Category Archives: Al Qaeda/ISIS

This Is What Victory Over ISIS Looks Like

Megan Specia reports for The New York Times:

The declarations of victory played out across Iraq and Syria: The long campaigns to retake city after city from Islamic State militants had come to an end.

But the hard-won battles left vast destruction in their wake, and the celebrations from atop the rubble of once-grand buildings are ringing hollow for hundreds of thousands of displaced residents.

Iraqis and Syrians return to cities that are ghosts of their former glory, lacking the infrastructure for normal life to begin again. Now they must grapple with how to rebuild.

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Overreaction to the Terrorist Threat Is the Perpetrators’ Prize

Marin Wolf writes for the Financial Times: 

Image result for Overreaction to the terrorist threat is the perpetrators’ prizeIn the EU, the chances of being killed by a terrorist in 2016 were just five times greater than being killed by lightning. The chances of being murdered for some other reason were more than 30 times greater than that of being killed by terrorists and the chances of dying in a sporting accident 51 times greater.

Terrorism is frightening: indeed, its aim is to ignite fear. But surrendering to fear is to give terrorists what they want: the sundering of our open societies and the division of the world into believers and “crusader” enemies. We have no reason to give them this victory and must not do so.

It should be noted that 2016 was a relatively bad year for EU terrorism. Robert Muggah, an expert on terrorism, notes that between 2010 and 2014, the average probability of dying at the hands of a terrorist was 0.0018 per 100,000 (0.0000018 per cent). This rose to 0.034 per 100,000 in 2015, then falling to 0.027 in 2016.

This modest rise in the number of European victims of terrorism in recent years has struck fear in the hearts of many Americans: Donald Trump, for one, has milked it ferociously. Yet 15,696 people were murdered in the US in 2015, a rate of 4.88 per 100,000. In the UK, the murder rate was 0.92 per 100,000. That gap is really worth worrying about.

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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)

ISIS Recruiter Who Radicalised London Bridge Attackers Was Protected by MI5

Nafeez Ahmed reports for Insurge Intelligence:

The terrorists who rampaged across London on the night of 3 June were part of a wider extremist network closely monitored by MI5 for decades. The same network was heavily involved in recruiting Britons to fight with jihadist groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Police have confirmed that Khuram Shazad Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba were the three terrorists shot dead after participating in a brutal van and knife attack in the London Bridge area.

According to press reports, both Butt and Redouane were longstanding members of the proscribed extremist network formerly known as al-Muhajiroun. After 9/11, the group operated under different names such as Shariah4UK, Muslims4Crusades and Islam4UK. Originally founded by Lebanese firebrand, Omar Bakri Mohammed, who was banned from returning to the UK after the 7/7 attacks, the network was later run by Bakri’s deputy, Anjem Choudary.

Choudary was convicted in 2016 for supporting and encouraging support for ISIS.

Yet the press has largely ignored the extent to which Choudary’s uncanny freedom to operate in Britain, and to send British Muslims to fight in foreign theatres, was linked to his opaque relationship to Britain’s security services.

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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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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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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)

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!)

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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Alex Jones Calls Manchester Victims ‘Liberal Trendies’ Who Promote Open Borders

Tim Marcin reports for Newsweek:

jonesAlex Jones, head of the conspiracy-theory-laden website Infowars, seemed to criticize the victims of the horrific attack in Manchester, England, that left 22 people dead, including children as young as 8 years old. The Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS, has claimed responsibility for the apparent suicide bombing outside of Manchester Arena.

Jones related the attack to President Donald Trump‘s recent visit to Saudi Arabia.

“And less than 24 hours after President Trump finishes that speech, a big bomb goes off at a pop star’s rock concert bombing a bunch of liberal trendies,” Jones said in a video posted to YouTube. “The same people, god love ’em, on average who are promoting open borders, bringing Islamists in.”

Jones went on to claim Trump was blocking such people from making their way into the U.S.

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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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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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Reactions to Manchester Bombing Show How Anti-Muslim Bigots Are “Useful Idiots” for ISIS

Mehdi Hassan writes for The Intercept:

If you want to defeat ISIS, listen to former ISIS hostage Nicolas Henin. The group is “heartened by every sign of overreaction, of division, of fear, of racism, of xenophobia… [and] drawn to any examples of ugliness on social media,” wrote the French journalist in November 2015, in the wake of the Paris attacks. “Central to their world view is the belief that communities cannot live together with Muslims, and every day their antennae will be tuned towards finding supporting evidence.”

Get that? Islamophobia plays right into the hands of ISIS. Wittingly or unwittingly, anti-Muslim bigots have become recruiting sergeants for a group they profess to hate and claim to want to destroy. The Islamophobes, to borrow a line from Lenin, are ISIS’s useful idiots.

