Category Archives: UK Politics/Society

UK Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia Ruled Lawful

BBC News reports:

A man among rubble after an alleged Saudi-led airstrike in YemenUK government arms sales to Saudi Arabia are lawful, the High Court has ruled, after seeing secret evidence.

The court rejected campaigners’ claims ministers were acting illegally by not suspending weapon sales to the kingdom, which is fighting a war in Yemen.

The UN claims strikes on Houthi rebels caused thousands of civilian deaths.

The government said defence exports would continue to be reviewed but the Campaign Against the Arms Trade said an appeal against the ruling was planned.

The group had claimed the UK has contravened humanitarian law and attacked the refusal of the Secretary of State for International Trade to suspend export licences for the sale or transfer of arms and military equipment.

Lord Justice Burnett and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, sitting in London, said the decision to carry on the arms trade was not unlawful.

The judges said “closed material”, which had not been made public for national security reasons, “provides valuable additional support for the conclusion that the decisions taken by the secretary of state not to suspend or cancel arms sales to Saudi Arabia were rational”.

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£1.5 Billion Tory-DUP Deal Could Rupture the Northern Ireland Peace Pact

Sharmini Peries speaks with Adam Ramsey, UK editor of Open Democracy, about the £1.5 billion Tory-DUP deal who says the way that the money is spent could create greater rift in an already divided community in Northern Ireland, thus putting the Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy. (The Real News)

After Finsbury: Time for the UK’s Right-Wing Press to Address its Islamophobia

Peter Oborne writes for Middle East Eye:

Words have consequences. They lead to actions. There was nothing remotely random about Sunday night’s attack on the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park when a white van ploughed into a group of worshippers as one of the attackers reportedly shouted: “I want to kill all Muslims.”

This event emerged from a dangerous environment where Muslims are fair game for insult, abuse and misrepresentation.

Well over 100 mosques have been attacked in the last few years. I know Muslims who endure insults and abuse on a daily basis when they go to work or to the shops. Very few non-Muslims have minded about this.

Spectator columnist Rod Liddle says Islamophobia doesn’t exist because it isn’t a phobia. Hostility to Islam is rational, according to him.

Here’s Liddle, writing in the Spectator in 2015: “There is no such thing as Islamaphobia, of course. There are people who dislike Islam and will continue to dislike it no matter what fatuous legislation is enacted by the forthcoming Labour/SNP coalition from hell. And they dislike it for perfectly good, rational reasons.”

Douglas Murray of the influential Henry Jackson Society (who responded to the Manchester attack with a call for “less Islam”) agrees with Liddle.

Murray wrote in the Jewish Chronicle that it is “highly rational to be afraid of some, though not all, interpretations of Islam. It is rational to be afraid of a Salafist. It is irrational to be afraid of an Ahmadiyya. But there are far more Salafists in the world today than there are Ahmadiyya”.

And here’s fellow Spectator writer Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked Online: “Islamaphobia is a myth. Sure, some folks in Europe and elsewhere no doubt dislike Muslims, just as other losers hate the Irish or blacks or women. But the idea that there is a climate of Islamaphobia, a culture of hot-headed, violent-minded hatred for Muslims, that could be awoken and unleashed by the next terror attack, is an invention.”

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It’s the Russians Wot Done It

Mark Galeotti writes for The Moscow Times:

Last week the online media company BuzzFeed released “From Russia With Blood,” part of a series alleging that 14 people have been assassinated in Britain — a “ring of death” that British authorities reportedly ignored or covered up.

Dramatic stuff. 

Whether or not it is all true (and I have my doubts), it speaks to the current East-West atmosphere, in which Russia can safely be blamed for anything.

The BuzzFeed account is certainly an exciting read. There are cases which definitely ought to have been considered more closely (suicide by slashing oneself repeatedly with two knives? Really?) There are cases where understandably-grieving friends are trotted out to affirm that their loved ones would never commit suicide (as is common in such cases).

