Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

Abdullah ElmirA Sydney teenager who ran away to join jihadists in Syria is the pawn of terrorists who “groomed” him just like pedophiles groom their child victims, a terror expert says.

Abdullah Elmir has turned up in a propaganda video for the IS group, also known as ISIL, after disappearing from his Bankstown home in June, saying he was going fishing.

The video is the fourth in a series called “Message of the Mujahid” which features foreign fighters, with previous releases showing British, French and Moroccan jihadists.

Grand Mufti quick to condemn "Islamic" extremists

Grand Mufti quick to condemn “Islamic” extremists

The Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, urged Muslims to reject calls from abroad tocommit violence against Australia and said it was “utterly deplorable for violent extremists to use Islam as a cover for their crimes and atrocities”.

In a joint statement, the nation’s peak Muslim organisations expressed “profound concerns and sadness” over Abdullah’s appearance in the Islamic State video and said there was an “urgent need” to examine how and why the teenager felt the need to leave the country and fight with a terrorist organisation.

In the clip, the 17-year-old threatens Australia and any nation that would try to stand in the group’s way.

Professor Greg Barton from Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre says Elmir was recruited by wanted terrorist Mohammad Ali Baryalei, an Australian based in Syria.

He says terror recruiters lure targets by making friends through social media, like many sexual predators.

“It’s like sexual predation,” Professor Barton told the media.

“Somebody might strike up a friendship in an online chat forum and present themselves in a different fashion – to try to get them into their web. By the time they actually meet the people they’re speaking with, they may be in too deep to know better.”

He says the boy appears as a “pawn in the machine” in the chilling video.

“He thinks he’s the star … but the reality is, his new friends have got him a one-way ticket,” he said. “He’s not in charge of his own destiny at all, he’s being used.”

Prof Barton says young people are the easiest to radicalise.

“Teenagers, 20-somethings, particularly young men more than young women, are vulnerable to making rash judgments,” he said. “And they tend to be more rebellious toward (older) generations and sceptical of establishment figures.”

It is believed former Kings Cross bouncer Mr Baryalei, 33, recruited Elmir through western Sydney street preaching group Parramatta Street Dawah.

“He’s said to have recruited 30 plus young people – mostly in western Sydney through Street Dawah” Professor Barton said.

We agree with Professor Barton. What we are seeing is teenage braggadocio. No 17 year old understands the geo politics behind the likes of IS, they have no idea what the reality of death and injury is on the battlefield, they do not yet have an understanding of the terrible implications of the violence they may wreak on other families or what it really means to take another life, nor do they have the discretion to understand varying views of their own religion. What we are seeing here is the sophisticated internet version of the gathering of child soldiers by unprincipled militia in Africa and elsewhere.

abdullahThis young man will, one day, without any doubt, die a bloody death unknown, unmourned and unmarked in the conflict in Iraq. Those who recruited him as a footsoldier will not bat an eyelid at his passing.

Even if he does not, his life is effectively ruined, as he will no longer be welcome in his home country. The very best outlook he probaby has is to become a stateless refugee, in hiding.

It is all very sad, and a huge burden of guilt lies on the souls of those who recruit our innocents. The cases recently of two young Austrian women who travelled to join IS only to find themselves pimped out to fighters, impregnated, and now unable to leave after becoming utterly disillusioned, is yet more evidence that these people deserve our unflinching condemnation.

Meanwhile,  Abdullah’s family have said they are shocked and devastated. They believe he has been “brainwashed” and they want to know who paid for his air ticket and encouraged him to go. They have described him as academically bright and caring: and it is often so – those with intelligence, compassion and passion are the easiest to turn to the darkness.

We should all pray this young man somehow survives and is reuinted with those who can care for him. That, however, is vanishingly unlikely.

Akidi

Akidi

As the world focuses its attention on Ebola, Kurdish Journalist Muhanad Akidi and Iraqi cameraman Raad al-Azzawi have been murdered by Islamic State as acts of pure spite against those who oppose them.

Kurdish journalist Muhanad Akidi was murdered by IS militants on 13 October reportedly in retaliation for Kurdish self-defence in the north of Iraq and Syria.

His death was confirmed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party, who said he was executed at the Ghazlani military base.

Akidi’s death has not received as much coverage in the West as the beheading of American and british aid workers and journos. Akidi was reportedly captured two months ago whilst on assignment in the IS-held city of Mosul. He had been working as a journalist for a local news agency and also presented a television show.

Azzawi

Azzawi

News of the journalist’s death comes just days after reports that Iraqi cameraman Raad al-Azzawi was publicly executed near Tikrit.

The 37-year-old is believed to have been executed with a single shot, alongside his brother and two other civilians in the small village of Samra on Friday. It is thought they had refused to declare their support for Islamic State and work for the extremist group.

Their murders have also received relatively little attention in the West.

One of al-Azzawi’s relatives later said: “They came to his home and took him and his brother. He did nothing wrong; his only crime was to be a cameraman. He was just doing his job.”

Al-Azzawi, a father of three, was detained by IS militants on 7 September, according to Reporters without Borders.

Social media users have been circulating photos of Akidi and al-Azzawi, specifically calling for them to be remembered like western journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were beheaded.

The barbaric terrorists of “Islamic State” have declared that any journalist wanting to work in their territory must declare their allegiance to the caliphate or face execution.

One resident of the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa in Syria has confirmed that anyone who speaks to someone from the Western media will be killed.

British aid worker Alan Henning who is threatened with death

British aid worker Alan Henning who is threatened with death

With great anger and sadness, we regret to report that it has been reported today that Alan Henning has been murdered. We will not be commenting further out of respect for the Henning family, to whom we send our deepest sympathies.

Original story begins: The wife of a British aid worker being held by Islamic State insurgents has made a renewed appeal for his release, a week after receiving an audio message from her husband.

Alan Henning, 47, was part of an aid convoy taking medical supplies to a hospital in northwest Syria in December last year when it was stopped by gunmen and he was abducted.

He appeared in a video released by IS earlier this month, which showed the murder of another Briton, David Haines. In it, a masked man said Henning would also be killed if British Prime Minister David Cameron kept supporting the fight against IS.

Last week Britain’s parliament approved air strikes against IS insurgents in Iraq.

“We are at a loss why those leading Islamic State cannot open their hearts and minds to the truth about Alan’s humanitarian motives for going to Syria,” Barbara Henning said in a televised statement.

Barbara Henning’s courage and dignity beggars belief.

She said she had not had any contact from IS since she was sent an audio message last week of Alan pleading for his life. She pointed out that Muslims around the world have called for his release, and that Alan was working “with his Muslim friends”.

“Surely those who wish to be seen as a state will act in a statesman-like way by showing mercy and providing clemency. I ask again, supported by the voices across the world, for Islamic State to spare Alan’s life.”

We agree, and appeal from the bottom of our hearts to IS to spare this man’s life and to release him. What can be achieved by killing a man whose mission was to help the very people you seek to represent?

Readers, we urge you to post this story to your Facebook page, to your own blog, to tweet it, and so on. Perhaps if enough of the world speaks up, IS may listen. The life of a good man whose only crime was to try and get supplies to a hospital is at stake.

plane

If only he WAS going to be flying one of the jets, Abbott might not be quite so enthusiastic.

In the last couple of weeks, we have watched dismayed as Australia has become perhaps the most gung ho of all the world’s nations waiting to wade in and “stop” IS – the so-called Islamic “State”.

Let there be no mistake – we also think these appalling thugs need expunging from the world, and as soon as practicable.

But we are alarmed and worried by the enthusiasm with which the Australian government – especially Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop – have not just fallen in lock-step with our Western allies. but have been seen to be stoking the fires of conflict with a triumphalist air that amounts to “Look at us, we’re strong leaders, and you want strong leaders, right?”

We are undoubtedly already seeing the first signs of a deeply unpopular government using the conflict to bolster its electoral fortunes – a so-called “khaki election” looms – and given that our bravura chest-beating almost certainly increases the likelihood of a terrorist attack against Australians, that’s a very risky card to play. Nevertheless, for a Prime Minister with a Government that has proven itself both tone-deaf and gaffe-laden, the conflict with IS is the gift that keeps on giving. “Hey! Let’s all stop worrying about Medicare co-payments and go BOMB something, already!”

This rhetorical style has been echoed to a lesser extent by Cameron in the UK and the Republicans in America, especially the surely past-pensionable John McCain, but much less so by a carefully-nuanced President Obama. It’s almost as if Barack phoned Tony and Dave and said “Ramp it up a bit, will ya, cobbers? We’re a bit bruised over here and I have to be a more laid back.” Surely not?

