Archive | September 7th, 2014

Why Muslims fare better in America than in Europe


THE State Department estimates that up to 100 American jihadists are fighting in Iraq and Syria. A video appearing to show a second American journalist being beheaded by the Islamic State is circulating. You might think this would be a difficult time to hold the annual conference of America’s largest Muslim organisation.

Yet the Islamic Society of North America’s gathering, which took place in Detroit over the Labour Day weekend, served as a reminder of how well America is assimilating a religious minority that has often struggled to feel at home in Europe. The conference hall was filled with Muslims of different races wearing clothes that identified them with different traditions. The Islamic Boy Scouts had a stand, as did a Muslim liberal-arts college from California. People discussed how to erect mosques without infringing America’s arcane building regulations, or swapped business cards in the food court. The star turn was a Southern Baptist, Jimmy Carter (whose grandson is in the news, too: see page 42). The only overt hostility to Israel came from two Hasidic Jews in fur shtreimelhats, who had come from Brooklyn to announce their solidarity with the people of Gaza.

America’s Muslims differ from Europe’s in both quantity and origin. The census does not ask about faith, but estimates put the number of Muslims in the country at around 1% of the population, compared with 4.5% in Britain and 5% in Germany. Moreover, American Islam is not dominated by a single sect or ethnicity. When the Pew Research Centre last tried to count, in 2011, it found Muslims from 77 countries in America. Most western European countries, by contrast, have one or two dominant groups—Algerians in France, Moroccans and Turks in Holland. This matters because the jumble of groups in America makes it harder for Muslim immigrants and their descendants to lead a life apart. Different traditions get squashed together. When building mosques, says Chris McCoy, a Kentucky native who is a prolific architect of Islamic buildings, “the question is usually not whether we should have an Indian- or a Saudi-style dome but, can we afford a dome?” Mixing breeds tolerance: Pew found that most American Muslims think that their faith is open to multiple interpretations, making them the Episcopalians of the Islamic world.

America’s Muslims are better off than their European co-religionists. They are almost as likely as other Americans to report a household income of $100,000 or more. The same cannot be said of the Pakistanis who came to work in the now-defunct textile mills of northern England or the Turks who became guest workers in West Germany. Many American Muslims arrived in the 1970s to complete their higher education and ended up staying. Muzammil Siddiqi, chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America, which issues fatwas, or religious opinions, to guide the behaviour of the country’s Muslims, is typical: he was born in India and holds a Harvard PhD in comparative religion.

There is a stark contrast between this group and some of the more recent immigrants from Somalia, who have fewer qualifications and lower wages (as do African-American Muslims, who make up about an eighth of the total). This divide, if anything, makes America’s Muslims look more like the nation as a whole.

On various measures of integration, Muslims score fairly well (see chart). A Pew study from 2011 found that 15% of Muslims who are married or living with someone have a spouse of a different faith. This may sound low, but it is higher than the intermarriage rate for American Jews at a comparable moment in their history, and above that of modern Mormons. According to the Pentagon, there were 3,600 Muslims on active duty in the armed forces in January 2012, the most recent date for which numbers are available. This reflects a plan to recruit Muslims to fight in Islamic countries where an ability to speak Arabic or Pashto is helpful.

Alas, one or two American Muslims fight for the other side. In 2009 Nidal Hasan, a US army psychiatrist, shot and killed 13 people on a military base in Texas. He was encouraged by Anwar al-Awlaki, an American propagandist for al-Qaeda, who was himself killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011. The State Department says that the government has increased the scrutiny of travel plans made by people who have expressed sympathy with foreign Islamists, and will monitor Muslims returning from Iraq and Syria.

But this is hard. Douglas McCain, a 33-year-old African-American who converted to Islam in 2004 and was killed in August while fighting in Syria, travelled to the war zone via Turkey—an unremarkable place to go on holiday. Moner Abusalha, who drove a truck bomb into a restaurant in Syria in May, went to Jordan, returned to Florida and then set off on his suicide mission. In both cases relatives and friends were baffled by what the two men did. Nor is it clear that there were grounds for preventing either from travelling abroad.

A few bad apples

For the past dozen years the FBI and other agencies have been watching mosques in the hope of spotting would-be terrorists early. This has yielded little, although the FBI did reveal one alarming conspiracy in 2009, when four men were convicted of planning to shoot down planes with missiles and burn synagogues in New York. Not many American Muslims want to become terrorists. And as the deaths of Mr McCain and Mr Abusalha suggest, there is no map for the journey from basketball-loving teen to violent extremist.

If the September 11th attacks permanently altered America’s view of Islam, they also changed Islam in America. Peter Skerry of Boston College says that a few decades ago it was common for religious leaders to agonise over whether it was possible to be a good Muslim and live in America. That argument disappeared almost overnight, as did the question of whether it was appropriate for American Muslims to vote. At the conference in Detroit, speakers made frequent approving references to the protection afforded to the free exercise of religion by the constitution. Mr McCoy, the architect, regretted that his elderly clients often wanted to stick a minaret on their mosques to make them look like something from back home. He longed, he said, for American Islam to create distinctive architectural forms of its own. In this, style lags substance. When it comes to their faith, America’s Muslims have already made something new.

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Featured photo - The CIA’s Mop-Up Man: L.A. Times Reporter Cleared Stories With Agency Before Publication

A prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers prior to publication, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

Email exchanges between CIA public affairs officers and Ken Dilanian, now an Associated Press intelligence reporter who previously covered the CIA for the Times, show that Dilanian enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA’s reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in theTimes.

“I’m working on a story about congressional oversight of drone strikes that can present a good opportunity for you guys,” Dilanian wrote in one email to a CIA press officer, explaining that what he intended to report would be “reassuring to the public” about CIA drone strikes. In another, after a series of back-and-forth emails about a pending story on CIA operations in Yemen, he sent a full draft of an unpublished report along with the subject line, “does this look better?” In another, he directly asks the flack: “You wouldn’t put out disinformation on this, would you?”

Dilanian’s emails were included in hundreds of pages of documents that the CIA turned over in response to two FOIA requests seeking records on the agency’s interactions with reporters. They include email exchanges with reporters for the Associated Press, Washington PostNew York TimesWall Street Journal, and other outlets. In addition to Dilanian’s deferential relationship with the CIA’s press handlers, the documents show that the agency regularly invites journalists to its McLean, Va., headquarters for briefings and other events. Reporters who have addressed the CIA include the Washington Post‘s David Ignatius, the former ombudsmen for the New York Times, NPR, and Washington Post, and Fox News’ Brett Baier, Juan Williams, and Catherine Herridge.

Dilanian left the Times to join the AP last May, and the emails released by the CIA only cover a few months of his tenure at the Times. They show that in June 2012, shortly after 26 members of congress wrote a letter to President Obama saying they were “deeply concerned” about the drone program, Dilanian approached the agency about story that he pitched as “a good opportunity” for the government.

The letter from lawmakers, which was sent in the wake of a flurry of drone strikes that had reportedly killed dozens of civilians, suggested there was no meaningful congressional oversight of the program. But Dilanian wrote that he had been “told differently by people I trust.” He added:

Not only would such a story be reassuring to the public, I would think, but it would also be an opportunity to explore the misinformation about strikes that sometimes comes out of local media reports. It’s one thing for you to say three killed instead of 15, and it’s another for congressional aides from both parties to back you up. Part of what the story will do, if you could help me bring it to fruition, is to quote congressional officials saying that great care is taken to avoid collateral damage and that the reports of widespread civilian casualties are simply wrong.

