Archive | December 21st, 2014

Bloomberg News Blames Putin for Russia’s Economic Problems

NOVANEWS

Global Research

On December 17th, Bloomberg News bannered “Putin’s Secret Gamble on Reserves Backfires Into Currency Crisis” and reported that,

“As President Putin exulted at the Winter Olympics in Sochi 10 months ago, aides assured him Russia was rich enough to withstand the financial repercussions from a possible incursion into Ukraine, according to two officials involved in the talks. That conclusion now looks like a grave miscalculation. Russia has driven interest rates to punishing levels and spent at least $87 billion, or 17 percent, of its foreign-exchange reserves trying to prevent a collapse in the ruble from spiraling into a panic. So far, nothing has worked.”

The team of three Bloomberg news reporters write there that, “Putin now confronts the nation’s most serious economic crisis since 1998,” and that the reason is “Putin’s pride.” They say that, “When rising crude prices were firing the economy, Russia’s swelling reserves became a symbol of economic might and a point of pride for Putin.”

This pride by Putin, they assert, came to the fore when he discussed in February with his advisors the following question: “Could Russia afford the economic blowback from taking over Crimea?”

Bloomberg reports that Putin then “was told Russia had enough foreign currency reserves to annex Crimea and withstand any sanctions that might follow.” This, they say, was the “grave miscalculation” that “emboldened Putin to annex Crimea,” and that in “Russia has driven interest rates to punishing levels.”

Their news report does not say anything about the United States coup d’etat in Ukraine that was occurring at the same time as that, when Crimeans, who had voted overwhelmingly for the Ukrainian President whom the U.S. was now overthrowing, were publicly demonstrating against the overthrow, and were pleading for Crimea, which Nikita Krushchev had donated from Russia to Ukraine in 1954, to be taken back into the Russian fold by Russia and no longer associated with Ukraine. Also, nothing is said in this Bloomberg news report about two Gallup polls which were taken in Crimea, one in 2013 before the coup, and the other in 2014 after the coup, with Crimeans both times overwhelmingly self-identifying as being “Russians” and neither “Crimeans” nor “Ukrainians,” and in which they overwhelmingly approved of Russia, and disapproved of the United States. Also, nothing is said there about Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which the U.S-installed coup-government wanted to kick out, but which had been based in Crimea ever since 1783, and which has always been crucial to Russia’s military defense and strategy. This Bloomberg news report deals strictly with Putin’s “pride” and his “miscalculation,” which caused him to decide for an “incursion into Ukraine” whose aim was “taking over Crimea.”

Other news headlines on December 17th from Bloomberg News included these:

“Putin’s Economic System Frays Further”

“Stunned Russians Stock Up on Goods Awaiting Putin Fix for Ruble”

“Putin Paints a Beseiged Russia, Says U.S. Wants to ‘Rip Out Its Teeth and Claws’”

“Russia Seen Spending Further $70 Billion to Fight Ruble Rout”

“Russian Tourists Get Stuck Holding Rubles From Berlin to London”

“Obama’s Unambiguous Message to Putin About Cuba: We Win and You Lose.”

 

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Republic of Korea: Imminent Threat To Political Expression and Civil Rights

NOVANEWS
Global Research
Global Research, Montreal, December 18, 2014

PRESS RELEASE

A path breaking decision which will have far reaching impacts on civil and political rights in the Republic of Korea (ROK) is forthcoming.

A decision from the Constitutional Court in South Korea regarding the dissolution of the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) is imminent.

On November 5, 2013, the South Korean government requested that the Korean Constitutional Court initiate dissolution proceedings against the Unified Progressive Party (UPP), the third largest political party in Korea, following the arrest of one if its members, the parliamentarian Lee Seok-Ki.

Representative Lee (image right) was accused (allegedly on trumped up charges) and later convicted of violating South Korea’s national security law and for planning a future incitement of violence. The incitement of violence charge was reversed by the ROK Court of Appeals. His case is now pending on appeal before South Korea’s Supreme Court.

A vote in favor of dissolution of the UPP by the Constitutional Court would carry significant implications for political expression and civil rights in South Korea. As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, South Korea is obligated under international law to protect freedom of assembly and expression. After a year of hearings into the matter, there is little or no evidence that the UPP is a “threat” to the South Korean constitutional or legal order, and there is a risk that dissolution would be little more than an attempt by the government to chill political speech with which it disagrees.

As part of its efforts to avoid dissolution, the UPP consulted with American lawyers and secured a legal opinion from the law office of Comar Law in San Francisco, which submitted legal opinions both to the Korean Constitutional Court as well as to the United Nations, asking that the judges side in favor of the rule of law and freedom of political expression.

For Media inquiries

Inder Comar, Esq., Comar Law, San Francisco, California, [email protected]

Michel Chossudovsky, Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal, [email protected]

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Ukraine: Military Budget

NOVANEWS

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem: Sr

A draft law on the state budget of Ukraine for 2015 was withdrawn from the parliament for revision. The bill No.1000, registered on 12 December 2014, was withdrawn December 13. The initiators of the document are the Cabinet and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk. The increase in Ukraine’s military budget was apparently at the expense of social spending. The government announced plans to cut state spending by $1.73 billion, with over half of funds accounting for the social sector.

