Israeli court charges Gazan trader with threatening Israeli security


The Israeli authorities charged a Gazan trader with threatening Israeli security in a hearing at the magistrate court in Beersheba on Monday.

The Israeli TV Channel 7 said that the Israeli public prosecution is charging Raed Shamallakh of supplying engineering equipment to the Gaza Strip without the necessary permits.

According to this charge, Shamallakh sold the engineering equipment to Hamas members who work in digging tunnels while knowing beforehand of Hamas’s reason of purchase.

The charges against him also include making contacts in order to commit a crime, obtaining equipment by fraud and in dangerous circumstances and providing equipment and services for a “terrorist organization”. The prosecution demanded his continued detention until the end of the legal proceedings against him.

The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) have arrested dozens of traders over recent months under the pretext of trying to procure equipment used in digging tunnels.

(Source / 12.12.2016)

Boycotting Jews to prevent the boycott of Israel

This week a German bank announced that it is closing the account of a Jewish human rights organisation because it supports BDS. What’s next?

The German organisation Jewish Voice for Just Peace (JVJP) is a sister organisation of the US Jewish Voice for Peace and part of the coalition European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP). It was founded in 2003.

Three weeks ago, the organisation – of which I am a board member – was shocked when it received a letter from its bank, the Bank for Social Economy based in Cologne, that it had decided to close JVJP’s account. No reason was given for the decision.

This is the first time since World War Two that a German bank has closed the account of a Jewish organisation

But on Tuesday, the bank finally announced, in a second letter sent out by a spokesperson, the reason: JVJP supports the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

This is the first time since World War Two that a German bank has closed the account of a Jewish organisation. The bank appears to have succumbed to pressure by Benjamin Weinthal, a correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, who has been waging a campaign to attack and delegitimise Palestinian solidarity groups in Germany for the last couple of years.

Weinthal falsely accused the JVJP of being a “pro-Hamas” and an “anti-Semitic” organisation. The timing of his reporting has raised questions within our organisation about whether he was told by the bank that the account would be closed even before we met to discuss the situation, following the original letter, on 2 December.

The bank justified its decision because JVJP took part in several BDS actions in Germany, and claimed in the second letter, sent on Tuesday, that “BDS seeks to destabilise the state of Israel”.

However, as the bank could not find any evidence of this claim on the BDS movement’s website, it relied on an analysis by the Friedrich-Neumann Foundation, which belongs to the German Free Democratic Party, a right-wing neoliberal party, and on analysis by sociologist Samuel Salzborn, a right-wing pro-Zionist who has accused the entire German left of anti-Semitism, both of which were referenced in the second letter.

Who is next?

Legally, banks in Germany are allowed to close the accounts of customers without giving a reason if they announce the closure in advance. However, giving information to a journalist about an organisation’s account is a violation of confidentiality.

Giving information to a journalist about an organisation’s account is a violation of confidentiality

Furthermore, the bank issued a statement in which it calls JVJP an “anti-Semitic” organisation, which is a violation of Germany’s libel laws. Abraham Melzer, a German Jewish activist, has recently won a court case against such accusations, which were based only on his critique of the state of Israel’s policies.

As the Bank for Social Economy presents itself as a progressive bank and holds the accounts of many civil society organisations, the outrage in Germany spread quickly. Several peace and human rights organisations have expressed solidarity with JVJP such as Pax Christi, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and the International League for Human Rights. The bank is expected to lose some of its customers, who are considering closing their accounts in protest.

It should be noted that the European Union’s foreign policy spokeswoman, Federica Mogherini, has confirmed that the call for a boycott of Israel is allowed in the EU, and that no law exists in Germany against such calls. Legal scholars from 15 European States recently published an opinion defending the right to call for BDS.

The bank has nevertheless decided to make its own law and impose its political views on its customers. Other political groups in Germany could lose their bank accounts as well, if the banks choose to refuse customers of political views which they do not share.

From fear to pressure

A direct link exists between the rise of right-wing groups in Europe and in the US in recent months, and the bank’s decision.

In interviews, Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has expressed the desire to fight against BDS in order to defend himself from accusations of anti-Semitism. Marine Le Pen has used exactly the same argument. How can she be anti-Semitic if she opposes BDS? Blind support for the policies of the state of Israel is being used to legitimise extreme-right groups.

Many Jews from all over the world support BDS not only out of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle but also in an effort to rescue Judaism from being equated with Zionism

It is therefore easy to forget that BDS is a movement dedicated to human rights, equality and international law. Many Jews from all over the world, including in Israel itself, support BDS not only out of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, but also in an effort to rescue Judaism from being equated with Zionism, and from the Jews all over the world being blamed for the crimes committed by the Israeli military, just for being Jews.

One of the reasons for the strengthening of BDS is its profound impact on the Israeli political discourse. Israel’s strategic affairs minister, Gilad Erdan, has called for a blacklist of all organisations supporting BDS.

Theologian Isabel Phiri from the World Council of Churches in Geneva was deported from Israel recently because she was suspected (falsely) of supporting BDS.

The fear of the Israeli authorities of the spread of BDS translates directly into pressure on international organisations to impose Israel’s repressive policies outside of the country against any group supporting BDS, even if it is Jewish.

