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BULLSHHIT ALERT THIS IS ALL BULLSHIT

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August 22, 2013

Markale in Damascus? How Islamist Forces Have Used a Time-Honored Deception and “Self-Bombing” Technique to Pull in Foreign Sympathy and Support

Analysis. By Yos sef Bodan sky, Senior Editor, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs. In August 1995, Western governments, and particularly the Bill Clinton White House, were in great quandary. The negotiations with the Serbs were going well as Pres. Slobodan Milosevic was demonstrating unprecedented flexibility and accepting virtually all the demands put forward by the West. Hence, it was becoming politically and legally impossible for the US-led West to launch the NATO military intervention which Pres. Clinton had promised Bosnia-Herzegovina leader Alija Izetbegovic the US would launch in order to quickly win the war for the Bosnian-Muslims.

Then, on August 28, 1995, at around 11:00 hrs local, a mortar shell appeared to hit the Markale market-place in Sarajevo, killing 38 people and wounding another 90. Russian Col. Andrei Demurenko, then the commander of UN Forces in Sarajevo, immediately rushed with an UNPROFOR team to the supposed Bosnian-Serb mortar positions and ascertained that none of them could have been used to fire the mortar rounds.

Demurenko’s report stated that the Bosnian-Serb forces were falsely blamed for the attack on the Markale.

Nevertheless, ostensibly in response to the massacre, NATO launched the air campaign against Bosnian-Serb forces and shortly afterwards decided the war in favor of the Bosnian-Muslims.

On August 31, 1995, Jean Daniel, then Editor of the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, wrote an article titled “No more lies about Bosnia”. In the article, Daniel recounted an exchange he had just had with French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur about the NATO air campaign and the motivations for it. “They [the Muslims] have committed this carnage on their own people?”  Daniel asked. “Yes,” confirmed Balladur without hesitation, “but at least they forced NATO to intervene.”

*

The August 21, 2013, chemical attack in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, might become the Markale of the Syrian war.

On August 19, 2013, a UN expert delegation arrived in Damascus to study reports and evidence of earlier use of chemical weapons. The next day, they were presented with detailed scientific, technical, and military data about the alleged chemical attacks, soil contamination and why the Syrian Armed Forces could not have carried out these attacks. Russian and other foreign experts who studied the data separately found it compelling. The Syrian military also presented the UN team with detailed intelligence evidence about chemical weapons and production labs affiliated with the opposition discovered in Syria, Turkey and Iraq.

On August 21, 2013, the Syrian opposition announced a massive chemical attack in Ghouta which allegedly inflicted about 1,300 fatalities including hundreds of children. As in previous chemical attacks blamed on the Assad Administration, the attackers used the ubiquitous Sarin nerve gas. Immediately, the opposition flooded Western media with pictures of the dead, but provided no conclusive evidence about the attack and the perpetrators.

Moreover, initial opposition reports claimed the attack was conducted by a barrage of rockets. Subsequently, in the context of renewed outcries for a No Fly Zone, the opposition claimed that the chemical attack was a part of a massive bombing by the Syrian Air Force. Yet, the opposition’s pictures show no casualties suffering shrapnel wounds associated with aerial bombing. Stern denials by the Syrian Government of any involvement in the attack were largely ignored by the West. At the time of writing, the UN expert delegation and foreign diplomats were denied access to the attack site by the opposition forces ostensibly because of fear for their safety.

The context of the attack is of great significance.

Starting August 17 and 18, 2013, nominally Free Syrian Army (FSA) units — in reality a separate Syrian and Arab army trained and equipped by the CIA as well as Jordanian and other intelligence services — attempted to penetrate southern Syria from northern Jordan and start a march on Damascus. The US-sponsored war plan was based on the Autumn 2011 march on Tripoli, Libya, by CIA-sponsored army from Tunisia which decided the Libyan war and empowered the Islamists.

Two units, one 250-strong and one 300-strong, crossed into Syria and began advancing parallel to the Golan Heights border. Their aim was to break east and reach Daraa quickly in order to prepare the ground for the declaration of Daraa as the capital of a “Free Syria”. However, the CIA’s FSA forces met fierce resistance by the unlikely coalition of the Syrian Army, local jihadist forces (mainly the locally-raised Yarmuk Brigades), and even tribal units who fear the encroachment by outside forces on their domain. By August 19 and 20, 2013, the FSA units were surrounded in three villages not far from the Israeli border.

An attempt to use an Indian UNDOF patrol as human shield failed. The FSA commanders were now (ie: as of late August 21, 2013) pleading for massive reinforcements and an air campaign to prevent their decimation.

Meanwhile, on August 19, 2013, in Ghouta, more than 50 local opposition fighters and their commanders laid down their arms and switched sides. A few prominent local leaders widely associated with the opposition went on Syrian TV. They denounced the jihadists and their crimes against the local population, and stressed that the Assad Administration was the real guardian of the people and their interests. More than a dozen ex-rebels joined the Syrian Government forces.

Hence, the last thing the Assad Administration would do is commit atrocities against the Ghouta area and the local population which had just changed sides so dramatically. For the opposition, fiercely avenging such a betrayal and petrifying other would-be traitors is a must. Furthermore, in view of the failure of the march on Daraa and Damascus by the CIA’s FSA forces, there was an urgent imperative for the opposition to provoke a Western military intervention before the rebellion collapsed completely, and Assad consolidated victory.

In Obama’s Washington, there has been a growing opposition to intervention.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, who had just been to the Jordan and Israel on an inspection tour of the Syrian crisis, publicly doubted the expediency of an armed intervention, because supporting the opposition would not serve the US national and security interests. Dempsey wrote to Congress that while the US “can destroy the Syrian Air Force”, such a step would “escalate and potentially further commit the United States to the conflict”.

