When all was ‘calm’: a typical month for #Palestinians under #Israeli occupation!

When US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the Middle East last week, for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the senior diplomat had one clear stated goal: to restore ‘calm’ after several weeks of violence.

Speaking last Thursday, Kerry stressed the need to “defuse the situation”, and spoke of the need for “parties…to move to a de-escalation.” Other recent diplomatic efforts, and media reports, have used a similar kind of language.

It is unclear when exactly this ‘calm’ ended. Many start their timeline with October 1, while other chronologies begin in September, including the confrontations between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

So let’s go back instead to August, and examine what ‘calm’ looks like for Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. What follows is a (partial) snapshot of a typical month.

Source: When all was ‘calm’: a typical month for Palestinians under Israeli occupation ~ Ben White, MEMO, Friday, 30 October 2015.

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#BentBritain: #UK admits unlawfully monitoring legally privileged communications!

UK admits unlawfully monitoring legally privileged communications ~ and , The Guardian, Wednesday 18 February 2015.

Intelligence agencies have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for past five years, government admits

Abdul Hakim Belhaj and Sami al Saadi
The admission comes ahead of a legal challenge brought on behalf of two Libyans, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, over allegations that security services unlawfully intercepted their communications with lawyers.  Photograph: PA & AFP

The regime under which UK intelligence agencies, including MI5 and MI6, have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for the past five years is unlawful, the British government has admitted.

The admission that the activities of the security services have failed to comply fully with human rights laws in a second major area – this time highly sensitive legally privileged communications – is a severe embarrassment for the government.

It follows hard on the heels of the British court ruling on 6 February declaring that the regime surrounding the sharing of mass personal intelligence data between America’s national security agency and Britain’s GCHQ was unlawful for seven years.

The admission that the regime surrounding state snooping on legally privileged communications has also failed to comply with the European convention on human rights comes in advance of a legal challenge, to be heard early next month, in which the security services are alleged to have unlawfully intercepted conversations between lawyers and their clients to provide the government with an advantage in court.

The case is due to be heard before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). It is being brought by lawyers on behalf of two Libyans, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, who, along with their families, were abducted in a joint MI6-CIA operation and sent back to Tripoli to be tortured by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2004.

A government spokesman said: “The concession the government has made today relates to the agencies’ policies and procedures governing the handling of legally privileged communications and whether they are compatible with the European convention on human rights.

“In view of recent IPT judgments, we acknowledge that the policies adopted since [January] 2010 have not fully met the requirements of the ECHR, specifically article 8 (right to privacy). This includes a requirement that safeguards are made sufficiently public.

“It does not mean that there was any deliberate wrongdoing on their part of the security and intelligence agencies, which have always taken their obligations to protect legally privileged material extremely seriously. Nor does it mean that any of the agencies’ activities have prejudiced or in any way resulted in an abuse of process in any civil or criminal proceedings.”

He said that the intelligence agencies would now work with the interception of communications commissioner to ensure their policies satisfy all of the UK’s human rights obligations.

Cori Crider, a director at Reprieve and one of the Belhaj family’s lawyers said: “By allowing the intelligence agencies free reign to spy on communications between lawyers and their clients, the government has endangered the fundamental British right to a fair trial.

“Reprieve has been warning for months that the security services’ policies on lawyer-client snooping have been shot through with loopholes big enough to drive a bus through.

“For too long, the security services have been allowed to snoop on those bringing cases against them when they speak to their lawyers. In doing so, they have violated a right that is centuries old in British common law. Today they have finally admitted they have been acting unlawfully for years.

“Worryingly, it looks very much like they have collected the private lawyer-client communications of two victims of rendition and torture, and possibly misused them. While the government says there was no ‘deliberate’ collection of material, it’s abundantly clear that private material was collected and may well have been passed on to lawyers or ministers involved in the civil case brought by Abdel hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar, who were ‘rendered’ to Libya in 2004 by British intelligence.

“Only time will tell how badly their case was tainted. But right now, the government needs urgently to investigate how things went wrong and come clean about what it is doing to repair the damage.”

Government sources, in line with all such cases, refuse to confirm or deny whether the two Libyans were the subject of an interception operation. They insist the concession does not concern the allegation that actual interception took place and say it will be for the investigatory powers tribunal hearing to determine the issue.

An updated draft interception code of practice spelling out the the rules for the first time was quietly published at the same time as the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruling against GCHQ earlier this month in the case brought by Privacy International and Liberty.

The government spokesman said the draft code set out enhanced safeguards and provided more detail than previously on the protections that had to be applied in the security agencies handling of legally privileged communications.

The draft code makes clear that warrants for snooping on legally privileged conversations, emails and other communications between suspects and their lawyers can be granted if there are exceptional and compelling circumstances. They have to however ensure that they are not available to lawyers or policy officials who are conducting legal cases against those suspects.

Exchanges between lawyers and their clients enjoy a special protected status under UK law. Following exposure of widespread monitoring by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, Belhaj’s lawyers feared that their exchanges with their clients could have been compromised by GCHQ’s interception of phone conversations and emails.

To demonstrate that its policies satisfy legal safeguards, MI6 were required in advance of Wednesday’s concession to disclose internal guidance on how intelligence staff should deal with material protected by legal professional privilege.

The MI6 papers noted: “Undertaking interception in such circumstances would be extremely rare and would require strong justification and robust safeguards. It is essential that such intercepted material is not acquired or used for the purpose of conferring an unfair or improper advantage on SIS or HMG [Her Majesty’s government] in any such litigation, legal proceedings or criminal investigation.”

The internal documents also refer to a visit by the interception commissioner, Sir Anthony May, last summer to examine interception warrants, where it was discovered that regulations were not being observed. “In relation to one of the warrants,” the document explained, “the commissioner identified a number of concerns with regard to the handling of [legal professional privilege] material”.

Amnesty UK’s legal programme director, Rachel Logan, said: “We are talking about nothing less than the violation of a fundamental principle of the rule of law – that communications between a lawyer and their client must be confidential.

“The government has been caught red-handed. The security agencies have been illegally intercepting privileged material and are continuing to do so – this could mean they’ve been spying on the very people challenging them in court.

“This is the second time in as many weeks that government spies have been rumbled breaking the law.”


#Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the #West’s modern crimes!

Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the West’s modern crimes ~ Ben White, The Nation, February 14, 2015.

Like many children, 13-year-old Mohammed Tuaiman suffered from nightmares. In his dreams, he would see flying “death machines” that turned family and friends into burning charcoal. No one could stop them, and they struck any place, at any time.

Unlike most children, Mohammed’s nightmares killed him.

Three weeks ago, a CIA drone operating over Yemen fired a missile at a car carrying the teenager, and two others. They were all incinerated. Nor was Mohammed the first in his family to be targeted: drones had already killed his father and brother.

Since president Barack Obama took office in 2009, the US has killed at least 2,464 people through drone strikes outside the country’s declared war zones. The figure is courtesy of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which says that at least 314 of the dead, one in seven, were civilians.

Recall that for Obama, as The New York Times reported in May 2012, “all military-age males in a strike zone” are counted “as combatants” – unless “there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent”.

It sounds like the stuff of nightmares.

The week after Mohammed’s death, on February 5, Mr Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast, and discussed the violence of ISIL.

“Lest we get on our high horses”, said the commander-in-chief, “remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

These comments prompted a (brief) media storm, with Mr Obama accused of insulting Christians, pandering to the terrorist enemy, or just bad history.

In fact, the president was simply repeating a point often made by liberals since September 11, namely, that all religions have blots on their copy book through the deeds of their followers.

One of the consequences, however, of this invocation of the Crusades – unintended, and all the more significant for it – is to seal away the West’s “sins”, particularly vis-à-vis its relationship to the Middle East, in events that took place a thousand years ago.

The Crusades were, in one sense, a demonstration of raw military power, and a collective trauma for the peoples of the regions they marched through and invaded.