(Source / 12.12.2016)

Gazans warn: Protests against UNRWA policies will escalate


The coordinating committee for events commemorating the Nakba called on the UNRWA to respond to the demands of the Palestinian refugees at home and abroad, warning that peaceful protests could be escalated unless the refugees’ legitimate demands are met.

Addressing a press conference the committee held on Monday in front of the agency’s office in Gaza, the committee members called on the agency’s administration to stop dispensing some of the least cost-effective jobs and asked for increasing employment instead of following the merger policy since a lot of institutions need more staff such as schools and clinics.

They asked the agency to improve the health services, return maternity wards to the UNRWA-run hospitals, provide ambulances for the UNRWA clinics, and pay for the costs of the surgeries the refugees need.

The committee members appealed to the agency’s administration to increase the number of the people getting benefit from the relief services in light of the increase in poverty rates among the Palestinian refugees.

They condemned the inspection tours conducted by the agency to the refugees’ houses and said that such behavior violates human dignity, and asked the agency to increase its efforts to end the 10-year blockade imposed on Gaza.

(Source / 12.12.2016)

Putin lays out Moscow’s new Mideast strategy

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during his annual state of the nation address at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 1, 2016

On Dec. 1, Vladimir Putin delivered his annual address to the Federal Assembly — Russia’s analogue to the State of the Union. In his 13th 70-minute address as president of Russia, Putin focused primarily on domestic matters — the economy and social issues in particular — with only about seven minutes dedicated to foreign policy issues.

The main message reflected the conjunction of “firmness and flexibility” that is characteristic of his speeches: “We aren’t seeking a confrontation with anyone. We aren’t seeking enemies, we need friends. But we will not allow our own interests to be neglected either.” He continued, “We understand the measure of our responsibility and are genuinely prepared to take part in solving global and regional problems where our participation is relevant, demanded and needed.”

Later that day, Russia’s new foreign policy strategy was publicized. In fact, the document, officially titled “Foreign policy concept of the Russian Federation,” was signed by Putin Nov. 30 — one day before his annual address — but few people, even those who worked on it, saw the final version of the text before it was officially released.

Unlike the previous foreign policy strategy of 2013, the new version is more “tough” — both stylistically and contentwise. It has a tangible emphasis on countering threats, and focuses on security-related matters. Among its top priorities are “providing security [to] the country, its sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “strengthening Russia’s position as one of the most influential centers of the contemporary world.” This thesis is clearly not brand-new: Russia has been operating in this paradigm for quite a while. Yet it gives important insight into the perception the Russian elites have of the modern world. The world is seen as increasingly turbulent, competitive and by and large unfriendly. The suggested foreign policy toolbox demonstrates the Kremlin’s tenacity to move forward coming out of these perceptions.

The priorities for Moscow haven’t changed that much in terms of the Middle East. Post-Soviet space with an eye on further development of the Eurasian Economic Union and strengthening defense institutions — namely the Collective Security Treaty Organization — is still the main priority, followed by relations with Europe in all of its incarnations — at the bilateral level, with the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and NATO. The Middle East is mentioned after relations with the United States, the Arctic, states of the Asia-Pacific region and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and precedes only Latin America. Yet it should not be misleading in defining its significance for Russia.

In the first out of five comprehensive paragraphs devoted to the Middle East, Moscow states it will continue “to contribute to the stability of the MENA region … to maintain focus on politico-diplomatic settlement of conflicts,” including the Arab-Israeli one through the Quartet on the Middle East. Syria and Iran are singled out in two separate paragraphs, giving both a special place in the Russian regional strategy. Moscow reaffirmed its commitment to the “unity, independence and territorial integrity” of Syria as “a secular, democratic and pluralistic state,” where all ethnic groups and religious denominations will live “in peace and security and enjoy equal rights and opportunities.” This wording gives a sense of what the Kremlin is looking for at the end of the day, and what its starting negotiation position will be once the “fighting phase” is over.

It is also designed to annul allegations that Russia is considering the partition of Syria — even though such a posture does not technically prevent Moscow from advocating for a federalization if such an option is ever on the table. As for Iran, the Kremlin seeks to continue to develop a “comprehensive cooperation” with Tehran and hopes its nuclear program will be managed “on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and other respective procedures of the International Atomic Energy Agency” — all to avoid a foreign military interference against the Islamic Republic.

Third, Russia is seeking to increase its activity through various institutional frameworks: engaging Arab states through the existing Russia-Arab Cooperation Forum, reaching out “for a strategic dialogue” with the Gulf Cooperation Council and “expanding reciprocity and developing partnerships” with the broader Muslim world through its observer status in the Organization for Islamic Cooperation.

Securitywise, there are enough grounds to presume that the Middle East will be paid more attention to. In the second chapter of the strategy titled “Contemporary world and Russia’s foreign policy,” Moscow insists on the concept of “united and undivided security” and denounces rigid institutional structures as ineffective: “Existing military-political alliances aren’t able to counter all of the contemporary threats and challenges. Today, when the interdependency between peoples and states has significantly increased, any attempts to provide security and stability on a separate territory are futureless.” Therefore, the trend of Russia’s foreign policy to forge ad hoc regional and cross-regional alliances will be maintained and frequently referred to whenever Moscow feels it meets its interests.

