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Archive for the ‘Conflict in the Middle East’ Category

Was Turkey behind Syria sarin attack?

Posted by Charles II on April 8, 2014

This story is a few days old, but it’s possibly one of the more important foreign policy stories of the year. Seymour Hersh has published an article in the London Review of Books that suggests that the poison gas attack in Syria that killed so many people may have been instigated by Turkey using a Salafist Al Qaeda affliliate, al-Nusra. Here’s the Democracy Now interview:

AMY GOODMAN: In your piece, you mention the leaked video of a discussion between the Turkish prime minister, Erdogan, and senior officials of a false flag operation that would justify Turkish military intervention in Syria. … Sy Hersh, could you explain what the Erdogan administration’s support for the rebels, the Turkish support for the rebels, has consisted of and where the U.S. now stands on this?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, … al-Nusra [Salafist terrorist] groups have been inside Turkey buying equipment. There’s also reports that they’ve also received some training from the Turkish intelligence services, which is very—is headed by a man named Fidan, who is very known. There’s reports, wonderful report in The Wall Street Journal recently about Fidan’s closeness not only to Erdogan, the prime minister and the leader of Turkey, but also to the most radical units. And so is Erdogan. They’re all supportin… the more fundamental groups inside Syria. And so, we know they supply training. We know also there’s a—there’s, I guess you could call it, another rat line. There’s a flow—if you’re going to send the chemicals that, when mixed together, meddled together, make sarin, they flow—that flow comes from inside Turkey. A sort of a paramilitary unit known as the gendarmy—Gendarmerie and the MIT [Milli Istihbarat Teskilati] both are responsible for funneling these things into radical groups. There’s actually a flow of trucks that brings the stuff in. And so, Turkish involvement is intense.

Why is this important news? Turkey is a NATO ally. Turkey has nuclear reactors; though it does not have such weapons, it wouldn’t be too hard to divert some material. It would be a real problem if Al Qaeda developed a foothold inside Turkey.

More here.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Syria, Turkey | 4 Comments »

A Coward’s Crime

Posted by Charles II on November 6, 2013

Paul Taylor, Reuters:

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned to death in 2004 with radioactive polonium, his widow Suha said on Wednesday after receiving the results of Swiss forensic tests on her husband’s corpse.

“We are revealing a real crime, a political assassination,” she told Reuters in Paris.

A team of experts, including from Lausanne University Hospital’s Institute of Radiation Physics, opened Arafat’s grave in the West Bank city of Ramallah last November, and took samples from his body to seek evidence of alleged poisoning.

She {widow Suha Arafat] did not accuse any country or person, and acknowledged that the historic leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization had many enemies.

It’s actually unlikely that Israel committed this crime, since Arafat was an essential component of how Israel repressed the Palestinian population. He was the perfect distraction. But whoever killed Arafat is a coward and a psychopath.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East | 9 Comments »

Stateless in Gaza

Posted by Charles II on October 15, 2013

Max Blumenthal, TomDispatch (via t/o)

[Israeli PM Benjamin] Netanyahu has updated the smokescreen strategy….his government was preparing to implement the Prawer Plan, a blueprint for the expulsion of 40,000 indigenous Bedouin citizens of Israel from their ancestral Negev Desert communities that promised to “concentrate” them in state-run, reservation-style townships. Authored by Netanyahu’s planning policy chief, Ehud Prawer, and passed by a majority of the members of the mainstream Israeli political parties in the Knesset, the Prawer Plan is only one element of the government’s emerging program to dominate all space and the lives of all people between the river (the Jordan) and the sea (the Mediterranean).

The products of continuous dispossession, many of these [Bedouin] communities are surrounded by petrochemical waste dumps and have been transformed into cancer clusters, while state campaigns of aerial crop destruction and livestock eradication have decimated their sources of subsistence.

Although residents like al-Ahmed carry Israeli citizenship, they are unable to benefit from the public services that Jews in neighboring communities receive. The roads to unrecognized villages like Umm al-Hiran are lined with electric wires, but the Bedouins are barred from connecting to the public grid. Their homes and mosques have been designated “illegal” constructions and are routinely marked for demolition.

The Bedouin are comparable to Native Americans, living in the southern (Negev) desert in the general vicinity of Gaza. Israel appears to have discovered the same “solution” as the US government.

Posted in abuse of power, Conflict in the Middle East | Comments Off

On what basis are we rushing to war?