After consultations with the parliamentary factions of the coalition European Ukraine, the government decided to recall the draft law of Ukraine “On the state budget of Ukraine for 2015” for revision and submission of the agreed variant, with taking into consideration the proposals of all coalition factions. On December 12, First Deputy Speaker Andriy Parubiy reported that the Cabinet promises to submit to the Verkhovna Rada the state budget 2015 by December 20.

Budget of the Defense Ministry of Ukraine for 2015 was UAH 50 billion. Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak told during an hour of questions to the government 12 December 2014. According to him, this year budget of the Defense Ministry made up UAH 26 billion, out of these, UAH 11 billion is the reserve fund. Setting up of new units and subunits, brigades and creation of special operations forces is envisaged, as well as four operative commands.

It was proposed to allocate UAH 401 million for the modernization of military equipment and weapons, and UAH 6.45 billion for their purchase (including UAH 5.716 billion for supplies from domestic defense companies and UAH 1.74 billion for the purchase of imported military equipment).

With 269 lawmakers voting in favor, Ukraine’s parliament approved, on 11 December 2014, a government action plan for 2015-2020, allowing for five percent of the country’s annual GDP to be funneled into national security and defense. The plan also called on Ukraine to formally end its non-bloc status and join NATO, and for its armed forces to switch to NATO military standards by 2020.

Ukraine is planning to increase its military spending in 2015 up to 3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, President Petro Poroshenko’s press service said 04 November 2014. The announcement cited the president’s decree that enforced the September 12 decision of the Ukrainian Security Council. The plan aims at bolstering Ukraine’s defenses. Poroshenko also said earlier the country’s economy would be converted to meet its military objectives.

“With regard to financial support of the security and defense sector, the government has been tasked specifically with finalizing a draft state budget for Ukraine for the year 2015 that will prioritize the funding of defense programs. For instance, it stipulates that national security needs will be funded at a level of no less than 3 percent of the GDP,” the statement said.

The reform program Strategy 2020 provides that Ukraine should become “a military state,” increasing its military expenditures from 1 percent of the GDP to 5 percent, Dmytro Shimkiv, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, said 29 September 2014. “We are operating under the assumption that Ukraine should become a military state,” he said at a public debate on Strategy 2020 in Kiev. The reform program envisions an increase of military funding from 1 percent of the GDP in 2014 to 5 percent in 2020. The reforms also envision an increase in the number of servicemen in Ukraine from 2.8 people to 7 people per 1,000 people, he said. Shimkiv also said the defense and national security reform is a key reform envisioned by the program Strategy 2020.

Ukraine’s parliament agreed to mobilize military and National Guard units and approved emergency funding om 17 March 2014 of Hr 6.7 billion (more than $600 million) for military spending — a significant amount in a defense budget that doesn’t exceed $2 billion a year. The law on partial mobilization of the military was approved with 275 out of 450 votes. The law amending the current budget was approved with the support of 243 out of 450 lawmakers. Andriy Parubiy, Batkivshchyna party member and head of Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council, blamed overthrown President Viktor Yanukovych for doing “everything to destroy the Ukrainian army. We need to put all operating units on alert.” Minister of Finance Oleksandr Shlapak said that “we have a very complicated economic situation in Ukraine” and will need to spend Hr 6.7 billion in the next three months to buy weapons, repair military equipment and conduct training camps. Currently, Shlapak said that there were no reserve funds available, forcing parliament to immediately reallocate part of the approved 2014 budget.

Ukraine’s president announced plans to boost his country’s defense spending by an estimated 50 percent, pledging to spend an extra 40 billion hryvnia ($3 billion) by 2017. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko vowed to increase military spending by $3 billion over the next few years because of the ongoing pro-Russian separatist threat in the east of Ukraine. Poroshenko made the comment Sunday in Kyiv during a speech 24 August 2014, marking Independence Day, 23 years after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

After independence, the kind of serious reorganization and downsizing of the Ukrainian military necessary to rationalize the forces was not accomplished, leaving a force larger than the country could afford. Every Ukrainian government since independence has budgeted less than was necessary to adequately fund the existing military – and then provided actual funding even less than the paltry amount budgeted.

This led to a military without enough money to adequately train its conscript troops There was neither enough money to properly maintain the navy’s ships, except for a couple of show pieces, nor money for those ships able to put to sea for sufficient time to adequately train crews. However, one of the most damaging deficits was in the air force, for which there was neither sufficient money to properly maintain aging Soviet-era aircraft nor enough money for the air force’s pilots to have more than a very small number of the flying hours necessary to maintain top efficiency.

In recent years the Ukrainian parliament has funded the military at 10 percent of what it needs to modernize. The Ukrainian military has said it needed 131 billion hryvnyas ($11.3 billion) to replace old weapons and machinery. But in 2013 the parliament allocated just 15.6 billion hryvnyas ($1.3 billion) for defense. By contrast, Poland’s defense budget is about $10 billion, Russia’s is some $70 billion, and the United States’ is around $640 billion.