In the siege of Jerusalem in 1099, a witness described how the Europeans ordered “all the Saracen dead to be cast outside because of the great stench, since the whole city was filled with their corpses”.

He added: “No one ever saw or heard of such slaughter of pagan people, for funeral pyres were formed from them like pyramids.”

Or take the Third Crusade, when, on August 20, 1191, England’s King Richard I oversaw the beheading of 3,000 Muslim prisoners at Acre in full view of Saladin’s army.

Just “ancient history”? In 1920, when the French had besieged and captured Damascus, their commander Henri Gourard reportedly went to the grave of Saladin, kicked it, and uttered: “Awake Saladin, we have returned! My presence here consecrates the victory of the Cross over the Crescent.”

But the US president need not cite the Crusades or even the colonial rule of the early 20th century: more relevant reference points would be Bagram and Fallujah.

Bagram base in Afghanistan is where US soldiers tortured prisoners to death – like 22-year-old taxi driver and farmer Dilawar. Before he was killed in custody, Dilawar was beaten by soldiers just to make him scream “Allah!”

Five months after September 11, The Guardian reported that US missiles had killed anywhere between 1,300 and 8,000 in Afghanistan. Months later, the paper suggested that “as many as 20,000 Afghans may have lost their lives as an indirect consequence of the US intervention”.

When it was Iraq’s turn, the people of Fallujah discovered that US forces gave them funerals, not democracy. On April 28, 2003, US soldiers massacred civilian protesters, shooting to death 17 during a demonstration.

When that city revolted against the occupation, the residents paid a price. As Marines tried to quell resistance in the city, wrote The New York Times on April 14, 2004, they had “orders to shoot any male of military age on the streets after dark, armed or not”.Months later, as the Marines launched their November assault on the city, CNN reported that “the sky…seems to explode”.

In their bombardment and invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US and UK armed forces rained fiery death down on men, women and children. Prisoners were tortured and sexually abused. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died. No one was held to account.

It is one thing to apologise for the brutality of western Crusaders a thousand years ago. It is quite another to look at the corpses of the victims of the imperialist present, or hear the screams of the bereaved.

In his excellent book The Muslims Are Coming, Arun Kundnani analysed the “politics of anti-extremism”, and describes the two approaches developed by policymakers and analysts during the “war on terror”.

The first approach, which he refers to as “culturalism”, emphasises “what adherents regard as inherent features of Islamic culture”. The second approach, “reformism”, is when “extremism is viewed as a perversion of Islam’s message”, rather than “a clash of civilisations between the West’s modern values and Islam’s fanaticism”.

Thus the American Right was angry with Mr Obama, because for them, it is about religion – or specifically, Islam. Liberals, meanwhile, want to locate the problem in terms of culture.

Both want to avoid a discussion about imperialism, massacres, coups, brutalities, disappearances, dictatorships – in other words, politics.

As Kundnani writes: when “the concept of ideology” is made central, whether understood as “Islam itself or as Islamist extremism”, then “the role of western states in co-producing the terror war is obscured”.

The problem with Mr Obama’s comments on the Crusades was not, as hysterical conservatives claimed, that he was making offensive and inaccurate analogies with ISIL; rather, that in the comfort of condemning the past, he could mask the violence of his own government in the present.

The echoes of collective trauma remain for a long time, and especially when new wounds are still being inflicted. Think it is farfetched that Muslims would still care about a 1,000-year-old European invasion? Then try asking them about Guantanamo and Camp Bucca instead.

Ben White is a journalist and author of Israeli Apartheid

Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the West’s modern crimes
Pep Montserrat for The National

Inside #ISIS: Report of first Western journalist ever given access to the ‘Islamic State!’

Inside Isis: The first Western journalist ever given access to the ‘Islamic State’ has just returned – and this is what he discovered ~ ADAM WITHNALL, The Independent.

The first Western journalist in the world to be allowed extensive access to Isis territories in Syria and Iraq has returned from the region with a warning: the group is “much stronger and much more dangerous” than anyone in the West realises.

Jürgen Todenhöfer, 74, is a renowned German journalist and publicist who travelled through Turkey to Mosul, the largest city occupied by Isis, after months of negotiations with the group’s leaders.

He plans to publish a summary of his “10 days in the Islamic State” on Monday, but in interviews with German-language media outlets has revealed his first impressions of what life is like under Isis.

Speaking to the website Der tz, Todenhöfer revealed that he actually stayed in the same hotel in Benghazi as James Foley, the US journalist who was beheaded on camera by Isis in August.

“Of course, I’ve seen the terrible, brutal video and it was one of my main concerns during the negotiations as to how I can avoid [the same fate],” he said.

Once within Isis territory, Todenhöfer said his strongest impression was “that Isis is much stronger than we think here”. He said it now has “dimensions larger than the UK”, and is supported by “an almost ecstatic enthusiasm that I have never encountered in any other warzone”.

“Each day, hundreds of willing fighters arrive from all over the world,” he told tz. “For me it is incomprehensible.”

Todenhöfer claims to have been able to move among Isis fighters, observing their living conditions and equipment. On hisFacebook page, he has posted images which he said show German Heckler & Koch MG3 machine guns in the hands of Isis. “Someday this German MG could be directed to us,” he said.

Isis’s fighters themselves sleep, he said, in barracks formed from “the shells of bombed-out houses”. They number around 5,000 in Mosul, and are spread so widely that were the US to bomb them all “they would have to reduce the whole of Mosul to ruins”, he said.

Todenhöfer says that this ultimately means Isis cannot be beaten by Western intervention or air strikes – despite US claims last week that they have proven effective. “With every bomb that is dropped and hits a civilian, the number of terrorists increases,” he said.

Speaking in a TV interview with RTL’s Nachtjournal programme two days after his return to Germany last week, Todenhöfer said Isis has worked hard to establish itself as a functioning state. He said it has “social welfare”, a “school system”, and that he was even surprised to see it has plans to provide education to girls.

Most concerning of all, he said, was Isis fighters’ belief that “all religions who agree with democracy have to die”.

He said the view that kept being repeated was that Isis want to “conquer the world” and all who do not believe in the group’s interpretation of the Koran will be killed. The only other religions to be spared, Todenhöfer said, were the “people of the book” – Jews and Christians.

“This is the largest religious cleansing strategy that has ever been planned in human history”, he told RTL.

Todenhöfer plans to use his first-hand experience of Isis in a book he is writing about the group. He says on Facebook that he has always “spoken to both sides” in his 50 years reporting from war zones, including interviews with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and al-Qaeda, with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and with leaders of the Taliban.

In his view, Isis will soon come to the West to negotiate a level of co-existence. “The only ones who could stop this now are the moderate Iraqi Sunnis,” he said, adding: “If you want to defeat an opponent, you must know him.”

 JSIL1 

* Makes sense Jürgen Todenhöfer got access to ISIS. He has a history of connections with Sunni insurgents, even wrote a book about it!  

Imprisoned Former #CIA Agent John #Kiriakou Speaks About #Torture, Prison, and the Future!

Imprisoned Former CIA Agent John Kiriakou Speaks About Torture, Prison, and the Future ~ Natalia Megas, Capital Comment, Washingtonian.

A jailhouse interview with the man whose disclosures prompted this week’s damning torture report.

John Kiriakou in the documentary Silenced. Photograph courtesy AFI Docs.

Do you think the Obama’s administration’s record is better than Bush’s?

Obama’s intelligence policy is essentially an extension of the Bush administration, but bloodier. Especially the use of drones … I’m disappointed because the administration has turned its back on human rights. Obama has surrounded himself with true hawks.


In 2007, 15-year CIA veteran John Kiriakou told an ABC News reporter that his agency had waterboarded an Al Qaeda detainee, Abu Zubaydah, whom Kiriakou was involved in capturing in 2002. His revelation confirmed to the American public the CIA’s torture program and helped spur a years-long Senate investigation and a damning, 6,000-page report, the abstract of which was released this week.

