Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

Get Ready For Another Year of Global Tumult

Stephen Collinson reports for CNN:

Image result for Get ready for another year of global tumultThe political tumult that rocked the world in 2016 might be an appetizer for 2017.

Crucial elections loom this year in France and Germany, where the same anti-establishment backlash that produced Donald Trump and Brexit could offer an opening to nationalist leaders who oppose Muslim immigration and further erode the European unity that has been a signature of the post-World War II era.

The Middle East is spiraling deeper into the mire of fraying borders and sectarian disorder while violence in places such Syria is unleashing a tide of desperate refugees that is destabilizing Europe. Meanwhile, rising powers such as China, Russia and Iran are closely watching the developments to determine whether the convulsions in the West give them an opening to advance their own interests.

Of course, the 15 years since the September 11 attacks have been dominated by war, strife and economic disruption. But what makes 2017 so unique is that America — long a force for stability — is poised to inaugurate one of the most impulsive presidents ever to walk into the Oval Office.

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It’s the ‘Most Volatile’ Year for Political Risk Since WWII, Eurasia Group Says

Rainer Buergin reports for Bloomberg:

Image result for It’s the ‘Most Volatile’ Year for Political Risk Since WWII, Eurasia Group SaysU.S. unilateralism under Donald Trump, China’s growing assertiveness and a weakened German Chancellor Angela Merkel will make 2017 the “most volatile” year for political risk since World War II, according to Eurasia Group.

“In 2017 we enter a period of geopolitical recession,” the New York-based company said in its annual outlook. International war or “the breakdown of major central government institutions” isn’t inevitable, though “such an outcome is now thinkable.”

With Trump’s ascent to the presidency on an America First platform, the global economy can’t count on the U.S. to provide “guardrails” anymore, according to Eurasia, which advises investors on political risk. Trump’s signals of a thaw with Russia, skepticism toward the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and his “alignment” with European anti-establishment parties such as France’s National Front could weaken the main postwar alliance protecting the global order, according to the report released Tuesday.

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Pentagon Again Dramatically Underreports Civilian Deaths in Iraq, Syria Bombings

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Image result for Iraq, SyriaThe Pentagon has once again offered a new statement on the civilian casualties which have resulted from the US-led coalition air war against ISIS territory in Iraq and Syria, adding 15 more “unintentional civilian deaths” in the month of November, bringing the official death toll overall to 188.

As has been true throughout the war, the official US figures are dramatically lower than the estimates from monitor groups, and indeed far lower than what has been documented by the media, with most of the incidents not even being fully investigated by the US, but just deemed “non-credible.”

Exactly how much larger the death toll is remains a matter of some speculation, but monitors like Air Wars have suggested the toll at about 2,100 civilians killed overall, and even more conservative estimates put the figure around 1,000 reflective of just how absurdly low the official figure is.

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‘Dreadful Year’ of Attacks in Turkey Capped by 39 Dead in Istanbul Nightclub Attack

Amy Goodman speaks to Koray Çaliskan, associate professor of political science at Bogaziçi University, and are also joined by Kani Xulam, director of the American Kurdish Information Network, after Turkey suffers another terror attack. (Democracy Now!)

There Is Nothing the Turkish Government Can Do To Stop ISIS Terror Attacks On Its Soil

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

gunman.jpgThe killing by an Islamic State (Isis) gunman of 39 civilians in a nightclub in Istanbul is the latest massacre in Turkey, where such slaughter is now happening every few weeks. The perpetrators may differ but the cumulative effect of these atrocities is to persuade Turks that they live in an increasingly frightening and unstable country. It is also clear that the Turkish government does not know what to do to stop the attacks.

These are likely to continue with unrelenting savagery whatever the government does, because Isis is too big and well-resourced to be eliminated. It is well rooted in Turkey and can use local militants or bring in killers from abroad, as may have happened at the Reina nightclub and was the cae in the assault on Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport earlier in the year.

