Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

Terror in Britain: What Did the Prime Minister Know?

John Pilger writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patrick Cockburn reports for The Independent:

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

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

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

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

Linda J. Blimes reports for Defense One:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Pack writes for Al-Monitor:

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

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

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

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

Max Blumenthal writes for AlterNet:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Only Real Way to Stop Atrocities Like Manchester is to End the Wars Which Allow Extremism to Grow

Patrick Cockburn, author of The Rise of Islamic State, writes for The Independent:

trump-saudi.jpeg[…] The bombing in Manchester – and atrocities attributed to Isis influence in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin – are similar to even worse slaughter of tens of thousands in Iraq and Syria. These get limited attention in the Western media, but they continually deepen the sectarian war in the Middle East.

The only feasible way to eliminate organisations capable of carrying out these attacks is to end the seven wars – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and north east Nigeria – that cross-infect each other and produce the anarchic conditions in which Isis and al-Qaeda and their clones can grow.

But to end these wars, there needs to be political compromise between main players like Iran and Saudi Arabia and Trump’s belligerent rhetoric makes this almost impossible to achieve.

Of course, the degree to which his bombast should be taken seriously is always uncertain and his declared policies change by the day.

On his return to the US, his attention is going to be fully focused on his own political survival, not leaving much time for new departures, good or bad, in the Middle East and elsewhere. His administration is certainly wounded, but that has not stopped doing as much harm as he could in the Middle East in a short space of time.

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Manchester Bombing: Libyan Chaos Proving Fertile Breeding Ground For Extremists

Robert Fox writes for the London Evening Standard:

[…] Libya today is a bewildering chaos of competing militias and jihadi groups broadly following IS, al Qaeda and affiliates such as Ansar al-Sharia, and the Muslim Brotherhood in several guises and shadowy forms.

Despite serial attempts by the UN to patch up a viable national government, Libya is gripped by the standoff between those grabbing power in Benghazi in the East – with the military strongman General Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army to the fore, and the UN sponsored Government of National Accord in the capital Tripoli to the West.

In between are hundreds of militias, furnished with the arms from the Gadaffi arsenals and residues of funds from Libya’s $100 billion oil industry – garnered when the oil was still flowing.

There have been suggestions that Salman Abedi may have been trained in an IS camp in Syria. But as such expertise can easily be picked up in Libya, and neighbouring Tunisia.

IS has recently been losing its hold on towns like Derna and Sirte, but it is present along the coast in places like Sabrata and Zawia towards Tunisia.

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As Trump Travels to Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s D.C. Lobbying Surge Is Paying Off

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

An examination by The Intercept of lobbyist disclosures filed with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act shows that Saudi Arabia has greatly expanded its spending on influence peddling during the past two years. Since 2015 the Kingdom has expanded the number of foreign agents on retainer to 145 individuals, up from 25 registered agents during the previous two year period.

Perhaps not coincidentally, President Trump, who less than a year ago vilified Saudi Arabia’s influence over the American political establishment, is now marching to the Saudi lobbyists’ tune.

The selection of Saudi Arabia as the first foreign nation Trump will visit as president when he embarks on his maiden overseas trip is just the latest example of Trump changing his behavior to embrace a country responsible for widespread human rights violations, a growing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and the export of an intolerant form of Islam.

Gone are the days when Trump mocked a prominent member of the Saudi royal family for wanting to “control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money,” openly alleged that the Kingdom was behind the September 11 terror attacks, and demanded that the U.S. receive free oil for protecting the Saudi elite. During his trip this week, Trump is expected to give an address that backs the Saudi government as a strong Muslim ally and a partner in

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Trump Expanding War From Syria to Afghanistan As Media Focuses on Comey

Paul Jay speaks with Vijay Prashad, Professor of International Studies at Trinity College and the author of around 20 books, who says while the media continues its frenzy over James Comey’s firing and the ‘Russia connection’, Trump is readying his ‘global war against Islamic Fascism’ to be fought ‘without restraint’, (The Real News)

Spread of Combat, Cholera Wreaks Misery, Collapse in Yemen

Noah Browning and Mohammed Ghobari report for Reuters:

Image result for Spread of Combat, Cholera Wreaks Misery, Collapse in YemenSpilling into the hallways of crowded Yemeni hospitals, children writhe in pain from cholera. Displaced villagers roam baking hot plains and barren mountains to evade warring militias.

