Sep 052013
 

Seeded by a country that only months earlier broadcast Boston citizens chanting “USA” repeatedly while their homes are subject to martial law, the imminent desperate plunder of Syria has left a visible impression on Ambassador Jafari. As the United States demonstrates its complete lack of legitimacy except through force, the United Nations followed suit and showed Jafari that it is nothing more than a criminal enterprise.

Jun 042013
 

Russia Today

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Mokrushin)

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Mokrushin)

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that “political games” prevented Russia from investigating the data on the use of toxic substances in Aleppo: the UN Secretariat couldn’t respond promptly to Moscow’s demand to look into the matter.

In March, the Syrian government invited the United Nations to investigate possible chemical weapons use in the Khan al-Assal area of rural Aleppo. Military experts and officials said a chemical agent, most likely sarin, was used in the attack which killed 26 people, including government forces.

A boy, affected in what the government said was a chemical weapons attack, is treated at a hospital in the Syrian city of Aleppo March 19, 2013. (Reuters / George Ourfalian)

A boy, affected in what the government said was a chemical weapons attack, is treated at a hospital in the Syrian city of Aleppo March 19, 2013. (Reuters / George Ourfalian)

Several countries, including Israel, the UK, France and the US – all vocal critics of Syrian President Bashar Assad – all claimed they had evidence that chemical weapons were used in Syria.

Damascus denied that a chemical attack was carried out by the Syrian army, blaming the rebels and Turkey for the incident: “The rocket came from a placed controlled by the terrorist and which is located close to the Turkish territory. One can assume that the weapon came from Turkey,” Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi alleged in an interview with Interfax news agency.

Lavrov spoke following the reports that Turkish security forces found a 2kg cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of Syrian militants from the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front who were previously detained.

The sarin gas was found in the homes of alleged Syrian militants, who were reportedly planning a terrorist attack on the southern Turkish city of Adana.

Russia expressed concern over the incident, urging for a thorough investigation into the matter.

Almost a month ago, the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad said that Damascus was ready to have the UN investigation team look into alleged chemical weapons use in Syria.

“We were ready and we are always ready, right now, to receive the delegation that was set up by [UN Secretary-General] Ban Ki-moon to investigate what happened in Khan al-Assal,” Muqdad said, referring to the March 19 incident near Aleppo.

Syrian rebels are accused of using a rocket with a chemical warhead, killing 25 people and injuring 86, according to SANA news agency.

Meanwhile, the US and Germany spoke to Russia on the perils of sending Assad any sort of support, arguing it would prolong the war and jeopardize efforts to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, with his German counterpart Guide Westervelle, urged Russia not to supply Assad with its sophisticated S-300 air defense missile system – among other reasons, arguing that it would threaten Israel’s security. Westervelle called the decision “totally wrong”.

Kerry has been actively promoting the upcoming Geneva conference on Syria, having met with Lavrov earlier – although planning has been muddled by the opposition threatening to boycott the talks. Despite this, Western powers have repeatedly chosen to overlook the opposition’s actions as an obstacle.

Still, both Russia and the US remain committed to the talks, with Kerry insisting “If everybody is serious, and we are, and the Russians have said they are, the best chance to save Syria… is through a peaceful resolution that comes about in an organized way.”

Westervelle also pleaded with both sides “not to spoil the conference.”

The Syrian civil war has been raging for more than two years now, with more than 80,000 people killed, according to UN estimates.

In his latest statement on the matter, Lavrov noted the Russian government’s concern over the issue due to the chance of provocations around the situation.

Continue reading »

Jun 032013
 

Global Research
Cem Ertür

  • Turkey’s False-flag Operation against Syria Backfires: The Reyhanli bombing attacks in a larger contex
The Syria-Iran-Turkey Triangle: A New War Scenario in the Middle East

“Syria is worrying that it will be attacked by Turkey from above and by Israel from below. It is worrying that it will be squeezed between us like a sandwich.”   [Israeli President Ezer Weizman (1993-2000), interview with Guneri Civaoglu,Caesarea, Israel, 11 June 1996]  [1]

“Although Turkey has never taken part in a war alongside us, it is a positive factor for Israel that Syria has an enemy on its northern frontiers. Syria will never attack Turkey, but it cannot exclude the reverse.”  [Former Israeli Defence Minister Uri Or (1995-1996), interview with Alain Gresh, Tel Aviv, October 1997]  [2]

INTRODUCTION

When the U.S. and its allies launched the covert war on Syria in 2011, they were expecting that either Syria’s political establishment would collapse within a short duration or they would find a way to ignite an open war. As Syria’s leaders and people proved to be exceptionally resilient, increasingly more brutal means have been deployed to tear the country apart. Being at the forefront of this covert war in every respect, Turkey has been thoroughly complicit in monumental war crimes committed against the neighbouring people of Syria.

Turkey’s phony peace with its neighbours Syria (since December 2004) and Iran (since November 2008) came to an abrupt end in May 2011, when its central role in NATO’s covert war against Syria became evident. [3] 

As for Turkey’s phony conflict with Israel, which began with the May 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre, has also been fully exposed when Turkey overtly supported Israel’s blatant acts of military aggression against Syria in 2013. The repercussions of the May 2013 Reyhanli false-flag bombing attacks near Turkey’s border with Syria is the latest evidence of a deep crisis of legitimacy for the United States, Britain, Israel and Turkey; the four countries whose alliance has been dominating the political scene in the Middle East and beyond since 1990.

ISRAELI AIR ATTACKS ON DAMASCUS

As NATO’s international mercenary forces from 29 different countries started suffering heavy defeats against the Syrian Army, Israeli Air Forces came to their rescue by launching two separate air strikes in Syria, both of which were blatant acts of war.  [4]  [5]

After the first Israeli air attack on Damascus on January 30th, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu made the following remarks  [6]:

“Why did the Syrian Army, which has been launching attacks on its own innocent civilian population for the past 22 months with jets from the air and with tanks and artillery fire from the ground, not retaliate against this Israeli operation?  Why doesAssadnoteven throw a pebble whenthe Israeli jets fly over his palace and violate the dignity of his country? Why is Assad, who gives an order to fire Scud [missiles] at Aleppo, not doing anything against Israel? Is there a secret pact between Assad and Israel? [...]  The Assad administration knows only to abuse. Why doesn’t he use against Israel, [a country] which they have regarded as an enemy since its foundation, the same force that he uses against defenceless women ? ”  [7]

On May 5th, UN human rights investigator Carla del Ponte announced the findings of the United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria:

“According to the testimonies we have gathered, the rebels have used chemical weapons [in Syria], making use of sarin gas.”  [8]

The same day, Israel launched another air attack on Damascus. [9]  In response to this second act of war by Israel against Syria, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, lashed out at Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad for war crimes that were actually perpetrated by NATO’s international mercenary forces in Syria  [10] :

“The scenes in [the Syrian town of] Baniyas are as tragic as those in Karbala [in AD 680]  and the murderers are at least as despicable as Yazid [...] [who killed] our beloved Prophet’s beautiful grandchildren Hassan and Hussein [...]