Another critical area where the Middle East will definitely be on Russia’s radar is everything that has to do with terrorism. The rising threat of international terrorism runs like a scarlet thread through the text — in the “Strengthening international security” chapter alone, 10 paragraphs are dedicated exclusively to Russia’s own policies to combating this phenomenon. In the “Russia’s priorities in solving global problems” chapter, a big chunk of the text focuses on digital threats and the necessity of countering “terrorist and criminal threats” on the internet. Terrorism is called “one of the most dangerous realities of the modern world,” while the prime sources of the spread of this phenomenon in the Middle East, according to Moscow’s vision, are “systemic development problems [of the region] exposed by globalization” and “foreign interference” that both have led to “the destruction of traditional mechanisms of state governance … and illegal spread of arms.”

The new foreign policy strategy of Russia sees this as a prerequisite to the current chaos in the Middle East: “Extremist forces jumped on these trends using a distorted interpretation of religious values and calling for violence to reach their own goals in political, international and inter-religious rivalries.”

For Moscow, the subsequent rise of the Islamic State and “similar groups” represents “a qualitatively new character of the global terrorist threat.” In the eyes of the Kremlin, it is “the creation of a broad international anti-terrorist coalition on a solid legal basis … without politization and double standards” that should be the main direction in the fight against terrorism — the idea first announced by Putin a year ago at the UN General Assembly days before Russia’s campaign in Syria began. For Putin, whose own rise to power was largely possible due to successes in countering jihadis in the North Caucasus back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the fight against international terrorism is something deeply ingrained in his political psychology; he genuinely believes that this is a real threat to unite against, including with the new US administration.

“US-Russia cooperation is in the interests of the entire world. We bear common responsibility in providing international security and stability. … We count on the United States to cooperate against a real and not an imagined threat — international terrorism,” Putin noted during his address to the Federal Assembly. The remarks, as well as Moscow’s hope to eventually have such cooperation with Washington, should be seen as a third call to the United States for an anti-terrorism cooperation effort. Two previous attempts to start such cooperation — soon after the 9/11 atrocities in 2001 and the Boston marathon bombing in 2013 — have borne little fruit.

(Source / 12.12.2016)

Arab lawmakers in Israel slam vote comments by Likud MP

Knesset in session [Itzik Edri/Wikipedia]

Knesset in session

Palestinian lawmakers in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) have slammed assertions by a senior figure in Israel’s ruling Likud party that Palestinians with Israeli citizenship should not be allowed to vote in national elections.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, government coalition chairman David Bitan declared at an event held Saturday: “I’d rather the Arabs won’t go to the polls in droves, and won’t come to the polls at all”, since they tend to vote for the Joint List parliamentary bloc, which is comprised mainly of Arab politicians.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not publicly commented on Bitan’s reported comments, Joint List head Ayman Odeh said in a statement that they reflected Netanyahu’s own views.

“The current [Israeli] leadership repeatedly shows that it only offers blunt racism and cheap populism,” said Odeh.

Ahmad Tibi, another Joint List senior member, mocked Bitan’s comments on Twitter, suggesting they could prompt more Palestinian citizens to vote in upcoming polls.

Bitan’s statement recalled similar comments made by Netanyahu during 2014 general elections, when he accused left-wing Israeli groups of influencing the vote by organizing buses to transport Palestinians to the polls.

(Source / 12.12.2016)

Palestinian prisoners’ leader Bilal Kayed released today in victory secured in 71-day hunger strike


Palestinian prominent former hunger striker and leader of the prisoners’ movement Bilal Kayed was released today, Monday, 12 December, after 15 years in Israeli prisons to the cheers and salutes of his family, friends and comrades in his home village of Asira al-Shamaliyeh, throughout Palestine and internationally.

Kayed, 35, conducted a 71-day hunger strike in June-August 2016 after he was suddenly ordered to administrative detention after completing his 14.5-year sentence in Israeli prison. He had been seized by Israeli occupation forces in December 2001 and imprisoned for participating in the Palestinian resistance in the second Intifada as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Inside the prison, he developed into a leader of the prisoners’ struggle. He played a leading role in organizing collective hunger strikes and other protests, and was elected to coordinate with representatives of other Palestinian political movements in collective strikes like the 2012 Karameh hunger strike.

Upon his scheduled release date on 13 June, instead of being released to his friends and family who were waiting for him at an Israeli occupation military checkpoint, he was suddenly ordered to administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial. He launched his hunger strike to demand his release. His strike found support from hundreds of fellow Palestinian prisoners across factional lines inside Israeli prisons.

Kayed became an internationally-known figure during his hunger strike as dozens of cities around the world held events and rallies for his release and thousands of supporters signed petitions and wrote letters demanding his freedom. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network coordinated numerous events around the world to demand Kayed’s release, including a delegation of European lawyers and parliamentarians who traveled to Palestine to support his strike. Dozens of events in Ireland – including a mural on Belfast’s famous International Wall – demanded his release, while the city of Naples in Italy named Kayed an honorary citizen.


