Convair/General Dynamics Tomahawk by San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives
Tags: al-malika, assad, fallujah, George Bush, Iraq, Iraq war, islamists, jihadists, Middle East, muslim, robert fisk, roger hollander, shias, sunnis, Syria, Tony Blair
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Roger’s note: I have found Robert Fisk to be the most reliable analyst of Middle East affairs. He has lived and reported from there for decades. Here he describes how all the death and destruction wreaked by the Bush/Blair gang of warmongers, not only leaves Iraq in a state of bloody chaos, but also results in a victory of the very forces of Islamic extremism that the illegal war was supposed to overcome (long after Bush and Blair have left office with their millions and declared victory).
Bush and Blair said Iraq was a war on Islamic fascism. They lost
So after the grotesquerie of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 suicide killers of 9/11, meet Saudi Arabia’s latest monstrous contribution to world history: the Islamist Sunni caliphate of Iraq and the Levant, conquerors of Mosul and Tikrit – and Raqqa in Syria – and possibly Baghdad, and the ultimate humiliators of Bush and Obama.
From Aleppo in northern Syria almost to the Iraqi-Iranian border, the jihadists of Isis and sundry other groupuscules paid by the Saudi Wahhabis – and by Kuwaiti oligarchs – now rule thousands of square miles.
“Bush and Blair destroyed Saddam’s regime to make the world safe and declared that Iraq was part of a titanic battle against ‘Islamofascism.’ Well, they lost.”
Apart from Saudi Arabia’s role in this catastrophe, what other stories are to be hidden from us in the coming days and weeks?
The story of Iraq and the story of Syria are the same – politically, militarily and journalistically: two leaders, one Shia, the other Alawite, fighting for the existence of their regimes against the power of a growing Sunni Muslim international army.
While the Americans support the wretched Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his elected Shia government in Iraq, the same Americans still demand the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad of Syria and his regime, even though both leaders are now brothers-in-arms against the victors of Mosul and Tikrit.
The Croesus-like wealth of Qatar may soon be redirected away from the Muslim rebels of Syria and Iraq to the Assad regime, out of fear and deep hatred for its Sunni brothers in Saudi Arabia (which may invade Qatar if it becomes very angry).
We all know of the “deep concern” of Washington and London at the territorial victories of the Islamists – and the utter destruction of all that America and Britain bled and died for in Iraq. No one, however, will feel as much of this “deep concern” as Shia Iran and Assad of Syria and Maliki of Iraq, who must regard the news from Mosul and Tikrit as a political and military disaster. Just when Syrian military forces were winning the war for Assad, tens of thousands of Iraqi-based militants may now turn on the Damascus government, before or after they choose to advance on Baghdad.
No one will care now how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been slaughtered since 2003 because of the fantasies of Bush and Blair. These two men destroyed Saddam’s regime to make the world safe and declared that Iraq was part of a titanic battle against “Islamofascism.” Well, they lost. Remember that the Americans captured and recaptured Mosul to crush the power of Islamist fighters. They fought for Fallujah twice. And both cities have now been lost again to the Islamists. The armies of Bush and Blair have long gone home, declaring victory.
Under Obama, Saudi Arabia will continue to be treated as a friendly “moderate” in the Arab world, even though its royal family is founded upon the Wahhabist convictions of the Sunni Islamists in Syria and Iraq – and even though millions of its dollars are arming those same fighters. Thus does Saudi power both feed the monster in the deserts of Syria and Iraq and cosy up to the Western powers that protect it.
We should also remember that Maliki’s military attempts to retake Mosul are likely to be ferocious and bloody, just as Assad’s battles to retake cities have proved to be. The refugees fleeing Mosul are more frightened of Shia government revenge than they are of the Sunni jihadists who have captured their city.
We will all be told to regard the new armed “caliphate” as a “terror nation.” Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, the Isis spokesman, is intelligent, warning against arrogance, talking of an advance on Baghdad when he may be thinking of Damascus. Isis is largely leaving the civilians of Mosul unharmed.
Finally, we will be invited to regard the future as a sectarian war when it will be a war between Muslim sectarians and Muslim non-sectarians. The “terror” bit will be provided by the arms we send to all sides.
US Grandstands on Chemical Weapons Treaty While Violating It September 14, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Chemical Biological Weapons.
Tags: assad, chemical weapons, roger hollander, sarah lazare, sarin, syria weapons, wmd
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Government keeps tons of chemical weapons in Kentucky and Colorado, breaking global commitments to destroy them
As the Obama administration continues to threaten military intervention in Syria unless the government of Bashar al-Assad follows international ‘norms’ on chemical weapons, the U.S. government violates those very norms by storing tons of chemical weapons at facilities in Kentucky and Colorado, breaking its own promises to the international community.
The U.S. government keeps approximately 2,611 tons of mustard gas in a facility in Colorado, and 524 tons of a spectrum of chemical weapons—including deadly nerve agent Sarin—in a facility in Kentucky, despite commitments to have already destroyed its chemical arsenals by now.
As a ratifier of the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty, overseen by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons at the Hague, the U.S. agreed in 1997 to destroy its chemical weapons stocks within 10 years, with the possibility of a 5-year extension. Yet, with the latest possible deadline of 2012 now passed, U.S. officials say that they can’t destroy all of their arsenals until 2023.