There was no compelling strategic reason for such an undertaking. “Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides,” Dempsey wrote. “It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not.”

However, Pres. Obama’s own inner-most circle has made it clear that it is committed to “humanitarian interventionism” of the kind exercised in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Libya. Absent legitimate national interests, a US-led intervention must be based on humanitarian reasons such in retaliation to atrocities and chemical attacks.

BULLSHIT ALERT THIS IS ALL COMPLETE BULLSIT

 

September 3, 2013

The Strategic Consequences of Initiating War Against Iran’s Vital Ally

Analysis. By Gregory R. Co pley, Editor, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs. Some serious and unintended medium- to long-term consequences of the intervention by Sunni Arab, Turkish, and Western governments and trans-national Sunni jihadist groups in Syria since 2011 are beginning to become apparent.

The pivotal transformation of one or more regional countries — apart from the changes to Syria itself — appears to have begun.

The process may have been exacerbated by the fact that, at the beginning of September 2013, the US and the UK had backed away from a commitment to comprehensive overt military conflict against the Assad Government in Syria. US Pres. Barack Obama had set up a strategic challenge, which he was then unable to meet, and the retreat of the US (even though the affair was still not over by September 2, 2013) was thus a self-inflicted wound, but one which also scarred the allies of the US.

But more immediately, the long-undeclared war between Turkey and Iran, for example, may now have crossed a threshold — a point of no return — despite the fact that these two states still have need of each other. Turkish Prime Minister Reçep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rash initiation of confrontation with Iran has been politically suicidal because the Turkish economy cannot withstand a sudden loss of highly-subsidized oil and gas from Iran, and the ensuing public outrage when shortage and price-spike hit the grassroots.

And although the Turkish Government of Prime Minister Reçep Tayyip Erdoğan had, by late August 2013, begun to move away from its strident public endorsement of military action against the Syrian Government, the Iranian leaders knew that Erdoğan had already declared himself firmly as a strategic rival to Iran. The consequences of Erdoğan’s own political recklessness were also unraveling governance in Turkey, and his team leading the Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (Justice and Development Party: AKP) was falling into opposing factions.

It is not inconceivable now to see Turkey emerge severely weakened, or even dismembered, within years, and new states — including a new sovereign Kurdish state — emerge from Turkey and the region. It is conceivable that Syria, if it survives intact, would be a patchwork of confederal societies.

The ramifications for Greece and Cyprus, Russia, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, and the Balkans are all tied to this; and so, too, is the outlook for Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf emirates. And if Turkey falters and fractures, then, conversely, Egypt may benefit. And the Eastern Mediterranean region’s energy development would take on new dimensions.

The foreign intervention in Syria was already mature — albeit still not spontaneously combusting within the Syrian population itself — by the end of August 2013. Even the ultimately-symbolic commitment of direct and indirect US military elements against the Syrian Government as a result of the alleged casus belli of a “chemical weapons attack” by Syrian Government forces against Syrian civilians1 could do little other than bring misery to all, and relief to none.

Strategic trend analysis attempts to assess the possible and probable outcomes of courses of action by looking more broadly at the terrain or context, and beyond the linear and reactive paths and obvious symbols of everyday politics. In the current example in the Middle East, the consequences were, by the beginning of September 2013, beginning to be fleshed out from the decision by Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United States in early 2011 — more than two years earlier — to transform street protests in Syria into an opportunity to overthrow Iran’s key ally, Syrian Pres Bashar al-Assad, and his Ba’ath Party Government.

None of the antagonists, in seeking to press advantage against Iran (and so righteous was their perception of their cause), attempted even to gauge the non-linear impact — the unintended consequences — which their actions would stir. Nor comprehend the strategic terrain in which their activities would play out, particularly as the coercive global power of the United States progressively evaporated because of an array of missteps.

There was little doubt that the four interventionist governments in the first quarter of 2011 saw opportunities to gain dominance and leverage by engagement in a number of street uprisings of that time which they saw as the collective and interactive beginning of a new era: the popularly misunderstood “Arab Spring”. This was seen as a trend they believed to be exploitable and universal within the Arab world, by channeling the trans-national forces of jihadism. This “Arab Spring”, they felt, could be applied — as Islamist forces had themselves attempted to do for some time in Chechnya and the Caucasus and into the reaches of Kashmir, the Balkans, and elsewhere2 — to re-writing borders and history.

In essence, it became a competition between Iran and Iran’s opponents; a conflict which often became distracted by the thought that perhaps it was a conflict between Sunnism and Shi’ism, or between Islam and the West. And it was a competition in which some — particularly in the West — forgot that regional cultures (and, in some cases, nation-states) were in a period of unrest for different reasons.3 The supposed monoculture of a Muslim ummah did not exist. And perhaps the only common feature was the reality that the West had walked away from — or had been driven by exhaustion from — a coercive and powerful domination of the region for the first time in 500 years.

And just as all cultures, as they spread, adapt and become subject to the geography in which they are nurtured, so different societies generate different patterns of logic and require different and unique paths which reflect their separate and unique marriages of people and terrain: this is the essence of geopolitics, the firmness of geography and the adaptive soft flesh of the polity.

Modernity — whether in the technology-driven West or the application of modern communications to the global Muslim societies — has generated the misperception that humanity is driven by overwhelming elements of commonality, rather than by individual and necessarily competitive cultures which are dominated by their own respective senses of terroir.