He concluded his strike in an agreement for his release on 12 December. The streets of Asira al-Shamaliyeh have been festooned with graffiti and stenciled images celebrating his release and his victory. Earlier on his release day, suspicions were escalated as Israeli occupation officials refused to inform his family or his lawyers of the time and location of his release. He was released at approximately 3:00 Palestine time and is currently participating in the celebration of his release in Asira al-Shamaliyeh.

A large demonstration also marked the occasion today in Gaza City, outside the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, celebrating Kayed’s release and the 49th anniversary of the founding of his party, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and demanding the release of all Palestinian political prisoners.


Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes Bilal Kayed on the occasion of his release. A symbol of the struggle for freedom and the prisoners’ movement, his release after his lengthy hunger strike marks a victory for his steadfastness and that of his fellow prisoners. On this occasion, we also salute all of the thousands in Palestine and around the world who joined in the struggle for Bilal’s release with legal efforts, international advocacy, grassroots organizing and mass actions. The freedom of Bilal Kayed is part of the struggle for the freedom of all 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners and the freedom of Palestine and its people.

(Source / 12.12.2016)

Syrian Coalition Consults with Syrian Islamic Council to Lay out Comprehensive National Vision

President of the Syrian Coalition Anas Abdah on Monday met with head of the Syrian Islamic Council Sheikh Osama Rifai to discuss the latest developments in Syria, especially in Aleppo and the rest of the besieged areas across Syria. The meeting was attended by the Coalition’s Vice-president Abdul Ahad Steifo, member of the Coalition’s political committee Fuad Aliko, and member of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee Farouk Tayfur.

The meeting discussed laying out a comprehensive national vision for all political, civil, and military forces of the revolution to safeguards the gains of the revolution and help achieve its goals in building a state based on freedom, justice and the rule of law for all Syrians.

The two sides also discussed the latest political and field developments, including the ongoing Russian and Assad regime’s brutal onslaught on Aleppo and the ferocious bombardment on Idlib by the Assad regime backed by the Russian forces and the Iranian-backed foreign militias.

Both sides also warned of the policies the Assad regime is pursuing in the Syrian cities and towns with the aim to force the local population out of their homes serving Iranian expansionist projects in Syria and the region.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office / 12.12.2016)

MP Zeidan sounds alarm over al-Ashkar’s fate in Israeli jail


Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Abdul Rahman Zeidan, on Sunday warned of the sharp health deterioration endured by professor Essam al-Ashkar, in Israeli jail.

Zeidan held the Israeli occupation responsible for the turn for the worse al-Ashkar’s health has taken.

He added that prisoner al-Ashkar, sentenced administratively, without charge or trial, was transferred to the under-equipped Ramla prison clinic.

Professor al-Ashkar has been diagnosed with disorders in his kidney arteries, causing him life-threatening hypertension.

MP Zeidan urged An-Najah University, among other national and international academic institutions, to take urgent action and step up pressure on the Israeli occupation authorities so as to release professor al-Ashkar and allow him to undergo an urgent surgery overseas.

He further pushed for activating al-Ashkar’s cause across all international platforms, urging the mass media to speak up for the detainee before it is too late.

In 2008, the Megiddo prison administration tried to force professor al-Ashkar to undergo a surgery in Israeli jail, which he rejected. Ever since then the Israeli occupation authorities have denied him travel abroad.

(Source / 12.12.2016)

12 countries to organize sit-ins in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) Chairman Qaddura Fares said in statement on Monday that 12 countries were set to stage various sit-in protests in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.

Fares said that the sit-ins would take place on Tuesday on the occasion of International Political Prisoners’ Day, and International Human Rights Day, which took place on Dec. 10th.
The 12 participant countries are Spain, US, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Japan, Mexico, Canada, France, South Africa, Cuba and Chile.
Fares added that the sit-ins were organized with the foreign countries in coordination with PPS and Palestinian NGO Human Rights Defenders, located in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron.
(Source / 12.12.2016)

The Dirty War on Syria: Washington Supports the Islamic State (ISIS)


[Featured image: Head of US armed forces General Martin Dempsey, Senate Armed Forces Committee Chairman Senator Lindsey Graham and US Vice President Joe Biden have all admitted that their close regional allies (especially the Saudis, Qatar and Turkey) finance ISIS.]

“It is always difficult to play a double game: declaring a fight against terrorists and simultaneously trying to use some to place pieces on the Middle Eastern chess board to pursue their own interests … [but do the] so-called moderate bandits behead people moderately?” – Vladimir Putin (2015)

Reports that US and British aircraft carrying arms to ISIS were shot down by Iraqi forces (Iraqi News 2015) were met with shock and denial in western countries. Yet few in the Middle East doubt that Washington is playing a ‘double game’ with its proxy armies in Syria. A Yemeni AnsarAllah leader says ‘Wherever there is U.S. interference, there is al Qaeda and ISIS. It’s to their advantage’ (al-Bukaiti 2015). However key myths remain important, especially to western audiences. Engaging with those myths calls for reason and evidence, not just assertion.