As in France, Belgium or Germany, it is impossible to stop attacks when ordinary civilians are the targets and the killers are prepared to die. Their success is often blamed on “security lapses” but in practice no security will provide safety.

What makes “terrorism” in Turkey different from Europe and the Middle East is not the number of dead – more are killed by Isis in Baghdad every month – but the diversity of those carrying them out. Three weeks ago, the killing of 44 people — mostly policemen — outside a football stadium in Istanbul was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), allegedly an arm of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey in Ankara on 19 December was blamed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a third group, the followers of Feithullah Gulen, who are held responsible for the failed military coup on 15 July.

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52,369 Killed In Iraq during 2016

Margaret Griffis reports for Antiwar:

Image result for Iraq mapAt least 52,369 people were killed in Iraq during 2017. Another 21,795 were wounded.

According to figures compiled by Antiwar.com, at least 9,148 civilians, 6,430 security personnel, and 36,661 militants were killed. Also, three U.S. servicemen were killed in combat in Iraq. (A fourth one was killed fighting the Islamic State militants in Syria.) A British bomb disposal expert and 125 members of the Kurdistan Workers Party were killed as well. Two French soldiers, a British bomb disposal expert, and an Australian N.G.O. worker were wounded. These figures are similar to 2015’s, which were 52,045 killed and 19,651 wounded.

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The Two-State Solution Is Already Dead

Gideon Levy writes for Haaretz:

Image result for Two-state SolutionA question for declared supporters of the two-state solution, which means almost everyone, from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Prof. Shlomo Avineri: You all say that this solution is in great danger, maybe even in its death throes. So what needs to happen for you to admit that it has breathed its last? What else needs to happen for you to declare it dead? Another 10,000 settlers? Or 20,000? Another five years of stalemate? When will you admit it?

Most people know the truth but refuse to admit it. They know that the number of settlers has reached a critical mass. They know that no party in Israel will ever evacuate them. And without all of them being evacuated – and this, too, is something they know – there is no viable Palestinian state.

They know that settler Israel never intended to implement the two-state solution. The fact is that all Israeli governments – all of them – continued the settlement enterprise.

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CIA Interrogator: At Time of U.S. Invasion, Saddam Hussein Was Focused on Writing Novel, Not WMDs

Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak to former CIA analyst John Nixon who interrogated Saddam Hussein after his capture 13 years ago. Nixon is the author of the new book, Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein, in which he reveals that much of what the CIA believed they knew about Saddam Hussein at the time of the invasion was wrong. During his interrogation, Hussein revealed that by 2003 he had largely turned over power to his aides so he could concentrate on writing a novel. There was no program of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein was also deeply critical of al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups inspired by Wahhabism. During the interrogation, Hussein also had a warning for the United States about Iraq. He said, “You are going to fail. You are going to find that it is not so easy to govern Iraq. You are going to fail in Iraq because you do not know the language, the history, and you do not understand the Arab mind.” Part Two of the interview with John Nixon can be found here(Democracy Now!)

We Are Not Living in a ‘Post-Truth’ World, We Are Living the Lies of Others

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

donadltrump.jpgWe do not live in a “post-truth” world, neither in the Middle East nor in the West – nor in Russia, for that matter. We live in a world of lies. And we always have lived in a world of lies.

Just take a look at the wreckage of the Middle East with its history of people’s popular republics and its hateful dictators. They feast on dishonesty, although they all – bar the late Muammar al-Gaddafi – demand regular elections to make-believe their way back to power.

Now, I suppose, it is we who have regular elections based on lies. So maybe Trump and the Arab autocrats will get on rather well. Trump already likes Field Marshal/President al-Sissi of Egypt, and he’s already got a golf course in Dubai. That he deals in lies, that he manufactures facts, should make him quite at home in the Middle East. Misogyny, bullying, threats to political opponents, authoritarianism, tyranny, torture, sneers at minorities: it’s part and parcel of the Arab world.

