Archive | January 20th, 2017

Gladio Again: Germany Could Have But Didn’t Stop Berlin Attacker. Why?

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According to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), German security and intelligence agencies were particularly familiar with the Berlin attacker, Anis Amri, long before he plowed a large truck into a Christmas market, killing 12 and injuring many more.

In an article titled, All the cracks that Berlin suspect Amri slipped through,” a now familiar litany of excuses are peddled before audiences in a bid to explain why the suspect wasn’t stopped, weeks, months, even years before he carried out his attack, as soon as it became apparent he was both violent and a danger to society.

DW’s article admits:

The suspect first caught authorities’ attention in November 2015, when he unwittingly told an informant for the investigative police unit (BKA) in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia that he wanted to “do something in Germany,” according to a document obtained by the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. He also claimed that he could get an AK-47 for an attack.

The article claims that from that point onward, Amri was “watched” by German agencies. DW also admits:

Further, he was apparently aggressively seeking an opportunity to undertake an attack in Germany. Information pointing to his dangerous potential became so overwhelming that authorities designated him a threat last February. 

DW then reports:

All information was then handed over to the Berlin public prosecutor’s office. The suspect was observed from March on. He raised no suspicion in the months that followed, and authorities stopped surveilling him in September.

In December, Amri would carry out his deadly attack, just as attackers in France and Belgium did after being surveilled – in some cases  for years – before being allowed to drop off security and intelligence agencies’ radars just ahead of their respective, deadly attacks.

Germany’s weak excuses for not apprehending a man who openly admitted he sought to acquire weapons and take human lives echo similarly convenient excuses provided by the French government following a string of fatal attacks across its territory.

Paris has claimed a lack of resources to process the large number of potential terrorists returning from battlefields France itself has helped send arms, fighters, and other forms of material support to on behalf of terrorist organizations and their allies.

Germany’s excuses might seem plausible if not for the fact that virtually every terror attack that has unfolded  not only in Germany, but across all of Europe follows a similar pattern where suspects are surveilled, questioned, entrapped, even arrested and released multiple times, before ultimately carrying out spectacular, politically convenient attacks across Europe.

Another “Gladio” 

Such purposeful negligence matches another chapter in Europe’s more recent history – that during the Cold War in which NATO security and intelligence agencies maintained a myriad of pan-European terrorist organizations of every imaginable variety, used to assassinate political opponents, carry out deadly and spectacular terror attacks, and otherwise use violence, fear, and intimidation to manipulate both public perception and political outcomes during elections in respective states.

Called “Operation Gladio,” it would be described by the New York Times in a 1990 article titled, EVOLUTION IN EUROPE; Italy Discloses Its Web Of Cold War Guerrillas,” as:

In Europe’s new order, they are the spies who never quite came in from the cold, foot soldiers in an underground guerrilla network with one stated mission: To fight an enemy that most Europeans believe no longer exists. Theirs is a tale of secret arms caches and exotic code names, of military stratagems and political intrigues. At best, their tale is no more than a curious footnote to the cold war. The question is if, at worst, it could be the key to unsolved terrorism dating back two decades.

The New York Times would also reveal:

The focus of the inquiry is a clandestine operation code-named Gladio, created decades ago to arm and train resistance fighters in case the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invaded. All this week, there have been disclosures of similar organizations in virtually all Western European countries, including those that do not belong to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 

The New York Times would also describe how Gladio was used to manipulate public perception, use the specter of fear regarding communism after staged terror attacks to coerce populations to vote in governments of Washington’s liking, and essentially frame opposition groups for violence the US and NATO were carrying out with their own terror cells.

The real question is – are there similar networks being created and perpetuated by Western intelligence agencies today, to fill both the ranks of foreign mercenary armies everywhere from Libya and Yemen, to Syria and the borders of Iran – as well as manipulate and impose fear upon the populations of Western states at home?

Spectacular terrorist attacks like those in Paris, Brussels, and Berlin have certainly proven themselves potent events for swaying public opinion regarding political support of particular parties and candidates, as well as fomenting support for wars abroad against “Muslim” nations. There is also the inescapable fact that the very terrorists the West poses as fighting at home are armed, funded, and backed either directly by the West abroad, or through the West’s closest allies in the Middle East – namely Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

While it is tempting for people to fall into the false debate crafted in this newly forming “Cold War,” the lessons of history should teach us that not all is what it appears to be. And when absolutely every terror attack is carried out by suspects deeply intimate with Western security and intelligence agencies, both at home and in Western-sponsored wars abroad, tempting “clashes of civilization” narratives should be replaced with the prospect of Gladio’s inglorious return to Western political calculus.

Additionally, the next time agencies are told to “stop watching” a suspect, perhaps it would be in their best interest to watch them twice as closely, as well as those telling them to “stop watching.”

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France’s Self-Inflicted Refugee Crisis. The Result of NATO-Led Wars

refugees

Following rhetoric regarding Europe’s refugee crisis, one might assume the refugees, through no fault of Europe’s governments, suddenly began appearing by the thousands at Europe’s borders. However, this simply is not true.

Before the 2011 wave of US-European engineered uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) transformed into Western military interventions, geopolitical analysts warned that overthrowing the governments in nations like Libya and Syria, and Western interventions in nations like Mali and the Ivory Coast, would lead to predicable regional chaos that would manifest itself in both expanding terrorism across the European and MENA region, as well as a flood of refugees from destabilized, war-racked nations.

Libya in particular, was singled out as a nation, if destabilized, that would transform into a springboard for refugees not only fleeing chaos in Libya itself, but fleeing a variety of socioeconomic and military threats across the continent. Libya has served for decades as a safe haven for African refugees due to its relative stability and economic prosperity as well as the Libyan government’s policy of accepting and integrating African refugees within the Libyan population.

Because of NATO’s 2011 military intervention and the disintegration of Libya as a functioning nation state, refugees who would have otherwise settled in Libya are now left with no choice but to continue onward to Europe.

For France in particular, its politics have gravitated around what is essentially a false debate between those welcoming refugees and those opposed to their presence.

Absent from this false debate is any talk of French culpability for its military operations abroad which, along with the actions of the US and other NATO members, directly resulted in the current European refugee crisis.

France claims that its presence across Africa aims at fighting Al Qaeda. According to RAND Corporation commentary titled, “Mali’s Persistent Jihadist Problem,” it’s reported that:

Four years ago, French forces intervened in Mali, successfully averting an al Qaeda-backed thrust toward the capital of Bamako. The French operation went a long way toward reducing the threat that multiple jihadist groups posed to this West Africa nation. The situation in Mali today remains tenuous, however, and the last 18 months have seen a gradual erosion of France’s impressive, initial gains.