There is no doubt that the Arab and Muslim peoples of the Middle East hate the terrorist monstrosity called ISIS, ISIL or DAESH. Polling by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre found that 99% of Lebanese, 94% of Jordanians and 84% of Palestinians had an ‘unfavourable’ view of ISIS. As Lebanon’s constitutional system requires sectarian identification it was also found that 98% of Lebanese Sunni Muslims rejected ISIS (Poushter 2015). That latter finding discredits the common western assertion that ISIS somehow springs from Sunni communities. Less than 1% in Lebanon, 3% in Jordan and 6% in Palestine viewed the banned terrorist group favourably. The remainder did not express an opinion. Of all Syria’s neighbours, Turkey had the lowest ‘unfavourable’ view of ISIS, at 73%; the favourable score was 8% (Poushter 2015). The aim of this chapter is to help clarify what role Washington has had in creating or turning loose this Frankenstein’s monster.

Washington maintains two closely linked myths as regards terrorism in the Middle East. Then there is a ‘fall-back’ story. The first ‘existential myth’ is that, from 2014, the US became engaged in a war against extremist terrorists, in both Iraq and Syria. This followed several years of trying to topple the Syrian Government by backing illegal armed groups, which it calls ‘moderate’. Through this myth the US claims to be playing a protective role for the benefit of the peoples of the region. The second myth is that there is a significant difference between the ‘moderate rebels’ the US arms, finances and trains, and the extremist terrorists (DAESH or ISIS) it claims to be fighting.

These claims represented a shift in the rationale for the war on Syria, from one of ‘humanitarian intervention’ to a revival of the Bush era ‘war on terror’. The ‘fall back’ story, advanced by some of Washington’s domestic critics, is that US practice in the region has created a climate of resentment amongst orthodox Sunni Muslim communities, and the extremist groups emerged as a type of ‘organic reaction’ from those communities to repeated US interventions. This story hides the more damaging conclusion that Washington and its allies directly created the extremist groups.

However there is little point in simply asserting that last version, without evidence. The ‘existential myth’ of a western war on terrorism is so insistent and pervasive, and backed by such a commitment in political capital, arms and finance, that it is very difficult for western audiences to accept this new ‘war’ might be a charade. Further, diplomacy requires that stated policy positions be pursued to their logical conclusions, and that the aims be tested. For these reasons I suggest we should document the key elements of evidence, on Washington’s relationship with the sectarian terrorists. After that we can draw better informed conclusions.

It is certainly true that prominent ISIS leaders were held in US prisons. The Afghan recruiter for ISIS, Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, spent three years in the US prison at Guantanamo (Bienaimé 2015). ISIS leader, Ibrahim al-Badri (aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) is said to have been held for between one and two years at Camp Bucca in Iraq (Giovanni 2014). In 2006, as al-Baghdadi and others were released, the Bush administration announced its plan for a ‘New Middle East’, a plan which would employ sectarian violence as part of a process of ‘creative destruction’ in the region (Nazemroaya 2006). While there have been claims that al-Baghdadi is a CIA or Mossad trained agent, these have not yet been backed up with evidence.

Nevertheless, according to Seymour Hersh’s article, ‘The Redirection’, the US planned to make use of ‘moderate Sunni states’, in particular the Saudis, to contain alleged ‘Shiia gains’ in Iraq brought about by the 2003 US invasion. These ‘moderate Sunni’ forces would carry out clandestine operations to weaken Iran and Hezbollah, key enemies of Israel (Hersh 2007). This plan brought the Saudis and Israel closer as, for somewhat different reasons, both fear Iran.

In mid-2012, US intelligence reported two important facts about the violence in Syria. Firstly, most of the armed ‘insurgency’ was being driven by extremist al Qaeda groups, and second, the sectarian aim of those groups was ‘exactly’ what the US and its allies wanted. The DIA wrote:

‘The Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria … There is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers [The West, Gulf monarchies and Turkey] to the [Syrian] opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime’ (DIA 2012).

The US also observed (and certainly did not stop) the channelling of arms from Benghazi in Libya to ‘al Qaeda groups’ in Syria, in August 2012. These arms were detailed as including 500 Sniper rifles, 100 RPG launchers with 300 rounds and 400 howitzers missiles, of 125mm and 155mm calibre, all shipped to the Ports of Banias and Borj Islam, in Syria (Judicial Watch 2015). According to Michael Flynn, the former head of the DIA, and consistent with that intelligence, President Obama made a ‘wilful decision’ to support al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and other ‘jihadist’ groups (Newman 2015). This all confirms motive, complicity and consistency of the process, from the early days of the Syrian conflict, building on former President Bush’s ‘New Middle East’ plan. Washington covertly approved the arming of al Qaeda groups in Syria, seeing its own advantage in that.

Probably the most convincing confirmation of US complicity with its terrorist ‘enemy’ has been the admissions from several senior officials that their main regional allies have financed ISIS. Those officials include the US Vice-President, the head of the US Armed Forces and the Chair of the US Armed Forces Committee. In September 2014 General Martin Dempsey, head of the US military, told a Congressional hearing ‘I know major Arab allies who fund [ISIS]’ (Rothman 2014). Senator Lindsey Graham, of the Armed Services Committee, responded with a justification, ‘They fund them because the Free Syrian Army couldn’t fight [Syrian President] Assad, they were trying to beat Assad’ (Rothman 2014; Washington’s Blog 2014). These were honest, if criminal, admissions.