An amusing but instructive letter to the Editor of Britain’s The Financial Times in August 2013, from reader K. N. Al-Sabah, highlighted the confusion which the international community has in assessing the current Middle Eastern situation:

“Sir, Iran is backing Assad. Gulf states are against Assad! Assad is against Muslim Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood and Obama are against General Sisi [commander of the Egyptian Armed Forces]. But Gulf states are pro-Sisi! Which means they are against Muslim Brotherhood! Iran is pro-Hamas, but Hamas is backing Muslim Brotherhood! Obama is backing Muslim Brotherhood, yet Hamas is against the US!
Gulf states are pro-US. But Turkey is with Gulf states against Assad; yet Turkey is pro-Muslim Brotherhood against General Sisi. And General Sisi is being backed by the Gulf states! Welcome to the Middle East and have a nice day.”

Even Mr al-Sabah’s amusing passage fails to capture the even-deeper complexities of often-contradictory competition and cooperation between societies in the region, and their ambiguous relations with the outside world. And it is worth bearing in mind that this web extends well into the Caucausus and into the Persian-Turkic-Mongolian hinterlands of Central Asia and the Indo-European human exchanges which traversed the region for the past few thousand years.

Respected writer and Balkan correspondent Misha Glenny noted in a blog in Carnegie Europe’s Strategic Europe website, on August 30, 2013: “In the years after 1618 [when the Thirty Years’ War began], the attempts by tiny principalities in central Europe to challenge the status quo acted as a vortex, sucking in almost every major power. The now fragmented territories of Syria can exert a similar force on the neighborhood and beyond.”

What seems clear is that the ambiguity being generated by the state of flux of the greater Middle East region, and particularly the conflict in Syria, is both within and across national lines. Clearly, however, several factors began emerging:

  1. There was strong and sustained popular support within the Arab Peninsula and Mashriq Sunni states — except from Qatar — for the rebuff which the Muslim Brothers (Ikhwan al-Muslimin) received in Egypt at the hands of the Armed Forces, on July 3, 2013, and this tacitly strengthened the position of (and support for) Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad, who was perceived as fighting the Ikhwan and its related jihadist allies;
  2. There was significant Iranian support — albeit tacit and unexpressed — for the change of events in Egypt, because (as noted above), this was seen as removing some of the support for the jihadists and their Sunni supporters who were intent on toppling Iran’s key ally, the ‘Alawite Government of Pres. Assad in Syria;
  3. There was considerable Iranian hostility toward Turkey because of Turkey’s leading rôle in attempting to foment the collapse of the Assad Government in Syria. The Turkish Government, aware of this, attempted to seal a peace deal with the separatist Kurdish movement, the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan: Kurdistan Workers’ Party), to prevent a retaliatory sponsoring by Iran (and others) of a resurgent Kurdish uprising. The Turkey-PKK accord is now essentially at an end and the PKK fighters have been brought together in camps inside Iran, where they are being re-armed. PKK units, plus Kurds from northern Iraq and Syria, are now available to foment major security challenges to the Turkish state, and so, too, are Iranian-influenced ‘Alawite/Alevi communities in Turkey as well as Turkish Shi’a adherents. At the same time, the Kurdish Armed Forces are at their lowest ebb in terms of morale, loyalty, and efficiency since, perhaps, the introduction of military-led Kemalism in 1923, and therefore ill-equipped to face the anticipated major internal security challenges;
  4. There is a major perceptional change among many Arabian Peninsula leaders who had, over the past two years, seen the evaporation of Egyptian leadership and the rise of Turkish influence. Now, with the resurgence of Egyptian self-determination and the seeming collapse of Turkish foreign policy, many Arab states — except Qatar — are turning away from cooperation with Turkey. This could be seen as a de facto diminution of Arab strategic concern over Iranian power, but in fact is quite separate from that concern. Nonetheless, it does nothing to reassure Ankara at a time when it is becoming increasingly isolated, and facing concerted hostility from Tehran, Damascus, Baghdad, and Irbil. Of greatest concern to Turkey may be the decline in financial stimulus from Iranian and Arab sources4. Correspondingly, and in direct response to US and Turkish hostility to the new Government of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had committed major new funding to Cairo.5
  5. Within all of this, the Saudi intelligence services, in the form of Prince Bandar bin Sultan (Director-General of the General Intelligence Service and Secretary-General of the National Security Council), appear to have played a rôle of supporting jihadist opposition groups in Syria while at the same time attempting to negotiate a strategiccoup de main with Russia, to attempt to change Russian support for Syrian Pres. Assad and Iran for a major alliance with Saudi Arabia. The extent of Saudi involvement in the current transformative process shows the extent and confusion of the Saudi position.6

On one hand, Saudi Arabia actively supports the overthrow of the Assad Government in Syria, on the grounds that it closely allied with Iran, which Saudi Arabia perceives — not without justification — as the overwhelming strategic power and threat in the region7. On the other (and perhaps to oversimplify), it supports the anti-Assad war in order to retain influence over Sunni dynamics in the region, in competition with neighboring Qatar and with Turkey, which support a separate (Ikhwan: Muslim Brotherhood) branch of Sunni extremism. This has led Saudi Arabia to bankroll and equip the al-Nusra Front pro-Wahhabi jihadist group in Syria to the point that it may well have been through Saudi Arabia that the chemical weapons used in the Ghouta incident on August 21, 2013, were introduced to al-Nusra.8 But it was clear that the close Saudi-US ties meant that the planned use of the chemical weapons was known to the US, and, via the US, to Turkey.

