and slightly hysterical fears about new terror attacks; nearly 50 percent of Americans tell pollsters today they worry about terror attacks in the US.

No wonder, then, that the balance sheet of events since 2001 is mostly negative and frightening for the whole world.

A review of American actions against terrorism since 9/11 registers one very big achievement: No major terror attack by al-Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) against the US mainland has occurred since 2001, due to significantly enhanced anti-terror measures in the US and globally.

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The Truth About 9/11

Eric Margolis writes:

As Americans enter the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on their nation, they still have not understood the true cause of these dreadful attacks.

Who can blame them? Our politicians and media have totally obscured the truth behind these and subsequent attacks that we call ‘terrorism.’ While we mourn 9/11, US B-52 heavy bombers are raining bombs on what’s left of Afghanistan in a futile attempt to crush tribal forces (aka Taliban) fighting western occupation.

We did the same thing in Laos in the 1980’s, as President Barack Obama properly noted during his visit there last week. Laos has never recovered and Afghanistan won’t either.

Since 2015, the US has dropped at least 32,000 – 1,000-2,000 lb. bombs on Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan – all Muslim nations. US bomb inventories are running critically low as arms makers work overtime.

9/11 was a revenge attack conducted by mostly Saudi nationals who claimed they wanted to punish the United States for supporting Israeli oppression of Palestine, and for what they claimed was the US ‘occupation’ of Saudi Arabia.

That’s as much as we really know. We have never gotten the full story about 9/11. The best we can do is ask “qui bono,” who really benefitted from the attacks?

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Fifteen Years After 9/11, Neverending War

Alex Emmons writes for The Intercept:

In the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when Congress voted to authorize military force against the people who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the hijackings, few Americans could have imagined the resulting manhunt would span from West Africa all the way to the Philippines, and would outlast two two-term presidents.

Today, U.S. military engagement in the Middle East looks increasingly permanent. Despite the White House having formally ended the wars Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of U.S. troops and contractors remain in both countries. The U.S. is dropping bombs on Iraq and Syria faster than it can make them, and according to the Pentagon, its bombing campaign in Libya has “no end point at this particular moment.” The U.S. is also helping Saudi Arabia wage war in Yemen, in addition to conducting occasional airstrikes in Yemen and Somalia.

Fifteen years after the September 11 attacks, it looks like the war on terror is still in its opening act.

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House Passes Bill Allowing 9/11 Victims to Sue Saudi Officials

David Francis reports for Foreign Policy:

House Passes Bill Allowing 9/11 Victims to Sue Saudi Officials Ahead of the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Friday that would allow the families of the victims to sue Saudi Arabia over its alleged support for terrorism. If it passes, it will amount to a largely symbolic gesture.

That’s because President Barack Obama has promised to veto the bill, but there could be enough support in Congress to overcome his seal of disapproval; it passed unanimously in the House and Senate. He maintains the bill would harm Washington’s relationship with Riyadh and that such a measure would put Americans overseas at risk.

The Senate passed the bill in May, even as the White House said it would reject it if it ever got to the president’s desk. If the bill were to become law, it would allow courts to waive immunity claims by foreign officials related to those terrorist attacks.

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Iran Still Sticking to Nuclear Deal, IAEA Confirms

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

The flag of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) flies in front of its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, May 28, 2015. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter BaderThe latest in an ongoing series of regular reports by the IAEA on the implementation of the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran has shown, once again, that Iran is fully in compliance with all of its obligations under the deal, and that there was not a single violation in the period covered by this most recent report.

The report, though not made public, appears in all ways identical to other reports on the implementation, and Iran has been in compliance throughout the year since the deal took effect. The new report also confirms that Iran provided additional documentation, as requested.

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People in Damascus Desperately Try to Cope with the Dangers of War

Patrick Cockburn reports for The Independent:

mount-qasioun.jpg[…] I was last in Damascus two-and-a-half years ago when security was worse than today in the government-held parts of the city. I stayed in Bab Touma, a Christian district in the Old City which was regularly mortared by a nearby rebel district called Jobar producing a trickle of casualties every day. The thunder of government artillery on Mount Qasioun firing into besieged opposition areas boomed across the city every night. Even then, people were getting used to this, but not as accustomed as they are now when many forget what it is like to live a normal life. The present mood in Damascus reminds me of Beirut halfway through the 15-year civil war (1975-1989)

Earlier still in the conflict, people in Damascus were inexperienced in assessing the degree of danger they were in and would under or over-react to each episode of fighting. I remember in early 2012 taking refuge from sniper fire in a shop selling wedding dresses in the Jaramana district close to the airport road. The owner and I were both crouching down by the counter when three young women came into the shop, oblivious of the shooting outside, and excitedly discussed which of the flame-coloured dresses they would like to buy.