Kiriakou pleaded guilty in 2012 to disclosing classified information, including the name of a fellow CIA operative, to a New York Times reporter. In early 2013, he reported to the a federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, to begin serving a 30-month sentence. Kiriakou, along with supporters that include his congressman, Virginia Democrat Jim Moran, says the real point of his prosecution was to silence him and others from talking about torture. (Kiriakou case is the subject of the documentary Silenced, which screened last summer at AFI Docs.)

Kiriakou will be transferred to home confinement for the final three months of his term in February. Earlier this month, as the Senate debated releasing its report, I went to Loretto to talk to Kiriakou about his experience in prison, his feelings about the government, and his future.

Jim Moran recently asked President Obama to pardon you, calling you an “American hero.”

Moran has gone out on a limb. He’s really done right by me. He has really been there through the whole nightmare.

What do you think was misunderstood about your case?

The most important issue is my case wasn’t about leaking [the name of a CIA operative]. It was about torture. CIA never forgave me for telling the American people that torture was part of official US government policy.

Do you think the Obama’s administration’s record is better than Bush’s?

Obama’s intelligence policy is essentially an extension of the Bush administration, but bloodier. Especially the use of drones … I’m disappointed because the administration has turned its back on human rights. Obama has surrounded himself with true hawks.

You’ve just finished writing a new book, Doing Time Like A Spy: How the CIA Taught Me to Survive and Thrive in Prison. Can you give us a sneak peek?

Admit nothing, deny everything, make counter accusations. If calm is not to your benefit, chaos is your friend. And don’t trust anyone.

How has that helped you survive prison?

I’ve “survived and thrived” here based on my wits, by forming strategic alliances, by relying on myself, by trusting nobody. They made me appear more “seasoned,” more commanding of respect.

What challenges do you face coming out?

The biggest challenge will be finding permanent work. I recognize I’m controversial. Some companies dislike controversy. I’ll have to find a place that will fit both of us.

What do you want to do?

I’d like to sit at a desk at a think tank, think the big thoughts and write provocative articles and books. I think I can do more good with writing and speaking. I hope to speak a lot about prison reform.

What kinds of changes do you envision?

Europe makes good use of house arrests [especially for non-violent crimes]. First-time, non-violent offenders get no second chances in the US. You do hard time from the first moment. Nothing’s correctional about it.

What are your living arrangements like?

We live in open cubicles—10-by-16 made for four. There are 250 people in my unit and we have ten sinks, 11 showers, six toilets, six telephones. We stand in line for everything. Everyone is sick all the time. Overcrowding leads to short tempers and increased violence. There’s no legal effort to depopulate federal prisons.

How do the other inmates treat you?

At first, they stayed away. Thought I was a hit man.

If a movie were made about you, what would it be about?

It would focus on the fact that I’m a regular guy doing decidedly irregular things, who found himself in historic situations. If it happened to me, it could happen to anybody.

How so?

Americans didn’t understand that after 9/11 the national security state would be permanent in our lives. Certainly, reasonable people can agree to disagree on the civil liberties that we should or should not give up to remain safe. But the government has imposed a regime where we’ve lost our liberties without debate, and we’re not supposed to complain about it. Indeed, you risk an Espionage Act charge if you do.

Natalia Megas is a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications in the United States and abroad.

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7 Most Shocking Things in the CIA Torture Report!

7 Most Shocking Things in the CIA Torture Report ~  Cliff WeathersAlterNet.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report shows that the CIA acted improperly in the wake of 9/11.

December 9, 2014. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s $50 million investigation into Bush-era CIA interrogation tactics on detainees after the September 11 terrorist attacks was released today.

The report, which was long-delayed, finds that “enhanced interrogation techniques” by the U.S. government did not lead to “actionable intelligence,” according to Sen. Angus King, a member of the committee.

However, this is not the final report, but a redacted 480-page executive summary. The complete report totals more than 6,000 pages. The Senate Republicans also released a counter-assessment. While some critics say that there is the possibility of retaliation from terrorist groups, others are saying that the fallout over the report will be mostly political.

“Did we torture people? Yes. Did it work? No.,” Sen. King, the Maine independent told CNN.

“The greatness of this country is that we can examine mistakes and remedy them and that is the hallmark of a great and just society” Sen. Diane Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said to CNN moments before the report’s release. Here are the most shocking findings from the report:

1. Some detainees died as a result of interrogation. 

In November 2002, an otherwise healthy detainee who had been held partially nude and chained to a concrete floor died from suspected hypothermia at the facility. The CIA’s leadership acknowledged little knowledge of advanced interrogation techniques at the detention site where he was held.

2. The techniques were far more brutal than previously known. 

Multiple CIA detainees subjected to the techniques suffered from hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia and tried to mutilate themselves, the report says. On one occasion, a high-value al Qaeda suspect named Abu Zubaydah became completely unresponsive after a period of intense waterboarding. He had “bubbles rising through his open full mouth,” the report says.

Additionally, detainees were subjected to forced “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration” even if they did not have medical need for them.

3. Other techniques used in addition to waterboarding. 

These interrogation practices included extended exposure to cold temperatures, slapping and sleep deprivation. Waterboarding was especially harsh. “In many cases, the most aggressive techniques were used immediately, in combination and non-stop,” the report says. “Sleep deprivation involved keeping detainees awake for up to 180 hours, usually standing or in painful stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads.”

4. The CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees. 

The Committee found that the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information.

For example, seven of the 39 CIA detainees known to have been subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques produced no intelligence while in CIA custody. Other detainees provided significant, accurate intelligence prior to, or without having been, subjected to these torture.

5. The CIA’s Lied About Effectiveness. 

The CIA lied to the White House and Congress that its enhanced interrogation techniques thwarted specific terrorist plots and falsely claimed terrorists were captured as a result of the use of the techniques. The CIA used these examples to claim that its methods were not only effective, but also necessary to acquire “otherwise unavailable” actionable intelligence that “saved lives.”
6. Inexperienced contract pscyhologists devised the techniques.

The report shows that contract psychologists devised the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and played a central role in the operation, assessments, and management of the detention and interrogation program.

The psychologists’ prior experience was at the U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school. Neither had any experience as an interrogator. They did not have specialized knowledge of al-Qa’ida, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise.

Accordng to the report, “By 2005, the CIA had overwhelmingly outsourced operations related to the program.”

7. Those who were not suspects were interrogated.

Of the 119 known detainees, at least 26 were wrongfully held and did not meet the detention standard. These included an “intellectually challenged” man whose CIA detention was used solely as leverage to get a family member to provide information, two individuals who were intelligence sources for foreign liaison services and were former CIA sources, and two individuals whom the CIA assessed to be connected to al-Qa’ida based solely on information fabricated by a CIA detainee subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques. These detainees, however, often remained in custody for months after the CIA determined that they did not meet the MON standard. CIA records provide insufficient information to justify the detention of many other detainees.

U.S. armed forces are currently on a heightened state of alert overseas because of a concern of violent backlashes at key areas on foreign soil such as military bases and embassies. The U.S. embassy in Cairo, a site of particular concern, has not commented on its security concerns to the media.

Cliff Weathers is a senior editor at AlterNet, covering environmental and consumer issues. He is a former deputy editor at Consumer Reports. His work has also appeared in Salon, Car and Driver, Playboy, Raw Story and Detroit Monthly among other publications. Follow him on Twitter @cliffweathers and on Facebook.

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GitmoTortureA

Here it is finally! [pdf] 
The 500-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300-page report into the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program.

torture2

CIA report details ‘brutal’ post-9/11 interrogations ~ BBC.

