Archive | January 21st, 2016

US Role as State Sponsor of Terrorism Implied in US Congressional Research Service Report on Syria Conflict

NOVANEWS
By Stephen Gowans 

The implication of a report written for the US Congress is that the United States is a state sponsor of terrorism in Syria. At the same time, the report challenges widely held beliefs about the conflict, including the idea that the opposition has grass-roots support and that the conflict is a sectarian war between Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect and the majority Sunnis.

Written in October 2015, the report was prepared by the Congressional Research Service, an arm of the United States Library of Congress. The Congressional Research Service provides policy and legal analysis to committees and members of the US House and Senate.

Titled “Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and US Response,” the report reveals that:

1. The Syrian conflict is between Islamists and secularists, not Sunnis and Alawites.

Media reports often emphasize the dominant Sunni character of the rebels who have taken up arms against the Syrian government, while depicting the Syrian government as Alawite-led. What is almost invariably overlooked is that the largest Sunni fighting force in Syria is the country’s army. Yes, the rebels are predominantly Sunni, but so too are the Syrian soldiers they’re fighting. As Congress’s researchers point out, “most rank and file military personnel have been drawn from the majority Sunni Arab population and other (non-Alawite) minority groups” (p. 7). Also: “Sunni conscripts continue to fight for Assad” (p. 12). Rather than being a battle between two different sects, the conflict is a struggle, on the one hand, between Sunni fundamentalists who want to impose their version of Islam on Syrian politics and society, and on the other hand, Syrians, including Sunnis, who embrace a vision of a secular, non-sectarian government.

2. The Syrian Opposition Coalition is dominated by Islamists and is allied with foreign enemies of Syria.

According to the report, the Syrian National Council (whose largest member is the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood) is the “largest constituent group” of the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC). The SOC is based “in Turkey and considered to be close to foreign opponents of Assad.” (p. 14) The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to base political rule on the Quran, which it sees as divinely inspired, rather than on a secular constitution.

3. “Political opposition coalitions appear to lack…grass roots support” (p. 27).

This is consistent with the findings of a public opinion poll taken last summer by a research firm that is working with the US and British governments. That poll found that Assad has more support than the forces arrayed against him.

Syrians rally for Assad,  October, 2011.

Syrians rally for Assad, October, 2011.

The survey, conducted by ORB International, a company which specializes in public opinion research in fragile and conflict environments, found that 47 percent of Syrians believe that Assad has a positive influence in Syria, compared to only 35 percent for the Free Syrian Army and 26 percent for the SOC. [1]An in-country face-to-face ORB poll conducted in May 2014 arrived at similar conclusions. That poll found that more Syrians believed the Assad government best represented their interests and aspirations than believed the same about any of the opposition groups. [2]

According to the poll, only six percent believed that the “genuine” rebels represented their interests and aspirations, while the ‘National Coalition/transitional government,” a reference to the SOC, drew even less support, at only three percent.

Assad has repeatedly challenged the notion that he lacks popular support, pointing to his government surviving nearly five years of war against forces backed by the most powerful states on the planet. It’s impossible to realistically conceive of his government’s survival under these challenging circumstances, he argues, without its having the support of a sizeable part of its population. [3]

4. A moderate opposition doesn’t exist. The United States is trying to build one to act as its partner.

The report refers to US efforts to create partners in Syria, a euphemism for puppets who can be relied upon to promote US interests.

“Secretary of Defense Carter described the ‘best’ scenario for the Syrian people as one that would entail an agreed or managed removal of Assad and the coalescence of opposition forces with elements of the remaining Syrian state apparatus as U.S. partners ….” (emphasis added, pp. 15-16).

Also: The Pentagon “sought to…groom and support reliable leaders to serve as U.S partners…” (emphasis added, p. 23).

To create partners, the United States is engaged in the project of building a “moderate” opposition. According to the report:

“On June 18, Secretary of Defense Carter said, ‘…the best way for the Syrian people for this to go would be for him to remove himself from the scene and there to be created, difficult as it will be, a new government of Syria based on the moderate opposition that we have been trying to build…” (emphasis added, footnote, p. 16).

In the report summary the researchers write that US strategy seeks to avoid “inadvertently strengthening Assad, the Islamic State, or other anti-U.S. armed Islamist groups” (emphasis added.) What’s left unsaid is that armed Islamist groups that are not immediately anti-U.S. may be looked upon favorably by US strategy. However, that “political opposition coalitions…appear to lack grass-roots support,” and that Washington can’t rely on an already-formed moderate opposition but needs to build one, shows that the set of rebels on which the US can rely to act as US partners who will rule with elements of the existing Syrian state in a post-Assad Syria is virtually empty. The conclusion is substantiated by the failure of a now-abandoned Pentagon program to train and equip vetted rebel groups. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the top American commander in the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that despite the Pentagon spending $500 million training and equipping “moderate” rebels, only “four or five” were “in the fight.” [4] As the Wall Street Journal observed in late December, moderate rebels don’t exist. They’ve either been absorbed into Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrah al-Sham and ISIS—the extremist terrorist groups which dominate the opposition—or were Islamist militants all along. [5]

5. The United States is arming sectarian terrorists indirectly and possibly directly and covertly.

The report points out that not only has the Pentagon openly trained and equipped rebels, but that the United States has also covertly armed them. According to the Congress’s researchers:

“Then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a September 2013 hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Administration was taking steps to provide arms to some Syrian rebels under covert action authorities” (p. 23).

Also:

“Secretary Hagel said, ‘it was June of this year that the president made the decision to support lethal assistance to the opposition….we, the Department of Defense, have not been involved in this. This is, as you know, a covert action’” (footnote, p.23).