Four years later those same young women would be more likely to spend what little money they have left on food rather than dresses. After the Syrian pound plunged in value and salaries were raised by a much smaller margin, a family that lived on the equivalent of $400-500 a month must now make do with $100. The definition of what is a luxury has changed radically since the start of the war. “Many families no longer eat chicken or lamb because they are so expensive,” commented one friend. “And, if they do buy them, the quantity is a couple of hundred grams just to have a taste of the meat. They may buy locally grown fruit for their children, but not bananas, which are imported and cost too much.” Holding a good job himself, the friend added that he has spent $300 to replace a broken car mirror which would have cost him $70 before the war.

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Fake Antiquities Flood Out of Syria as Smugglers Fail to Steal Masterpieces Amid the Chaos of War

Patrick Cockburn reports for The Independent:

syria3.jpgIn the National Museum of Damascus are antique books of black magic or witchcraft listing curses and spells designed to dumbfound or destroy whatever enemy is targeted by the user. Alongside these tattered works lie a bible made out of copper, religious works from the Crusader period and, elsewhere in the museum, a striking stone statue of a falcon.

These look like impressive survivals from Syria’s past, but in reality all are fakes confiscated from smugglers on their way out of the country for sale to foreign customers and dealers. Expertly manufactured in workshops in Damascus and Aleppo or elsewhere in Syria, these fraudulent antiquities are flooding a market full of unwary or unscrupulous buyers who find it easy to believe that great masterpieces are being daily looted in Syria in the midst of the chaos and war. “It started happening in 2015,” says Dr Maamoun AbdulKarim, the general director of antiquities and museums in Damascus. “The looters had attacked all the ancient sites in 2013-14, but they did not find as much as they wanted, so they switched to making fakes.”

There is a strong tradition of craftsmanship in Syria and, in addition, though Dr AbdulKarim does not say so, many unemployed archaeologists and antiquarians are prepared to give expert advice to fakers. The results are often magnificently convincing and come from both government and rebel held areas. In rebel-controlled Idlib province the speciality is making Roman and Greek mosaics, which may be then reburied in ancient sites to reinforce belief in their authenticity and so the buyer can be shown persuasive film of them being excavated.

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Obama to Erdogan: U.S. Will Help Find Coup Plotters

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Presidents Barack Obama and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met face-to-face today for the first time since the failed July coup in Turkey, providing for a somewhat awkward side-story to the G20 summit in China. Obama sought to reassure Erdogan of his support, and committed to help bring those involved in the coup to justice.

This has been an enormously touchy subject between the US and Turkey, with Erdogan seeking the extradition of a high-profile cleric from the United States, who he has accused of masterminding the coup. Expressing outrage at US reticence, Erdogan and other Turkish officials have suggested that the US was involved in the coup.

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A calamity is unfolding in Yemen and it is time world woke up

Pete Oborne writes for Middle East Eye:

[…] Middle East Eye travelled to Yemen as part of our own assessment of breaches of humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition.

We discovered indisputable evidence that the coalition, backed by the UK as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, is targeting Yemeni civilians in blatant breach of the rules of war.

We saw evidence of the pitiless destruction of Yemeni homes by Saudi air strikes. We spoke to many of the survivors of these air assaults from the Saudi-led coalition, hearing harrowing stories of how they fled from their homes.

We also saw first-hand how the Saudis are carrying out sinister “double tap” air strikes.

This euphemism describes the practice of launching a preliminary strike, then launching a fresh attack when the emergency services come to pull the wounded from the rubble. This cruel strategy makes civilians victims twice over and kills them at the precise moment when they hope for rescue.

We were also told by doctors that the blockade of Yemen, legitimised by the United Nations Security Council, and backed by Britain and the United States to prevent arms supplies reaching the warring sides, has also prevented vital drugs and medical equipment from reaching the country.

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Britain is now the second biggest arms dealer in the world

Jon Stone reports for The Independent:

yemen-1.jpgBritain is now the second biggest arms dealer in the world, official government figures show – with most of the weapons fuelling deadly conflicts in the Middle East.

Since 2010 Britain has also sold arms to 39 of the 51 countries ranked “not free” on the Freedom House “Freedom in the world” report, and 22 of the 30 countries on the UK Government’s own human rights watch list.

A full two-thirds of UK weapons over this period were sold to Middle Eastern countries, where instability has fed into increased risk of terror threats to Britain and across the West.