Of course, journalists routinely curry favor with government sources (and others) by falsely suggesting that they intend to amplify the official point of view. But the emails show that Dilanian really meant it.

Over the next two weeks, he sent additional emails requesting assistance and information from the agency. In one, he suggested that a New America Foundation report alleging that drone attacks had killed many civilians was exaggerated, writing that the report was all wrong, correct?

A number of early news accounts reported that more than a dozen people died in the June 4, 2012, drone strike that killed Al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi in Pakistan. But in a June 20 email to the CIA, Dilanian shared a sentence from his story draft asserting that al-Libi had died alone. “Would you quibble with this?” he asked the CIA press officer.

On June 25, the Times published Dilanian’s story, which described thorough congressional review of the drone program and said legislative aides were allowed to watch high-quality video of attacks and review intelligence used to justify each strike. Needless to say, the agency hadn’t quibbled with Dilanian’s description of al-Libi’s solitary death. Video provided by the CIA to congressional overseers, Dilanian reported, “shows that he alone was killed.”

That claim was subsequently debunked. In October of 2013, Amnesty International issued a report, based on statements from eyewitnesses and survivors, that the first missile strike targeting al-Libi killed five men and wounded four others. Al-Libi was not even among those victims; he and up to fifteen other people died in a follow up attack when they arrived at the scene to assist victims. Some of those killed were very likely members of al Qaeda, but six were local tribesmen who Amnesty believed were there only as rescuers. Another field report published around the same time, this one by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, also reported follow-up drone strikes on civilians and rescue workers — attacks that constitute war crimes.

Dilanian has done some strong work and has at times been highly critical of the CIA. For example, in July 2012 he wrote a piece about sexual harassment at the agency that angered the press office. In reply to an email from a spokesperson, Dilanian said that complaints about his story were “especially astonishing given that CIA hides the details of these complaints behind a wall of secrecy.”

But the emails reveal a remarkably collegial relationship with the agency. “I am looking forward to working with you, Ken,” a newly hired agency flack wrote him in a March 1, 2012, email.

“Hooray!” Dilanian replied. “Glad to have you guys.”

On March 14, 2012, Dilanian sent an email to the press office with a link to a Guardian story that said Bashar Al-Assad’s wife had been buying a fondue set on Amazon while Syrian protesters were gunned down. “If this is you guys, nice work,” he wrote. “If it’s real, even better.”

The emails also show that Dilanian shared his work with the CIA before it was published, and invited the agency to request changes. On Friday April 27, 2012, he emailed the press office a draft story that he and a colleague, David Cloud, were preparing. The subject line was “this is where we are headed,” and he asked if “you guys want to push back on any of this.”

It appears the agency did push back. On May 2, 2012, he emailed the CIA a new opening to the story with a subject line that asked, “does this look better?”

The piece ran on May 16, and while it bore similarities to the earlier versions, it had been significantly softened.

Here’s the original opening, from Dilanian’s email:

Teams of CIA officers, private contractor and special operations troops have been inserted in southern Yemen to work with local tribes on gathering intelligence for U.S. drone strikes against militants, U.S. officials and others familiar with the secret operation said.

Here’s the version that was published:

In an escalation of America’s clandestine war in Yemen, a small contingent of U.S. troops is providing targeting data for Yemeni airstrikes as government forces battle to dislodge Al Qaeda militants and other insurgents in the country’s restive south, U.S. and Yemeni officials said.

In another case, Dilanian sent the press office a draft story on May 4, 2012, reporting that U.S. intelligence believed the Taliban was growing stronger in Afghanistan. “Guys, I’m about to file this if anyone wants to weigh in,” he wrote.

On May 7, 2012, the AP, Dilanian’s current employer, broke a story about a secret CIA operation that “thwarted an ambitious plot by al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner.” The next day, Dilanian sent the CIA a detailed summary of a planned piece that followed up on (and took issue with) the AP story. “This is what we are planning to report, and I want to make sure you wouldn’t push back against any of it,” he wrote.

Dilanian also closely collaborated with the CIA in a May 2012 story that minimized the agency’s cooperation with director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal on their film about the assassination of Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty. Republicans had been criticizing the Obama Administration for revealing classified details about the operation to Boal and Bigelow while withholding them from the public.

“My angle on this is that…this is a pretty routine effort to cooperate with filmmakers and the sort of thing the CIA has been doing for 15 years,” Dilanian wrote in an email to Cynthia Rapp, the head of the agency’s press office. “This is a storyline that is in your interest, I would think, to the extent you could provide information about how routine it is to offer guidance to entertainment people who seek it out—including ones who are Democrats!—it would show that this latest episode is hardly a scandal.”

Dilanian’s pitch appears to have worked. His subsequent story included an on the record comment from CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz. One year later,internal CIA documents released under the FOIA showed that the agency’s office of public affairs—the same people Dilanian had been working with–had asked for and received changes to the Zero Dark Thirty script that portrayed the agency in a more favorable light.

Reached by The Intercept for comment, Dilanian said that the AP does not permit him to send stories to the CIA prior to publication, and he acknowledged that it was a bad idea. “I shouldn’t have done it, and I wouldn’t do it now,” he said. “[But] it had no meaningful impact on the outcome of the stories. I probably should’ve been reading them the stuff instead of giving it to them.”

Dilanian said he was not sure if Los Angeles Times rules allow reporters to send stories to sources prior to publication. The Time’s ethics guidelines, however, clearly forbid the practice: “We do not circulate printed or electronic copies of stories outside the newsroom before publication. In the event you would like to read back quotations or selected passages to a source to ensure accuracy, consult an editor before doing so….”

Bob Drogin, the Times deputy bureau chief and national security editor, said he had been unaware that Dilanian had sent story drafts to the CIA and would have not allowed him to do it. “Ken is a diligent reporter and it’s responsible to seek comment and response to your reporting,” he told me. “But sharing story drafts is not appropriate.”

AP spokesman Paul Colford told The Intercept that the news organization is “satisfied that any pre-publication exchanges that Ken had with the CIA before joining AP were in pursuit of accuracy in his reporting on intelligence matters,” adding that “we do not coordinate with government agencies on the phrasing of material.”

Dilanian’s emails were included in a FOIA request that sought communications between the CIA and ten national security reporters sent from March to July 2012. That request turned up correspondence between the press office and Dilanian, Adam Goldman, then at the AP and now atThe Washington Post, Matt Apuzzo, then at AP  and now at The New York Times, Brian Bennett of The Los Angeles Times, Siobhan Gorman of The Wall Street Journal, Scott Shane of the New York Times, and David Ignatius, aWashington Post columnist.

It’s impossible to know precisely how the CIA flacks responded to reporters’ queries, because the emails show only one side of the conversations. The CIA redacted virtually all of the press handlers’ replies other than meager comments that were made explicitly on the record, citing the CIA Act of 1949, which exempts the agency from having to disclose “intelligence sources and methods” or “the organization, functions, names, official titles, salaries, or numbers of personnel employed by the Agency.” The contents of off-the-record or background emails from CIA press handlers clearly don’t disclose names, titles, or salaries (which can easily be redacted anyway); they may disclose sources and methods, depending on whether you view manipulation of American reporters as an intelligence method. (The Intercept is appealing the redactions.)