The Saudi concern over the Turkish-Qatari competition was clearly part of what helped determine Riyadh’s (and the UAE’s) overwhelming support for the military suppression of the Ikhwan and the Morsi Government in Egypt, but also the need for Saudi Arabia to find a regional champion to assist it vis-à-vis Iran required a revived Egypt. Apart from Egypt and Pakistan, Riyadh now has few options, and perceives the declining support offered by its US alliance with increasing alarm. Thus, Egypt and Pakistan — and perhaps the People’s Republic of China — begin to assume significant places in Saudi thinking. Pakistan, with the PRC’s endorsement, is the key to the Saudi deterrence against nuclear Iran. Pakistan has deployed ballistic missiles to Saudi bases, ostensibly for exercises, and Islamabad promised to deploy at least two nuclear warheads should unique strategic circumstances so demand. The tacit alliance which Riyadh maintains with Turkey, Qatar, and the US in overthrowing Assad in Syria also conform to the overriding fear of the existential Iranian threat.

  1. By no means the least important emerging factor (indeed, it may be the most urgent of them) is the reality that Iran, now fearing less and less the viability of a military confrontation with the US, is moving toward a comprehensive response to the challenges posed to its regional position by Turkey. In this, Iran might find numerous external supporters. But it is a strategy which could well be dangerous for Iran, given that it entails mobilizing Kurdish, ‘Alawite/Alevi, and Shi’a societies within Turkey. Among other things, this would implicitly promise support for irredentist activities by communities within Turkey, mostly supporting an independent Kurdish homeland. Such a Kurdish homeland could well extend into Syria and Iraq (where a quasi-autonomous Kurdish region already functions). But it could well also incite Iranian Kurds to join such a new Kurdish state.
  2. A key issue is the central rôle of the Obama White House dream of a US-Iranian “great rapprochement” in and around Syria. Early on, Obama sought to build a tripartite Islamist alliance of outside powers — Egypt, Turkey, Iran — which would jointly contain and control the Arab Middle East. The alliance was to weaken the Fertile Crescent of the Minorities (including Israel, which Washington “forbade” barred from striking Iran), and to pressure Saudi Arabia and the rest into compliance with Obama’s energy policy. However, the key issue was to integrate Iran into a pro-Western regional system which would cater to Iran’s strategic aspirations and convince Tehran that Obama was not out to constrain Iran’s ascent. This way, Tehran would have been convinced of Obama’s friendship and commit to the “grandrapprochement”, while Obama would be in position to convince the US Congress that integrated into a regional alliance Iran would no longer constitute an existential threat to the allies of the US.

The problem has been that Obama failed to comprehend the overriding importance of the on-land access to the Mediterranean for Tehran.

Moreover, the Obama White House was unable to convey this concept to the Iranian leadership, which, instead, merely saw the hostility in US actions against Iranian interests. Having to choose between rapprochement and the tripartite alliance, and between hegemony over Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, Tehran opted for the latter. Moreover, the ever-suspicious Tehran has interpreted Obama’s expectation that Iran gives up on the land corridor as a proof that Obama ultimately sought a weakened Iran. This perception, along with the realization that Obama is a weakling President who is betraying US’ allies for instant gratification, convinced Iranian Supreme Leader “Ayatollah” Ali Hoseini-Khamene‘I that he could not trust Obama to abide by a treaty with Iran no matter how much Obama was pressing for such arapprochement. Hence, Iran is back to igniting the region by proxies. 

There are many other factors weaving into this equation, not least being the stability of the Caucasus, the future of Afghanistan after the Coalition withdrawal of forces (and new Presidential elections) in 2014; the future of Pakistani stability; the rôle and shape of Yemen, the Red Sea balance, and the outlook for Ethiopia (and neighbors); the position of the entire Nile riparian states’ network; the ability of the Greek and Cypriot governments to respond to the current Turkish situation (while combating their own internal economic/political demons); and the transformative nature of the Eastern Mediterranean energy basin, which could transform the fortunes of Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Lebanon, and possibly Turkey.

Behind all of this is the final transformation of Russia, which may see in the break-up of Turkey an easier access to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea and a rise in regional influence in the broader area, and an ability to end the Turkish rôle as a possible spoiler in the East-West and North-South energy network which Russia has been developing. In all of this, the functioning of the Red Sea/Suez sea lane is critical.

What is also significant is that the threat of an ill-considered US military thrust — to regain some element of influence — could indeed well accelerate the process of regional transformation, without any prospect that such a mechanism would, in fact, assist in the reconstruction of US influence.

The 1960s and 1970s saw the USSR and the PRC leading the way in the use of proxy terrorist and agitprop forces against the West, given that the communist bloc powers lacked the ability to directly confront the West. The 1990s and first decade of the 21st Century saw Iran and Islamist powers resort to the sponsorship and direction of terrorist forces against the West, because those states lacked the ability to directly confront the West. But the second decade of the 21st Century has seen the US (and some of its allies) enter the realm of the use of proxy terrorist forces.

Is this a measure of the inversion of power? Has this become, in other words, the West’s only viable political option for power projection?

Footnotes:

1. See “Mounting Evidence That the White House Knew, and Possibly Helped Plan, Syrian “Chemical Weapon” Attack by Opposition”, by Yossef Bodansky, in Defense & Foreign Affairs Special AnalysisAugust 28, 2013; and  “Markale in Damascus? How Islamist Forces Have Used a Time-Honored Deception and “Self-Bombing” Technique to Pull in Foreign Sympathy and Support”, also by Yossef Bodansky, in Defense & Foreign Affairs Special AnalysisAugust 22, 2013.

2. See, for example, some of the books by Yossef Bodansky: Chechen Jihad: Al Qaeda’s Training Ground and the Next Wave of Terror (2007, HarperCollins); Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America (1999, 2001, Random House); Offensive in the Balkans: The Potential for a Wider War as a Result of Foreign Intervention in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1995, International Media Corp./ISSA); and so on.