Those organisations which are lending support to the illegal regime of Syria, those countries which are backing the illegal regime of Syria, the United Nations and the [U.N.] Security Council in particular, will not be able to exonerate themselves of this sin. Those who ignore this massacre, this inhumane scene in the name of sectarian solidarity, in the name of [political] conjuncture or in the name of international [political] interests will not be able to exonerate themselves of this major sin. [...]

I need to point this out as well: Israel’s air attack on Damascus is certainly not acceptable either. No reason, no excuse can justify this operation. Such attacks serve as trump cards, golden opportunities offered to the Syrian regime. In fact, by using Israel’s attack as an excuse, Assad engages in an effort to cover up the genocide in Baniyas. [However] , even this Israeli operation will not be able to save Assad who does not shed a drop of sweat, let alone a drop of blood for the Golan [Heights] .”  [11]

Four days after the second Israeli air attack on Damascus and United Nations’ statement on the mercenaries’ use of chemical weapons in Syria, Mr Erdogan gave an interview to the U.S. television channel NBC, where he said that if the U.S. were to launch a ground military invasion of Syria, then Turkey would support it. [12]  However, as this statement amounted to a de facto declaration of war on Syria, it has been instantly censored by the NBC and the Prime Minister’s office issued a press release which denied it. [13]  Here are excerpts from the edited version of this interview:

“ERDOGAN:  It is clear that the regime has used chemical weapons and missiles. They used about 200 missiles, according to our intelligence. There are different sizes missiles. And then there are deaths caused by these missiles. And there are burns, you know, serious burns and chemical reactions. And there are patients who are brought to our hospitals who were wounded by these chemical weapons. You can see who is affected by chemical missiles by their burns.  [14]

NBC:  So has President Assad crossed President Obama’s red line?

ERDOGAN:  A long time ago. My question is, the United Nations, U.N. Security Council, are you doing what you are supposed to do? Why do you exist in the first place? What is your job? I mean, is there a deadline, like they are not going to move until 1 million people are killed?

NBC:  Will you encourage President Obama to get involved directly in the situation in Syria?

ERDOGAN:  We want the United States to assume more responsibilities and take further steps.

NBC:  What is the just punishment for Mr. Assad, in your view? What is your message to him today, at this moment in history?

ERDOGAN:  Well, I am saying that he should leave Syria immediately. Sooner or later, the opposition are going to get him. And I hope that his end does not be like Qadhafi’s.”  [15]

During the interview, Mr Erdogan also said that he plans to share the evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria with the U.S. President Barack Obama. [16]  However, no evidence at all was presented by either Mr Erdogan or Mr Obama after their meeting in the following week on May 16th.  [17]

The same day, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Davutoglu reiterated the last Anglo-American propaganda argument before the launch of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, by making a reference to the Iraqi Army’s mass murder of Iraqi Kurds in Halabja in 1988  [18] :

“From now on, we will be carrying out these tests [for chemical weapon wounds] on every injured person coming [from Syria] so that no one could dare to commit a crime against humanity, like the one in Halabja, by using [chemical weapons] in Syria.” [19]

The same day, the Associated Press reported the ongoing preparations at Turkey’s border with Syria:

 “Turkey had stationed a team of eight experts to screen injured Syrians at the frontier. They were manning a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense vehicle deployed at the main Cilvegozu border gate with Syria.”  [20]

Again on the same day, a news report entitled “Forensic medicine establishment proves that al-Assad has used chemical weapons” was published by Turkish newspaper Star:

“It has been definitely determined that [Syrian President Bashar] Al-Asad has used chemical weapons against his own people. The Public Health Institute and the Ankara Forensic Medicine Establishment have found the substance “Ricin”, which in the world is found only in Iran, China, and Russia, in 13 wounded individuals coming from Syria. [...]  It is stated that Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan will place the dossier before [US President Barack] Obama on his US visit [on May 16] .The affair emerged when 13 wounded Syrian oppositionists were brought on 29 April from Syria to the Reyhanli State Hospital. ”  [21]

All this evokes the war propaganda back in February 1998, when the Bill Clinton administration made an unsuccessful attempt to instigate a war with Iraq. According to an AFP report;

“Turkish authorities have sent 60,000 gas masks to its southeast regions bordering Iraq to protect civilians from possible chemical and biological attacks by Iraqi forces, [Turkish] dailies Sabah and Yeni Yuzyil said Friday. The masks, sent by civil defence chiefs, are destined for civil servants working in the region bordering Iraq [...] . Southeast Turkey borders Iraq and the region is thought to be in a potentially dangerous position in case Iraq decides to use the chemical and biological weapons it is suspected of having.”  [22]

It is worth also mentioning two allegations made against Turkish Armed Forces’ use of chemical weapons in the past:

In August 2011, five members of parliament from Germany’s Die Linke party held a press conference to condemn the appointment of the current head of Turkish Armed Forces Necdet Ozel:

  “When [Necdet] Ozel was the General Commander of the Gendarmerie, he was not only responsible for the death, torture and violence in the Kurdish region [of Turkey] . In 1999, he ordered the use of chemical weapons against Kurdish guerrillas [near the Ballikaya Village in Silopi] .”  [23]

In October 2011, two months after Necdet Ozel’s appointment, 37 Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas were killed in the Kazan Valley of the Hakkari province during an operation by the Turkish Armed Forces. The following month, a European delegation visited the Kazan Valley to investigate the allegations of chemical weapons use during this operation.  [24]

As the earlier quote from Turkish newspaper Star shows, the Reyhanli State Hospital near Turkey’s border with Syria was at the forefront of the chemical weapons propaganda over the April 29 incident. Two days after this press report, the same hospital was inundated with the victims of a far more devastating false-flag operation.

