Archive | Iraq

US contributed to ISIS creation, now tries to claim victory over it – Iraqi VP talks tough

NOVANEWS

The recapture of Mosul is an achievement of the Iraqi people while the US is trying to highjack it and claims it was them who “led that war,” Iraq’s Vice President Nouri al-Maliki has told the RIA Novosti news agency.

Yes, they supported us with aviation, but the main credit goes to the Iraqi soldiers, people’s militia, Iraqi air force,” al-Maliki stated in his interview with the Russian news agency.

He added that he “regrets and denies [Americans] claiming the victory [in Mosul] is their achievement.”

In reality, this is the victory of the Iraqi army,” al-Maliki said, revealing that the victory came a high cost, with some 20,000 Iraqi soldiers and police officers having been either killed or wounded.

Photo published for Cost of making western Mosul ‘liveable’ double previous estimates, UN warns — RT News
Cost of making western Mosul ‘liveable’ double previous estimates, UN warns — RT News

The cost of stabilizing areas of western Mosul and making them liveable is double previous estimates and will be about $700 million, the UN said, adding that though the fighting has ceased, “the…

rt.com

The Iraqi military did everything possible “not to destroy the city more than it was necessary in the circumstances of war,” he said, adding, that as a result, the battle for Mosul lasted for nine months.

“We could have surrounded the city, but then its residents would have suffered from famine.”

There were some 5,000 terrorists in Iraq, with between 2,000 and 3,000 of them having been killed. Others are still hiding or have fled with the refugees, according to the Iraqi vice-president.

The victory is yet not final,” the top Iraqi official said, explaining that there are “still small terrorist hubs in the city,” as well as terrorist “sleeper cells” across the country.

READ MORE: General blasts activists who claim Mosul retaken from ISIS with excessive force

There are sleeper cells in Baghdad, from time to time they take action and perform bombings… That’s not worrying in a military sense. Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] is unable to advance or capture territories, they will not be able to hold the occupied regions, but from the security point of view there are still sleeper cells and lone wolves, used by IS,” al-Maliki said.

While the US has provided support to the Iraqi army and allied forces, it has contributed to the emergence of IS in the first place, al-Maliki claimed, adding that Washington now seeks to establish military bases on Iraqi territory in order to maintain influence in the region.

Photo published for ‘Fight far from over’: US troops expected to stay in Iraq after ISIS’ defeat — RT Trends
‘Fight far from over’: US troops expected to stay in Iraq after ISIS’ defeat — RT Trends

‘Fight far from over’: US troops expected to stay in Iraq after ISIS’ defeat on RT. Find and read the latest news and articles on RT web site. Follwow us on social networks.

rt.com

IS resembles the Taliban which was created by the US administration to counter the USSR in Afghanistan. The same way, IS was created to counter the Iraqi stance, which did not agree to blockade Syria, was against no-fly zones in Syria and against American military bases,” he stated.

The Iraqi society is against foreign military bases on the country’s territory,” al-Maliki told RIA, adding that he has already warned the Americans against “coming back to Iraq and setting up bases here.”

Posted in USA, Iraq0 Comments

U.S. killing more civilians in Iraq, Syria than it acknowledges

NOVANEWS

Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this article misstated how many civilian deaths the coalition has acknowledged. The correct number it has admitted to is 21.

ISTANBUL — Al Gharra is a mud-brick village built on hard, flat Syrian desert and populated by the descendants of Bedouin. It is a desolate place. Everything is dun colored: the bare, single-story houses and the stony desert they stand on. There is not much farming — it is too dry — just a few patches of cotton and tobacco.

Before the war, villagers got a little money from the government to look after the national park on Mount Abdul-Aziz, a barren rock that rises 3,000 feet behind the village and stretches miles into the distance. Mount Abdul-Aziz is named after a lieutenant of the 12th-Century Muslim warrior Saladin, who built a fort to dominate the plain below. There is a military base there today too, which changes hands according to the fortunes of Syria’s civil war. In 2011, the regime of Bashar al-Assad held the base; next it was the rebels of the Free Syrian Army; then the so-called Islamic State (ISIL or ISIS); and finally the Kurds, who advanced and took the mountain last May under the cover of American warplanes.

Abdul-Aziz al Hassan is from al Gharra, his first name the same as the mountain’s. He left the village while the Islamic State was in charge, but it is because of a bomb from an American plane that he cannot go back. What happened to his family is the story of just one bomb of the 35,000 dropped so far during 10,000 missions flown in the US-led air war against the Islamic State.

Al Hassan is in his 20s, small, soft-spoken, with chestnut-brown skin. He said the war did not affect al Gharra much back when the regime or the Free Syrian Army occupied the mountain’s military base. But he remembers the day that the Islamic State came. “I was sitting in front of the house when a jeep passed by and stopped at the shrine to Saladin’s commander,” he said. “They gathered all of the people. One said: ‘We are the Islamic State. We are here to create an emirate based on Sharia (Islamic law).’” From that day, they decreed, men had to be in the mosque, the women at home. If a woman wanted to go to the market, she had to walk with a husband, brother or son. No one outside the family could see women uncovered, even at home. “It wasn’t as if we didn’t know what Islam was. But they didn’t even like the way we prayed. Everything we did was wrong in their eyes.”

Still, the presence of Islamic State fighters in the village was rare. They largely stayed within the base. “We managed to live normal lives most of the time. We had family and friends and loved ones around us. We entered each others’ houses for gatherings or parties. We shared the same happiness and sadness.” The U.S.-led coalition occasionally launched airstrikes in the distance. The ground shook “like an earthquake;” sometimes a house fell down. But it wasn’t the bombs or even the dictates of the Islamic State that made al Hassan first leave home. It was the grinding poverty, worsened by war.

“There was no bread and no work,” he said. He took his wife and daughter and drove to Turkey. “My father stayed there to keep the house. The moment you leave, ISIL takes it. All our belongings are there.”

While al Hassan was in Turkey, as spring turned into summer last year, the war took another turn. Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, controlled territory that stopped just short of the mountain. Backed by American air power, they began an offensive to recapture it from the Islamic State. Al Gharra stood in the way. The road to the nearest town — Hasaka, held by the Kurds — was about a mile away from the village. The first bomb fell on that road between 10 and 11 in the morning on May 6 . Then a plane started circling over the village. People were afraid to stay in their homes. They ran into the open. Al Hassan’s father, Ismail, tried to run as well. But he was too late. The villagers remember seeing the plane point its nose down and dive, dropping a bomb. It then climbed away. Al Hassan’s father lay on the ground in a crumpled heap, dead, in front of the ruins of his house.

An uncle phoned to tell al Hassan what had happened. He rushed back to the village from Turkey. His father had died on the first day of the Kurdish offensive to take the mountain. It was still going on when al Hassan returned. “Most of the people had fled because a drone was still roaming around. The airstrikes didn’t stop … one every 15 to 30 minutes,” he said. There were more bombs as the Kurdish forces advanced. “Any village would be heavily bombed until the Kurds managed to get inside. Then they’d let it be. The airstrikes were unbelievable. It was complete destruction. They kept bombing until they got to the mountain.”

The Kurds told reporters covering the offensive that there were a thousand Islamic State fighters at the mountain base. But Al Hassan is adamant that no Islamic State fighters were in the village when his father died. “The Islamic State were not there at the time of the bombing,” he said. “Whenever they expected a strike, they would leave the villages.” And anyway, he went on, they had already sent their troops to try to block the Kurdish advance at the frontline close to Hasaka. “During the airstrikes there was no one. There is no need to lie about this. I don’t support any of the groups fighting this war. The only thing that matters to me is my family’s security.”

There were no independent witnesses in al Gharra to say whether or not Islamic State fighters were there. The YPG general commanding the assault on what the Kurds call Mount Kezwan thought so, or at least he was inclined to see villagers and Islamic State fighters as one and the same. He was quoted as saying that “many of the local villages are Arab and they often support ISIL.” And in the offensive against the jihadist group, the Kurds are often fighting for land they would claim as part of their own future state. They see the Arabs in some of the towns and villages they have captured as aliens with no right to be there.

Al Hassan left his village for the second time — again with his family — a day before the Kurdish forces took full control of the area. They fled over the mountain and drove through Raqqa, the place the Islamic State calls its capital, before crossing the Turkish border. “When the Kurds arrived, they kicked everybody out under the pretext that ISIL had littered the village with booby traps,” he said. “So the entire village left. Almost half of the village was destroyed — then it was completely empty.”

Before they left, they buried his father in a simple grave in the village’s small cemetery. Ismail was 55 and left behind 10 children. Al Hassan was the eldest. “Death comes for all of us. But he wasn’t old and he was the entire family’s provider.” His father’s house — now a pile of rubble — had been home for the whole extended family. “Even if we went back, where would we live? In our destroyed house?” Al Hassan asked bitterly. “Does the American government think we have money? Do they think I can just go back and rebuild our house?” He and the rest of the family are now stuck in Turkey … refugees.