The emails also show that the CIA asked the Post‘s Ignatius to speak at a May 2012 off-the-record conference, “Political Islam’s Future: Challenges, Choices, and Uncertainties,” for U.S. government intelligence analysts and policymakers. The invitation was extended in an email from the press office, which said that the conference organizers “would like you to draw upon the insight from your field experience, reporting, and broad network of contacts during the lead up to the Arab Spring to share how journalists sense that major political, social, or religious changes are in the making.”

Ignatius replied that he would be “pleased and honored to do this,” but unfortunately he would be traveling in Europe on the day of the conference. The CIA then proposed “a smaller round table with our…folks sometime in the future.”

“Smaller round table would be great,” Ignatius replied.

Ignatius told The Intercept that the round table never took place. But he confirmed that he had previously spoken to the CIA twice since 2005. “I talked to them about how journalists collect information,” he said. “It was meant as an admonition and a caution about the need to get things right and not to bend to political pressure and to have systems in place to catch errors.”

Ignatius said he had gotten approval of his editors before he spoke to the CIA, and didn’t see any conflict or problem with addressing the agency. “There’s a very sharp line between our profession and the intelligence business and it shouldn’t be crossed,” he said. “I talked to them about what I’d learned as an editor and the importance of getting it right. I wasn’t sharing any [sensitive] information with them.

Records released in response to another FOIA request, seeking information about journalists who had been invited to address or debrief CIA employees, show that several Fox News reporters have visited the agency.

Fox News’ Bret Baier gave an address about the importance of charity in 2008 (which was reported at the time), and the then-ombudsmen for NPR,The Washington Post, and The New York Times (Jeffrey Dvorkin, Michael Getler and Daniel Okrent, respectively), appeared together on a CIA panel. The event description said that journalism “shares some of the same missions that intelligence analysts have—presenting information in an unbiased fashion and challenging prevailing opinions.” The ombudsmen, the invitation said, could help the CIA “see how journalists deal with some of our common professional and ethical difficulties.” (It’s not clear from the documents when the ombudsmen event was held, but it would have been in 2009 or before.)

In 2007, Juan Williams, then at NPR in addition to his role at Fox News, gave a “standing-room-only” speech sponsored by the agency’s Office of Diversity Plans and Programs. During his speech Williams praised CIA personnel as “the best and brightest,” and said Americans admired the agency and trusted it “to guide the nation and the nation’s future.”

Williams also spoke about Nelson Mandela, saying he was an example of a leader who “came from outside the system.” There was a certain irony here—the CIA played a key role in Mandela’s 1962 arrest by the South African apartheid regime, which resulted in him spending 28 years in prison—which Williams was either unaware of or politely chose not to note.


Nazi Dirty Propaganda: Muslims killed by Nazi Regime of I$raHell

Muslims killed by Israel

By: Asad AbuKhalil

There is a despicable report by the Israeli foreign ministry–and it is despicable even by the standard despicable standards of the Israeli government–about how many Muslims killed by fellow Muslims versus how many killed by Israel.  This report follows the values and methods of the allies of Israel in the white supremacist South African government of past years, which used to similarly argue that blacks kill more blacks than killed by the white supremacists of South Africa.  You will be surprised–or maybe not–to see the similarities between the propaganda of apartheid south Africa and apartheid Israel.
But if you want to even argue with the claims of the report you have to say that it misses an important element: not only are the victims of Israeli terrorism undercounted but also it disregards the direct or indirect role (meaning through arming one side or politically and military helping one side) that Israel has played in various war and civil wars by Muslims.  The dirty hands of Israel have been involved in those wars: the Lebanese civil wars (in 1958 or in 1975-1989), the Kurdish rebellion in Iraq, the Sahara conflict in the maghrib, the Sudan conflict, the Yemeni conflict (from the early 1960s on), the Oman revolt,
Black September, the Afghan war of the 1980s, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood revolt of 1979-1982 and the current Syrian war, the Iran-Iraq war, and this is not counting the close association between Israel and the repressive regimes of Morocco, Tunisia (of Ben Ali), Mauritania (the military dictatorship), Sudan (of Numayri and the South Sudan militias), the Sadat-Mubarak regimes, the Saudi government, the Iran Shah government, the Qabus government, the UAE sons of Zayid regime, the Monarchist forces in Yemen, the Jordanian regime, the Syrian rebels, and this is not to mention the role by the enemy state of Israel in America’s wars against the left around the world during the Cold War.
Only when you cant all those intervention and roles, and only when you count the non-Muslims also killed by Israel, the assessment can be discussed.

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Nazi Foreign Ministry proposes international force in Gaza


Rafah crossing, August 27, 2014.

Foreign Ministry proposes international force in Gaza, favors EU troops

Document formulated in the context of ideas received by Germany, Britain, France and other European countries during the war in Gaza.

Palestinians at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip on August 27, 2014. Photo by AFP

The Foreign Ministry submitted a classified document to the security cabinet two weeks ago with a proposal for stationing an international force in the Gaza Strip to monitor rehabilitation and prevent the rearming of Hamas and other terror groups. The Foreign Ministry believes that such a force could serve Israel’s interest if it carries out effective security work in Gaza.

The two-page document, entitled “Principles and Parameters for Deployment of an International Force in Gaza,” was given to the ministers of the security cabinet on August 21, by Foreign Minister director-general Nissim Ben-Sheetrit. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s senior advisers read the document and discussed it with Foreign Ministry officials. The ministers also read the document, but have not met to discuss it.

A senior Foreign Ministry official said the document was formulated in the context of ideas received by Germany, Britain, France and other European countries during the war in Gaza, to establish an international monitoring force in Gaza that would be based on an upgrading of the European monitoring force stationed at the Rafah crossing between 2005 and 2007.

A few weeks ago, the Foreign Ministry established a 10-person team to formulate the principles for possible deployment of such a force. The team was headed by the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director general for diplomacy, Alon Ushpiz. A senior Foreign Ministry official said the document, which was formulated after a series of discussions, stated that an international force in Gaza could serve the Israeli interest if it effectively implemented security activities in the realm of demilitarization and preventing Hamas from gaining strength.

According to the document, Israel should aspire for the international force to act according to the following principles:

1. Makeup of the force: The document presents four alternatives – a European Union force; a Western force with membership of European countries as well as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand; a United Nations force; and a NATO force. The Foreign Ministry recommended the EU option to the cabinet, because that was the most available force and because the Europeans have already shown willingness in principle for such a force.

2. Powers: The Foreign Ministry believes the force’s powers should derive from the tasks of rehabilitation and disarmament. According to the document, the force should be armed and given enforcement powers that will “allow it to deal with threats from Hamas and other terror organizations.” The Foreign Ministry believes the force should carry out enforcement, monitoring and reporting at border crossings. It should have the power to prevent arms from entering the Gaza Strip, and to confiscate arms and other prohibited materials. It should also have powers in the realm of humanitarian aid and rehabilitation, and should be able to inspect UN facilities and schools in the Gaza Strip to ensure they are not concealing weapons.

3. Deployment: The Foreign Ministry recommended that the force be deployed on the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing and along the border between the Gaza Strip and Sinai – known as the Philadelphi strip – as well as certain areas inside the Gaza Strip, such as UN installations, in keeping with the force’s mandate.