Ukraine’s 2012 military spending increased by around 30 percent, to about $2 billion or 1.1 percent of GDP, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s financial department said on 25 January 2012. Funding for the Defense Ministry in 2012 will be 17 bln UAH ($2.13 bln): 15 bln UAH ($1.9 bln) from the general budget fund 2 bln UAH ($250 mln) from the special fund which must be self-funded through MoD business activities. About 5 bln UAH ($625 mln) will be allocated for development and purchase of new and upgraded weapons.

For comparison, the 2011 defense budget is 13.6 bln UAH ($1.7 bln) of which 11.4 bln UAH ($1.43 bln) comes from general fund and 2.2 bln UAH ($275 mln) from the special fund. The 2012 draft budget thus represented a 31% increase in the general fund and a 25% increase in the overall defense budget. Growth in spending on procurement and modernization has increased at an even greater rate. This follows a 20% increase in 2011 over 2010, underlining the government’s commitment to increasing defense budgets and modernization.

The ministry expected to spend about $120 million of the 2012 budget for purchases and modernization of military equipment, as well as scientific and military design projects, including the production of L-39 Albatros jet trainers and MiG-29 fighter jets. Ukraine’s existing fleet of MiG-29, L-39 and Su-25 close air support aircrafts will also be modernized.

The Defense Ministry announced that it would spend 2.39 bln UAH ($299 mln) on equipment for the Armed Forces by the end of 2012. Of this, 666.8 mln UAH ($83.35 mln) will be allocated for procurement of new military equipment. Items going into service by the end of 2012 (for delivery in 2013) include modernized Su-27 fighter aircrafts, modernized Mi-24 attack helicopters, BTR-4E APCs, the “Malachite” radar station, a 152-millimeter precise guided projectile, and 30-millimeter ZTM-1 automatic canons (which are scheduled for installations on combat modules manufactured in Ukraine). By the end of 2012, the State will allocate an additional 800 mln UAH ($100 mln) for national programs to develop an An-70 transport aircrafts, the corvette-class frigate, the Sapsan multi-functional missile complex, and Armed Forces’ command and control system. In addition, 900 mln UAH ($112.5 mln) will be allocated for equipment repairs.

Head of Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Financial Department Lt. Gen. Yvan Marko said 21 jets, five helicopters and 612 vehicles will be repaired and modernized in 2012. Ukraine’s 2012 state defense order would stand at $184 million, four times more than last year, including $54 million to build a corvette-class ship and $13 million for the construction of the Sapsan multifunctional missile system. Ukraine’s military budget amounted to 0.8 percent of GDP on average over the past few years, substantially less than the average 1.3 percent of other Eastern European states.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces are to be downsized almost 50 percent by 2017, General Staff chief Igor Nikolaenko said on 07 September 2012. Military personnel will be reduced from the current 193,000 to 100,000, Ukrainskiye Novosti news agency quoted him as saying. There will be no more personnel cuts after 2017. The country also plans to completely phase out the draft by that time.

Ukraine’s total defense spending during 2001 was Hr 2.7 billion ($550 million), while the actual needs of the country’s army are estimated at “at least” Hr 10 billion ($2 billion). Insufficient funding of defense needs requires finding extra sources of funding. It can be solved by economic activities within the Armed Forces. The State leadership considers it a temporary, but necessary activity for the Armed Forces under current conditions. As the result of this activity in 2000 it was planned to gain more than 900 million Hrn for defense needs.

The main goal of economic activity is to enhance funding support of forces and ensure social protection of military personnel and their families.The State Program defines its main near-term priorities as the following:

  • Looking for additional sources of defense funding.
  • Improving the current economic status of MOD enterprises and enhancing their production outputs.
  • Improving the procedures of selling excess Armed Forces equipment, increasing the cash flow from leasing equipment, facilities and providing services.

The main challenge in implementing the State Programme of Development of the Armed Forces is resource limitations: imbalances in the amount of funding, stipulated in the Programme itself, according to the indices approved by the laws on the State Budget, to that actually received. Thus, the approval, by the Law of Ukraine, of expenditure for 2007 of UAH 9.13 billion rather than UAH 10.3 billion stipulated by the State Programme made it impossible to fully implement measures determined in the Programme. Total amount of funding that had not been allocated to the State Programme of Development of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in 2006-2007 is more than UAH 4 billion. If such a trend continues, the Armed Forces may fail to receive nearly UAH 10.5 billion or 14.2% of the UAH 73.4 billion stipulated by the Programme.

Being financially restrained MOD and GS focused their main efforts to maintaining the combat readiness of available weapons and equipment through their modernization and prolongation of service life. An organization and technology basis was created to modernize and prolong the service life of aircraft: An-24, An-26, An-30, MiG-29, Su-24, Su-25, Su-27, L-39, S-300; Buck M1 anti-aircraft missile systems; and, tanks and light armoured vehicles. The newly introduced system of state procurement through a Single Tender Committee prevents the spread of finances, provides for raising the level of transparency and control over the procurement process, while increasing the efficiency of budget spending.