If the United States was prepared to overtly arm some rebel groups, why is it covertly arming others? A not unreasonable hypothesis is that it is arming some rebel groups covertly because they have been designated as terrorist organizations. To be sure, a number of press reports have revealed that rebels who have received training and arms from the United States are operating with terrorist groups in Syria. According to the Wall Street Journal, “insurgents who have been trained covertly by the Central Intelligence Agency…are enmeshed with or fighting alongside more hard-line Islamist groups, including the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate” [6]. Another report from the same newspaper notes that “al-Nusra has fought alongside rebel units which the U.S. and its regional allies have backed” [7]. A third report refers to collaboration between “CIA-backed Free Syrian army factions and extremist elements such as Nusra Front and Ahrar al Sham” [8]. Let’s be clear. Anyone who is enmeshed with and fighting alongside Al-Qaeda is a terrorist.

terrorist

According to Congress’s researchers, weapons the US furnished to selected groups have made their way to jihadists. “Some Syrian opposition groups that have received U.S. equipment and weaponry to date have surrendered or lost these items to other groups, including to extremist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra” (p. 23).

When you consider that, as The Washington Post reported, “the CIA has trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years” [9] and that, at best, there are 700, and more likely only 70 “moderate” rebels in Syria [10], then the bulk of the large rebel force the CIA has trained and equipped is very likely made up of Islamist extremists. Concealing this shameful reality from the US public is probably the principal reason the program is covert.

6. Washington wants to contain ISIS, but not eliminate it, in order to maintain military pressure on the Syrian government.

Based on the US coalition’s less than vigorous air campaign against ISIS, many observers have questioned whether the United States is at all serious about eliminating ISIS just yet, and is simply trying to contain it, to keep pressure on the Syrian government. For example, veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk says: “I don’t think the U.S. is serious. Very occasionally, you can hear the rumble of American bombs. But they’re certainly not having much effect.” [11]

One day, soon after Russia began air operations in Syria, journalist Patrick Cockburn noted that “Russian planes carried out 71 sorties and 118 air strikes against Islamic fighters in Syria over the past two days compared to just one air strike by the US-led coalition – and this single strike, against a mortar position, was the first for four days.” [12] After ISIS captured Palmyra, and pushed into Aleppo, the US coalition did nothing to push back the ISIS advance, leading even rebels to question “the U.S.’s commitment to containing the group.” [13] Assad too has expressed scepticism about whether the United States is serious about destroying ISIS, pointing to the terrorist organization’s continued successes in Syria, despite the US coalition’s presumed war against it. “Since this coalition started to operate,” observed the Syrian president, “ISIS has been expanding. In other words, the coalition has failed and it has no real impact on the ground.” [14]

A tepid approach to fighting ISIS in Syria would fit with US president Barack Obama’s stated goal of degrading the Al-Qaeda offspring organization. Destroying it may be an ultimate goal, to be achieved after ISIS has served the purpose of weakening the Syrian government. But for now, the United States appears to be willing to allow ISIS to continue to make gains in Syria. The Congressional Research Service report concurs with this view: It concludes that “U.S. officials may be concerned that a more aggressive campaign against the Islamic State may take military pressure off the” Syrian government (p. 19).

By contrast, Moscow has pursued a more vigorous war against ISIS, and for an obvious reason. Unlike Washington, it seeks to prop up its Syrian ally, not give ISIS room to weaken it. It should be additionally noted that Russia’s military operations in Syria are legal, carried out with the permission of the Syrian government. By contrast, the US coalition has brazenly flouted international law to enter Syrian airspace without Damascus’s assent. It has, in effect, undertaken an illegal invasion and committed a crime of aggression, compounded by its training and arming of terrorists.

Conclusion

The report says that in the absence of grass-roots support for political opposition coalitions in Syria, the United States is relying on a number of tactics to pressure the current government in Syria to step down, including:

• Keeping ISIS alive as a tool to sustain military pressure on Damascus.
• Arming jihadist groups indirectly and (we can assume) directly (albeit covertly) to pressure Assad.
• Seeking to create a moderate opposition that will act as a US partner.
• Trying to co-opt parts of the existing Syrian state to take a partnership role in governing a post-Assad Syria.

The implication of points 1 and 2 is that the United States—as the trainer of, and supplier of arms, to rebels who are enmeshed with and fighting alongside Al-Qaeda in Syria, and in keeping ISIS alive, in order to use these terrorist organizations to achieve its political goal of installing a US-partner government in Syria—is a state sponsor of terrorism.

1. http://www.opinion.co.uk/perch/resources/syriadata.pdf

2. http://www.opinion.co.uk/perch/resources/syriadatatablesjuly2014.pdf

3. “President al-Assad: Russia’s policy towards Syria is based on values and interests, the West is not serious in fighting terrorists,” Syrian Arab News Agency, December 11, 2015, http://sana.sy/en/?p=63857

4. Philip Shishkin, “U.S. weighs talks with Russia on military activity in Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, September 16, 2015.

5. Stuart Rollo,“Turkey’s dangerous game in Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, December 28, 2015.

6. Anne Barnard and Michael R. Gordon, “Goals diverge and perils remain as U.S. and Turkey take on ISIS,” The New York Times, July 27, 2015.

7. Farnaz Fassihi, “U.N. Security Council unanimously votes to adopt France’s counterterrorism resolution,” The Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2015.

8. Sam Dagher, “Syria’s Bashar al-Assad Tries to Force the West to Choose Between Regime, Islamic State,” The Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2015.

9. Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung, “Secret CIA effort in Syria faces large funding cut,” The Washington Post, June 12, 2015.

10. Robert Fisk, “Is David Cameron planning to include al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra in his group of 70,000 moderates?”, The Independent, December 1, 2015.

11. Thomas Walkom, “Journalist Robert Fisk explains why Canada should abandon ISIS war,” The Toronto Star, September 25, 2015.

12. Patrick Cockburn, “Russia in Syria: Air strikes pose twin threat to Turkey by keeping Assad in power and strengthening Kurdish threat,” The Independent, October 28, 2015.