The next month, US Vice President Joe Biden went a step further, explaining that Turkey, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia ‘were so determined to take down Assad … they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad … [including] al Nusra and al Qaeda and extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world … [and then] this outfit called ISIL’ (RT 2014; Usher 2014). Once again, these were consistent and credible admissions, except that Biden sought to exempt the US from this operation by blaming key allies. That caveat is simply not credible. The Saudis in particular are politically dependent on Washington and could not mount any major initiative without US approval. Not only that, the US systematically controls, by purchase contract and re-export license, the use of its weapons (Export.Gov 2015).

Washington’s relationship with the Saudis, as a divisive sectarian force in the region against Arab nationalism, goes back to the 1950s, when Winston Churchill introduced the Saudi King to President Eisenhower. More recently, British General Jonathan Shaw acknowledged the contribution of Saudi Arabia’s extremist ideology: ‘this is a time bomb that, under the guise of education. Wahhabi Salafism is igniting under the world really. And it is funded by Saudi and Qatari money’, Shaw said (Blair 2014). He was right.

Other evidence undermines western attempts to maintain a distinction between what came to be called the ‘moderate rebels’, by 2013 openly armed and trained by the US, and supposedly more extreme groups such as Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS. While there has indeed been some rivalry, the absence of real ideological difference is best shown by cooperation and mergers. For example the collection of US-backed groups called the ‘Free Syrian Army’ fought alongside ISIS and against the Syrian Army for several months in 2013, to gain control of Syria’s Menagh air base, near Aleppo (Paraszczuk 2013). Hoff points out that one of the ISIS commanders in the Menagh operation, Chechen Abu Omar al Shisani, ‘received American military training as part of an elite Georgian army unit in 2006’ and continued to receive US support in 2013, through his FSA alliance (Hoff 2015).

Long term cooperation between these ‘moderate rebels’ and the foreign-led Jabhat al-Nusra was seen around Daraa in the south, along the mountainous Lebanese border, in Homs-Idlib, along the Turkish border and in and around Aleppo. The words Jabhat al Nusra actually mean ‘support front’, that is, foreign support for the Syrian Islamists. Back in December 2012, as Jabhat al Nusra was banned in various countries, 29 of these groups reciprocated the solidarity in their declaration: ‘We are all Jabhat al-Nusra’ (West 2012). Soon after the 29 group signatories became ‘more than 100’ (Zelin 2012). There was never any real ideological difference between these sectarian anti-government groups.

The decline of the ‘Free Syrian Army’ network and the renewed cooperation between al Nusra and the string of reinvented US and Saudi backed groups (Dawud, the Islamic Front, the Syrian Revolutionary Front, Harakat Hazm) helped draw attention to Israel’s support for al Nusra, around the occupied Golan Heights. Since 2013 there have been many reports of ‘rebel’ fighters, including those from al Nusra, being treated in Israeli hospitals (Zoabi 2014). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even publicised his visit to wounded ‘rebels’ in early 2014. That led to a public ‘thank you’ from a Turkey-based ‘rebel’ leader, Mohammed Badie (Israel Today 2014). Semi-covertly, Israel backed all the armed groups against Syria, occasionally assisting them with its own missile attacks (Kais 2013).

The UN peacekeeping force based in the occupied Golan reported its observations of the Israeli Defence Forces ‘interacting with’ al Nusra fighters at the border (Fitzgerald 2014). At the same time, Israeli arms were captured by Syrian forces from the extremist groups (Kais 2012; Winer 2013). In November 2014 members of the Druze minority in the Golan protested against Israeli hospitals being used to help wounded al Nusra and ISIS fighters (Zoabi 2014). This led to questions by the Israeli media, as to whether ‘Israel does, in fact, hospitalize members of al-Nusra and Daesh [ISIS]’. A military spokesman’s reply was hardly a denial: ‘In the past two years the Israel Defence Forces have been engaged in humanitarian, life-saving aid to wounded Syrians, irrespective of their identity’ (Zoabi 2014). In fact, not even a humble farmer gets across the heavily militarised Occupied Golan border to retrieve a stray goat. ‘Humanitarian’ treatment for al Qaeda terrorists is different.

The artificial distinction between ‘rebel’ and ‘extremist’ groups has been mocked by multiple reports of large scale defections and transfer of weapons, to the extremists. In July 2014 one thousand armed men in the Dawud Brigade defected to ISIS in Raqqa (Hamadee and Gutman 2014; Ditz 2014). In November defections to Jabhat al Nusra from the US-backed Syrian Revolutionary Front were reported (Newman 2014; Sly 2014).