Meanwhile statistics collated by UK Trade and Investment, a government body that promotes British exports abroad, show the UK has sold more arms than Russia, China, or France on average over the last 10 years. Only the United States is a bigger exporter.

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Despite 10,000 civilian casualties in Yemen (13 per day), U.S. reaffirms support for Saudi Arabia

Ben Norton reports for Salon:

Despite 10,000 civilian casualties in Yemen — 13 per day — U.S. reaffirms support for Saudi ArabiaA minimum of 10,000 civilians have been killed or wounded in the U.S.-backed war in Yemen, according to the U.N. humanitarian coordinator.

Since the Saudi-led coalition began its bombing campaign in Yemen in March 2015, there has been an average of 13 civilian casualties a day, according to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. (The U.N. uses the word casualty to refer to both deaths and injuries.)

The U.N. and human rights organizations have thoroughly documented atrocities committed by the Western-backed coalition and have accused it of committing war crimes. Despite these reports, the U.S. continues to reaffirm its close alliance with its repressive Saudi ally and sell it weapons.

About 3,800 Yemeni civilians have been killed and more than 6,000 have been injured in the war, according to the U.N.

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Glenn Greenwald: Why Are the Saudis Donating Millions to the Clinton Foundation?

Amy Goodman speaks to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept about the Clinton Foundation and its donors. An issue Greenwald covers in his latest article: Why Did the Saudi Regime and Other Gulf Tyrannies Donate Millions to the Clinton Foundation? Greenwald also discusses the role of the media in the U.S. election and their different approaches to covering Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (Democracy Now!)

Vijay Prashad on the ‘Ruthless’ Bombing of Yemen and Palestine, How Libya Mirrors Iraq, and the U.S. Election

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez are joined by Vijay Prashad to discuss a number of issues covered in his latest book: The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution. Prashad briefly covers the conflicts in Yemen and Palestine, how the regime change operation in Libya mirrors what happened in Iraq, and whether there are any differences between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to the outside world. (Democracy Now!)

Why Celtic Fans Flew the Flag for Palestine

Kevin McKenna writes for The Guardian:

[…] During the fascist regime of General Franco in Spain, to display the Catalan flag was to risk death or imprisonment. The only place where the Catalans could safely fly these fags was Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium. Barcelona FC now embodies Catalan identity and pride. Wherever there is oppression in the world, football, by its very nature, can provide a vehicle for expressing pride in a national cause. It was never only ever about football.

Celtic supporters know this too. Their club was founded in 1887 and played its first game in 1888 to raise funds for the relief of the poor Irish who had gathered in the East End of Glasgow. When they arrived in the city they initially faced resentment, discrimination and squalor. Every time Celtic won a game their suffering was eased a little.

In Scotland, those days are long departed. In Palestine, though, another oppressed people is suffering. Perhaps now because of a simple act of solidarity and generosity, they will know that they don’t suffer alone.

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Journalist Andrew Cockburn on the U.S. Role in Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen

Amy Goodman speaks to Andrew Cockburn, the Washington editor for Harper’s magazine, about America’s role in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. His latest piece for Harper’s is headlined Acceptable Losses: Aiding and Abetting the Saudi Slaughter in Yemen. He is author of a number of books, his latest is Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins. (Democracy Now!)

Why Did the Saudi Regime and Other Gulf Tyrannies Donate Millions to the Clinton Foundation?

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

As the numerous and obvious ethical conflicts surrounding the Clinton Foundation receive more media scrutiny, the tactic of Clinton-loyal journalists is to highlight the charitable work done by the foundation, and then insinuate — or even outright state — that anyone raising these questions is opposed to its charity. James Carville announced that those who criticize the foundation are “going to hell.” Other Clinton loyalists insinuated that Clinton Foundation critics are indifferent to the lives of HIV-positive babies or are anti-gay bigots.

That the Clinton Foundation has done some good work is beyond dispute. But that fact has exactly nothing to do with the profound ethical problems and corruption threats raised by the way its funds have been raised. Hillary Clinton was America’s chief diplomat, and tyrannical regimes such as the Saudis and Qataris jointly donated tens of millions of dollars to an organization run by her family and operated in its name, one whose works has been a prominent feature of her public persona. That extremely valuable opportunity to curry favor with the Clintons, and to secure access to them, continues as she runs for president.