Furthermore, chemical weapons inspectors have been stymied several times by U.S. politicians since the U.S. ratified the agreement, including President George W. Bush’s 2002 role in successfully pushing for the firing of José Maurício Bustani, the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons who pushed for thorough inspection of U.S. facilities.
While the U.S. is not the only ratifier that has broken deadlines for destroying weapons stockpiles, it has notably been using this treaty to build arguments in favor of military force against the Syrian government, whose use of chemical weapons has still not been definitively proven.
As the Obama administration has railed against Syria for failing to ratify the convention, it has remained silent on Israel’s refusal to ratify, even though the country is documented to possess chemical weapons, and like the U.S., has used them against civilians.
Syria claimed earlier this week that it would place its chemical weapons into international control, and that it wishes to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty. Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry enters into discussions Thursday with Russian officials in Geneva, as the Obama administration continues to threaten military force.
Critics charge that, given the track record of the U.S. government, it is on shaky grounds to single out Syria. “Focusing on Syria alone doesn’t seem to be reasonable or realistic, Stephen Zunes—leading Middle East Peace scholar, told Common Dreams. “What we need is universality. Weapons of Mass Destruction apartheid, where we’ll let one country have weapons but go to war with another, is not going to work.”
From Hiroshima to Syria, the enemy whose name we dare not speak September 11, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Imperialism, War.
Tags: al-assad, assad, atomic bomb, chemical weapons, depleted uranium, east timor, gareth evans, gaza, genocide, global center, hiroshima, humanistarian intervention, john pilger, liberal fascism, Middle East, norman pollack, roger hollander, security council, suharto, syria war, Vietnam War, War Crimes, white phosphorous, wilfred burchett
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Roger’s note: In referring to the United States of America, celebrated documentary film maker John Pilger states, ” The great unmentionable is that humanity’s most dangerous enemy resides across the Atlantic.” This is the “inconvenient truth” most Americans are either to uninformed or willfully naive to acknowledge. Any U.S. president, of either party, unless she/he is willing to face some form of assassination at the hands of the imperial military-industrial complex, has no choice other than to play the role of war criminal, the present Nobel Peace Laureate included.
OpEdNews Op Eds 9/10/2013 at 15:43:17
A Solution for Syria September 6, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Peace, War.
Tags: assad, avaaz, chemical weapons, Iran, Obama, roger hollander, rouhani, syria massacre, syrian opposition
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Just weeks ago the kids in this image were gassed to death in their sleep, but it feels the world has forgotten them and got stuck in a debate between US strikes or doing nothing. Now there is a glimmer of hope for a peaceful way to stop these massacres.
Syria’s bloody war has been fuelled by rivalry between Iran, Assad’s main backer, and the US and their allies. But this vile chemical attack has changed their discourse: Iran’s new moderate president condemned the gassing and Obama signalled he’d work with “anybody” to resolve the conflict. Let’s urgently call on both leaders to sit down to talks and bring the warring parties together before any more lives are lost.
Right now, the global drums of war are beating over Syria, but if enough of us make sure Rouhani and Obama know the world wants bold diplomacy, we could end the nightmare for thousands of terrified Syrian children under threat of new gas attacks. We have no time to lose. Click now to join this urgent call — when we reach one million signers we will deliver the petition directly to the two presidents:
Syria’s the most brutal war of our generation, and this chemical attack on innocent civilians is the worst our world has seen in 30 years. The world has a responsibility to protect Syrians from extermination, but for two years the international community has been shamefully gridlocked and has failed the innocent victims. Now, despite overwhelming evidence that Assad’s forces launched the attack, Syria’s backers have sown doubt and, wary of war, the world is unsure about a humanitarian intervention. These talks are a new chance to stop the bloodshed.
It’s always been believed that the US would never talk to Iran and that Iran would never help the US solve the Syrian crisis, but current evidence points to change and hope. President Obama may launch strikes, but he has no public support for a longer war, and he is looking for a way out of a sustained conflict. And 130 members of the US Congress are calling on President Obama to talk with Iran. A massive global public push for diplomacy right now could push Obama towards talks.
Iran’s former President Ahmadinejad spent billions supplying cash and weapons to the Assad regime. But the new President Rouhani was elected on a ticket to build bridges with the West and favours a political settlement with the Syrian opposition. The chemical attack is eroding Iranian public support for Assad, rekindling painful memories of Iraq’s gas attacks on Iran, and insiders say pressure is building to reconsider Iran’s support for Assad. This could be a tipping point to bring Rouhani to the table.
Talks won’t stop the horror overnight, but there is no quick and easy solution. We urgently need to get started on a path that can stop the killing of innocent children and bring the world closer together rather than tear us further apart. Let’s get the US and Iran to start talks now:
A roadmap has already been put in motion for a Syrian peace process in Geneva, but this is the first time there could be the political will to overlook all the differences and sit down. Iran is the only country in the world with sufficient influence in Syria to push the regime to the table. And the US, with its Middle East allies, can push the opposition to sit down.
It took the horror of the Second World War to get the United Nations and the Declaration of Human Rights. Maybe the horror of Syria might finally push the US and Iran, and their moderate presidents, to address longstanding differences and build the basis for a more lasting peace for Syria and the region, with consequences for a host of global issues from nuclear proliferation to peace in Israel and Palestine. Our community has stood by the Syrian people from the very beginning. Now they need us more than ever. Let’s give it our best shot.