OFFICIAL REACTIONS TO THE REYHANLI BOMBING ATTACKS

On May 11, international media agencies reported that twin car bombs have killed at least 43 people and injured at least 100 in the Turkish town of Reyhanli, near the Syrian border. [25]  Shortly after the bombing attacks, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc pointed the finger at Syria:

“Our thoughts are that their Mukhabarat [Syria’s intelligence agency] and armed organisations are the usual suspects in planning and the carrying out of such devilish plans.”  [25]

Hours after the Reyhanli bombing attacks, the head of global military alliance NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen issued a press release:

“I express full solidarity with the people and the authorities of our Ally Turkey.”  [26]

The following day, Turkey’s Interior Minister Muammer Guler held a press conference:

“For the time being there is no evidence suggesting that al-Qaida was involved.”  [27]

This is a rather interesting comment considering that until 2012, when al-Qaeda’s role in NATO’s covert war on Syria became fully exposed, Turkey’s political authorities were quite at ease in holding Al Qaeda responsible for any atrocity committed in Turkey or abroad. [E]  That same day, Prime Minister Erdogan also accused Syria:

“These attacks betray the intention of a country on fire which is trying to drag Turkey into the same fire. These attacks, to put it bluntly, are the bloody Baath regime’s attempt to provide an opportunity to its collaborators. [...] These attacks aim to provoke those who live together in peace, in serenity, in fraternity, particularly in Hatay. Most importantly, these attacks target Turkey which has resolved its terror issue, reinforced fraternity, put an end to mothers’ tears. [...]

Even if Turkey were to remain silent, stand idly by in the face of the tragedy in Syria, these traps would still have been set up, Turkey would still have been targeted. Those who criticise Turkey’s policy on Syria in the wake of these attacks with utter brazenness, a sheer lack of common sense and pure opportunism exhibit ignorance and an absence of policy. These attacks do not target our policy on Syria, they target our fraternity, our stability, our growth.”  [28]

The next day, Mr Erdogan spoke even more categorically:

“This incident is definitely connected to the [Syrian] regime. The [Syrian] regime is behind this incident. That is evident.”  [29]

Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi responded to Mr Erdogan’s accusations in full force:

“The real terrorist is the government of Turkey under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It opened Turkey’s border with Syria to the terrorists. [Turkey] became a hub of international jihadi terrorism. It unleashed these terrorists on Turkish people’s houses and fields. It hosted terrorists coming from all over the world. Without any consideration, it provided them with all types of arms, bombs and explosive devices so that they could massacre people of Syria. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his interior and foreign ministers bear a political and moral responsibility towards all the people of the world in general and the people of Syria and their own people in particular. [...]

The sole responsibility for the bombing attacks in Reyhanli lies with Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These [attacks] couldn’t have been perpetrated by Syria. Despite all the things they did to the people and army of Syria for such a long time, neither our decency, nor our ethics, nor our policy would allow us to do something like this. [...]

No one has got the right to accuse others. Shortly after [the attacks] , Turkey’s Interior Minister [Muammer Guler] has said that they suspect that [the attacks] were connected to Syria. To put it plainly, the reason why he came up with such quick accusations without any evidence at hand, is to fabricate the evidence they had in mind. These [attacks] were directly perpetrated by Erdogan and the AKP. They are the ones who, through their intelligence and security forces, supplied Al Qaida with chemical and got them to penetrate all the way to Aleppo. They are the ones who transported terrorists, arms and deaths through their planes. Erdogan himself and his party want to destroy Syria. What occurred in Reyhanli was the ambition of destroying Syria itself. Whoever wants death and massacre is the one who carried out this massacre in Turkey.

When bombs explode in Turkey, we know why these bombs have been made to explode. The whole world knows why the bombs are exploding in Syria. But why in Turkey and why now? And why particularly before Erdogan’s meeting with Obama? Erdogan wants to get the United States into action. And then he will say ‘I am a member of NATO, Syria is attacking me’. In fact, in his latest statement, he said ‘we are capable of making war with Syria’. [...]  Turkey’s Foreign Minister [Davutoglu] said yesterday that Turkey is strong enough to defend itself. Against whom is it going to defend itself ? Who actually poses a threat to Turkey ? ”  [30]

Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah’s statement was equally straightforward:

“These terrorist bombings came as part of a series of similar crimes that affect innocent people in several Arab and Islamic countries, which can only be made [by] criminal hands. It also bore the hallmarks of international intelligence agencies, aimed at destabilizing and creating discord and unrest in these countries.”  [31]

Two weeks later, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag targeted Hezbollah for its political and military support to Syria  [32] :

“ [Hezbollah] says that it stands by Assad. [...]  From where does it draw its strength?  Having sided with those who unleash death upon their fellow Muslim brothers [...] , [Hezbollah] has no right to draw strength from Islam and the Quran. The source of their strength would actually be the Satan who wants to pit Muslims against each other, who wants to have them slaughter each other. [...]  Hezbollah should change its name to ‘Hezbol-satan’ [i.e. Party of Satan] . ”  [33]

DESTROYING THE EVIDENCE

On the day of the incident, which was a Saturday, the Government managed to get the local court of Reyhanli to issue a blanket censorship ban regarding the broadcasting of news about the bombing attacks in Reyhanli. According to this ban, only statements made by senior authorities and police reports would be allowed to be reported on the media and the internet:

 “Within the framework of the investigation concerning the blasts in Reyhanli district on 11.05.2013 [...] , broadcasting and displaying information concerning the site of the incident, concerning the dead and injured casualties of the incident and concerning the content of the incident on all types of audio-visual, written and visual media and the internet is banned according to Article 153 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.”  [34]

Actually, this blanket ban was mainly targeting the information flow through the Internet considering that Turkey’s mainstream media have been fully complicit in the Government’s constant war propaganda against Syria from April 2011. Nevertheless, the ban on the Internet proved to be somewhat ineffective in the face of an overwhelming sense of indignation towards to Government across the country.