4. The force’s mandate and legal framework: The Foreign Office recommended to the cabinet that the force operate in the Gaza Strip by virtue of a UN Security Council resolution, or by virtue of an agreement between Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, the United States and the EU that would be backed by a UN Security Council resolution. The Foreign Ministry recommended that the force operate for at least a year, with an option to extend for another year. The Foreign Ministry also recommended that the force operate according to Chapter 6 of the UN Charter, as does UNIFIL in southern Lebanon. This means that all parties involved – Israel, the Palestinians and Egypt – would have to agree to its deployment. The Foreign Ministry does not recommend that the force operate according to Chapter 7 of the Charter – that is, a force that is imposed on the parties.

A senior Foreign Ministry official said that deployment of an international force could become a very relevant possibility when talks on a long-term cease-fire are renewed in Cairo between Israel and Hamas and the other Palestinian factions. One of the issues that will be raised, mainly between Egypt and the Palestinians, is the permanent opening of the Rafah crossing.

The Egyptians are demanding that the Rafah crossing be opened only with the presence of the Palestinian Presidential Guard, without Hamas forces. According to the agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority from 2005, the Rafah crossing can be opened only with the involvement of EU monitors.

The senior Foreign Ministry official said that Egypt will have to be a key partner to all discussion of an international force in Gaza, and that coordination with Egypt is critical in this matter. According to the official, some European countries had broached the issue with Egypt even during the war in Gaza, but so far the Egyptians have not been enthusiastic.

The senior official said that, in talks with some European countries, Israel presented a number of questions regarding the willingness of the EU to send a significant force that would carry out effective security work and could protect itself, in case it was attacked. “We brought up a number of questions, but so far the Europeans have not gotten back to us with a solid proposal regarding what they think such an international force should do in Gaza,” the senior Foreign Ministry official said.

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Zionist Steals Gaza’s Offshore Natural Gas: $15 Billion Deal with Jordan


Global Research

Photo: “Gaza electricity; ‘enemy of the (Jewish) state’” wrote the Middle East Online during the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead.

While Gazans suffer from daily power shutdowns, Israel is signing an important deal to sell gas to Jordan, gas which, researchers say, was stolen from Palestinians.

In addition to confiscating Palestine’s energy resources, Israel has destroyed Gaza’s only power station in its latest military offensive.

On July 29, 2014, RT reported:

Over a million people in Gaza could be without electricity after Israeli tank shells hit the fuel depot of the enclaves only power station, causing it to shut down. Its director, Mohammed al-Sharif, said, “The power plant is finished. (Gazas only power plant shut down by Israeli shelling, RT, July 29, 2014)

The Middle East Monitor reported September 4, 2014 that a Memorandum of Understanding ”is due to be signed between Israel and Jordan in the reservoir of Leviathan to export Israeli natural gas to Jordan during the next 15 years with a total value of $15 billion”. (Jordan to buy $15bn of Israeli gas, Middle East Monitor, September 4, 2014.)

Israel’s first natural gas export deal will also be signed by “the Leviathan field partner Noble Energy Inc. on behalf of itself and its partners Delek Group Ltd. units Avner Oil and Gas LP and Delek Drilling Limited Partnership and Ratio Oil Exploration (1992) LP.” (Leviathan partners signing $15b Jordanian gas dealGlobes, Israel business news, on September 3, 2014)

We may recall that in the wake of the Israeli bombing and invasion under Operation Cast Lead, “Palestinian gas fields were de facto confiscated by Israel in derogation of international law”:

A year following Operation Cast Lead, Tel Aviv announced the discovery of the Leviathan natural gas field in the Eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Israel.

At the time the gas field was: … the most prominent field ever found in the sub-explored area of the Levantine Basin, which covers about 83,000 square kilometres of the eastern Mediterranean region.

Coupled with Tamar field, in the same location, discovered in 2009, the prospects are for an energy bonanza for Israel, for Houston, Texas based Noble Energy and partners Delek Drilling, Avner Oil Exploration and Ratio Oil Exploration. (Felicity Arbuthnot, Israel: Gas, Oil and Trouble in the Levant, Global Research, December 30, 2013)

The Gazan gas fields are part of the broader Levant assessment area. (Michel Chossudovsky, War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gazas Offshore Gas Fields, Global Research, January 8, 2009)

The Times of Israel said this first export deal “makes Israel chief energy supplier for [the] kingdom.” (Marissa Newman, Israel signs $15 billion gas deal with Jordan, The Times of Israel, September 3, 2014)

The Israeli business news outlet Globe reports that the U.S. State Department “assisted” both countries in signing the deal which gives Israel the capacity to “use its position to achieve strategic aims”:

The deal has been brought to fruition with the assistance of Israel Minister of Natural Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources Silvan Shalom and the US State Department.

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs Amos Hochstein is in Jordan for the signing ceremony. Silvan Shalom will be required to approve the deal before contracts are finally signed.

This deal significantly changes the economic strategic relations between Israel and Jordan and makes Israel an energy producer and exporter that can use its position to achieve strategic aims. Discussions over Israeli gas exports have rumbled on in Israel for the past few years and ultimately it was decided that Israel can export 40% of its offshore natural gas reserves. (Leviathan partners signing $15b Jordanian gas deal, Globes, Israel business news, on September 3, 2014)

According to the Middle East Monitor, Jordan approved last month a recommendation “calling for supplying Jordan with natural gas from Palestinian water of the Gaza Marine”:

“The Jordanian cabinet approved, last month, the recommendation of the Committee on Economic Development, calling for supplying Jordan with natural gas from the gas field discovered in the Palestinian water of the Gaza Marine, after coordination with the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinians own a stake in the Gaza Marine field, located 35 kilometres away from the coast of the Gaza Strip, which was discovered at the end of the 90s, nothing has been extracted from it yet.” (Middle East Monitor, op. cit.)

Will this deal between Israel and Jordan jeopardize this approval?

One thing is certain, this new deal making Israel the “chief energy supplier for the kingdom” and making Israel an important energy player able ”use its position to achieve strategic aims”, sheds a new light on the purported objectives of the relentless Israeli attacks against Gaza.

In 2007 a year before Operation Cast Lead in which Palestinian gas fields were confiscated, Israeli Defense minister and former Israeli Defence Force (IDF) chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon wrote that “Israel needs additional natural gas sources”. However, purchasing gas from Palestinians, he claimed, would be “tantamount to Israels bankrolling terror against itself” and that gas revenues cannot be “a key driver of an economically more viable Palestinian state”. His statement below clearly shows the links between Israel’s military operations and Palestine’s oil and gas reserves:

British Gas is supposed to be the crown jewel of the Palestinian economy, and provide part of the solution to Israels pressing energy needs. The British energy giant, now called the BG Group, and its local partners the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas and the private, Palestinian-owned Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) are currently involved in advanced negotiations to sell to Israel massive amounts of natural gas reserves of nearly 1.4 trillion cubic feet that BG first discovered in 2000 off the Gaza coast. The market value of the gas has been estimated at $4 billion. Therefore, sale of the gas to Israel would mean a billion-dollar windfall for the PA and, potentially, for the Palestinian people.

Unfortunately, British assessments, including those of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, that Gaza gas can be a key driver of an economically more viable Palestinian state, are misguided. Proceeds of a Palestinian gas sale to Israel would likely not trickle down to help an impoverished Palestinian public.