In December, Adib Al-Shishakli, representative at the Gulf Cooperation Council of the exile ‘Syrian National Coalition’, said ‘opposition fighters’ were ‘increasingly joining’ ISIS ‘for financial reasons’ (Zayabi 2014). In that same month, the Al Yarmouk Shuhada Brigades, backed and trained for two years by US officers, were reported as defecting to ISIS, which had by this time began to establish a presence in Syria’s far south (OSNet 2014). Then, over 2014-2015, three thousand ‘moderate rebels’ from the US-backed ‘Harakat Hazzm’ collapsed into Jabhat al Nusra, taking a large stock of US arms including anti-tank weapons with them (Fadel 2015a). Video posted by al-Nusra showed these weapons being used to take over the Syrian military bases, Wadi Deif and Hamidiyeh, in Idlib province (Bacchi 2015). Debka File, a site linked to Israeli intelligence, says the heavy weaponry provided to the Syrian ‘opposition’ by the USA, Israel, the Saudis, Jordan, Turkey and Qatar includes tanks, armoured vehicles, rockets launchers, machine-guns, anti-aircraft weapons and ‘at least four types of anti-tank weapons’ (Debka 2015). The scale and consistency of the ‘defections’ strongly suggests management to channel these arms, along with fighters, to make ISIS the best equipped group. A similar conclusion was noted by US Senator John Kiriakou (Sputnik 2015b).

Recruitment of fighters for ISIS was certainly a heavily financed affair, and not an ‘organic’ drift of resentful ‘Sunni’ youth. In late 2014 the Afghan Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost was said to be ‘leading efforts in northern Pakistan to recruit fighters for ISIS’ (Bienaimé 2015). Soon after this report, Syrian jihadist Yousaf al Salafi, arrested in Pakistan, said he had been hired to recruit young men in Pakistan to fight with ISIS in Syria. He says he received $600 for each fighter he sent, working with a Pakistani sheikh and using US money (Variyar 2015). Who knows what the middle-men took, but this sum is several times the salary of an average Syrian soldier. As with Jabhat al Nusra, recruits came from a wide range of countries. Cuban journalists interviewed four captured ISIS jihadists from Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. They were recruited in a larger group which had passed freely through Turkey and across the border into Syria. They were assisted to participate in this ‘holy war’ by offers of a house, a good salary and a bride. More than 300 people were killed by their car bombs (PL 2015).

ISIS had US weapons by various means in both Iraq and Syria when, in late 2014, a ‘non-aggression pact’ was reported in the southern area of Hajar al-Aswad between ‘moderate rebels’ and ISIS, as both recognised a common enemy in Syria: ‘the Nussayri regime’, a sectarian way of referring to Alawi Muslims. Some reported ISIS had purchased weapons from the ‘rebels’ (AFP 2015).

With ‘major Arab allies’ directly backing ISIS and a steady stream of fighters and arms passing to ISIS from the collapsing US-backed ‘moderate rebel’ groups, it is a small leap to recognise that US and ‘coalition’ flights to ISIS areas (supposedly to ‘degrade’ the extremists) might also have become covert supply lines. That is precisely what senior Iraqi sources began saying, in late 2014 and early 2015 (Iraq News 2014). In mid-2014 ISIS began seizing US weapons, but this was put down to incompetence on the part of the Iraqi Army (Sharma and Nestel 2014).

However, soon after that, US air drops of arms were seized by ISIS troops on the ground. Was this US incompetence or US planning? As reported by both Iraqi and Iranian media, Iraqi MP Majid al-Ghraoui said in January that ‘an American aircraft dropped a load of weapons and equipment to the ISIS group militants at the area of al-Dour in the province of Salahuddin’ (Sarhan 2015). Photos were published of ISIS retrieving the weapons. The US admitted seizures of its weapons but said this was a ‘mistake’ (MacAskill and Chulov 2014). Then in February Iraqi MP Hakem al-Zameli said the Iraqi army had shot down two British planes which were carrying weapons to ISIS in al-Anbar province. Again, photos were published of the wrecked planes. ‘We have discovered weapons made in the US, European countries and Israel from the areas liberated from ISIL’s control in Al-Baqdadi region’, al-Zameli said (FNA 2015a).

The Al-Ahad news website quoted Head of Al-Anbar Provincial Council Khalaf Tarmouz saying that a US plane supplied the ISIL terrorist organization with arms and ammunition in Salahuddin province (FNA 2015b). Also in February an Iraqi militia called Al-Hashad Al-Shabi said they had shot down a US Army helicopter carrying weapons for ISIL in the western parts of Al-Baqdadi region in Al-Anbar province. Again, photos were published (FNA 2015a). After that, Iraqi counter-terrorism forces were reported as having arrested ‘four foreigners who were employed as military advisors to the ISIL fighters’, three of whom were American and Israeli (Adl 2015). Israel’s link to ISIS seems to have passed well beyond its border areas. In late 2015 an Israeli Colonel Yusi Oulen Shahak was said to have been arrested with an ISIS group in Iraq.

The Iraqi Government linked militia said Shahak, from the Golani brigade, was a colonel who ‘had participated in the Takfiri ISIL group’s terrorist operations’ (FNA 2015c). Six senior Iraqi officials have been cited detailing US weaponry and intelligence support for ISIS. Captured ISIS fighters said the US had provided ‘intelligence about the Iraqi forces’ positions and targets’ (FNA 2015d). The western media avoided these stories altogether, because they are very damaging to Washington’s ‘existential myth’ of a ‘War on ISIS’. However they certainly help explain why Baghdad does not trust the US military.