There’s no question that IS are pretty much the worst of the worst going round at the moment, but let us be absolutely clear what their murderous public tactics are designed to achieve. These are people playing a long game, who have no respect or care for their own lives or for others. They are trying to drag the democratic West, against which they have a visceral, systemic hatred, into a seemingly endless conflict in a war zone where the alliances and influences shift weekly, and where the sectarian divisions are about as deep as it is possible to find them. It’s virtually impossible to “pick winners” in this environment, because this week’s ally is last week’s mortal enemy. As even Abbott himself once presciently remarked about Syria, “it’s a choice between baddies and baddies”.

We have already seen America co-operating with Iran and Russia to attack IS – both countries currently under sanctions and blockades from the West. We have seen America calling openly for Iran to aid in the fight against IS, despite the fact that they already are, a call that has been rejected by the top Ayotollah, despite the fact that this is exactly what they are already doing.

We have moved from being a day away from air strikes against Assad in Syria (thankfully averted when it became clear that the gas attacks on the Syrian public were probably carried out by rebels, and perhaps that the White House knew that all along, and even allegedly that the rebels were deliberately encouraged to do so, under Western guidance) to now cautiously needing to support him against IS, which will lead to the partial abandonment of the non-extremist Syrian opposition, or what may be even more bizarre, the joining of Assad with his former enemies to create a newly viable Syrian state to defeat the IS and Al Nusra insurgents.

How anyone is supposed to conduct a sane rational policy in this environment is beyond us. It’s a floating, shifting miasma of shifting lines, and we see no end to it. We are reasonably sure, though, that bellicose trumpeting is the least helpful thing we can do, especially as we have no idea how that plays amongst the general public in the contested regions.

What IS knows is that in this confused environment, mistakes can and will happen. IS and their backers know that the first time a bunker buster hits a school in Mosul there will be a flood of worldwide sympathy from both within the Sunni Muslim community and without it, and there’ll be a fresh rash of recruits flooding to a simpler, less complex view of the world than that offered by democracy. The angst and confusion created by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza will be seen to be just a shadow of what’s going to happen in northern Iraq and parts of Syria. Indeed, the mistakes (and concomitant slaughter of innocent civilians) are already happening, even if they’re not being widely reported in mainstream media.

Is there any question Bishop sees this as her chance to leap Malcom Turnbull and become Abbott's obvious replacement? We think not. Mind you, if we could win wars just with her "death stare", we'd be home and hosed. She scares the hell out of us, wonder what she does to IS?

Is there any question Bishop sees this conflict – and that with Russia in the Ukraine – as her chance to leap Turnbull and become Abbott’s most obvious replacement? We think not. Mind you, if we could win wars just with her “death stare”, we’d be home and hosed. She scares the hell out of us, wonder what she does to IS?

But that’s only the half of it. We cannot deploy hundreds of Australian troops (and thousands of Americans) plus people from all parts of the globe, and not expect some of them to fall into IS hands.

If we see that the road to war has been greased by the appalling executions of journalists and aid workers, not to mention the mass slaughter of civilians, Peshmerga and Iraqi army fighters, then imagine what will happen the first time video is released of a clean-cut Aussie or Yank fighter pilot or special forces hero having his head clumsily sawn off for the camera.

The calls for “boots on the ground” would surely become irresistible, especially if a newly-bolstered Iraqi army makes no discernible progress in recapturing rebel-held areas, or in forming a more broadly based Government capable of yoiking together Sunni and Shia in a workable state.

Having failed once to pacify Iraq, there is little doubt that we are very close to being dragged into the same maelstrom again, with a side serve of Syria and for all we know Lebanon and God knows where else as as well. We do not purport to know what the answer is – although one thing we cannot understand is why the Arab states, who are at least as much at risk from IS as anyone else, especially Saudi Arabia, cannot be prevailed upon to play a much more intrinsic role – perhaps they are so aware of the powder keg many of them sit upon that they dare not risk enraging them by sending ground troops to attack the Sunni IS as 85-90% of Saudis are Sunni – but as a start we could at least begin by not looking so goddamned happy to be heading off to war again.

We are not alone in our caution, which frankly borders on despair. This excellent opinion piece by experienced Middle East hand Paul McGeogh in the Sydney Morning Herald deserves to be widely read. His neat skewering of the lack of Arab co-operation, the unseemly rush to attack and the lack of an exit strategy (yet again) is spot on, and echoes our own concerns.

war sheepIt seems to us that only those who have actually fought wars show real reluctance to engage in them again. That is rarely politicians, especially those who have spent their entirely career crawling slowly up the political ladder.

Having seen the slaughter of innocents, the gore, the messy incompleteness of most military solutions, military men are almost invariably more cautious before setting off to the trenches once more.

But politicians revel in the limelight. It’s that set jaw, that gleam in the eye, the grimly-expressed determination. Not a hint of doubt, or worry, or regret. Nothing is allowed to ruffle their seeming purposefulness.

The prelude to war always looks to us like people with their egos way out of control about to play roulette with other people’s lives, and right now, it sure as hell looks that way again.

The Guardian reports that the Mayor of London (and probably Britain’s most popular Conservative politician, a possible replacement for Prime Minister David Cameron) has issued a strong condemnation of the former prime minister’s views on the Middle East.

Boris JohnstonBoris Johnson, (seen left) said the former prime minister is unhinged in his attempt to rewrite history and is undermining arguments for western intervention in Iraq, the London mayor claimed in an extraordinary personal attack on the former Prime Minister. (Photograph: Stuart C Wilson/Getty)Blair took to the media over the weekend to make the case for a tough response to the extremist insurgency in Iraq, insisting it was caused by a failure to deal with the Syria crisis rather than the 2003 US-led invasion which he helped to instigate.His intervention was met with widespread criticism from Labour figures and others as extremists posted pictures apparently showing the killing of dozens of Iraqi soldiers by jihadist fighters.

In his condemnation of Blair the London Mayor accused the ex-Labour leader of having sent British forces into the bloody conflict in part to gain personal “grandeur”.

Exactly echoing what we said a couple of days ago, Johnson said in his Daily Telegraph column that Blair and then-US president George Bush had shown “unbelievable arrogance” to believe toppling Saddam Hussein would not result in instability which resulted directly to the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis and hundreds of British and American troops. In fact, the figure of Iraqi losses is well over 500,000, according to a range of impeccable sources.

He suggested there were “specific and targeted” actions that could be taken by the US and its allies to deal with latest threat – as Barack Obama considers a range of military options short of ground troops.

But he said that by refusing to accept that the 2003 war was “a tragic mistake”, “Blair is now undermining the very cause he advocates: the possibility of serious and effective intervention.

“Somebody needs to get on to Tony Blair and tell him to put a sock in it, or at least to accept the reality of the disaster he helped to engender. Then he might be worth hearing,” Johnson concluded. And he is exactly right.

Unhinged? You be the judge.

Unhinged? You be the judge.

 

As to whether Blair is actually unhinged, we couldn’t possibly say. But there is something about the messianic glare that overcomes his eyes when he is defending his position that we find quite disturbing to watch.

The row over the events of 11 years ago came amid suggestions of serious atrocities being committed in the militants’ advance.

Taking on critics in an eight-page essay on his website, Blair rejected as “bizarre” claims that Iraq might be more stable today if he had not helped topple Saddam.

The former premier – now a Middle East peace envoy – said Iraq was “in mortal danger”, but pinned the blame on the sectarianism of the al-Maliki government and the spread of Syria’s brutal three-year civil war, not on the instability created by the West’s invasion of Iraq.

“The choices are all pretty ugly, it is true,” he wrote in a push for military intervention – though not necessarily a return to ground forces. “But for three years we have watched Syria descend into the abyss and as it is going down, it is slowly but surely wrapping its cords around us, pulling us down with it. We have to put aside the differences of the past and act now to save the future. Where the extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force. Every time we put off action, the action we will be forced to take will be ultimately greater.”

Former foreign minister and United Nations Depity Secretary-general Lord Malloch Brown urged Blair to “stay quiet” because his presence in the debate was driving people to oppose what might be the necessary response.

Clare Short, one of a number of MPs who quit Blair’s cabinet over the 2003 invasion, said he had been “absolutely, consistently wrong, wrong, wrong” on the issue, and opposed more strikes.

A victim of US bombing in Iraq.

A victim of US bombing in Iraq.

We were wildly opposed to the “allied” invasion of Iraq all along.

It was blindly obvious to millions of people around the world that the West had blurred reasons for invading, that the “weapons of mass destruction” argument was almost certainly a nonsense cooked up by Neo-Con influencers in Whitehall and Washington, that oil was probably the real reason for the war (as later confirmed by Australian Foreign Minister Alistair Downer) and the net result would be to de-stabilise the country and the entire region, with hundreds of thousands of likely civilian deaths – as predicted by the Australian Defence Force Chiefs, amongst others – and thousands of Western forces deaths, too.