13. Raja Abdulrahim, “Islamic State advances further into Syria’s Aleppo province,” The Wall Street Journal, June 1, 2015.

14. “President Assad’s interview with Russian media outlets, Syrian Arab News Agency, September 16, 2015 http://sana.sy/en/?p=54857

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‘Staggering’ violence: The direct consequence of Western regime change ops

NOVANEWS

Victim of a truck bombing in a Baghdad market, file

By Neil Clark 

Almost 13 years on from the so-called ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’, a new UN report has documented the continuing ‘staggering’ violence suffered by civilians in Iraq.

According to the report, at least 18,802 civilians were killed and another 36,245 wounded between January 2014 and October 2015, while another 3.2 million people were internally displaced due to violence.

The UN Commissioner for Human Rights has said the death toll in Iraq may even be considerably higher.

It is hard to get one’s head round the suffering the people of Iraq have endured since Bush and Blair’s illegal invasion of 2003. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed in the carnage that engulfed the country after Saddam Hussein was toppled.

“We’ve moved on from the Iraq war, but Iraqis don’t have that choice,” wrote the great John Pilger in 2013.

Yet the very obvious link between the invasion of 2003 and the ongoing violence in Iraq today is something we’re not really supposed to mention.

The reality is that Iraq did not see hundreds of thousands of people killed in the years before 2003, but it did in the years following. So it does seem quite reasonable to infer that something quite important happened in 2003 which led to the huge increase in violence. And that ‘something’ is unlikely to have been Arsenal’s 1-0 FA Cup Final win against Southampton.

John Pilger writes how three years before the invasion of Iraq he drove the length of the country ‘without fear’. “On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence. Bush and Blair blew all this to bits. Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda – like Pol Pot’s “jihadists” – seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of ‘Shock and Awe’ and the civil war that followed.”

It’s not only in Iraq that ‘staggering’ violence has been unleashed by the US and its allies’ regime change ops.

Libya six years ago enjoyed the highest standard of living in Africa. Education and medical treatment were free for all citizens. Electricity was free too. A bursary, worth $5,000 was given to all mums with new born babies. It was also a very safe country for tourists to visit. In 2005, with UN sanctions lifted, it returned to cruise ship itineraries.

In 2007, it received one million ‘same-day’ visitors.

In 2010, cruises along the coast of Libya were listed in the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Six of the Best’ Exotic Cruises feature.

A year later though, the NATO bombs started to fall in pursuit of ‘regime change’ and Libya’s days as a safe place to live, work and visit were over. Muammar Gaddafi’s warning that many of the so-called anti-government rebels were extremists linked to al-Qaeda was dismissed as the ravings of a madman.

But it wasn’t the ’mad’ Gaddafi who was telling lies in 2011, but the regime changers in suits.

Like Iraq, Libya post-regime change, is a country where violence has become a part of daily life.

Earlier this month, around 60 people were killed and over 200 injured in a bomb attack on a police training centre in Zliten. In November, UNICEF expressed concern over the impact that armed-conflict related violence was having on Libyan children- saying that 270,000 children in Benghazi alone needed some form of support.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) now advises British citizens against all travel to the country which was listed as one of the ‘Six of the Best’ places to cruise just six years ago.

“The situation throughout the country remains dangerous and unpredictable,” the FCO says. “Fighting continues in many parts of Libya. It can be unclear in some areas which faction has control….. There is a high threat from terrorism. There are continued attacks across Libya including in major cities, leaving significant numbers of people dead or injured. There is a high threat of kidnapping throughout Libya. There have been a number of kidnappings, including of British nationals….”

What a truly great job of ‘liberating’ Libya David Cameron and William Hague did!

Syria was also a safe place to live, work and visit before the West’s regime changers got going.

“Despite being depicted in the Western media as a land full of terrorists and similar nasties, Syria is really a safe country to travel in. It is quite safe to walk around at any time of the day or night, which is more than can be said for most Western countries”- these words come not from a SANA press release – but the Lonely Planet ‘travel survival kit’ to Jordan and Syria of 1987. As for being worried about crime, the guide told us “Theft, or more precisely the lack of it, has got to be one of the most refreshing things about travelling in Syria… Your bags will be quite safe left unattended virtually everywhere.”

I travelled around Syria in 1999 and never once felt threatened or in danger. I met some incredibly kind and hospitable people – but no terrorists. As for the lack of theft, I left a bag full of valuables on a table in a canteen at Tishreen University in Latakia, and as my friends assured me, it was still there, with all its contents intact, when I came back.

In 2006, Mary Wakefield, deputy editor of the Spectator magazine, travelled to Syria and like so many others, was pleasantly surprised with what she found. “Assad’s Ba’ath party is a long way from Saddam’s. It has lifted the ban on internet access and mobile phones, and ordinary Syrians seem free not just from fear, but from regular Western misanthropy as well,” she noted.

“Throughout Syria, passers-by paused to say ‘welcome’ and invite me in for mint tea – no furtive looks, no soviet-style reluctance to be singled out.”

A fascinating glimpse of everyday life in pre-war Syria was provided by the BBC/Open University series ‘Syrian School,’ which screened in 2010. “Syria is a country where, from poetry to politics, you can have an intellectual debate. You can re-imagine the world there in a way that we seem to have lost in the West, where even the credit crunch hasn’t dented the orthodoxy of Liberal Capitalism, where “The X-Factor” seems now to have become the cultural pinnacle,” wrote the BBC‘s Max Baring.

With its secular government Syria – like Iraq and Libya – was a bulwark against al-Qaeda and similar terrorist groups. In 2006 the Syrian authorities foiled an attack by Islamist militants on the US Embassy in Damascus.

The US expressed gratitude, but we know from WikiLeaks that secret plans for regime change in Syria were already being hatched.

Under the guise of the ’Arab Spring’, regime change in Damascus would be pursued by funding and arming violent rebels hell-bent on overthrowing President Assad.