Medical staff in the Hatay province, where Reyhanli is located, was ordered to “limit the death toll to 50”. Local authorities said they ‘were instructed not to give any statement to the press’. [35]  Journalist Ferdi Ozmen revealed the actual figure by posting the number of deaths in seven local hospitals with a total of 177. He has been arrested for defying the blanket ban.  [36]

Republican People’s Party (CHP) member of parliament Mevlut Dudu explains how the evidence was instantly destroyed after the incident:

“The police officers refused us entry to the site of the attacks on the grounds that they are collecting evidence. Nevertheless, we did [manage] to enter and saw that no evidence was being collected. Quite on the contrary, they were destroying the evidence using heavy construction equipment.”  [37]

It transpired that none of the 73 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the town recorded the bombing attacks. Due to a “system error”, they had been out of order four days before the incident. Most of these 73 CCTV cameras were directly viewing the points where the bombing attacks occurred.  [38]

CHP member of parliament Aytug Atici revealed that electricity was cut off just five minutes before the bombing attacks. [39]  In fact, according to activist Hamide Yigit, cutting off the electricity was a strategy used by Turkey’s authorities in smuggling international mercenaries into Syria:

“Electricity is cut off along the [Harbiye-Yayladagi] itinerary; everywhere, including streets and roads, becomes totally dark. Meanwhile, vehicles carrying military ammunition and armed groups to the border pass by. Once their passage is over, the electricity resumes. The local residents, who are prevented from witnessing this transport, are feeling deeply restless about it.”  [40]

On the day of the bombing attacks, the militants who wanted to cross from Syria into Turkey were guided towards the Cilvegozu border gate instead of their habitual point of entry in Reyhanli.  [41]

A currently censored video which was posted on Youtube shortly after the bombing attacks was recorded from an angle which oversaw the site of the attacks. Arabic speaking “Free Syrian Army” militants are seen to be recording the blasts in jubilation, shouting “Allah-u Akbar” (God is great) and mentioning the location of the blasts and the date.  [42]

Only two days before the bombing attacks in Reyhanli, ABC reported “a secret visit” by the former U.S. Ambassador to Syria (January-October 2011) Robert Ford, who is the mastermind of NATO’s covert war on Syria  [43] :

“A U.S. official confirmed [Robert] Ford’s secret visit, which occurred along the Turkey-Syria border. He briefly crossed into Syria to meet with opposition leaders before returning to Turkey.”  [44]

In fact, there is a long history of false-flag incidents occurring in Turkey ahead of almost every top level meeting between Turkey’s politicians and their U.S. or Israeli counterparts.

Of all the false-flag operations in Turkey, by far the most devastating was the bombing attacks on 15th and 20th November 2003, which targeted two synagogues, HSBC bank headquarters and the British Embassy in Istanbul, killing 57 people and wounding another 700. The attacks coincided with U.S. President George Bush’s meting with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London.  [45]

Baki Yigit was on of the five people who were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment in 2007 for their roles in these attacks. He was released from prison in 2010 and died in 2012 whilst fighting in Aleppo among the ranks of the Free Syrian Army.  [46]

Furthermore, foreign intelligence agencies CIA (U.S.), Mossad (Israel), MI6 (Britain) and BND (Germany) have a very prominent presence across Turkey’s border region with Syria. Located some 100 km from Turkey’s border with Syria, NATO’s Incirlik Airbase is being used as the command centre for the covert war on Syria.  [47]

PROTESTS AGAINST THE ERDOGAN GOVERNMENT

Immediately after the bombing attacks, spontaneous protests broke out in Reyhanli and in various parts of the Hatay province. Incensed protesters were chanting “Erdogan resign” Turkey’s military deployed a huge number of air and ground military reinforcements to Hatay and Reyhanli in order to prevent spontaneous protests in Reyhanli and other parts of the Hatay province turning into a full-scale uprising.  [48]  [49]

Even the Reyhanli State Hospital was under siege, where riot police, plain-clothes police officers and an armoured police vehicle were deployed.  [50]

Nine months before the bombing attacks in Reyhanli, activist Hamide Yigit describes the state of mind of the people in the Hatay province where Reyhanli is located:

“The mendacity of the media in ‘marketing’ war to the people is seen more clearly from Hatay. From the very first day the incidents started in Syria, they have been aware and observe that the media is reporting lies. The people of Hatay have relatives in every city in Syria, they speak its language [i.e. Arabic] , watch its broadcasts, read its press, and even if none of that is the case, can inform themselves about any incident at the convenience of a phone call, they are furious towards the media for its distortion of the facts to such an extent. [...]

For the past seventeenth months, the people [of Hatay] have been living in fear of [the possibility that] a war, for which they can find no reason, might explode on their doorstep. Hatay’s economy is stagnating, its revenues have stopped, its bread has shrunk. Hatay has enjoyed harmonious fraternity among its diverse population up until the present day. However, [the Government] is trying to disrupt this by pitting groups against each other, by emphasising differences of identity [Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish, etc.] , sectarian differences [Sunni, Alevi, etc.] . The people of Hatay are constantly hearing news of deaths and injuries from relatives [in Syria] and live in constant fear of hearing such news.

The worst of this is that Hatay is being used as the command centre for attacks launched on their brotherly, blood-related people of Syria and hosting those who are firing bullets at them… With the anger and sorrow this, what is being spoken on every street and household [in Hatay] is the following: ‘We refuse to endure this disgrace any longer. We don’t want to keep waiting for this catastrophe which is advancing rapidly and looms closer every day. The refugee camps should be immediately removed from Hatay and re-arranged in a way to prioritise a humanitarian function. The flow of weapons and ‘terrorists’ across the border [with Syria] must stop! ” [40]

In 2013, tensions between the local population of the Hatay province and the international mercenary forces have reached a peak. Numerous riots broke out between the Syrian refugees and Turkey’s security forces in the refugee camps in Hatay and other southern provinces of Turkey. [51]  [52]  According to the Government’s own figures, a total of 114,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey have returned to Syria.  [53]

Continue reading »

May 072013
 

Land Destroyer
Tony Cartalucci

The US feigns disassociation with Hitlerian act of Israeli aggression – as was planned since 2007.

Image: The West has carefully cultivated Israel into “regional bully.” Immune from international condemnation, it is now being used to commit egregious war crimes against neighboring Syria, in hopes of provoking a retaliation and giving the US and its regional axis the justification it has long sought to militarily intervene.

….

May 5, 2013 (LD) – Unprovoked, Israel has attacked Syria numerous times over the past 2 days, including attacks on the Syrian capital of Damascus, in what appears to be a series of intentional provocations designed to drag the region into a wider conflict its US sponsors can then enter militarily. Neither attacked directly by Syria, nor able to cite credible evidence in regards to perceived threats Israel claims to be reacting to, the assault on Syria represents a Chapter VII breach of the United Nations Charter.

What’s more, is that while the US feigns disassociation with Israel’s breach of international peace, after jointly fueling a genocidal sectarian conflict within Syria’s borders for the past two years, it is documented fact that the US and Saudi Arabia planned to use Israel to conduct military attacks against Iran and Syria, they themselves could not justify politically, legally, or strategically.