Alice, Luis, Ian, Emily, Bissan, Antonia, Ricken, Lisa, Mais and the whole Avaaz team
PS – Many Avaaz campaigns are started by members of our community! Start yours now and win on any issue – local, national or global: http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/start_a_petition/?bgMYedb&v=23917
Syria Offers Opportunity For US-Iran Talks (Al Monitor)
Drawing a Line on Syria, U.S. Keeps Eye on Iran Policy (New York Times)
No, Iran Doesn’t Need Assad (The Atlantic)
For Syria’s sake, end Iran’s isolation (Guardian)
Iran ex-president says Syria government launched gas attacks: news agency (Reuters)
Over 130 Reps. Sign Bipartisan Dent-Price Letter to President Urging Diplomacy on Iran
Iran’s Rouhani acknowledges chemical weapons killed people in Syria (Reuters)
Can Syrian Chemical Weapons Issue Lead to US-Iran Opening? (Al Monitor)
Support the Avaaz Community! We’re entirely funded by donations and receive no money from governments or corporations. Our dedicated team ensures even the smallest contributions go a long way.
HANDS OFF SYRIA ACTIONS MOMENTUM GROWS September 4, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Imperialism, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: assad, chemical weapons, hezbollah, imperialism, john kerry, Obama, palestinian resistance, roger hollander, Syria, syria attack, syrian government, war, war profiteering, weapons inspectors
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Roger’s note: This is a concise and precise statement of the folly of the government/media plan to attack Syria. From the current Senate hearing it is becoming more obvious that this is all about regime change and has nothing to do with chemical warfare. The burning question is: how to stop the continual blatant violations of international law with impunity for purely imperial objectives, putting in governments in the Middle East that will support U.S. objectives of monopolizing oil reserves.
For more information on actions:
President Obama has called for a vote in Congress to authorize an attack on Syria. Congress is scheduled to return on Monday, Sept 9. President Obama is using the same tactics as President Bush did before the Iraq War. When the UN Security Council would not support the U.S. war, Bush turned to the U.S. Congress for a war vote giving him “all necessary means”. Ten years later Iraq lay in ruins. A million Iraqis died, millions became refugees. More than 1.5 million US soldiers were deployed to Iraq. Today thousands of U.S. and NATO soldiers are disabled, traumatized and 1/3 will suffer from PTSD. Just as in Iraq, Afghanistan and earlier in Vietnam this is again a U.S. war based on lies. Bombing Syria is NOT a ‘humanitarian intervention’. It is another war for Wall Street Profit! This time there is a risk of global confrontation or even world war. This war will only serve the billionaires and militarists who profit from war and conquest. The workers and poor will pay, in Syria and here in the U.S.
STATEMENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL ACTION CENTER
The people have made it crystal clear: We don’t want another war!
Last week there were demonstrations and rallies against bombing Syria in at least 48 U.S. cities. , the Times Square demonstration will be one of dozens across the country. , September 9, as Congress goes back into session, the Syrian American Forum and others will protest in front of the White House, then march to the U.S. Congress.
The cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds $4 trillion dollars.
The cruise missiles the US is planning to fire at Syria cost $1.5 million apiece. The profits of the missile’s maker, Raytheon, is soaring — but our cities are crumbling. People are hurting from joblessness, foreclosures, sequester cuts and furloughs. Hospitals and schools are closing.
We need funds for job programs, healthcare and education, NOT billions wasted on war and destruction.
War propaganda always accompanies war. In 2003 before the massive attack on Iraq, it was the lie of “weapons of mass destruction.”
In 1991 in the first US war on Iraq it was wild claim that Iraqi soldiers were killing “incubator babies.”
In the Vietnam War it was the testimony that U.S. ships were being fired on in the Gulf of Tonkin.
It is ludicrous to think that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on the same day that UN weapons inspectors arrived in Syria. The inspectors were less than ten miles away from the attack and had been invited by the Syrian government.
The U.S. is the last country on earth that should start a war on the basis of combating war crimes.
The Pentagon’s 2004 assault on the city of Fallujah, Iraq alone left the residents there with staggering rates of cancer, birth defects and infant mortality due to the U.S. military’s use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus.
Just last month the recipient of $1.5 billion in annual military aid, the Egyptian government, brutally cleared the streets, killing many hundreds at protest encampments that included men, women and children.
By far, the world’s largest stockpile of chemical, nuclear and every other kind of weapon belongs to the United States — the only country to have used nuclear weapons on civilians.
No, President Barack Obama and Sec. of State John Kerry don’t care about the people of Syria one bit. What they care about is removing a government that gives aid to the Palestinian resistance, Hezbollah and other victims of the Israeli brutality. The repressive regimes in Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf kingdoms beat down the people of the region so that U.S. oil companies can have unfettered access to oil profits.
We don’t want another war for the 1%. The rich will win and the people in the U.S., Syria and the entire Middle East region will lose.
Hands off Syria!
Some of the organizations, coalitions and community groups endorsing demonstrations: (Full list in formation.)
Syrian American Forum
United National Antiwar Coalition-UNAC
Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights
International Action Center
Islamic Leadership Council/Majlis Ash-Shura of Metro NY
Harlem Tenants Council
La Peña del Bronx
U.S. Peace Council
Veterans For Peace / Chapter 021, NJ
People’s Power Movement
World Can’t Wait
International League for People’s Struggles/US
People’s Organization for Progress
Jersey City Peace Movement
Fight Imperialism Stand Together – FIST
Pakistan USA Freedom Forum
Honduras USA Resistencia
Al Quds Committee
Islamic Leadership Council/Majlis Ash-Shura of Metro NY
Grannies for Peace
Black Waxx, NY
Guyanese American Workers United, New York, NY
Wisconsin Bail Out The People Movement
Advocates For Peace And Social Justice, West New York, NJ
SI Solidarity Iran
People’s Video Network
International Action Center
c/o Solidarity Center
147 W. 24th St., FL 2 • New York, NY 10011
Which Syrian Chemical Attack Account Is More Credible? September 2, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Chemical Biological Weapons, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Media, War.
