Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Blames Saudi Arabia for Tehran Attack

Middle East Eye reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew Pulver reports for Salon:

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

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

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

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Manchester Bomber Met With ISIS Unit in Libya, Officials Say

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lydia Dennett reports for POGO:

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

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

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

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

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Sensitive’ UK Terror Funding Inquiry May Never Be Published

Jessica Elgot reports for The Guardian:

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

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

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

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

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

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

3,050 Killed in Iraq During May

Margaret Griffis reports for Antiwar:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Terror in Britain: What Did the Prime Minister Know?

John Pilger writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patrick Cockburn reports for The Independent:

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

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

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

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

Linda J. Blimes reports for Defense One:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Pack writes for Al-Monitor:

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

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

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

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

Max Blumenthal writes for AlterNet:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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