Its main points include the following:

  • At no time did coercive interrogation techniques lead of collection of intelligence on imminent threats
  • None of 20 cases of counterterrorism “successes” attributed to the techniques led to unique or otherwise unavailable intelligence
  • The CIA misled politicians and public, giving inaccurate information to obtain approval for using techniques
  • The CIA claimed falsely that no senators had objected to the programme.
  • Management of the programme was deeply flawed, for example the operation of the second detention facility, known as COBALT
  • At least 26 of 119 known detainees in custody during the life of the programme were wrongfully held, and many held for months longer than they should have been
  • Aggressive techniques were used on suspects from the start, despite CIA claims that interrogations would begin with less coercive methods
  • Methods included sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, often standing or in painful positions
  • Waterboarding was physically harmful to prisoners, causing convulsions and vomiting

Baby P effect takes children in care numbers to 25-year high, says NAO!

Baby P effect takes children in care numbers to 25-year high, says NAO ~  and agencies, The Guardian, Thursday 27 November.

Local authorities in England were looking after 68,110 children in March 2013 – a 14% increase since 2008
Six year old boy stands in corridor in pyjamas with teddy bear
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, says most children are taken into care because of abuse and neglect – but too many are not getting the right placements the first time. Photograph: Don Smith /Alamy.

Local authorities in England were looking after 68,110 children in March 2013 – a 14% increase since 2008, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) said.

The rapid rise in children in care followed coverage of Baby P’s death in 2007, the report noted. Almost every local authority said they were expecting or experiencing an increase in referrals linked to child sexual exploitation after high-profile cases in Rotherham and other towns, auditors said.

The NAO said that while demand for care continues to rise and varies “significantly” across the country, the Department for Education has not shown it is meeting its targets for improving care for foster children and those in residential homes.

There had also been “no improvement” in the last four years in getting children into the right placement first time, the report said.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “Most children are taken into care because of abuse and neglect. But too many of them are not getting the right placements the first time.

“If their complex and challenging learning and development needs are not correctly assessed and tackled, the result is likely to be significant long-term detriment to the children themselves as well as cost to society. No progress has been made in the last four years.”

Peter Connelly, who was known as Baby P in court, died in north London, on 3 August 2007 at the hands of his mother, Tracey Connelly, her partner, Steven Barker, and their lodger, Jason Owen.

He had suffered more than 50 injuries despite being on the at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, police and health professionals over the final eight months of his life.

According to the auditors, the number of children in care is now the highest since records are available from 1990.

It found that nearly two thirds (62%) of children in care were there because they had suffered abuse or neglect. Three quarters (75%) of those in care were fostered.

In total, £2.5bn was spent supporting children in foster and residential care in 2012/13 – a 3% increase in real terms since 2010/11. The report found 34% of children in care had more than one placement in 2012/13 – the same proportion as 2009.

The government also failed to place children within 20 miles of their home in 14% of foster cases and 34% of those in residential care, the report claimed. Seventy nine residential homes were rated as inadequate by Ofsted in 2012/13, according to the report.

Educational achievements of children in care compare badly to the rest of the population, the report found. Some 15% of children in care achieved five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C including mathematics and English in 2012/13, compared with 58% of children not in care.

Meanwhile, 34% of 19-year-olds who were in care aged 16 were not in employment, education or training at the end of 2013 – compared with 15.5% of 18-year-olds, the watchdog added.

Edward Timpson, the children and families minister, said the report was fundamentally flawed. He said: “This report ignores the very real progress that has been made in transforming the life chances of children in care.

“It is a fact that since 2010, children in care are doing better at school and absences from school have decreased. Foster children can also now stay at home until the age of 21, and this year a record number of children found places in stable, loving homes through adoption,” he said.

more on this story

Uprising could trigger #Isis undoing, says study!

Uprising could trigger Isis undoing, says study ~ , home affairs editor, The Observer, Saturday 1 November 2014.

Former counter-terror head at MI6 says Islamic State’s biggest challenge will be controlling dissent.
Mehdi Army fighters
Mehdi Army fighters loyal to Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. He has said Sunnis and Shias should rally behind the authorities to prevent Isis destroying Iraq. Photograph: Stringer/iraq/Reuters

A large-scale uprising from people living under the totalitarian regime of Islamic State (Isis) is the most likely trigger that will lead to the undoing of the self-declared caliphate, according to an authoritative report into the jihadi group by the former head of counter-terrorism at MI6.

A detailed appraisal of the organisation, obtained by the Observer, says that, although Isis has performed strategically well so far, its biggest challenge will be controlling dissent and coping with the difficulties of administration in the vast territory it governs.

The report by Richard Barrett, who headed the UN’s al-Qaida and Taliban monitoring team and helped establish the UN’s working group on terrorism, is one of the most comprehensive portraits yet of the group and examines its genesis, revenue streams and cohort of foreign fighters along with its ambitions.

The social media platforms that Isis has exploited successfully to disseminate propaganda will also play a key role in its demise by rapidly spreading discord among the six million people under its rule, the report states.

It adds: “The thirst for change that Islamic State has managed to exploit will not be slaked by its totalitarian approach towards its subjects. In today’s world, no state, however remote, can hope to control its population by limiting its access to information or suppressing its ability to think. It will be no more able to harness the social, economic, and political forces around it than were the states that, through their failure, allowed the space for Islamic State to grow.”

Barrett said that international agencies had recently noted a “slowdown” in the volume of foreign fighters joining Isis, partly because some that had returned home had talked negatively about their experiences. “The fact that many people have gone home and are starting to talk about how bad things are means there’s a counter-narrative going on which has helped slow numbers,” said Barrett, whose report for security analysts the Soufan Group will be used by governments as an intelligence briefing about Isis.

A report by the UN security council, revealed on Friday that 15,000 foreign jihadis have travelled to Syria and Iraq from more than 80 countries to fight alongside Isis and other groups.

Barrett’s report also quotes the 15,000 figure, adding “over half come from Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, and Turkey”. However, it adds that, if Isis begins to lose its foreign cohort, it will be weakened to the point it might be overrun. “If these [foreign] fighters desert it, Islamic State will probably be unable to maintain momentum and so be an easier target for its enemies.”

Around 500 Britons are thought to have travelled to Syria and Iraq, although they are not listed among its ranks of suicide bombers in the report which during 2014 has included “Danes, Egyptians, French, Iranians, Jordanians, Libyans, Moroccans, Pakistanis, Russians (Chechens), Saudi Arabians, Syrians, Tajiks, Tunisians, Turks and Uzbeks”.

The UN report on Friday identified the use of social media by Isis as “unhindered by organisational structures”. It is this approach that Barrett believes will contribute to the break- up of Isis by quickly spreading internal criticism. Isis has been adept at using social media such as Twitter along with newer, smaller platforms – Ask.fm and Kik, Quitter and Diaspora – to broadcast its message. Barrett notes the group is “intolerant of any opposition or divergence from its worldview, and has set up networks of informers and a heavy security apparatus, managed from the centre, to ensure that no challenge to its authority can grow”.

This system has meant that those living under Isis have “begun to see it as merely a new form of oppression”, with residents recently revealing that conditions inside Mosul, the largest city under Isis control, have deteriorated. Barrett also says that the “hostility of Islamic State to individuality has also driven away many members of the professional classes, leaving hospitals without staff or medicines and schools without teachers”.

It is this, the administration of territory, that will play a key role in the longevity of Isis, emphasising the importance of agencies such as Isis’s Islamic administration of public services including electricity, sanitation and water.

However, the complexity of the challenge facing Isis is encapsulated by the fact that, while the seizure of grain stores has lowered prices, and keep bakeries running, many farmers have fled, meaning the crop for next year remains unplanted. The report adds that the amount of money required to run the caliphate “may equate to those of the Iraqi government before Islamic State took control”.

ISIS FACTS

■ Around six million people are currently living under its rule.

■ Employs between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters, according to US intelligence estimates, and another army of administrators to keep Isis functioning.

■ Controls land in Iraq that accounts for 40% of national wheat production.

■ Its latest annual report, which covers the 12 months to November 2013, demonstrates an increase in capability, with more than 9,000 military operations recorded, many indicating a high level of tactical flexibility.

■ Reportedly pays fighters between $200 and $600 a month.

■ Administration employees paid around $300 rising to $2,000 for senior managers.