The escalating outbreak of disease and displacement of tens of thousands by recent fighting has inflamed one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, pushing Yemen’s war-pummeled society ever nearer to collapse.

Cholera – a diarrheal disease spread by food or water tainted with human faeces – has killed 180 people in less than three weeks, according to the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

[…] The United Nations now estimates that in Yemen a child under the age of five dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes, two million people have fled fighting near their homes and only half of hospitals have staff and supplies to function normally.

Already one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, Yemen was engulfed in 2015 by civil war pitting the Houthis against the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States intervened on Hadi’s side and has carried out thousands of air strikes targeting the Houthis, though U.N. officials said last year these had killed more than 2,000 civilians as well.

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Upcoming Iranian Presidential Vote Tight Race Between Conservative and Moderate Incumbent

Sharmini Peries speaks with Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council and the author of several books including Losing An Enemy, about the upcoming Presidential elections in Iran where the main issue has been the sluggish Iranian economy. (The Real News)

World’s Biggest Building Project Aims to Make China Great Again

Tom Phillips reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Belt and Road initiativeWhen the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, unveiled what some call the most ambitious development plan in history, Zhou Jun decided almost immediately he should head for the hills.

The 45-year-old entrepreneur packed his bags and set off for one of his country’s most staggeringly beautiful corners: a sleepy, high-altitude border outpost called Tashkurgan that – at almost 5,000km (3,100 miles) from Beijing – is the most westerly settlement in China.

“I saw a great opportunity to turn this little town into a mid-sized city,” Zhou explained during a tour of ‘Europa Manor’, a garish roadside spa he recently opened for Chinese tourists along the Karakoram, the legendary 1,300km highway that snakes through China’s rugged western mountains towards the 4,700m-high Khunjerab Pass.

Zhou said he was part of a wave of entrepreneurs now pouring into this isolated frontier near Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, hoping to cash in on President Xi’s “Belt and Road initiative”, a multi-billion dollar infrastructure campaign that looks set to transform large swaths of Asia and the world beyond.

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The War Between Globalism and Nationalism Is Just Getting Started

Ian Bremmer writes for Time Magazine:

When the storm turns out to be less severe than the warnings, there’s always a sigh of relief–and maybe a bit of over-confidence after the fact. If fans of the European Union felt better after populist Geert Wilders came up short in the Dutch elections in March, they also took heart from the absence of anti-E.U. firebrands among the leading contenders for this fall’s German elections. Then came May 7. The victory of Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential elections signaled that “the season of growth of populism has ended,” Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, said on May 8.

Not so fast. Europeans will soon remember that elections are never the end of anything–they’re a beginning. And whether the issue is unelected Eurocrats’ forcing voters to abide by rules they don’t like or fears that borders are insecure, there are good reasons to doubt that the anti-E.U. fever has broken. France’s Macron now faces powerful opposition on both the far right and the far left. Hungary and Poland are becoming increasingly illiberal. Brexit negotiations are getting ugly. And resentment toward the E.U. is still rising throughout Europe.

In the U.S., President Donald Trump may be pushing what increasingly resembles a traditional Republican agenda, but polls show that his supporters are still eager for deeper disruption. Trump’s embrace of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Egypt’s Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte suggests a lasting affinity with aggressive strongmen. His chief adviser and nationalist muse, Stephen Bannon, may be under fire, but he’s still there. The Trump presidency has only just begun.

In short, nationalism is alive and well, partly because the problems that provoked it are still with us. Growing numbers of people in the world’s wealthiest countries still fear that globalization serves only elites who care nothing about nations and borders. Moderate politicians still offer few effective solutions.

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Blaming Islam: Religion Isn’t a Crucial Factor In Terror Attacks

Mehdi Hasan reported for The Intercept in March:

What do you think of when you hear the word “terrorist”? Big beards and brown skins? Turban-wearing Muslim migrants from the Middle East? Refugees maybe?

Yet according to a report from the New America Foundation, “every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident.” A recent study in Britain, which last week endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 2005, revealed that more than two out of three “Islamism-inspired” terrorist offenses were carried out by individuals “who were either born or raised in the UK.”

The common stereotype of the Middle Eastern, Muslim-born terrorist is not just lazy and inaccurate, but easy fodder for the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam far right. Consider the swift reaction of White House official Sebastian Gorka to the horrific terror attack in London last week. “The war is real,” he told Fox News while the bodies of the victims were still warm, “and that’s why executive orders like President Trump’s travel moratorium are so important.”