Posted by Charles II on August 28, 2013

Noah Schachtman of Foreign Policy, a neo-con lite source, is reporting that:

Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they’re certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime — and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.

But the intercept raises questions about culpability for the chemical massacre, even as it answers others: Was the attack on Aug. 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime?

American intelligence analysts are certain that chemical weapons were used on Aug. 21 — the captured phone calls, combined with local doctors’ accounts and video documentation of the tragedy — are considered proof positive. [Except they're not. As we have reported, certain kinds of things called tear gas can cause neuro sysmptoms and even death].

Making the case even more conclusive were the images of the missiles that supposedly delivered the deadly attacks. If they were carrying conventional warheads, they would have likely been all but destroyed as they detonated. But several missiles in East Ghouta were found largely intact. “Why is there so much rocket left? There shouldn’t be so much rocket left,” the intelligence official told The Cable. The answer, the official and his colleagues concluded, was that the weapon was filled with nerve agent, not a conventional explosive.

So, there’s the case for war:
1) There were phone calls asking about the use of a chemical agent.
2) The Defense Ministry did not know that a chemical agent was used.
3) There were intact missile casings in the vicinity.

So far, nothing about a vital national interest or any indication that our intervention will help anything or anyone.

Or, for that matter, evidence that we are certain can actually survive the light of day.
_________________
Update: Harriet Sherwood of the Guardian on the provenance of the intercepts:

The bulk of evidence proving the Assad regime’s deployment of chemical weapons – which would provide legal grounds essential to justify any western military action – has been provided by Israeli military intelligence, the German magazine Focus has reported.

The 8200 unit of the Israeli Defence Forces, which specialises in electronic surveillance, intercepted a conversation between Syrian officials regarding the use of chemical weapons, an unnamed former Mossad official told Focus. The content of the conversation was relayed to the US, the ex-official said.

That will certainly reassure the doubters among us.

And now the Obama Admin makes it clear it has as little regard for international law as its predecessor. Karen deYoung, WaPo:

A closed-door meeting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, called to consider a British-drafted resolution authorizing the use of force to prevent any further use of chemical weapons in Syria, adjourned without action after Russia and China opposed the measure.

In response, U.S. officials made clear they considered such initiatives irrelevant to Obama’s decision on military action.

In a letter Wednesday to Obama, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) echoed concerns that numerous outside experts have raised about the administration’s assessment of potential post-attack scenarios.

“These considerations include the Assad regime potentially losing command and control of its stock of chemical weapons or terrorist organizations — especially those tied to al-Qaeda — gaining greater control of and maintaining territory,” Boehner wrote.

It’s a shame that no one has considered the possibility that Assad might have lost control of his stock of chemical weapons prior to the deaths.

Is your congressman against the rush to war? Surprisingly few Democrats have signed onto Republican Scott Rigell’s letter urging Obama to consult Congress. Beto O’Rourke, Zoe Lofgren, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, Rush Holt, William Enyart, Timothy Walz, Michael Capuano, Richard Nolan, Jim McDermott, Bruce Braley, Sam Farr, Anna Eshoo, Earl Blumenauer, Peter Welch, Jim Matheson, and Collin Peterson. Pahing Keith Ellison! I count 17 Dems out of more than 90 signatories. Paging Rosa DeLauro! Paging John Lewis! And several dozen more Democrats who claim to be for peace.

When Republicans are advocating sanity and Democrats are silent, you know something is seriously wrong.

BTW, anyone remember the rush to Iraq and the role of intercepts there?

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East | 16 Comments »

And it was all going so nicely! (Is Assad about to defeat the Syrian uprising?). Also: best wishes for recovery to Stirling

Posted by Charles II on June 13, 2013

I don’t pretend to know whether this is correct, but the Agonist under Sean Paul Kelley was generally a place to go for international news. I am less taken with the current editor, Michael Collins, but it’s certainly a tonic to what we hear in our press:

The war in Syria went from a seeming quagmire to a conflict that may reach a dramatic climax with the coming battle for Aleppo, a city of nearly three million people that was once the commercial center of the nation.

The Syrian Army finished off final rebel resistance in the city of Qusayr last week fighting alongside the Lebanese group Hezbollah. As a result, the rebel supply line from Lebanon is shut down and the major road from Damascus to Aleppo via Qusayr is open. The road will serve the supply line for an attack to end rebel occupation of half of that city.

A victory by the Syrian military in Operation Northern Storm, its name for the Aleppo effort, will leave the rebels with very little in the way of major influence or meaningful territory.