3. See “Fragility of the Modern Middle Eastern State System Reflects a Return to Reliance on Traditional Societies”, by Yossef Bodansky, in Defense & Foreign Affairs Special PolicyAugust 20, 2013; and as “The Middle East Drifts Back to Its Roots” in Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, 8-2013.

4. On August 28, 2013, for example, Abu Dhabi energy group Taqa said that it would delay until 2014 a $12-billion deal between Turkey and the UAE for the development of a coal project. Taqa said the delay had been for economic reasons, but Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said that it was for “political reasons”, implying that it would not be consummated if political relations remained as they had become: uneasy. — source: The Financial Times, August 29, 2013.

5. “Saudi Arabia Promises to Aid Egypt’s Regime”, by Rod Nordland, in The New York Times, August 19, 2013: “By July 10, [2012], one week after the military takeover, the Saudis had put together a package of aid totaling $12-billion: $5-billion from the kingdom, $3-billion from the United Arab Emirates and $4-billion from Kuwait.”

6. See: “Saudis offer secret oil deal if it drops Russia”, by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, in The Daily Telegraph, UK, August 27, 2013. The author cited Russian and Lebanese media sources, and his article noted: “The details of the talks were first leaked to the Russian press. A more detailed version has since appeared in the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, which has HizbAllah links and is hostile to the Saudis. As-Safir said 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. ‘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,’ he allegedly said. Prince Bandar went on to say that Chechens operating in Syria were a pressure tool that could be switched on an off. ‘These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no rôle in Syria’s political future.’” Subsequent Russian broadcasts confirmed that Prince Bandar had made such offers to the Russian Government. Prince Bandar reportedly met with Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin at the latter’s dacha in the first week of August 2011. The Telegraph article noted: “The Putin-Bandar meeting was stormy, replete with warnings of a ‘dramatic turn’ in Syria. Mr Putin was unmoved by the Saudi offer, though western pressure has escalated since then. ‘Our stance on Assad will never change. We believe that the Syrian regime is the best speaker on behalf of the Syrian people, and not those liver eaters,’ he said, referring to footage showing a jihadist rebel eating the heart and liver of a Syrian soldier. Prince Bandar in turn warned that there can be ‘no escape from the military option’ if Russia declines the olive branch. Events are unfolding exactly as he foretold.”

7. See, for example: “Iran Moves at Highest Level to Support the Newly-Declared “Republic of Eastern Arabia”” [within Saudi Arabian territory]. In Defense & Foreign Affairs Special AnalysisMay 18, 2009.

8. The Lebanese media outlet, Al-Manar, on its website on August 31, 2013, cited a report by Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak — a report which was not used by AP itself, and was thus released through other websites — noting: “From numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the (deadly) gas attack,” writes Gavlak. Rebels [reportedly] told Gavlak that they were not properly trained on how to handle the chemical weapons or even told what they were. It appears as though the weapons were initially supposed to be given to al-Nusra Front militants. “We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions,” one militant named ‘J’ told Gavlak. “al-Nusra Front 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. His claims are echoed by another female fighter named ‘K’, who told Gavlak, “They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them. We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”

 

BULLSHIT ALERT – THIS IS ALL BULLSHIT

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August 28, 2013

Mounting Evidence That the White House Knew, and Possibly Helped Plan, Syrian “Chemical Weapon” Attack by Opposition

Analysis. By Yos sef Bodan sky, Senior Editor, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs. There is a growing volume of new evidence from numerous sources in the Middle East — mostly affiliated with the Syrian opposition and its sponsors and supporters — that makes a very strong case, based on solid circumstantial evidence, that the August 21, 2013, chemical strike in the Damascus suburbs was indeed a pre-meditated provocation by the Syrian opposition.

The extent of US foreknowledge of this provocation needs further investigation because available data puts the “horror” of the Barack Obama White House in a different and disturbing light.

See: “Markale in Damascus? How Islamist Forces Have Used a Time-Honored Deception and “Self-Bombing” Technique to Pull in Foreign Sympathy and Support”, inDefense & Foreign Affairs Special AnalysisAugust 22, 2013.

On August 13-14, 2013, Western-sponsored opposition forces in Turkey started advance preparations for a major and irregular military surge. Initial meetings between senior opposition military commanders and representatives of Qatari, Turkish, and US Intelligence [“Mukhabarat Amriki”] took place at the converted Turkish military garrison in Antakya, Hatay Province, used as the command center and headquarters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and their foreign sponsors. Very senior opposition commanders who had arrived from Istanbul briefed the regional commanders of an imminent escalation in the fighting due to “a war-changing development” which would, in turn, lead to a US-led bombing of Syria.

The opposition forces had to quickly prepare their forces for exploiting the US-led bombing in order to march on Damascus and topple the Bashar al-Assad Government, the senior commanders explained. The Qatari and Turkish intelligence officials assured the Syrian regional commanders that they would be provided with plenty of weapons for the coming offensive.

Indeed, unprecedented weapons distribution started in all opposition camps in Hatay Province on August 21-23, 2013. In the Reyhanli area alone, opposition forces received well in excess of 400 tons of weapons, mainly anti-aircraft weaponry from shoulder-fired missiles to ammunition for light-guns and machineguns. The weapons were distributed from store-houses controlled by Qatari and Turkish Intelligence under the tight supervision of US Intelligence.