Do we really have the appetite for this again?

Do we really have the appetite for this again?

Indeed, we were on 3AW radio with John Howard BEFORE the invasion asking him to justify that coming loss of civilian lives.

He flatly denied it would happen. The host, populist right-winger Neil Mitchell, cut the call before we could challenge the then-Prime Minister’s staggering complacency.

No United Nations approval for the invasion was ever obtained, making Howard, Bush and Blair nothing more nor less than war criminals, in our opinion. But history, of course, is written by the victors. Even when that “victory” was won at such painful cost in terms of our own losses and those of those surrounding our invasion.

For the record, the death toll of civilians in Iraq currently stands at over 500,000. Hardly a family has not been affected.

Now, the entirely predictable southward march of the ultra-extremist ISIS has the West in a flat panic again, and with good reason.

With typical shoot from the hip macho-man thoughtlessness, today the Australian Prime Minister has already signalled that the country might join another invasion of the country. Washington is weighing up “boots on the ground” versus air-strikes, versus doing nothing like a rabbit stuck in headlights.

Perhaps Abbott should remember his unusually pertinent comment on Syria, that “it’s hard to know what to do, because it’s essentially baddies against baddies”. It’s just about the only thing he’s ever said we agreed with. Apparently, he can’t seem to get his head around the fact that Iraq is the same.

The following articles are educatory and very relevant to what the West does next.

How George Bush and Al-Maliki lost Iraq.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fareed-zakaria-who-lost-iraq-the-iraqis-did-with-an-assist-from-george-w-bush/2014/06/12/35c5a418-f25c-11e3-914c-1fbd0614e2d4_story.html

How ‘Iraq’ was never going to be, and Al-Maliki’s failure.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/10896711/Iraq-crisis-Rebels-are-fighting-with-a-moral-force-that-the-army-lacks.html

The following facts are certain:

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is currently the world’s most appalling extremist bunch of thugs, and must be opposed. If they were to take over Iraq it would be an utter disaster for local people, and the world. They make the Taliban and even Al-Qaeda look like mild-mannered nuisances.

 

Isis at a glance

ISIS at a glance

 

ISIS is a response to Sunnis being pushed to the margins by the Alawite-led Shia in Syria and the Shia in Iraq. Western meddling in both countries has made the situation uncountably worse.

Saddam Hussein was a brute. So is Hafez Assad. Unfortunately, we now look very much like we are replacing them with something even worse.

ISIS executes prisoners in Syria

ISIS executes prisoners in Syria

Do we know what to do? No, we don’t. We suspect the West’s response will be airstrikes on the insurgents, to uncertain effect strategically, and to the certain effect of enraging Sunni opinion yet further.

What is certain is that whatever happens next will not be a long term solution to the tensions of the Middle East, and the ongoing conflict between Sunnis and Shia in particular.

The only long-term solution will be a political one, involving mutual respect, and effective power-sharing. The recent developments in Iraq have renewed the possibility, much discussed during the war a decade ago, and a possibility that we considered made much sense at the time, that Iraq be divided into three separate regions or even nations – the mostly Shiite section, made up of Baghdad and much of the south and east bordering Iran; a Sunni area, comprised of western Iraq and parts of the north; and a Kurdish zone, also in the north and including the cities of Erbil and Kirkuk, which Saddam tried to populate with Arabs.

ISIS - well organised, well disciplined, utterly fanatical, and extremely dangerous.

ISIS – well organised, well disciplined, utterly fanatical, and extremely dangerous.

As night follows day, the fundamental drive to create such a solution will have to come from the Mid-East’s own Islamic populations.

And given their inability to resolve the issue in the last thousand plus years, we should be prepared for it to take some time yet, perhaps generations. If the population fail to create the peace, it is they that shall be mired in seemingly endless conflict, it is their children, wives, husbands, brothers, uncles, sisters and mothers who will be oppressed and slaughtered.

In the meantime, the rest of the world needs to do this:

  • stay out of ill-thought out military adventures in the region,
  • create energy independence for itself,
  • support those in the Middle East who argue for a secular, peaceful, long-term solution, not merely those who appear to be aligned with our perceived interests, and
  • STOP the flow of weaponry to the region, which merely fuels the endless conflict. (We need to remember that well over 90% of people killed in conflicts in the world are not killed by bombs, rockets or missiles, but by bullets.)

The devil is in the detail, of course, but the broad brushstrokes are clear to Blind Freddie. If all the think-tanks in the world can’t get Governments to understand, we give up.

But it needs to be seen.

It needs to be shared widely. That you to Pat L for bringing it to my attention.

And we need to learn this lesson, not just for the country mentioned at the end, but also for EVERY country where conflict is occurring.

 

Image

Collateral damage is people

We cannot praise the creative brains behind this enough, and the cast, especially the little girl.

If you’d like to walk your disapproval of the death of innocents on your local streets, you could do worse than invest in this t-shirt I designed a few years back. This pic links to one shirt, like most Radical tees it comes in various shapes and sizes. If you can’t find what you want, message me.

The photo is of my daughter, aged 2.

I created the shirt the day I realised the collateral damage they were talking about on the TV was other people’s daughters.

There are some other shirts in the Anti-War section you may like too.

Here’s one:

stop_bombing_civilians_shirt

If we do nothing else to save the children of the world, at least we can say “Not in my name.”

Click and buy now.

And no, we’re not doing it for the money.

Infowars is an interesting website. It is frequently full of the most egregiously nonsensical conspiracy theories or libertarian ramblings. But occasionally it also reports news that others largely ignore.

The linking (see below) of Saudi Arabia to terrorist bombings in Russia, for example, attempts to strip back the veil that normally covers the murky depths of international diplomacy, and reveals, yet again, why America defends its proxy allies like Saudi Arabia despite their appalling human rights and social justice records. Is the website right? Who knows. It is becoming nigh-impossible to unpick the miasma of government behaviour worldwide. Certainly, it bears investigating.

The other thing that strikes us forcibly is the difference in worldwide reaction to these tragic events to, say, the much less destructive (though no less morally horrendous) attack on the Boston Marathon. Or, indeed, the continual litany of attacks in Iraq and elsewhere. One cannot help but draw the conclusion that the deaths of Americans (or perhaps Londoners) somehow have a higher value than the deaths of innocent civilians in other countries. And that, Dear Reader, is wrong.

Looking at the bodies of the innocent victims reminds us that terrorists (or Governments) can destroy us at will. Young girls, commuters, families. People, indeed, just like us. While men and women resort to the tactics to achieve political ends it will be, as always, the completely innocent who will pay the price.

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
December 30, 2013

Twin blasts targeting a train station and a trolley bus in the city of Volgograd which killed at least 31 people follow a threat by Saudi Arabia to attack Russia using Chechen terrorists if Moscow did not withdraw its support for President Assad in Syria.

The first attack took place at Volgograd-1 station on Sunday morning, killing 17 people. CCTV footage shows an orange blast behind the main doors of the station, smashing windows and sending debris out into the street. The prime suspect is a female suicide bomber. (Note, later reports indicate that it was a recent Muslim convert Russian male.)

The second attack occurred near a busy market in Volgograd’s Dzerzhinsky district. A bus packed with people on their morning commute was ripped apart by a suicide bomber, killing 14.

Although no group has claimed responsibility for the blasts, suspicion immediately fell on Islamists from the North Caucasus region who routinely attack soft targets in Russia.

While the media has concentrated on the threat such groups pose to February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, no scrutiny has been given to a warning issued by Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan back in August when he told Vladimir Putin that Saudi Arabia would activate the Chechen terrorist groups it controls to target Russia if Moscow refused to abandon its support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

As we reported at the time, the threat was made during a closed-door meeting between Prince Bandar and Putin at the beginning of August.

According to a transcript of the comments made during the meeting by Middle Eastern news agency Al Monitor, Bandar made a series of promises and threats to Putin in return for Moscow withdrawing its support for Assad in Syria.

“I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year,” Bandar allegedly stated, adding, “The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us.”

Bandar made it clear that his position was supported by the US government.

This “guarantee” to stop the Chechens from attacking the Sochi Olympics was also obviously a veiled threat that if Russia did not abandon Assad, terrorist attacks would be given the green light.

Given that Russia did not abandon Assad and indeed virtually single-handedly prevented a US military strike on Syria, much to the chagrin of Saudi Arabia which is the primary supplier of anti-Assad rebel jihadists, are we to believe that the Volgograd bombings are evidence of Bandar following through on his threat?