And of course, a French military presence in Mali will do nothing to stem Al Qaeda’s activities if the source of Al Qaeda’s weapons and financial support is not addressed. In order to do this, France and its American and European allies would need to isolate and impose serious sanctions on Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two nations who exists as the premier state sponsors of not only Al Qaeda, but a myriad of terrorist organizations sowing chaos worldwide.

Paradoxically, instead of seeking such sanctions, the French government instead sells the Saudi and Qatari governments billions of dollars worth of weaponry, proudly filling in any temporary gaps in the flow of weapons from the West as each nation attempts to posture as “concerned” about Saudi and Qatari human rights abuses and war crimes (and perhaps even state sponsorship of terrorism) only to gradually return to pre-sanction levels after public attention wanes.

The National Interest in an article titled, “France: Saudi Arabia’s New Arms Dealer,” would note:

France has waged a robust diplomatic engagement with Saudi Arabia for years. In June, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited France to sign deals worth $12 billion, which included $500 million for 23 Airbus H145 helicopters. Saudi and French officials also agreed to pursue feasibility studies to build two nuclear reactors in the kingdom. The remaining money will involve direct investment negotiated between Saudi and French officials.

The article would also note that Saudi Arabia’s junior partner in the state sponsorship of global terror, Qatar, would also benefit from French weapon deals:

Hollande’s address was delivered one day after he was in Doha, where he signed a $7 billion deal that included the sale of 24 French Rafale fighter jets to Qatar, along with the training of Qatari intelligence officers.

In order to truly fight terrorism, a nation must deal with it at its very source. Since France is not only ignoring the source of Al Qaeda’s military, financial and political strength, but is regularly bolstering it with billions in weapons deals, it is safe to say that whatever reason France is involved across MENA, it is not to “defeat” Al Qaeda.

The refugee crisis that has resulted from the chaos that both Western forces and terrorists funded and armed by the West’s closest regional allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is a crisis that is entirely self-inflicted. The rhetoric surrounding the crisis, on both sides, ignoring this fundamental reality, exposes the manufactured and manipulative nature of French government and opposition agendas.

The chaos across MENA is so significant, and terrorism so deeply rooted in both Western and their Arab allies’ geopolitical equations that even a complete reversal of this destructive policy will leave years if not decades of social unrest in the wake of the current refugee crisis.

But for anyone genuinely committed to solving this ongoing crisis, they must start with the US, European, and Gulf monarchies’ culpability, and resist blaming the refugees or those manipulated into reacting negatively to them. While abuses carried out by refugees or locals are equally intolerable, those responsible for the conflicts and for manipulating both sides of this crisis are equally to blame.

Until that blame is properly and proportionately placed, and the root of the crisis addressed, it will only linger and cause further damage to regional and global security.

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US Intelligence Recognizes the End of Unipolar World? “Growth of Populism… End of US Domination”

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The last few years were marked by the debate on the characteristics of world politics after the end of the cold war. The majority of major analysts of the Anglo-American political-academic realm left no doubt that we were moving towards the formation of a unipolar world dominated by the United States. The evidence of the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, during the government of George W. Bush, founded on a document under the name of Project for a New American Century, left no margin for debate. This was heightened by the political crisis of the Western political system and the Anglo-Saxonization of International Relations, repeating the “scientific” discourses of the gurus, for example Kaplan, Kagan, Nye, Fukuyama, etc.

In the year 2008, among various experts we published the Diccionario Latinoamericano de Seguridad y Geopolítica (Latin American Dictionary of Security and Geopolitics), where we were among the few voices to note that we were moving towards a multipolar world, contrary to the opinions of the gurus; moreover, while there existed great expectations for the new President of the United States, we said that nothing indicated a change of foreign policy with respect to Bush junior.

Today, coinciding with the end of the presidency of Obama (the Nobel Peace Laureate who bombarded 7 countries in less than six years), we should note, in passing, that the Nobel Prize implies no guarantee. Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite. President Wilson applied dollar diplomacy to the Caribbean, Theodore Roosevelt applied the policy of the bludgeon and Kissinger the so-called “Condor Plan”, and all were Nobel Prize winners. So Obama is one more confirmation that one must take a careful look when a US president gets a Nobel Prize.

In spite of the fact that he began with promises to withdraw his country from international conflict after the Bush junior mandate, Obama leaves office after having maintained the US nation in conflict for a longer period than any other president of the United States.

He expanded the air wars and the use of special forces throughout the world. The number of countries where US special forces are present has grown from 60 in 2009 to 138 in 2016 (in 70% of the countries of the world), according to data of the US Special Operations Command.

To analyse the legacy of President Obama, the US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), that specializes in US foreign policy and international affairs, presented data on aerial attacks launched against foreign countries. In 2016 alone, the Obama government dropped at least 26,171 bombs.

While the majority of the bombardments took place in Syria and Iraq, US bombs also reached Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan, seven of the biggest Muslim countries.

During the eight years of the Obama mandate, his government not only ordered numerous air attacks, but also reached a record in the sale of arms since the Second World War, attaining 265,471 million dollars.

All this allows us to understand a most important but little known occurrence, that took place on 9th of January 2017, and that we believe to be central. The National Intelligence Council (NIC) of the United States, in their intelligence report for the new President of the US, Mr. Trump, implicitly recognizes the failure of Obama’s war diplomacy, and our now aged Dictionary (surely taken as a “political and ideological essay” by the majority of the Argentinian “neutral scientific” community) is in tune with the report of January 9th. If there were a trial for bad practice in social sciences, many of the sacred monsters would be shaking. This is not a vulgar irony, but a profound reflection that we must all undertake, from the social sciences and the university realm, on the evolution and events of the world system.

For almost two decades, the Global Trends Report of the National Intelligence Council has given rise to strategic conversations inside and outside of the US Government. Since the First Global Trends Report was launched in 1997, a new report is published every four years after the US elections.

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Global Trends constitutes an important and strategic report on the evaluation of intelligence services of the forces—and elections—that will shape the world during the coming two decades.

The latest edition of the report “Global Trends: Paradox of Progress” of the National Intelligence Council, presented on January 9th 2017, explores trends and scenarios for the next twenty years.