Our press has been telling us that victory is certain for the rebels. Collins seems to believe the opposite. I have no opinion, just a vain hope that when it’s all over, the industrialized nations will not abandon a shattered Syria.

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Unrelated. Via the Agonist, this note dated 6/3:

To all Stirling [Newberry]’s friends; please know that he has had a stroke. He is in Mass. General Hospital and will get moved out of intensive care in the next couple of days. He has a long road to rehabilitation ahead of him. Please wish him well and visit with him if you can. (Stirling’s Facebook page is active for wishing him well)

A fast recovery to Mr. Newberry, one of the Internet’s most thoughtful iconoclasts.
_______________
Update. Bill Clinton risks looking like a fool:

Former President Bill Clinton offered a stinging critique of President Barack Obama’s inaction in Syria during a closed-press event this week, Politico reported, arguing that Obama’s hesitance to get involved in the lengthy conflict could end up making him look like a “total fool” and a “wuss.”

While only 15 percent of Americans said they’d back military action in Syria, according to a recent poll

Ex-presidents are not supposed to grade sitting presidents, particularly with this sort of rhetoric.
________________
Update: And now with this background the White House announcement of lethal aid for the Syrian rebels looks very much like an admission that Assad has won and that the only way to impose the American will is through the CIA, which will presumably be filling the gap until the rebels can get armed and trained.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Syria | 4 Comments »

No news today

Posted by Charles II on December 23, 2012

Julian Borger, The Guardian:

Russian military advisers are manning some of Syria’s more sophisticated air defences – something that would complicate any future US-led intervention, the Guardian has learned.

The advisers have been deployed with new surface-to-air systems and upgrades of old systems, which Moscow has supplied to the Assad regime since the Syrian revolution broke out 21 months ago.

The depth and complexity of Syria’s anti-aircraft defences mean that any direct western campaign, in support of a no-fly zone or in the form of punitive air strikes against the leadership, would be costly, protracted and risky.

Air strikes against chemical weapon depots would potentially disperse lethal gases over a vast area, triggering a humanitarian disaster. US and allied special forces have been trained to seize the air bases where the warheads are kept, but it is unclear what the next step would be. It would be physically impossible to fly the hundreds of warheads out of the country, while it would take thousands of troops to guard the arsenal for what could be many months.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Russia, Syria | 1 Comment »

Remember when I said that after an extended kabuki, we’d find that the military was still running Egypt?

Posted by Charles II on June 14, 2012

That was July 13th, 2011, reprising a February 2011 prediction.

David Hearst and Abdel Rahman-Hussein, The Guardian:

Two days before the second round of presidential elections, Egypt’s highest court on Thursday dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament and ruled that the army-backed candidate could stay in the race, in what was widely seen as a double blow for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The decision was denounced as a coup by opposition leaders of all kinds and many within the Brotherhood, who fear that they will lose much of the political ground they have gained since Hosni Mubarak was ousted 16 months ago.

The decision by the supreme constitutional court – whose judges were appointed by Mubarak – brought into sharp focus the power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the supreme council of the armed forces (Scaf), the military council that took up the reins of power after Mubarak’s fall.

The Brotherhood has now lost its power base in parliament, at the same time as seeing the military-backed candidate, Ahmad Shafiq, the last president to serve under Mubarak, receive a boost.

The decision means legislative authority reverts to Scaf.

Let’s just say I don’t think this would happen if SCAF thought the US government would oppose this deed, which effectively blocks Islamists from legally attaining power.

As’ad AbuKhalil comments:

The counter-revolution (US-Israel-Saudi Arabia-Qatar) are overplaying their hands and screwing up big time. The outcome will reverse what they had aimed at. Stay tuned.

It will certainly legitimize the Muslim Brotherhood in the eyes of both liberals and the harder-line Islamists.

Posted in Arab Spring, Conflict in the Middle East | 2 Comments »

Sanity pays a visit to Likud. Will this place Iran war on hold?

Posted by Charles II on April 29, 2012

Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian:

Israel’s former security chief has censured the country’s “messianic” political leadership for talking up the prospects of a military stike on Iran’s nuclear programme.

In unusually candid comments set to ratchet up tensions over Iran at the top of Israel’s political establishment, Yuval Diskin, who retired as head of the internal intelligence agency Shin Bet last year, said he had “no faith” in the abilities of the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the defence minister, Ehud Barak, to conduct a war.

“They are misleading the public on the Iran issue. They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won’t have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race.”

