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The War in Afghanistan (2011)

25-jan-2011

Originally published on 25 January 2011

A Frontline in the New Cold War against Islamic Extremism or

Crucial Part of the oddly shaped Eurasian chessboard?

Last week, the new U.S. Congress convened for its first session. The newly-elected Republicans and Tea Party favourites started the new year with a stunt: reading the complete U.S. Constitution, that semi-sacrosanct document of yesteryear many swear by but few appear to know . . . On the sidelines, another somewhat overlooked speech took place as well. California Democrat Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey took the floor for a short address. Woolsey is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and gained notoriety as a result of her outspoken stance on the war in Iraq. She was one of the 133 members of the House who voted against authorizing the invasion of Iraq on October 10, 2002. Since then Woolsey has taken an active role in urging U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, and has been a vocal critic of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. Last week, however, Lynn Woolsey showed that she was beyond party politics in criticising America’s active military involvement in the Hindu Kush mountains and Afghanistan: “This war represents an epic failure, a national embarrassment, and a moral blight on our nation”.

In contrast to Woolsey’s words, the White House appears to view the war in Afghanistan in quite different terms. In the first half of December 2010, it released a new report on America’s war in the Hindu Kush mountains, publishing a 5-page summary for public consumption: Overview of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review. The short document shows that the Obama administration remains beholden to the Bush rationale for the war saying that the “core goal of the U.S. strategy in the Afghanistan and Pakistan theater remains to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al-Qa’ida in the region and to prevent its return to either country”. Repeating President Obama’s alliterative mantra, the White House presents the hostilities in Afghanistan as part of the War-on-Terror meant to safeguard the U.S. homeland as well as the rest of the Free World. Rather than taking account of the reality on the ground that sees U.S. and ISAF troops battling “insurgency” or rather resistance fighters known as Taliban, the White House document continues to portray the enemy as al-Qa’ida, a shadowy network of Islamist terrorists bent on destroying the Free World. But already in December 2009, a senior U.S. intelligence official told ABC News that there were only about 100 al-Qa’ida members left in Afghanistan, basing himself on the conclusions of American intelligence agencies and the U.S. Defense Department. In June 2010, CIA director Leon Panetta went a step further, telling ABC News: “I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of al-Qaeda is in tribal areas of Pakistan”. As a result, the Overview of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review now confidently talks of the “Pakistan-based leadership and cadre of al-Qa’ida”, thereby offering justification for the U.S. drone attacks in Pakistani territory. But the Pakistani army has for the past years been fighting the Pakistani Taliban (TTP or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan who, in response, have unleashed a campaign of terror throughout the whole country.

The Obama administration seems adamant to stay the course, having recently committed “1,400 more Marine combat forces to Afghanistan”, as reported by the Associated Press on 6 January. In a way, the War-on-Terror, renamed the Overseas Contingency Operations, is the 21st-century incarnation of the 20th-century Cold War that saw many proxy conflicts and an escalating nuclear arms’ build-up (the could only have led to MAD or Mutually Assured Destruction). As I have indicated in an earlier piece, the NATO establishment already predicted, or maybe rather presaged, such a development in the mid-1990s. Then-NATO secretary-general Willy Claes at the time said that “Islamic militancy has emerged as perhaps the single gravest threat to the NATO alliance and to Western security”.

In the absence of a Soviet threat, the Obama administration has now declared al-Qa’ida and its by now more than legendary and possibly defunct leader Osama bin Laden to be America’s main military adversary. While making sure not to declare an outright Crusade against Islam and Muslims worldwide, President Obama continues Cold War policies that ensure that the “military-industrial complex”, to use President Eisenhower’s famous 1961 phrase, is kept busy, happy, and well-fed. Quite some time ago, the independent journalist Pepe Escobar declared that “Osama bin Laden may be dead or not. ‘Al-Qa’ida’ remains a catch-all ghost entity”. In other words, his contention is that the name al-Qa’ida is used by the U.S. to suggest the presence of a threat that is then employed to justify military intervention. The flipside of that stance is now that terrorists and like-minded individuals opposing U.S. dominance and interventionism equally cite the name al-Qa’ida to gain credibility, notoriety, and media exposure.