Critical to its insight and policy-relevance have been meetings worldwide with a wide range of interlocutors—including government officials, scholars, business people, civil society representatives, and others—in workshops and exchanges. There they have examined the perspectives of the economy, demographics, ecology, energy, health and governability, identity and geopolitics and it is vital to understand their consequences for the peace and security of the world.

The NIC crystallizes ideas gleaned from these meetings as well as extensive research in each Global Trends Report published every four years, between the US Presidential Election Day and Inauguration Day.

In general lines, the report of January 9th alerts us about a “close, obscure and difficult” future, due to the increase of hostilities among Nations at levels that have not been seen since the Cold War; as global growth decelerates, the post Second World War “order” is being eroded, and as nationalisms in the framework of globalization are accentuated.

The uncertainty about the United States, together with a “West that looks inwards” and the weakening of international human rights and standards of conflict prevention, have induced Russia and China to put US influence to the test”, says the report.

And it adds “…these challenges will be under the shadow of a hot war, but will generate profound risks of errors in calculation”.

Russia and China already appear as actors able to dispute US influence, recognizing the loss of hegemony, as well as regional conflicts, terrorism and an increase in inequality.

The entity, in their 226-page report published January 9th, alerts “that the new world panorama is bringing the US domination, that followed the cold war, to an end” and hence the next five years “will put the resilience of the United States to the test”. On the other hand, the NIC foresees a growth of populism in the political field at a world level that will “represent a threat to liberalism”. Here we should add that the report does not distinguish the xenophobic parties that have appeared in Europe and regional nationalisms for the preservation of sovereignty, such as occur in Iran or could take on new strength in South America.

More than ever, in the Patria Grande, we must seek to build an Ethical, Political and Strategic Power and we face the tension: Patria Grande taken seriously or nothing. Here is our future, as Manuel Ugarte said.

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China Extends Economic Influence in Balkans and Southeast Europe

NOVANEWS

China Extends Economic Influence in Balkans and Southeast Europe, Bank of China Regional Headquarters in Belgrade

 
Bank of China

On January 21st, 2017, the Bank of China has officially opened its regional branch headquarters in Serbian capital Belgrade, to provide banking services for cooperation in investments, trade, tourism and other fields, for countries in the region – Serbia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and others. The ceremony was held in the Government`s Palace and attended by President of the Republic Tomislav Nikolic and members of the Government.

This important development follows last June`s state visit of the President of the Republic of China Xi Jinping to Serbia and also, his talks last week with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic at Davos Economic Summit in Switzerland.

Establishment of the Bank of China`s regional headquarters in Belgrade, is today the main news in all major medias in Serbia and beyond. This morning I commented this event at the private regional network “TV Pink”. Among other, I noted that cooperation under OBOR, as the global initiative, is not important only for development of CEE countries, but for the whole of Europe. Through win win OBOR cooperation Europe and China are getting closer, what is equally positive form economic, cultural and political point of view, particularly now when EU is passing through serious difficulties.

Serbia`s role in the implementation of the China – CEE cooperation under OBOR is growing. Two countries are strategic partners cooperating in various fields.  In the past five years only, partners from the two countries have been constructing or modernizing roads, highways, railways, ports, bridges, tunnels, thermo-electric plant, steelwork factory, strengthening people to people exchange.  As of 1st January this year, no-visa system for citizens of the two countries came into force. A number of infrastructure projects, already implemented, or under implementation in Serbia, are highly important for modernization of connectivity in the CEE region, or in Europe.

Cooperation under CEE-OBOR has proved to be very important for Serbia`s overall economic development, modernization of industry and infrastructure and improvement of international standing.

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US intervention in Syria? Not under Trump

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The Trump administration may recognise that the Syrian army is the only institution committed to resisting terrorism in its country

A new coalition of US-based organisations is pushing for a more aggressive US intervention against the Assad regime. But both the war in Syria and politics in the United States have shifted dramatically against this objective.

When it was formed last July, the coalition hoped that a Hillary Clinton administration would pick up its proposals for a more forward stance in support of the anti-Assad armed groups. But with Donald Trump in office instead, the supporters of a US war in Syria now have little or no chance of selling the idea.

One of the ways the group is adjusting to the new political reality is to package its proposal for deeper US military engagement on behalf of US-supported armed groups as part of a plan to counter al-Qaeda, now calling itself Jabhat Fateh al Sham.

But that rationale depends on a highly distorted presentation of the problematic relations between those supposedly “moderate” groups and al-Qaeda’s Syrian offshoot.

Plan for a Clinton White House…

The “Combating al-Qaeda in Syria Strategy Group” was formed last July by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), according to the policy paper distributed at an event at the Atlantic Council on 12 January.

The “Strategy Group” also includes Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute and Jennifer Cafarella of the Institute for the Study of War, both of whom have advocated direct US military force against the Syrian regime in support of the armed opposition.

The new coalition of think tanks began meeting last summer when the politics in Washington seemed favorable toward a political campaign for decisive US intervention in Syria

But it was CNAS that had the political clout to bring the coalition together under what appeared to be very favourable circumstances. Michele Flournoy, the founder and CEO of CNAS and a former third-ranking Pentagon official, was reported to be Clinton’s likely choice for secretary of defence during the 2016 presidential primaries. And the June 2016 report of a CNAS “study group” co-chaired by Flournoy was in line with Clinton’s openly declared support for a more muscular US intervention in Syria.

That report had called for a US-declared “no bombing zone” to protect armed opposition groups, vetted by the CIA, from Syrian and Russian attacks. Flournoy had then described the policy in an interview as telling the Russian and Syrian governments: “If you bomb the folks we support, we will retaliate using standoff means to destroy [Russian] proxy forces, or, in this case, Syrian assets.”

The new coalition of think tanks began meeting last summer when the politics in the United States seemed favorable for a political campaign for US military intervention in Syria.

On 30 September, Lister published a lengthy essay calling on the United States to provide shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to ”moderate” opposition groups as well as to threaten attacks on the Syrian army if it violated the ceasefire. Lister was obviously hoping that President Clinton would adopt that policy option a few months later.

…repackaged for a Trump presidency

Now the new strategy group is trying to sell the same proposal to Trump, calling it “a holistic, preventative counter-terrorism policy that empowers moderate Syrians… to overcome extremists in Syria….” It argues that al-Qaeda is seeking to gain control over areas now controlled by “moderate” forces in order to establish “an enduring Sunni extremist order in Syria”.

