Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

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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Trump’s Deepening Embrace of Bahrain’s Repressive Monarchy May Lead to More Instability

Murtaza Hussain reports for The Intercept:

On the morning of March 14th, 2011, military forces from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) crossed the 16-mile causeway from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain to crush a popular uprising that had arisen there against the Bahraini monarchy. The military intervention was the first salvo in a series of counterrevolutions launched against the Arab Spring uprisings, pitting largely unarmed democracy activists against the repressive force of local security forces and militaries. Six years later, many of the Bahraini civil society leaders whose protests briefly captured the world’s imagination languish in prison, their brief democratic moment snuffed out with the help of regional powers.

Under Barack Obama, the United States stood by quietly while its GCC allies suppressed the Bahraini revolution. Since taking office, the Trump administration has signaled it will strengthen U.S.-Bahrain ties, recently lifting human rights restrictions on arms sales to its government to clear the path for a multi-billion dollar sale of F-16s. Such measures are likely to be taken by the regime as a green-light to escalate repression, while dimming hopes for the release of the estimated 4,000 political prisoners still held in Bahraini prisons, some analysts say.

But while the regime portrays itself to the United States as a bulwark of regional stability, the grim ferocity of its crackdown might make escalated conflict within Bahrain inevitable — and potentially even draw in outside powers like Iran. As the window for political reform closes under the Trump administration, an increasingly violent, unstable future may await Bahrain and the Gulf region as a whole.

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“Mother of All Bombs” Never Used Before Due to Civilian Casualty Concerns

Alex Emmons reports for The Intercept:

Fulfilling Donald Trump’s campaign promise to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS, the Pentagon dropped the “mother of all bombs” — one of its largest non-nuclear munitions — for the first time on Thursday, in Afghanistan. The 21,600 pound weapon was developed over a decade ago, but was never used due to concerns of possible massive civilian casualties.

The Pentagon said it used the weapon on an ISIS-affiliated group hiding in a tunnel complex in the Nangarhar province. The group, according to the Pentagon, is made up of former members of the Taliban.

The Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” has a mile-long blast radius.

When it first introduced the bomb, the Pentagon said it was designed to terrify America’s enemy into submission. “The goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2003, “that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight against the [invading] coalition.”

Thursday’s attack drew condemnation from Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-backed former president of Afghanistan. “This is not the war on terror,” he said, “but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons.”

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‘Biggest Humanitarian Catastrophe Since 2003 Invasion’: Anand Gopal on Battle for Mosul

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Sheikh speak with Anand Gopal, a journalist and a fellow at The Nation Institute, who recently returned from the Middle East and has reported extensively from the region. (Democracy Now!)

Markets Worry More About Political Turmoil Than Encroaching Autocracy

The Economist reports:

Image result for Markets worry more about political turmoil than autocracy[…] In Turkey investors may have feared turmoil if Mr Erdogan’s proposal had been defeated. It is an old, but fairly reliable, rule that investors dislike uncertainty. And the early years of Mr Erdogan’s tenure, when he was seen as a liberalising democrat, saw rapid economic growth; his transformation into an emerging autocrat has not put investors off. Since he took office, the Istanbul market has gained 760% (see chart).

An authoritarian government can provide certainty, at least in the short term. In 1922, when Mussolini took power in Italy, its equity market returned 29% and its government bonds 18%, according to Mike Staunton of the London Business School. Hitler’s accession in 1933 saw German shares return 14% and bonds 15%. True, Wall Street did even better that year under Franklin Roosevelt but still—even then, Hitler was clearly a dangerous extremist.

The world’s most developed economies tend to be democracies, and to be more open to trade and foreign investment. But as China has demonstrated, it is certainly possible to generate rapid economic growth without a democratic system. China’s stockmarket (along with Hong Kong’s) has been among the best-performing bourses this millennium.

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North Korea Says Syria Airstrikes Prove Its Nukes Justified

The Associated Press reports:

TV screen broadcasting a news report on North Korea's long range rocket launch on February 7, 2016.North Korea has vowed to bolster its defenses to protect itself against airstrikes like the ones President Donald Trump ordered against an air base in Syria.

The North called the airstrikes “absolutely unpardonable” and said they prove its nuclear weapons are justified to protect the country against Washington’s “evermore reckless moves for a war.”

The comments were made by a Foreign Ministry official and carried Sunday by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency. The report did not name the official, which is common in KCNA reports.

The airstrikes, announced shortly after Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up dinner at a two-day summit in Florida last week, were retaliation against Syrian President Bashar Assad for a chemical weapons attack against civilians caught up in his country’s long civil war.