■ More than four million mentions of the English acronym Isis between 17 September and 17 October 2014 on Twitter; the Arabic acronym mentioned 1.9m times over the same period.

| How the West Created the Islamic State … With a Little Help From Our Friends!

How the West Created the Islamic State … With a Little Help From Our Friends  ~ Nafeez Ahmed,  bestselling author, investigative journalist and international security scholar.

Part 1 – OUR TERRORISTS

“This is an organisation that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision which will eventually have to be defeated,” Gen Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon press conference in August.

Military action is necessary to halt the spread of the ISIS/IS “cancer,” said President Obama. Yesterday, in his much anticipated address, he called for expanded airstrikes across Iraq and Syria, and new measures to arm and train Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces.

“The only way to defeat [IS] is to stand firm and to send a very straightforward message,” declared Prime Minister Cameron. “A country like ours will not be cowed by these barbaric killers.”

Missing from the chorus of outrage, however, has been any acknowledgement of the integral role of covert US and British regional military intelligence strategy in empowering and even directly sponsoring the very same virulent Islamist militants in Iraq, Syria and beyond, that went on to break away from al-Qaeda and form ‘ISIS’, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or now simply, the Islamic State (IS).

Since 2003, Anglo-American power has secretly and openly coordinated direct and indirect support for Islamist terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda across the Middle East and North Africa. This ill-conceived patchwork geostrategy is a legacy of the persistent influence of neoconservative ideology, motivated by longstanding but often contradictory ambitions to dominate regional oil resources, defend an expansionist Israel, and in pursuit of these, re-draw the map of the Middle East.

Now despite Pentagon denials that there will be boots on the ground – and Obama’s insistence that this would not be another “Iraq war” – local Kurdish military and intelligence sources confirm that US and German special operations forces are already “on the ground here. They are helping to support us in the attack.” US airstrikes on ISIS positions and arms supplies to the Kurds have also been accompanied by British RAF reconnaissance flights over the region andUK weapons shipments to Kurdish peshmerga forces.

Divide and rule in Iraq

“It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs,” said one US government defense consultant in 2007. “It’s who they throw them at – Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”

Early during the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, the US covertly supplied arms to al-Qaeda affiliated insurgents even while ostensibly supporting an emerging Shi’a-dominated administration.

Pakistani defense sources interviewed by Asia Times in February 2005 confirmed that insurgents described as “former Ba’ath party” loyalists – who were being recruited and trainedby “al-Qaeda in Iraq” under the leadership of the late Abu Musab Zarqawi – were being supplied Pakistan-manufactured weapons by the US. The arms shipments included rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, ammunition, rockets and other light weaponry. These arms “could not be destined for the Iraqi security forces because US arms would be given to them”, a source told Syed Saleem Shahzad – the Times’ Pakistan bureau chief who, “known for his exposes of the Pakistani military” according to the New Yorker, was murdered in 2011. Rather, the US is playing a double-game to “head off” the threat of a “Shi’ite clergy-driven religious movement,” said the Pakistani defense source.

This was not the only way US strategy aided the rise of Zarqawi, a bin Laden mentee and brainchild of the extremist ideology that would later spawn ‘ISIS.’

The JSOC insignia

According to a little-known November report for the US Joint Special Operations University(JSOU) and Strategic Studies Department, Dividing Our Enemies, post-invasion Iraq was “an interesting case study of fanning discontent among enemies, leading to ‘red-against-red’ [enemy-against-enemy] firefights.”

While counterinsurgency on the one hand requires US forces to “ameliorate harsh or deprived living conditions of the indigenous populations” to publicly win local hearts and minds:

“… the reverse side of this coin is one less discussed. It involves no effort to win over those caught in the crossfire of insurgent and counterinsurgent warfare, whether by bullet or broadcast. On the contrary, this underside of the counterinsurgency coin is calculated to exploit or create divisions among adversaries for the purpose of fomenting enemy-on-enemy deadly encounters.”

In other words, US forces will pursue public legitimacy through conventional social welfare while simultaneously delegitimising local enemies by escalating intra-insurgent violence, knowing full-well that doing so will in turn escalate the number of innocent civilians “caught in the crossfire.” The idea is that violence covertly calibrated by US special operations will not only weaken enemies through in-fighting but turn the population against them.

In this case, the ‘enemy’ consisted of jihadists, Ba’athists, and peaceful Sufis, who were in a majority but, like the militants, also opposed the US military presence and therefore needed to be influenced. The JSOU report referred to events in late 2004 in Fallujah where “US psychological warfare (PSYOP) specialists” undertook to “set insurgents battling insurgents.” This involved actually promoting Zarqawi’s ideology, ironically, to defeat it: “The PSYOP warriors crafted programs to exploit Zarqawi’s murderous activities – and to disseminate them through meetings, radio and television broadcasts, handouts, newspaper stories, political cartoons, and posters – thereby diminishing his folk-hero image,” and encouraging the different factions to pick each other off. “By tapping into the Fallujans’ revulsion and antagonism to the Zarqawi jihadis the Joint PSYOP Task Force did its ‘best to foster a rift between Sunni groups.’”

Yet as noted by Dahr Jamail, one of the few unembedded investigative reporters in Iraq after the war, the proliferation of propaganda linking the acceleration of suicide bombings to the persona of Zarqawi was not matched by meaningful evidence. His own search to substantiate the myriad claims attributing the insurgency to Zarqawi beyond anonymous US intelligence sources encountered only an “eerie blankness”.

US soldiers in Fallujah

The US military operation in Fallujah, largely justified on the claim that Zarqawi’s militant forces had occupied the city, used white phosphorous, cluster bombs, and indiscriminate air strikes to pulverise 36,000 of Fallujah’s 50,000 homes, killing nearly a thousand civilians, terrorising 300,000 inhabitants to flee, and culminating in a disproportionate increase in birth defects, cancer and infant mortality due to the devastating environmental consequences of the war.

To this day, Fallujah has suffered from being largely cut-off from wider Iraq, its infrastructure largely unworkable with water and sewage systems still in disrepair, and its citizens subject to sectarian discrimination and persecution by Iraqi government backed Shi’a militia and police. “Thousands of bereaved and homeless Falluja families have a new reason to hate the US and its allies,” observed The Guardian in 2005. Thus, did the US occupation plant the seeds from which Zarqawi’s legacy would coalesce into the Frankenstein monster that calls itself “the Islamic State.”

Bankrolling al-Qaeda in Syria

According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009: “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business,” he told French television: “I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria.”

Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor, including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials, confirmed that as of 2011, US and UK special forces training of Syrian opposition forces was well underway. The goal was to elicit the “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”

Since then, the role of the Gulf states – namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan (as well as NATO member Turkey) – in officially and unofficiallyfinancing and coordinating the most virulent elements amongst Syria’s rebels under the tutelage of US military intelligence is no secret. Yet the conventional wisdom is that the funneling of support to Islamist extremists in the rebel movement affiliated to al-Qaeda has been a colossal and regrettable error.

The reality is very different. The empowerment of the Islamist factions within the ‘Free Syrian Army’ (FSA) was a foregone conclusion of the strategy.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) greets Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L), United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan (2nd L) and British Foreign Minister William Hague, in Tunis

In its drive to depose Col. Qaddafi in Libya, NATO had previously allied itself with rebels affiliated to the al-Qaeda faction, the Islamic Fighting Group. The resulting Libyan regime backed by the US was in turn liaising with FSA leaders in Istanbul to provide money and heavy weapons for the anti-Assad insurgency. The State Department even hired an al-Qaeda affiliated Libyan militia group to provide security for the US embassy in Benghazi – although they had links with the very people that attacked the embassy.

Last year, CNN confirmed that CIA officials operating secretly out of the Benghazi embassy were being forced to take extra polygraph tests to keep under wraps what US Congressman suspect was a covert operation “to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels.”