The State Programme of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Development for 2006-2011 (The State Programme) was accomplished in 2011. The Armed Forces’ development in the framework of the State Programme was financed by the amount of UAH 55.5 billion (75.6% of the planned budget), that enabled its implementation in full.

The State Budget of Ukraine for 2011 assigned UAH 13,804.4 million for the Ministry of Defence, which accounted for 1.07% of GDP. The General Fund amounted to UAH 11,594.8 million (84% of the budget) while the Special Fund accounted for UAH 2,209.6 million (16% of the budget). Only UAH 12,709.1 million (0.98% of GDP) was actually allocated which accounted for 92% of the annual budget. The General Fund allocation totalled UAH 11,594.8 million (100% of budget) and the Special Fund UAH 1,114.3 million (50.4% of budget).

The average annual percentage of financing the needs of the defence sector during the period 2006-2011 was 1.0% of GDP; the majority of the funds (about 80%) were used for the maintenance of troops (forces). Under these circumstances the budget of the Ministry of Defence was “the eating away budget” since it had no resources available for the combat readiness renewal or the development of the Armed Forces.

However, the experience of the defence policy implementation gained during the period 2006-2011 was taken into account whilst developing the State Comprehensive Programme of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reform and development for 2012-2017. The programme envisages the implementation of decisive and fundamental reforms that will be supported by the actual resources provision and this will lead to creation of a qualitatively new Armed Forces.

 

 

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Int’l anti-ISIS brigade: Westerners flock to fight for Kurds

NOVANEWS
Briton Jamie Read (left) reportedly fighting with Kurdish militia in Syria against the Islamic State. Photo from facebook.comBriton Jamie Read (left) reportedly fighting with Kurdish militia in Syria against the Islamic State.

People from the US, Canada, the UK, Germany and other western nations are fighting in Syria and Iraq, where Islamic State militants want to create a state of their own. But they’re not jihadists – they’re going into battle on the side of the Kurds.

The latest report about western volunteers, many of them with military backgrounds, comes from the UK. James Hughes, a former British infantryman with three tours in Afghanistan, has joined the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the YPG, to fight against the Islamists.

His friend Jamie Read, a French army-trained soldier, is with Hughes, according to a report in the UK’s Observer newspaper. Both were apparently recruited by an American called Jordan Matson on behalf of the “Lions of Rojava”, an YPG media outlet.

Hughes and Read are among many westerners, who have gone to the turbulent Middle East region to join the fight against the IS, formerly known as ISIS, and Kurdish militias.

There are Americans Jordan Matson, an early US Army discharge, and Jeremy Woodard, an Army veteran with tours to Afghanistan and Iraq. A group of six unidentified Canadian special forces veterans reportedly fighting for Iraqi Kurds Peshmerga. And Gill Rosenberg, a Canadian-Israeli woman credited to be the first westerner to join YPG’s female squads.

Wisconsin high school graduate Jordan Matson reportedly went to Syria to join the Kurds. Photo from facebook.com/jordan.matson.3Wisconsin high school graduate Jordan Matson reportedly went to Syria to join the Kurds. Photo from facebook.com/jordan.matson.3

There are two biker gangs, one from the Netherlands and another one from Germany, which sent some of their members to join Kurds, An Qassim Shesho, a German of Kurdish dissent who took his son Yassir Qassim Khalaf and left peaceful Europe to help his fellow Kurds in Syria, and many others.

Flashpoints across the globe tend to lure foreign fighters, and the Iraqi-Syrian turmoil is no different. Motivations for making a war in a foreign land your own may vary greatly. Some feel it their duty to risk their lives for a just cause. Some feel the conflict is not foreign to them at all, as is the case for Kurds from Turkey or Europe or America going to Syria.

There are also thrill seekers going into the fray for the adrenaline rush and a chance to kill or be killed without a jail term as a consequence. There are also professional wild geese, taking pay checks for “wet work.”

Unlike hundreds of people from western countries who are taking part in the conflict on the side of the IS, westerners allied with Kurds are not risking repercussions at home. Western governments discourage their citizens from joining the fight, but indicate that they would avoid prosecuting them for fighting against ISIS.

UK PM David Cameron, whose government has inked new anti-terrorist laws that would allow the revocation of citizenship from British jihadists returning from Syria, said there was a “fundamental difference” between them and those fighting for the Kurds, and pledged that the British border staff would be able to tell one from the other.

Canadian-Israeli Gill Rosenberg is reportedly the first westerner to join Kurdish female-only militia units. Photo from facebook.comCanadian-Israeli Gill Rosenberg is reportedly the first westerner to join Kurdish female-only militia units. Photo from facebook.com

“UK law makes provisions to deal with different conflicts in different ways – fighting in a foreign war is not automatically an offence but will depend on the nature of the conflict and the individual’s own activities,” the Home Office said in a statement.