20130915-214908.jpg

Infowars is hardly a universally accepted or reliable source of rumours or news, but the assertion that Obama has been warned by ex CIA and FBI operatives that the infamous Syrian sarin attack was, indeed, carried out by rebels as a false flag attack is a new one. We’d very much like to see the story properly sourced …

http://www.infowars.com/us-military-document-rebels-had-sarin-gas-for-attack-in-syria/

We are on record as saying that we cannot understand why on earth Assad would use gas on his own people, thus ensuring Western intervention that would tip the balance in favour of the opposition.

That this was a “false flag” attack was always, of course, a possibility. And if it turns out to have been so, then external powers will rush to deny involvement. The story will be blamed on rogue elements in the Syrian opposition.

However, if Obama still proceeds to attack Syria (if talks fail to deal with the gas stockpiles, for example) and it is later shown he was warned that the intelligence he was acting upon was false – and that intelligence then is then duly shown to be false – then that will surely be the end of Obama.

Little wonder his apparent enthusiasm for a cruise missile attack on Syria seems to wane daily.

Meanwhile, we seem as far as ever from a solution to the overall crisis.

UPDATE

Against continuing denials by the Assad regime that they were responsible for the recent sarin gas attack, Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.N. General Assembly should move swiftly to approve a U.S.-Russia deal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, saying that there is no time to argue with those who are remain unconvinced that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government carried out a chemical attack last month.

Speaking Thursday at the State Department, Kerry didn’t mention Russian President Vladimir Putin, but his remarks were a clear attempt to rebut Putin’s statement that Russia has strong ground to believe that Syrian rebels – not Assad – were responsible for the attack.

Putin, however, says the perpetrators relied on “primitive” technology using old Soviet-made ammunition no longer in the Syrian army’s inventory.

Kerry says the U.S. believes a report by U.N. inspectors proves Assad conducted the attack. However, he also insists that the rebels do not have access to sarin, despite known evidence to the contrary. (See the third link below.)

Related articles

syria refugee mapI am on record as often re-posting Emily Hauser’s columns from her excellent blog “In my head”.

She generally tackles issues of social justice, democracy, and the difference between right and wrong, and especially as regards Israel, from a Jewish perspective.

As, in Australia, we seem to be roiled up in an endless debate about immigration and what to do with the tens of thousands of refugees that we accommodate every year.

Tens of thousands sounds a lot, but it’s worth remembering that other countries, much poorer than ours, deal with millions of refugees.

And that these vast movements of people de-stabilise whole regions, and that none of us are immune from those impacts, especially the countries in the immediate proximity of conflict.

I warmly commend Emily’s comments to you. They bear deep consideration.

Syrian refugees – actually a lot more than two million.

Like the shirt? Buy the shirt. Change the world. http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.561612586

Like the shirt? Buy the shirt. Change the world. http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.561612586

And if you’re in Australia, you might like to purchase this t-shirt, to remind our new Dear Leader, Dear Reader, that we can afford to be a bit more generous with the world.

We can easily manage to up our refugee intake.

As one of the richest nations on the planet, we should.

Not to mention the fact that we are a nation of immigrants, and many of our finest Australians came here as refugees.

Not to mention that research shows that immigration is a net contributor to the Australian economy.

Immigration = economic growth. No, immigrants don’t “take” our jobs, fool. They make our jobs.

Buy the shirt, start the conversation with a friend.

 

Deep, deep concerns about the wisdom of this course of action - the least the powers that be could do is show us the evidence.

Deep, deep concerns about the wisdom of this course of action – the least the powers that be could do is show us the evidence.

With his “red line” commitment, and the likely imminent bombing of Syria, Obama may have committed the worst blunder of what has in many ways been a Presidency mired in lost opportunities and disappointment.

When all’s said and done, it was never likely that Obama’s incumbency would reach the height of expectation generated by his first election victory.

And the economic crisis he had to deal with – and which he handled with some aplomb despite the criticism of an ornery Congress and the rabid right in America – dominated his first term.

Yet as we go along, there were also worrying signs that Obama lacks any genuine understanding of his role as a centre-left reformer on vital civil liberties issues.

He didn’t close Guantanamo as he promised to – but why? Was there ever any real doubt that Guantanamo inmates could be housed humanely and safely in America? No.

Just one of the many blight's on Obama's record as a small "d" democrat,

Just one of the many blights on Obama’s record as a small “d” democrat.

After years of incarceration, he has not released Guantanamo inmates who have been shown by any reasonable standard, including the opinion of the Administration, to be innocent of any crime. And trials of those considered guilty seem endlessly delayed.

Guilty as hell they might be, but justice delayed is justice denied, no matter who the defendant is.

He has not intervened to pardon whistleblower Bradley Manning, a principled if somewhat naive young person who many consider a hero.

He has argued it is acceptable for the Administration to kill US citizens without trial, via drone strikes, even within the USA’s borders if necessary. (You can’t even lock people up without trial, but you can execute them, apparently.)

For all his posturing, he has failed to act effectively on gun control.

He has done nothing to persuade states to drop the death penalty, nor has he intervened in cases where it is patently obvious that the soon-to-be-executed prisoner is innocent.

Troy Davis, just one of many executions against which there was serious disquiet, where Obama could have intervened, but didn't.

Troy Davis, just one of many executions against which there was serious disquiet, where Obama could have intervened, but didn’t.

He has continued – indeed, increased – drone strikes in countries nominally allied to the USA, despite their counter-productive effect on local opinion.

And now, faced with worldwide concern that we might be about to slip into a morass from which our exit is entirely uncertain, he seems determined to bomb the hell out of Damascus.

Current plans involve nearly 200 cruise missiles being dropped on the poor, benighted citizens of that beleaguered city.

(And that doesn’t count the payload of war planes that were yesterday landing at a rate of one every minute in Malta, according to one correspondent we have.)

One of our more popular t-shirts. You might check out this one, and others, at http://www.cafepress.com/yolly/7059992

One of our more popular t-shirts. You might check out this one, and others, at http://www.cafepress.com/yolly/7059992

Large scale civilian casualties will be brushed off by everyone as “sad but inevitable” except, of course, by the vast majority of the Arab and mid-East populace, already instinctive opponents of America, who will become, without doubt, angrier at the US and the West than ever, whatever they think of Assad.

Meanwhile, rumours continue to swirl unabated that the gas attack in the city was nothing to do with the regime, and could even have been an appalling accident from stocks held by rebel forces.

The US claims to have evidence of rockets being prepared with gas by the regime, but as this article argues, then why on earth not release that evidence?

We also have previous evidence that Syrian rebels have used gas themselves.

We have the persistent assertion that neo-cons have been planning to use Syria as just one more stepping stone to Mid-East hegemony, and that current alarums are just part of a long-range plan to hop into Syria on the way to Iran, as disclosed by retired general Wesley Clarke, presumably to depose the theocratic Islamic regime and grab the Iranian oilfields at the same time.

The fog generated by the secret state also makes it completely impossible to discern what was really going on when the Daily Mail first printed, then retracted as libellous (paying damages), an article about a British defence contractor revealing plans for a false flag gas attack on Syria.

So now, on the brink of war, we have the Obama government refusing to release all the facts that it is showing to members of Congress.

We can only ask “Why?”

If the case against the Assad regime stacks up, then the world – especially those in the mid East – need to know it before any action takes place. So does the UN, whether or not the Security Council can be persuaded to unanimity. (Extremely unlikely.) Because after Damascus is reduced to a smoking ruin will be too late to save the West’s credibility if it acts prematurely, or without irrefutable evidence.

And forgive us, but politicians reassuring us that the evidence is irrefutable just doesn’t cut it any more.

The continual accusation that something murky is going on will bedevil Obama unless this whole situation is conducted with total transparency. Memories of the “sexed up” dossier that led to the bloody war in Iraq (casualties 500,000 and counting) are still raw and fresh.

If he cares less about his legacy, Obama would do well to observe how Bush’s and Blair’s reputations have been forever trashed by that event. The tags “aggressors” and “war criminals” will follow them to their grave and beyond.

Why not simply release all the evidence, publicly. Why? That's what you have to tell us.

Why not simply release all the evidence, publicly. Why? That’s what you have to tell us.

As far as Wellthisiswhatithink is concerned, one piece of commonsense reasoning stands out for us above all others, fundamentally requiring an answer.

Obama had issued his red line warning. Why, in the name of all that is sensible, would Assad risk bringing down the wrath of Nato on his head by flinging chemical weapons at a relatively unimportant residential suburb, knowing full well what the response would be?