Tags: assad, chemical weapons, Colin Powell, Dale Gavlak, ghouta, jim naureckas, john kerry, Mnar Muhawesh, Prince Banda, putin, roger hollander, sarin gas, saudi arabia, Syria, syrian rebels, Yahya Ababneh
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Let’s compare a couple of accounts of the mass deaths apparently caused by chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on August 21. One account comes from the U.S. government (8/30/13), introduced by Secretary of State John Kerry. The other was published by a Minnesota-based news site called Mint Press News (8/29/13).
The government account expresses “high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack” on August 21. The Mint report bore the headline “Syrians in Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack.” Which of these two versions should we find more credible?
The U.S. government, of course, has a track record that will incline informed observers to approach its claims with skepticism–particularly when it’s making charges about the proscribed weapons of official enemies. Kerry said in his address that “our intelligence community” has been “more than mindful of the Iraq experience”–as should be anyone listening to Kerry’s presentation, because the Iraq experience informs us that secretaries of State can express great confidence about matters that they are completely wrong about, and that U.S. intelligence assessments can be based on distortion of evidence and deliberate suppression of contradictory facts.
Comparing Kerry’s presentation on Syria and its accompanying document to Colin Powell’s speech to the UN on Iraq, though, one is struck by how little specific evidence was included in the case for the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. It gives the strong impression of being pieced together from drone surveillance and NSA intercepts, supplemented by Twitter messages and YouTube videos, rather than from on-the-ground reporting or human intelligence. Much of what is offered tries to establish that the victims in Ghouta had been exposed to chemical weapons–a question that indeed had been in some doubt, but had already largely been settled by a report by Doctors Without Borders that reported that thousands of people in the Damascus area had been treated for “neurotoxic symptoms.”
On the critical question of who might be responsible for such a chemical attack, Kerry’s presentation was much more vague and circumstantial. A key point in the government’s white paper is “the detection of rocket launches from regime-controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media.” It’s unclear why this is supposed to be persuasive. Do rockets take 90 minutes to reach their targets? Does nerve gas escape from rockets 90 minutes after impact, or, once released, take 90 minutes to cause symptoms?
In a conflict as conscious of the importance of communication as the Syrian Civil War, do citizen journalists wait an hour and a half before reporting an enormous development–the point at which, as Kerry put it, “all hell broke loose in the social media”? Unless there’s some reason to expect this kind of a delay, it’s very unclear why we should think there’s any connection at all between the allegedly observed rocket launches and the later reports of mass poisoning.
When the evidence isn’t circumstantial, it’s strikingly vague: “We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the UN inspectors obtaining evidence,” the report asserts. Taken at face value, it’s one of the most damning claims in the government’s report–a veritable confession. But how was the identity of this official established? And what exactly did they say that “confirmed” chemical weapons use? Recall that Powell played tapes of Iraqi officials supposedly talking about concealing evidence of banned weapons from inspectors–which turned out to show nothing of the kind. But Powell at least played tapes of the intercepted communication, even as he spun and misrepresented their contents–allowing for the possibility of an independent interpretation of these messages. Perhaps “mindful of the Iraq experience,” Kerry allows for no such interpretation.
Another key claim is asserted without substantiation: “Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21, near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin.” How were these personnel identified, and what were the signs of their operations? How was this place identified as an area used to mix sarin? Here again the information provided was far less detailed than what Powell gave to the UN: Powell’s presentation included satellite photographs of sites where proscribed weapons were being made, with an explanation of what they revealed to “experts with years and years of experience”: “The two arrows indicate the presence of sure signs that the bunkers are storing chemical munitions,” he said, pointing to an annotated photograph of bunkers that turned out to be storing no such thing. Powell’s presentation graphically demonstrated that US intelligence analysts are fallible, which is part of why presenting bare assertions without any of the raw materials used to derive those conclusions should not be very convincing.
Kerry did offer an explanation for why the report was so cursory: “In order to protect sources and methods, some of what we know will only be released to members of Congress, the representatives of the American people. That means that some things we do know, we can’t talk about publicly.” It is not clear, however, why intelligence methods that produced visual and audible evidence that could be shared with the public 10 years ago cannot be similarly utilized today. It does point to why the $52 billion the United States spends on surveillance annually, according to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden (Washington Post, 8/29/13), provides relatively little information that’s of value to American democracy: The collection of information is considered so much more valuable than the information collected that it rarely if ever can be used to inform a public debate. Instead, as we discuss the dreadful question of whether to launch a military attack on another country, we are offered an undemocratic “trust us” from the most secretive parts of our government–an offer that history warns us to be extremely wary of.