What is now hoped is that Syria and Iran retaliate militarily, allowing the “other shoe to drop,” and for the US, UK, France, and their regional axis to directly intervene in Syria, and with any luck, Iran.

Insidious Ploy Engineered and Documented in 2007-2009

As early as 2007, it was reported that a US-Saudi-Israeli conspiracy to overthrow the governments of Iran and Syria by arming sectarian terrorists, many linked directly to Al Qaeda, was already set in motion. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his 2007 New Yorker article, “The Redirection,” stated (emphasis added):

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

Of Israel and Saudi Arabia’s partnership it specifically stated:
“The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.”

Additionally, Saudi Arabian officials mentioned the careful balancing act their nation must play in order to conceal its role in supporting US-Israeli ambitions across the region. It was stated even then, that using Israel to publicly carry out attacks on Iran would be preferable to the US, which would ultimately implicate the Saudis. It was stated:

“The Saudi said that, in his country’s view, it was taking a political risk by joining the U.S. in challenging Iran: Bandar is already seen in the Arab world as being too close to the Bush Administration. “We have two nightmares,” the former diplomat told me. “For Iran to acquire the bomb and for the United States to attack Iran. I’d rather the Israelis bomb the Iranians, so we can blame them. If America does it, we will be blamed.””

This ploy was further developed in 2009 by the Fortune 500-funded (page 19) Brookings Institution in their document, “Which Path to Persia?” In regards to Iran, and now clearly being utilized against Syria, the gambit was described as follows (emphasis added):

…it would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be. Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to goad Iran into such a provocation without the rest of the world recognizing this game, which would then undermine it. (One method that would have some possibility of success would be to ratchet up covert regime change efforts in the hope that Tehran would retaliate overtly, or even semi-overtly, which could then be portrayed as an unprovoked act of Iranian aggression.) ” -page 84-85, Which Path to Perisa?, Brookings Institution.

And:

“Israel appears to have done extensive planning and practice for such a strike already, and its aircraft are probably already based as close to Iran as possible. as such, Israel might be able to launch the strike in a matter of weeks or even days, depending on what weather and intelligence conditions it felt it needed.  Moreover, since Israel would have much less of a need (or even interest)  in securing regional support for the operation, Jerusalem probably would feel less motivated to wait for an Iranian provocation before attacking. In short, Israel could move very fast to implement this option if both Israeli and American leaders wanted it to happen.

However, as noted in the previous chapter, the airstrikes themselves are really just the start of this policy. Again, the Iranians would doubtless rebuild their nuclear sites. They would probably retaliate against Israel, and they might retaliate against the United States, too (which might create a pretext for American airstrikes or even an invasion).” -page 91, Which Path to Perisa?, Brookings Institution.

And Israel not waiting for a plausible justification to attack Syria is exactly what has just happened. It should also be noted in particular, the last paragraph which gives insight into what the US-led axis plans to do after this egregious international crime – that is – to incrementally engulf the region into a conflict it finally can justify its own entry into open military aggression.

What Should Syria and its Allies Do? 

Syria, Iran, Russia and other nations that support the besieged nation most certainly were aware of the Brookings document “Which Path to Persia?” and familiar with this strategy. It would be hoped that anything of value that the Israelis would seek to attack in order to provoke a much desired retaliation and subsequent war, would have been provided additional protection, or moved entirely out of range of potential Israeli attacks.

A media campaign to illustrate the hypocritical and very revealing convergence between Al Qaeda (the so-called Free Syrian Army or FSA) and Israeli interests would undermine whatever remaining support the battered and failing Western-backed terror campaign inside Syria may still have.

Additionally, Israel’s selection by the US to carry out this attack was done specifically because Israel has long-ago exhausted its international legitimacy. What it is doing in Syria is a blatant international crime, in direct violation of international law. Currently, Syria and its allies hold the moral high ground against an enemy who is no longer fooling the world. If it is calculated that Syria can survive Israel’s unprovoked brutality, it would be best to do little or nothing, and incur internationally the same outrage that accompanies Israel’s brutality against the Palestinians.

In light of the US using Israel as its proxy against Syria, should Syria and its allies retaliate, it would be best to do so through any proxies they themselves have at their disposal. Just as Hezbollah and the Palestinians now routinely defeat Israel both strategically and politically, Syria now faces an opportunity to do so again, only on a much bigger scale.

The outrageous actions of Israel, the despicable double-game the US attempts to play by feigning disassociation with its regional beachhead in Tel Aviv, and the silent complicity of the UN, has people around the world desperately seeking retaliation from Syria, or Iran, or both. In reality, this is precisely what the West hopes to achieve – a wider conventional war in which they hold the advantage. By refusing to retaliate directly, Syria cripples the West politically, highlighting the unprovoked nature of their attacks on a nation they claim is a threat, yet fails to strike back even when its capital is under bombardment. By responding through its own plausibly deniable proxies, tactical and political pressure can be put on Israel to end its aggression.
Continue reading »

May 072013
 

Global Research
Alex Lantier

UN

In a series of interviews, UN investigator Carla del Ponte said that sarin gas used in Syria was fired by the US-backed opposition, not the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Her account explodes the lies on which Washington and its European allies have based their campaign for war with Syria, according to which the US and its allies are preparing to attack Syria to protect its people from Assad’s chemical weapons. In fact, available evidence of sarin use implicates the Islamist-dominated “rebels” who are armed by US-allied Middle Eastern countries, under CIA supervision.

Del Ponte’s statements coincide with the flagrantly illegal Israeli air strikes on Syria, which have been endorsed by President Obama. These acts of war mark a major escalation of the US-instigated and supported sectarian war for regime-change in Syria, itself a preparation for attacks on the Syrian regime’s main ally in the region, Iran.

Del Ponte is a former Swiss attorney general who served on Western-backed international courts on Yugoslavia and Rwanda. She currently sits on a UN commission of inquiry on Syria. In an interview with Italian-Swiss broadcaster RSI on Sunday, she said, “According to the testimonies we have gathered, the rebels have used chemical weapons, making use of sarin gas.”

She explained, “Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors, and field hospitals, and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated. This was on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”

She added, “This is not surprising, since the opponents [i.e., the anti-Assad opposition] have been infiltrated by foreign fighters.”

In a video interview on the BBC yesterday, del Ponte said, “We collected some witness testimony that made it appear that some chemical weapons were used, in particular, nerve gas. What appeared to our investigation was that was used by the opponents, by the rebels. We have no, no indication at all that the government, the authorities of the Syrian government, had used chemical weapons.”