The Syrian government did put forward a new constitution in 2012 which ended the Baath party’s forty year monopoly on political rule and genuine moderates embraced the political reform process. But the regime changers continued to pour petrol onto the fire. In 2013, Britain and France pushed other EU members to lift the arms embargo on the so-called Syrian ’rebels‘.

In 2015 the UN estimated that 250,000 people had died in Syria’s war – with more than 11 million people forced from their homes.

Today, travelling around Syria simply isn’t an option for Western tourists. The country where you could walk around safely ‘at any time of the day or night’, is now far too dangerous.

The FCO advises against ‘all travel’ to the country.

Meanwhile the Department of State “continues to warn US citizens against all travel to Syria and strongly recommends that US citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately.”

Syria, like Iraq and Libya, has been engulfed by ‘staggering’ violence directly attributable to the actions of the Western regime changers, and their regional allies.

If these countries had been left alone, it is inconceivable that violence of the scale we have witnessed would have occurred. The governments might have been authoritarian ones which were intolerant of dissent, but the reality is that daily life for the majority of the citizens in the countries concerned was better than it is today. Acknowledging that doesn’t make one an ‘apologist for dictatorship’- just someone who doesn’t try to spin chaos and carnage as ‘success’. In any case, there’s no doubt that some of the crimes of the governments that were targeted for ‘regime change’ were exaggerated, or in some cases even made up by the neocon war lobby. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations found no evidence to back up the NATO claims that Gaddafi ordered his forces to commit mass rapes in 2011.

Saddam’s notorious ’people shredder’ was never found and of course those WMDs which we were told could be assembled in 45 minutes didn’t show up either.

And here is Amnesty’s annual report on Syria from 2010.

It’s hardly impressive, but it’s interesting to compare it to the Amnesty report from the same year on Saudi Arabia, a strong western ally.

If you supported ‘regime change’ in Syria on human rights grounds then logically you would have to support the same in Saudi Arabia, whose record on human rights was worse. But the Western regime changers and ’democracy promoters’ weren’t calling for the toppling of the government in Riyadh, showing the hypocrisy of their position.

The foundation of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), which we’re now told is the biggest threat to Western civilization, was a direct consequence of the invasion of Iraq, and its growth was a direct result of the regime change plans for Syria.

In the words of John Pilger: “ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington and London who, in destroying Iraq as both a state and a society, conspired to commit an epic crime against humanity.”

WikiLeaks revealed how in 2010, the US rejected an offer from the secular Syrian government to work together against extremist groups like IS.

Far from wanting to defeat IS, the regime changers welcomed its rise.

In August 2012, a declassified secret US intelligence report discussed the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria”, saying that “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

The refugee crisis which hit Europe in 2015 was directly attributable to regime change ops too. If Iraq, Libya and Syria hadn’t been targeted, we’d still be able to visit those countries safely as tourists. Most important of all, the people in those countries would still be able to go about their everyday lives without the fear of being blown to kingdom come, or beheaded, for having the ‘wrong’ faith.

All things considered, the regime changers have an awful lot to answer for. So it’s hardly surprising, given the blood that’s on their hands, that the warmongers try and maintain the deceit that the ’staggering’ violence in Iraq, Libya and Syria is nothing to do with them.

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Prominent Chavista Journalist Assassinated in Caracas

NOVANEWS
By Z.C. Dutka

ricardoduranarchivo.jpg.410.286.thumb_

Santa Elena – Journalist Ricardo Duran, official Press Secretary for Venezuela’s socialist government, was shot dead in the early hours of Wednesday morning while arriving at his Caracas home.

Upon leaving his vehicle in the residential neighborhood of Caricuao, Duran was shot with a single bullet by an assailant evidently trained to kill, authorities say.

“They didn’t take anything from him; not his wallet nor cash, not his cell phone or regulatory weapon, he had a gun permit, and much less his car,” said Caracas Chief of Government Daniel Aponte, indicating that the crime is being treated by investigators as an assassination.

“We are simply dismayed,” said Aponte, calling Duran an “example of revolutionary journalism.”

The slain journalist was well-known as a former anchorman of VTV state television, and has been described as one of the key figures in authentically reporting the 2002 coup d’état against Hugo Chavez, which many private media outlets presented as a resignation.

Duran received a National Prize for Journalism in 2009 in recognition of his work in radio, and previously held the post of Director of Communications for the National Assembly.

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A Drone Protestor Heads to Jail

NOVANEWS
Reporting by Gail Ablow and John Light

Image result for Drone CARTOON

Mary Anne Grady Flores is in jail today and American citizens everywhere can surely breathe a sigh of relief that we are safe from her criminal behavior at least for the next six months.

That’s the length of the sentence this 59-year-old peace activist in upstate New York began on Tuesday — one day after the United States honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for his commitment to nonviolent civil disobedience. If he were here today, the martyred Dr. King would surely be shaking his head that America still has a problem with peaceful dissenters of conscience.

And what exactly did Grady Flores do to warrant spending the next six months in jail? She photographed a peaceful protest outside Hancock Field Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, New York. The base is where the US trains pilots to launch drone strikes in the Middle East, particularly in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. It wasn’t a crime for her to be taking pictures of the demonstration, but when she briefly and unintentionally — yes, unintentionally — stepped onto a road that belongs to the base, she violated what authorities called “an order of protection,” which had been issued in 2012 to forbid protesters from approaching the home or workplace of Col. Earl Evans, a commander of the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard. She had never met Evans, never threatened him, never showed any intention of harming him.

Nonetheless, a town justice, David Gideon, issued the order to “protect” the Colonel from the activists. That’s right — the commander of a major military operation, piloting drones on lethal missions half-way around the world, requested a court order of protection against a group of mostly gray-haired demonstrators whom he had never met. In stepping briefly on the roadway at the base, Grady Flores violated that order, despite the fact that, as she says, “We weren’t at the security gate. We were out at the roadway.”