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MSNBC Host’s Conspiracy Theory: What If Putin Planned the Syrian Chemical Attack to Help Trump?

Avi Selk reports for The Washington Post:

Image result for MSNBC Host’s Conspiracy Theory: What If Putin Planned the Syrian Chemical Attack to Help Trump?A volley of U.S. cruise missiles had barely been launched into Syria before the Internet filled up with fact-free theories about the real reason for an international crisis.

A popular one on the right-most fringes: The U.S. government actually carried out the chemical weapons massacre in Syria last week — a “false flag” to trick President Trump into retaliating, thus entangling himself in a foreign war.

A slightly more convoluted strain on the left: Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the chemical weapons massacre to help Trump — distracting Americans from an investigation into Trump’s campaign ties to Russia by provoking the missile strike.

That theory — evidence-free — was laid out on a small anti-Trump website shortly after the missile strike.

But it went mainstream Friday night, when Lawrence O’Donnell advanced similar speculation on his MSNBC show, “The Last Word.”

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How the Alt-Right Brought #SyriaHoax to America

Ben Nimmo reports for the Digital Forensic Research Lab:

US President Donald Trump’s decision to launch strikes against Syria in the wake of a major chemical weapons attack provoked outrage from the far-right groups who were his most aggressive supporters. As rumors of the impending strikes broke, they launched an online campaign claiming that the chemical attack had been a hoax.

The hashtag followed two days of reporting by the so-called “alt-right” — anti-Islam, anti-immigrant, socially conservative and, until the strikes, vociferously pro-Trump — that the chemical attack had been staged.

The DFRLab has traced the origins of the story, and found that the alt-right coverage was based on report in a propaganda outlet linked to the Assad regime.

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When Humanitarianism Became Imperialism

Gregory Afinogenov writes for Jacobin:

In the 1980s Afghanistan, two world powers converged on each other, obliterating the national borders that stood in their way. The first was the Soviet state, bent on defending the precarious gains of a 1978 Communist coup d’état that it had actively tried to prevent. The second, caught in an even more painful paradox, was an uneasy alliance of foreign-funded jihadists, Western intelligence, and NGOs like Doctors Without Borders.

The way we remember the Afghan War today is as a kind of prologue. We care that the United States (along with, far more importantly, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) helped fund jihadists because those insurgents would later turn against the United States, serving as the ultimate indictment of Reaganite Cold War politics. We care that the Soviet Union failed in Afghanistan because that failure foreshadowed the Afghan quagmire of today. We care about the Afghan War because it spawned Osama bin Laden.

Timothy Nunan’s new book, Humanitarian Invasion: Global Development in Cold War Afghanistan, shows how incomplete this retrospective, US-centric view is. Though he does not venture beyond the 1990s, his argument is essential for understanding the world of imperial warfare today.

Afghanistan did not create the Islamic State, but it did serve as the laboratory in which the destruction of Third World sovereignty came to be fitted with justifications rooted both in human rights and in regime security — the recipe for modern “humanitarian interventions.”

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No Peace In Syria Until Assad Ousted, Says Nikki Haley

The Guardian reports:

Image result for No Peace In Syria Until Assad Ousted, Says Nikki HaleyNikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, has said that she sees regime change in Syria as one of the Trump administration’s priorities in the country wracked by civil war.

Defeating Islamic State, pushing Iranian influence out of Syria, and the ousting of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad are priorities for Washington, Haley said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, which will air in full on Sunday.

“There’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime,” Haley said, while reiterating that defeating Isis was still the number one policy goal. “If you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it’s going to be hard to see a government that’s peaceful and stable with Assad.”

“Regime change is something that we think is going to happen.”

The comments represented a departure from what Haley said before the United States hit a Syrian air base with 59 Tomahawk missiles on Thursday in retaliation for what it said was a chemical weapons attack by Assad’s forces on Syrian civilians.

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Could Britain Have Sold Sarin Chemicals to Assad’s Regime?

Jamie Doward reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Sarin Chemicals Assad’s RegimeEvidence that the sarin nerve agent was used in the chemical attack that killed more than 80 and injured hundreds of others in Syria’s northern province of Idlib last week has triggered awkward questions for the government over the part played by the UK in the Assad regime’s development of a chemical weapons programme.

Human rights groups and arms control campaigners have highlighted the government’s own admission that in the 80s the UK exported the chemicals necessary to make sarin to the Syrian regime. The UK also sold specialist equipment after the millennium which it now appears was diverted to the chemical weapons programme.