But does al-Qa’ida as a worldwide terrorist network aiming to deceive, disrupt and destroy the Free World really exist? Already in 2004, the British film-maker and writer Adam Curtis suggested in his documentary The Power of Nightmares that al-Qa’ida as an international terrorist network was basically an American invention to secure the prosecution and conviction of guilty parties and individuals in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. As such, even the guilt of Osama bin Laden, as the true instigator of the “9/11” attacks, arguably also remains a somewhat open question. On 28 September 2001, Bin Laden was interviewed by the Urdu-language Pakistani daily Ummat: “I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of a battle . . . Whoever committed the act of 11 September are not the friends of the American people. I have already said that we are against the American system, not against its people, whereas in these attacks, the common American people have been killed”. Was Osama bin Laden merely trying to deflect attention and building up an alibi against a possible U.S. attack? As for the famous video confession so conveniently stumbled upon in the Afghan city of Jalalabad in November 2001, the theologian-turned-9/11-debunker Prof. David Ray Griffin maintains that “bin Laden experts have called this later video a fake, and for good reasons. Many of the physical features of the man in this video are different from those of Osama bin Laden (as seen in undoubtedly authentic videos)”. The fact that the FBI last year used an image of the Spanish lawmaker Gaspar Llamazares to create an up-to-date picture of an aging Osama bin Laden proves that U.S. institutions do indeed dabble in creating fakes and make-believes. The incredible story of the digitally enhanced image of Bin Laden using Llamazares’ “hair and facial wrinkles” was broken by the Associated Press.

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President Obama entered the world stage on an unprecedented wave of goodwill and optimism, relying on his message of “change we can believe in” to affect a serious alteration in the way the U.S. conducts foreign policy and treats other nations. Now that he has been in office for two years, disappointment and disillusion in his actual track record seem widespread. Obama’s continuation of the Bush administration’s championing of the TAPI pipeline project, that would Turkmenistan and India, and his seeming reliance upon Brzezinski’s legacy in pursuing the New Great Game on the “oddly shaped Eurasian chessboard” have transformed him into a proponent of a New Cold War against Islamic Extremism, as personified by al-Qa’ida. Even though many Conservative and Tea Party Obama opponents have cast doubt upon the U.S. President’s religious and political affiliation, referring to him variously as a Nazi-Socialist-Communist-Muslim, his grounding in the Christian faith remains beyond doubt. In particular, Barack Obama is much attached to the work of the American Protestant exponent of “Christian realism,” Reinhold Niebuhr’ (1892-1971). Back in April 2007, then-Candidate Obama told the New York Times columnist David Brooks: “I take away [from Niebuhr’s work] the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away . . . the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naïve idealism to bitter realism”. And now in 2011, Obama is not wavering in the face of evil as personified by al-Qa’ida, present in the Af-Pak Theatre and providing the U.S. with a pertinent reason to stay the course.

During the Cold War, Niebuhr was a public intellectual, or rather theologian, who took an active part in the fight, as a virulent defender of the U.S. and an outspoken opponent of the Communist threat. He regarded Communism as a position claiming “to embody a social system in which [the] miracle [of achieving an ideal society] has actually taken place”, a society where a “’vanguard’ of ‘class-conscious’ workers, the members of the Communist Party, whose purposes were so identical with the very purposes of history that every weapon became morally permissible to them and every vicissitude of history was expected to contribute to the inevitability of their victory”. Niebuhr’s words appear easily applicable to the 21st century, one would only need to replace the words Communist Party and Communism with the terms al-Qa’ida and Muslim extremism. Politicians and newscasters alike continuously remind the public that al-Qa’ida wants to turn the world into an Islamic welfare state ruled by a new and all-encompassing Caliphate, “a social system in which [the] miracle [of Islamic providence or Shariah] has actually taken place”. Al-Qa’ida operatives are 21st-century versions of “members of the Communist Party”, who were bent on undermining and ultimately destroying the Capitalist world in the 20th century.

President Obama proves to be a crafty proponent of ‘Niebuhrianism’, which Harry R. Davis and Robert C. Good define as a “constellation of perspectives, Biblically derived and validated by experience”. As a Christian Realist, the U.S. President is fighting the “good fight” in the Af-Pak Theatre, while keeping a close eye on China, the new superpower in the making. On Monday, 10 January, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates went to Beijing to “begin regular strategic security talks” between the U.S. and China, a year after the latter cut military ties in protest to American arms sales to Taiwan. Gates stated that military relations between the world’s two biggest economies shouldn’t be “subject to shifting political winds”. Even while the U.S. is busy opposing China on the “oddly shaped Eurasian chessboard”, pitching the TAPI natural gas pipeline project against the Kazakhstan–China oil pipeline connecting the Caspian shore to Xinjiang in Wild West China, President Obama is easing the climate for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s planned trip to Washington, D.C. later this month.

<> on January 19, 2011 in Washington, DC.

 

Is it a Gas? “9/11” and the Occupation of Afghanistan

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Originally published on 11 September 2010

It is all but an article of faith that the War in Afghanistan, which began on October 7, 2001, was launched in response to the September 11 attacks. Then-U.S. President George W. Bush followed his predecessor’s lead and focused on the figure of Osama bin Laden as U.S. Public Enemy Nr. 1. In 1998, President Clinton had launched missile strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan in retaliation for the African U.S. embassy attacks, apparently carried out by terrorists linked to the Saudi millionaire and erstwhile champion of the U.S.-led Jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Following the Soviet withdrawal from the Hindu Kush, Bin Laden left Afghanistan and went to Sudan upon the invitation of Hassan al-Turabi, and spent five years there (1992-96). Then Bin Laden returned to Afghanistan to apparently continue his Jihad against the United States.