The U.S. military could not confirm whether or not bombs were dropped on al Gharra (also known as al Gharba). A spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the name of the U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State, offered a vague response to our questions. He simply said the coalition had “conducted a number of airstrikes near al Hasaka” on May 6 and 7. When pressed about whether the mountain or the village was hit on those days, the spokesman replied: “We can confirm that Abdul-Aziz mountain is geographically close enough to be considered ‘near al Hasaka.’ However, we do not have a record of striking that particular mountain.”

As a result of al Hassan’s testimony provided by GlobalPost, U.S. Central Command — CENTCOM — said it would look again at whether it did bomb the village. For now, the United States has no record of killing any civilian in al Gharra. GlobalPost found other instances of U.S. airstrikes — detailed below — that probably killed civilians but which were not officially investigated, or which were investigated and dismissed. In almost a-year-and-a-half of bombing Iraq and Syria, the United States admits to killing just 21 innocent people. An independent monitoring group says the real figure could be more than a thousand.

The explanation for the U.S. military’s impossibly low number can be found in the very way it investigates its own airstrikes. A CENTCOM spokesman told us that all civilian casualties were investigated — even if something as insubstantial as an anonymous post to Twitter was the only source. But some U.S. investigations were cursory at best, amounting to what appears to be willful blindness. In an airstrike on one Syrian village — also detailed below — it seems that simple confusion over place names meant that civilian casualties were never investigated and were left uncounted. A coalition spokesman eventually said that CENTCOM would review that case too, after GlobalPost pointed out the village on a map.

Standing orders — the Rules of Engagement — give every mission in Operation Inherent Resolve the goal of causing zero civilian casualties. But given the immense firepower deployed in Iraq and Syria, killing civilians is frighteningly easy, especially from the air. American pilots and their commanding officers are heavily dependent on information from Kurdish troops. In several cases we have looked at, witnesses say civilians were at the scene but the pilots — or the Kurds calling in the strike — thought they were Islamic State fighters. In the few cases where the United States admits killing civilians, the explanation is often the same: the civilians ran into the target area just after the pilots pulled the trigger.

It is difficult — almost impossible — to visit territory controlled by the so-called Islamic State. But we know about airstrikes from witnesses, survivors, human rights activists, video uploaded to YouTube and even lists of the dead published on Facebook. If you believe that evidence, many more civilians are dying in American airstrikes than the U.S. government acknowledges. People in Iraq and Syria can see what is happening. And so can the enemy. The Islamic State portrays the conflict as a war on Sunnis and a war on Muslims. When the coalition kills civilians — and does not investigate and apologize — the Islamic State fills the void with propaganda. The war against the Islamic State is ultimately a war for Sunni public opinion. Things look very different from the ground.

War will always result in civilian casualties — and some in the U.S. military want the strategy to recognize that. Those in uniform cannot state their views openly but a former U.S. Air Force general, David Deptula, argues that the current policy is imposing restrictions on the fighting men and women in the field well beyond the laws of war. “The laws of armed conflict do not require, nor do they expect, a target of zero unintentional civilian casualties,” he told me. “There is no such thing as immaculate warfare, it’s a horrible thing, an ugly thing, and … we need to finish it as rapidly as possible…What is the logic of a policy that restricts the use of air power to avoid the possibility of collateral damage, while allowing the certainty of the Islamic State’s crimes against humanity?”

The Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, has said: “No other military on Earth takes the concerns over collateral damage and civilian casualties more seriously than we do.” Yet as the examples below show there has been no honest official estimate of how many civilians the United States has killed in Iraq and Syria. Even if civilian casualties are an inevitable part of a “just” war, the Western public is being fed the comforting illusion that war can be fought without shedding innocent blood.

And that is simply not the case.

AL KHAN

What may be one of the worst tragedies of the campaign against the Islamic State is said to have taken place on another part of Syria’s Hasaka front in December. Al Khan is a tiny village. Most of the people have fled to Lebanon or Turkey. Perhaps a hundred stayed behind. They say the village was hit by rockets and strafed in the early hours of Dec. 7, killing some 47 civilians, half of them children. We spoke to one of the residents by phone, an Arab man in his 30s who, fearing reprisals from the Kurds, wants to be known only by his nickname, Abu Khalil. The war against the Islamic State here is, again, being waged by American aircraft above and Kurdish militia forces on the ground. Abu Khalil accepts that there was an Islamic State presence in al Khan. But he said: “There were fewer than 10 fighters in the village, including two locals. And they all stayed together at one place.”

Abu Khalil does not support the Islamic State. He is a former civil servant in the Syrian education ministry and once served in the regime army (he deserted). “People in al Khan didn’t like ISIL and always avoided talking to them,” he said. The villagers even tried to expel them. According to one report, there was an altercation that escalated into an exchange of fire. The Islamic State apparently responded by sending reinforcements to the village. This convoy, it seems, was spotted by the Kurds, who no doubt thought they were seeing a big movement of troops to the frontline — and called in air support. If this version of events is true, it is a bitter irony for the villagers. It would mean their brave opposition to the Islamic State resulted in a brutal attack by American aircraft.

Abu Khalil is haunted by that night of carnage and destruction.

“It was past midnight. We were sleeping. We were suddenly wakened by a huge explosion. The house shook. The windows shattered. There was shrapnel in the walls. I ran out and saw my neighbor’s house completely destroyed. He told me, ‘Abu Khalil, I managed to rescue my wife and son but I can’t find my six-month-old baby. Help me!’ I could hear people calling from underneath the rubble. My neighbor’s mother was crying out. She’s 70. I pulled her out, along with a boy and his mother. They were all OK.

“My mother and my aunt both came running to help dig through the rubble. But while we did this, a helicopter — an Apache — came overhead. It fired. They had machineguns with explosive bullets. I was hit. I still have the shrapnel in my body. I fell into the hole made by the airstrike. That was what saved me. The helicopter circled round again and fired a second time. My mother and aunt were killed. The woman and her son I’d rescued were killed. Everyone but me was killed.

“Three powerful rockets were used in the first airstrike. They left a two-meter deep hole in the ground. Anyone could see the hole until the Kurdish militia filled it. They don’t let anyone go near the place or take pictures. Nineteen people died in that one house.

“It was the Americans. For the past year-and-a-half, the only aircraft that fly over our area have been American.”

The U.S. military emphatically denied that they bombed al Khan on Dec. 7, though a spokesman said there were airstrikes in the area of al Hawl, a small town a few miles away. But when the spokesman showed us a map marking the location of the airstrike, it was in the same area where a group of local activists had told us al Khan was located. This was where the locals said the rocket attack had taken place. Confusion over place names happens often enough for the U.S. military to plausibly deny responsibility for civilian casualties and to avoid launching a full investigation.

There was confirmation of an airstrike on al Khan from another important source — the Kurdish forces on the ground — though they denied there had been any civilian casualties at all. Abu Khalil’s account of the attack is consistent with interviews given elsewhere, though there are still many things that are unclear about the events in al Khan. Exactly how many Islamic State fighters were there? How many of them were killed? Were they close to the house that was hit? As in al Gharra, the village in the shadow of the mountain, there are no independent witnesses. In both cases, the airstrikes were almost certainly called in by Kurdish spotters. Information from the Kurds is passed on to a coalition “targeting cell.” Though the coalition’s aircraft are capable of striking with great precision, what they hit — who they hit — depends on the quality of that information. The coalition rarely has eyes and ears on ground. It is left to the pilots to confirm the target, from thousands of feet up.

AL HATRA

The limitations of the pilot’s view are clear in the very first report the U.S. published about civilian deaths caused by Operation Inherent Resolve. A family died because two pilots could not see they were there. The report says the pilots simply did not know they were firing on civilians. It was published in November 2015. Until then, the U.S. military had not admitted to causing a single civilian casualty despite 15 months of bombing.

The report described an attack on March 13 of last year against an Islamic State checkpoint outside al Hatra in northern Iraq. Al Hatra is the site of one of the world’s oldest cities, dating back to the 3rd Century BC. Saddam Hussein restored the ruins, laying bricks stamped with his name into the ancient walls. When the Islamic State arrived, they used sledgehammers, Kalashnikovs and a bulldozer to demolish what they believe are the city’s “idolatrous” statues. Then they turned the site into a training camp, installing a checkpoint on the road nearby.