Unlike the U.S. government, Mint does not have much of a track record, having been founded only about a year and a half ago (CJR, 3/28/12). The founder of the for-profit startup is Mnar Muhawesh, a 24-year-old Palestinian-American woman who believes, reasonably enough, that “our media has absolutely failed our country” (MinnPost, 1/18/12). One of its two reporters on its Syrian chemical weapons piece, Dale Gavlak, is a longtime Associated Press Mideast stringer who has also done work for NPR and the BBC. AP was one of the few US corporate media outlets to question official assertions about Iraqi WMDs, contrasting Powell’s assertions with what could be discerned from on-the-ground reporting (Extra!, 3-4/06).
Mint takes a similar approach to the Syrian story, with a reporter in Ghouta–not Gavlak but Yahya Ababneh, a Jordanian freelancer and journalism grad student–who “spoke directly with the rebels, their family members, victims of the chemical weapons attacks and local residents.” The article reports that “many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out” the chemical attack. The recipients of the chemical weapons are said to be Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda-linked rebel faction that was caught possessing sarin nerve gas in Turkey, according to Turkish press reports (OE Watch, 7/13).
Mint quotes Abu Abdel-Moneim, described as the father of a rebel killed in the chemical weapons attacks, as saying that his son had described carrying unconventional weapons provided by Saudi Arabia to underground storage tunnels–a “tubelike structure” and a “huge gas bottle.” A rebel leader identified as J describes the release of toxic weaponry as accidental, saying, “Some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions.” Another rebel referred to as K complains, “When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them.”
Of course, independent media accounts are not necessarily more credible than official reports–or vice versa. As with the government white paper, there are gaps in the Mint account; while Abdel-Moneim cites his late son’s account of carrying chemical weapons, the rebels quoted do not indicate how they came to know what they say they know about the origin of the weapons. But unlike the government, Mint is honest about the limits of its knowledge: “Some information in this article could not be independently verified,” the story admits. “Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates.”
This humility about the difficulty of reporting on a covert, invisible attack in the midst of a chaotic civil war actually adds to the credibility of the Mint account. It’s those who are most certain about matters of which they clearly lack firsthand knowledge who should make us most skeptical.
Clarification: Dale Gavlak assisted in the research and writing process of this article, but was not on the ground in Syria. Reporter Yahya Ababneh, with whom the report was written in collaboration, was the correspondent on the ground in Ghouta who spoke directly with the rebels, their family members, victims of the chemical weapons attacks and local residents.
Gavlak is a MintPress News Middle East correspondent who has been freelancing for the AP as a Amman, Jordan correspondent for nearly a decade. This report is not an Associated Press article; rather it is exclusive to MintPress News.
Ghouta, Syria — As the machinery for a U.S.-led military intervention in Syria gathers pace following last week’s chemical weapons attack, the U.S. and its allies may be targeting the wrong culprit.
Interviews with people in Damascus and Ghouta, a suburb of the Syrian capital, where the humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders said at least 355 people had died last week from what it believed to be a neurotoxic agent, appear to indicate as much.
The U.S., Britain, and France as well as the Arab League have accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out the chemical weapons attack, which mainly targeted civilians. U.S. warships are stationed in the Mediterranean Sea to launch military strikes against Syria in punishment for carrying out a massive chemical weapons attack. The U.S. and others are not interested in examining any contrary evidence, with U.S Secretary of State John Kerry saying Monday that Assad’s guilt was “a judgment … already clear to the world.”
However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.
“My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.
Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”
Ghouta townspeople said the rebels were using mosques and private houses to sleep while storing their weapons in tunnels.
Abdel-Moneim said his son and the others died during the chemical weapons attack. That same day, the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is linked to al-Qaida, announced that it would similarly attack civilians in the Assad regime’s heartland of Latakia on Syria’s western coast, in purported retaliation.
“They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K.’ “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”
“When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.
A well-known rebel leader in Ghouta named ‘J’ agreed. “Jabhat al-Nusra militants do not cooperate with other rebels, except with fighting on the ground. They do not share secret information. They merely used some ordinary rebels to carry and operate this material,” he said.
“We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions,” ‘J’ said.
Doctors who treated the chemical weapons attack victims cautioned interviewers to be careful about asking questions regarding who, exactly, was responsible for the deadly assault.
The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders added that health workers aiding 3,600 patients also reported experiencing similar symptoms, including frothing at the mouth, respiratory distress, convulsions and blurry vision. The group has not been able to independently verify the information.
More than a dozen rebels interviewed reported that their salaries came from the Saudi government.
In a recent article for Business Insider, reporter Geoffrey Ingersoll highlighted Saudi Prince Bandar’s role in the two-and-a-half year Syrian civil war. Many observers believe Bandar, with his close ties to Washington, has been at the very heart of the push for war by the U.S. against Assad.
Ingersoll referred to an article in the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph about secret Russian-Saudi talks alleging that Bandar offered Russian President Vladimir Putin cheap oil in exchange for dumping Assad.
“Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord,” Ingersoll wrote.
“I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” Bandar allegedly told the Russians.
“Along with Saudi officials, the U.S. allegedly gave the Saudi intelligence chief the thumbs up to conduct these talks with Russia, which comes as no surprise,” Ingersoll wrote.
“Bandar is American-educated, both military and collegiate, served as a highly influential Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., and the CIA totally loves this guy,” he added.
According to U.K.’s Independent newspaper, it was Prince Bandar’s intelligence agency that first brought allegations of the use of sarin gas by the regime to the attention of Western allies in February.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the CIA realized Saudi Arabia was “serious” about toppling Assad when the Saudi king named Prince Bandar to lead the effort.