These weapons were loaded on more than 20 trailer-trucks which crossed into northern Syria and distributed the weapons to several depots. Follow-up weapon shipments, also several hundred tons, took place over the weekend of August 24-25, 2013, and included mainly sophisticated anti-tank guided missiles and rockets. Opposition officials in Hatay said that these weapon shipments were “the biggest” they had received “since the beginning of the turmoil more than two years ago”. The deliveries from Hatay went to all the rebel forces operating in the Idlib-to-Aleppo area, including the al-Qaida affiliated jihadists (who constitute the largest rebel forces in the area).

Several senior officials from both the Syrian opposition and sponsoring Arab states stressed that these weapon deliveries were specifically in anticipation for exploiting the impact of imminent bombing of Syria by the US and the Western allies. The latest strategy formulation and coordination meetings took place on August 26, 2013. The political coordination meeting took place in Istanbul and was attended by US Amb. Robert Ford.

More important were the military and operational coordination meetings at the Antakya garrison. Senior Turkish, Qatari, and US Intelligence officials attended in addition to the Syrian senior (opposition) commanders. The Syrians were informed that bombing would start in a few days. “The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days,” a Syrian participant in the meeting said. Another Syrian participant said that he was convinced US bombing was scheduled to begin on Thursday, August 29, 2013. Several participants — both Syrian and Arab — stressed that the assurances of forthcoming bombing were most explicit even as formally Obama is still undecided.

The descriptions of these meetings raise the question of the extent of foreknowledge of US Intelligence, and therefore, the Obama White House. All the sources consulted — both Syrian and Arab — stressed that officials of the “Mukhabarat Amriki” actively participated in the meetings and briefings in Turkey. Therefore, at the very least, they should have known that the opposition leaders were anticipating “a war-changing development”: that is, a dramatic event which would provoke a US-led military intervention.

The mere fact that weapon storage sites under the tight supervision of US Intelligence were opened up and about a thousand tons of high-quality weapons were distributed to the opposition indicates that US Intelligence anticipated such a provocation and the opportunity for the Syrian opposition to exploit the impact of the ensuing US and allied bombing. Hence, even if the Obama White House did not know in advance of the chemical provocation, they should have concluded, or at the very least suspected, that the chemical attack was most likely the “war-changing development” anticipated by the opposition leaders as provocation of US-led bombing. Under such circumstances, the Obama White House should have refrained from rushing head-on to accuse Assad’s Damascus and threaten retaliation, thus making the Obama White House at the very least complicit after the act.

Meanwhile, additional data from Damascus about the actual chemical attack increases the doubts about Washington’s version of events. Immediately after the attack, three hospitals of Doctors Without Borders (MSF: médecins sans frontières) in the greater Damascus area treated more than 3,600 Syrians affected by the chemical attack, and 355 of them died. MSF performed tests on the vast majority of those treated.

MSF director of operations Bart Janssens summed up the findings: “MSF can neither scientifically confirm the cause of these symptoms nor establish who is responsible for the attack. However, the reported symptoms of the patients, in addition to the epidemiological pattern of the events — characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers — strongly indicate mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent.” Simply put, even after testing some 3,600 patients, MSF failed to confirm that sarin was the cause of the injuries. According to MSF, the cause could have been nerve agents like sarin, concentrated riot control gas, or even high-concentration pesticides. Moreover, opposition reports that there was distinct stench during the attack suggest that it could have come from the “kitchen sarin” used by jihadist groups (as distinct from the odorless military-type sarin) or improvised agents like pesticides.

Some of the evidence touted by the Obama White House is questionable at best.

A small incident in Beirut raises big questions. A day after the chemical attack, Lebanese fixers working for the “Mukhabarat Amriki” succeeded to convince a Syrian male who claimed to have been injured in the chemical attack to seek medical aid in Beirut in return for a hefty sum that would effectively settle him for life. The man was put into an ambulance and transferred overnight to the Farhat Hospital in Jib Janine, Beirut. The Obama White House immediately leaked friendly media that “the Lebanese Red Cross announced that test results found traces of sarin gas in his blood.” However, this was news to Lebanese intelligence and Red Cross officials. According to senior intelligence officials, “Red Cross Operations Director George Kettaneh told [them] that the injured Syrian fled the hospital before doctors were able to test for traces of toxic gas in his blood.” Apparently, the patient declared that he had recovered from his nausea and no longer needed medical treatment. The Lebanese security forces are still searching for the Syrian patient and his honorarium.

On August 24, 2013, Syrian Commando forces acted on intelligence about the possible perpetrators of the chemical attack and raided a cluster of rebel tunnels in the Damascus suburb of Jobar. Canisters of toxic material were hit in the fierce fire-fight as several Syrian soldiers suffered from suffocation and “some of the injured are in a critical condition”.

The Commando eventually seized an opposition warehouse containing barrels full of chemicals required for mixing “kitchen sarin”, laboratory equipment, as well as a large number of protective masks. The Syrian Commando also captured several improvised explosive devices, RPG rounds, and mortar shells. The same day, at least fourHizbAllah fighters operating in Damascus near Ghouta were hit by chemical agents at the very same time the Syrian Commando unit was hit while searching a group of rebel tunnels in Jobar. Both the Syrian and the HizbAllah forces were acting on intelligence information about the real perpetrators of the chemical attack. Damascus told Moscow the Syrian troops were hit by some form of a nerve agent and sent samples (blood, tissues, and soil) and captured equipment to Russia.

Several Syrian leaders, many of whom are not Bashar al-Assad supporters and are even his sworn enemies, are now convinced that the Syrian opposition is responsible for the August 21, 2013, chemical attack in the Damascus area in order to provoke the US and the allies into bombing Assad’s Syria. Most explicit and eloquent is Saleh Muslim, the head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) which has been fighting the Syrian Government. Muslim doubts Assad would have used chemical weapons when he was winning the civil war.