For Israel, the need for BGs gas may have already taken a toll. It is possible that the prospect of an Israeli gas purchase may have played a role in influencing the Olmert cabinet to avoid ordering a major IDF ground operation in Gaza …

Clearly, Israel needs additional natural gas sources, while the Palestinian people sorely need new sources of revenue. However, with Gaza currently a radical Islamic stronghold, and the West Bank in danger of becoming the next one, Israels funneling a billion dollars into local or international bank accounts on behalf of the Palestinian Authority would be tantamount to Israels bankrolling terror against itself. Therefore, an urgent review is required of the far-reaching security implications of an Israeli decision to purchase Gaza gas. (Moshe Yaalon, Does the Prospective Purchase of British Gas from Gaza Threaten Israels National Security?, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, October 19, 2007)

What needs to be understood from that declaration is that Israel will not allow Palestinians to have a viable economy by exploiting their natural resources. The “terrorist threat” is just a pretext to maintain Palestine under military occupation and continue to steal its land and resources.

Independent researchers have indicated that these military operations as well as the illegal blockade of Gaza are in fact all about oil and gas:

What is now unfolding is the integration of these adjoining gas fields including those belonging to Palestine into the orbit of Israel. (see map below).

It should be noted that the entire Eastern Mediterranean coastline extending from Egypts Sinai to Syria constitutes an area encompassing large gas as well as oil reserves. (Chossudovsky, op. cit.)

For further information on the Palestinian offshore gaz fields, we suggest the following GR articles:

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Gaza, JordanComments Off on Zionist Steals Gaza’s Offshore Natural Gas: $15 Billion Deal with Jordan

Time running out for peace in Middle East

Tide of religious extremism

By Uri Avnery

For six decades my friends and I have warned our people: if we don’t make peace with the nationalist Arab forces, we shall be faced with Islamic Arab forces.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will turn into a Jewish-Muslim conflict. The national war will become a religious war.

National conflicts are basically rational. They concern territory. They can usually be solved by compromise.

Religious conflicts are irrational. Each side believes in an absolute truth, and automatically considers everybody else as infidels, enemies of the only true God.

There can be no compromise between “true believers”, who believe that they are fighting for God and get their orders straight from Heaven. “God wills it,” shouted the Crusaders and butchered Muslims and Jews. “Allah is the Greatest” shout fanatical Muslims and behead their enemies. “Who is like you among the Gods!” cried the Maccabees, and annihilated all fellow Jews who had adopted Greek manners.

The age of secular nationalism

The Zionist movement was created by secularised Jews, after the victory of the European Enlightenment. Almost all the founders were convinced atheists. They were mostly quite ready to use religious symbols for decoration, but were roundly denounced by all the great religious sages of their time.

Indeed, before the creation of the state of Israel, the Zionist enterprise was remarkably free of religious dogmas. Even today, extreme Zionists talk about the “nation state of the Jewish people”, not of the “religious state of the Jewish faith”. Even for the “national religious” camp, the forerunners of today’s settlers and semi-fascists, religion was subordinate to the national goal: the creation of a national Jewish state in all the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

This national onslaught met, of course, with the resolute resistance of the Arab national movement. After some initial hesitation, Arab national leaders turned against it. This resistance had very little to do with religion. True, for some time the Palestinian resistance was led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini – not because of his religious standing but because he was the leader of Jerusalem’s most aristocratic clan.

The Arab national movement was always decidedly secular. Some of its most outstanding leaders were Christians. The pan-Arab Baath (“Resurrection”) party, which came to dominate both Syria and Iraq, was founded by Christians.

The great hero of the Arab masses at that time, Jamal Abd-al-Nasser, though formally Muslim, was quite un-religious. Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, was a pious Muslim in private, but under his leadership the PLO remained a secular body with many Christian ingredients. He spoke about liberating East Jerusalem’s “mosques and churches”. For some time the official aim of the PLO was to create in Palestine a “democratic and non-denominational” state.

So what has happened? How did a nationalist movement turn into a violent, fanatical religious one?

The failure of nationalism and the rise of religious fascists

Karen Armstrong, the nun-turned-historian, pointed out that the same thing happened practically simultaneously in all three monotheistic religions. In the US, evangelical Christians now play a large role in politics, in close cooperation with the Jewish right-wing establishment. All over the Muslim world, fundamentalist movements are gaining strength. And in Israel, a messianic Jewish fundamentalism is now playing a larger and larger role.

When the same thing happens in such diverse countries and religions, there must be a common cause. What is it?

It is easy to speak about something nebulous with the German title of Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, but that really explains very little.

The Arab world

In the Muslim world, the bankruptcy of liberal, secular nationalism has created a spiritual void, an economic breakdown and national humiliation. The shining promise of Nasserism ended in abject stagnation under Hosni Mubarak. The Baath dictators in Baghdad and Damascus failed in creating modern states. The militaries in Algeria and Turkey did not do much better. After the overthrow of the elected democratic Iranian leader, Mohammed Mossadeq, by oil-grabbing Western powers, the luckless shah could not fill the void.

And, all the time, there was the humiliating sight of Israel, which grew from a despised little foreign implant into a formidable military and economic power, and which easily trounces Arab states again and again.

After every new war, Muslim people ask themselves: what’s wrong? If nationalism has failed both in peace and in war, if both capitalism and socialism did not succeed in creating a sound economy, if neither European humanism nor Soviet communism succeeded in filling the spiritual void, where is the solution?

The thunderous reply comes from the depths of the masses: “Islam is the answer!”


Logic would have it that the Israeli reply would be the opposite.

Israel is a success story. Not only does it have a mighty military machine and credible nuclear capabilities, but it is a technological power and has a comparatively sound economic basis.

But messianic fundamentalism, closely allied with an extreme nationalism, is now dictating our course.

On the eve of the recent war, the commander of the Giv’ati brigade published an order-of-the-day to his officers. It shocked many.

The Giv’ati brigade was an outstanding fighting force in the war of 1948 (I was one of its original fighters and wrote two books about it). We took great pride in its composition. The fighters were a mixture of the sons of the metropolitan Tel Aviv elite and the poorest surrounding slums – a mixture that was eminently successful and proved itself in battle.

The brigade commander was a former German communist underground fighter under the Nazis, who converted to Zionism and became a member of a very left-wingkibbutz. So were most of his staff officers. I don’t remember a single soldier in the brigade who wore a kippah [skullcap].

Imagine our shock when the current brigade commander called for a holy fight to fulfil God’s will. Colonel Ofer Winter, who in his youth attended a religious-military school, had this to say to his soldiers on the eve of battle:

History has chosen us as the spearhead of the fight against the Gazan terrorist enemy, who abuses and curses the God of Israel’s battles… I raise my eyes to heaven and call with you: “Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.’ Oh Lord, the God of Israel, make us succeed on our way, as we are going to fight for Israel against an enemy who curses your name!

The official aim of the Israeli army in this campaign was to guard the border and stop the launching of rockets at Israeli towns and villages. But that is not the aim of the colonel. He sent his soldiers to die (three of them did) for the God of Israel, against those who curse his name.

If this officer were the only religious fanatic in the army, it would be bad enough. But the army is now full of kippah-wearing officers who have been indoctrinated with religious fervour and indoctrinate their soldiers in turn with the same spirit.

The Zionist-religious party and its fanatical rabbis, many of them outspoken fascists, have been working for years to systematically infiltrate the army’s officer corps. It’s a process of natural selection: officers who are loath to act as colonial masters in occupied territories leave the army to become high-tech entrepreneurs, while messianic fanatics are sent to fill their place.