With their command and control centre based in Istanbul, Turkey, military supplies from Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular were transported by Turkish intelligence to the border for rebel acquisition. CIA operatives along with Israeli and Jordanian commandos were also training FSA rebels on the Jordanian-Syrian border with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. In addition, otherreports show that British and French military were also involved in these secret training programmes. It appears that the same FSA rebels receiving this elite training went straight into ISIS – last month one ISIS commander, Abu Yusaf, said, “Many of the FSA people who the west has trained are actually joining us.”

The National thus confirmed the existence of another command and control centre in Amman, Jordan, “staffed by western and Arab military officials,” which “channels vehicles, sniper rifles, mortars, heavy machine guns, small arms and ammunition to Free Syrian Army units.” Rebel and opposition sources described the weapons bridge as “a well-run operation staffed by high-ranking military officials from 14 countries, including the US, European nations and Arabian Gulf states, the latter providing the bulk of materiel and financial support to rebel factions.”

The FSA sources interviewed by The National went to pains to deny that any al-Qaeda affiliated factions were involved in the control centre, or would receive any weapons support. But this is difficult to believe given that “Saudi and Qatari-supplied weapons” were being funneled through to the rebels via Amman, to their favoured factions.

Classified assessments of the military assistance supplied by US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar obtained by the New York Times showed that “most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups… are going to hardline Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster.”

Lest there be any doubt as to the extent to which all this covert military assistance coordinated by the US has gone to support al-Qaeda affiliated factions in the FSA, it is worth noting that earlier this year, the Israeli military intelligence website Debkafile – run by two veteran correspondents who covered the Middle East for 23 years for The Economist – reported that: “Turkey is giving Syrian rebel forces, including the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, passage through its territory to attack the northwestern Syrian coastal area around Latakia.”

In August, Debkafile reported that “The US, Jordan and Israel are quietly backing the mixed bag of some 30 Syrian rebel factions”, some of which had just “seized control of the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing, the only transit point between Israeli and Syrian Golan.” However, Debkafile noted, “al-Qaeda elements have permeated all those factions.” Israel has provided limited support to these rebels in the form of “medical care,” as well as “arms, intelligence and food…

“Israel acted as a member, along with the US and Jordan, of a support system for rebel groups fighting in southern Syria. Their efforts are coordinated through a war-room which the Pentagon established last year near Amman. The US, Jordanian and Israeli officers manning the facility determine in consultation which rebel factions are provided with reinforcements from the special training camps run for Syrian rebels in Jordan, and which will receive arms. All three governments understand perfectly that, notwithstanding all their precautions, some of their military assistance is bound to percolate to al-Qaeda’s Syrian arm, Jabhat Al-Nusra, which is fighting in rebel ranks. Neither Washington or Jerusalem or Amman would be comfortable in admitting they are arming al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front in southern Syria.”

This support also went to ISIS. Although the latter was originally founded in Iraq in October 2006, by 2013 the group had significantly expanded its operations in Syria working alongside al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra until February 2014, when ISIS was formally denounced by al-Qaeda. Even so, experts on the region’s Islamist groups point out that the alleged rift between al-Nusra and ISIS, while real, is not as fraught as one might hope, constituting a mere difference in tactics rather than fundamental ideology.

ISIS fighters pose for the camera

Officially, the US government’s financial support for the FSA goes through the Washington DC entity, the Syrian Support Group (SSG), Syrian Support Group (SSG) which was incorporated in April 2012. The SSG is licensed via the US Treasury Department to “export, re-export, sell, or supply to the Free Syrian Army (‘FSA’) financial, communications, logistical, and other services otherwise prohibited by Executive Order 13582 in order to support the FSA.”

In mid-2013, the Obama administration intensified its support to the rebels with a new classified executive order reversing its previous policy limiting US direct support to only nonlethal equipment. As before, the order would aim to supply weapons strictly to “moderate” forces in the FSA.

Except the government’s vetting procedures to block Islamist extremists from receiving US weapons have never worked.

A year later, Mother Jones found that the US government has “little oversight over whether US supplies are falling prey to corruption – or into the hands of extremists,” and relies “on too much good faith.” The US government keeps track of rebels receiving assistance purely through “handwritten receipts provided by rebel commanders in the field,” and the judgement of its allies. Countries supporting the rebels – the very same which have empowered al-Qaeda affiliated Islamists – “are doing audits of the delivery of lethal and nonlethal supplies.”

Thus, with the Gulf states still calling the shots on the ground, it is no surprise that by September last year, eleven prominent rebel groups distanced themselves from the ‘moderate’ opposition leadership and allied themselves with al-Qaeda.

By the SSG’s own conservative estimate, as much as 15% of rebel fighters are Islamists affiliated to al-Qaeda, either through the Jabhut al-Nusra faction, or its breakaway group ISIS. But privately, Pentagon officials estimate that “more than 50%” of the FSA is comprised of Islamist extremists, and according to rebel sources neither FSA chief Gen Salim Idris nor his senior aides engage in much vetting, decisions about which are made typically by local commanders.

Part 2 – THE LONG WAR

Follow the money

Media reports following ISIS’ conquest of much of northern and central Iraq this summer have painted the group as the world’s most super-efficient, self-financed, terrorist organisation that has been able to consolidate itself exclusively through extensive looting of Iraq’s banks and funds from black market oil sales. Much of this narrative, however, has derived from dubious sources, and overlooked disturbing details.

One senior anonymous intelligence source told Guardian correspondent Martin Chulov, for instance, that over 160 computer flash sticks obtained from an ISIS hideout revealed information on ISIS’ finances that was completely new to the intelligence community.

“Before Mosul, their total cash and assets were $875m [£515m],” said the official on the funds obtained largely via “massive cashflows from the oilfields of eastern Syria, which it had commandeered in late 2012.” Afterwards, “with the money they robbed from banks and the value of the military supplies they looted, they could add another $1.5bn to that.” The thrust of the narrative coming from intelligence sources was simple: “They had done this all themselves. There was no state actor at all behind them, which we had long known. They don’t need one.”

“ISIS’ half-a-billion-dollar bank heist makes it world’s richest terror group,” claimed the Telegraph, adding that the figure did not include additional stolen gold bullion, and millions more grabbed from banks “across the region.”

This story of ISIS’ stupendous bank looting spree across Iraq made global headlines but turned out to be disinformation. Senior Iraqi officials and bankers confirmed that banks in Iraq, including Mosul where ISIS supposedly stole $430 million, had faced no assault, remain open, and are guarded by their own private security forces.

How did the story come about? One of its prime sources was Iraqi parliamentarian Ahmed Chalabi – the same man who under the wing of his ‘Iraqi National Congress’ peddled false intelligence about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda.

In June, Chalabi met with the US ambassador to Iraq, Robert Beecroft, and Brett McGurk, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran. According to sources cited by Buzzfeed in June, Beecroft “has been meeting Chalabi for months and has dined at his mansion in Baghdad.”

Follow the oil

But while ISIS has clearly obtained funding from donors in the Gulf states, many of its fighters having broken away from the more traditional al-Qaeda affiliated groups like Jabhut al-Nusra, it has also successfully leveraged its control over Syrian and Iraqi oil fields.

In January, the New York Times reported that “Islamist rebels and extremist groups have seized control of most of Syria’s oil and gas resources”, bolstering “the fortunes of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and the Nusra Front, both of which are offshoots of al-Qaeda.” Al-Qaeda affiliated rebels had “seized control of the oil and gas fields scattered across the country’s north and east,” while more moderate “Western-backed rebel groups do not appear to be involved in the oil trade, in large part because they have not taken over any oil fields.”

Yet the west had directly aided these Islamist groups in their efforts to operationalise Syria’s oil fields. In April 2013, for instance, the Times noted that al-Qaeda rebels had taken over key regions of Syria: “Nusra’s hand is felt most strongly in Aleppo”, where the al-Qaeda affiliate had established in coordination with other rebel groups including ISIS “a Shariah Commission” running “a police force and an Islamic court that hands down sentences that have included lashings.” Al-Qaeda fighters also “control the power plant and distribute flour to keep the city’s bakeries running.” Additionally, they “have seized government oil fields” in provinces of Deir al-Zour and Hasaka, and now make a “profit from the crude they produce.”