“The regime in Syria … has chemical weapons, but they wouldn’t use them around Damascus, five km from the [UN] committee which is investigating chemical weapons. Of course they are not so stupid as to do so,” Muslim told Reuters on August 27, 2013. He believes the attack was “aimed at framing Assad and provoking an international reaction”. Muslim is convinced that “some other sides who want to blame the Syrian regime, who want to show them as guilty and then see action” is responsible for the chemical attack. The US was exploiting the attack to further its own anti-Assad policies and should the UN inspectors find evidence that the rebels were behind the attack, then “everybody would forget it”, Muslim shrugged. “Who is the side who would be punished? Are they are going to punish the Emir of Qatar or the King of Saudi Arabia, or Mr Erdoğan of Turkey?”

And there remain the questions: Given the extent of the involvement of the “Mukhabarat Amriki” in opposition activities, how is that US Intelligence did not know in advance about the opposition’s planned use of chemical weapons in Damascus?

It is a colossal failure.

And if they did know and warned the Obama White House, why then the sanctimonious rush to blame the Assad Administration? Moreover, how can the Obama Administration continue to support and seek to empower the opposition which had just intentionally killed some 1,300 innocent civilians in order to provoke a US military intervention?

August 22, 2013

Markale in Damascus? How Islamist Forces Have Used a Time-Honored Deception and “Self-Bombing” Technique to Pull in Foreign Sympathy and Support

Analysis. By Yossef Bodansky, Senior Editor, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs. In August 1995, Western governments, and particularly the Bill Clinton White House, were in great quandary. The negotiations with the Serbs were going well as Pres. Slobodan Milosevic was demonstrating unprecedented flexibility and accepting virtually all the demands put forward by the West. Hence, it was becoming politically and legally impossible for the US-led West to launch the NATO military intervention which Pres. Clinton had promised Bosnia-Herzegovina leader Alija Izetbegovic the US would launch in order to quickly win the war for the Bosnian-Muslims.

Then, on August 28, 1995, at around 11:00 hrs local, a mortar shell appeared to hit the Markale market-place in Sarajevo, killing 38 people and wounding another 90. Russian Col. Andrei Demurenko, then the commander of UN Forces in Sarajevo, immediately rushed with an UNPROFOR team to the supposed Bosnian-Serb mortar positions and ascertained that none of them could have been used to fire the mortar rounds.

Demurenko’s report stated that the Bosnian-Serb forces were falsely blamed for the attack on the Markale.

Nevertheless, ostensibly in response to the massacre, NATO launched the air campaign against Bosnian-Serb forces and shortly afterwards decided the war in favor of the Bosnian-Muslims.

On August 31, 1995, Jean Daniel, then Editor of the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, wrote an article titled “No more lies about Bosnia”. In the article, Daniel recounted an exchange he had just had with French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur about the NATO air campaign and the motivations for it. “They [the Muslims] have committed this carnage on their own people?”  Daniel asked. “Yes,” confirmed Balladur without hesitation, “but at least they forced NATO to intervene.”

*

The August 21, 2013, chemical attack in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, might become the Markale of the Syrian war.

On August 19, 2013, a UN expert delegation arrived in Damascus to study reports and evidence of earlier use of chemical weapons. The next day, they were presented with detailed scientific, technical, and military data about the alleged chemical attacks, soil contamination and why the Syrian Armed Forces could not have carried out these attacks. Russian and other foreign experts who studied the data separately found it compelling. The Syrian military also presented the UN team with detailed intelligence evidence about chemical weapons and production labs affiliated with the opposition discovered in Syria, Turkey and Iraq.

On August 21, 2013, the Syrian opposition announced a massive chemical attack in Ghouta which allegedly inflicted about 1,300 fatalities including hundreds of children. As in previous chemical attacks blamed on the Assad Administration, the attackers used the ubiquitous Sarin nerve gas. Immediately, the opposition flooded Western media with pictures of the dead, but provided no conclusive evidence about the attack and the perpetrators.

Moreover, initial opposition reports claimed the attack was conducted by a barrage of rockets. Subsequently, in the context of renewed outcries for a No Fly Zone, the opposition claimed that the chemical attack was a part of a massive bombing by the Syrian Air Force. Yet, the opposition’s pictures show no casualties suffering shrapnel wounds associated with aerial bombing. Stern denials by the Syrian Government of any involvement in the attack were largely ignored by the West. At the time of writing, the UN expert delegation and foreign diplomats were denied access to the attack site by the opposition forces ostensibly because of fear for their safety.

The context of the attack is of great significance.

Starting August 17 and 18, 2013, nominally Free Syrian Army (FSA) units — in reality a separate Syrian and Arab army trained and equipped by the CIA as well as Jordanian and other intelligence services — attempted to penetrate southern Syria from northern Jordan and start a march on Damascus. The US-sponsored war plan was based on the Autumn 2011 march on Tripoli, Libya, by CIA-sponsored army from Tunisia which decided the Libyan war and empowered the Islamists.

Two units, one 250-strong and one 300-strong, crossed into Syria and began advancing parallel to the Golan Heights border. Their aim was to break east and reach Daraa quickly in order to prepare the ground for the declaration of Daraa as the capital of a “Free Syria”. However, the CIA’s FSA forces met fierce resistance by the unlikely coalition of the Syrian Army, local jihadist forces (mainly the locally-raised Yarmuk Brigades), and even tribal units who fear the encroachment by outside forces on their domain. By August 19 and 20, 2013, the FSA units were surrounded in three villages not far from the Israeli border.