The war in Syria is a stalemate, his regime has suffered some losses but also some gains, and there is no evidence his personal grip on power was threatened. Why would this turkey vote for Christmas?

On the other hand, if a rogue Syrian officer wanted to aid the rebel cause, then what better way than to launch an attack which was guaranteed to provoke the West’s intervention, and possibly tip the scales emphatically in the rebel’s direction, something they seem unable to achieve for themselves?

As we contemplate the utter and ultimately murderous failure of diplomacy, we feel constrained to point out that the West – and all the other players like Russia – had a simple solution to the Syrian conflict available on the 23rd December 2011, while casualties were still horrific but minimal (just over 6,000), and before another civilian population had been utterly torn apart and traumatised.

Instead of standing back and doing nothing except chucking verbal rocks, Putin could be part of the solution. Nu-uh. Not so far.

Instead of standing back and doing nothing except chucking verbal rocks, Putin could be part of the solution. Nu-uh. Not so far.

We offered it in an article that explained patiently that there cannot be a solution to the Syrian crisis unless the leaders of the Baa’thist regime are offered a safe haven somewhere (either Russia or Iran, in all likelihood) and also pointed that we would need to keep the bulk of the civil administration in place even after a handover to the Syrian opposition, in order to prevent a complete breakdown in civil society as occurred in Iraq. And, of course, to prevent handing over power to the appalling al-Qaeda forces that were swarming into the conflict on the rebel side.

Now, thanks either to the complete ineptitude of Western politicians, or due to some hazy conspiracy the details of which we cannot clearly discern, we have the ultimate disaster on our hands.

One hundred thousand men, women and children who are NOT combatants are dead, and countless others injured.

Assad is weakened but has no way out.

The Opposition is in thrall to murderous savages that cut the heads off innocent people with pocket knives and shoot soldiers captured on the battlefront.

And we are about to waste hundreds of millions of dollars that we don’t have “taking out” Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles which, in reality, means taking out civilian neighbourhoods with yet more horrendous losses while the Syrian Government squirrel any WMDs they do have deep underground where they can’t be found, let alone bombed.

As the new Australian Prime minister Tony Abbott presciently remarked a few days ago, our choice in Syria is really between “baddies and baddies”.

Not exactly the brightest intellectual star in the political sky, for once Abbott's common touch pitched it about right.

Not exactly the brightest intellectual star in the political sky, for once Abbott’s common touch pitched it about right.

He was criticised for dismissing the conflict so colloquially, but frankly we think he deserves to be applauded for putting it so simply. We may well be about to intervene on behalf of one baddie, when the other baddie is at least as bad, if not worse.

And we do not refer, of course, to the principled, secular and democratic Syrian opposition that has bravely argued for regime change for a generation, but for the lunatics who would hijack their cause in the chaos.

And we are not even allowed to see the evidence for the upcoming attack. We repeat: why?

So much for democracy. So much for humanity. So much for truth and justice. Meanwhile, let’s feed the population bread and circuses – a steady diet of game shows, reality TV and talent quests, with some sport thrown in – let us anaesthetise our sensibilities to the hideous nature of what is about to happen – while the real powers behind the throne seemingly effortlessly manoeuvre public opinion in a relentless search for power, personal wealth and to justify corporate greed.

Frankly, always more of a fan of the cock-up theory of public administration (that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong) we are actually beginning to sense that the shadow state is more real than any of us beyond the wildest conspiracy theorists ever truly imagined.

And we are also so very grateful that we do not live in a country with major oil fields.

His administration decided that it was better to let gas attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war against Iran. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted. How times change, huh?

Declassified CIA reports reveal that his administration decided that it was better to let gas attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war against Iran. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted. How times change, huh?

Last but by no means least: how do you like the hypocrisy of flattening Syria for theoretically using chemical weapons – although we are not allowed to see the proof – that actually might well have made their way to Assad via Saddam Hussein, that were originally cheerfully supplied to him by America, to chuck at Iranian troops in the Iraq-Iran war?

That’s when Saddam was still our good ol’ buddy, remember. Before he got a bit uppity.

Those weapons – which the dictator was actively urged to use by America backed up by American supplied intelligence – killed tens of thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of people.

But that’d be wrong, right?

Sorry, my brain hurts.

Governments understand the role of false flag attacks. Good governments, bad governments, all kinds of governments. Is this story another example, or nonsense?

Governments understand the role of false flag attacks. Good governments, bad governments, all kinds of governments. Is this story another example, or nonsense?

I rarely pass on links to other blogs uncritically, or unchecked, especially when they come from a very definite ideological background. But this one surely deserves “the oxygen of publicity”, at the very least, so that everyone can decide whether it is true or not.

I note that the authors are no friends of the American administration – and, indeed, that they delight in conspiracy theories, often of the most ludicrous kind (in my opinion). Anti-authority, libertarian blog cutdc.com frequently posts stories that appear to be utter nonsense. Conspiracy theory central. Wing nut territory.

But they’re like a scatter gun. Sooner or later one of their crazy stories has to hit a target. And on some levels, certainly enough to prompt interest, this story “rings true” to me. So I recommend you click on the video story from the Infowars author and listen. Just click the link below, then click the video, and read the story under the video.

http://tinyurl.com/aa55r5d

Long story short – I do believe our Governments frequently engage in “black ops” and “false flag” attacks, as the examples from history are numerous.

false-flag1If you wanted a pretext for an armed intervention in Syria, there couldn’t be a better one than the story that Assad had used chemical weapons against his own population.

The idea is purported to have been promoted from staunch American ally Qatar – if that’s true, then this is called “levels of deniability” or a “cut out”, using other countries to keep such murky matters at arm’s length from ourselves.

So is it true? I really have no idea. Would I like to know if it’s true? I sure would.

If it was true, it would make Benghazi-Gate look like the tiniest radar blip ever seen. That an American administration could countenance deliberately using a chemical weapon – or even transporting one into a conflict arena – to advance a political goal – would be unthinkable.

I think the world’s front-line media need to take this story up, and, using their investigatory resources, to determine its truth, or otherwise.

If – and I repeat, if – this story was true, it would represent the biggest foreign policy scandal in America since, perhaps, the covert bombing of Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam war.

As you can see below, the story is flying round the extreme right, libertarian blogosphere like a blue-arsed fly chasing some rotten meat. What is needed is some serious analysis from people with real access.

So I would urge my American readers, in particular, to ask their media to make those investigations on their behalf.

Needless to say, the White House will already be aware of this report.

The simplest thing in the world would be for them to deny it. If it is deniable. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Funny thing to do because you are perfectly capable, Dear Reader, in looking round the blog yourself. But with 270 new blogs in a year that’s a lot of searching, so all the “Blogging Basics” sites say I must give you a guide that you can go look through, so here it is.

Er, nope. Never happened. Nice painting though.

Er, nope. Never happened. Nice painting though.

By far the most popular blog of the year on any one day was http://wellthisiswhatithink.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/its-official-adam-and-eve-er-werent/ which garnered nearly 5,000 hits in one day (out of an annual total of more than 77,000 in 2012) when a very senior Archbishop in the Roman Catholic Church revealed what the rest of us with brains have known forever and a day anyway, which is that Genesis is true only in the sense that is is a moral fable, and not in the sense that the world was created in 7 days, or that Eve came from Adam’s rib, or that all the horrors of the world arose from munching a forbidden apple.

The really interesting thing about this story, of course, is that theologically speaking when we allow any part of the Bible text to be considered mythological then we have no argument that any other part of the Bible might not also be mythological.

Hence, just to pick a few major ones – bye bye Noah and capturing two of every living creature on the earth (including all bacteria, all 8000 species of ants, etc.), cya later Lot offering his virgin daughters to the crowd, not to mention the fact that Joshua collapsing the walls of Jericho couldn’t have happened because archaeology reveals the place was deserted when Joshua was around. Great story – good song – historical nonsense.

It seems we will just have to do what the 19th and 20th century “modernist” or “critical” theologians wanted us to do, which is read the Bible with the benefit of modern textual analysis, studying the original languages not the translations, (which, for example, can be used to argue that the Bible actually says nothing at all about gays) and taking full advantage of archaeology when we can.

The article on Adam and Eve was also the second most popular article overall of the whole year.

I think we have more to worry about than whether a Secret Serviceman did or did not employ a prostitute. Like: HIV, violence, drug addiction, social dislocation.

I think we have more to worry about than whether a Secret Serviceman did or did not employ a prostitute. Like: HIV, violence, drug addiction, social dislocation. And more.

The most popular article for the whole year was http://wellthisiswhatithink.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/the-secret-serviceman-and-the-prostitute-whats-the-real-scandal/.