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Shadow of Islamic State Hangs Over Saudi Arabia

Mona Alami reports for Middle East Eye:

It was a stark warning delivered at the height of the battle for Aleppo: Michel Kilo, a prominent Syrian dissident, told Saudi Arabia the blowback of meddling in his country would be simple: “This havoc will eventually end up destroying them,” he said.

“If events in our country do not come to an end, [terrorists] will move towards them in multiples. Eventually they will see what’s coming for them… they live just because they have money.”

Kilo’s warning – or perhaps threat – plays into what many in the Gulf might fear: Saudi and GCC support for rebels fighting Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has prolonged the war and will have unintended consequences; and that the Gulf faces an influx of militants as groups such as the Islamic State and the Nusra Front are defeated on the battlegrounds of Iraq and Syria.

According to the Soufan Group, there are 2,500 Saudis fighting for such groups, the highest total of the Gulf states. In contrast, there are only an estimated 70 Kuwaitis doing the same.

But there is already a threat within the Gulf states’ own borders, with IS claiming, and being blamed for, a string of attacks in Saudi Arabia and beyond. According to counter-terrorism expert Dr Mustapha Alani from the Gulf Research Centre, Saudi Arabia has arrested 500 people with links to IS since 2014, but attacks still get through.

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UK Fuels Carnage in Yemen Through Political and Military Support to Saudi Arabia

Kim Brown speaks to Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) who says Theresa May’s apologetics for arming Saudi Arabia reflects the arms industry’s role in shaping British foreign policy. (The Real News)

The Coming Water Crisis

Genevieve Belmaker, Cindy Drukier, Tara MacIsaac and Larry Ong writes for the Epoch Times:

BENJAMIN CHASTEEN/EPOCH TIMES; EPOCH TIMES (PHOTO ILLUSTRATION)Water is life. Water is the new oil. Water is power.

Fresh, life-sustaining water is draining away. It’s becoming an increasingly scarce resource across the globe through overuse and pollution. As these issues become more acute, tensions that have already begun will escalate, and this will affect us all.

Some say water is the new oil. But unlike oil, water is essential for survival.

A deep dive into the planet’s water situation reveals that in the coming decades, every country, including the United States, will have to determine how to treat water as an economic good, a human right, and a depleting resource.

A look at three key areas—United States, the Middle East, and China—shows the range of challenges.

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A Deadly Day: Russian Ambassador Assassinated, Berlin Truck Crash and Zürich Mosque Attacked

Amy Goodman speaks to Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and the author of several books, about the three deadly events which took place on 19th December and the wider context surrounding them. (Democracy Now!)

Saudi Arabia Dropped British-Made Cluster Bombs In Yemen, UK Defence Secretary Tells Commons

Rowena Mason and Ewen MacAskill report for The Guardian:

Image result for Saudi Arabia Dropped British-Made Cluster Bombs In YemenThe defence secretary was forced to tell the Commons that British-made cluster bombs had been dropped by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, prompting MPs and charities to say that the UK should stop supporting the Gulf state’s military action.

Sir Michael Fallon said that a “limited number” of the controversial BL755 bombs had been used by Saudi Arabia, shortly after the Gulf state formally admitted it had deployed the weapons in the Yemeni conflict.

Although an international treaty bans the use of cluster bombs, Fallon defended Britain’s support for Saudi Arabia and insisted there was no breach of international law because they were used against “legitimate military targets”.

The UK is one of 120 countries to have signed the 2008 Ottawa convention on cluster munitions, banning their use or assistance with their use. Saudi Arabia is not a signatory to the treaty. The munitions pose an indiscriminate risk to civilians because they contain dozens of bomblets that can explode long after they are dropped.