Now get this: The order issued by Judge Gideon was of the sort commonly used against victims of sexual or domestic abuse. “The legal terms ‘victim’ and ‘witness’ have been expanded in this case in a way that’s new and unique in the state of New York,” said attorney Lance Salisbury at a press conference yesterday before Grady Flores was hauled off to jail.

Grady Flores had protested outside the base before. She belongs to The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, which has criticized the drone program since 2010, calling for a change in policy to uphold life and law.

President Obama and the Pentagon insist that using drones in pursuit of terrorists causes minimal civilian casualties and protects American troops, but Grady Flores takes issue with that justification. She told us she had been moved, in particular, by reports of the staggering numbers of civilians killed by US drones, and she says her fears were confirmed by documents recently leaked to journalists at The Intercept revealing that during one five-month stretch, 90 percent of those killed in one part of Northeastern Afghanistan were not the intended target.

Grady Flores says she was also shaken by the 2013 testimony before Congress of a family from Pakistan that had suffered a drone strike in North Waziristan. A grandmother of three herself, Grady Flores listened as Rafiq ur Rehman recounted his mother’s death in the presence of her grandchildren. “She was out in the fields picking okra with the kids around and a drone strike happened, and she was sent to four winds… now the kids live in terror,” Grady Flores recalls.

“That’s why citizens are at the gates of Hancock,” says Grady Flores. “That’s why we’re there.”

Grady Flores was arrested in 2012, when she and 16 others blocked the entrance to the base, prompting the request from the military for the order of protection. When she was arrested again a year later — not for protesting herself but for stepping on the road outside the base and taking pictures of others who were protesting — she was found to be in violation of that protection order. And the protestors she was photographing? They were acquitted.

Justice David Gideon threw the book at her. He sentenced her to a year, claiming in his five-page ruling that he didn’t buy her First Amendment argument. Instead, he thought she “was willing to ‘break the law’ to seek publicity for her cause.” After an appeal, her sentence was shortened to six months.

Before she went to jail yesterday she told us: “I asked my grandchildren, ‘Do you know where I’m going?’ and they said, ‘yeah, you’re going to jail, Nana.’” She told us that it is difficult to leave her 88-year-old mother who is ailing, but that her mother appreciates her carrying on in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King and the iconic Catholic activist Dorothy Day, with whom her mother once worked. Day famously said, “No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”

Grady Flores says her mother’s good-bye shared that sentiment, “Mom said to me, ‘I’ll pray for you, I’ll be with you in that cell.’ She said it in a whisper, but she’s grateful that I’m continuing the work.”

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Terrorists in Syria’s Aleppo Got Reinforcements from Turkey

NOVANEWS
Image result for ERDOGAN CARTOON
Al-Manar 

Terrorists have increased their activities ahead of the next week’s inter-Syrian talks, with terrorists in the Syrian province of Aleppo receiving reinforcements from Turkey, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.

The much-anticipated talks between the Syrian government and different opposition groups are scheduled to take place in the Swiss city of Geneva on January 25.

“Unfortunately, in recent days, it’s especially noticeable that ahead of the planned start of the inter-Syrian negotiations in Geneva the activities of terrorist groups have intensified. Obviously, they’re trying to turn the tide in their favor on the battlefield,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said during a briefing in Moscow.

According to Zakharova, attempts to launch counter-attacks against the government forces were performed by Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham groups, which “got serious reinforcements from Turkey.”

The increased activity of the terrorists was witnessed in several suburbs of Damascus, Homs and Idleb provinces of Syria, she added.

Russia will continue providing humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in Syria, Zakharova stressed.

She reiterated that Russia’s Emergencies Ministry has performed 30 flights “not only to Syria, but also to Lebanon and Jordan” in January, delivering 600 tons of food and essentials for those affected by the conflict.

Besides humanitarian assistance, “Russia has also been involved in evacuation of citizens who want to leave dangerous areas,” she added.

Zakharova said that Moscow was “surprised” by recent comments from Washington, in which “representatives of the US State Department said that they don’t see Russia’s efforts in regard to providing humanitarian aid to Syria.”

“This is very strange, especially since the State Department allegedly sees everything, including Russian tanks that are being flown in or crawling into the territory of other states, but there’s no humanitarian aid in sight,” she said.

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FBI entrapped suspects in almost all high-profile terrorism cases in US

NOVANEWS
Reuters / John Gress
Reuters / John Gress / Reuters
A new report by Human Rights Watch accuses the FBI of using sting operations to entrap informants, creating terrorists out of law-abiding individuals and targeting American Muslims in the agency’s counterterrorism investigations.

The Justice Department and the FBI have targeted American Muslims in“abusive” counterterrorism sting operations based on religious and ethnic identity, according to the new report from HRW and Columbia University Law School’s Human Rights Institute. The study found that many of the over 500 terrorism-related cases since the War on Terror began in 2001 have alienated the communities that the government should rely on to prevent terrorism.

“This is a number that sounds really big, and it makes it sound like Americans are being kept safe from terrorism attacks,”Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director for HRW, said in a video released with the report. “But we found that in a lot of these cases, people were prosecuted who never would have committed a terrorist attack in the first place, if it weren’t for the involvement of the FBI.”

The 214-page report, Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions’, focuses on 27 of those cases, including the Rezwan Ferdaus and the Newburgh Four cases, which RT has covered. HRW used some of RT’s footage in its video.

“The theory behind some of these cases is that these people are terrorists-in-waiting: If the FBI hadn’t shown up and taken them down the path of committing this terrorist act, Al-Qaeda would instead,” Prasow said. “But we don’t have evidence of that actually happening.”

“What this means is that American Muslim communities are being treated as suspect, that law enforcement approach them not just as partners in countering terrorism or providing information about potential terrorist attacks, but as places where terrorism could be bred,” Naureen Shah, former associate director of Columbia School of Law’s Human Rights Institute, said in the video.