These statements expose the US campaign over chemical weapons in Syria as a series of lies, concocted to justify another war of aggression in the Middle East. The campaign began in late March, as the US military was announcing plans for stepped-up intervention in Syria, when the Assad regime charged that the opposition had fired a rocket with a chemical warhead at Khan al-Asal, near Aleppo. It killed 26 people, including 16 Syrian soldiers, according to opposition sources.

The opposition responded by alleging that it was the Assad regime that had fired the chemical rockets. This was highly implausible, as the rocket was aimed at pro-Assad forces.

Nonetheless, the US political and media establishment took opposition allegations as good coin, demanding stepped-up intervention in Syria based on Obama’s remarks in August of 2012 that use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would be a “red line” prompting a US attack.

On April 26, the White House endorsed this campaign in a letter to Congress, declaring: “The US intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria.”

This statement had no basis in fact and was evidently fabricated by ignoring witness testimony gathered by the UN. Even after Del Ponte’s interviews, US officials continued to make inflammatory statements implying that Assad is using chemical weapons. An Obama administration advisor told the New York Times yesterday, “It’s become pretty clear to everyone that Assad is calculating whether those weapons might save him.”

The use of sarin by the US-backed Sunni Islamist opposition, which is tied to Al Qaeda and routinely carries out terror attacks inside Syria, also raises the question of how it obtained the poison gas. The US Council on Foreign Relations describes sarin as “very complex and dangerous to make,” though it can be made “by a trained chemist with publicly available chemicals.”

Whether the Islamists received sarin from their foreign backers, synthesized it themselves possibly under outside supervision, or stole it from Syrian stockpiles, its use makes clear the reckless and criminal character of US backing for the Islamist opposition.

Throughout the Syrian war, the American state and media have operated on the assumption that the public could be manipulated and fed the most outrageous lies. Whether these lies were even vaguely plausible did not matter, because the media could be relied upon to spin them to justify deepening the attack on Syria.

Time and again—in the Houla massacre of May 2012 and the murder of journalist Gilles Jacquier in January 2012—the media blamed atrocities perpetrated by the opposition on the Assad regime, then dropped the issue when it emerged that the opposition was responsible. Even the US government’s announcement last December that Al Qaeda-linked opposition forces had carried out hundreds of terror bombings in Syria did not dim media support for the war.

Now the US media are burying news of del Ponte’s interview, as Washington moves towards direct intervention in Syria. Her interview was not mentioned in any of the three major network evening news programs yesterday.

Instead, after the Israeli air strikes against Syrian targets on Thursday and Sunday, US officials and media pundits boasted that US forces could attack Syrian air defenses with few casualties. (See: “The Israeli strikes on Syria”).

Reprising the lies about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) used to justify the war against Iraq, the US ruling elite is placing chemical weapons at the center of its war propaganda on Syria. Yesterday, the Washington Post wrote: “Israeli strikes—following reports in recent weeks that Assad’s forces probably deployed chemical weapons in unknown quantities—appeared to bolster the case of those who have long favored direct US support for the rebels.”

The New York Times noted that Obama might use chemical weapons as pretext for war if he attacked without UN Security Council authorization. It wrote: “Russia would almost certainly veto any effort to obtain UN Security Council authorization to take military action. So far, Mr. Obama has avoided seeking such authorization, and that is one reason that past or future use of chemical weapons could serve as a legal argument for conducting strikes.”

The newspaper did not remark that, in such a case, Obama’s war against Syria would be just as illegal from the standpoint of international law as Bush’s invasion of Iraq ten years ago. That war, which cost over a million Iraqi lives and tens of thousands of US casualties, as well as trillions of dollars, is deeply hated in the American and international working class.

The American ruling elite’s need to downplay the war in Iraq as it prepares to launch a similar bloodbath in Syria underlay the New York Times column penned yesterday by the Times ’ former executive editor, Bill Keller, entitled “Syria Is Not Iraq.” Lamenting that the experience of the Iraq war—which he and the Times had promoted with false reports of Iraqi WMD—had left him “gun-shy,” Keller bluntly asserted, “getting Syria right starts with getting over Iraq.”

By “getting over Iraq,” Keller meant overcoming concerns about using military action and mass killing to crush opposition to US policy. He wrote that “in Syria, I fear prudence has become fatalism… our reluctance to arm the rebels or defend the civilians being slaughtered in their homes has convinced the Assad regime (and the world) that we are not serious.”

Claiming that Washington is preparing military plans “in the event that Assad’s use of chemical weapons forces our hand,” he pushed for rapid intervention, writing, “Why wait for the next atrocity?”

Keller’s warmongering column is a particularly clear example of how the media’s promotion of US imperialist policy is divorced from reality. The fact that there is no evidence that Assad has used chemical weapons, or that the next atrocity in Syria will likely be carried out by US-backed forces, is irrelevant to the Times. Its concern is to package the next US war, the facts be damned.

The collective intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the media and the ruling elite accounts for the fact that del Ponte’s explosive revelations can be buried without comment. Drunk on its own lying propaganda, desperate to erase the conclusions the population has drawn from Washington’s last bloody debacle, the American ruling class is tobogganing towards a new catastrophe. Continue reading »

Apr 112013
 

New York Times
C.J. Chivers
Eric Schmitt

With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders

The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

As it evolved, the airlift correlated with shifts in the war within Syria, as rebels drove Syria’s army from territory by the middle of last year. And even as the Obama administration has publicly refused to give more than “nonlethal” aid to the rebels, the involvement of the C.I.A. in the arms shipments — albeit mostly in a consultative role, American officials say — has shown that the United States is more willing to help its Arab allies support the lethal side of the civil war.

From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive, according to American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity. The C.I.A. declined to comment on the shipments or its role in them.

The shipments also highlight the competition for Syria’s future between Sunni Muslim states and Iran, the Shiite theocracy that remains Mr. Assad’s main ally. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Iraq on Sunday to do more to halt Iranian arms shipments through its airspace; he did so even as the most recent military cargo flight from Qatar for the rebels landed at Esenboga early Sunday night.

Syrian opposition figures and some American lawmakers and officials have argued that Russian and Iranian arms shipments to support Mr. Assad’s government have made arming the rebels more necessary.

Most of the cargo flights have occurred since November, after the presidential election in the United States and as the Turkish and Arab governments grew more frustrated by the rebels’ slow progress against Mr. Assad’s well-equipped military. The flights also became more frequent as the humanitarian crisis inside Syria deepened in the winter and cascades of refugees crossed into neighboring countries.