In Libya in 2015 a key US collaborator in the overthrow of the Gaddafi government announced himself the newly declared head of the ‘Islamic State’ in North Africa (Sputnik 2015a). Abdel Hakim Belhaj was held in US prisons for several years, then ‘rendered’ to Gaddafi’s Libya, where he was wanted for terrorist acts. As former head of the al-Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, then the Tripoli-based ‘Libyan Dawn’ group, Belhaj was, in the past, defended by Washington and praised by US Congressmen John McCain and Lindsey Graham (Sputnik 2015a).

Evidence of the covert relationship between Washington and ISIS is substantial and helps explain what Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mikdad called Washington’s ‘cosmetic war’ on ISIS (SANA 2015). The terrorist group was herded away from the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq but allowed to operate freely in Eastern Syria, against the Syrian Army (Fadel 2015b). The extremist group is used to justify a foothold Washington keeps in the region, weakening both Syria and Iraq. But Washington’s ‘war’ on ISIS has been ineffective. Studies by Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgent database showed that ISIS attacks and killings in Iraq increased strongly in the months after US air attacks began (Lestch 2014). The main on-the-ground fighting has been carried out by the Syrian Army, with its allies, and the Iraqi armed forces, with support from Iran (Lister 2015).

All this has been reported perversely in the western media. The same channels that prominently report (virtually celebrating) the ISIS killing of Syrian soldiers have also claimed the Syrian Army was avoiding or ‘not fighting’ ISIS (Richter 2014; Vinograd and Omar 2014). That alleged ‘unwillingness’ was part of the justification for US bombing inside Syria, another false pretext. While it is certainly the case that Syrian priorities remained in the heavily populated west, multiple media reports make it clear that, well before the strikes by the Russian air force in October 2015, the Syrian Arab Army was the major force engaged with ISIS (YNet 2014; al Arabiya 2014; Reuters 2015), as also suffering the worst casualties from that terrorist group (Webb 2014). When it comes to avoiding ISIS, the reverse has been the case. The evidence tells us that Washington’s lack of will against ISIS is linked to the fact that the terrorist group remains a key tool against the Syrian Government. That also explains why the US refuses to coordinate with the Syrian Army against ISIS (King 2015). This is consistent with the central ongoing aim of ‘regime change’ in Damascus or, failing that, dismemberment of the country. Such an aim was rejected by the US and others at a Vienna conference (Daily Star 2015); but US practice speaks louder than its words.

The contradictions of the US position – of claiming to fight ISIS while covertly protecting it – were thrown into sharp relief when in late September 2015 Russia decided to add air power to the Syrian Army’s efforts, against all the terrorist groups. When the US refused to cooperate with Russia, Washington’s media and NGO cheer squads immediately shifted their chorus of Syrian Government ‘killing civilians’ to that of Russia ‘killing civilians’. That had little effect on matters. At the time of writing, with that powerful Russian assistance, ISIS and the others are retreating and the Syrian Arab Army and its allied militia are gradually reclaiming areas that have been occupied for some time (AFP 2015).

Closer cooperation between Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah threaten to seriously degrade US dominance in the region. In the Iraqi military’s recent offensive on ISIS-held Tikrit, the Iranian military emerged as Iraq’s main partner. Washington was sidelined, causing consternation in the US media. General Qasem Suleimani, head of Iran’s Quds Force was said to have been a leading player in the Tikrit operation (Rosen 2015). Not least amongst the new developments has been the creation of an intelligence centre based in Baghdad and shared by Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran plus Hezbollah (4+1). This signals a new measure of independence for the Baghdad government, long thought to be a puppet captured by Washington (Boyer and Scarborough 2015).

This article has presented sufficient evidence for us to safely draw these conclusions.

First, Washington planned a bloody wave of regime change in its favour in the Middle East, getting allies such as the Saudis to use sectarian forces in a process of ‘creative destruction’.

Second, the US directly financed and armed a range of so-called ‘moderate’ terrorist groups against the sovereign state of Syria while its key allies the Saudis, Qatar, Israel and Turkey financed, armed and supported with arms and medical treatment every anti-Syrian armed group, whether ‘moderate’ or extreme.

Third, ‘jihadists’ for Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS were actively recruited in many countries, indicating that the rise of those groups was not due to a simple anti-western ‘Sunni’ reaction within the region.

Fourth, NATO member Turkey functioned as a ‘free transit zone’ for every type of terrorist group passing into Syria.

Fifth, there is testimony from a significant number of senior Iraqi officials that US arms have been delivered directly to ISIS.

Sixth, the ineffective, or at best selective, US ‘war’ against ISIS tends to corroborate the Iraqi and Syrian views that there is a controlling relationship. In sum we can conclude that the US has built a command relationship with all of the anti-Syrian terrorist groups, including al Nusra ISIS, either directly or through its close regional allies, the Saudis, Qatar, Israel and Turkey. Washington has attempted to play a ‘double game’ in Syria and Iraq, using its old doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’ to maintain the fiction of a ‘war on terrorism’ for as long as is possible.

(Source / 12.12.2016)