“These were not individuals who were planning on their own to actually conduct terrorist activities,” Shah added. “They were individuals who were vulnerable to being recruited. They’re young men – an 18-year-old, they’re people with mental illness – schizophrenia, they’re people who are susceptible because they want money and they could be bribed.”

The HRW report echoed a similar report, released in June by the Muslim advocacy group SALAM, which found that 95 percent of terrorist arrests have been the result of FBI foiling its own entrapment plots.

According to that report, entitled ‘Inventing Terrorists: The Lawfare of Preemptive Prosecution’, the majority of arrests involved the unjust prosecution of targeted Muslim Americans.

“The informants in a lot of the cases that we looked at are people who were in trouble, and law enforcement gives them the option, ‘Do you want to help us nab someone else, or do you yourself want to be put in prison?’” Shah said. “And so they need to find a terrorist. They need to turn these people.”

“The idea that there is a terrorist group that would have found criminals so incompetent as these to become terrorists is ridiculous,” Mike German, a former FBI undercover agent, said in an HBO documentary called ‘The Newburgh Sting’.

The HRW report “accordingly stops short of drawing systemic conclusions,” the Guardian reported. It found four high-profile terrorism court cases that it did not find any problems with: the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing; Najibullah Zazi’s 2009 plot to bomb the New York subway; the attempted Times Square carbombing of 2010; and the 2002 shooting at Los Angeles International Airport’s El Al counter.

“The report clearly shows in many respects, the American public is being sold a false bill of goods,” Prasow said. “To be sure, the threat of terrorism is real. But in many of the cases we documented, there was no threat until the FBI showed up and helped turn people into terrorists.”

The DOJ disputes the groups’ findings.

“The Department of Justice has been a steadfast ally of our nation’s civil rights groups for decades,” said Marc Raimondi, a Justice Department spokesman, according the the Washington Post. “The report itself acknowledges that the legal process used in the cases it highlighted is not only lawful but is also specifically approved by federal judges… We do not and cannot target individuals solely for engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment, which includes free speech and religion.”

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Zionist Cameron to mark Balfour Declaration centenary with UK Jewish community

NOVANEWS

Prime Minister Zionist David Cameron has told representatives of the UK’s Jewish community that he intends to “mark” with them the centenary of the Balfour Declaration next year.

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Zionist Cameron met members of the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) on January 13, in what has become an annual meeting.

According to a Downing Street spokesperson, the PM “recognised how next year is a special year for the Jewish community with the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.”

In remarks quoted in the Jewish News, Cameron said of the anniversary: “I want to make sure we mark it together in most appropriate way.”

A statement issued by the JLC after the meeting said that topics covered also included “glorification of terrorists on campuses and student unions’ adoption of BDS policies”, and “the government’s approach to the Middle East conflict and the need to prepare people for peace rather than conflict.”

The JLC is an umbrella body made up of over 30 Jewish communal organisations.

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Australia and the War in Syria: Continuing Obfuscation

NOVANEWS
Image result for syria war cartoons
By James O’Neill 

On 16 November 2015 the present writer published an article in Australia’s New Matilda magazine. The article had two main objectives. The first was a discussion of the legal bases upon which one State could attack another State. The second purpose was to provide an outline of my attempts to obtain a copy of the legal advice that the Australian government said it would seek before announcing a decision on whether or not to join the United States bombing campaign in Syria.

The content of that advice was of considerable interest. The majority of international lawyers doubted that Australia had any legal basis to intervene militarily in Syria. If the government’s legal advisers had a different opinion, then that would represent a minority view and lawyers would have an interest in the basis of their legal reasoning.

The Australian government had announced on 24 August 2015 that it would be seeking that legal advice. The clear inference was that no decision would be made pending receipt of that advice.

The request under the Freedom of Information Act was refused, but the schedule of relevant documents that were provided (but I was not allowed to see the actual documents) showed that the legal advice had been given to the government on 24 September 2014, eleven months before the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced that the advice would be sought.

The decision that Australia was going to join the American bombing campaign was announced in early September 2015 and the first bombing was carried out over the weekend of 12 and 13 September 2015. No legal basis was advanced on which this decision had been made. There was no debate in Parliament, but even if there had been it is unlikely that the Labor Opposition would have opposed it given their supine position on all matters relating to “national security”.

The only opposition in Parliament came from Senator Richard di Natale, the Green Party leader, and Senator Scott Ludlum, also of the Greens.

On 16 November 2015, the day the New Matilda article was published, Ms Bishop appeared on ABC National Radio to announce that the decision to join the US bombing was made in response to a request from the Iraqi government pursuant to the collective self-defence provisions of Article 51 of the UN Charter. That it took two months to even proffer a reason was interesting in itself.

What Ms Bishop claimed was the reason for the military intervention, that it was at the request of the Iraqi government, contradicted what the government had itself said in August 2015. According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald the government of then Prime Minister Tony Abbott had “pushed for Washington to request that Australia expand its air strikes against Islamic State from Iraq into Syria.”

In acknowledging in August 2015 that the “invitation” was solicited, there was no mention then of any legal considerations that the government would have to consider. The further issue of how it was legally possible, under international law, for the United States to have any basis of inviting any country to join its bombing campaign in Syria, was never mentioned.

It exemplifies the arrogance characteristic of western foreign policy that simply assumes the right to bomb countries, and invite others to do so.

Ms Bishop in her radio interview of 16 November 2015 never referred to any American request, or that her former leader had solicited such a request. She preferred instead to claim that the invitation had come from the Iraqi government. For the reasons given below, that claim was in all probability untrue.

Ms Bishop’s explanation in that radio interview might have answered the query about the claimed legal basis upon which Australia was going to bomb another sovereign nation put to her by the interviewer. But there were further problems for Ms Bishop and the Australian government.

On 20 November 2015 the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2249. Despite some ill-informed media comment in the mainstream press about this resolution, it was manifestly not an authorization to attack Syria.