Two U.S. aircraft were given permission to fire on that checkpoint because it seemed — to the pilots and to everyone involved in the so-called “kill chain” — that no civilians were in the strike area. But a Kia sedan and a Chevy Suburban had been stopped at the checkpoint. They were there long enough for the pilots to think that the vehicles were helping the fighters there. Evidence emerged later that members of a family were in the car: two women and three children. The Suburban is thought to have had at least one other civilian and perhaps too, a family group. Through the dense thicket of military acronyms and jargon in the report, the horror of what happened emerges. The planes were A-10 “Warthogs,” snub-nosed aircraft used against tanks. The A-10s are built around a huge seven-barrel machine gun, like a Gatling gun, the “GAU Avenger,” which fires 50 to 70 rounds a second. Each shell is the size of a bottle of beer and the nose is weighted with a third of a kilogram of depleted uranium. One bullet can cut a human being in half; a stream of them can punch through armor or turn a person into red mist.

The Warthog’s cannon makes a distinctive, terrifying noise during an attack. The gun fires so rapidly it sounds like fabric tearing, or a piece of heavy furniture being dragged across a wooden floor (as one journalist described it while watching A-10s over Baghdad in 2003). The two Warthogs in al Hatra came in on their strafing run. They would have fired in two-second bursts, hitting the vehicles and checkpoint with at the very least 200 rounds, probably more. According to the report, four people got out of one of the vehicles just after the cannon was fired. The bullets hit the vehicles, which exploded in a ball of fire, incinerating everyone close by. “Post strike, both vehicles are on fire and it appears like there is one person still moving at the rear of the sedan,” the report said.

As in al Gharra and al Khan, the victims may well have been people who opposed the Islamic State. The women and children were killed as they were trying to leave territory held by the militant group, according to an email sent to the U.S. military by an Iraqi woman. (The email was sent to claim compensation for the destroyed vehicles.) Prompted by the email to investigate further, the U.S. military found its own evidence that non-combatants had been at the scene. Analysis of video from the Warthog’s camera in the “targeting pod” on the wing showed people getting out of the car and: “One of the persons observed … presents a signature smaller than the other persons. This was assessed as a possible child.” Officials determined this by measuring the height of the shadow when the image was blown up on a large screen.

The pilots could not have done such analysis in flight and the report says: “There is no evidence the aircrew had any opportunity to detect civilians prior to their strike.” The spokesman for U.S. Central Command, Col. Patrick Ryder, told reporters by video-link from Baghdad: “It’s safe to say … that if we knew there were civilians we would not have conducted a strike.” The report into al Hatra concludes, in its strangulated military language: “The NCV [Non-Combat Victims] = 0 objective was not met.”

U.S. forces, then, have orders to try not to kill civilians — it is a mission objective. But that is not the same as an absolute prohibition. And the National Security Council spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, has said that bombing in Iraq and Syria would not be held to the same safeguards used in Afghanistan, which only allow strikes when there is “near certainty” of no civilian casualties.

While the standard for strikes may be rigorous — a goal of zero civilian casualties — a target can be ruled free of non-combatants based on little more than an educated guess by the pilots. The pilots’ methods are reminiscent of the CIA’s controversial “signature” strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Those strikes are called in based not on certain intelligence but because targets have suspicious patterns of behavior, “signatures” of terrorists. Being present in a militant area could be enough.

This is exactly the kind of judgment the Warthog pilots used when targeting the two vehicles held at the Islamic State checkpoint. The report into al Hatra also said that one of the planes dropped a 500-pound bomb on a shack at the checkpoint. “Prior to weapon impact but after weapon release a single adult sized PAX (person) is seen slowly moving to the north,” the report said. “This person is knocked down by the weapon impact and not seen moving again.” Was that a fighter, or a farmer? It is impossible to say.
One other revealing finding of the report is that the people getting out of the car were glimpsed only after the pilot had fired. It would have taken three or four seconds for the cannon rounds to hit the checkpoint. Even if the pilot had realized in that time that they were civilians, he could not have done anything about it. This is the theme of several other U.S. government reports into civilian casualties published in January 2016. Here are three excerpts from a Pentagon press release (Italics added by GlobalPost):

On June 19, 2015, near Tall al Adwaniyah, Syria, during a strike against two ISIL vehicles, it is assessed that one civilian was injured when appearing in the target area after the U.S. aircraft released its weapon.

On June 29, 2015, near Haditha, Iraq, during strikes against one ISIL tactical unit and two ISIL vehicles, it is assessed that two civilians were injured. After the U.S. aircraft engaged the target and two seconds prior to impact, a car slowed in front of the ISIL vehicles while a motorcycle simultaneously passed by.

On July 4, 2015, near Ar Raqqah, Syria, during a strike against an ISIL High Value Individual, a car and a motorcycle entered the target area after the weapon was released. It is assessed that three unidentified civilians were likely killed.

In all these cases, the Pentagon’s reporting says that people wandered into the firing line after the pilot had squeezed the trigger. That is a consequence of fighting in built up areas.

Taking all the published investigations so far, the U.S. military acknowledges causing the sum total of 21 civilian deaths in the campaign against the Islamic State. Such a low number is wildly implausible. Airwars, an independent monitoring group that tracks allegations of civilians casualties, says that at least 862 and as many as 1,190 non-combatants have died in coalition strikes in Iraq and Syria. The Airwars count is made by collating reports from several sources for each strike: human rights activists and the media, Facebook posts, and testimony from survivors and relatives of the dead. Each casualty report is judged credible based on the amount of detail and whether it is consistent with other evidence.

The head of Airwars, Chris Woods, says the “smart bombs” used by Western air forces have clearly reduced the risk to civilians on the battlefield. Nevertheless, he says that in Afghanistan, for example, more civilians died in airstrikes than were killed by foreign ground troops. Airpower was the single greatest cause of civilian death by international forces, killing one civilian for every 11 airstrikes. In Iraq and Syria, the ratio could be even worse, he says, because there are more attacks on “targets of opportunity” than those based on intelligence. And the campaign is being fought mainly in built-up areas where it is hard to distinguish the enemy.

“In the end, the generals who ran Afghanistan, David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, managed to start getting civilian casualties down by admitting they were killing civilians,” he said. War fighters were only forced to change tactics when confronted with the effects of what they were doing. “Right now, we are in the denial phase with the coalition. They don’t admit to killing civilians and we think that’s wrong. … The military is starting to believe their own myth of absolute precision … this fantasy lulls Western audiences into feeling more comfortable with our countries being at war because we think we don’t kill civilians anymore. I’m afraid the reality is far from that.” He went on: “It is probably fair to say that the coalition is taking more care than we have ever seen in any air war in recent history, but that’s relative precision and civilians are still dying … hundreds of them.”

KFAR DERIAN

In September 2014, doctors at a hospital in the southern Turkish city of Iskenderun were presented with a mystery. An injured Syrian boy, four or five years old, was brought there in a coma. He had no identifying documents and no parents, or anyone else, claimed him. Doctors wrote a Turkish name on his chart and kept him in intensive care. They would learn later that the child came from a village called Kfar Derian, just over the border. He was a victim of the very first U.S. airstrikes in Syria. How the coalition responded to what happened in Kfar Derian at least partly reveals why official figures fail to show the true extent of civilian casualties.

U.S. airstrikes in Syria began in the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 22, 2014. Two warships, one in the Red Sea and one in the Arabian Gulf, launched waves of cruise missiles, 47 in all. Some of them were aimed at Islamic State targets in Iraq; some at the Islamic State in Syria. But eight of those missiles were for the Khorasan group, which is part of Al Qaeda. One of them — it seems — hit the village of Kfar Derian. “The attack happened at night,” said Abu Mohammed, a 30-year-old from a neighboring village. He remembered seven or eight impacts spread across the mountainous terrain, coming 30 seconds apart, one after the other. “When the Syrian regime attacked, it was always in the day. The explosions were very big. When the people saw this they said the missiles came from the sea.”

Khorasan was unheard of until it was identified as a threat by the U.S. government. The U.S. said its members were experienced Al Qaeda operatives preparing bomb attacks on Western airlines. They were embedded with Al Qaeda’s Syrian ally, the Nusra Front (which is engaged in its own war with the Islamic State). The day after the attack, the Syrian Network for Human Rights reported that a missile hit a Nusra building, killing many fighters. But they said the explosion was so big that the blast wave also demolished a house 100 yards away — a Tomahawk cruise missile packs a 1,000 pound bomb and flies in at 550 mph. It can cause devastation over a wide area. The activists counted the bodies of 13 civilians in the house, including five women and five children. Abu Mohammed, speaking long after these events, put the number of dead much higher — “six families” — and denies there were armed men in the village: “The people were shepherds, nothing else.”

After the attacks he was asked by local people to go to Turkey to look for a mother and son whose bodies could not be found in the rubble. Three days later, he found the mother in a mortuary. After a week, he still couldn’t find the little boy. “We searched everywhere for him.” Then, having almost given up hope, he showed a picture of the boy at a hospital. Doctors recognized him.