Dutch prosecutors warned their fellow citizens, including the biker gang, that “’Joining a foreign armed force was previously punishable, now it’s no longer forbidden. You just can’t join a fight against the Netherlands.”

The latter may be somewhat tricky, since the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK, which is involved in fighting against ISIS in Syria, is considered a terrorist organization in Turkey, where it has been fighting for independence of Kurds for decades, and some western nations, including the Netherlands.

Apparently, when it comes to foreign fighters in various conflicts, these governments prefer a realpolitik approach. For instance, Russian volunteers going to Ukraine to assist the local militias in battles against Kiev’s troops shelling Donetsk and Lugansk are considered a form of a military invasion on the orders of the Russian government. But Americans and Britons fighting in Syria against the enemy of their governments are not.

READ MORE: British elite unit carrying out secret missions in Iraq, hundreds of ISIS militants killed

The US-led coalition maintains that it would not have boots on the ground in Syria or Iraq doing combat missions. At least not officially. According to a Daily Mail report, British SAS have been ambushing IS fighters in Iraq for at least a month – killing as many as 200 in the operations.

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How America made ISIS


NOVANEWS

The American record in these last 13 years is a shameful one.  Do it againshould not be an option.

Whatever your politics, you’re not likely to feel great about America right now.  After all, there’s Ferguson (the whole world was watching!), an increasingly unpopular president, a Congress whose approval ratings make the president look like a rock star, rising poverty, weakening wages, and a growing inequality gap just to start what could be a long list.  Abroad, from Libya and Ukraine to Iraq and the South China Sea, nothing has been coming up roses for the US.  Polls reflect a general American gloom, with 71% of the public claiming the country is “on the wrong track.”  We have the look of a superpower down on our luck.

What Americans have needed is a little pick-me-up to make us feel better, to make us, in fact, feel distinctly good.  Certainly, what official Washington has needed in tough times is a bona fide enemy so darn evil, so brutal, so barbaric, so inhuman that, by contrast, we might know just how exceptional, how truly necessary to this planet we really are.

In the nick of time, riding to the rescue comes something new under the sun: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), recently renamed Islamic State (IS).  It’s a group so extreme that even al-Qaeda rejected it, so brutal that it’s brought back crucifixionbeheadingwaterboarding, and amputation, so fanatical that it’s ready to persecute any religious group within range of its weapons, so grimly beyond morality that it’s made the beheading of an innocent American a global propaganda phenomenon.  If you’ve got a label that’s really, really bad like genocide or ethnic cleansing, you can probably apply it to ISIS’s actions.

It has also proven so effective that its relatively modest band of warrior jihadis has routed the Syrian and Iraqi armies, as well as the Kurdish peshmerga militia, taking control of a territory larger than Great Britain in the heart of the Middle East.  Today, it rules over at least four million people, controls its own functioning oil fields and refineries (and so their revenues as well as infusions of money from looted banks, kidnapping ransoms, and Gulf state patrons).  Despite opposition, it still seems to be expanding and claims it has established a caliphate.

A force so evil you’ve got to do something

Facing such pure evil, you may feel a chill of fear, even if you’re a top military or national security official, but in a way you’ve gotta feel good, too.  It’s not everyday that you have an enemy your president can term a “cancer”; that your secretary of state can call the “face” of “ugly, savage, inexplicable, nihilistic, and valueless evil” which “must be destroyed”; that your secretary of defense can denounce as “barbaric” and lacking a “standard of decency, of responsible human behavior… an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else”; that your chairman of the joint chiefs of staff can describe as “an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated”; and that a retired general and former commander of US forces in Afghanistan can brand a “scourge… beyond the pale of humanity [that]… must be eradicated.”

Talk about a feel-good feel-bad situation for the leadership of a superpower that’s seen better days!  Such threatening evil calls for only one thing, of course: for the United States to step in.  It calls for the Obama administration to dispatch the bombers and drones in a slowly expanding air war in Iraq and, sooner or later, possibly Syria.  It falls on Washington’s shoulders to organize a new “coalition of the willing” from among various backers and opponents of the Assad regime in Syria, from among those who have armed and funded the extremist rebels in that country, from the ethnic/religious factions in the former Iraq, and from various NATO countries.  It calls for Washington to transform Iraq’s leadership (a process no longer termed “regime change”) and elevate anew man capable of reuniting the Shiites, the Sunnis, and the Kurds, now at each other’s throats, into one nation capable of turning back the extremist tide.  If not American “boots on the ground,” it calls for proxy ones of various sorts that the US military will naturally have a hand in training, arming, funding, and advising.  Facing such evil, what other options could there be?

If all of this sounds strangely familiar, it should.  Minus a couple of invasions, the steps being considered or already in effect to deal with “the threat of ISIS” are a reasonable summary of the last 13 years of what was once called the Global War on Terror and now has no name at all.  New as ISIS may be, a little history is in order, since that group is, at least in part, America’s legacy in the Middle East.