The Turkish government has had oversight over much of the program, down to affixing transponders to trucks ferrying the military goods through Turkey so it might monitor shipments as they move by land into Syria, officials said. The scale of shipments was very large, according to officials familiar with the pipeline and to an arms-trafficking investigator who assembled data on the cargo planes involved.

“A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment,” said Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, who monitors illicit arms transfers.

“The intensity and frequency of these flights,” he added, are “suggestive of a well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation.”

Although rebel commanders and the data indicate that Qatar and Saudi Arabia had been shipping military materials via Turkey to the opposition since early and late 2012, respectively, a major hurdle was removed late last fall after the Turkish government agreed to allow the pace of air shipments to accelerate, officials said.

Simultaneously, arms and equipment were being purchased by Saudi Arabia in Croatia and flown to Jordan on Jordanian cargo planes for rebels working in southern Syria and for retransfer to Turkey for rebels groups operating from there, several officials said.

These multiple logistics streams throughout the winter formed what one former American official who was briefed on the program called “a cataract of weaponry.”

American officials, rebel commanders and a Turkish opposition politician have described the Arab roles as an open secret, but have also said the program is freighted with risk, including the possibility of drawing Turkey or Jordan actively into the war and of provoking military action by Iran.

Still, rebel commanders have criticized the shipments as insufficient, saying the quantities of weapons they receive are too small and the types too light to fight Mr. Assad’s military effectively. They also accused those distributing the weapons of being parsimonious or corrupt.

“The outside countries give us weapons and bullets little by little,” said Abdel Rahman Ayachi, a commander in Soquor al-Sham, an Islamist fighting group in northern Syria.

He made a gesture as if switching on and off a tap. “They open and they close the way to the bullets like water,” he said.

Two other commanders, Hassan Aboud of Soquor al-Sham and Abu Ayman of Ahrar al-Sham, another Islamist group, said that whoever was vetting which groups receive the weapons was doing an inadequate job.

“There are fake Free Syrian Army brigades claiming to be revolutionaries, and when they get the weapons they sell them in trade,” Mr. Aboud said.

The former American official noted that the size of the shipments and the degree of distributions are voluminous.

“People hear the amounts flowing in, and it is huge,” he said. “But they burn through a million rounds of ammo in two weeks.”

A Tentative Start

The airlift to Syrian rebels began slowly. On Jan. 3, 2012, months after the crackdown by the Alawite-led government against antigovernment demonstrators had morphed into a military campaign, a pair of Qatar Emiri Air Force C-130 transport aircraft touched down in Istanbul, according to air traffic data.

They were a vanguard.

Weeks later, the Syrian Army besieged Homs, Syria’s third largest city. Artillery and tanks pounded neighborhoods. Ground forces moved in.

Across the country, the army and loyalist militias were trying to stamp out the rebellion with force — further infuriating Syria’s Sunni Arab majority, which was severely outgunned. The rebels called for international help, and more weapons.

By late midspring the first stream of cargo flights from an Arab state began, according to air traffic data and information from plane spotters.

On a string of nights from April 26 through May 4, a Qatari Air Force C-17 — a huge American-made cargo plane — made six landings in Turkey, at Esenboga Airport. By Aug. 8 the Qataris had made 14 more cargo flights. All came from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, a hub for American military logistics in the Middle East.

Qatar has denied providing any arms to the rebels. A Qatari official, who requested anonymity, said Qatar has shipped in only what he called nonlethal aid. He declined to answer further questions. It is not clear whether Qatar has purchased and supplied the arms alone or is also providing air transportation service for other donors. But American and other Western officials, and rebel commanders, have said Qatar has been an active arms supplier — so much so that the United States became concerned about some of the Islamist groups that Qatar has armed.

The Qatari flights aligned with the tide-turning military campaign by rebel forces in the northern province of Idlib, as their campaign of ambushes, roadside bombs and attacks on isolated outposts began driving Mr. Assad’s military and supporting militias from parts of the countryside.

As flights continued into the summer, the rebels also opened an offensive in that city — a battle that soon bogged down.

The former American official said David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director until November, had been instrumental in helping to get this aviation network moving and had prodded various countries to work together on it. Mr. Petraeus did not return multiple e-mails asking for comment.

The American government became involved, the former American official said, in part because there was a sense that other states would arm the rebels anyhow. The C.I.A. role in facilitating the shipments, he said, gave the United States a degree of influence over the process, including trying to steer weapons away from Islamist groups and persuading donors to withhold portable antiaircraft missiles that might be used in future terrorist attacks on civilian aircraft.

American officials have confirmed that senior White House officials were regularly briefed on the shipments. “These countries were going to do it one way or another,” the former official said. “They weren’t asking for a ‘Mother, may I?’ from us. But if we could help them in certain ways, they’d appreciate that.”

Through the fall, the Qatari Air Force cargo fleet became even more busy, running flights almost every other day in October. But the rebels were clamoring for even more weapons, continuing to assert that they lacked the firepower to fight a military armed with tanks, artillery, multiple rocket launchers and aircraft.

Many were also complaining, saying they were hearing from arms donors that the Obama administration was limiting their supplies and blocking the distribution of the antiaircraft and anti-armor weapons they most sought. These complaints continue.

“Arming or not arming, lethal or nonlethal — it all depends on what America says,” said Mohammed Abu Ahmed, who leads a band of anti-Assad fighters in Idlib Province.

The Breakout

Soon, other players joined the airlift: In November, three Royal Jordanian Air Force C-130s landed in Esenboga, in a hint at what would become a stepped-up Jordanian and Saudi role.

Within three weeks, two other Jordanian cargo planes began making a round-trip run between Amman, the capital of Jordan, and Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, where, officials from several countries said, the aircraft were picking up a large Saudi purchase of infantry arms from a Croatian-controlled stockpile. Continue reading »

Mar 312013
 

SANA

PRAGUE, (SANA)- Ex-CNN reporter Amber Lyon revealed that during her work for the channel she received orders to send false news and exclude some others which the US administration did not favor with the aim to create a public opinion in favor of launching an aggression on Iran and Syria.

Lyon was quoted by the Slovak main news website as saying that the mainstream US media outlets intentionally work to create a propaganda against Iran to garner public opinion’s support for a military invasion against it.

She revealed that the scenario used before launching the war on Iraq is being prepared to be repeated where Iran and Syria are now being subject to constant ‘demonization’.

The former reporter clarified that the CNN channel manipulates and fabricates news and follows selectiveness when broadcasting news, stressing that the Channel receives money from the U.S. government and other countries’ governments in exchange for news content.