But the argument that these armed groups, which the US has supported in the past, would be prepared to resist al-Qaeda’s long-term caliphate with more money and arms and US bombing of Assad’s air force, is too divorced from reality to have traction in Washington now. In fact, the so-called “moderate” armed groups have never been truly independent of al Qaeda in Syria. They have depended on the highly disciplined troops of al-Qaeda and its closest allies and the military strategy devised by al-Qaeda commanders to pressure the Assad regime.

The so-called “moderate” armed groups have never been truly independent of al Qaeda in Syria

Lister himself has been clear on this point. Under his proposed plan for the United States to use the threat of military force against the regime, the CIA-vetted “moderate” armed opposition groups were not expected to end their military cooperation with Fateh al-Sham or to separate themselves physically from its forces, as had been provided in both the February and September ceasefire agreements.

Lister stated explicitly his assumption that such cooperation was “unlikely to diminish significantly” – even if his proposal were to be carried out.

Rather, the idea of Lister’s plan was to force negotiations on the Assad regime. That aim would still obviously have required the continued military power of Fateh al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham to succeed.

Lister and his fellow coalition members are not likely to be able to sell the new administration on the idea that any of the Syrian armed groups the CIA has supported would even consider seriously resisting Fateh al-Sham under any remotely believable circumstances.

Syrian army: The only alternative?

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius recently recalled meeting with leaders of Harakat al-Hazm, considered the most promising “moderate” armed group in Syria, at a safehouse in Turkey in late 2014. He found them “despondent”, because the United States had just carried out a rare air strike on al -Qaeda operatives believed to be plotting a terrorist attack on the West.

They told Ignatius that, because of the US bombing what was then called the Nusra Front would no longer tolerate the group’s operations. Soon after the meeting, the Nusra Front did indeed eliminate Harakat al-Hazm and appropriate all the TOW missiles and other military equipment the CIA had given them.

It recognised that, despite the serious faults of the Assad regime, the Syrian army was the only Syrian institution committed to resisting the terrorist presence in Syria

The Ignatius account reflects a fundamental reality throughout northern Syria, from 2013 onwards, that was simply ignored in media coverage: all of the opposition groups have been absorbed into an al-Qaeda-controlled political-military order. The idea that the “moderate” groups could be a bulwark against al-Qaeda, which is now being peddled by Lister, Cafarella and CNAS, no longer has any credibility even in those quarters in Washington that were once open to it.

A tell-tale sign of the shift in attitude toward those groups’ mood in Washington is the fact that Ignatius used the past tense in referring to the CIA’s programme of arming the “moderate” groups in Syria in his article last month.

The US military leadership was never on board with the policy of relying on those armed groups to advance US interests in Syria in the first place.

It recognised that, despite the serious faults of the Assad regime, the Syrian army was the only Syrian institution committed to resisting both al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

It seems likely that the Trump administration will now return to that point as it tries to rebuild a policy from the ashes of the failed policy of the Obama administration.

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ISIS Repelled, Heavy Clashes between Ahrar Al-Sham and Al-Nusra in Idlib

NOVANEWS

Syrian War Report: ISIS Repelled, Heavy Clashes between Ahrar Al-Sham and Al-Nusra in Idlib

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The Syrian army and the National Defense Forces (NDF), supported by attack helicopters, have advanced southwest of the Tiyas Airbase, recapturing from ISIS several hills overlooking Phosphate area near al-Qaryatayn. The village of Al-Baridah is the most likely target of the offensive.

Pro-government sources report that over 30 ISIS members were killed in the recent clashes. ISIS supporters say that the army lost 1 battle tank, 2 vehicles equipped with a machine gun and a Shilka anti-aircraft gun.

The ISIS offensive in Deir Ezzor bogged in the Syrian army’s defenses. Government troops, supported by the Russian-Syrian air power, have repelled at least 5 ISIS attacks in various parts of the city, killing and wounding some 15 militants. However, the army has not been able to successfully counter-attack to increase its chances to link-up the separated pockets.

ISIS is now deploying reinforcements to develop the tactical success gained in the city.

At least three YPG members were killed and five wounded in an ISIS attack on a YPG security center in the village of Suwaydiya in the province of Raqqah. The YPG, backed up by the US-led coalition, is now preparing for further military operations in the Raqqah countryside in order to isolate this major ISIS stronghold.

Last night, the US Air Force bombed a military camp belonging to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) near Daret Izza in western Aleppo, according to pro-militant media outlets. Up to 110 members of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and Nour al-Din al-Zenki were killed as result of the air raid. Members the so-called “White Helmets” were first to arrive the scene to help terrorists.

On January 19, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham attacked a number of Ahrar al-Sham checkpoints and local headquarters in the militant-held province of Idlib.

After a series of clashes, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham units seized from Ahrar al-Sham the Khirbet al-Jawz crossing on Turkish border, few checkpoints and a local headquarters in Khirbet al-Jawz. Some Ahrar al-Sham members were taken captive. An infighting between the militant groups were also reported near Darkoush, Jisr ash-Shugur and Bdama.

The groups blame each other in the social media for undermining the “values of Syrian revolution”.

Local sources say that the clashes are result of the ongoing “political” standoff among militant groups for the power in the province of Idlib which became the main militant stronghold in Syria after the liberation of the Aleppo city. Earlier this week, Ahrar al-Sham announced that the group will not participate in the Astana talks and preferred to play in local games in Idlib.

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Riyadh Continues to Supports ISIS-Daesh

NOVANEWS

Riyadh Continues to Supports ISIS-Daesh, Contradictory Saudi Stance on Syria Peace Talks

 
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Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir currently stated that the Syrian talks in Astana would lead to ceasefire in the country.

However, in this context, the minister’s statement sounds a little bit strange as throughout the Syrian conflict, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have been providing comprehensive assistance to Islamic State terrorists, supplying weapons, equipment and mercenaries to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. There are undeniable proofs of these “acts of good will” on behalf of Saudi Arabia.

Large chemical reserves seized by the Syrian army last week in eastern Aleppo destined for the manufacture of explosives can be characterized as striking example of “act of a good will”. The bags with chemical materials had the name of the Saudi chemical plant Sachlo printed on them. Besides, the previous month, Saudi Interior Ministry stated that more than 1,500 Saudi Arabia subjects fought in the ranks of ISIS in Syria.

Moreover, along with the strong evidence of the Saudi presence in Syria, there are also witnesses and even participants of Riyadh’s intervention. At the very beginning of conflict, Daily Telegraph journalists stated that Syrian Army arrested several opposition militants who confessed in being paid from the representatives of Saudi Arabia directly through their commanders. They also admitted that they got about $25 per day without including $400 for their participation in military operations against the Syrian government.