The 5-year-old was not registered under his own name, Humam Darwish. “When I first saw him he was in intensive care, no movements, just breathing, inhaling and exhaling, nothing more. They told us they couldn’t do anything for him.”

Humam did not wake up for months. He is now an orphan — his mother, Fatima, and his father, Mohammed, are both gone — living in a children’s home, and very far from the alert, inquisitive little boy he used to be. Abu Mohammed calls him the sole survivor of a massacre. “Houses were bombed,” he said. “Families died. There were no survivors. The only one who lived was that child.” His testimony has differences with the activists’ account, most importantly his claim that no fighters were in the village. But both agree there were civilian casualties in Kfar Derian. The U.S. military says the eight missiles did not even succeed in wiping out Khorasan. The militants slipped away, tipped off by reconnaissance flights before the strike. Abu Mohammed said: “A day before, there was many scout planes over the area that was bombed.”

The Pentagon has never accepted that it killed civilians in the Khorasan strikes. Two days afterwards, the Pentagon press secretary, Admiral Kirby, was asked about civilian casualties in Kfar Derian. He replied: “We don’t have any credible operational reporting … that would sustain those allegations.” A year later, a declassified internal military document concluded, “no further inquiry required.” This was because: “A review of BDA (battle damage assessment) imagery did not credibly determine that civilians were present at the site. Open source images presented as casualties from the strikes actually came from previous GoS (government of Syria) strikes.”

The monitoring group Airwars say that coverage of Kfar Derian on one English language website did, wrongly, use a picture of a child killed in a regime bombing. But this is the only case they can find of such false reporting, while there were many other genuine images of the strike that Central Command could have used as the basis for an investigation. Woods, the head of Airwars, said such images were ignored for “pure propaganda” reasons — propaganda aimed at Americans, since Iraqis and Syrians already knew people were dying in coalition airstrikes. But Woods says it’s a mistake to think the information can be controlled, when anyone with a camera phone can post video of an airstrike online in minutes. “We know more about the civilian victims of this war, by all parties, than we’ve ever known in any conflict in history. That’s war today.”

He went on: “The Pentagon operates in this weird bubble where it pretends social media hasn’t been invented. It just ignores all these allegations of civilian casualties … If the coalition are not engaging in that territory (responding to claims of civilian casualties on social media), they are effectively ceding it to the Islamic State. The coalition needs to be more honest with Iraqis and Syrians.”

The conventional wisdom is that bombing must increase support for the Islamic State. The conventional wisdom may be wrong, although it is hard to be sure as there is no way to measure public opinion in the “Caliphate.” In the early days of the campaign in Syria, there were some anti-coalition demonstrations with placards declaring: “This is a war on all Sunnis.” But they may have been orchestrated, with people press-ganged to attend. There have been few, if any, large and spontaneous popular protests against the bombing. That maybe because the coalition has killed relatively few noncombatants in Syria compared to the Islamic State and the regime. In January 2015, a group of Syrian doctors said that indiscriminate air attacks by the regime caused 80% of civilian casualties, while the Islamic State caused 15%, and the coalition 5%.

But those who are directly affected by U.S. bombs are, as you would expect, bitter.

“You build in your countries and destroy in ours?” asked Abdul-Aziz al Hassan, who lost his father in the bombing at al Gharra. “Is this how you bring democracy? Stop it. Really, stop it. People are tired.” Abu Khalil, survivor of the devastating attack in al Khan, said he wanted compensation from the United States for the death of his mother. Abu Mohammed, who spoke to us about Kfar Derian simply condemned the United States as “Zionists,” echoing both jihadi and regime propaganda. He wanted nothing to do with America.

All of them sounded more weary than angry.

Posted in Middle East, USA, Iraq, Syria0 Comments

A confrontation is looming on the Iraq-Syria border

NOVANEWS
Image result for Iraq-Syria border CARTOON
By Mehan Abedin 

Reports that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have warned Iraqi Shia militias not to enter SDF-controlled territory are, on the face of it, a potential addition to the complexity of the conflict in Syria. The SDF is dominated overwhelmingly by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish militia which is politically and ideologically aligned to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The YPG is the key US ally in Syria and the spearhead of the imminent assault on the Daesh stronghold of Raqqa.

While it remains to be seen to what extent this belligerent statement by the SDF reflects official YPG policy, there can be little doubt that the inspiration for the move was the United States and the intended recipient of the message is Iran. It is the latest sign of an aggressive US posture in Syria vis-à-vis Tehran and forces aligned with the Iranians. In this instance the primary US objective is to block Iran from constructing a land corridor from Iraq all the way to the Syrian Mediterranean coast.

However, this latest escalation will reinforce Tehran’s determination to press ahead with its plans and to reap the rewards of its considerable investment of blood and money in the Syrian conflict. Iran holds the advantage in this tug of war, for not only is Tehran willing to risk military confrontation but it also has more assets on the ground, as well as greater long-term strategic resolve.

Iraqi dimension

The spectre of Iraqi Shia militias formally organised as Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) on the Iraq-Syria border is a clear sign of the shifting balance of power in Iraq in the wake of Daesh’s military collapse. Whilst the biggest winners of this collapse in north-western Iraq are the Iraqi Kurds, in the context of the US-Iran rivalry in the country, the Iranians have managed once again to outmanoeuvre their American foes. Both powers have invested considerable resources in the fight to dislodge Daesh from Mosul with a view to expanding their own influence in Iraq.

As the Iraqi army and specialised units of the federal Iraqi police force have borne the brunt of the fighting inside Mosul, by contrast the PMUs made a strategic push for areas west of the city. In view of the PMU’s multi-level connectivity to the infrastructure of Iranian influence in Iraq, this decision was almost certainly made in Tehran.

Control of sensitive points on the Iraq-Syria border is a key objective of the PMU, for reasons of deterrence and power projection. From a deterrent point of view, the control of borders creates a wider sense of security and deters Daesh and its allies from regrouping in nearby areas. In terms of power projection, the PMU needs to create an impression that it has the ability (if not the volition) to cross the border brazenly in organised form with a view to supporting the Syrian government and allied forces.

The volition aspect is important as hitherto the PMU has not formally crossed the border, even though large numbers of Iraqi Shia militiamen have undoubtedly crossed in order to augment their Syrian allies in multiple battle zones.

The latest belligerent statement by the SDF notwithstanding, in reality there is little risk of an imminent conflict between the PMU and the YPG. Despite their deep political and ideological differences, both sides share pragmatic common interests, not least antipathy towards Syrian rebels and jihadists.

Moreover, inside Iraq the PMU is allied to the Sinjar Resistance Units (SRU), an ideological compatriot of the YPG in so far as both groups are extensions of the PKK. There are reports that the PMU mopping-up operations at key points on the Iraq-Syria border are being supported actively by the SRU.

Syrian dimension

In grand strategic terms, PMU presence at key points of the Iraq-Syria border essentially means that Iran has established partial control over this sensitive border. Whilst this marks an expansion of Iranian influence in Iraq, its real significance lies in the messages it sends across the border in Syria.

In immediate terms, it is a response to recent US escalation, notably last month’s bombing of a pro-Syrian convoy close to al-Tanf. It is a sign of resolve by the Islamic Republic and a message that it will not sit idly by as the US sets about dominating north-east Syria by proxy, principally via the SDF.

At a deeper strategic level, it signifies Tehran’s resolve to construct the land corridor linking Iran to Syria. This project is vital to Iranian national security as well as wider economic and commercial considerations. Furthermore, the Iranians view this corridor as payoff for their unwavering support to the Syrian government from the onset of the conflict.

In view of the fact that a central aim of US concentration of forces, advisors and proxies in areas close to the Iraqi border appears to be to derail the Iranian land corridor project, a clash at some point is inevitable. De-escalation on this front by either party sends an unmistakable message of weakness with wider repercussions for control of post-conflict Syria.

Within Syria, though, the US is playing catch-up following years of relative disengagement. Absent the deployment of a sizeable military force to eastern Syria, the US is set to lose this tug of war with Iran. For a start, local US allies are neither reliable nor necessarily durable. As an umbrella organisation, the SDF is bound to fragment at some point, most likely following the military defeat of Daesh in Syria.

Whilst the core of the SDF, namely the PKK-aligned YPG, will remain a cohesive force, the durability of “Rojava” as a political entity inside Syria is not a valid proposition. All the key stakeholders in the conflict, notably the Syrian government, the Syrian opposition, the Syrian rebels on the ground, and not least Turkey, are fundamentally opposed to a PKK statelet inside Syria masquerading as Kurdish autonomy.