The claim that this is all just about trying to help people in need should not even pass a laugh test, let alone rational scrutiny. To see how true that is, just look at who some of the biggest donors are. Although it did not give while she was secretary of state, the Saudi regime by itself has donated between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation, with donations coming as late as 2014, as she prepared her presidential run. A group called “Friends of Saudi Arabia,” co-founded “by a Saudi Prince,” gave an additional amount between $1 million and $5 million. The Clinton Foundation says that between $1 million and $5 million was also donated by“the State of Qatar,” the United Arab Emirates, and the government of Brunei. “The State of Kuwait” has donated between $5 million and $10 million.

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The Drone Presidency

David Cole reviews four new books on Obama’s drone wars for The New York Review of Books:

Anti-drone graffiti in Sanaa, Yemen, November 2013On March 5, the United States used unmanned drones and manned aircraft to drop bombs on a group of what it described as al-Shabab militants at a camp about 120 miles north of Mogadishu, Somalia, killing approximately 150 of them. The administration claimed that the militants presented an imminent threat to African Union troops in the region with whom US advisers have been working, although it produced no evidence to support the claim. The news that the United States had killed 150 unnamed individuals in a country halfway around the world with which it is not at war generated barely a ripple of attention, much less any protest, here at home. Remote killing outside of war zones, it seems, has become business as usual.

This is a remarkable development, all the more noteworthy in that it has emerged under Barack Obama, who came to office as an antiwar president, so much so that he may be the only person to win the Nobel Peace Prize based on wishful thinking. Our Peace Prize president has now been at war longer than any other American president, and has overseen the use of military force in seven countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. In the latter four countries, virtually all the force has come in the form of unmanned drones executing suspected terrorists said to be linked to al-Qaeda or its “associated forces.”

That an antiwar president has found the drone so tempting ought to be a warning sign. As Hugh Gusterson writes in Drone: Remote Control Warfare:

If targeted killing outside the law has been so attractive to a president who was a constitutional law professor, who opposed the war in Iraq from the very beginning, who ended the Central Intelligence Agency’s torture program, and who announced his intention to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp on assuming office, it is unlikely that any successor to his office will easily renounce the seductions of the drone.

And it is not only President Trump or Clinton we need to worry about. Other countries are unlikely to be reticent about resort to unmanned aerial warfare to “solve” problems beyond their borders. Already, Israel, the United Kingdom, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, and Pakistan have joined the US in deploying armed drones. China is selling them at a list price of only $1 million. In short order, most of the developed world will have them. And when other nations look for precedents, Obama’s record will be Exhibit A.

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The Forgotten U.S. Government Plan to Round Up Muslims

Ben Wofford reports for Politico Magazine:

TFC-8-19-lede.jpeg[…] The 40-page memo described a government contingency plan for rounding up thousands of legal alien residents of eight specified nationalities: Libya, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan and Morocco. Emergency legal measures would be deployed—rescinding the right to bond, claiming the privilege of confidential evidence, excluding the public from deportation hearings, among others. In its final pages, buried in a glaze of bureaucratese, the memo struck its darkest note: A procedure to detain and intern thousands of aliens while they awaited what would presumably become a mass deportation. Van Der Hout read the final pages carefully. The details conjured a vivid image of a massive detainment facility: 100 outdoor acres in the backwoods of Louisiana, replete with specifications for tents and fencing materials, cot measurements and plumbing requirements.

Four decades had passed since the U.S. closed its World War II-era internment camps, a disgraceful chapter when, without cause, the federal government forcibly relocated 120,000 Japanese Americans, imprisoning them across an archipelago of camps pocking the American South and West. Now, a working group in the Reagan administration was grasping for a similar-sounding measure. In 1987, the targets would not be Japanese Americans, but Middle Eastern aliens, lawful U.S. residents without the protection of green cards.

This wasn’t the far-fetched fever dream of an INS hothead; it was the product of careful deliberation, a process that had begun months earlier in the White House. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan, jarred by images of Americans killed on foreign soil at the hands of terrorists, sought a more aggressive tack to an emerging threat. It was the beginning of a shift from the twilight calm of the Cold War to a hotter, all-encompassing federal fixation on terrorism.

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The U.S. Is Promoting War Crimes In Yemen

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

Saudi Arabia resumed its appalling war in Yemen last week and has already killed dozens more civilians, destroyed a school full of children and leveled a hospital full of sick and injured people. The campaign of indiscriminate killing – though let’s call it what it is: a war crime – has now been going on for almost a year and a half. And the United States bears a large part of the responsibility.

This US-backed war is not just a case of the Obama administration sitting idly by while its close ally goes on a destructive spree of historic proportions. The government is actively selling the Saudis billions of dollars of weaponry. They’re re-supplying planes engaged in the bombing runs and providing “intelligence” for the targets that Saudi Arabia is hitting.