Consider their reaction to the latest terrorist atrocity: Monday’s suicide bombing at a concert hall in Manchester, England, which killed 22 people, including an 8-year-old girl. Could ISIS, which claimed the horrific attack, have asked for a better response from their useful idiots on the British right?

MailOnline columnist and talk radio host Katie Hopkins – you might call her the UK’s Ann Coulter, except with a much lower IQ – has a long history of demonizing Muslims and took to Twitter in the hours after the bombing to demand a “final solution” (she later deleted her Nazi-esque tweet after being reported to the police). Hopkins, who once called “Islam the problem” because it is a “backward religion”, also tweeted that “Western men” should: “Stand up. Rise Up. Demand Action.”

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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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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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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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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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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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‘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!)

3,330 Killed in Iraq During March

Margaret Griffis reports for Antiwar:

Image result for iraq mapAt least 3,330 people were killed during March, and another 929 were wounded. These figures are a very conservative estimate of the casualties occurring in Iraq. The true figures could be hundreds or even thousands higher. The government has refused to give any honest figures; however, there is evidence that the numbers are being underreported.

According to news reports, at least 1,126 civilians, 104 security personnel, three Kurdistan Workers Party (P.K.K.) guerrillas, and 2,097 militants were killed during March. Another 798 civilians, 82 security personnel, and 49 militants were reported wounded. The figures add up to 3,330 killed and 929 wounded. During February, at least 2,748 people were killed and 1,224 were wounded in the conflict.

These estimates are unsurprisingly low, with the possible exception of Islamic State fatalities. Because there is little to no independent reporting from behind enemies, it is unclear if these figures are valid. The Iraqi government could be elevating the number of militant fatalities for propaganda purposes. Or, the numbers may be accurate, but the dead may include civilians, such as militant wives and children.

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Overthrowing Qadafi in Libya: Britain’s Islamist Boots on the Ground

Mark Curtis writes in an extract from Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam:

Image result for Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical IslamBritain’s willingness to work with Islamist forces has been evident in Libya, where it took a brutal civil war between armed opposition forces and remnants of the regime to overthrow Libyan ruler, Muammar Qadafi, who was killed in October 2011. Massive NATO air strikes, mainly by Britain and France, were conducted during March-October in support of the rebel forces and significantly contributed to the rebel victory. What concerns the story here is not a review of the whole intervention but the extent to which it involved an Islamist element being supported by Britain in furtherance of its objectives in the Middle East.

The Islamist forces were only part of the military opposition that overthrew Qadafi, but were an important element, especially in the east of the country which was where the uprising began and which provided the centre of opposition to Qadafi. The episode, to some extent, echoes past British interventions where Islamist actors have acted as among the foot-soldiers in British policy to secure energy interests. That the British military intervention to overthrow Qadafi was primarily motivated by such interests seems clear – in the absence of access to government files – to which we briefly turn later. Such oil and gas interests in Libya, however, has been downplayed by ministers and largely ignored by the media, in favour of notions of Britain being motivated by the need to support the human rights of the Libyan people and promote democracy: concerns completely absent when it came to defending the rights of other Middle Easterners being abused at precisely the same time, notably Bahrainis.

Britain provided a range of support to the rebel Libyan leadership, which was grouped in the National Transitional Council (NTC), an initially 33-member self-selected body of mainly former Qadafi ministers and other opposition forces, formed in Benghazi in February 2011 to provide an alternative government. UN Security Council Resolution 1973 was passed on 17 March, imposing a no fly zone over Libya and authorizing ‘all necessary measures…to protect civilians’ under threat of attack. In an echo of Kosovo in 1999, it was certainly questionable whether civilians in Libya were under the extent of attack described by British ministers as justification for their military intervention, such as David Cameron’s claim that ‘we averted a massacre’.

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Inside the ‘Blackwater of Jihad’

Kim Sengupta reports for The Independent:

malhama-tactical.jpgThey wear the latest and most advanced body armour and helmets, camouflage gear and anti-ballistic sunglasses: the fashion statement favoured by frontline private security companies across the world’s combat zones. But Malhama Tactical is not from the West like most of the others. Its fighters are in Syria training Islamists: a “Blackwater of jihad” who have found a new way of cashing in on the self-styled “caliphate”.

Blackwater became the most high-profile of Western security contractors in Iraq, gaining notoriety as the most violent and aggressive of the corporate military firms that spotted a highly lucrative trade following the “liberation” of the country in 2003. Such firms were largely immune from scrutiny or prosecution: that changed after a particularly bloody day in Baghdad.

One late morning in September in 2007, I watched as Blackwater’s guards opened fire from their armoured cars into families out on a Sunday in a popular location, Nisoor Square: 17 civilians were killed and more than were 40 injured. Four of the guards were later convicted in connection with the deaths. Blackwater changed its name, first to Xe Services and then Academi and continues to receive US government contracts.