An attempt to use an Indian UNDOF patrol as human shield failed. The FSA commanders were now (ie: as of late August 21, 2013) pleading for massive reinforcements and an air campaign to prevent their decimation.

Meanwhile, on August 19, 2013, in Ghouta, more than 50 local opposition fighters and their commanders laid down their arms and switched sides. A few prominent local leaders widely associated with the opposition went on Syrian TV. They denounced the jihadists and their crimes against the local population, and stressed that the Assad Administration was the real guardian of the people and their interests. More than a dozen ex-rebels joined the Syrian Government forces.

Hence, the last thing the Assad Administration would do is commit atrocities against the Ghouta area and the local population which had just changed sides so dramatically. For the opposition, fiercely avenging such a betrayal and petrifying other would-be traitors is a must. Furthermore, in view of the failure of the march on Daraa and Damascus by the CIA’s FSA forces, there was an urgent imperative for the opposition to provoke a Western military intervention before the rebellion collapsed completely, and Assad consolidated victory.

In Obama’s Washington, there has been a growing opposition to intervention.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, who had just been to the Jordan and Israel on an inspection tour of the Syrian crisis, publicly doubted the expediency of an armed intervention, because supporting the opposition would not serve the US national and security interests. Dempsey wrote to Congress that while the US “can destroy the Syrian Air Force”, such a step would “escalate and potentially further commit the United States to the conflict”.

There was no compelling strategic reason for such an undertaking. “Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides,” Dempsey wrote. “It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not.”

However, Pres. Obama’s own inner-most circle has made it clear that it is committed to “humanitarian interventionism” of the kind exercised in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Libya. Absent legitimate national interests, a US-led intervention must be based on humanitarian reasons such in retaliation to atrocities and chemical attacks.

May 30, 2013

            I am a Syrian Freedom activist. As an anti-war protestor, I have marched in the streets and shut down the bay bridge and been arrested. I am anti-war and a peacenik to the core. But for over a year, I have been demanding that my government intervene in the situation in Syria. Because we can’t have peace if we don’t stop the killing first.

            Being a Syrian Freedom activist is gut wrenching, traumatizing, and frustrating. I watched livestreams from  Homs before the massacre at Baba Amr, the last, best hope for a simple intervention. If the world had stood up to Assad’s regime in the last days of the siege in Baba Amr, if it has even pledged to bring him to justice for his crimes,  it could have ended there. Instead, the world turned away as regime troops and units of the brutal and sadistic shabiha were allowed to enter Baba Amr after rebel units withdrew from the town and slaughter the civilians remaining there.

            The response of my government was to “condemn” the actions of Assad, “urge” him to stop killing the people of Syria, and pledge to take no action to interfere with Assad’s killing spree. Since that time, an additional 70,000 people have been killed, mostly civilians, and 4 million people are fleeing for their lives; either refugees in another country, or searching for safety inside Syria. Half Syria’s refugees are children. A fifth of the Syrian population faces starvation.  

The United Nations’ Human Rights Commission has written reports documenting the use of rape as a tool of the Assad regime, and the dark labyrinth of Assad’s dungeons and the extent of torture, rape and murder there.

            Thanks to the internet, Assad has not been able to hide his crimes. While some of the people who began as protestors have taken up arms against the regime since it met those protests with fatal gunfire, others have chosen to document the crimes of the regime and get them out to an indifferent world at great personal risk.  Some of these crimes, I will never forget:

            Someone tweeting from a government checkpoint where women were being separated from a group of refugees and taken away. 

            A photograph of a 2 year-old boy in a makeshift hospital who had survived an attack by Assad’s shabiha; each small pale arm and leg slashed almost to the bone with a razor. There is no medical equipment anymore to treat any of the mounting casualties from daily regime shelling and airial bombardment in hundreds of separate locations around Syria.

            A photograph of a gutter filled with charred body parts after another massacre.

            A little girl who at first looks alive in her little bedroom, until you see the blood staining her pink nightgown.

            I have seen  pile after pile of dead bodies of men, women and children, from massacre after massacre after massacre;  the videos of wailing wives and mothers and husbands and fathers; and pictures of child martyrs and of living children holding the hope of peace in their eyes as they make the sign for peace with their little fingers.

            But from the beginning, I decided not to turn away. I decided to do what I can to raise awareness of the situation in Syria, and advocate for support for the rebel fighters and the refugees. As a Syrian Freedom activist,  I send messages of moral support to the on-line activists in Syria, post positive comments for the rebel fighters, monitor the internet for atrocities and let my elected representatives know that I know what is happening. I pray a lot, I cry occasionally, mostly out of frustration.

            I seem to be in a constant flame war with people who think the Syrian rebels are Al-Quaeda. These are the same people who think all muslims are Al-Quaeda, and that the President is a Muslim. Al Quaeda only entered Syria after the rest of the world refused to help the rebels, who were facing regime army planes and rockets with small guns and very little ammunition. The Syrians see them as a problem only second to Assad himself.

            But I also fight my friends, the peace people. I don’t think it is peaceful to ignore screams for help. I believe the efficacy of doing nothing in Syria has been proven in reverse. To me, peace is a goal, not a strategy. I understand that Americans are war-weary, and that they feel especially skeptical of an intervention based on claims of chemical weapons. I do not want any Amercan service member killed or maimed or separated from their families ever again. But ignoring brutal dictators as they commit atrocities and terrorize the population and bomb the country into oblivion is not the path to peace. At present, diplomacy is only a license to kill, a promise not to intervene until a certain date.

            It will take decades for the Syrian people to recover from their wounds and rebuild their country, but that process can not even start if the world does not stand up and demand an immediate end to the killing.