Sorry, what? The 52-year-old perpetrator of the London attack, Khalid Masood, was born and brought up in the UK and would not have been affected in the slightest by a travel ban on Muslims from the Middle East. He was neither a refugee nor an immigrant. He was not of Middle Eastern origin either, and he was not even a Muslim for the vast majority of his life. Born to a white mother and black father as Adrian Elms, and raised as Adrian Ajao, he is believed to have converted to Islam in prison in 2003 and had a well-documented history of criminality prior to mowing down innocent pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, and stabbing a police officer outside the Houses of Parliament.

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Afghanistan: The Longest U.S. War Is Deadlier Than Ever

Matthew Hoh, a military veteran and diplomat who resigned his State Department post in protest of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, says the 16-year war in Afghanistan won’t end until the U.S. drops its strategy of sporadic escalation and insistence on Taliban surrender. (The Real News)

America Is Dropping So Many Bombs That It’s Literally Running Out

Matt Novak reports for Gizmodo:

President Trump has said that America needs to rebuild its military, which is laughable in many ways. But he’s right in one respect. We need more bombs. Why? Because the US has dropped so many bombs in the fight against ISIS over the past two years that we’re running out.

As military news site Defense One reports, America is running short on the GPS-guided Small Diameter Bombs made by Boeing, newer models made by Raytheon, and even air-to-air missiles. Many of the existing stockpiles of bombs held by the US military are being diverted from the Pacific region to the Middle East and Africa, where the need is reportedly most urgent.

But this isn’t a new problem. There have been warnings from the Pentagon for almost a year that our intensive bombing of ISIS targets around the world could lead to a shortage. We ran into a similar problem near the end of 2015.

Since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve in August of 2014, the US has spent over $11.9 billion on military operations against ISIS. That includes over 19,607 strikes in Iraq and Syria alone, at a cost of roughly $12.8 million per day. And that doesn’t even count airstrikes in places like Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen.

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4,033 Killed in Iraq during April

Margaret Griffis reports for Antiwar:

Image result for Iraq mapAt least 4,033 were killed in Iraq during April, and another 629 were wounded. These figures include a U.S. servicemember, who was killed near Mosul this week. In March, 3,330 people were killed, and another 929 were wounded.

The breakdown as compiled by Antiwar.com is as follows: one U.S. servicemember, 1,348 civilians, 152 security personnel, and 2,443 militants were killed in the conflict. Turkey reported killing 89 members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (P.K.K.) in northern Iraq. Also, 337 civilians, 231 security personnel, and 61 militants are known to have been wounded.

These estimates are too low. In order to maintain morale, Baghdad has refused to release accurate casualty figures. However, hospitals in the regions near Mosul are reporting they are at capacity and in need of additional assistance, so the number of wounded must be higher.

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David Ignatius’ 15 Years of Running Spin for the Saudi Regime

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR):

WaPo: A young prince is reimagining Saudi Arabia. Can he make his vision come true?Last week, in “A Young Prince Is Reimagining Saudi Arabia. Can He Make His Vision Come True?,” Washington Post foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius (4/20/17) wrote what read like a press release for the Saudi regime. What’s more, he’s written the same article several times before. For almost 15 years, Ignatius has been breathlessly updating US readers on the token, meaningless public relations gestures that the Saudi regime—and, by extension, Ignatius—refer to as “reforms.”

Ignatius columns on Saudi Arabia break down roughly into two groups: straight reporting mixed with spin and concern trolling, and outright press releases documenting the dictatorship’s spectacular reforms.

[…] Let’s begin by taking a look at his most recent iteration of this genre (4/20/17), featuring a brave Saudi prince taking on “religious conservatives” (vague reactionaries who are never named or defined) to change his own monarchy:

Two years into his campaign as change agent in this conservative oil kingdom, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to be gaining the confidence and political clout to push his agenda of economic and social reform.

Ignatius begins by doing something a lot of “reformer” boosters do in Saudi Arabia: conflating “economic reform” with social reform. The latter is typically the neoliberal lubricant to get to what really matters, the further privatization and leveraging of Saudi’s immense wealth. Indeed, the only social reforms even mentioned in the glowing report are “a Japanese orchestra that included women” performing to “mixed audience,” and a co-ed Comic Con. Perhaps by 2025 they’ll have mixed-gender D&D tournaments.