Lost in the fog of media hype was the disconcerting fact that these al-Qaeda rebel bread and oil operations in Aleppo, Deir al-Zour and Hasaka were directly and indirectly supported by the US and the European Union (EU). One account by the Washington Post for instance refers to a stealth mission in Aleppo “to deliver food and other aid to needy Syrians – all of it paid for by the US government,” including the supply of flour. “The bakery is fully supplied with flour paid for by the United States,” the Post continues, noting that local consumers, however, “credited Jabhat al-Nusra – a rebel group the United States has designated a terrorist organisation because of its ties to al-Qaeda – with providing flour to the region, though he admitted he wasn’t sure where it comes from.”

And in the same month that al-Qaeda’s control of Syria’s main oil regions in Deir al-Zour and Hasaka was confirmed, the EU voted to ease an oil embargo on Syria to allow oil to be sold on international markets from these very al-Qaeda controlled oil fields. European companies would be permitted to buy crude oil and petroleum products from these areas, although transactions would be approved by the Syrian National Coalition. Due to damaged infrastructure, oil would be trucked by road to Turkey where the nearest refineries are located.

“The logical conclusion from this craziness is that Europe will be funding al-Qaeda,”said Joshua Landis , a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma.

Just two months later, a former senior staffer at the Syria Support Group in DC, David Falt, leaked internal SSG emails confirming that the group was “obsessed” with brokering “jackpot” oil deals on behalf of the FSA for Syria’s rebel-run oil regions.

“The idea they could raise hundreds of millions from the sale of the oil came to dominate the work of the SSG to the point no real attention was paid to the nature of the conflict,” said Falt, referring in particular to SSG’s director Brian Neill Sayers, who before his SSG role worked with NATO’s Operations Division. Their aim was to raise money for the rebels by selling the rights to Syrian oil.

Tacit complicity in IS oil smuggling

Even as al-Qaeda fighters increasingly decide to join up with IS, the ad hoc black market oil production and export infrastructure established by the Islamist groups in Syria has continued to function with, it seems, the tacit support of regional and western powers.

According to Ali Ediboglu, a Turkish MP for the border province of Hatay, IS is selling the bulk of its oil from regions in Syria and Mosul in Iraq through Turkey, with the tacit consent of Turkish authorities: “They have laid pipes from villages near the Turkish border at Hatay. Similar pipes exist also at [the Turkish border regions of] Kilis, Urfa and Gaziantep. They transfer the oil to Turkey and parlay it into cash. They take the oil from the refineries at zero cost. Using primitive means, they refine the oil in areas close to the Turkish border and then sell it via Turkey. This is worth $800 million.” He also noted that the extent of this and related operations indicates official Turkish complicity. “Fighters from Europe, Russia, Asian countries and Chechnya are going in large numbers both to Syria and Iraq, crossing from Turkish territory. There is information that at least 1,000 Turkish nationals are helping those foreign fighters sneak into Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) is allegedly involved. None of this can be happening without MIT’s knowledge.”

Similarly, there is evidence that authorities in the Kurdish region of Iraq are also turning a blind eye to IS oil smuggling. In July, Iraqi officials said that IS had begun selling oil extracted from in the northern province of Salahuddin. One official pointed out that “the Kurdish peshmerga forces stopped the sale of oil at first, but later allowed tankers to transfer and sell oil.”

State of Law coalition MP Alia Nasseef also accused the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of secretly trading oil with IS: “What is happening shows the extent of the massive conspiracy against Iraq by Kurdish politicians… The [illegal] sale of Iraqi oil to ISIS or anyone else is something that would not surprise us.” Although Kurdish officials have roundly rejected these accusations, informed sources told the Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat that Iraqi crude captured by ISIS was “being sold to Kurdish traders in the border regions straddling Iraq, Iran and Syria, and was being shipped to Pakistan where it was being sold ‘for less than half its original price.’”

An official statement in August from Iraq’s Oil Ministry warned that any oil not sanctioned by Baghdad could include crude smuggled illegally from IS:

“International purchasers [of crude oil] and other market participants should be aware that any oil exports made without the authorisation of the Ministry of Oil may contain crude oil originating from fields under the control of [ISIS].”

“Countries like Turkey have turned a blind eye to the practice” of IS oil smuggling, said Luay al-Khateeb, a fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, “and international pressure should be mounted to close down black markets in its southern region.” So far there has been no such pressure. Meanwhile, IS oil smuggling continues, with observers inside and outside Turkeynoting that the Turkish government is tacitly allowing IS to flourish as it prefers the rebels to the Assad regime.

According to former Iraqi oil minister Isam al-Jalabi, “Turkey is the biggest winner from the Islamic State’s oil smuggling trade.” Both traders and oil firms are involved, he said, with the low prices allowing for “massive” profits for the countries facilitating the smuggling.

Buying ISIS oil?

Early last month, a tanker carrying over a million barrels in crude oil from northern Iraq’s Kurdish region arrived at the Texas Gulf of Mexico. The oil had been refined in the Iraqi Kurdish region before being pumped through a new pipeline from the KRG area ending up at Ceyhan, Turkey, where it was then loaded onto the tanker for shipping to the US. Baghdad’s efforts to stop the oil sale on the basis of its having national jurisdiction were rebuffed by American courts.

In early September, the European Union’s ambassador to Iraq, Jana Hybášková, told the EU Foreign Affairs Committee that “several EU member states have bought oil from the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist organisation that has been brutally conquering large portions of Iraq and Syria,” according to Israel National News. She however “refused to divulge the names of the countries despite being asked numerous times.”

A third end-point for the KRG’s crude this summer, once again shipped via Turkey’s port of Ceyhan, was Israel’s southwestern port of Ashkelon. This is hardly news though. In May,Reuters revealed that Israeli and US oil refineries had been regularly purchasing and importing KRG’s disputed oil.

Meanwhile, as this triangle of covert oil shipments in which ISIS crude appears to be hopelessly entangled becomes more established, Turkey has increasingly demanded that the US pursue formal measures to lift obstacles to Kurdish oil sales to global markets. The KRG plans to export as much as 1 million barrels of oil a day by next year through its pipeline to Turkey.

The Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline: Iraqi Kurdistan alone could hold up to 45 billion barrels of oil, allowing exports of up to 4 million barrels a day in the next decade if successfully brought to production

Among the many oil and gas firms active in the KRG capital, Erbil, are ExxonMobil and Chevron. They are drilling in the region for oil under KRG contracts, though operations have been halted due to the crisis. No wonder Steve Coll writes in the New Yorker that Obama’s air strikes and arms supplies to the Kurds – notably not to Baghdad – effectively amount to “the defense of an undeclared Kurdish oil state whose sources of geopolitical appeal – as a long-term, non-Russian supplier of oil and gas to Europe, for example – are best not spoken of in polite or naïve company.” The Kurds are now busy working to “quadruple” their export capacity, while US policy has increasingly shifted toward permitting Kurdish exports – a development that would have major ramifications for Iraq’s national territorial integrity.

To be sure, as the offensive against IS ramps up, the Kurds are now selectively cracking down on IS smuggling efforts – but the measures are too little, too late.

A new map

The Third Iraq War has begun. With it, longstanding neocon dreams to partition Iraq into three along ethnic and religious lines have been resurrected.

White House officials now estimate that the fight against the region’s ‘Islamic State’ will lastyears, and may outlive the Obama administration. But this ‘long war’ vision goes back to nebulous ideas formally presented by late RAND Corp analyst Laurent Muraweic before the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board at the invitation of then chairman Richard Perle. That presentation described Iraq as a “tactical pivot” by which to transform the wider Middle East.

Brian Whitaker, former Guardian Middle East editor, rightly noted that the Perle-RAND strategy drew inspiration from a 1996 paper published by the Israeli Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, co-authored by Perle and other neocons who held top positions in the post-9/11 Bush administration.