Allegations that the UK supplied potentially deadly chemicals to Syria were investigated by the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) which in 2013 wrote to then business secretary, Vince Cable, asking him to disclose the names of companies given licence approval between 2004 and 2012 to export to Syria chemicals that could be used to manufacture chemical weapons. Cable was criticised by the committees for refusing to disclose the names of the companies.

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Chris Hedges: U.S. Media ‘Kneejerk Cheerleading’ After Syria Strike Nothing New

Anya Parampil speaks with award winning journalist Chris Hedges about the U.S. media’s selective use of facts to further their agenda. (RT America)

Five Top Papers Run 18 Opinion Pieces Praising Syria Strikes – Zero Are Critical

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

NYT: On Syria Attack, Trump's Heart Came FirstFive major US newspapers—the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and New York Daily News—offered no opinion space to anyone opposed to Donald Trump’s Thursday night airstrikes. By contrast, the five papers ran a total of 18 op-eds, columns or “news analysis” articles (dressed-up opinion pieces) that either praised the strikes or criticized them for not being harsh enough.

[…] Some, such as “The Riddle of Trump’s Syria Attack” (New York Times, 4/7/17) and “Was That Syria Attack Legal? Only Congress Can Say” (USA Today, 4/7/17) were value neutral—neither expressly in support of the attacks nor opposing them.

Cable news coverage was equally fawning. In the hours immediately following the attack, MSNBC had on a seemingly never-ending string of military brass and reporters who uncritically repeated the assertion the strikes were “proportional” and “limited.”  MSNBC didn’t give a platform to a single dissenting voice until four hours after the attacks began, when host Chris Hayes, according to his own account, had on two guests opposed to the airstrikes in the midnight slot.  MSNBC host Brian Williams got into a bit of hot water when he lovingly admired a slick video sent over by the Pentagon showing tomahawk missiles being fired from US navy vessels (FAIR.org, 4/7/17).

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Trump’s Syria Strike Is Latest Sign of Steve Bannon’s Waning Influence

Gabriel Sherman reports for New York Magazine:

ImageDonald Trump’s surprise decision to launch missile strikes against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s forces in response to Tuesday’s horrific chemical attack represented a reversal from Trump’s noninterventionist campaign message. It’s also the most recent sign of the declining power of his chief strategist Stephen Bannon. Two sources close to Bannon told me the former Breitbart executive chairman argued against the strike — not because of its questionable constitutionality, but on the grounds that it doesn’t advance Trump’s America First doctrine. “Steve doesn’t think we belong there,” one Bannon ally told me. Bannon’s position lost out to those inside the White House, including Jared Kushner, who argued Trump needed to punish the Assad regime.

The debate over Syria is the latest fault line that has opened up in the once close Bannon-Kushner relationship. “During the campaign and transition, they had an almost uncle-nephew thing going,” one Bannon associate said. But in recent weeks, Kushner and Bannon have clashed over the direction of Trump’s agenda. While the press has covered it as a personality feud, Bannon allies say the rift is about policy differences. “The press is calling it fighting, we call it debating,” Bannon told an associate, according to a source. On a board in his West Wing office, Bannon keeps a list of promises Trump made to populist voters. Kushner, whose portfolio has ballooned in recent weeks, seems much less interested in keeping those promises.

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Trump’s Syria Strike Inspired by Dangerous Vision of ‘Cauldronising’ the Middle East

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

“I really believe that we should have and still should take out his airfields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them.”

Those were Hillary Clinton’s words just hours before her nemesis, President Donald Trump, ordered air strikes launching 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat airfield in the southeast of Homs, Syria.

The Trump administration described the strikes as a “one-off” and insisted there were no plans for escalation. But an escalation is rapidly underway. Russia, despite being given advanced warning of the bombing from the US, has suspended an agreement with the US to avoid mid-air collisions in Syrian airspace.

The US government’s goals for the Syria strike can be deduced from the background role of one the most powerful diplomats in American history: Henry Kissinger. The former secretary of state, once accused by the late Christopher Hitchens of complicity in US “war crimes” in Latin America and south-east Asia, has been a key advisor to Trump in negotiating US relations with Russia and China.

Kissinger was previously a secret national security consultant to President George W Bush, and under Obama was directly involved in the US National Security Council’s chain-of-command. He also frequently advised Hillary Clinton during her term as secretary of state.

His influence in the Trump administration is also visible through his former acolyte, KT McFarland, who is now Trump’s deputy national security advisor, and who previously served under Kissinger in the 1970s in his National Security Council.

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