It should be mentioned that Saudi Arabia’s Defense budget is still one of the biggest in the world and equals to $18.7 billion while the manpower of Saudi Arabia estimates some 200,000 servicemen. In comparison, China spends $17 billion on defense with the strength of 2,4 million servicemen. Consequently, it is believed that the military budget is spent on financing terrorist and radical organizations, due to which the KSA government tends to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria.

After beginning of the conflict Syrian citizens in order to save their lives flooded different European countries and other parts of the world, instead of going to the Gulf States. At the same time a lot of terrorists under the guise of refuges entered Europe in order to commit terrorists act and spread Islamist propaganda. Consequently Gulf States are exporting terrorism all around the world but trying not to be blamed for these actions.

To be mentioned is that Al-Jubeir’s statement drastically differs for the earlier stated goal as Saudi Arabia is unlikely interested in peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis. Saudi Arabia also fears that if the Syrian government gets an upper hand over terrorists, they will have to return home. Thus, the major part of the militants is the Persian Gulf citizens and it is a direct threat to the Saudi Arabia regime.

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Syria: Consign “Barrel Bombs” to the Propaganda Graveyard

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Every time one of these barrels strikes, it is the seismological equivalent of a 7.6 magnitude earthquake, and it happens around 50 times a day.  (In Syria)You can’t dial 911. You can’t dial the fire service. You can’t call the local police department. They don’t exist.” ~ James Le Mesurier, British ex-military trainer of the NATO-state, multi-million-dollar-funded White Helmets, based in Gaziantep, Turkey.

In an interview with CNN in May 2015, this is the claim made by British mercenary trainer of the White Helmets to Dr Sanjay Gupta. Again, in June 2015, Le Mesurier made a similar claim to an audience during a speech at The Performance Theatre, Lisbon  entitled very grandly, “Act 1: Witnesses to history in the making”.

On the front page of the fraudulently named Syria Civil Defence aka the NATO state sponsored, White Helmets, there is the same claim made by the extensively discredited, Ammar Al Salmo“leader” of the Syria Civil Defence in Aleppo:

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Al Salmo’s “evidence” was pivotal to the US alliance claims that, on 21st September 2016, Russian jets had targeted a humanitarian convoy to the west of Aleppo – Urum al Kubra, causing international outcry and almost precipitating a terrifying escalation of the conflict between Russia and the US on Syrian soil. Claims that were universally debunked, as were so many before them. Syricide on Twitter produced a video that demonstrates the grave anomalies in the Al Salmo report, that was used to trigger international outrage against Russia and the Syrian government.

In November 2016, Raed Saleh, president of the White Helmets and “humanitarian” poster boy for the international community supporting the terrorist support group, gave an acceptance speech for the Right Livelihood Award. During this speech, Saleh reinforced the barrel bomb/earthquake imagery and increased the magnitude to a whopping 8:0

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Here is the segment of the speech in which Saleh presents the barrel bomb case. Watch ~

Just after the liberation of East Aleppo by the Syrian Arab Army and allies, BBC Radio 4 interviewed James Le Mesurier who trotted out the usual platitudes regarding his band of “selfless humanitarians”, described, universally as “Nusra Front civil defence” by Syrian civilians freed from almost five years of Nusra Front-led terrorist and extremist imprisonment, supported by the interventionist alliance of the US, UK, EU, Gulf States, Turkey, Israel, Canada, Jordan & Australia & Co.This time the BBC, themselves, announce that one barrel bomb is equivalent to an earthquake of an 8:0 magnitude, so parroting the White Helmet and NATO-state-aligned NGO narrative without hesitation. Listen to the interview here. 

We have compiled statements by James Le Mesurier into a short video. They include the bare-faced lie, presented to CNN, that in Syria there is no emergency number to call for rescue or fire services, an attempt by this UK regime intelligence operative & OBE recipient, to disappear the REAL Syria Civil Defence, established in 1953: Watch ~

Do they have us over a Barrel?Just a casual check on scientific charts correlating Richter scale magnitude with corresponding amounts of explosives will show that anything above a 7.0 magnitude would require as much as 20 billion kilograms of TNT, or according to other charts as much as 10 megatons, something approaching the output of an atom bomb, greater than the one used against Hiroshima by the US.

21st Century Wire had previously debunked CNN claims, in October 2016, that a White Helmet centre in Damascus had been targeted by a barrel bomb:

A NOBEL LIE: CNN’s Claim That ‘White Helmets Center in Damascus’ Was Hit by a Barrel Bomb

In August 2015, Ken Roth, director of Human Rights Watchtweeted that “Assad’s barrel bombs” were equivalent to the US nuclear bomb that had destroyed Hiroshima.

YallaLaBarra’s blog addressed Ken Roth’s unhealthy obsession with barrel bombs:

“This was the first of a whopping 200 Syria tweets that he has posted about “barrel bombs”. These don’t include at least an equal number of other anti-government tweets that range from Assad’s “use of chemical weapons against his people” to fawning praise of militants in Syria. Between 12 November 2013 and December 2014, Ken Roth tweeted about “barrel bombs” (BB) a total of 65 times. This is no small number, but it pales in comparison to the 135 barrel bomb tweets he posted in 2015 – thus far. During the first 8 months of 2015, the frequency of barrel bomb tweets varied from month to month. For example, after having posted 27 BB tweets in February of 2015, he surprisingly controlled his urges and kept it at under 15 for each of the following 4 months (March -June). In July his obsession got the best of him and he graced us with 28 BB tweets.Things got worse in August with a staggering 40 BB tweets. One of the reasons the BB tweeting became so trigger happy in the last two months is because he is now frantically inserting “barrel bombs” into tweets that are unrelated to the topic.”

Now lets consider the earthquake magnitude claim, bearing in mind that, at various stages, members of the NATO-aligned White Helmets and associated NGOs, & corporate media outlets have stated that as many as 50 of these earthquakes are hitting Syria per day for possibly the last six years.

Here’s a look at the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which struck January 12, 2010. The earthquakemeasured a “mere” (by White Helmet standards) 7.0 magnitude:

earthquake-haiti

Figures taken from Dec.org reports.

Corporate Media Plays Along

On the 10th January 2017, the Independent’s headline was – “Assad ‘dropped 13,000 barrel bombs on Syria in 2016’, watchdog claims” .