The battle for eastern Syria will begin in earnest following Daesh’s ejection from Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. Absent a dramatic change in the confluence of perspectives, interests and events, US- and Iranian-aligned forces are set for a major clash in the region.

Posted in Iraq, SyriaComments Off on A confrontation is looming on the Iraq-Syria border

From Anthrax to Iraq

NOVANEWS

Image result for Anthrax CARTOON

corbetreport 

Robbie Martin of AVeryHeavyAgenda.com joins us to talk about his research into the anthrax attacks of 2001. We discuss how false information claiming an Iraqi link to the attacks was sowed via the mainstream media and how the story largely disappeared when the anthrax traced back to the US government’s own bioweapons labs. We also update the case and talk about some of the legitimate suspects in the attacks.

SHOW NOTES AND MP3

Posted in IraqComments Off on From Anthrax to Iraq

Iraqi Forces Carrying Out Tortures in Mosul Mostly Supervised by US – Security Official

NOVANEWS
 

The Iraqi military, who were filmed torturing and abusing civilians, are “mainly supervised by US commanders,” a member of the Baghdad Security Committee, has said, telling RT that American military personnel have “some type of immunity” in such cases.

Saad Al-Muttalibi was responding after damning photos by freelance photographer Ali Arkady were released to the media. The pictures show Iraq’s elite Emergency Response Division (ERD) in Mosul torturing and abusing their captives suspected of having links with Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL).

“It is a war and a war is a horrible thing… It is a fact of war that innocent people will pay with their lives. Such action [torture and abuse] by army is definitely unsanctioned by the [Iraqi] government. We have a number of officers either facing trial or spending prison sentences here in Baghdad because of human right violations,” he said.

 

However, the problem is that military groups carrying out such violations are “mainly supervised by US commanders,” according to Al-Muttalibi.

“The rapid response units were trained by the Americans and are close to the US command,” he said. “They [US commanders] have some type of immunity that we can’t question them,” he added.

The American military has continued to work with the EDR despite the special forces unit being blacklisted in 2015 under the Leahy Act, which requires foreign military units to be banned from receiving US military aid if there is “credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”

A US military spokesman, cited by ABC News, said that although an investigation into new evidence of ERD’s alleged atrocities is warranted, there is no legal reason why the US cannot continue to work with the unit.

“Leahy vetting does not prevent the US from working with the ERD, as we do with other elements of the Iraqi Security Forces, to help ensure a coordinated effort among different elements of the ISF in the fight to defeat ISIS in Mosul,” US Army Col. Joe Scrocca told ABC News.

In one photo series released by Akardy, the EDR soldiers are seen torturing a man in what is known as the strappado. It shows horrendous images where a detainee is hanged by his arms to the ceiling, blindfolded, with officers standing next to him and adding weights to his back to intensify the agony.

Al-Muttalibi told RT that the man in the picture “wasn’t murdered” and he “is alive.”

“The problem with that particular individual is that his son and his brother are members of ISIS. Unfortunately the officer in charge took matter into his own hands,” he said, adding, that the authorities are currently conducting an investigation into the matter.

Al-Muttalibi questioned if the pictures were taken in context, drawing an example of the “quality of the photos” and “the angles of light.”

“As if they [the photos] were orchestrated. The cameraman took a dramatic position to take the picture,” he suggested, adding that the officer who tortured the man and other troops are currently in custody.

Baghdad has taken full responsibility for the case, Al-Muttalibi said.

“Iraqi side is taking steps [to handle the situation], I can’t say the same about the Americans. We don’t know what they are doing.”

 

RT contacted the press service of General Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) which said that the Coalition “does not condone or support any violation of the laws of armed conflict.”

“Any violation of the law of armed conflict would be unacceptable and should be investigated in a transparent manner and those deemed responsible held accountable in accordance with due process and Iraqi law,” the statement said.

According to OIR, the US government’s

“support to the counter-ISIS campaign is conducted by, with, and through the central government of Iraq.”

“…At no time were US forces aware of or informed of these allegations until you brought them to our attention. At which point, we brought them to the attention of the government of Iraq and it is our understanding that they have already opened up an investigation into the allegations.”

Earlier, Human Rights Watch said the photos could possibly also cast a shadow on US and other members of the coalition in the Middle East.

“The US and other members of the anti-ISIS coalition risk complicity in Iraqi abuses given their participation in military operations with the country’s security forces,” HRW statement said.

Communications and Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch in Middle East & North Africa, Ahmed Benchemsi, has called on international governments to be careful when granting military support.

“What we recommend to the US and other international governments is to condition all military support on demonstrable and measurable steps to end abuses. Promises are not enough,” he said.

Posted in IraqComments Off on Iraqi Forces Carrying Out Tortures in Mosul Mostly Supervised by US – Security Official

Understanding the Geopolitics of Terrorism

The latest in a long series of bloody terrorist attacks attributed to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) unfolded in Iran early Wednesday with coordinated armed assaults on the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) and the mausoleum of the late supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini. At least 12 people were killed and 43 wounded.

The reactions of the US government and the Western media to the attacks in Tehran stand in stark contrast to their response to the May 22 bombing that killed 22 people at the Manchester Arena and the London Bridge attacks that claimed nine lives last Saturday.

The Trump White House released a vicious statement that effectively justified the killings in Iran, declaring,

“We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote,” an attitude that found its reflection in the relative indifference of the media to the loss of Iranian lives.

It is clearly understood that terrorism against Iran serves definite political aims that are in sync with those of US imperialism and its regional allies.

Members of Iranian forces take position during an attack on the Iranian parliament in central Tehran, Iran, June 7, 2017. Omid Vahabzadeh/TIMA.

For its part, Tehran’s reaction to the attacks was unambiguous. It laid the responsibility at the door of the US and its principal regional ally, Saudi Arabia.

“This terrorist attack happened only a week after the meeting between the US president (Donald Trump) and the (Saudi) backward leaders who support terrorists,”  Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said in a statement, published by Iranian media.

The attack was understood in Tehran as a political act carried out in conjunction with identifiable state actors and aimed at furthering definite geostrategic objectives.

The same can be said of the earlier acts of terrorism carried out in Manchester and London, as well as those in Paris, Brussels and elsewhere before them.

The Western media routinely treats each of these atrocities as isolated manifestations of “evil” or religious hatred, irrational acts carried out by madmen. In reality, they are part of an internationally coordinated campaign in pursuit of definite political objectives.

Underlying the violence on the streets of Europe is the far greater violence inflicted upon the Middle East by US, British and French imperialism, working in conjunction with right-wing bourgeois regimes and the Islamist forces they promote, finance and arm.

ISIS is itself the direct product of a series of imperialist wars, emerging as a split-off from Al Qaeda, which got its start in the CIA-orchestrated war by Islamist fundamentalists against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan. It was forged in the US war of aggression against Iraq that killed close to a million Iraqis, and then utilized in the 2011 war to topple Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi. Fighters and arms were then funneled with the aid of the CIA into the war for regime change in Syria.

The latest round of terror has its source in growing dissatisfaction among Washington’s Middle Eastern allies and its Islamist proxy forces over the slow pace of the US intervention in Syria and Washington’s failure to bring the six-year war for regime change to a victorious conclusion.

The people giving the orders for these attacks live in upper-class neighborhoods in London, Paris and elsewhere, enjoying close connections with intelligence agencies and government officials. Far from being unknown, they will be found among the top ministers and government officials in Damascus if the US-backed war in Syria achieves its objectives.

Those who carry out the terrorist atrocities are expendable assets, foot soldiers who are easily replaced from among the broad layers enraged by the slaughter carried out by imperialism in the Middle East.

The mass media always presents the failure to prevent these attacks as a matter of the security forces failing to “connect the dots,” a phrase that should by now be permanently banned. In virtually every case, those involved are well known to the authorities.

Manchester bombing (Source: TruePublica)

In the latest attacks in the UK, the connections are astonishing, even given the similar facts that have emerged in previous terrorist actions. One of the attackers in the London Bridge killings, Yousseff Zaghba, was stopped at an Italian airport while attempting to travel to Syria, freely admitting that he “wanted to be a terrorist” and carrying ISIS literature. Another was featured in a British television documentary that chronicled his confrontation with and detention by police after he unfurled an ISIS flag in Regent’s Park.

The Manchester suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, was likewise well known to British authorities. His parents were members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), who were allowed to return to Libya in 2011 to participate in the US-NATO regime-change operation against Muammar Gaddafi. He himself met with Libyan Islamic State operatives in Libya, veterans of the Syrian civil war, and maintained close connections with them while in Manchester.

What has become clear after 16 years of the so-called “war on terrorism”—going all the way back to the hijackers of 9/11—is that these elements move in and out of the Middle East, Europe and the US itself not only without hindrance, but under what amounts to state protection.