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Turkey Leads World in Jailing Journalists in 2016: Interview with Elana Beiser

Kim Brown speaks to Elana Beiser, editorial director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), who says countries are using their own national security laws against journalists who are critical of authorities. (The Real News)

The US Is Aiding and Abetting Famine In Yemen: Interview with Medea Benjamin

Thom Hartmann speaks to Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, author of Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection, about  United States aiding and abetting a famine in Yemen through their support for the Saudi war on the country. (The Big Picture)

There’s More Propaganda Than News Coming Out of Aleppo This Week

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

aleppo-evacs.jpg[…] The dominance of propaganda over news in coverage of the war in Syria has many negative consequences. It is a genuine civil war and the exclusive focus of on the atrocities committed by the Syrian armed forces on an unarmed civilian population gives a skewed picture of what is happening. These atrocities are often true and the UN says that 82 civilians may have been summarily executed in east Aleppo last month. But, bad though this is, it is a gross exaggeration to compare what has happened in Aleppo to genocide in Rwanda in 1994 or the massacre in Srebrenica the following year.

There is nothing wrong or surprising about the Syrian opposition demonising its enemies and hiding negative news about itself. The Iraqi opposition did the same thing in 2003 and the Libyan opposition in 2011. What is much more culpable is the way in which the Western media has allowed itself to become a conduit for propaganda for one side in this savage conflict. They have done so by rebranding it as authentic partisan information they cannot check, produced by people living under the authority of jihadi movements that tortures or kills any critic or dissenter.

News organisations have ended up being spoon-fed by jihadis and their sympathisers who make it impossible for independent observers to visit areas they control. By regurgitating information from such tainted sources, the media gives al-Qaeda type groups every incentive to go on killing and abducting journalists in order to create and benefit from a news vacuum they can fill themselves.

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Samantha Power Acted Like Massacres Aren’t Done In America’s Name

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

Image result for samantha power aleppoSo there was Samantha Power doing her “shame” bit in the UN. “Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin, that just creeps you out a little bit?”, America’s ambassador to the UN asked the Russians and Syrians and Iranians. She spoke of Halabja, Rwanda, Srebrenica “and, now, Aleppo”.

Odd, that. For when Samantha talked about “barbarism against civilians” in Aleppo, I remembered climbing over the dead Palestinian civilians massacred at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Beirut in 1982, slaughtered by Israel’s Lebanese militia friends while the Israeli army – Washington’s most powerful ally in the Middle East – watched. But Samantha didn’t mention them. Not enough dead Palestinians, perhaps? Only 1,700 killed, including women and children. Halabja was up to 5,000 dead. But Sabra and Chatila certainly “creeped me out” at the time.

And then I recalled the monstrous American invasion of Iraq. Perhaps half a million dead. It’s one of the statistics for Rwanda’s dead. Certainly far more than Srebrenica’s 9,000 dead. And I can tell you that Iraq’s half million dead “creeped me out” rather a lot, not to mention the torture and murders in the CIA’s interrogation centres in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq. It also “creeped me out” to learn that the US president used to send innocent prisoners off to be interrogated in… Assad’s Syria! Yes, they were sent by Washington to be questioned in what Samantha now calls Syria’s “Gulags”.

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Andrew Bacevich on Trump Appointing More Generals to His Cabinet Than Any President Since World War II

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Andrew Bacevich, a retired colonel and Vietnam War veteran and professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University, about Donald Trump and his military generals. They also discuss Trump tapping the far-right-wing bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Bacevich’s latest book is titled: America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History(Democracy Now!)

Banned by 119 Countries, U.S. Cluster Bombs Continue to Orphan Yemeni Children

Alex Emmons and Mohammed Ali Kalfood report for The Intercept:

Image result for CBU-105[…] It was not the first time the villagers had seen such weapons. In December 2015, Human Rights Watch confirmed that coalition warplanes dropped CBU-105 cluster bombs on al-Hayma, damaging multiple homes and seriously injuring at least two civilians.

Researchers from Human Rights Watch identified the shell casings in photographs taken by The Intercept as a U.S.-made cluster bomb. The serial number documented in the photographs also begins with the five-number “commercial and government entity” (CAGE) code 04614 — indicating that the weapons were produced in the United States, by the Rhode Island-based company Textron Systems.

Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in March 2015, seven months after Houthi rebels overran the capital city Sanaa and deposed the Saudi-backed leader, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The U.S. has been a silent partner to the war ever since, supplying targeting intelligence, flying refueling missions for Saudi aircraft, and authorizing more than $20 billion in new weapons transfers. Since the beginning of his administration, President Barack Obama has sold $115 billion in weapons to the Saudis, more than any of his predecessors.

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Iona Craig: The U.S. Could Stop Refueling Saudis and End Devastating War in Yemen Tomorrow

Amy Goodman speaks to journalist Iona Craig about the US and UK backed Saudi war in Yemen after the UN recently reported that one child dies every 10 minutes in the Middle East’s poorest country. Ioina Craig was based in Sana’a from 2010 to 2015 as the Yemen correspondent for The Times of London. (Democracy Now!)

Stephen Cohen and Kenneth Roth on the Fall of Aleppo and What’s Next for US-Russia Relations

Amy Goodman hosts a debate between Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University, and Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, who discuss the fall of Aleppo and US-Russia relations under a Trump presidency. (Democracy Now!)

Blowback from America’s Disastrous Policy in Yemen Will Be Profound

Michael Horton writes for The National Interest:

Air strike in Sanaa. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/Ibrahem QasimThe war in Yemen has received little media attention. Yet it is just as brutal as the war in Syria. Blowback from U.S. policy in Yemen that supports Saudi Arabia’s war against the country’s Houthi rebels will be profound for both the region and, potentially, for the United States.

Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners are enforcing a naval blockade of Yemen. Yemen—already the poorest country in the Middle East— imports 90 percent of its food and medicine. Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis face starvation as food prices have soared and aid is either non-existent or slow to arrive. The United Nations estimates that more than 80 percent of Yemen’s population of 23 million are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance.

The chief executive of Oxfam, Mark Golding, stated: “Yemen is being slowly starved to death. First there were restrictions on imports including much need food. When this was partially eased, the cranes in the ports were bombed, then the warehouses, then the roads and the bridges. This is not by accident. It is systematic.”

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European Surveillance Companies Were Eager to Sell Syria Tools of Oppression

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai reports for Motherboard:

Image result for European Surveillance Companies Were Eager to Sell Syria Tools of OppressionIn 2007, Syrians could only access the internet through state-run servers, and services like Microsoft Hotmail and Facebook were sometimes blocked. But Bashar al-Assad, who had been head of the Syrian Computer Society before becoming president, knew the internet would inevitably spread more, and he knew he had to tighten his grip over it.

On October 2, 2007, the head of the government-owned Syria Telecommunications Establishment, or STE, put out a call for companies to develop a surveillance system that would monitor all data flowing on the Syrian internet.

The tender listed a series of “services that must be monitored,” including web browsing, email, chat rooms, instant messaging, internet VOIP calls, encrypted HTTPS web connections, and the use of VPNs.

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The Istanbul Bombings Are a Sign of the Trouble Turkey Is Now In

Patrick Cockburn, author of Chaos & Caliphate, writes for The Independent:

Image result for Istanbul Bombings[…] The bombings will no doubt be used by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to justify his proposed assumption of more power under a new bill just submitted to the Turkish parliament. In practice, Erdogan already wields dictatorial powers and Turkey’s shift towards becoming an authoritarian state using arbitrary powers is well under way. The last remnants of the free media are being closed down and journalists are being arrested under the guise of pursuing those responsible for the failed military coup on 15 July. Even before this purge, Kurdish population centres in the south east had been shelled and bulldozed into heaps of rubble.

Erdogan has responded to the Istanbul bombings by swearing to eradicate those responsible, but it was he himself who created the conditions under which terrorism has become a permanent feature of Turkish life. He chose confrontation with the Kurds last year in order to boost his nationalist support at the polls, while the rise of Isis in Syria since 2011 would not have been possible without Turkey’s tolerance of extreme jihadis. For a long time Isis had free passage across the Turkish-Syrian border and al-Qaeda clones, not much different from Isis, received copious supplies of arms and ammunition.

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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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