Then there are the shockers. Stories airily assuming that suicides could be induced by psychotropic drugs, or cunning Russian agents could mask every sign of murder. Accompanying is a large, anonymous cast of sources casting doubt on official accounts, coroners’ reports, and the government line. Many, incidentally, are apparently U.S. intelligence officers eager to present the Brits as feckless and foolish.

Perhaps the article’s crowning glory is the passage in which “a current senior national security advisor to the British government” is willing to tell BuzzFeed that the government is too scared to act “because the Kremlin could inflict massive harm on Britain by unleashing cyberattacks, destabilising the economy, or mobilising elements of Britain’s large Russian population to ‘cause disruption.’” Somehow a “general war with Russia” crops up in the same paragraph, as if Putin would somehow leapfrog NATO’s European members and drop paratroopers in Milton Keynes if Boris Johnson says something else nasty about him.

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Brexit Is Dead: A Wave of Anger Crashes over Britain

Thomas Hüetlin writes for SPIEGEL:

British Prime Minister Theresa MayOnce upon a time, under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, the Tories filled all of Europe with trepidation. French President François Mitterrand complained to his psychologist that he was plagued by nightmares caused by the British leader and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, as unclassified British documents revealed in late 2016, once preferred to chow down on a cream pie in Salzburg than meet with the British prime minister.

Many in the UK thought a bit of fear was a good thing. Fear sounded like respect and influence — and, more than anything, like good deals. But now, after two catastrophic elections in less than a year, that is over. Completely.

“The country looks ridiculous,” the Financial Times –– not exactly a leftist mouthpiece — wrote recently. Indeed, the party of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher has turned into a gaggle of high rollers and unwitting clowns.

First came Boris Johnson, who vociferously supported Brexit last year to show his boss, Prime Minister David Cameron, what an outstanding orator he was even though he, Johnson, didn’t really want Brexit. They both went all in, and the country lost.

And now we have Theresa May, who didn’t really want Brexit either, but decided after last summer’s referendum to throw her support behind leaving the European Union if it meant that she could become prime minister.

“The lady’s not for turning,” is one of the more famous quotes uttered by Margaret Thatcher. But her heirs currently leading the Tories are now turning so quickly that many observers aren’t just getting dizzy. They are becoming nauseous.

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Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn Rides Leftist Tide in Rebuke of Tories Policies

Amy Goodman speaks with Paul Mason, columnist for The Guardian, and Mehdi Hasan, award-winning British journalist and broadcaster at Al Jazeera English, as British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a major setback Thursday in an election that saw her Conservative Party lose its majority in Parliament less than two weeks before the country is scheduled to begin talks over exiting from the European Union. (Democracy Now!)

Hung Parliament a Stunning Victory for Corbyn’s Labour Party in UK Elections

Aaron Bastani of Novara Media spoke with Thomas Barlow and Kam Sandhu of Real Media at 6am on Friday morning as the UK election produces a breakthrough for left socialist Jeremy Corbyn. (The Real News)

Why Corbyn Won

Bhaskar Sunkara writes for Jacobin:

The Tories may still be in power at the end of the night, but Jeremy Corbyn won today.

Yes, I know this is shameless spin, but hear me out: the last few weeks have vindicated the approach of the Labour left and its international cothinkers under Corbyn.

This is the first election Labour has won seats in since 1997, and the party got its largest share of the vote since 2005 — all while closing a twenty-four point deficit. Since Corbyn assumed leadership in late 2015, he has survived attack after attack from his own party, culminating in a failed coup attempt against him. As Labour leader he was unable to rely on his parliamentary colleagues or his party staff. The small team around him was bombarded with hostile internal leaks and misinformation, and an unprecedented media smear campaign.

Every elite interest in the United Kingdom tried to knock down Jeremy Corbyn, but still he stands. He casts a longer shadow over his party’s centrists tonight than at any time since he was elected Labour leader.