The operative part of the Resolution required all Member States to “take all necessary measures, in compliance with international law, in particular the UN Charter… on the territory under the control of ISIL also known as Daesh, in Syria and Iraq.”

The Australian government’s first problem then, is that it purports to rely on international law, and in particular Article 51 of the UN Charter. UN Security Council Resolution 2249 did not authorise action outside the terms of the UN Charter. That means that any action would have to be either in self-defence or by resolution of the Security Council. Neither condition exists. That leaves only the notion of collective self-defence.

This is the lingering fig leaf of legal respectability that the government clung to, as set out by Ms Bishop in her interview of 16 November 2015. She claimed that Australia was acting at the purported request of the Iraqi government.

Confirmation of the Australian government’s reliance upon the alleged request by the Iraqi government is found in the letter sent by the Australian government to the Security Council on 9 September 2015. Such a letter of notification of military action against another sovereign State is required under the terms of the UN Charter.

The letter stated that the Syrian government was “unable or unwilling” to prevent attacks from its territory upon Iraq. This is a highly contentious claim, and one that has no foundation in international law. Only two States, The United States and the United Kingdom have officially endorsed the “unwilling or unable” doctrine and their self-interest in doing so is readily apparent.

Among the many reasons for its rejection as a doctrine in international law is that it would open the floodgates to the extraterritorial use of force against non-state actors. That it should appear in an official letter from the Australian government to the UN Security Council is surprising. In effect the doctrine is a back door route to avoiding the restrictions imposed by Article 51 of the UN Charter that force must be utilized only in legitimate self-defence or with the consent of the Security Council.

The letter went on to say “in response to the request for assistance by the government of Iraq, Australia is therefore undertaking necessary and proportionate military operations against ISIL in Syria in the exercise of the collective self-defence of Iraq.”

The further problem for the Australian government however, was that the Office of the Prime Minister of Iraq issued an official statement on 3 December 2015. That statement renewed the Iraqi government’s “emphasis on the lack of need for foreign troops in Iraq and that the Iraqi government is committed to not allowing the presence of any ground forces on the land of Iraq, and did not ask any side, whether regional or from an international coalition to send ground troops to Iraq.”

The Prime Minister of Iraq’s statement went on to repeat the Iraqi government’s position that it had asked for air support for Iraqi forces operating within Iraq. It further demanded that no activity be undertaken without the approval of the Iraqi government. It would appear that the Iraqi government has a firmer grasp of the limitations on military actions imposed by international law than does the Australian government.

That Iraqi government statement is a direct rebuttal of the claims made by Ms Bishop on behalf of the Australian government that the bombing of Syria was at the request of the Iraqi government. Thus, the Iraqi government demolished the remaining tiny element of potential legality for Australia’s actions.

This is not the end of the Australian government’s legal problems. The International Court of Justice has on at least two occasions in recent years pronounced that the concept of “collective self-defence” does not apply when the “defence” is against non-State actors.

ISIS is not a State in any meaningful sense of the word, so if Iraq had asked for such help against ISIS in Syria, (which as we have seen it did not) such a request would have had no legal basis.

The Australian mainstream media had given a small amount of space to Ms Bishop’s original announcement about Australia intending to bomb Syria. There was also some coverage of the fact that Australian warplanes had carried out operations in Syria when those operations commenced in September 2015.

Almost no coverage was given to the doubts about the legality of the air operations after they had commenced. There was no coverage given to the government’s letter to the Security Council and therefore on the contentious claims made in that letter. Neither was any coverage given to the statement from the Office of the Prime Minister of Iraq. To do so would of course have fatally undermined the editorial support for the government’s actions.

But there was a further significant development that should have been disclosed by the government and given extensive coverage by the media, and that is the extent of the actual bombing in Syria undertaken by the Australian Air Force.

The Department of Defence issues, via its website, the activities of the Air Task Group as it is known, in Iraq and Syria. These data reveal that the F/A-18 fighter-bomber used by the Australian Air Force flew 18 sorties in Syria in September 2015 for a total of 143 operational hours. This was the month the operations commenced.

It was also however, the month that the operations initially ended. The Department of Defence figures show that zero sorties were flown in Syria in the months of October and November and 10 in December.

Some obvious questions are posed by these data. The first question is why did the bombing cease after the same month it began? The second question is why, given the controversies that surrounds the bombing, were the government and the media totally silent on the fact that the bombing had ceased in October and November?

An obvious question is why did the Foreign Minister, in her interview on 16 November 2015, not mention the fact that the bombing she claimed was legally justified had in fact ceased more than six weeks previously? The impression that she strongly sought to convey was that the bombing was both legal and continuing pursuant to the various claims that she was making.

The answers to those questions are necessarily speculative, as the government does not see fit to announce to the people to whom it is accountable, what they are doing on such a vital issue. The mainstream media are doing what they always do, which is to avoid printing any material that does not accord with their pre-determined agenda.

We do know however, that the American bombing of Syria had been singularly ineffective in diminishing ISIL’s operational capacity. Some commentators have suggested that was precisely the point. Whether Australia wished to continue being a party to that charade is an interesting point, and one that an Opposition and a media interested in the truth should pursue.

There was another development at the end of September 2015 however, that has been a singular game-changer in the Syrian theatre of operations. The Russian military intervened in the Syrian conflict. Completely unlike the position of the US “coalition”, the Russians intervened at the specific request of the Syrian government. There was therefore no doubt in international law that the Russian intervention was legally permissible.

The Russian intervention, while on a relatively small scale, has been devastatingly effective. Not only were the ISIL forces obliged to seek cover from air attacks, having enjoyed apparent immunity from the Americans and their allies during the preceding 15 months, there was also major disruption of their supply lines.