I’d like to think this was all about my thoughtful analysis of hypocrisy in American moral values, the role of prostitution in modern society, the role of the media in drumming up salacious gossip, and the relationship between poverty and the sex trade.

However checking out my stats closely I suspect it’s just because the word prostitute is often typed into search engines, and the story duly pops up.

Similar big scores have been gathered with articles about tits, and even bum.

One would despair, were it not for the fact that I know that some people read the article seriously.

Similarly, promising to ignore injunctions and show people Princess Catherine of Wales (aka Kate Middleton) topless and then bottomless worked well to drum up passing trade, though I doubt many of the people who clicked on the links got the point of my tongue in cheek effort.

The third most popular post of the year was this “Gratuitously Offensive Politically Incorrect Joke”, which I still think is very funny, (it’s also a paraprosdokian by the way, and there are some more of them here, which is probably why I like it so much), and scores very highly with anyone searching for Angela Merkel in Google and so on, so the Bundesnachrichtendienst have probably given me the once-over, but decided I am harmless.

Snookie, Chelsea the Borgias and Big Tits was the fourth most popular article of the year, and has been in the Top Ten most popular almost every day of the year. I a eagerly awaiting the next series of the Borgias, not to mention the next series of Downton Abbey and Throne of Kings. I don’t mind crap TV, so long as it’s good quality crap. A lot of you seemed to agree with me that Jeremy Irons and the Crew give good crap. Snookie and the Crew? Not so much. I wish, actually, I had been a TV reviewer, which is, of course, one of the most sought after positions in journalism. Do we think it is too late, Dear Reader? Hell, no!

Last but by no means least – in fifth place – was what I have decided was the WINNER of Advertising F*** Up of the Year, in fact the very first of the series which proved incredibly popular with readers. To save you clicking back to last January, here it is:

The first poster is for a road safety campaign where Daddy has crashed his car and died. The one right next to it is for a notorious lap dancing club. I mean, really?

The first poster is for a road safety campaign where Daddy has crashed his car and died. The one right next to it is for a notorious lap dancing club. I mean, really? Really?

The Advertising F*** Up series were undoubtedly the most popular series of articles in the year. To access them, just type “F***” into the search box and they’ll all be listed for you. (Saves me doing it.)

I am enormously grateful for all the supporters of the Blog, all those who have commented, who have argued, who have provided elucidation, and who have laughed and loved. It is most popular in the USA, in the UK, and in my home country of Australia, and I guess that is inevitable. But in all, people in 172 countries read the blog, which I personally find quite humbling and astonishing, and the free spread of ideas and opinions must surely be the greatest boon the Internet has given the world.

I am especially proud, in the year just gone, for the work we were able to do on awareness to do with bullying, and Alzheimer’s, on clean water for the poor of the world, and on women’s rights. I am also very glad my feverish campaigning for Obama came out on the right side of history, and I hope his second term is more impressive than his first, which is often the case. Let us hope and pray for wisdom for all our political leaders, as the world is a long way from being out of the woods yet – economically, and politically.

I bitterly regret that my warnings on Syria, which predated most commentators in the world, were ignored, but I only have a very small lectern and it is a big world. And anyway, the world only listens when it wants to. Yesterday the United Nations estimated that 60,000 have died in this completely avoidable conflict thus far, and unless Assad’s Alawite regime can be persuaded to decamp to the safe haven of Iran pretty damn quickly that figure could still rise exponentially.  It was – and is – all so unnecessary, and so awfully, inexorably predictable.

I am also grateful for the opportunity to showcase my poetry and creative writing. Thank you for all the kind comments.

I am Bradley Manning. Are you?

I am Bradley Manning. Are you?

As the blog tipped over from 2011 into 2012, I was still deeply distressed by the murderous execution of Troy Davis, campaigning against which had occupied – unsuccessfully – so much of the start of the blog. This year, I have watched with increasing horror as the might of the modern American state has born down relentlessly on Bradley Manning, the well-meaning and honourable serviceman who set off the Wikileaks scandal by releasing for public gaze tens of thousands of classified snippets of information. Expect to hear a lot more about his case in the coming weeks, not least why I believe the man is a modern hero who should be feted, not crucified.

I am still Troy Davis. I am now Bradley Manning.

Happy New Year, Dear Reader.

I am never quite sure what to make of some of the articles on CutDC.com.  They are full of stories of conspiracies, dirty doings and nefarious news behind the news. What is true, and what is the work of fevered imaginations, is almost impossible to divine without one’s own research facilities, and opposing viewpoints to consider.

But this latest article seems well researched, and certainly worthy of serious consideration. As we wait for the Assad regime to fall, we need to be careful what we wish for. As has been said many times, if we are seeing quasi-West-friendly anti-democratic regimes being toppled, but only to be replaced with rabid religious nutters like Al-Qaeda, then frankly, we may end up looking back reminiscently to the stability of the Assads, Gadaffis and Mubaraks, as horrible as that sounds.

Quoting Orwell’s 1984, CutDC.com and Infowars lead their article with the ironic cry: “Winston, we were never at war with Eurasia!” Indeed, indeed. It was ever thus. But that does not mean we should not be alarmed. Here’s the article, you make your own mind up. What do you think of the points it raises?

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Senior Council on Foreign Relations fellow Ed Husain has hailed the presence of Al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria, praising their fighting prowess in aid of FSA rebels while also lauding the increasing number of successful bombings carried out by Al-Qaeda fighters.

In case you didn’t get the memo – Al-Qaeda – the same group the United States accuses of carrying out the most devastating terrorist attack on U.S. soil in history, is now our ally in Syria.

Terrorist attacks carried out by Al-Qaeda in Syria are inherently moral and good. Down is the new up.

Winston, we were never at war with Eurasia!

“The Syrian rebels would be immeasurably weaker today without al-Qaeda in their ranks. By and large, Free Syrian Army (FSA) battalions are tired, divided, chaotic, and ineffective. Feeling abandoned by the West, rebel forces are increasingly demoralized as they square off with the Assad regime’s superior weaponry and professional army,” writes Husain, a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies with the CFR.

“Al-Qaeda fighters, however, may help improve morale. The influx of jihadis brings discipline, religious fervor, battle experience from Iraq, funding from Sunni sympathizers in the Gulf, and most importantly, deadly results. In short, the FSA needs al-Qaeda now,” he adds.

The Council on Foreign Relations is considered to be America’s “most influential foreign-policy think tank” and has deep connections with the U.S. State Department. In 2009, Hillary Clinton welcomed the fact that the CFR had set up an outpost down the street from the State Department in Washington DC, because it meant “I won’t have as far to go to be told what we should be doing.”

Husain goes on to celebrate the fact that Al-Qaeda’s role in carrying out terrorist bombings in cities like Damascus and Aleppo has intensified, writing that “The group’s strength and acceptance by the FSA are demonstrated by their increasing activity on the ground –from seven attacks in March to sixty-six “operations” in June.”

His fervor for Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks – which have included targets such as schools and TV stations – is matched by the Obama administration as well as Ambassador Susan Rice, who have applauded terror bombings as a useful tool in destabilizing Bashar Assad’s government.

However, by the end of his article Husain is using the presence of Al-Qaeda fighters in Syria – put there with the aid of NATO powers – as another reason for military intervention in Syria.

“The planning to minimize al-Qaeda’s likely hold over Syrian tribes and fighters must begin now as the Obama administration ramps up its support to rebel groups,” he writes.

Husain strikes a similar tone to a recent report published by the RAND Corporation which also cites the presence of Al-Qaeda fighters in Syria as justification to “Conduct a covert campaign against al Qaeda and other extremist groups gaining a presence in the country.”

As the London Guardian has documented (in glowing terms), far from there being a distinction between the FSA rebels and Al-Qaeda terrorists, the Al-Qaeda fighters, along with hordes of foreign fighters including many veterans of NATO’s previous act of regime change in Libya, are now commanding the rebels.

“We have clear instructions from our [al-Qaida] leadership that if the FSA need our help we should give it. We help them with IEDs and car bombs. Our main talent is in the bombing operations,” said former FSA rebel turned Al-Qaeda commander Abu Khuder, adding that Al-Qaeda fighters meet “every day” with Syrian rebels.

In addition, rebel fighters are routinely photographed wearing the Al-Qaeda motif. There are also innumerable You Tube videos that show opposition forces flying the Al-Qaeda flag.

It’s astounding to witness the mainstream media and the establishment now admitting what for months they denied – that Al-Qaeda is not only present in Syria but actually leading the uprising against the Syrian government.