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Battle for Manbij shows Syria’s civil war is almost over – and it looks like Bashar Assad has won

Patrick Cockburn reports for The Independent:

manbij-syria.jpgWinners and losers are emerging in what may be the final phase of the Syrian civil war as anti-Isis forces prepare for an attack aimed at capturing Raqqa, the de facto Isis capital in Syria. Kurdish-led Syrian fighters say they have seized part of the road south of Raqqa, cutting Isis off from its other territory further east.

Isis is confronting an array of enemies approaching Raqqa, but these are divided, with competing agendas and ambitions. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose main fighting force is the Syrian Kurdish Popular Mobilisation Units (YPG), backed by the devastating firepower of the US-led air coalition, are now getting close to Raqqa and are likely to receive additional US support. The US currently has 500 Special Operations troops in north-east Syria and may move in American-operated heavy artillery to reinforce the attack on Raqqa.

This is bad news for Turkey, whose military foray into northern Syria called Operation Euphrates Shield began last August, as it is being squeezed from all sides. In particular, an elaborate political and military chess game is being played around the town of Manbij, captured by the SDF last year, with the aim of excluding Turkey, which had declared it to be its next target. The Turkish priority in Syria is to contain and if possible reduce or eliminate the power of Syrian Kurds whom Ankara sees as supporting the Kurdish insurrection in Turkey.

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Pentagon Delivers Plan to Escalate ISIS War

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Image result for Pentagon Delivers Plan to Escalate ISIS WarFull details of the plan have not been released yet, but the long-promised Pentagon proposal to escalate the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria has been delivered today, and is said to includes options for large deployments of additional troops to Syria, as well as increased targeting of ISIS the world over.

The plan for the Pentagon is to “rapidly” defeat ISIS, with the assumption that throwing more US troops at the situation will make it go faster. Officials at the Pentagon conceded this strategy might need to be further refined before implemented on the ground.

It is particularly noteworthy that we don’t really know any more about the plan today, beyond the talking points, than we did about it in recent weeks when officials started hyping its upcoming delivery, with the recommendations still apparently boiling down to straightforward additions of a number of combat troops.

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Trump Administration Preparing for Deeper Involvement in Yemen?

Gregory Wilpert speaks to CODEPINK’s Medea Benjamin who says the recent failed US Navy Seal raid shows that the Trump administration’s plans for Yemen will contribute to making the horrific humanitarian crisis there worse. (The Real News)

Alleged Mastermind Tells Obama 9/11 Was America’s Fault

Carol Rosenberg reports for McClatchy:

Khalid Sheik Mohammed poses for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at at the U.S. Navy Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in this undated photo.The alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks wrote former President Barack Obama in a long suppressed letter that America brought the 9/11 attacks on itself for years of foreign policy that killed innocent people across the world.

“It was not we who started the war against you in 9/11. It was you and your dictators in our land,” Khalid Sheik Mohammed, 51, writes in the 18-page letter to Obama, who he addressed as “the head of the snake” and president of “the country of oppression and tyranny.” It is dated January 2015 but didn’t reach the White House until a military judge ordered Guantánamo prison to deliver it days before Obama left office.

[…] The Kuwait-born Pakistani citizen of Baluch ethnic background, lists a long litany of U.S. overseas interventions — from Iraq and Iran to Vietnam and Hiroshima — to justify the worst terror attack on U.S. soil.But he is particularly focused on the cause of the Palestinians, highlights civilian suffering and accuses Obama of being beholden to special interests, notably Israel and “the occupier Jews.” Israel gets 39 mentions while Osama bin Laden gets a dozen, including once to excoriate Obama for the mission that hunted down and killed the founder of the al-Qaida movement for the 9/11 attacks.

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U.S. Military Weighs Expanded Use of Cyber, Space Weapons Against Islamic State

Jim Michaels reports for USA Today:

Image result for U.S. Military Weighs Expanded Use of Cyber, Space Weapons Against Islamic StateMilitary chiefs are prepared to give President-elect Donald Trump the options he wants to intensify the fight against the Islamic State, including the possibility of granting commanders greater leeway to use secret cyber-warfare and space weapons, the top Air Force leader said.

“We’ve heard him loud and clear that he’s going to be looking for options,” Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, told USA TODAY.

Goldfein said the recommendations may center on permitting field commanders more flexibility to deploy an array of weapons against the militants, who are waging a terrorism campaign beyond their bases in Iraq and Syria.

“If we want to be more agile then the reality is we are going to have to push decision authority down to some lower levels in certain areas,” Goldfein said during a December trip to this air base. “The big question that we’ve got to wrestle with … is the authorities to operate in cyber and space.”

Capabilities in those two areas are among the military’s most closely held secrets, and their use now generally requires approval at the highest levels of government.

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