When they arrive at passport control, their names come up with definite instructions that they are not to be stopped. “Welcome home, sir, enjoy your vacation in Libya?” “Bit of tourism in Syria?”

Why have they enjoyed this carte blanche? Because they are auxiliaries of US and European intelligence, necessary proxies in wars for regime change from Libya to Syria and beyond that are being waged to further imperialist interests.

If from time to time these elements turn against their sponsors, with innocent civilians paying with their lives, that is part of the price of doing business.

In the aftermath of terrorist actions, governments respond with stepped-up measures of repression and surveillance. Troops are deployed in the streets, democratic rights are suspended, and, as in France, a state of emergency is made the overriding law of the land. All of these measures are useless in terms of preventing future attacks, but serve very well to control the domestic population and suppress social unrest.

If the mass media refuses to state what has become obvious after more than a decade and a half of these incidents, it is a measure of how fully the linkage between terrorism, the Western intelligence agencies and the unending wars in the Middle East has become institutionalized.

Innocent men, women and children, whether in London, Manchester, Paris, Tehran, Baghdad or Kabul, are paying the terrible price for these imperialist operations, which leave a trail of blood and destruction everywhere.

Putting a stop to terrorist attacks begins with a fight to put an end to the so-called “war on terrorism,” the fraudulent pretext for predatory wars in which Al Qaeda and its offshoots are employed as proxy ground forces, operating in intimate collaboration with imperialist intelligence services and military commands.

Featured image: credits to the owner

Posted in Middle East, USA, Iran, Iraq, Syria, UKComments Off on Understanding the Geopolitics of Terrorism

The scramble for control of Syrian-Iraqi border

NOVANEWS
Image result for Syrian-Iraqi border PHOTO
By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline 

The remark by the Syrian Kurdish militia spokesman Saturday that their final assault on the ISIS “capital” city of Raqqa will start “in the coming few days” highlights the keen struggle for control of eastern Syria bordering Iraq that is playing out. The ISIS is staring at defeat and the issue now is what follows thereafter.

The big question is whether Syria survives or will get balkanized. The Russian President Vladimir Putin flagged this stark reality when he said on Friday,

  • Does the possible dismemberment of Syria arouse concern? It certainly does. We are establishing de-escalation zones now and we are afraid that these de-escalation zones may turn into a blueprint for future borders. Russia hopes these safety zones would serve to interact with the Assad government, to start at least some kind of a dialogue, some interaction, as this would help future political cooperation in order to restore Syria’s control over its entire territory and preserve the country’s territorial integrity.

Of course, there is the danger that Syrian war may become a “frozen conflict”. The key, therefore, lies in gaining control of Iraq’s border crossings with Syria across vast desert lands through which Iran renders vital help to the government forces and the Hezbollah and the Shi’ite fighters battling the insurgents and the ISIS.

As the map, here, shows, the Syrian-Iraqi border regions are largely under the control of either US-supported Kurdish and other insurgent fighters or the ISIS and other extremist groups. The Syrian government aspires to regain control of those regions.

Essentially, the struggle is for control of the border crossings that are depicted in the map. Clearly, the border crossing way up in the north is under the control of the Kurdish militia and it remains to be seen (a) whether the US would allow the Kurds to reach an understanding with Damascus; (b) whether Turkey will allow Kurds to consolidate their grip in that area; (c) whether the over-stretched government forces will take on the Kurds or, alternatively, will regard it to be tactically prudent to avoid a shooting match at this point and instead keep options open to eventually negotiate a power-sharing deal with the Kurds.

Unlike the northern front, the central and southern fronts are hotly contested. As the map shows, there is one border crossing in the central front at Al-Bukamal (where the Euphrates flows into Iraq) and another key border crossing is at Al-Tanf in the southern front.

In the central front, Bashar Al-Assad’s forces are in Palmyra and are making their way toward Deir Ezzor where a Syrian garrison is desperately holding out against a siege by the jihadi groups. The US appears to be encouraging the ISIS fighters in Raqqa to evacuate toward Deir Ezzor. But Russian cruise missile strikes recently targeted these ISIS convoys. (Sputnik) The US apparently prefers that somehow Assad’s forces must be prevented from reaching Deir Ezzor, because from there they could take control of the highway leading to the border crossing at Al-Bukamal. (See the map.)

Similarly in the southern front, the US is impeding the advance of the government forces to al-Tanf (which is connected to Damascus), another border crossing into Iraq. The US would hope that the rebel groups in al-Tanf will also seize control of the Al-Bukamal border crossing up north so that US proxies will be in control of the entire Syrian-Iraqi border as well as the southern Syrian region straddling the border with Jordan and the Golan Heights. The game here is essentially about cutting off Iran’s access to Lebanon (Hezbollah).

Why is it so important for the US to prevent Assad’s forces from taking control of the Al-Bukamal and Al-Tanf border crossings? Simply put, the spectre of a Damascus-Baghdad-Tehran land route reopening is what is haunting the US (and Israel), because such a solid land route will have a multiplier effect on Iran’s capacity to influence the future developments in Syria (and Lebanon).

The US has not directly jumped into the fray so far to take control of the Syria-Iraq border. It maintains the pretence that it is narrowly focused on fighting the ISIS. However, when it seemed that Assad’s forces were lunging toward Al-Tanf recently (May 18), the US forced them to turn back by launching an air strike.

The overall balance of forces does favour the Syrian government and in a conceivable future it should take control of Deir Ezzor, Al-Bukamal and Al-Tanf. Thus, the US will have to find a way to work around Assad (and Iran) than work against him. The other option will be to bear the heavy costs of a long-term, open-ended strategy of military intervention and occupation, which doesn’t figure in President Donald Trump’s foreign-policy calculus. The US’s best bet will be to seek some sort of understanding with Russia based on the premise that Moscow may not be fully sharing the agenda of Assad and his Iranian ally. But then, Moscow has no reason to bet on any other horse than the one it has been so far, which also happens to be a winning horse.

Posted in Iraq, SyriaComments Off on The scramble for control of Syrian-Iraqi border

US Military Sent over $1 Billion Worth of Light Weapons To “Multiple Armed Groups” in Iraq

NOVANEWS
Report of Amnesty International
 

Management and Logistical Failure? Quoting a recently declassified US government audit, Amnesty International reports that the US Army “has failed to keep tabs on more than $1 billion worth of arms and other military equipment” channelled to Iraq under the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF).

In 2015, US Congress appropriated $1.6 billion for the ITEF program. The funds were earmarked to fight against the ISIS in response to Obama’s counter-terrorism campaign launched in Summer of 2014. In a bitter irony, a large number of these weapons landed up in the hands of terrorists including the ISIS. 

The 1.6 billion were spent on light weaponry. It’s all for a good cause: The shipments of weapons and ammunition were according to reports dispatched to Iraq (c/o the Iraqi Armed Forces) to be distributed to armed groups involved in fighting ISIS-Daesh.

Some of the shipments unfortunately went astray or landed in the wrong hands, according to Patrick Wilcken, an Amnesty researcher on International’s Arms Control and Human Rights. This was attributable to  “US Army’s flawed – and potentially dangerous – system for controlling millions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region.”

“[The report] makes for especially sobering reading given the long history of leakage of US arms to multiple armed groups committing atrocities in Iraq, including the armed group calling itself the Islamic State.” (Amnesty International, May 24, 2017)

The transfers, which include tens of thousands of assault rifles (worth USD$28 million), hundreds of mortar rounds and hundreds of Humvee armoured vehicles, were destined for use by the central Iraqi Army, including the predominantly Shi’a Popular Mobilisation Units, as well as the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

While acknowledging the billion dollar trade in light weaponry, Amnesty does not beg the question: Why were these tens of thousands of weapons sent to Iraq in the first place? What objectives are being served?

Amply documented, the US and its allies are supplying weapons, training and military equipment to numerous Al Qaeda affiliated rebels (including ISIS) acting on behalf of their State sponsors.

According to Amnesty, the sending of weapons to multiple rebel groups is justified. The killing of civilians is not an issue. The failures of the US Army outlined in the DoD report pertain to errors in monitoring, delivery, record-keeping and human error:

The DoD audit found several serious shortcomings in how ITEF equipment was logged and monitored from the point of delivery onward, including:

  • Fragmentary record-keeping in arms depots in Kuwait and Iraq. Information logged across multiple spreadsheets, databases and even on hand-written receipts.
  • Large quantities of equipment manually entered into multiple spreadsheets, increasing the risk of human error.
  • Incomplete records meaning those responsible for the equipment were unable to ascertain its location or status.

Amnesty fails to acknowledge that the Pentagon has been channelling weapons to jihadist armed groups as part of carefully designed military agenda with a view to destabilizing Iraq as a nation state.