As a result of Russian air reconnaissance and satellite images, it has been established beyond doubt that ISIL was transporting stolen Iraqi and Syrian oil across the Turkish border. That oil was sold on the black market through a company with close links to President Erdogan of Turkey. Military supplies were in turn being shipped back across the Turkish border into Iraq and Syria.

There is also good evidence that wounded ISIL fighters are being treated in Turkish and Israeli hospitals. They are also trained in Turkish and Jordanian camps among other places. Both President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov have pointed out the financial and other support ISIL receives from other countries in the region.

The Australian media have chosen to give only minimal coverage to some of these disclosures and certainly no analysis of their implications. Those interested in discovering what is actually happening in Syria and related theatres of war are obliged to seek that information elsewhere.

The Russians have also installed the sophisticated S400 air defence system in Syria. This gives them, and their Syrian allies, the capacity to shoot down any unauthorized aircraft in Syrian air space. Again it is purely speculative, but that may also be a reason why Australian Air Force bombing of Syria, which is manifestly unauthorized, ceased for two months after the Russian intervention.

There has now been another new development. The former Defence Minister, Kevin Andrews, sacked when Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister in September, complained that Australia should not have rejected a request from the Americans for a greater commitment of troops to Syria. It appears that the replacement Defence Minister, Marise Payne, had rejected such a request.

Typically, neither the fact of the request nor that it had been refused were known to the public until Mr Andrews complained. Equally typically, the issue of the legal right of the US to make such a request was never discussed.

The fact that it was the Americans who were driving the push for a greater military commitment by Australia did not form part of the letter to the Security Council, and neither was it mentioned by Ms Bishop on 16 November 2015 when she told the ABC why Australia was going to join the bombing of Syria.

To stop the illegal bombing was undoubtedly correct from many points of view, not least from the standpoint of international law that Australia has increasingly disregarded in recent years. The great pity is that the Australian government had neither the moral fortitude nor sufficient faith in the Australian people to inform them of the decision to even temporarily withdraw from a war they had no business in pursuing in the first place.

Neither have we been given an explanation as to why this manifestly illegal bombing has recommenced, whether it is intended to continue, and if so on what possible legal basis. The original purported justifications have been comprehensively demolished by the subsequent revelations. Whether Mr Turnbull can resist the inevitable pressure from the Americans at his forthcoming meeting with President Obama will be closely watched.

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Peace And Its Enemies

NOVANEWS
Image result for SAUDI ISRAEL FLAG
By Gilad Atzmon 

Most people around the globe are relieved by the prospect of peace following the lifting the embargo against Iran. Two groups, however, are not so happy. The Saudis and the Jews. The Saudi unease is based on geopolitical terms: Sunni/Shia conflict, oil market competition, and so on. However, it is puzzling that NY Jewish leaders are pretty upset by the prospect of putting this never ending conflict to sleep.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC), a body that claims to represent American Jews, reacted to the nuclear deal with a statement that it should not mean a return to “business as usual.”

“We call on governments to make it clear – to their countries’ business sector – that the JCPOA does not represent a return to ‘business as usual’ with the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. A range of tough US sanctions, which AJC supports, remains in effect; Iran’s non-nuclear activities, which are ongoing and destabilizing, are subject to continued – and likely escalating – sanctions,” read a statement by AJC on Sunday.

The AJC and the ADL are apparently concerned with ‘human rights’ issues. Both pointed to “Iran’s on going human rights abuses and expansionism in the Middle East, in part through proxies like Hezbollah.” One would actually expect these Jewish organisations to deal first with the inhumanity of their Jewish State that’s a leading force in abuse of human rights, brutal racism and expansionism.

AIPAC declared that the lifting of sanctions is a “dangerous moment for America and our allies.” The group called on policymakers to confront “regional proxies” while taking “firm action to support our allies, especially Israel.”

B’nai B’rith, yet another Jewish American institution, said the US decision to slap sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile tests last October and December reinforced their skepticism about Iran’s willingness to go forward in compliance with the JCPOA. Seemingly American Jewish institutions are collectively distressed by the resolution of the conflict with Iran. Peace and reconciliation must be foreign to their lexicon. Perhaps someone should take a second and explain to these intrusive foreign lobbies that for America and the West, Iran is the last hope for stability in the region. Iran is the only regional power that can help to reverse the disaster created by the Jewish State and its lobby. But then it is not surprising to find Jewish lobbies locating themselves at the forefront of the pro war camp. As I have been saying for years, shalom doesn’t mean peace, it means security for the Jews.

American Jewish lobbies such as AJC, AIPAC, ADL and B’nai B’rith appear convinced that America fighting Iran is good for the Jews. However, it seems that, contrary to the wisdom of its Jewish lobbies, the American administration eventually gathered that peace is patriotic.

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Now it’s I$raHell turn to open its nuclear program to IAEA inspection, or face sanctions

NOVANEWS
Anthony Bellchambers

The Negev Nuclear Research Center at Dimona, Israel


Iran has currently met its obligations to the IAEA under the 2015 US-­led agreement with the UN and now IT is the time for Israel to submit its nuclear program to UNSC inspection or face international sanctions. The imperative is for:

1. The Negev Nuclear Research Center at Dimona to be fully opened to inspection by the IAEA and its estimated undeclared stockpile of up to 400 nuclear warheads be put under UN supervision for eventual destruction other than those required for legitimate defence purposes, estimated not to exceed five warheads (5) in total.

2. Israel’s capacity for uranium enrichment to be severely limited for a minimum of 15 years and that all its centrifuges in excess of 5000 to be dismantled under IAEA supervision

3. That all supplies of heavy water be shipped to the US or other approved recipient, apart from the minimum required for legitimate medical isotopes

4. That inspections teams from the IAEA continuously monitor all Israeli nuclear sites and to verify all fissile materials thereupon.

5. That the state of Israel to become a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) with immediate effect.

The timescale for all such specified actions to be approved by the United Nations Assembly in General Session.

Note

1. http://fas.org/nuke/guide/israel/nuke/farr.htm

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