Diskin’s remarks followed a furore over comments made on Wednesday by Israel’s serving military chief, Benny Gantz, which starkly contrasted with Netanyahu’s rhetoric on Iran. Gantz said he did not believe the Iranian leadership was prepared to “go the extra mile” to acquire nuclear weapons because it was “composed of very rational people” who understood the consequences.

For the first time in a long time, I’m starting to feel a glimmer of optimism that there might not be an attack on Iran.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Iran | 5 Comments »

Assange on RT

Posted by Charles II on April 17, 2012

His first show is up here. For some reason, RT isn’t listing him on the schedule yet. He’s a better interviewer than a lot of the cable news heads, and he doesn’t let the guy off the hook. He could give better context and considering that Hezbollah is a paramilitary/political group deeply enmeshed in the cycle of violence in the Middle East, the questions could be sharper. But it’s a voice you are unlikely to hear anywhere else. Not even al Jazeerah, and probably not Mosaic. (al Jazeera’s tone toward Nasrallah is represented by this opinion piece)

As I keep saying, if we had a competitive media, someone, somewhere would have been broadcasting this guy all along. The whole point of the First Amendment is to ensure that people are making up their minds based on full access to information, not on one-sided presentations. It’s pretty easy to see why Nasrallah is popular. He’s a far more genuine person than, say, Mitt Romney. When Americans greenlight wars hither and yon, do they understand that the people in those countries may like their leaders more than we like ours, and are therefore willing to sacrifice more to resist us than we are to coerce them?

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, media, Wikileaks | Comments Off

Democracy where? Hersh on US-MEK ties

Posted by Charles II on April 10, 2012

Amy Goodman: … Although the revelation that the U.S. government directly trained the MEK comes as a surprise, it’s no secret the group has prominent backers across the political spectrum. Despite it’s designation as a “terrorist” organization by the State Department for 15 years, a number of prominent former U.S. officials have been paid to speak in support of the MEK. The bipartisan list includes two former CIA directors, James Woolsey and Porter Goss; former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge; New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; former Vermont Governor Howard Dean; former Attorney General Michael Mukasey; former FBI Director Louis Freeh; former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton; and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

Seymour Hersh:…there’s no question, this sort of training that was going on. It was going on at a place called the Nevada Nuclear Security or National Security Test Site. It’s a former site for World War—post-World War II nuclear testing of weapons, testing of nuclear weapons. And it’s off-limits to people. And it’s—there’s an air base there. God knows what went on there. My own guess is rendition flights also flew into that air base in ’02, ’03. There’s some evidence for it. But certainly, the groups of MEK were flown in secretly by, I presume, the Joint Special Operations Command.

We’ve been actively involved, beginning in the Cheney-Bush days, of encouraging insurrection inside Iran—whether it’s aimed at regime change or not isn’t clear; I doubt that—but basically, blowing up things, etc.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the bombs that were used in the assassinations?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, they’re most interesting bombs. They’re limpet bombs, Marine limpet bombs. They’re designed—they have a special charge, and they’re designed to go inside. … if you want to blow up something underwater, you have to have a charge that explodes inward to cause water to rush in, etc. And these kind of very sophisticated charges have been used by the MEK in the assassinations.

… It’s a very sophisticated shape charge. And there’s no question that some of the best mines in the Navy mine-making business were—some of that information was obviously passed on, whether directly to the MEK or through Israeli assets, or explicitly how. (emphasis added)

The latter point is interesting, because shaped charges are what we accused the Iranian government of giving to Iraqi insurgents.  Is it possible that the information we gave the MEK ended up as quite literal blowback against American troops? That’s one of the possible eventualities of supporting terrorists… just as happened in Afghanistan with the Mujahedeen, which was the precursor to Al Qaida.

Howard Dean has been remarkably reckless in supporting the MEK. Ed Rendell has been shameless. (And, as the interview with Hersh illustrates, Romney has been clueless). But this illustrates the “there aren’t two political parties” problem. Senior figures associated with both parties have supported what the government has designated as a terrorist group. While there’s no evidence that Obama has continued to train the MEK, and there’s no evidence to show that the US is supplying hit lists to it, there’s no question that the US is not dealing with the MEK as it would deal with any other terrorist group. It may be funding it and it is even possible that it is directing its activities.

And, of course, it illustrates the problem with our media, where the government can be engaged in covert warfare, and the only journalists who notice are old school journalists, who won’t be with us forever, from The New Yorker and Democracy Now.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Iran, media, Media machine, terrorism | 6 Comments »

 
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