The colonel, by the way, has not been reprimanded or harmed in any way. On the contrary, he has been lauded during the war as an exemplary battle commander.

“Islamic State”

All this leads me to ISIS – the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (Greater Syria), which recently changed its name to just “Islamic State”. The change means that the former states, created by the Western colonialists after World War I, are abolished. There is going to be one Islamic state that includes all former and present Islamic territories, including Palestine (including Israel).

This is a new and frightening phenomenon. There are, of course, many Islamist parties and organisations in the Muslim world – from the Turkish ruling party to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to the Palestinian Hamas. But almost all of them restrict their fight to their national countries – Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Yemen. They want to attain power and rule their countries. Even Osama bin Laden wanted mostly to take over his Saudi homeland.

“Islamic State” is something quite different. It wants to destroy all states, especially the Muslim states carved out by Western imperialists from Islamic land. With horrible savagery, elevated to a religious symbol, it sets out on its way to conquer the Muslim world, and then the globe.

It may seem a ridiculous aim, given that the whole enterprise consists of a few thousand fighters. But this tiny force has already conquered a huge part of Syria and Iraq. It expresses the Muslim longing for restoring ancient glory, their hatred of all those (including us) who have humiliated Islam, a thirst for spiritual values. One cannot help being reminded of the beginnings of the Nazi movement – its resentments, its thirst for revenge, its attraction for all the poor and humiliated.

It may take only a few years to become a huge force, threatening all the states of this region.

Does it threaten Israel? Of course it does. If its dynamism holds, it will overthrow the Assad regime and reach the Israeli border, where other Islamic rebels have already shot the first few rounds this week.

With such a menace looming in the north, it seems ridiculous to fight against a miniscule Islamic-patriotic force in Gaza – even if curses the name of the Lord.

There may be very little time left to make peace with the Arab national movement, and especially with the Palestinian people – including both the PLO and Hamas – and join the fight against “Islamic State”.

The alternative is frightening.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Time running out for peace in Middle East

‘What we’d done in Iraq had been fairly useless’ – ex-Reuters bureau chief in Iraq

An explosion rocks Baghdad during air strikes March 21, 2003. (Reuters)

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries.

Reuters covered the day-to-day bloodshed and killing, but we failed to give the proper context that would allow readers to understand what was going on, said the former head of the Reuters bureau in Iraq, Andrew MacGregor Marshall.

Andre Vitchek: Andrew, as the former head of Reuters in Iraq, you are perhaps now comparing how the Middle East has been covered, to the coverage of events in this part of the world – Southeast Asia. Could you talk about the similarities and differences?

Andrew MacGregor Marshall: I left Reuters in quite controversial circumstances, back in 2011, because I had obtained a lot of documents, leaked US documents that shed light on the monarchy and its role in Thailand’s history. And these documents are illegal in Thailand, because you are not allowed to tell the truth about the monarchy’s role.

To me as a journalist, it’s our duty to tell the truth. And if we have to break the local laws to do so, we have to do that. And if we are not willing to do it, we at least have to say in our stories that we can’t tell the full truth, because local laws prevent us. So I became really uneasy with Reuters’ coverage and the whole mainstream media’s coverage of Thailand and that’s why I left.

And this was a process that had begun, I think, in Iraq. Because almost from the start in Iraq, Reuters and all foreign journalists could see it was a catastrophe; it was an ill-thought out intervention; there was massive corruption, massive incompetence, and this fact is now so widely recognized… I don’t think it is now even up for debate that the US and British-led intervention in Iraq was a disaster.

We had lost six staff during my time there… They were killed; five of them killed by the US military, allegedly by mistake, and one killed at a checkpoint by a sectarian death squad.

I started to think: we’d sacrificed so much to be there and my Iraqi staff especially, had sacrificed so much… and in the end, when I looked back, had we really helped any understanding of what happened? I don’t think we did. Every day we’d focus on the latest car bombing and the number of dead… and the number of dead became almost incomprehensible; you’d have 80 dead in car bombings in one day, you’d have 50 headless corpses dumped in the street in Baghdad… So it was a constant stream of horror that was making our headlines…

Andrew MacGregor MarshallAndrew MacGregor Marshall

But I don’t think that readers can really understand that kind of coverage. Certainly me, now, even though I know what a car bomb looks like, and I know what mass killing looks like, because I’ve seen it; when I read about Syria, for example, I find it very hard to process this information: it’s just blood and gore, without the context. And I came to believe that what we’d done in Iraq had been fairly useless, because we covered the day-to-day bloodshed and killing, but we failed to give the proper context that would allow readers to understand what was going on. It was almost like bloodthirsty entertainment. It makes headlines, but I don’t think mainstream media coverage of these conflicts really produces understanding. In fact I say it does the opposite, it prevents understanding. There is a focus on blood and gore and there is no attempt to really explain what the geopolitical forces behind it are.

AV: Was it designed like this? Of course Reuters is not the only media outlet, the only agency, which has adopted this approach…

AM: I don’t think it’s so much an obvious conspiracy. It’s just the debate is framed in a way that it delegitimizes opposing viewpoints. I have been a member of the mainstream media for 17 years of my career, and I believed I was doing good, nobody ever told me I should follow a certain political line and certainly nobody ever told me that I should lie, and if they ever had I would refuse. I think most of my colleagues in the mainstream media are similar.

But what was interesting is that it’s more insidious than that. There is a certain discourse that becomes normalized, in which certain views are acceptable and others not. And if you make obvious statements, you know, like about the role of banks or global superpowers, and about the disaster that’s befallen the world in many areas in recent years, you are often marginalized as some sort of loony figure. And there is a “cult of moderation,” of being “neutral”’ in the media. Being neutral is normally held to be that if there is a crazy right-winger or left-winger, you are somewhere in the middle. But obviously, truth is not always in the middle. We may not always know the truth, but there is objective truth. And it does not always lie in the middle between the two extremes.

I think it is through this process that the mainstream media basically becomes a tool of misinforming people, rather than informing people. It’s not so much deliberate lies, although some clearly do engage in deliberate lies, but it’s just the sense that there are some things that are safe to say that we become conditioned that they are safe to say, and there are other things that we probably know them to be true, but if we say them we are mocked or delegitimized.

So the conversation is channeled quite subtly, in a way that deviates from the truth.

‘We saw torture become normalized in Guantanamo, Abu-Ghraib and Bagram’

AV: Is there a self-censorship?

AM: Absolutely! I mean, in Thailand, which is now my main area of expertise, there is clearly self-censorship, because there is a law, the lèse-majesté law that forbids discussion of the monarchy.

But more subtly, when I was covering Iraq, I used to get stories all the time, of US troops involved in rapes and theft… I also had three of my own staff who were tortured and sexually abused by US troops, prior to Abu-Ghraib. I was stunned when I heard about the sexual abuse…

AV: Men or women?

AM: Men. But this was actually a systematic policy, I think. It has been well documented by now. The US narrative that Abu-Ghraib was just a few bad people, who did things that were not allowed, is ridiculous. We have seen Guantanamo, Abu-Ghraib and Bagram, and many other US detention centers. We have seen torture, and sexual torture became normalized. But when I was trying to report any story like this for Reuters, my editors would demand enormous evidence. I had to jump over innumerable hurdles to prove that my staff had been tortured. And I knew these men very well and I knew they were telling me the truth.