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Syrian Girl: The Kardashian Look-Alike Trolling for Assad

Noah Shachtman and Michael Kennedy wrote for The Daily Beast in October 2014:

Image result for The Kardashian Look-Alike Trolling for AssadShe thinks that Ebola could be an American military bioweapon. She thinks that the Defense Department’s advanced research arm is covertly intervening in the GamerGate debate about feminism and video games. She’s fond of extremist groups like Hezbollah. She believes the Illuminati are leaving secret clues in, among other places, the viral Kony 2012 video. Oh, and she also says she’s in contact with the Syrian Electronic Army, the hacker group tied to the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Meet the Damascus regime’s biggest fangirl on social media—at least in English language social media. Her name is Maram Susli. Or Mimi al-Laham. Or Partisangirl. Or Syrian Girl. Or it would appear, or Syrian Sister. She goes by many handles.

As “Partisangirl,” Susli has emerged from the fever swamps of online conspiracy forums and onto social media to become a darling of truthers and state propaganda channels alike. Whenever there’s unpleasant news about the Syrian military or government, Susli (that’s her surname) seems to be there to interpret the false flag semaphore for her rapt audience. The chemical-weapons attack that killed hundreds in the Damascus suburbs? The rebels’ fault. The massacre of more than 100 men, women, and children in Houla? Oh, that was British intelligence. The U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria? Just an elaborate show, since American is taking it easy on ISIS. And the ghastly videos featuring the murder of Western aid workers? Many of them are fakes.

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As the World Ignores Yemen, War Tears Apart the Ancient Country’s Social Fabric

Bethan McKernan reports for The Independent:

gettyimages-508199736.jpgMore than 10,000 dead. Approximately 19 million people in desperate need of humanitarian aid, including 7.3 million on the brink of famine. The figures in Yemen’s two-year-old civil war are staggering – but they don’t convey the daily suffering of civilians.

“The numbers do not show the human aspect. Unlike Syria, where news about the devastation and death makes it to the media very quickly, Yemenis suffer in silence,” said Sherine El Taraboulsi-McCarthy, a research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute.

With the country’s airports as well as land and sea borders controlled by neighbouring Saudi Arabia, no Yemeni refugees are fleeing to Europe in their thousands. Without any perceptible impact on the West or overspill of violence, the conflict has remained largely invisible.

The UN estimates $2.1bn (£1.6bn) is needed to pull Yemen back from the brink of collapse, but before humanitarians and diplomats gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, for an aid summit on Tuesday, just 14 per cent of that had been pledged by donor governments to date.

As the fate of 27 million people was discussed by foreigners sitting around the chamber at the UN’s European headquarters, Yemenis trapped by the war struggle on with normal life as well as they can.

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Why Paul Wolfowitz Is Optimistic About Trump

Susan B. Glasser writes for Politico:

GP-wolfowitz-main.jpg[…] To liberals and other critics, Wolfowitz would be the last person they want Trump to listen to. Long a lightning rod because of the havoc unleashed by the Iraq invasion, Wolfowitz has never apologized for advocating the war, although he has said—and repeated in our conversation—that it was not carried out as he would have wanted it to be. In recent days he‘s jumped right back into the public debate, nudging President Trump from the pages of the Wall Street Journal to follow up his bombing strike in neighboring Syria with more aggressive action—and, he tells me, privately emailing with Trump Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security advisor H.R. McMaster, both longtime contacts since his Bush days, in hopes they will pursue a U.S. strategy of stepped-up engagement in the Middle East.

“I think there is a fantastic opportunity here. It’s only a first step, it’s only an opportunity,” he says of Trump’s surprise decision to unloose an American Tomahawk missile strike in Syria after President Bashar Assad’s regime again unleashed chemical weapons on civilians, a strike that turned Wolfowitz and many of his fellow neoconservatives into unlikely cheerleaders for the actions of an administration they had previously viewed as a threat. “If nothing is done to follow up on it, it will start to seem a little bit silly in retrospect; certainly the enthusiasm will seem silly. But more importantly it will look like a lost opportunity in retrospect.

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Not the Onion: UN Vote Allows Saudi Arabia on Women’s Council

Alex Mihailovic speaks with Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK and author of Kingdom of the Unjust, about the ultraconservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia being elected to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. (RT America)

Jane’s Report Sees ISIS Benefiting From Assad Downfall

Tom O’Connor reports for Newweek:

RTSE5EJWith many in the U.S. foreign policy community backing both the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the defeat of the Islamic State group (ISIS), a new report could raise some cause for concern. The report says Assad’s military has been the most engaged faction against ISIS over the past year of Syria’s conflict, making it an extremely risky target for a U.S. foreign policy that is intended to stop the jihadists’ advances.