Put simply, the US is quite literally funding a humanitarian catastrophe that, by some measures, is larger than the crisis in Syria. As the New York Times editorial board wrote this week: “Experts say the coalition would be grounded if Washington withheld its support.” Yet all we’ve heard is crickets.

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Hillary Clinton’s Syria War Plans

Kelley B. Vlahos writes for The American Conservative:

Morning Calm Weekly Newspaper / FlickrIn a seemingly full-throated promise to voters in Scranton, Pa. on Monday, Hillary Clinton said adding “American ground troops” in the war against ISIS in Syria “is off the table.”

But every message coming from her surrogates in the media and in the Washington defense establishment has been that she will “lean in” harder in Syria, and whether you want to call it “added ground troops” or something else, everyone in her orbit is calling for expanded U.S. intervention—including personnel and firepower—in the region, even at the risk of confrontation with Russia.

For weeks, a parade of high-stepping national-security officials—some barely out of government service—have been rattling their sabers passionately for a Hillary Clinton presidency. From Michael Vickers, a former intelligence official most celebrated for his promotion of hunt-to-kill operations in the War on Terror, to (Ret.) Gen. John Allen and ex-CIA Chief Mike Morrell, there is a growing backbench of Washington establishment macho men—and women—who testify to Clinton’s “run it up the gut” security chops, and more than one has noted her well-publicized break with President Obama on Syria. She, of course, having been more hawkish than the other from the start.

Her advisors say Syria will take top priority in her first days in office, and, in addition to ISIS, President Bashar Assad must go. So it is important to examine what a real Clinton Syria policy might look like despite her rhetoric on the campaign trail.

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Inside Assad’s Brutal Saydnaya Prison

Oliver Wainwright reports for The Guardian:

[…] A black spot on the human rights map, the high-security prison has been off limits to journalists and monitoring groups in recent years. It stands 25km north of Damascus, near the ancient Saydnaya monastery where Christians and Muslims have prayed together for centuries. A mute concrete trefoil is discernible from Google Earth, standing in the centre of a 100-hectare desert compound. Nothing has been known about what goes on inside until now.

To coincide with the launch of a damning new report, which estimates that 17,723 people have died in custody in Syria since the crisis began in March 2011, Amnesty has collaborated with the Forensic Architecture agency at Goldsmiths, University of London, to reconstruct the site.

“As we pieced together the model, we realised the building isn’t only a space where incarceration, surveillance and torture take place,” says Eyal Weizman, director of Forensic Architecture, “but that the building is, itself, an architectural instrument of torture.”

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Nearly 18,000 have died in Syria state jails, says Amnesty

BBC News reports:

Syrian victim of tortureNearly 18,000 people have died in government prisons in Syria since the beginning of the uprising in 2011, according to Amnesty International.

A new report by the charity, based on interviews with 65 “torture survivors”, details systematic use of rape and beatings by prison guards.

Former detainees described so-called welcome parties – ritual beatings using metal bars and electric cables.

The Syrian government has repeatedly denied such allegations.

The report estimates that 17,723 people died in custody across Syria between March 2011, when the uprising against President Bashar Assad began, and December 2015 – equivalent to about 10 people each day or more than 300 a month.

According to the report, new detainees are subjected to “security checks” that often involve women being sexually assaulted by male guards.

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Manchester leaders flag UAE rights concerns on anniversary of Peterloo Massacre

Jamie Merrill reports for Middle East Eye:

A powerful coalition of Manchester’s political and civic leaders have used the anniversary of the bloody Peterloo Massacre on 16 August to confront Manchester City Football Club’s Emirati owners over human rights abuses in the oil-rich kingdom.

In an open letter published on Tuesday, Manchester-based politicians, legal experts and campaign groups wrote to the club’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, demanding the UAE release political prisoners, investigate allegations of torture and commit to respecting human rights.

The UAE has had close financial ties to Manchester since Mansour purchased the football club in 2008. He has since invested more than £1bn ($1.3bn) in the team, as UAE-backed firms signed a string of deals in the city, including a $1.3bn regeneration partnership with Manchester City Council.

However, rights groups and senior figures in Manchester, including local MPs and two high-profile barristers who represented some of the families in the inquiry into the Hillsborough football disaster, are increasingly concerned about the financial ties to one of the city’s Premier League clubs, given the deteriorating human rights situation in the UAE.

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Did Companies and Countries Buy State Dept. Access by Donating to Clinton Foundation? Interview with James Grimaldi

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter James Grimaldi of The Wall Street Journal, who has covered the Clinton Foundation for years, looks at the relationship between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department during Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state, and what it would be if she became president. (Democracy Now!)