Give Osama bin Laden some credit.  After all, he helped set us on the path to ISIS.  He and his ragged band had no way of creating the caliphate they dreamed of or much of anything else.  But he did grasp that goading Washington into something that looked like a crusader’s war with the Muslim world might be an effective way of heading in that direction.

In other words, before Washington brings its military power fully to bear on the new “caliphate,” a modest review of the post-9/11 years might be appropriate.  Let’s start at the moment when those towers in New York had just come down, thanks to a small group of mostly Saudi hijackers, and almost 3,000 people were dead in the rubble.  At that time, it wasn’t hard to convince Americans that there could be nothing worse, in terms of pure evil, than Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

Establishing an American Caliphate

Facing such unmatchable evil, the United States officially went to war as it might have against an enemy military power.  Under the rubric of the Global War on Terror, the Bush administration launched the unmatchable power of the US military and its paramilitarized intelligence agencies against… well, what?  Despite those dramatic videos of al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, that organization had no military force worth the name, and despite what you’ve seen on “Homeland,” no sleeper cells in the US either; nor did it have the ability to mount follow-up operations any time soon.

In other words, while the Bush administration talked about “draining the swamp” of terror groups in up to 60 countries, the US military was dispatched against what were essentially will-o’-the-wisps, largely representing Washington’s own conjured fears and fantasies.  It was, that is, initially sent against bands of largely inconsequential Islamic extremists, scattered in tiny numbers in the tribal backlands of Afghanistan or Pakistan and, of course, the rudimentary armies of the Taliban.

It was, to use a word that George W. Bush let slip only once, something like a “crusade,” something close to a religious war, if not against Islam itself – American officials piously and repeatedly made that clear – then against the idea of a Muslim enemy, as well as against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and later Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.  In each case, Washington mustered a coalition of the willing, ranging from Arab and South or Central Asian states to European ones, sent in air power followed twice by full-scale invasions and occupations, mustered local politicians of our choice in major “nation-building” operations amid much self-promotional talk about democracy, and built up vast new military and security apparatuses, supplying them with billions of dollars in training and arms.

Looking back, it’s hard not to think of all of this as a kind of American jihadism, as well as an attempt to establish what might have been considered an American caliphate in the region (though Washington had far kinder descriptive terms for it).  In the process, the US effectively dismantled and destroyed state power in each of the three main countries in which it intervened, while ensuring the destabilization of neighboring countries and finally the region itself.

In that largely Muslim part of the world, the US left a grim record that we in this country generally tend to discount or forget when we decry the barbarism of others.  We are now focused in horror on ISIS’s video of the murder of journalist James Foley, a propaganda document clearly designed to drive Washington over the edge and into more active opposition to that group.

We, however, ignore the virtual library of videos and other imagery the US generated, images widely viewed (or heard about and discussed) with no less horror in the Muslim world than ISIS’s imagery is in ours.  As a start, there were the infamous “screen saver” images straight out of the Marquis de Sade from Abu Ghraib prison.  There, Americans tortured and abused Iraqi prisoners, while creating their own iconic version of crucifixion imagery.  Then there were the videos that no one (other than insiders) saw, but that everyone heard about.  These, the CIA took of the repeated torture and abuse of al-Qaeda suspects in its “black sites.”  In 2005, they were destroyed by an official of that agency, lest they be screened in an American court some day.  There was also the Apache helicopter video released by WikiLeaks in which American pilots gunned down Iraqi civilians on the streets of Baghdad (including two Reuters correspondents), while on the sound track the crew are heard wisecracking.  There was the video of US troops urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.  There were the trophy photos of body parts brought home by US soldiers.  There were the snuff films of the victims of Washington’s drone assassination campaigns in the tribal backlands of the planet (or “bug splat,” as the drone pilots came to call the dead from those attacks) and similar footage from helicopter gunships.  There was the bin Laden snuff film video from the raid on Abbottabad, Pakistan, of which President Obama reportedly watched a live feed.  And that’s only to begin to account for some of the imagery produced by the US since September 2001 from its various adventures in the Greater Middle East.

All in all, the invasions, the occupations, the drone campaigns in several lands, the deaths that ran into the hundreds of thousands, the uprooting of millions of people sent into external or internal exile, the expending of trillions of dollars added up to a bin Laden dreamscape. They would prove jihadist recruitment tools par excellence.

When the US was done, when it had set off the process that led to insurgencies, civil wars, the growth of extremist militias, and the collapse of state structures, it had also guaranteed the rise of something new on Planet Earth: ISIS – as well as other extremist outfits ranging from the Pakistani Taliban, now challenging the state in certain areas of that country, to Ansar al-Sharia in Libya and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen.

Though the militants of ISIS would undoubtedly be horrified to think so, they are the spawn of Washington.  Thirteen years of regional war, occupation, and intervention played a major role in clearing the ground for them.  They may be our worst nightmare (thus far), but they are also our legacy – and not just because so many of their leaders came from the Iraqi army we disbanded, had their beliefs and skills honed in the prisons we set up (Camp Bucca seems to have been the West Point of Iraqi extremism), and gained experience facing US counterterror operations in the “surge” years of the occupation.  In fact, just about everything done in the war on terror has facilitated their rise.  After all, we dismantled the Iraqi army and rebuilt one that would flee at the first signs of ISIS’s fighters, abandoning vast stores of Washington’s weaponry to them. We essentially destroyed the Iraqi state, while fostering a Shia leader who wouldoppress enough Sunnis in enough ways to create a situation in which ISIS would be welcomed or tolerated throughout significant areas of the country.