Marines of the U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Fox Company "Raiders" take cover from Iraqi fire as British artillery rounds explode behind during the early stage of the push into southern Iraq to take control of the main port of Umm Qasr on March 21, 2003. (Reuters)Marines of the U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Fox Company “Raiders” take cover from Iraqi fire as British artillery rounds explode behind during the early stage of the push into southern Iraq to take control of the main port of Umm Qasr on March 21, 2003. (Reuters)

But if we wanted to report on atrocities by a militant group in Baqubah or Fallujah, we would just write“that it had been reported,” and there would be no attempt to ask us to prove what happened, because it was just assumed that this is what the militants do – they do bad things, and the Westerners do good things. So the standard of proof was totally different. It was done in a subtle way. We were never told to lie, and we were genuinely always trying to tell the truth. But looking back I can see we were coming from very constrained cultural lands, for we looked at things with a certain mindset and we failed to understand that most Iraqis and indeed most of the people in the Middle East and around the world, they don’t look at the world from a Western or US-centric mindset.

‘Iraq changed me forever’

AV: Of course the perks are quite good, too. People working for Western corporate news agencies or the newspapers and television channels, are very well paid. It is always quite a big risk to go against the mainstream narrative, because the journalists can lose all these perks in an instant.

AM: I think it is more insidious than that. I don’t think it is actually about people fearing that they will lose their job if they say the wrong thing. I think it is… I am a British journalist, and I worked for a British-American company. I was working in the Middle East and Asia, where many people have a very different view of the world. But I was bringing along my own preconceptions, and my company’s preconceptions. So we didn’t properly understand that most Iraqis or most Thais or most Iranians see the world in a very different way. And they didn’t see the Westerners as the good guys. So I think that there is tendency for the Western media to claim that it is neutral and unbiased, when in fact it’s clearly propagating a one-sided, quiet nationalistic and selfish view of its own interventions in these countries. If I’d ever been told by any of my bosses to lie, I would have quit. And I ended up quitting, because I was told to lie about Thailand. But it’s done more subtly. If you want to accuse the US military of an atrocity, you have to make sure that every last element of your story is absolutely accurate, because if you make one mistake, you will be vilified and your career will be over. And we have seen that happen to some people in recent years. But if you want to say that some group of militants in Yemen or Afghanistan or Iraq have committed an atrocity, your story might be completely wrong, but nobody will vilify you and nobody will ever really check it out.

AV: Andrew, how horrible was Iraq? You were there; you witnessed atrocities committed by the West, by the United States… How bad was it really? Perhaps more than a million people died?

AM: Yes.

AV: ... Before the invasion and after the invasion…

AM: It was a shocking time. It changed me forever. These kinds of times change anybody. Of course the people that are most changed and traumatized are the national populations who are involved. But it was the first time that I was exposed to the extreme violence that became “normal,” where every day there were corpses on the street. Every day there were bombings, and it’s a terrible thing when the car bombings, decapitations, and torture become routine. And the danger of it is that the readership or the audience for this news becomes desensitized… And to some extent I am desensitized now by the coverage of Syria. I think one of the challenges for journalists and filmmakers is to find a way to engage the audience, because people don’t want to be depressed by pictures of bloodshed and horrors… But they need to be aware of it.

AV: So when their governments commit atrocities in their name and in the name of their cultures, you think we should be sensitive to the viewers who elect these governments?

AM: No, I don’t believe we should be sensitive, but we need to find a way to engage the audience. A complaint that I often hear from journalists, including me sometimes, is that the audience wants to click on a story about Paris Hilton, but not on a story about car bombing in Syria… and I think, that’s human nature. People do want to often avoid unpleasant news. And they often do want to read celebrity froth.

U.S. Marine Corp Assaultman Kirk Dalrymple watches as a statue of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein falls in central Baghdad April 9, 2003. (Reuters)U.S. Marine Corp Assaultman Kirk Dalrymple watches as a statue of Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein falls in central Baghdad April 9, 2003. (Reuters)

AV: And they want to avoid responsibility, very often…

AM: Partly. But they also don’t want to depress themselves.

I think it is our responsibility to dig deeper and talk about causes. Why are these conflicts happening? So rather than focus on the froth and the atrocities, and the horror on the top, which are important, we have to also try and provide the framework that allows people to understand why this is happening.

AV: You are talking about philosophical journalism, which was practiced by great writers like Burchett, Kapuściński, Orwell… But this sort of journalism seems to be dying, unfortunately.

AM: It seems to be dying in the mainstream media, but my impression is that in the new media, on-line, there is a much greater appetite for this.

AV: Andrew, where is Iraq going?

AM: Well, as you know, Iraq is falling apart. The Kurds will probably have their own state, which they probably deserve, because their people have been stateless for so many years. But what we are seeing is a much wider Shia versus Sunni conflict, across the Middle East, in which Saudi Arabia in particular, and also the Gulf countries, are playing a baleful role. And we see the tentacles of this spreading much further, even into Indonesia and Malaysia.

Iraq is an artificial country that was created by the British by cobbling together various groups that don’t really want to live together. And like so much else in the Middle East, it’s unraveling and it’s proven to be a disaster. So it is an unfolding tragedy. We cannot look at what’s happening in Iraq without looking at the wider Middle East context, which is also an unfolding tragedy, and I think it could well be the defining conflict for our era.

Posted in USA, IraqComments Off on ‘What we’d done in Iraq had been fairly useless’ – ex-Reuters bureau chief in Iraq

U.S. lawmakers mull ISIS action

The Daily Star

The growing influence of ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria is a threat to Americans, lawmakers from both political parties agreed Sunday even as they sharply disagreed on what role the U.S. should play in trying to crush them.

The congressmen and others, meanwhile, have raised questions as to why a series of atrocities and human rights violations in ISIS in Syria have gone unaddressed by Washington, after President Barack Obama last week approved limited airstrikes against ISIS fighters in Iraq.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the militants threaten not just Iraqis but also Americans. He said Obama’s airstrikes were insufficient to turn back the militants and were designed “to avoid a bad news story on his watch.”

“I think of an American city in flames because of the terrorists’ ability to operate in Syria and in Iraq,” said Graham, a reliable advocate for U.S. use of military force overseas.

“They are coming here,” Graham later added about the militants. “This is just not about Baghdad. This is just not about Syria. It is about our homeland.”

Graham added that if ISIS militants attack the United States because Obama “has no strategy to protect us, he will have committed a blunder for the ages.”

A close White House ally, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, said ISIS fighters were a “growing and troublesome” threat.

But the senator added, “We must not send the troops.”

“The big question is: What can the United States do to stop it?” Durbin asked.

American airstrikes have included fighters and drones near Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, in a bid to limit advances by ISIS and help Iraqi forces take back control.

A breakdown in talks between Washington and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that would have allowed U.S. troops to remain in Iraq collapsed in 2008, and Obama withdrew troops in 2011 after eight years of war.

Maliki now is under mounting pressure to step aside, including from U.S. lawmakers.

“The collapse of Mosul was not a result of lack of equipment or lack of personnel. It was a leadership collapse,” said Democratic Senator Jack Reed. “And so in order to put the situation right, we have to begin at the fundamental core, which is leadership in Baghdad, Iraqi leadership.”

Critics say the Shiite leader contributed to the crisis by monopolizing power and pursuing a sectarian agenda that alienated the country’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities.

Lawmakers from both parties largely agreed that a war-weary America has little appetite to send military forces back to Iraq.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin said Iraqis need to handle their domestic security.