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What Connects Brexit, the DUP, Dark Money and a Saudi Prince?

Fintan O’Toole reported for The Irish Times in May:

Arlene Foster told the BBC in February she did not even know how much the mystery donor had given the party.  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA WireIf Northern Ireland were a normal democracy, the election campaign would be dominated by a single question: how did the Democratic Unionist Party end up advancing the cause of a united Ireland through its support for Brexit? More specifically: what role did dark money play in that extraordinary decision? This story has all the makings of a John le Carré thriller but democracy on this island needs facts, not fiction.

To recap briefly: two days before the Brexit referendum last June, the Metro freesheet in London and other British cities came wrapped in a four-page glossy propaganda supplement urging readers to vote Leave. Bizarrely, it was paid for by the DUP, even though Metro does not circulate in Northern Ireland. At the time, the DUP refused to say what the ads cost or where the money came from.

We’ve since learned that the Metro wraparound cost a staggering £282,000 (€330,000) – surely the biggest single campaign expense in the history of Irish politics. For context, the DUP had spent about £90,000 (€106,000) on its entire campaign for the previous month’s assembly elections. But this was not all: the DUP eventually admitted that this spending came from a much larger donation of £425,622 (€530,000) from a mysterious organisation, the Constitutional Research Council.

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Theresa May’s Campaign Lies About Tory Plans to Sell off Britain’s National Health Service

Sharmini Peries speaks with Kam Sandhu of Real Media who says there is evidence that the Tories plan to sell off NHS assets which will lead to privatisation. (The Real News)

Theresa May Blames ‘Tolerance of Extremism’ But UK Policies Help Terrorists

Aaron Mate speaks with investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed who says British government policies benefit extremists and endanger civilians. (The Real News)

UK Election Polls: Can Corbyn Win?

Sharmini Peries speaks with Real Media’s Thomas Barlow who says opinion polls for the June 8 UK General Election indicate an increasingly tight race between Labour and Conservatives, but most still give Conservative Theresa May an advantage, despite May’s weaknesses as Prime Minister. (The Real News)

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 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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Theresa May Calls for International Regulation of Cyberspace in Wake of Attacks

Rhett Jones reports for Gizmodo:

[..] So far, seven people have died as a result of the attack and 48 were injured. It follows a separate incident in March when pedestrians were hit by a car on Westminster Bridge, and an attack in May in which concertgoers in Manchester were assaulted by a suicide bomber. According to the prime minister, the terror attacks are not linked by “common networks”, but the close proximity of these tragedies are certain to create a heightened urgency for politicians to demonstrate that something is being done to prevent another

“Everybody needs to go about their lives as they normally would,” Prime Minister May told reporters in a statement. “Our society should continue to function in accordance with our values.” But that was the extent of May’s acknowledgement that society should not allow terrorism to dictate how we live. She then shifted to statements like, “There is, to be frank, far too much tolerance of extremism in our country.” It was an odd thing to say. Is there really a “tolerance of extremism” in the western world, or is it more a case of not wanting to sacrifice freedoms in accordance with the wishes of terrorists?

The statement was light on particulars, but greater policing of the internet was a key point that May hammered on multiple times. “We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed,” she said. “Yet that is precisely what the internet and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide.” Her most specific and unnerving comment was, “We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning.”

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‘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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Theresa May Pushes Internet Regulation After London Attack

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Facebook and WhatsApp iconBritish Prime Minister Theresa May wasted no time after yesterday’s London Bridge terror attack in announcing that she will be pushing a new series of international agreements aimed at global regulation of speech on the Internet, claiming that extremists have been using “safe spaces online” in their terror attacks.

While this is being couched today as a reaction to the London attack, the reality is that this is a long-standing goal of Britain’s Tory government, with the Conservative Party’s current manifesto vowing efforts to force Internet providers to participate in “counter-extremism” efforts that would tightly regulate speech.