The escalation follies

When you think about it, from the moment the first bombs began falling on Afghanistan in October 2001 to the present, not a single US military intervention has had anything like its intended effect.  Each one has, in time, proven a disaster in its own special way, providing breeding grounds for extremism and producing yet another set of recruitment posters for yet another set of jihadist movements.  Looked at in a clear-eyed way, this is what any American military intervention seems to offer such extremist outfits – and ISIS knows it.

Don’t consider its taunting video of James Foley’s execution the irrational act of madmen blindly calling down the destructive force of the planet’s last superpower on themselves.  Quite the opposite.  Behind it lay rational calculation.  ISIS’s leaders surely understood that American air power would hurt them, but they knew as well that, as in an Asian martial art in which the force of an assailant is used against him, Washington’s full-scale involvement would also infuse their movement with greater power.  (This was Osama bin Laden’s most original insight.)

It would give ISIS the ultimate enemy, which means the ultimate street cred in its world.  It would bring with it the memories of all those past interventions, all those snuff videos and horrifying images.  It would help inflame and so attract more members and fighters.  It would give the ultimate raison d’être to a minority religious movement that might otherwise prove less than cohesive and, in the long run, quite vulnerable.  It would give that movement global bragging rights into the distant future.

ISIS’s urge was undoubtedly to bait the Obama administration into a significant intervention.  And in that, it may prove successful.  We are now, after all, watching a familiar version of the escalation follies at work in Washington.  Obama and his top officials are clearly on the up escalator.  In the Oval Office is a visibly reluctant president, who undoubtedly desires neither to intervene in a major way in Iraq (from which he proudly withdrew American troops in 2011 with their “heads held high”), nor in Syria (a place where he avoided sending in the bombers and missiles back in 2013).

Unlike the previous president and his top officials, who were all confidence and overarching plans for creating a Pax Americana across the Greater Middle East, this one and his foreign policy team came into office intent on managing an inherited global situation.  President Obama’s only plan, such as it was, was to get out of the Iraq War (along lines already established by the Bush administration).  It was perhaps a telltale sign then that, in order to do so, he felt he had to “surge” American troops into Afghanistan.  Five and a half years later, he and his key officials still seem essentially plan-less, a set of now-desperate managers engaged in a seat-of-the-pants struggle over a destabilizing Greater Middle East (and increasingly Africa and the borderlands of Europe as well).

Five and a half years later, the president is once again under pressure and being criticized by assorted neoconsMcCainites, and this time, it seems, themilitary high command evidently eager to be set loose yet one more time to take out barbarism globally – that is, to up the ante on a losing hand.  As in 2009, so today, he’s slowly but surely giving ground.  By now, the process of “mission creep” – a term strongly rejected by the Obama administration – is well underway.

It started slowly with the collapse of the US-trained and US-supplied Iraqi army in Mosul and other northern Iraqi cities in the face of attacks by ISIS.  In mid-June, the aircraft carrier USS H.W. Bush with more than 100 planes wasdispatched to the Persian Gulf and the president sent in hundreds of troops, including Special Forces advisers (though officially no “boots” were to be “on the ground”).  He also agreed to drone and other air surveillance of the regions ISIS had taken, clearly preparation for future bombing campaigns.  All of this was happening before the fate of the Yazidis – a small religious sect whose communities in northern Iraq were brutally destroyed by ISIS fighters – officially triggered the commencement of a limited bombing campaign suitable to a “humanitarian crisis.”

When ISIS, bolstered by US heavy weaponry captured from the Iraqi military, began to crush the Kurdish peshmerga militia, threatening the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq and taking the enormous Mosul Dam, the bombingwidened. More troops and advisers were sent in, and weaponry began to flow to the Kurds, with promises of all of the above further south once a new unity government was formed in Baghdad.  The president explained this bombing expansion by citing the threat of ISIS blowing up the Mosul Dam and flooding downriver communities, thus supposedly endangering the US Embassy in distant Baghdad.  (This was a lame cover story because ISIS would have had to flood parts of its own “caliphate” in the process.)

The beheading video then provided the pretext for the possible bombing of Syria to be put on the agenda.  And once again a reluctant president, slowly giving way, has authorized drone surveillance flights over parts of Syria in preparation for possible bombing strikes that may not be long in coming.

The incrementalism of the reluctant

Consider this the incrementalism of the reluctant under the usual pressures of a militarized Washington eager to let loose the dogs of war.  One place all of this is heading is into a morass of bizarre contradictions involving Syrian politics.