“There is not a U.S. military solution to this issue,” Cardin said.

“We will not become the Iraqi air force,” Cardin added. “I don’t think we can take out ISIS from a military point of view, from the use of our airstrikes.”

But Republican Peter King said popular opinion should not drive national security decisions.

“I am saying we should do whatever we have to do,” King said.

Graham and Cardin spoke to “Fox News Sunday.” Durbin and King appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Reed was interviewed on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” McCain was a guest on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

As for Syria, Republican Senator John McCain Saturday said Washington’s limited military action against ISIS in northern Iraq showed a “fundamental misunderstanding of the threat,” and called for strikes against the group’s positions in Syria, The New York Times reported.

McCain, a frequent critic of Obama’s foreign policy, said the airstrikes are not enough to deal with a growing threat to the United States that he called “the richest, most powerful terrorist organization in history,” the paper said.

“The stated purpose – stated by the president – is to save American lives, not to stop ISIS, not to change the battlefield, not to stop ISIS from moving equipment farther into Syria to destroy the Free Syrian Army,” McCain said.

He said he believed the U.S. airstrikes must extend into “ISIS-controlled territory in Syria,” the New York Times said.

McCain said ISIS “has erased the boundary” between the two countries yet Obama “has failed so far to even mention Syria,” according to The New York Times, which said the Arizona senator was speaking by telephone from Vietnam.

Khatib Badla, a member of the National Coalition, Syria’s opposition-in-exile, expressed surprise that the international community was mobilizing to act against ISIS in Iraq, while “it ignores what ISIS is doing in Syria, and its massacres against the Syrian people, and the rebels.”

“Does the international community consider ISIS a terrorist group in Iraq, and a peaceful lamb in Syria?”

Frederic Hof, a senior fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, said that even though he welcomed Obama’s decision in Iraq, it was inevitable that “those who have called for a similar humanitarian intervention in Syria will wonder why Iraq and why not Syria.”

Posted in USA, Iraq, SyriaComments Off on U.S. lawmakers mull ISIS action

US, UK step up involvement to help Iraqi Kurds

Agence France Presse

ARBIL: Kurdish peshmerga fighters backed by U.S. warplanes pressed a counter-offensive against jihadists Monday after retaking Iraq’s largest dam alongside federal forces, as the United States and Britain stepped up their military involvement.

The recapture of Mosul dam marks the biggest prize yet clawed back from Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) jihadists since they launched a major offensive in northern Iraq in June, sweeping Iraqi security forces aside.

U.S. aircraft are carrying out strikes in support of the forces battling ISIS militants, who have declared a “caliphate” straddling vast areas of Iraq and Syria.

The jihadists also came under attack in their Syrian stronghold of Raqqa by Syria’s air force for a second straight day Monday.

“The planes are striking and the peshmerga are advancing,” a Kurdish fighter told AFP Monday near the shores of the vast Mosul dam.

AFP journalists heard jets flying overhead, and saw smoke rising from the site of a strike that a peshmerga member said targeted one of the entrances to the dam.

Fighting also broke out Monday in an area south of the barrage while engineering teams worked to clear booby traps and bombs left by jihadists, said Kawa Khatari, an official from Iraq’s main Kurdish party.

Iraqi security spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassem Atta confirmed Monday that Mosul dam was entirely liberated in a joint operation by Iraqi “anti-terrorism forces and peshmerga forces with aerial support.”

Atta added on state television that while the dam had been retaken, fighting was continuing in adjoining facilities.

The Mosul dam breakthrough came after U.S. warplanes and drones at the weekend carried out their heaviest-yet bombing against ISIS militants in the north since they began launching airstrikes on August 8.

The U.S. Central Command reported that the military had carried out 14 airstrikes Sunday near the dam located on the Tigris River, which provides electricity and irrigation water for farming to much of the region.

Sunday’s strikes destroyed 10 ISIS armed vehicles, seven ISIS Humvees, two armored personnel carriers and one ISIS checkpoint.

That military action followed nine U.S. strikes near Arbil and Mosul dam Saturday.

U.S. President Barack Obama told Congress that the “limited” airstrikes he has authorized on Iraq to support the fight for the dam protected U.S. interests there.

Highlighting the stakes at hand, Obama said: “The failure of the Mosul dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, endanger U.S. personnel and facilities, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace.”

ISIS also faced airstrikes on the Syrian side of the border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

In Raqqa province, the Syrian air force carried out at least 14 raids against jihadist positions Monday, a day after launching 16 strikes which killed at least 31 jihadists and eight civilians.

“The regime wants to show the Americans that it is also capable of striking the ISIS,” said the Britain-based group’s director, Rami Abdel-Rahman.

British Prime Minister David Cameron described ISIS fighters sweeping across Syria and Iraq as a direct threat to Britain, and said all available tools must be used to halt their advance.

Cameron, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, said that while it would not be right to send an army into Iraq, some degree of military involvement was justified due to the threat that an expanding “terrorist state” would pose to Europe and its allies.

His Defense Minister Michael Fallon, in comments published Monday, said Britain’s Iraq involvement now goes beyond a humanitarian mission and is set to last for months.

“We and other countries in Europe are determined to help the government of Iraq combat this new and very extreme form of terrorism,” he was quoted as saying.

Two months of violence have brought Iraq to the brink of breakup, and world powers relieved by the exit of divisive premier Nouri al-Maliki are sending aid to the hundreds of thousands who have fled their homes as well as arms to the Kurdish peshmerga forces.

In the north, members of minority groups including the Yazidis, Christians, Shabak and Turkmen, remain under threat of kidnapping or death at the hands of the jihadists, rights groups say.

Amnesty International, which has been documenting mass abductions in the Sinjar area, says ISIS has kidnapped thousands of Yazidis in this month’s offensive.

Tens of thousands have fled, most of them seeking refuge in areas of northern Iraq still under Kurdish control, or in neighboring Syria.

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Wahhabi Jihadists expel rivals from Deir al-Zor

Al-Qaeda offshoot the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) expelled rival rebels from the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zor Monday, tightening its grip on the oil-producing province abutting territory it also controls in Iraq, activists said.

ISIS’ hardline Sunni fighters have been advancing against rivals in Deir al-Zor province with the help of weapons it seized in a lightning offensive against Iraqi government forces across the border last month.

The fighting has centered largely on control of oilfields and towns along the Euphrates River and has killed hundreds of fighters since the start of the year.

ISIS expelled dozens of rival rebels from Deir al-Zor city, including Al-Qaeda’s Syria branch, the Nusra Front, and Ahrar al-Sham, a hardline Islamist group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is now in control of the entire Deir al-Zor province apart from a few areas and the military airport that the government is in control of,” Observatory director Rami Abdul-Rahman said.

Fighters from rival Islamist groups had either fled or pledged allegiance to ISIS, he said, adding that government forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad still controlled about half of Deir al-Zor city.

ISIS also killed a local Nusra Front leader, Abdul-Rahman added. Supporters of ISIS posted what it said were pictures of the Nusra leader’s body online, but they could not be verified.

Omar Abu Leila, a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army in the east, said hundreds of fighters had fled to the Deraa area in the south near Jordan and the Qalamoun region near Lebanon since ISIS declared a “caliphate” in the area it controls spanning eastern Syria and northern Iraq.

He said the influx of weapons from Iraq had tipped the balance in ISIS’ favor and helped them secure control of local oilfields. “We have had no help from outside,” Abu Leila said.

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