It’s also jaw-dropping to witness the lashings of praise being heaped upon Al-Qaeda for their efforts in carrying out terrorist attacks to precipitate a NATO-backed regime change, while those very same people simultaneously cite Al-Qaeda’s presence as a justification for U.S. and NATO military involvement in Syria.

Stephen "Yolly" Yolland:

I warmly applaud this article by Emily, which I consider to be both timely and wise. The prospect of another war with Israel in the south for tragic little Lebanon, already so pressed by the situation in Syria on their border, is simply too horrible.

We must learn Emily’s core understanding – violence begets violence. When will the leaders in the Mid East remember Churchill’s famous adage “Jaw-jaw is always better than war-war”? We are talking about violence, which could, if it embroils Israel, Iran, Syria and Lebanon – a true regional conflict – cause not just hundreds or thousands of casualties, but cost hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of innocent lives. And as Emily so presciently points out, we seem to be sleep-walking into it.

War will continue until men refuse to fight

I know some will accuse me of being naive, but it’s what I believe. http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.431431252

Originally posted on Emily L. Hauser - In My Head:

“Lebanon? That’s so 80s.”

We learned on Friday that America and Israel have concluded that the bomber in last week’s bloody attack in the Bulgarian city of Burgas was an operative working with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, under orders from Iran “to avenge assassinations targeting its nuclear scientists” (such as Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, killed in January when an assassin bombed his car in Tehran).

In the meantime, we’ve also learned that the New York police have found evidence linking Iran or its proxies to nine other plots against Israeli or Jewish targets around the world. According to former Israeli National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, this should not surprise us – and Israel is “to a large extent, the initiators.”

We hit [senior Hezbollah leader] Imad Mughniye [in 2008], and, mainly, we’re leading a struggle against Iran. We’re not a passive side. And the other side is the defending, deterring, and attacking…

View original 572 more words

Some time ago – a disgracefully long time ago, actually – I promised to nick some good thoughts sourced from around the internet, and post them here regularly, with my own commentary. The idea is simple: there are cleverer people than me around, but I am clever enough to spot stuff that deserves sharing. So I am sorry I have taken so long to come up with entry #2: my excuse is that I have been very busy posting on all sorts of other important topics.

My “steal” today stretches back into the past, to say something that is still utterly relevant to our world in 2012.”Only the wisest and the stupidest of men never change.” Confucius

A statue of Confucius, located in Hunan, China on the shore of the Dongting.

Confucius was responsible for a lot of good sense; for example, he espoused the well-known principle “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”, an early version of the Golden Rule.

But he was also primarily responsible for instituting and codifying a love of authority that has, viewed from an historical perspective, condemned Chinese society to a limiting, claustrophobic respect for those in charge.

To this day, Confucian respect for those in charge – within a family, at a workplace level, in local government, and nationally – slows China’s development into anything resembling a pluralist society while simultaneously making it possible for the centralised Governmental system to drive their economy with little regard for human rights as the West would recognise them. It also encourages a ruling kleptocracy and lack of innovation.

But in this quotation, Confucius offers us a balancing thought we should all dwell on.

Rigidity of opinion is a common failing worldwide. And at its most extreme, it morphs into the horrors of civil war, inter-national conflict, racism, homophobia, colonial exploitation and many more nasties.

As I have grown older, I realise more and more that those things that I once saw as lay down misère* are rarely as certain as I once thought. As John Lennon once wisely said, “The more I see, the less I know for sure.” This is not an argument for some wishy-washy relativism, where nothing is certain, and excuses can be made for any opinion in the search for unity. No, it is merely a belated recognition, in my case, that there are not only two sides to most stories, but often many more than two.

Sadly, when rigid thinking is exhibited in politicians, it is often applauded. Politicians who evidence little or no doubt in their public prognostications are often called “strong” or “effective leaders”. They present with such certainty that we are often happy to delegate to them any need to think critically, while we busy ourselves with “getting on with life”. The problem, of course, arises when the “conviction politician” implements his or her convictions, and we all discover – too late, usually – that their much-lauded convictions were actually sheer nonsense.

The only substitute for this pattern of behaviour, which societies of all types and all eras repeat endlessly, is to consciously up our own level of interest. To read between the lines, and behind the front page, to educate ourselves, to criticise constructively and to demand answers to reasonable questions.

Some years ago, I called into Melbourne talk-back radio station 3AW, to the then Australian Prime Minister, arch-conservative John Howard. The second Iraq invasion was about to get underway, and I called him to point out that a leaked report from his own Chiefs of the Australian Defence Force had said that an inevitable result of any such invasion would be very high civilian casualties.

Howard brushed off my comment grumpily, simply saying “Well, that’s not my point of view.” I started to protest, seeking to point out that the advice came from his own advisers, and surely it was a relevant factor in his decision-making. The right-wing radio host sniffily cut me off, muttering “The Prime Minister has answered your question.”

To date, Iraqi civilian casualties of the war and the chaos that ensued thereafter are in excess of half a million people.

Half a million entirely innocent, civilian casualties. Men, women, and children. Young, and old. And still counting. Howard’s biography, written years later, virtually ignores the issue.

I am not so foolish as to think that if Howard had listened to me then that benighted war and those casualties could have been avoided.

But I do believe that if Howard, Blair, Cheney, Bush et al had not been so insanely gung ho – indeed, had they heeded Cheney’s own opinion from a decade earlier that a full-blown invasion of  Iraq would be a quagmire from which we would not know how to extract ourselves, and which would provoke a military and social cataclysm – then better planning might have been in place to deal with the immediate post-invasion chaos.

Around the world, millions of ordinary people feared exactly what eventuated. Their “folk wisdom” was better than the faux wisdom of the political leaders, relying, as they were, on tainted advice and their own self-confidence. If they had not been so damned obsessed with their own “convictions”, they might have been a deal more pragmatic, and many lives might not have been needlessly sacrificed – not to mention the Allied troops that have died or been horribly injured.

So perhaps, as Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

And why does such modesty in thinking matter?

Because simply put, as George Santayana noted, in his Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1, wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

For example, the way things are going, an attack on Syria or Iran (or both) are both live policy options for the West. Faced with such a nightmare scenario, the regimes in Damascus and Teheran become ever more brutal and belligerant. Their obduracy is met with yet more sabre rattling.

And so it goes, and so it goes.When will we ever learn?


*Misere
or misère (French for “destitution”; equivalent terms in other languages include bettel, contrabola, devole, null, pobre) is a bid in various card games, and the player who bids misere undertakes to win no tricks or as few as possible. This does not allow sufficient variety to constitute a game in its own right, but it is the basis of such trick-avoidance games as Hearts.

A Misere bid usually indicates an extremely poor hand, hence the name. An Open or Lay Down Misere is a bid where the player is so sure of losing every trick that they undertake to do so with their cards placed face-up on the table. Consequently, ‘Lay Down Misere’ is Australian gambling slang for a “dead cert”; a predicted easy victory.

Syria takes to the streets

How should the West react?

I am re-publishing my original article on the situation in Syria, originally published on 23rd December, and before Syria became the issue du jour on the nightly news, because my conclusion then seems even more pressing today.

Sadly, what I predicted them – a full-scale civil war that threatens to spill over into neighbouring countries and embroil the area in an unpredictable and murderous regional conflict – is even more likely than it was a couple of months ago, if it could not be said to be enthusiastically underway already.

I return to my thesis of before Christmas. Distasteful as it may be to contemplate, the Assad regime is not only vicious and cruel, it is also proving extraordinarily difficult to dislodge. Atrocity is heaped on atrocity – even if, sadly, we only really pay attention when brave western journalists are deliberately targeted and killed and injured – and the situation, already bloody in the extreme, threatens to spiral utterly out of control.

The simple fact is, if you thought the mess in Libya was protracted, and you are disappointed that the flowering of democracy in Egypt merely appears to have resulted in the same bad guys remaining in charge under a different name, then get used to being depressed, because the situation in Syria is infinitely more complex and even less likely to provide a neat solution sensible to Western tastes.

Whilst the rebellion is now unlikely to be put down successfully, the infinitely stronger and better equipped government forces can continue to wreak havoc on rebel areas for many months or years. There is no widespread desire to replace Assad in the capital as a whole, not because it is a highly successful regime, but merely because the capital of this relatively modern and essentially secular country fears the arrival of an incoming Islamic regime even more.

Whilst Assad and his cronies must, eventually, step aside for there to be a lasting settlement, with no obvious “out” they will cling to power – stubbornly – for a long time yet, and the country is rapidly degenerating into a “failed state” governed by competing factions and warlords. The stage is set for a humanitarian disaster that will make the civilian casualties in the Arab Spring thus far look like a merely prelude to the main tragic opera.