The manifesto’s plan goes well beyond just terrorism, looking to regulate speech broadly defined by the ruling party as “harmful,” and also to severely curtail the access of pornographic materials on the Internet. The pornography angle is, obviously, not being mentioned in connection to the London attack.

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Why the London Terror Attack Occurred Now

Jonathan Cook writes:

Image result for london bridge attackOne has to ask why terrorists like those who struck last night in London, and earlier in Manchester, launched their attacks now. It is difficult not to infer that their violence was timed to influence the UK election on Thursday. Those behind the attack – whether those carrying it out or those dispatching the terrorists – want to have an effect. Terrorism is the use of indiscriminate violence for political ends. It has a logic, even if it is one we mostly do not care to understand.

So what do these terrorists hope to achieve?

Based on prior experience, they will assume that by striking now they can increase fear and anger among the British population – intensifying anti-Muslim rhetoric, justifying harsher “security” responses from the British state and shifting political support towards the right. That is good for their cause because it radicalises other disillusioned Muslim youth. In short, it brings recruits.

Islam is not exceptional in this regard. This is not a problem specifically of religion. As experts have repeatedly pointed out, disillusioned, frustrated, angry (and mainly male) youth adopt existing ideologies relevant to them and then search for the parts that can be twisted to justify their violence. The violent impulse exists and they seek an ideology to rationalise it.

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London Bridge: Seven Killed, 48 Injured In Car Ramming, Stabbing Attacks

 

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)

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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UK Election Polls Tighten to Three Points Between May and Corbyn

Sharmini Peries speaks with Tom Barlow, co-founder of Real Media, about how Britain’s June 8th general election race is tightening between Labour and the Tories, and how the mainstream British media is losing credibility in the process. (The Real News)

UK Election Suddenly Wide Open and Markets Are Totally Discombobulated

Eshe Nelson reports for Quartz:

British Prime Minster Theresa May at a campaign eventBritish prime minister Theresa May had a plan. Catch rivals off guard by calling a “snap” general election after repeated denials that you would do such a thing. Tend to a 20-percentage-point polling lead over the Labour opposition party during a short campaign. Win big on election day, June 8, and use the thumping new mandate at home as a platform to push around the eurocrats in Brussels during the subsequent Brexit negotiations and quiet any rebels at home. Put feet up.

Investors bought into the plan (paywall). When May announced the election on April 17, the pound surged to its strongest level in six months against the dollar. But now, with a week to go until the vote, it’s safe to say that things aren’t going according to plan.

The latest opinion polls show May’s Conservative party steadily losing its lead over Labour, with a poll out late yesterday showing a mere three-point margin for the Tories. Traders aren’t sure what to make of this, so the pound has been bouncing around in response to each new poll.

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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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Why Jeremy Corbyn Has the Best Long-Term Plan for Tackling Terrorism on British Soil

Kadira Pethiyagoda writes for The Independent:

corbyn.jpgTragic terror attacks like that in Manchester, inspiring fear and anger, often drive voters to back the incumbent. It is ironic then that one of the essential long-term solutions to the terror threat lies within the foreign policy agenda articulated by leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. In articulating his international vision at Chatham House, Corbyn went on the front foot, laying out a comprehensive vision for Britain’s place in an insecure world.  Seeking to throw off the caricature-like branding of him as an ageing hippy, Corbyn’s approach evinced the rational thinking of a seasoned observer of global politics.

Corbyn has been on the right side of history since he began his long political career, and his response to terrorism inspired by events in the Middle East is no different. Corbyn has been astute enough to realise the link between Western interventions in the Middle East and the terror threat emanating from the region. This is a link which is rarely discussed except in dismissive terms due to a form of right wing political correctness. As such, his approach targets some of the root factors driving terror ideology and facilitating the conditions under which terror spreads. It is also the most cost-effective method, important given the apparent lack of funds available for other policy areas like the NHS and the elderly.