Amply documented, the ISIS and other terror groups have been receiving weapons from both the US and its allies including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. And a significant part of the $1.6 billion has been used to finance weapons shipments to the ISIS, both directly as well as indirectly through third parties.

Amnesty casually places the blame on the Iraqi Armed forces:  “Lax controls and record-keeping within the Iraqi chain of command” has resulted in the weapons falling in the wrong hands. According to AI:

[weapons] manufactured in the USA and other countries wind up in the hands of armed groups known to be committing war crimes and other atrocities, such as IS, as well as paramilitary militias now incorporated into the Iraqi army.

What Amnesty fails to  mentioned is these paramilitary groups which are committing countless atrocities are directly or indirectly supported by the US.

The good news, however, according to Amnesty  is that “In response to the audit, the US military has pledged to tighten up its systems for tracking and monitoring future transfers to Iraq.”

According to AI, the US is not in any way complicit in human rights violations by dispaching weapons to multiple armed groups which they finance and control. According AI’s Patrick Wilken, it’s the result of poor management and lack of “check ups and controls”:

“This should be an urgent wake-up call for the US, and all countries supplying arms to Iraq, to urgently shore up checks and controls. Sending millions of dollars’ worth of arms into a black hole and hoping for the best is not a viable counter-terrorism strategy; it is just reckless,” said Patrick Wilcken.

“Any state selling arms to Iraq must show that there are strict measures in place to make sure the weapons will not be used to violate rights. Without these safeguards, no transfer should take place.”

Why were these weapons sent to Iraq in the first place?

Amnesty International is urging the USA to comply with the Leahy Law, which prohibits the supply of most types of US military aid and training to foreign security, military and police units credibly alleged to have committed “gross human rights violations”.

What nonsense. Amnesty does not address the issue of State sponsorship of terrorism, namely human rights committed on behalf of the state sponsors of terrorism. According to AI: “The USA and Iraq must also accede to the global Arms Trade Treaty, which has strict rules in place to stop arms transfers or diversion of arms that could fuel atrocities.”

Posted in USA, IraqComments Off on US Military Sent over $1 Billion Worth of Light Weapons To “Multiple Armed Groups” in Iraq

The “Liberation” of Mosul: Another Fallujah, Dresden – or Hiroshima?

NOVANEWS
 

“In the United States today, the Declaration of Independence hangs on schoolroom walls, but foreign policy follows Machiavelli.” – (Howard Zinn, 1922-2010.)

When the US, UK and their fellow destroyers of nations embarked, in October last year, on erasing Iraq’s ancient Mosul in order to save it, did they reflect on the enormity of the cost to humanity and history of their actions now and that of their genocidal, illegal invasion and fourteen year occupation – and counting? (Not forgetting the bombing of the country 1991-2003.) There was a quasi pull out in 2009, but a reported 16,000 mercenaries remained in the US Embassy compound.

Mosul, situated on the Tigris River, was first mentioned in name by the Greek writer Xenophon in 401 BC, although the area was inhabited from probably the 25th century BC. As Fallujah, near destroyed by the US in 2004 was known as City of Mosques, Mosul has been known as City of Churches. The population however, has been richly diverse: Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmens, Kurds, Yazidis, Shabakis, Mandeans, Kawliya, Circassians.

Sunni Islam has been the largest religion, but Salafism, Christianity, Shia Islam, Sufism, Yezidism, Shabakism, Yarsan and Mandeanism all coexisted in and around this ancient, hauntingly beautiful city. (1)

Mosul, as so much of Iraq, has suffered unimaginably under ISIS – but it is hard to spot the difference from how Iraq suffered under the US and UK (and are again.) The US bombed the city during the 2003 invasion, murdered Saddam Hussein’s two sons and fifteen year old grandson there in July 2003 – no Judge or jury, just US ISIS style summary executions – as across the nation.

Robert Fisk wrote of US atrocities in Iraq (2) as related to him by an American veteran. There is a US Army “Warrior creed” which:

“allows no end to any conflict (but) total destruction of the ‘enemy.’ It allows no defeat… and does not allow one ever to stop fighting (lending itself to the idea of the ‘long war.’) It says nothing about following orders, it says nothing about obeying laws or showing restraint. It says nothing about dishonourable actions…”

Fisk writes (September, 2006):

“From Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo to Bagram, to the battlefields of Iraq and to the ‘black’ prisons of the CIA, humiliation and beatings, rape, anal rape and murder have now become so commonplace that each new outrage is creeping into the inside pages of our newspapers.” Note “inside pages”, as so “commonplace.”

“Looser Rules of Engagement.”

In April this year, it was revealed (3) that the US Air Force on a bomb-fest over Mosul – and indeed wider Iraq and Syria – were operating under “looser rules of engagement.” Moreover:

“Lt Gen McFarland, now orders air strikes that are expected to kill up to ten civilians without prior approval from U.S. Central Command …” And this is “liberation” from ISIS? (Emphasis added.)

Presumably the family of eight reported killed by a US bomb in late October, including three children, one just two years old, were one of the General’s “expected” kills.

Air strikes in Iraq and Syria have: “ … destroyed 6,000 buildings with over 40,000 bombs and missiles have inevitably killed much higher numbers of civilians.” Apocalyptic horror. Of course US and UK presence in air and on the ground in Syria are entirely illegal.

So the people of Mosul and Syria’s cities, towns and villages are hostage to ISIS/Daesh and other head chopping factions fighting with US weaponry. US forces on the ground are “advising” the Iraqi army – which has absorbed militias ever bit as terrorizing as ISIS. US forces themselves have, of course, a gruesome history of terror and gathering body parts as “souvenirs.” (4)

In Word War 11 it was skulls, ears, teeth; in Vietnam penises. In Afghanistan it was fingers “and other body parts” (5) and in Iraq it was reportedly fingers, with dead bodies being tied to US tanks in Fallujah and as Ross Caputi wrote (Guardian, 13th March 2012)

“Some of my closest friends mutilated dead bodies, looted from the pockets of dead resistance fighters, destroyed homes, and killed civilians.”

Destruction – a “Partial” List.

And ponder further on the US “liberation” of Mosul. As Nicholas J. Davis has written (6) earlier this year, Award-winning Iraqi environmental scientist, Mosul-born  Prof. Souad Al-Azzawi (Ph.D., Colorado School of Mines) compiled a partial list of air strikes on the city:

*Many government buildings have been destroyed. U.S. officials told USA Today, attacks are often conducted at night to minimize civilian casualties, but security guards and civilians in neighboring buildings have of course been killed.

*Telephone exchanges have been systematically bombed and destroyed.

*Two large dairies were bombed, killing about one hundred civilians and wounding two more.

*Multiple daytime air strikes on Mosul University on March 19th and 20th killed ninety two civilians and wounded one hundred and thirty five, mostly faculty, staff, families and students. Targets included the main administration building, classroom buildings, a women’s dormitory and a faculty apartment building.

(Note: Mosul University was one of the largest educational and research centres in the Middle East. Near unbelievably, the murderous ISIS primitives are thought to have destroyed over 8,000 books and 100,000 manuscripts – but the US destroyed near the entire faculty.)

*50 civilians were killed and 100 wounded by air strikes on two apartment buildings, Al Hadbaa and Al Khadraa.

*A mother and four children were killed in an air strike on a house in the Hay al Dhubat district of East Mosul on April 20th, next door to a house used by Islamic State that was undamaged.

*Twenty two civilians were killed in air strikes on houses in front of Mosul Medical College.

*Twenty civilians were killed and seventy wounded by air strikes on the Sunni Waqif building and nearby houses and shops.

*U.S. air strikes on April 24th damaged the Rashidiya water treatment plant in West Mosul and the Yarmouk power station in East Mosul.

*Banks and a bottling plant were bombed, more dead and maimed.

*An air strike on a fuel depot in an industrial area ignited an inferno with 150 casualties on 18th April.

*Bombs have damaged a food warehouse, power stations and sub-stations in West Mosul, and flour mills, a pharmaceutical factory, auto repair shops and other workshops across Mosul.

More US destruction and arguably war crimes are listed at (7.)

Image result for mosul 2003 US bombing

The aftermath of the US bombing of Mosul University (Source: NewsVice)

General Mattis’s “Annihilation Tactics.”

To further assess what a US “freed” Mosul might look like, here is a brief summary of what Fallujah’s 2004 “freedom” cost (8):

“The 1st Marine Division fired a total of 5,685 high-explosive 155mm artillery rounds during the battle. The 3rd Marine Air Wing (aviation assets only) expended 318 ‘precision’ bombs, 391 rockets and missiles, and 93,000 machine gun and cannon rounds.