The report published Wednesday by the London-based IHS Jane Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, one of the world’s leading security analysis agencies, says 43 percent of ISIS’s battles between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017 were fought against the Syrian military and its allies, which include Russia, Iran and pro-government militias. Meanwhile, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a majority-Kurd coalition of Arabs and ethnic minorities, accounted for 17 percent of the action against ISIS.

Under former President Barack Obama, Washington long maintained that Assad must be ousted, but U.S. support for rebels faded as ultraconservative Sunni Muslim groups like ISIS grew among the Syrian opposition and Washington then focused on battling jihadists. President Donald Trump further emphasized the need to defeat ISIS, and his administration last month abandoned the Obama-era regime change approach in Syria. However, more recently there have been suggestions that the U.S. may at some point pursue further action against Assad.

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Pictures Reveal Inside of Afghan Caves at ‘Mother of All Bombs’ Blast Site

The Telegraph reports:

Afghan soldier patrols the area where US forces dropped GBU-43 bomb for the first time against caves used by Islamic State Pictures have emerged of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) tunnel network in Afghanistan which the US targeted with “the Mother of All Bombs”.

The US dropped the bomb – its largest explosive short of a nuclear weapon – on April 13 targeting what it said was a tunnel complex used by the jihadist group’s Afghan affiliate.

The GBU-43/B weighs 21,600lbs (9,797-kg) and was dropped from a cargo plane. It has the equivalent power of 11 tonnes of TNT explosives.

But Reuters photographs from the scene of the blast in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan gave an ambiguous sense of the bomb’s power.

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The Most Dangerous Moment in U.S.-Russian Relations Since Cuban Missile Crisis

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Sheikh speaks with Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University, about U.S.-Russia relations after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent visit to Moscow. They are also joined by British journalist and author Jonathan Steele, a former Moscow correspondent for The Guardian, to discuss U.S.-Russia relations in reference to the situation in Syria. (Democracy Now!)

‘Sherlock Holmes of Armenian Genocide’ Uncovers Lost Evidence

Tim Arango reports for The New York Times:

For more than a century, Turkey has denied any role in organizing the killing of Armenians in what historians have long accepted as a genocide that started in 1915, as World War I spread across continents. The Turkish narrative of denial has hinged on the argument that the original documents from postwar military tribunals that convicted the genocide’s planners were nowhere to be found.

Now, Taner Akcam, a Turkish historian at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., who has studied the genocide for decades by piecing together documents from around the world to establish state complicity in the killings, says he has unearthed an original telegram from the trials, in an archive held by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

“Until recently, the smoking gun was missing,” Mr. Akcam said. “This is the smoking gun.” He called his find “an earthquake in our field,” and said he hoped it would remove “the last brick in the denialist wall.”

The story begins in 1915 in an office in the Turkish city of Erzurum, when a high-level official of the Ottoman Empire punched out a telegram in secret code to a colleague in the field, asking for details about the deportations and killings of Armenians in eastern Anatolia, the easternmost part of contemporary Turkey.

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Pundits Who Helped Sell NATO’s Destruction of Libya Push for Trump to Lead Syria Regime Change

Ben Norton writes for AlterNet:

Pundits across the U.S. are amplifying the calls for further military intervention in Syria, as the Trump administration indicates regime change may be back on the agenda. The U.S. attacked the Syrian government on April 6, launching 59 Tomahawk missiles at a major air base, destroying 20 percent of its planes, according to the Pentagon.

Major media outlets, most politicians from both sides of the aisle and irascible war-hawk writers applauded the Trump administration’s strike with gusto. The uniformity with which the commentariat has embraced the attack hearkens back to six years ago, when many of these same people and publications cheered as NATO overthrew Libya’s government, plunging the oil-rich North African nation into chaos from which it is still reeling.

The 2011 war in Libya was justified in the name of supposed humanitarian intervention, but it was a war for regime change, plain and simple. A report released by the British House of Commons’ bipartisan Foreign Affairs Committee in 2016 acknowledged that the intervention was sold on lies — but by the time it was published, the damage was already done.

Today, Libya is in complete ruins. There is no functioning central authority for swaths of the country; multiple governments compete for control. The genocidal extremist group ISIS has, in Libya, carved out its largest so-called caliphate outside of Iraq and Syria.

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