Corbyn opposed the ill-fated regime changes in Iraq and Libya. He questioned the justifications when it was unpopular to do so. He was right. He warned of the repercussions. He was right. There is no longer any debate that both of these helped provide the space, motivation and chaos for extremist groups to thrive. Isis of course would not even exist if not for the Iraq War, and Al Qaeda would have less recruits. With regard to Libya, a 2016 report by the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee stated that the intervention was based on “erroneous assumptions”, not on accurate intelligence.

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Armed Soldiers Deployed Across UK Streets in Wake of Manchester Attack

The British government has deployed armed soldiers on the streets of the UK in response to the Manchester bombing. It reflects a growing concern that public gatherings could be targeted by attackers sympathetic to ISIS. (Al Jazeera)

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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British Intelligence Warned Tony Blair of Manchester-Like Terrorism if the West Invaded Iraq

Jon Schwarz reports for The Intercept:

TOPSHOT - Emergency response vehicles are parked at the scene of a suspected terrorist attack during a pop concert by US star Ariana Grande in Manchester, northwest England on May 23, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Paul ELLIS        (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has yet to say anything about Monday’s heinous, nihilistic suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. According to current reporting, the attack has been claimed by ISIS and was carried out by a 22-year-old man born in Manchester to Libyan refugees.

But when Blair does speak, we can be certain he won’t mention one key fact: Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq led by the U.S. and U.K., he was forcefully and repeatedly warned by Britain’s intelligence services that it would lead toexactly this type of terrorist attack — and he concealed these warnings from the British people, instead claiming the war would reduce the risk of terrorism.

We know this because of the Chilcot Report, the seven-year-long British investigation of the Iraq War released in 2016. The report declassifies numerous internal government documents that illustrate the yawning chasm between what Blair was being told in private and his claims in public as he pushed for war.

On February 10, 2003, one month before the war began, the U.K.’s Joint Intelligence Committee — the key advisory body for the British Prime Minister on intelligence matters — issued a white paper titled “International Terrorism: War With Iraq.”

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Manchester Bombing Suspect Identified, Islamic State Claims Responsibility

Griff Witte and Karla Adam report for The Washington Post:

The Islamic State claimed Tuesday that one of its “soldiers” carried out an apparent suicide blast in Manchester that killed at least 22 people, including teenagers and others streaming out of a pop concert.

Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins named the suspected attacker as 22-year-old Salman Abedi but declined to provide other details.

A senior European intelligence official said the attacker was a British citizen of Libyan descent. The official said the suspect’s brother has been taken into custody.

The Islamic State’s claim came as British investigators intensified their search for possible accomplices and police teams fanned out across the northern city after the worst terrorist strike in Britain in more than a decade.

The Islamic State did not give any details about the attacker or how the blast was carried out late Monday. Its statement was posted on the online messaging service Telegram and later noted by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant websites.

The Islamic State often quickly proclaims links to attacks, but some previous claims have not been proven.

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Hackers Hit Dozens of Countries Exploiting Stolen N.S.A. Tool

David E Sanger and Nicole Perlroth report for The New York Times:

[…] The connection to the N.S.A. was particularly chilling. Starting last summer, a group calling itself the “Shadow Brokers” began to post software tools that came from the United States government’s stockpile of hacking weapons.

The attacks on Friday appeared to be the first time a cyberweapon developed by the N.S.A., funded by American taxpayers and stolen by an adversary had been unleashed by cybercriminals against patients, hospitals, businesses, governments and ordinary citizens.

Something similar occurred with remnants of the “Stuxnet” worm that the United States and Israel used against Iran’s nuclear program nearly seven years ago. Elements of those tools frequently appear in other, less ambitious attacks.

The United States has never confirmed that the tools posted by the Shadow Brokers belonged to the N.S.A. or other intelligence agencies, but former intelligence officials have said that the tools appeared to come from the N.S.A.’s “Tailored Access Operations” unit, which infiltrates foreign computer networks. (The unit has since been renamed.)

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