“They believed that Prince Bandar, a veteran of the diplomatic intrigues of Washington and the Arab world, could deliver what the CIA couldn’t: planeloads of money and arms, and, as one U.S. diplomat put it, wasta, Arabic for under-the-table clout,” it said.
Bandar has been advancing Saudi Arabia’s top foreign policy goal, WSJ reported, of defeating Assad and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies.
To that aim, Bandar worked Washington to back a program to arm and train rebels out of a planned military base in Jordan.
The newspaper reports that he met with the “uneasy Jordanians about such a base”:
His meetings in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah sometimes ran to eight hours in a single sitting. “The king would joke: ‘Oh, Bandar’s coming again? Let’s clear two days for the meeting,’ ” said a person familiar with the meetings.
Jordan’s financial dependence on Saudi Arabia may have given the Saudis strong leverage. An operations center in Jordan started going online in the summer of 2012, including an airstrip and warehouses for arms. Saudi-procured AK-47s and ammunition arrived, WSJ reported, citing Arab officials.
Although Saudi Arabia has officially maintained that it supported more moderate rebels, the newspaper reported that “funds and arms were being funneled to radicals on the side, simply to counter the influence of rival Islamists backed by Qatar.”
But rebels interviewed said Prince Bandar is referred to as “al-Habib” or ‘the lover’ by al-Qaida militants fighting in Syria.
Peter Oborne, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday, has issued a word of caution about Washington’s rush to punish the Assad regime with so-called ‘limited’ strikes not meant to overthrow the Syrian leader but diminish his capacity to use chemical weapons:
Consider this: the only beneficiaries from the atrocity were the rebels, previously losing the war, who now have Britain and America ready to intervene on their side. While there seems to be little doubt that chemical weapons were used, there is doubt about who deployed them.
It is important to remember that Assad has been accused of using poison gas against civilians before. But on that occasion, Carla del Ponte, a U.N. commissioner on Syria, concluded that the rebels, not Assad, were probably responsible.
Some information in this article could not be independently verified. Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates .
Dale Gavlak is a Middle East correspondent for Mint Press News and has reported from Amman, Jordan, writing for the Associated Press, NPR and BBC. An expert in Middle Eastern affairs, Gavlak covers the Levant region, writing on topics including politics, social issues and economic trends. Dale holds a M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago. Contact Dale at email@example.com
Yahya Ababneh is a Jordanian freelance journalist and is currently working on a master’s degree in journalism, He has covered events in Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Libya. His stories have appeared on Amman Net, Saraya News, Gerasa News and elsewhere.
Tags: assad, chemical weapons, michael snyder, roger hollander, Syria, syria chemical, syria civil war, syria war, un inspectors
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Roger’s note: One more post on Syria before the bombs and missiles start flying. For the record, I hope with all my heart that I am mistaken.
By: Michael Snyder,
The Economic Collapse.
The Obama administration seems absolutely determined to help radical Islamic jihadists that have beheaded Christians, that have massacred entire Christian villages, and that have pledged loyalty to al-Qaeda topple the Assad regime and take over Syria. Yes, the Assad regime is horrible, but if these jihadist lunatics take control it will destabilize the entire region, make the prospect of a major regional war much more probable, and plunge the entire nation of Syria into a complete and utter nightmare. It has been estimated that somewhere around 100,000 people have already been killed in the civil war in Syria, and now it looks like the U.S. military and the rest of NATO plan to become directly involved in the conflict. The Obama administration is actually considering an attack on Syria even though the American people are overwhelmingly against it, Obama does not have Congressional approval to start a war, and he will never get approval for military action from the UN because it will be blocked by Russia. This is setting up to become a colossal foreign policy disaster for the United States.
A potential war with Syria has been brought to the forefront because of a chemical weapons attack near Damascus last week that killed as many as 1,400 people. The Obama administration and several other western nations are blaming this attack on the Assad regime.
But others are pointing out that it would make absolutely no sense for the Assad regime to do such a thing. They appear to be winning the civil war, and Assad knows that Obama has previously said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a “red line” for the United States.
So why would the Assad regime launch a brutal chemical weapons attack against women and children just miles from where UN inspectors were staying?
Why would Assad risk war with the United States and the rest of NATO?
Assad would have to be extremely stupid or extremely suicidal to do such a thing.
The ones that benefit from this chemical weapons attack are the jihadist rebels. The odds of foreign intervention in the conflict just went way, way up.
We will probably never learn the real truth about who was actually behind that attack. And even if it had not happened, the U.S. and the rest of NATO would have probably come up with another justification to go to war anyway. They appear absolutely obsessed with getting rid of Assad, but they have not really thought through the consequences.
The following are 15 signs that Obama has already made the decision to go to war with Syria…
#1 Syria has agreed to allow UN officials to inspect the site of the recent chemical weapons attack that killed up to 1,400 people, but a “senior U.S. official” says that such an inspection would be “too late to be credible“.
#2 According to ABC News, the White House is saying that there is “very little doubt” that the Assad regime was behind the deadly chemical weapons attack last week.
#3 Four U.S. warships with ballistic missiles are moving into position in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. If the command is given, they will be able to rain Tomahawk cruise missiles down on targets inside Syria within minutes…
U.S. defense officials told The Associated Press that the Navy had sent a fourth warship armed with ballistic missiles into the eastern Mediterranean Sea but without immediate orders for any missile launch into Syria.