The policy paper advocated a strategy that bears startling resemblance to the chaos unfolding in the wake of the expansion of the ‘Islamic State’ – Israel would “shape its strategic environment” by first securing the removal of Saddam Hussein. “Jordan and Turkey would form an axis along with Israel to weaken and ‘roll back’ Syria.” This axis would attempt to weaken the influence of Lebanon, Syria and Iran by “weaning” off their Shi’ite populations. To succeed, Israel would need to engender US support, which would be obtained by Benjamin Netanyahu formulating the strategy “in language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of American administrations during the cold war.”

The 2002 Perle-RAND plan was active in the Bush administration’s strategic thinking on Iraq shortly before the 2003 war. According to US private intelligence firm Stratfor, in late 2002, then vice-president Dick Cheney and deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz had co-authored a scheme under which central Sunni-majority Iraq would join with Jordan; the northern Kurdish regions would become an autonomous state; all becoming separate from the southern Shi’ite region.

The strategic advantages of an Iraq partition, Stratfor argued, focused on US control of oil:

“After eliminating Iraq as a sovereign state, there would be no fear that one day an anti-American government would come to power in Baghdad, as the capital would be in Amman [Jordan]. Current and potential US geopolitical foes Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria would be isolated from each other, with big chunks of land between them under control of the pro-US forces.Equally important, Washington would be able to justify its long-term and heavy military presence in the region as necessary for the defense of a young new state asking for US protection – and to secure the stability of oil markets and supplies. That in turn would help the United States gain direct control of Iraqi oil and replace Saudi oil in case of conflict with Riyadh.”

The expansion of the ‘Islamic State’ has provided a pretext for the fundamental contours of this scenario to unfold, with the US and British looking to re-establish a long-term military presence in Iraq in the name of the “defense of a young new state.”

In 2006, Cheney’s successor, Joe Biden, also indicated his support for the ‘soft partition’ of Iraq along ethno-religious lines – a position which the co-author of the Biden-Iraq plan, Leslie Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations, now argues is “the only solution” to the current crisis.

Also in 2006, the Armed Forces Journal published a map of the Middle East with its borders thoroughly re-drawn, courtesy of Lt. Col. (ret.) Ralph Peters, who had previously been assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence where he was responsible for future warfare. As for the goals of this plan, apart from “security from terrorism” and “the prospect of democracy”, Peters also mentioned “access to oil supplies in a region that is destined to fight itself.”

In 2008, the strategy re-surfaced – once again via RAND Corp – through a report funded by the US Army Training and Doctrine Command on how to prosecute the ‘long war.’ Among its strategies, one scenario advocated by the report was ‘Divide and Rule’ which would involve:

“… exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts.”

Simultaneously, the report suggested that the US could foster conflict between Salafi-jihadists and Shi’ite militants by:

“… shoring up the traditional Sunni regimes… as a way of containing Iranian power and influence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.”

One way or another, some semblance of this plan is in motion. Last week, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Leiberman told US secretary of state John Kerry:

“Iraq is breaking up before our eyes and it would appear that the creation of an independent Kurdish state is a foregone conclusion.”

Nafeez Ahmed is a bestselling author, investigative journalist and international security scholar. He has contributed to two major terrorism investigations in the US and UK, the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest, and has advised the Royal Military Academy Sandhust, British Foreign Office and US State Department, among government agencies.

Nafeez is a regular contributor to The Guardian where he writes about the geopolitics of interconnected environmental, energy and economic crises. He has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, among many others.

Nafeez’s just released new novel, ZERO POINT, predicted a new war in Iraq to put down an al-Qaeda insurgency.

| We Are All Oceanians Now!

We Are All Oceanians Now ~ Joe Emersberger, Telesur.

We don’t need to urgently debate how to defeat ISIS any more than “we” ever had to urgently debate how to depose Assad, Gadaffi, Hussein or any other former ally of the West.

The following passage is from George Orwell’s 1984:

“At one rally, the speaker is forced to change his speech halfway through to point out that Oceania is not, and has never been, at war with Eurasia. Rather, the speaker says, Oceania is, and always has been, at war with Eastasia. The people become embarrassed about carrying the anti-Eurasia signs and blame Emmanuel Goldstein’s agents for sabotaging them. Nevertheless, they exhibit full-fledged hatred for Eastasia.”

In Orwell’s novel, the way the Oceanian government regularly swaps allies for enemies highlights its power to control the thoughts of its citizens. The most brainwashed are those within the intellectual class who are responsible for rationalizing the government’s complete reversals to the general public.  

For the past few years, Western pundits were fiercely debating how to bring down Assad’s dictatorship in Syria. Should “we” bomb Syria or merely ramp up military aid to the “moderate” rebels? The propaganda was so intense that even some supposedly “independent” outlets took to the task of labeling those who dissented, or simply expressed perfectly rational doubts, as “useful idiots” or apologists for Assad.

As Sharmine Narwani pointed out, the “moderate” rebels armed by the West were unnamed to maintain the fantasy that any militarily significant rebel faction was “moderate” by any sane notion of the word. Other key points were angrily dismissed or simply ignored as the propaganda campaign went into very high gear in 2013.  For example, if “we” had Assad’s police torture people for us as part of the “war on terror” (see the case of Canadian citizen Maher Arar) then how can “we” be morally superior to Assad? How can “we” possibly be trusted to liberate anyone? In fact, shouldn’t “we” be putting many of our own government leaders behind bars for being Assad’s former accomplices?

Such questions never arise when close allies are suddenly declared uniquely evil monsters. In 1987, Saddam Hussein was such a trusted Western ally that when his military accidentally killed 37 US soldiers aboard the USS Stark he simply apologized and moved on to perpetrate some of his worst atrocities while receiving western support.  During the 1980s, Osama Bin Laden was fighting with Western backed “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan whom Ronald Reagan declared the “moral equivalents of our founding fathers.” Prosecuting western leaders for collaborating with such “monsters” is unthinkable. Negative career consequences aren’t even on the table.

As the Media Lens editors just reviewed in detail, the western media is now busily rationalizing the West’s change of position on Assad. Now “we” are supposed to debate how to defeat ISIS even if it helps Assad. The “rebels” in Syria are increasingly described as “jihadists”. Nonstop atrocity allegations made against Assad’s military have disappeared from the front pages. Last year it would have been unthinkable for anyone who hoped to get published in a prominent outlet to suggest any kind of alliance (actually renewed alliance) with Assad. Now the New York Times finds there is room for debate after all. Last years’ “useful idiocy” is this year’s hard headed pragmatism: “Sometimes you have to develop relationships with people who are extremely nasty in order to get rid of people who are even nastier,” explained the UK parliament’s head of Intelligence of Security just a few weeks ago.

The simple observation that Western leaders are among the nastiest and most dangerous people on the planet passes unnoticed in the corporate press. At least a half million dead in Iraq from a war of aggression based on lies should be more than enough to make that remark uncontroversial but one can easily offer other evidence – hundreds of thousands dead due to savage opposition to social reform in Latin America, lavish support for Israel’s barbarism.

But if we’re all huddling in fear over the latest official bad guy then the thought of holding our leaders accountable for their crimes will appear insane. The more irrational fear Western leaders can generate the more impunity they will have. As the emergence of ISIS from the devastation of the Iraq War illustrates, western violence will also supply the enemies our war-addicted leaders require.  

We don’t need to urgently debate how to defeat ISIS any more than “we” ever had to urgently debate how to depose Assad, Gadaffi, Hussein or any other former ally of the West. Our political class is essentially a criminal class, and not just the “right wing” faction that would choose Fox News over the UK Guardian. What we really need is strong political movements committed to prosecuting western leaders, as well as defeating them electorally. Breaking the elite stranglehold on public debate is one of many key goals such movements must have. Unless we do that, “we” will continue to bear a striking resemblance to the Oceanians that Orwell imagined.

1984NotA

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