Any bombing of that country will necessarily involve implicit, if not explicit, support for the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad, as well as for the barely existing “moderate” rebels who oppose his regime and to whom Washington may now ship more arms.  This, in turn, could mean indirectly delivering yet more weaponry to ISIS.  Add everything up and at the moment Washington seems to be on the path that ISIS has laid out for it.

Americans prefer to believe that all problems have solutions.  There may, however, be no obvious or at least immediate solution when it comes to ISIS, an organization based on exclusivity and divisiveness in a region that couldn’t be more divided.  On the other hand, as a minority movement that has already alienated so many in the region, left to itself it might with time simply burn out or implode.  We don’t know.  We can’t know.  But we do have reasonable evidence from the past 13 years of what an escalating American military intervention is likely to do: not whatever it is that Washington wants it to do.

And keep one thing in mind: if the US were truly capable of destroying or crushing ISIS, as our secretary of state and others are urging, that might prove to be anything but a boon.  After all, it was easy enough to think, as Americans did after 9/11, that al-Qaeda was the worst the world of Islamic extremism had to offer.  Osama bin Laden’s killing was presented to us as an ultimate triumph over Islamic terror.  But ISIS lives and breathes and grows, and across the Greater Middle East Islamic extremist organizations are gaining membership and traction in ways that should illuminate just what the war on terror has really delivered.  The fact that we can’t now imagine what might be worse than ISIS means nothing, given that no one in our world could imagine ISIS before it sprang into being.

The American record in these last 13 years is a shameful one.  Do it againshould not be an option.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on How America made ISIS


100 foreign fighters executed by ISIS for trying to quit

NOVANEWS
AFP/ISILAFP/ISIL

ISIS ‘military police’ executed 100 foreign fighters who attempted to quit and flee from the insurgents’ de-facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria as frustration among militants has been growing, a UK newspaper reported citing a witness activist.

“Local fighters are frustrated — they feel they’re doing most of the work and the dying . . . foreign fighters who thought they were on an adventure are now exhausted,” an activist, opposed to both the Syrian regime and Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS/ISIL), told The Financial Times newspaper, which claims the source is reliable.

The activist said he had “verified 100 executions of foreign ISIS fighters trying to flee the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.”

The media reported that the insurgents created a “military police to crack down” on those unwilling to serve the so-called Islamic State.

In a bid to control how jihadists fulfill their tasks, the IS reportedly created some kind of documentation. The paper also reported, citing activists, that many fighters serving the IS have been arrested after their homes were raided.

“In Raqqa, they have arrested 400 members so far and printed IDs for the others,” the activist who asked his name to be withheld for security reasons said.

He also said that some fighters have become discontent and frustrated with their leaders and disillusioned with the realities of fighting for IS, through warning the change of mood “doesn’t affect the hardcore people of ISIS.”

READ MORE: Indian jihadist ‘kills 55 for ISIS, quits because no pay’

According to the report, foreign militants have often been the most active in major battles, but most of the demands are put on local fighters.

“They feel they are the ones going to die in big numbers on the battlefield but they don’t enjoy any of the foreigners’ benefits — high salaries, a comfortable life, female slaves,” the activist from Deir Ezzor said.

AFP/ISILAFP/ISIL

Another problem in the ISIS ranks is growing tensions between fighters of different ethnic groups, the report says.

“Many fighters apparently group themselves by ethnicity or nationality — a practice which undermines ISIS’s claim to be ridding Muslims of national borders,” The Financial Times reported.

A point of no return?

Volunteers to fight for ISIS have been flocking to the region from all over the world. Up to 11,000 fighters from 74 nations had gone to Syria to fight for militant groups during the protracted civil war with up to 2,800 from the West, the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London (ICSR) estimated last year.

France, Germany and the UK account for the largest number of citizens fighting with militants in Syria. UK media reported in September that five disillusioned Britons accompanied by three Frenchmen, two Germans and two Belgians were stripped of their weapons and taken prisoner by their militant commanders after an attempt to flee Syria.

READ MORE: 5 Brits join ISIS each month, 1 dies every 3 weeks

In November, British PM David Cameron said that ISIS jihadists returning from the conflict region will be barred from coming home. Between 30 and 50 Britons want to return but fear they face jail, according to researchers at ICSR.

In September, France’s parliament opened a debate on a bill to cope with the terrorism threat. Bill aims at imposing a travel ban on those suspected of planning terror activities.

Meanwhile, the first German was to be tried for fighting with ISIS was sentenced to 45 months in jail in December. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has urged to “especially prevent [the militants’] return as fighters to carry out attacks in Europe.”

READ MORE: ‘Terrorism exported to Middle East from Europe’ – Assad

The militants have experienced losses in the past weeks. On Thursday Iraqi Kurds claimed they broken IS siege of Iraq’s Sinjar mountain during a two-day attack, involving 8,000 peshmerga fighters and US-led airstrikes, AFP reported. The victory freed hundreds of people from Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority, who had been trapped on the mountain since August. At the same time US Pentagon announced the strikes killed several ISIS leaders.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on 100 foreign fighters executed by ISIS for trying to quit

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