U.S. Navy ships are capable of a variety of military actions, including launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, as they did against Libya in 2011 as part of an international action that led to the overthrow of the Libyan government.
#4 CBS News is reporting that “the Pentagon is making the initial preparations for a Cruise missile attack on Syrian government forces”.
#5 On Saturday, Barack Obama met with his national security team to discuss what actions should be taken in Syria.
#6 U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says that Barack Obama has asked him to “prepare options for all contingencies” as far as a conflict with Syria is concerned.
#7 After a phone conversation with British Prime Minister David Cameron about the situation in Syria, the White House announced that both leaders expressed “grave concern” about the chemical weapons attack that took place last week.
#8 Military commanders from the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, France, Italy and Canada are meeting in Amman, Jordan on Sunday to coordinate plans for upcoming attacks on Syria.
#9 According to France’s second largest newspaper, rebel forces that have been trained by the CIA have been pouring toward Damascus “since mid-August“…
According to our information, the regime’s opponents, supervised by Jordanian, Israeli and American commandos moving towards Damascus since mid-August. This attack could explain the possible use of the Syrian president to chemical weapons.
According to information obtained by Le Figaro , the first trained in guerrilla warfare by the Americans in Jordan Syrian troops reportedly entered into action since mid-August in southern Syria, in the region of Deraa. A first group of 300 men, probably supported by Israeli and Jordanian commandos, as well as men of the CIA, had crossed the border on August 17. A second would have joined the 19. According to military sources, the Americans, who do not want to put troops on the Syrian soil or arming rebels in part controlled by radical Islamists form quietly for several months in a training camp set up at the border Jordanian- Syrian fighters ASL, the Free Syrian Army, handpicked.
#10 The U.S. military moved a significant number of F-16 fighter jets to Jordan earlier this year for military exercises, and kept them there afterward “at the request of the Jordanian government“.
#11 According to a government document that Wikileaks released back in March 2012, NATO personnel have been on the ground inside Syria preparing for regime change since 2011.
#12 The Times of Israel is reporting that an internal military assessment has concluded that “Washington is seriously considering a limited yet effective attack that will make it clear to the regime in Damascus that the international community will not tolerate the use of weapons of mass destruction against Syrian civilians or any other elements”.
#13 U.S. Senator John McCain recently said that if the U.S. military does not hit Syria, it will be like “writing a blank check to other brutal dictators around the world if they want to use chemical weapons”.
#14 According to the New York Times, “the NATO air war in Kosovo” is being studied “as a possible blueprint for acting without a mandate from the United Nations”.
#15 The White House has released a statement that says that the Obama administration has no plans to put “boots on the ground“, but it did not rule out any other types of military action.
This is not a conflict that the U.S. military should be involved in.
And we should especially not be on the side of the rabidly anti-Christian, rabidly anti-Israel and rabidly anti-western forces that are attempting to take control of Syria.
The terrorists that the Obama administration is backing are absolutely psychotic. Just check out the following example from a recent article posted on the Blaze…
New video posted on YouTube purports to show the graphic murder – execution style – of three Syrian truck drivers who did nothing more than belong to a minority faith the local Al Qaeda affiliate does not like.
In the video, a small band of Islamist radicals with the Al Qaeda-linked ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) group is seen waving the tractor trailers off the side of an Iraqi road and then proceeds to interrogate the unsuspecting drivers about their prayer habits, trying to discover if they are Sunnis or members of the Alawite minority in Syria.
When they “fail” the Sunni jihadis’ pop roadside quiz, the truck drivers are seated in a line in the median of the road and shot in the back of their heads firing squad style by the self-appointed law enforcers, jury, judge and executioner.
Why in the world would the United States want to arm such people?
Why in the world would the United States want to go to war to help such people take power?
It is utter insanity.
And as I mentioned earlier, most Americans are totally against getting involved. According to a stunning new poll, 60 percent of all Americans are against U.S. military intervention in Syria, and only 9 percent are in favor of it.
So in light of all that you have just read, why is the Obama administration so determined to help the rebels in Syria?
When It Comes to Syria, You Can Count On It That… August 27, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Chemical Biological Weapons, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: assad, biden, chemical weapons, civilian casualties, cruise missiles, kerry, obama war, rob krall, roger hollander, sarin, Syria, syria chemical, syria war
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Roger’s note: The United States president and Nobel Peace Laureate appears to be about to launch another military attack on a nation that poses no threat to his country, and this will likely be done unconstitutionally without sanction of Congress or United Nations support. It will be the same old scenario that uses a phony pretext. Today Biden joined Kerry in stating with absolute certainty and absolutely no evidence that the Syrian Assad regime was indeed responsible for the chemical attack. Here we go again on the road to WWIII. Israel’s Netanyahu along with the military industrial complex and its war profiteers are dancing for joy. Thousands will die, mostly civilians. This is known fondly as collateral damage. Note: my spell check didn’t recognize “WWWIII” and tried to change it to WWI or WWII. Apparently spell check doesn’t keep up with the news. I am reminded of Tom Leher’s World War Three ditty: “So long, Mom, I’m off to drop the bomb, so don’t wait up of me …”
There are so many things wrong with the way Syria will be handled. And sadly, we can be just about certain, in advance, that these will all happen.