So according to this headline, Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, personally dropped 13, 000 (equivalent to) atom bombs on his own country and people in 12 months. Even the war-hungry US administration, with its penchant for obliterating entire nations would struggle to match that accolade!

snhr

The “watchdog” that has been cited by The Independent is none other than the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a long term purveyor of the barrel bomb myth and one of the multitude of NGOs affiliated with the anti-Syria-war-propaganda-impresario, George Sorosalong with the Ford Foundation & the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Helicopters Carry Two Bombs

James Le Mesurier confirms what independent warfare analysts had previously told me, that a helicopter will carry two barrel bombs at at time.SNHR report:

“The report documents that Syrian regime helicopters dropped 12,958 barrel bombs in 2016. Most of these barrel bombs were dropped in Damascus suburbs governorate, followed by Aleppo and then Hama, Idlib, Daraa, and Homs. Furthermore, November 2016 saw the most of these barrel bombs with 1946 dropped followed by June, and then January and August.”

In order to achieve this, the Syrian Airforce would have to fly 19 helicopter missions per day every day for the whole year. That is with limited airports available to them, the effect of sanctions,resulting in fuel shortages, and taking into consideration daylight hours and distances to and from alleged targets. Not to mention, downtime, maintenance etc.

Also, if there had been 19 helicopter flights per day over this time period, is it not strange that we dont see footage of these helicopters other than the oft recycled images & video that are used to depict these attacks? The NATO state funded, Turkish based and trained “citizen journalists” cameramen and women, “activists” have the equipment to record such flights, surely?

In this video which is a 9 minute alleged compilation of barrel bomb attacks, we actually see what looks suspiciously like reused shots of barrel bombs, or rudimentary finned Mortar-type bombs, being dropped by helicopters. The majority of the footage is actually of airforce, air to ground missile attacks on various terrorist and extremist held positions in Syria. There is the clear sound of Combat jets prior to the bombing.

James Longman of the BBC, embedded with such “activists & citizen journalists” in Homs & Damascus in 2011, during the early days of the NATO state-fomented armed uprising against the Syrian state, told the Frontline Club that they had impressive technological/media capabilities. So why is there not better coverage of the 19 helicopter missions per day?

danny-longman

Taken from James Longman’s Facebook post. I was blocked for 7 days on Facebook for violating “community standards” when I reposted a screenshot of our debate and Longman has now blocked me on Twitter.

The Nusra Front-led factions, with whom these so called “activists” and “citizen journalists” are embedded, certainly have the “equipment” to shoot helicopters down..as with the Russian helicopter flying in humanitarian aid in August 2016.

The Numbers Game

In their report, SNHR claim:

“According to the report, the barrel bombs that were dropped by Syrian regime warplanes in 2016 resulted in the killing of 653 civilians including 166 children and 86 women.”

How reliable these figures are, is hard to analyse. The majority of the statistics reported by these weaponized NGOs come from the SOHR (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights) that is notorious for mingling “civilian” deaths with those of the NATO-state funded and armed terrorist & extremist factions. The SOHR is in reality, Rami Abdulrahman, an EU funded one-man-band operating out of Coventry in the UK and communicating with “activists” via Skype.

“Abdulrahman of the SOHR admitted in 2012: “I have thousands of rebels in the civilian list. I put all the non-defectors in the civilian list…It isn’t easy to count rebels because nobody on the ground says ‘this is a rebel.’ Everybody hides it.” In another interview he confirmed the view that “most of Syria’s dead were combatants, not civilians.” ~ The Death Toll in Syria, What do the Numbers Really Say?

According to a former US diplomat who had served in Syria:

“I have serious problems with all the talk about military intervention in Syria. Everyone, especially the media, seems to be relying solely on anti-regime activists for their information. How do we know 260 people were killed by the regime in Homs yesterday? That number seems based solely on claims by anti-regime figures and I seriously doubt its accuracy.” ~ Veteran US Diplomat Questions Syria Storyline by Sharmine Narwani.

barrel-bombs-syria-e1459968742827

According to their previous meme, for the period between March 2011 and March 2016, over 35, 956 barrel bombs have been dropped by the Syrian airforce, killing 14, 652 civilians. Now this is a fascinating piece of analysis by SNHR, as even, NATO intervention sympathiser, Elliot Higginsaka Brown Moses of Bellingcat states that the first recorded barrel bomb attack in Syria, was in August 2012. A fact, corroborated by Wikipediain their list of barrel bomb attacks.

So if we rely upon Soros-allied SNHR, the barrel bomb attacks started 17 months before they were first recorded. Impressive. This immediately skews the numbers they are presenting.

In “The Barrel Bomb Conundrum”, Craig Murray states, (emphasis added):

“It is a fascinating example of a propaganda meme. Barrel bombs are being used by Syrian government forces, though on a pretty small scale. They are an improvised weapon made by packing conventional explosive into a beer barrel. They are simply an amateur version of a conventional weapon, and they are far less “effective” – meaning devastating – than the professionally made munitions the UK and US are dropping on Syria, or supplying to the Saudis to kill tens of thousands of civilians in Yemen, or to Israel to drop on children in Gaza.”

East Aleppo Liberation Opens Pandora’s Box?

If an earthquake has occurred anywhere in Syria, it is the tectonic plates of corporate media obscurantism and deceit being torn assunder by the truth that has emerged from the liberated districts of East Aleppo.  Civilians escaping their almost five year ordeal of life under Nusra Front-led occuption and brutal imprisonment, exposed the truth behind the corporate media pre-fabricated narratives that had in effect prolonged the suffering of these people, while amplifying the voices of their captors, described euphemistically as “rebels” by the majority of the predatory NATO-aligned “mockingbird” media and NGOs

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Nusra Front Hell Cannon, captured in Sheikh Saeed, East Aleppo. 12/12/2016. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

img_1813

Nusra Front Hell Cannon, captured in Sukare, East Aleppo. 24/12/2016. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

No mention is made by this media-propaganda juggernaut of the 11,000 recorded and documented dead civilians, among them thousands of children, murdered by the “hell cannon” mortar fire, sniper fire and explosive bullets from Nusra Front-led terrorists in East Aleppo fired deep into Syrian state protected West Aleppo. These figures were given to me by Head of Forensics in Aleppo, Dr Zahar Hajjo and confirmed by Eva Bartlett during her debate with Dilly Hussain on RT.