I repeat what I said below: there needs to be a circuit breaker, and the circuit breaker, much as even saying it sticks in my craw, is to create a safe haven for the Government and its more enmeshed Baathist fascists.

Many will remain behind, and de-Baathification of some future Syria is a myth. Just as with Iraq, the other country ruled for a generation by a brutal Baathist strongman, they will be needed to ensure a continuance of civil society after the Assad dynasty and its most ironed-on supporters have been spirited away – to Russia, perhaps, which has proven entirely disruptive of any attempt to bring its satellite to heel.

So shout “Assad out” for all you’re worth, by all means. He and the shadowy figures behind him will not be missed. But remember, as you do, that the only way to actually achieve “Assad out”  without tens of thousands of casualties will be exactly that – an out, for Assad, and the rest of his miserable crew.

And if you don’t want to re-read the original article, just flick to the bottom, and buy the damn tee shirt.

The original article is below

Ignore cafe society trudging on unconcerned in parts of Damascus. There is a genuine and widespread rebellion going on in Syria, yet the reporting of its scale to the west is patchy. Sadly, the regime’s determination to hang on is resulting in many more thousands of deaths than previously feared, at least 400 of which have been children. Read more here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/22/6200-killed-in-syrian-crackdown

It should also be said that the anti-Assad forces may well also be responsible for horrible atrocities. (See the Robert Fisk article below.)

The West’s response to all this, thus far, apart from some ineffectual chest beating, has been muted. Does this reflect that the West would rather a weak President Assad still in place that they can control rather than an unknown, unquantifiable and possibly pro-Islamic-extremist opposition?

Let us be clear. The longer the aspirations of the Syrian people are crushed, the more fundamentalist, non-secular and anti-Western the incoming regime will be. It is time for the West to be unambiguously on the side of the angels, and the angels are emphatically not Assad and his cronies.

No, no: I do not mean the West should invade Syria on behalf of the rebels, or any other sort of militarist posturing or adventuring. But back channels must now be used effectively to ensure that the true leaders in the military-Baathist alliance realise that the game is well and truly up, and they must make way for a new and more democratic Syria, or inevitably end up hanging from street lights themselves.

And if necessary – and let us say the unsayable here – safe haven must be found for current regime insiders – yes, including Assad and his family themselves – stomach-turning though that prospect may be – in order to prevent the possible loss of tens of thousands of innocent lives in a full-scale civil war.

Time is short. And as this article by the eminent British writer Robert Fisk enumerates, the fear of the coming conflict embroiling next-door Lebanon is very real too.

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/robert-fisk-shadow-of-syrian-conflict-stretching-into-lebanon-2630243.html

These are dangerous times indeed, and needless to say, if we do not manage them correctly, then the real losers will be – overwhelmingly – innocent men, woman and children who simply dream of living in peace and freedom. It would be easy to despair, but we cannot. This situation must be resolved, or we abandon the innocents to the militia, the armed lunatics, and fanatics, and the psychopaths.

On all sides.

You may also wish to consider purchasing this t-shirt. It is consistently one of the most popular I sell, and the most commented on when I wear it myself. Buy a shirt, change the world, one person’s opinion at a time. It might not seem much, but it’s better than doing nothing.

http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.431431249

Stop bombing civilians

Buy the shirt, change the world one person's opinion at a time

Libetarian blog “Cut DC” reports Infowars arguing that the US are provoking Iran to act against American interests, like a big bully who keeps pushing and taunting a small kid until the diminutive target is filled with rage.  Just one weak act of defiance and the bully smashes the little boy with his seemingly justified fists. Then, he takes the victim’s lunch.  US weapons of aggression are indeed in Iran’s backyard, as if China were to provoke the US with an incident off the Virginia Beach Coast. 

Is the US bullying Iran into a war?

Is the US bullying Iran into a war?

US Sends Aircraft Carrier Through Strait Of Hormuz During Iranian Wargames

US debated “false flag” attack on American assets

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
Thursday, December 29th, 2011

The US has provocatively sent one of its biggest warships through the Strait of Hormuz amidst Iranian wargames taking place in the region shortly after warning Iran that any closure of the key oil choke point would not be tolerated.


“A US aircraft carrier entered a zone near the Strait of Hormuz being used by the Iranian navy for wargames, an Iranian official said Thursday amid rising tensions over the key oil-transit channel,” reports YNet News.

“US officials announced Wednesday that the ship and its accompanying battle group moved through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow stretch at the entrance to the Gulf that is the world’s most important choke point for oil shipments.”

The appearance of the warship, named as the USS John C. Stennis, half-way through Iran’s 10 day wargame exercise in the region, arrives following a warning that the US would not tolerate Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz, a threat Iran has repeatedly made over the last few weeks.

As we previously reported, aside from the Stennis and its fleet of smaller battleships, the the USS Abraham Lincoln is also on its way to the US 5th fleet, as well as the USS Carl Vinson.

The presence of US warships in the region amidst escalating tensions serves as a reminder that the Bush administration once debated staging a false flag wherein fake Iranian patrol boats would be used to attack a US ship as a means of creating a pretext for war.

In January 2008, the US government announced that it had been “moments” away from opening fire on a group of Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz after the boats allegedly broadcast a warning that they were about to attack a US vessel.

The US claimed the Iranian boats had broadcast the message, “I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes,” and that the order to fire was aborted only at the last minute as the patrol boats pulled back.

Iran later produced a video proving that the patrol boats never displayed any kind of threatening behavior. The New York Times subsequently reported that the alleged tape containing the attack threat had no background ambient noise and did not come from an Iranian ship, but from another unnamed ship in the region.

According to Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh, the incident led to a discussion in Vice-President Dick Cheney’s office about how to start a war with Iran by launching a “false flag” attack at sea.

(A false flag attack is when you pretend to be someone you dislike, and attack yourself, using that as a pretext for war. Hitler did it with Poland. Various conspiracy theorists argue that certain terrorist attacks on the West have fallen into this category, and that these will increase in frequency in 2012.)

The January Strait of Hormuz incident taught Cheney and other administration insiders that, “If you get the right incident, the American public will support it”. Hersh said: “There were a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build, we in ‘our shipyard’, – build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives”.

The plan was rejected because it would have cost American lives, but the potential for a similar scenario to arise in the Strait of Hormuz, whether real or manufactured, remains a very real threat, especially given the amount of US warships that are either already in the region or on their way to the Strait.

A confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz would send oil prices skyrocketing and create global economic instability. Any closure of the Strait would make the current financial crisis look like a walk in the park.

Of course, the US is not alone in its belligerance. As Ynet News also reports:

“So far, Iran and the United States have limited themselves to rhetoric and naval maneuvers. But analysts and the oil market are watching the situation carefully, fearing a spark that could ignite open confrontation between the longtime foes.

The United States had proposed a military hotline between Tehran and Washington to defuse any “miscalculations” that could occur as their navies brush against each other. But Iran in September rejected that offer.”

One has to ask why Iran would reject such an eminently sensible idea, and this  is, in itself, an indication of how toxic the relationship has become. And as we have previously commented, the ongoing chaos in Syria also threatens to embroil the entire region in a massive and complex conflict, dragging in Iran and Lebanon as a minimum, that would make the current mess in Afghanistan look like a sideshow.

We should remember that, until the populist Islamic revolution, Iran was a secular, West-leaning country – albeit run by a fascist bunch of thugs. American and British inability to persaude the Shah to liberalise his regime duly translated into the extremism that has characterised Iranian politics ever since – and yet, the green shoots of democracy and secular society still thrive there despite current Iranian Government persecution of intellectuals, dissidents and minorities such as homsexuals. And as I have argued before, if we cannot persaude the Assad regime in Syria to move aside peacefully, the incoming forces there will be similarly intransigent despite the essentially secular nature of that society.

It is something akin to watching a train wreck in slow motion, but the frame speed may well be about to increase.

Is it not sad that there seems to be such an inevitability surrounding the coming conflict? The people of the world can reasonably ask, why are our leaders, on all sides, so fearfully incompetent and incapable of preventing these nightmare scenarios from eventuating?

What use is the United Nations?

And where are the men and women of vision who can cut through the Gordian knot, and prevent a disaster that has the potential to cost millions of lives, and destabilise the world economy for a generation?

Is the only thing preventing all-out conflict now a cold calculation by Obama that, so soon after Iraq and with Afghanistan bleeding the US, stumbling into open war would cruel his chances for re-election? Then again, could that be a reason for the military-industrial complex in America to provoke a war, delivering the White House to some Republican puppet? Who is actually in charge in Washington?

I hope and pray I am wrong, but I fear I am not. Nothing would make me happier than to look back twelve months from now and laugh at my foolish worries.

Happy New Year, everyone?


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