Convair/General Dynamics Tomahawk by San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives
Syrian War of Lies and Hypocrisy July 29, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: ahmadinejad, assad, bbc, hezbollan, hillary clinton, Iran, Middle East, Obama, panetta, qatar, robert fisk, roger hollander, saudi arabia, Syria, syria rebels, syria torture
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The West’s real target here is not Assad’s brutal regime but his ally, Iran, and its nuclear weapons
Has there ever been a Middle Eastern war of such hypocrisy? A war of such cowardice and such mean morality, of such false rhetoric and such public humiliation? I’m not talking about the physical victims of the Syrian tragedy. I’m referring to the utter lies and mendacity of our masters and our own public opinion – eastern as well as western – in response to the slaughter, a vicious pantomime more worthy of Swiftian satire than Tolstoy or Shakespeare.
Is he the US’s real target? Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
While Qatar and Saudi Arabia arm and fund the rebels of Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite/Shia-Baathist dictatorship, Washington mutters not a word of criticism against them. President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, say they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar is an autocracy and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world. Rulers of both states inherit power from their families – just as Bashar has done – and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the Salafist-Wahabi rebels in Syria, just as it was the most fervent supporter of the medieval Taliban during Afghanistan’s dark ages.
Indeed, 15 of the 19 hijacker-mass murderers of 11 September, 2001, came from Saudi Arabia – after which, of course, we bombed Afghanistan. The Saudis are repressing their own Shia minority just as they now wish to destroy the Alawite-Shia minority of Syria. And we believe Saudi Arabia wants to set up a democracy in Syria?
Then we have the Shia Hezbollah party/militia in Lebanon, right hand of Shia Iran and supporter of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. For 30 years, Hezbollah has defended the oppressed Shias of southern Lebanon against Israeli aggression. They have presented themselves as the defenders of Palestinian rights in the West Bank and Gaza. But faced with the slow collapse of their ruthless ally in Syria, they have lost their tongue. Not a word have they uttered – nor their princely Sayed Hassan Nasrallah – about the rape and mass murder of Syrian civilians by Bashar’s soldiers and “Shabiha” militia.
Then we have the heroes of America – La Clinton, the Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Obama himself. Clinton issues a “stern warning” to Assad. Panetta – the same man who repeated to the last US forces in Iraq that old lie about Saddam’s connection to 9/11 – announces that things are “spiralling out of control” in Syria. They have been doing that for at least six months. Has he just realized? And then Obama told us last week that “given the regime’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad … that the world is watching”. Now, was it not a County Cork newspaper called the Skibbereen Eagle, fearful of Russia’s designs on China, which declared that it was “keeping an eye … on the Tsar of Russia”? Now it is Obama’s turn to emphasize how little clout he has in the mighty conflicts of the world. How Bashar must be shaking in his boots.
But what US administration would really want to see Bashar’s atrocious archives of torture opened to our gaze? Why, only a few years ago, the Bush administration was sending Muslims to Damascus for Bashar’s torturers to tear their fingernails out for information, imprisoned at the US government’s request in the very hell-hole which Syrian rebels blew to bits last week. Western embassies dutifully supplied the prisoners’ tormentors with questions for the victims. Bashar, you see, was our baby.
Saudi ally: Hillary Clinton at a conference with the Saudi foreign minister on plans for a Gulf missile shield against the Iranians.
Then there’s that neighboring country which owes us so much gratitude: Iraq. Last week, it suffered in one day 29 bombing attacks in 19 cities, killing 111 civilian and wounding another 235. The same day, Syria’s bloodbath consumed about the same number of innocents. But Iraq was “down the page” from Syria, buried “below the fold”, as we journalists say; because, of course, we gave freedom to Iraq, Jeffersonian democracy, etc, etc, didn’t we? So this slaughter to the east of Syria didn’t have quite the same impact, did it? Nothing we did in 2003 led to Iraq’s suffering today. Right?
And talking of journalism, who in BBC World News decided that even the preparations for the Olympics should take precedence all last week over Syrian outrages? British newspapers and the BBC in Britain will naturally lead with the Olympics as a local story. But in a lamentable decision, the BBC – broadcasting “world” news to the world – also decided that the passage of the Olympic flame was more important than dying Syrian children, even when it has its own courageous reporter sending his dispatches directly from Aleppo.
Then, of course, there’s us, our dear liberal selves who are so quick to fill the streets of London in protest at the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians. Rightly so, of course. When our political leaders are happy to condemn Arabs for their savagery but too timid to utter a word of the mildest criticism when the Israeli army commits crimes against humanity – or watches its allies do it in Lebanon – ordinary people have to remind the world that they are not as timid as the politicians. But when the scorecard of death in Syria reaches 15,000 or 19,000 – perhaps 14 times as many fatalities as in Israel’s savage 2008-2009 onslaught on Gaza – scarcely a single protester, save for Syrian expatriates abroad, walks the streets to condemn these crimes against humanity. Israel’s crimes have not been on this scale since 1948. Rightly or wrongly, the message that goes out is simple: we demand justice and the right to life for Arabs if they are butchered by the West and its Israeli allies; but not when they are being butchered by their fellow Arabs.
And all the while, we forget the “big” truth. That this is an attempt to crush the Syrian dictatorship not because of our love for Syrians or our hatred of our former friend Bashar al-Assad, or because of our outrage at Russia, whose place in the pantheon of hypocrites is clear when we watch its reaction to all the little Stalingrads across Syria. No, this is all about Iran and our desire to crush the Islamic Republic and its infernal nuclear plans – if they exist – and has nothing to do with human rights or the right to life or the death of Syrian babies. Quelle horreur!
Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper. He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.