Nor is there any mention of the recent discoveries of what look suspiciously like barrel bombs, previously stored by Nusra Front and assorted extremist factions in ammunuition depots in the liberated areas of East Aleppo:

There has also been a recent discovery of a vast quantity of gas canisters in the liberated Kalaseh district of East Aleppo. Lets have a look at the technical specification of the barrel bomb. According to an animated depiction of the composition of the barrel bomb, they are filled with “twisted shards of metal shrapnel. When detonated the metal explodes in every direction causing tremendous damage to the immediate area”.

bb

Barrel bomb as depicted in video. Screenshot.

Compare this to a description of the Nusra Front Hell Cannon mortars, from an Aleppo resident:

“The terrorists are using mortars, explosive bullets, cooking-gas cylinders bombs and water-warming long cylinders bombs, filled up with explosives and shrapnel and nails, in what they call “Hell Cannon”. (google these weapons or see their YouTube clips. The cooking-gas cylinder is made of steel, and it weighs around 25 kg. Imagine it thrown by a canon to hit civilians? And imagine knowing that it’s full with explosives?… Yet, the media is busy with the legendary weapon of “barrel bombs”! They came to spread “freedom” among Syrians! How dare they say that Syrian army shouldn’t fight them back?”

Can you tell them apart? 

Many civilians that I interviewed as they were streaming out of the liberated areas of East Aleppo told me that the Nusra Front-led terrorist and militant gangs had often attacked civilian homes, schools and hospitals in the same areas and then blamed it on the Syrian national army.Is it so far fetched to suggest that the barrel bomb myth is just that, a myth propagated by those who are claiming to be under attack while attacking civilians in the areas occupied or besieged by these terrorist factions?

Here is one such testimony from one of the first civilians I spoke to, on the 10th December 2016, in Hanano which had been fully liberated two days previously. Watch: 

ConclusionIt is surely time to put the barrel bomb to bed? It is now an outdated and debunked, mass produced myth. 50 earthquakes per day of an 8.0 magnitude would have obliterated the entire region. Enough of these theatrics designed to obfuscate the very real bloodshed that is being witnessed daily in Syria as a result of the dirty war being waged against it by the US neocons and war hawks, hell-bent on regime change and the weakening of the sovereign nation to please their Israeli allies in the region.

I leave you with a timeless classic, “The Barrel Bomb Song” featuring Ken Roth, a fitting epitaph for one of the most flagrant media fabrications and distortions of the almost six year war of aggression against Syria led by a multitude of NATO & Gulf state funded and armed atrocity committing extremists.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Syria: Consign “Barrel Bombs” to the Propaganda Graveyard

Saddam Grandson: Only Turkey Can Enter Mosul

Procès Saddam Hussein

Mesut Torun rejects allegations of links between IS and Baath Party and says battle of Mosul is ‘war of liberation’ against Iran, US

Mesut Torun is the grandson of the former Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein. Born and raised in Turkey, the 33-year-old still flies the flag for the now-banned Baath Party and its struggle for what he calls the “liberation” of Iraq from Iran and the US.

Iraqi government forces fighting to capture Mosul from Islamic State militants are committing “genocide” against the population, and are facing resistance from Baathists and other Sunni forces in the city, according to Torun.

Mesut Torun says of the Mosul battle against the Iraqi government: ‘This is a war of liberation, a struggle for independence. We are fighting against Iran, the United States and more than 60 countries’ (MEE)

Baath militants are fighting the Islamic State group, as well as Iran, the US and Shia militias operating in Iraq, claims the late ruler’s grandson, who says that only Turkey should enter the city to protect its Sunni population.

‘This is a war of liberation, a struggle for independence. We are fighting against Iran, the United States and more than 60 countries’

“This is a war of liberation, a struggle for independence. We are fighting against Iran, the United States and more than 60 countries. If only the Iranian militia would withdraw from our territory, we will be able to regain Baghdad within 48 hours,” Torun told Middle East Eye.

Torun, based in Turkey, says the Baath party and its leader Izzet Ibrahim al-Duri has expressed support for the Turkish government and his own relatives came out on the streets in Istanbul during the 15 July coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Torun denies that the Baath cooperate with IS, which is reported to have recruited many former Baath party supporters. Senior Baath intelligence and military officers became instrumental in the militant group’s seizure of swathes of Iraqi territory in 2014, according to several reports.

Torun claimed that the US and Iran control IS, and that the power of the group has been greatly exaggerated by international forces. Stating that there were more than 70 groups in Iraq fighting against government forces, Torun said that the main strength is not IS, but Baath militants. “Kerame Units, Liberation and Peace Brigade and Naqshbandi Army are fighting in Mosul with the Jihad and the High Command of Salvation. All of these groups answer to our leader Izzet Ibrahim al-Duri. Sunni tribes were also involved in this war in 2012. These tribes also belong to our leader.

Of course, there are also small Sunni groups not affiliated to the Baath. The Baath Party and Sunni tribes in Mosul are fighting [the government and foreign forces] not ISIS. This is a struggle for independence against more than 60 countries.

Torun claims IS are in a “state of panic” in Mosul and that the Baath, under the banner of the Naqshbandi Army, have launched attacks against the group in recent days inside Mosul. The Baath Party is part of a coalition of Sunni resistance forces seeking to remove IS and end the Iranian “occupation” of Iraq, he said.

Since the 2003 invasion, we have given 160,000 martyrs. Most of them are senior officers, teachers, engineers. Ba’ath is not just a structure that fights for power in Iraq. Our leader al-Duri does not have a goal to be the prime minister. This is a war of liberation, a struggle for independence.

Torun sums up the demands of the Baath Party for the solution to the crisis in Iraq: “Initially, the end of the Iranian occupation in the country, a new transition government, the beginning of constitutional work and stopping the exclusion of the Sunnis.”

Son of Uday Hussein

Torun’s mother Sevim, who died in 2010, was Turkish. She visited Iraq during the Saddam era and married his eldest son Uday, who met her after she entered a Baghdad beauty contest in 1982. However, the relationship with the Iraqi ruler’s notoriously violent son quickly deteriorated and Sevim, discovering she was pregnant, moved back to Turkey without the knowledge of Uday. Torun was then born.

Torun is one of the few survivors of Saddam Hussein’s family after many, including his father Uday, were killed following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. He is in contact with the Baath Party, which is still known to be active in Iraq, and shares its view of the situation in the country.

IS power ‘exaggerated’

According to Torun, who argues that IS is a common project of the US and Iran, the power of the organisation is deliberately exaggerated as part of a strategy to destroy the legitimacy of the “Iraqi resistance”.