When the Iraqi army re-took the remains of the city from ISIS/ISIL, as ever advised by the US, The Telegraph headline said it all: “Fallujah in ruins after Iraqi forces retake ‘90%’ of the city from ISIL.”

On Sunday 28th May US Secretary of Defence James Mattis (image on the right) stated that

the U.S. military is to use “annihilation tactics” to defeat ISIS fighters in Mosul telling CBS’s “Face the Nation” that “civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation.”

Mattis knows a bit about “annihilation tactics”, he headed Camp Pendleton’s Ist Marine Division in Iraq which were integral to the massacres in Fallujah in April and November 2004.

Speaking to a group of soldiers about how to behave in Iraq during a 2003 speech he ordered:

“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

Fallujah’s mass graves are silent witness to the diligent obedience to Mattis’s orders.

“Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight … It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you …”, he told a conference in San Diego, in 2005. (9)

When the US is not shooting and bombing Mosul’s families in the cursed name of liberation, it is displacing them. Figures to 19th May show in excess of 526,000 men, women and children fleeing their homes and all they own. In the month to 2nd December 2016 over one thousand civilians were killed. On May 26th One hundred and five civilians were killed. On 30th May in the Az Zanjili district of the city, at least two hundred people were reportedly killed in a bombing lasting several hours and dozens of homes “completely flattened.” (Al Araby, 30th May.) The figures in human cost, hour by hour, day after day, would surely fill volumes.

On 27th May the US had dropped leaflets telling people to leave the Old City, Mosul’s ancient heart, a city referred to as Al Fayha (the Paradise) and the “Pearl of the North.” US forces however, care as little as ISIS for life, limb or the Middle East’s haunting Pearls and Paradises.

Mosul Will Be “Destroyed.”

Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s former Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, has stated that Mosul, formerly home to two million souls, will be completely “destroyed” and “uninhabitable” by the time the terrorists have been driven out. (Independent, 15th February 2017.) Another ancient jewel destroyed in the name of “freedom.”

Behind the figures are people living the unimaginable. As this was being finished, a message came from a Mosul-born friend, who writes:

“The American Coalition are lying … Civilians in Mosul are getting killed by the bombing and Iraqi and coalition ground missiles. They keep bombing each area for one or two weeks killing hundred of civilians and when the area is empty from any snipers …

“Two of my mother’s cousins houses in Thawrah area were bombed three days ago. Fourteen family members died. Four women, eight children the oldest is ten, and two men. People reclaimed seven bodies and other seven still under rubble. They couldn’t save any survivor under the rubble because the bombings are still going on intensively on the area.

“Those are my relatives and I know very well that they have nothing to do with IS.

“This is the New US/(Prime Minister) Abadi strategy … In Hay al Refaiae, last week my other cousins moved into five houses with their families with also an eighty seven year old old mother to avoid the American Coalition bombing. All five houses were destroyed – with the whole surrounding area. Three of them were injured.”

Image result for Mosul

A man cries as he carries his daughter while walking from an ISIS-controlled part of Mosul towards Iraqi special forces soldiers during a battle in Mosul, Iraq on Mar. 4, 2017. (Source: Goran Tomasevic / Reuters)

“Why Do I Get So Angry?”

Another letter was sent to a friend by his father, also used with permission and gratitude:

“People ask me: Why do I get so angry?

“Below is a scene today from Mosul, my home town. It is a scene repeated a thousand times over, all around Mosul. Yesterday the U.S. Air Force undertook 158 bombing missions over the city of Mosul. Every bridge across the Tigris in Mosul is now destroyed, the Sugar Factory has been bombed, a 5-Story medical centre has been demolished, the entire airport has become rubble, much of the city’s infrastructure including water and electricity have ceased to function, the University of Mosul buildings have been leveled, thousands of homes have been rendered unlivable, and of course no one is counting the civilian dead and the refugees.

“And all for what? To destroy the Islamic State? Is this the same so-called Islamic State whose factions have been supported, financed, and trained by the CIA over the past five years in order to bring about regime change in Syria?

“Since 2003, the United States has bombed Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan … and presently it has its eye focused on Iran. And yet, we have the gall and temerity to talk about the savagery and barbarism of the Mongolian hordes of eight centuries ago.

“I really do wonder why people keep asking me: Why do I get so angry?”

Thinking the Unthinkable.

In the title I query the outcome of this criminal decimation and cite Hiroshima. Parts of Iraq already have higher cancer and birth defect statistics than Hiroshima and Nagasaki, linked to the depleted uranium weapons used by the US and UK from 1991 to now.

Donald Trump has demonstrated his casual fecklessness with weapons of mass destruction by dropping the largest “conventional” weapon ever used on Afghanistan and fifty nine radioactive and chemically toxic Tomahawk Cruise missiles on Syria, neither country had been proved of doing anything but simply existing.

On the Presidential campaign trail, Mark Halperin of Bloomberg asked Donald Trump, whether he would use nuclear weapons against ISIS.

“Well, I’m never going to rule anything out”, replied Trump.

When pushed by Chris Matthews of MSNBC on this issue, Trump said:

“Somebody hits us within ISIS – you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?” (10.)

Iraq is near destroyed on the Blair and Bush lies that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Trump does and it seems, is prepared to think the unthinkable. Will the UN, the relevant world bodies, the “international community” wake up, before it is too late, before a swathe of Iraq and Syria’s people are vapourised, with twenty seven centuries of history ?

Notes 

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosul
2. https://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/168/34929.html
3. http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/05/01/escalating-us-air-strikes-kill-hundreds-civilians-mosul-iraq
4. http://www.globalresearch.ca/military-deviancy-and-war-trophies-body-parts-forearms-and-souvenir-stars-and-stripes-from-predator-drones/5343963
5. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/09/12-us-soldiers-charged-wi_n_710409.html
6. http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/05/01/escalating-us-air-strikes-kill-hundreds-civilians-mosul-iraq
7. http://www.globalresearch.ca/death-and-destruction-in-iraq-extensive-us-war-crimes-apocalypse-in-mosul-in-the-guise-of-bombing-isis/5522167?print=1
8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Battle_of_Fallujah  
9. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A61672-2005Feb3.html
10. http://www.alternet.org/world/us-killing-innocent-civilians-iraq#.WK-GMtAyeUE.twitter

Posted in IraqComments Off on The “Liberation” of Mosul: Another Fallujah, Dresden – or Hiroshima?

Contradictory Statements of NATO on Joining the International Coalition against the Islamic State

NOVANEWS
 

During a press conference on May 24, NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, said that NATO does not intend to take part in military operations against the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria. Instead, the alliance plans to concentrate on training certain ‘local forces’.

Actually, Jens Stoltenberg still could not hide the fact that NATO leadership, first of all, solves the serious issue of deploying its units in Syria and Iraq. In fact, such plans as ‘training local forces’ and ‘large-scale military operation’ are very close to each other in their essence.

It is easy to imagine how the events will develop. First, a decision is made to train local forces, which are the Syrian opposition in fact. In the framework of this step, dozens, and then hundreds of NATO ‘experts’ are deployed in the country. Then the next stage to be implemented, the military is transferred closer to the war zone.

The latest events are the following: during a full-scale campaign in the media started immediately, the fabricated information about the death of several NATO representatives (who were illegally engaged in training the opposition representatives on the Syrian soil) is spread.

It cannot be ruled out that something like that may happen somewhere in Idlib, where Western-controlled radical groups are located. Some human rights organizations accuse then government troops of using chemical weapons, bombing hospitals, maternity homes and schools, and of other atrocities and mass murders.

Thus, under the specious pretext of combating IS, the Allied Forces of NATO countries may enter Syria and begin a large-scale campaign against Bashar Assad. Such a scenario can be easily carried out if they wish. In connection with the growing number of terrorist attacks in Europe, Western society is extremely frightened. Continuous flows of refugees also threaten the EU. It turns out that the citizens of the European Union are so much afraid of all these Middle Eastern troubles that they will agree with everything that NATO would offer them, up to participation in full-fledged military operations, just not to let bombs explode in Europe.

Syrian experts, in their turn, were skeptical of the contradictory statements of Stoltenberg. In their opinion, the coalition already includes 12 member countries of NATO. It is their combat aircraft that daily participate in military operations in Syria and Iraq and regularly carry out deadly air strikes. In particular, recently, the coalition strikes in Syrian Raqqah killed at least 16 civilians.

Obviously, the actions of the coalition forces in Syria and Iraq, one way or another, are coordinated with the command of NATO. Apparently, Washington is again trying to lull the vigilance of the international community and is developing new plans to overthrow the Syrian government by force.

Posted in Middle East, Iraq, SyriaComments Off on Contradictory Statements of NATO on Joining the International Coalition against the Islamic State

Shoah’s pages

www.shoah.org.uk

KEEP SHOAH UP AND RUNNING

July 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31