H. Said

Continue reading »

Feb 022013
 

Yahoo

London, Jan 30 (ANI): The Obama administration gave green signal to a chemical weapons attack plan in Syria that could be blamed on President Bashar al Assad’s regime and in turn, spur international military action in the devastated country, leaked documents have shown.

A new report, that contains an email exchange between two senior officials at British-based contractor Britam Defence, showed a scheme ‘approved by Washington’.

As per the scheme ‘Qatar would fund rebel forces in Syria to use chemical weapons,’ the Daily Mail reports.

Barack Obama made it clear to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad last month that the U.S. would not tolerate Syria using chemical weapons against its own people.

According to Infowars.com, the December 25 email was sent from Britam’s Business Development Director David Goulding to company founder Philip Doughty.

The emails were released by a Malaysian hacker who also obtained senior executives resumes and copies of passports via an unprotected company server, according to Cyber War News.

According to the paper, the U.S. State Department has declined to comment on the matter. (ANI)

Continue reading »

Feb 012013
 

Wired
Spencer Ackerman

Ben Emmerson wants to be clear: He’s not out to ban flying killer robots used by the CIA or the U.S. military. But the 49-year-old British lawyer is about to become the bane of the drones’ existence, thanks to the United Nations inquiry he launched last week into their deadly operations.

Emmerson, the United Nations’ special rapporteur for human rights and counterterrorism, will spend the next five months doing something the Obama administration has thoroughly resisted: unearthing the dirty secrets of a global counterterrorism campaign that largely relies on rapidly proliferating drone technology. Announced on Thursday in London, it’s the first international inquiry into the drone program, and one that carries the imprimatur of the world body. By the next session of the United Nations in the fall, Emmerson hopes to provide the General Assembly with an report on 25 drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Palestine where civilian deaths are credibly alleged.

That carries the possibility of a reckoning with the human damage left by drones, the first such witnessing by the international community. Accountability, Emmerson tells Danger Room in a Monday phone interview, “is the central purpose of the report.” He’s not shying away from the possibility of digging up evidence of “war crimes,” should the facts point in that direction. But despite the Obama administration’s secrecy about the drone strikes to date, he’s optimistic that the world’s foremost users of lethal drone tech will cooperate with him.

In conversation, Emmerson, who’s served as special rapporteur since 2011, doesn’t sound like a drone opponent or a drone skeptic. He sounds more like a drone realist. “Let’s face it, they’re here to stay,” he says, shortly after pausing to charge his cellphone during a trip to New York to prep for his inquiry. “This technology, as I say, is a reality. It is cheap, both in economic terms and in the risk to the lives of the service personnel who are from the sending state.

“And for that reason there are real concerns that because it is so cheap, it can be used with a degree of frequency that other, more risk-based forms of engagement like fixed-wing manned aircraft or helicopters are not,” Emmerson says. “And the result is there’s a perception of the frequency and intensity with which this technology is used is exponentially different, and as a result, there is necessarily a correspondingly greater risk of civilian casualties.”

Emmerson has zeroed in on the most heated debate about the drones, a subject around which there is little consensus and fewer facts, thanks to government secrecy. Do the drones kill fewer people than other methods of warfare? Or does their seeming ease of use make warfare easier to proliferate, and therefore kill more people — terrorist and innocent — than they otherwise would? There are several independent studies, mostly relying on uncertain local media reports from the dangerous places the drones overfly, and no agreement.

Continue reading »

Jan 312013
 

Associated Press
Ben Hubbard

DAMASCUS AIRSTRIKE

Map locates Jamraya, Syria

BEIRUT (AP) — Israel conducted a rare airstrike on a military target inside Syria near the border with Lebanon, foreign officials and Syrian state TV said Wednesday, amid fears President Bashar Assad’s regime could provide powerful weapons to the Islamic militant group Hezbollah.

Regional security officials said Israel had been planning in the days leading up to the airstrike to hit a shipment of weapons bound for Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful military force and a sworn enemy of the Jewish state. Among Israeli officials’ chief fears is that Assad will pass chemical weapons or sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles to Hezbollah — something that could change the balance of power in the region and greatly hinder Israel’s ability to conduct air sorties in Lebanon.

The regional officials said the shipment Israel was planning to strike included Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, which would be strategically “game-changing” in the hands of Hezbollah by enabling the group to carry out fiercer attacks on Israel and shoot down Israeli jets, helicopters and surveillance drones. A U.S. official said the strike hit a convoy of trucks but did not give an exact location.

The Syrian military confirmed the strike in a statement read aloud on state TV, but it said the jets bombed a military research center in the area of Jamraya, northwest of the capital, Damascus, and about 15 kilometers (10 miles) from the border with Lebanon.

The statement said the center was responsible for “raising the level of resistance and self-defense” of Syria’s military. It said the strike destroyed the center and a nearby building, killing two workers and wounding five others.

The Syrian army statement denied that the strike had targeted a convoy headed from Syria to Lebanon, instead portraying the strike as linked to the civil war pitting Assad’s forces against rebels seeking to push him from power.

“This proves that Israel is the instigator, beneficiary and sometimes executor of the terrorist acts targeting Syria and its people,” the statement said.

The Israeli military declined to comment, and the location could not be independently confirmed because of reporting restrictions in Syria.

Hezbollah has committed to Israel’s destruction and has gone to war against the Jewish state in the past. Syria has long been among the militant group’s most significant backers and is suspected of supplying with funding and arms, as well as a land corridor to Iran.

This strike also comes as Syria is enmeshed in a civil war. The rebels have seized a large swath of territory in the country’s north and established footholds in a number of Damascus suburbs, though Assad’s forces still control the city and much of the rest of the country.

While Assad’s fall does not appear imminent, analysts worry he could grow desperate as his power wanes and seek to cause trouble elsewhere in the region through proxy groups like Hezbollah.

Syria’s government portrays the crisis, which started with political protest in 2011 and has since become a civil war, as a foreign-backed conspiracy meant to destroy the country.

Top Israeli officials have recently expressed worries that Assad’s regime could pass chemical weapons to Hezbollah or other militant groups.

President Barack Obama has called Syria’s use of chemical weapons a “red line” whose crossing could prompt a tougher U.S. response, but U.S. officials say they are tracking Syria’s chemical weapons and that they still appear to be under regime control.

The strike, carried out either late Tuesday or early Wednesday, appears to be the latest move in a long running race by Hezbollah to increase its military power while Israel seeks to limit it.

Continue reading »