ISIS is a terrorist organisation, there is no dependence on them. In the past days, the Naqshbandi Army organised major operations against ISIS in Mosul. As a result, we know that there is great panic in the organisation. So we are fighting inside Mosul against ISIS, and outside we are fighting against Iran, the US and Shia militias. I know it’s hard to believe but Baath does not want to put itself in the foreground. It is a part of our strategy. We [the Baath Party] do not ignore IS’ existence in the country, but they [IS] are not the main strength in the conflict.

Torun, who believes that it is not possible for IS to maintain its existence in Iraq, said: “The people of the region, the local forces and the tribes, are permanent here. They are the true owners of the country” and not IS.

‘Genocide’

Describing the conditions and US-backed offensive to capture Mosul as “genocide”, Torun criticises the international community for being silent on the situation.

Civilians are being targeted by a very heavy bombardment. It is very sad that the international community has not reacted to this situation. This is genocide. People are surrounded and struggling in hunger and without medical support. Despite all this, our troops are exhibiting extraordinary resistance.

Torun argues that Mosul is the fortress of the Sunni insurgency. “If Mosul is overtaken by government forces, the security of Turkey will be in danger. We know that Iranian Shia militias have threatened Turkey before. However, we know that the same militias also want to go to Syria to support the Assad regime. If Mosul is lost, all the Sunnis will lose,” he said.

Only Turkey can enter Mosul

Saddam’s grandson said that Turkey would be forced from its Bashiqa base in northern Iraq by pressure from Iran, which wants Turkey pushed out of Iraq.

However the “resistance” forces in Mosul wanted Turkey alone to send its forces to take the city, said Torun. “Iran wants Turkey to be pushed out of the game in Iraq. As the Iraqi resistance, we say that only Turkey can enter Mosul. No other force can enter Mosul. We have also called on Turkey before to solve the problems in the region. Our leader, al-Duri, had previously congratulated the Turkish government after the [2015] election. He ended the statement by saying “your brother Ibrahim” to President Erdogan. We are with the present government for the interests of the region and Turkey.”

Torun also said: “Only the Turkish flag is the unbeaten flag of Islam. It is the flag of the Ottoman Empire, so it is the flag of all of us. That’s what the Baath Party thinks.”

Saddam’s heir?

Torun denied any aspiration to take over the leadership of the Baath party as the heir of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He said those in the party who believed this “should not talk dreamy. I have no personal passions. I depend on our leader al-Duri.

I do not want to put myself in the foreground. We have a party and an army. Our party has directors. There are people who are martyred in this struggle and who pay a big price. My job as the grandson of Saddam Hussein is to support our party. My only goal is to be a servant and a soldier of Sheikh Izzet Ibrahim al-Duri, our leader. The claims I deserve from my grandfather’s heritage are not true. If I have a right, be merciful to the people of Iraq.

Torun, who is also known as Mesut Uday Saddam Hussein, stated that he wanted to carry his grandfather’s last name, and that this was of spiritual importance to him.

He defended his grandfather’s record, saying that he was a bulwark against the expansion of Iran in the region for many years. ”We believe that the US wants to link Iraq to Iran and open up the Shia expansion in the Middle East. My grandfather Saddam Hussein was the safety valve of the Gulf states and Arab society, which prevented the formation of the present Shia sickle. After this safety valve was removed, everyone found himself neighbouring Iranian and sectarian militias.”

Noting that the Trump administration’s Iraq policy was unclear, Torun said the new administration “should develop realistic solutions.”

Links to Turkish militants

Despite keeping a low profile, Torun has been working with radical Islamist associations known in Turkey for their closeness to the Iraqi Baath Party and has made several press statements in front of the Iranian and US consulates. He said that he occasionally received death threats from Kurdish nationalists and Shia militias.

In March 2015, a bomb attack targeted the Istanbul office of Adimlar magazine, where Torun has a senior editorial role. The magazine is known for its ties to the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders’ Front or İBDA-C, a militant Salafist group that opposes secular rule in Turkey and has claimed responsibility for small-scale attacks in the country in the past.

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Assassination of a Saint: The US Trial for the Killing of El Salvador’s Oscar Romero

"Learn from History", 31st Anniversary of the Assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero

Óscar Romero was known as the voice of the voiceless. During a time of great repression and violence in El Salvador, from 1977 to 1980, he was the Catholic archbishop of the nation’s capital and a leading figure in Central America. Romero gained admiration throughout the world because he had the courage to speak out in favor of the millions of Salvadorans without money or power who suffered terribly at the hands of the autocratic military. In specific and strident terms, he denounced Salvadoran soldiers for torturing and killing innocent civilians, and he criticized the economic elites – known as the oligarchs – for underwriting the violence. For that, Romero was murdered on March 24, 1980, while saying mass in a chapel on the grounds of a hospital for cancer patients.

The shooting of Archbishop Romero made headlines around the globe and helped spark a twelve-year civil war in El Salvador that left over 75,000 people dead. Although a single gunman fired the fatal bullet, the plot to assassinate Romero sprang from a death squad network of military leaders, wealthy businesspeople and former soldiers. The U.S. government had played an important role in the development of these paramilitary forces in El Salvador, and several Salvadorans implicated in the death squads lived in or traveled to the United States. Some developed relationships with influential figures in Washington.

Starting in 2002, as a young attorney with the Center for Justice & Accountability (CJA), I had the honor of investigating Romero’s murder and participating in a lawsuit against one of the killers, Álvaro Saravia. CJA became involved in the case because Saravia was living freely in California, and a key part of the organization’s mission is to take legal action against human rights violators found in the United States. During the case, my colleagues and I, working with Salvadoran partners, met with members of the group that murdered Romero, spoke to witnesses about the funding of the death squads, and eventually won a $10 million verdict against Saravia. My new book, Assassination of a Saint, tells the story of our investigation and lawsuit and explains the complex historical context that led a group of men in a heavily Catholic country to murder the most prominent figure in the Catholic Church.

This will be an important year for Romero’s legacy. After decades of inaction, the Vatican has now declared Romero a martyr, and Pope Francis appears set to canonize Romero as a saint in 2017. The Salvadoran Supreme Court has also invalidated a long-standing amnesty law, opening the possibility that conspirators still living in El Salvador could one day face accountability there. While the authorities have yet to pursue a prosecution, and the country continues to suffer widespread violence and corruption, the historic developments in San Salvador and Rome provide a measure of hope for the future and reinforce Romero’s enduring message of peace and justice.

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on Assassination of a Saint: The US Trial for the Killing of El Salvador’s Oscar Romero


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