Following the attacks on New York and Washington, DC the population of the U.S. was in deep shock. On 11 September 2001, or “9/11”, the world changed forever, or that is what George W. Bush had us believe. That same evening, in an address to the nation from the Oval Office in the White House, Bush pronounced that “Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge — huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger”. He then declared that “These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong”.

But in reality, fear has pervaded American life ever since, and the Bush Administration has cunningly employed this fear to push through some far-reaching measures affecting the lives of millions of U.S. citizens and many more hapless people across the wider world. Domestically, the rapidly passed Patriot Act clearly limits the much-valued Constitutional Rights of U.S. citizens as well as “aliens” deemed threats to U.S. national security. Currently, the Obama Administration has not revoked this legal measure.

It is all but an article of faith that the War in Afghanistan, which began on October 7, 2001, was launched in response to the September 11 attacks. Then-U.S. President George W. Bush followed his predecessor’s lead and focused on the figure of Osama bin Laden as U.S. Public Enemy Nr. 1. In 1998, President Clinton had launched missile strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan in retaliation for the African U.S. embassy attacks, apparently carried out by terrorists linked to the Saudi millionaire and erstwhile champion of the U.S.-led Jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Following the Soviet withdrawal from the Hindu Kush, Bin Laden left Afghanistan and went to Sudan upon the invitation of Hassan al-Turabi, and spent five years there (1992-96). Then Bin Laden returned to Afghanistan to apparently continue his Jihad against the United States.

9-11-shock

Following the attacks on New York and Washington, DC the population of the U.S. was in deep shock. On 11 September 2001, or “9/11”, the world changed forever, or that is what George W. Bush had us believe. That same evening, in an address to the nation from the Oval Office in the White House, Bush pronounced that “Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge — huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger”. He then declared that “These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong”.

But in reality, fear has pervaded American life ever since, and the Bush Administration has cunningly employed this fear to push through some far-reaching measures affecting the lives of millions of U.S. citizens and many more hapless people across the wider world. Domestically, the rapidly passed Patriot Act clearly limits the much-valued Constitutional Rights of U.S. citizens as well as “aliens” deemed threats to U.S. national security. Currently, the Obama Administration has not revoked this legal measure.

On an international plane, less than a month after the terrorist strikes, the invasion of Afghanistan took off in earnest following covert CIA operations in the country. The progress of the American-led coalition was swift – in fact the invasion proceeded so quickly that the journalist Jon Simpson even claimed live on radio that the BBC had liberated Kabul on the morning of 13 November 2001. Following “9/11” and the swift and successful invasion of Afghanistan, Bush’s approval rating soared domestically to 86%. Back in 2001, the whole world followed the Bush lead into Afghanistan, everybody was keen to have the perfidious Taliban – oppressors of women and growers of beards – defeated and destroyed. The U.S. took the lead in a NATO mission named ISAF or International Security Assistance Force. This 40-nation mission was set up to pacify the country, support the Karzai government and keep the Taliban in check. But, is that really the whole story???  Why was everybody so eager to blame Osama bin Laden? And why was Bush suddenly so anxious to punish the Taliban? Did George H. W. Bush’s notoriously Texan and cowboy-like son even know where Afghanistan was located or who the Taliban were?

It turns out that he knew both the country and its fundamentalist rulers quite well. As long ago as 1997, the Taliban had sent a delegation to Texas to talk about a possible lucrative pipeline passing through their territory. Then-Governor of Texas, George W. Bush, supported the Texan firm Unocal in its dealings with the Afghans. Subsequently, Unocal and its partners planned to build a 1,000 mile gas pipeline from resource-rich Turkmenistan to Multan in Pakistan, passing through the Taliban heartland of Kandahar. In the waning years of the 20th century, the BBC dutifully reported that this deal was part “of an international scramble to profit from developing the rich energy resources of the Caspian Sea”. In other words, the Unocal deal with the Taliban was instrumental in the 21th-century development of what the Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid has termed the “New Great Game”, in reference to the 19th-century rivalry between the Russian and British Empires for supremacy in Central Asia.

The American bestselling author, and academic Michael T. Klare coined the term “Resource Wars” in 2001, indicating that in his opinion most wars of the future, like many of those of the past and present, will be caused by conflicts over access to natural resources, particularly oil, natural gas, and water. Is the war in Afghanistan such a conflict, and were the “9/11” attacks used a pretext to launch this military aggression? Is all the talk we hear of Al Qaeda and its allies really a ruse hiding a blatant economic imperative?

Already in 2007, then-Candidate Obama unequivocally stated that, when President his “first step must be to get off the wrong battlefield in Iraq and take the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. At the time, Barack Obama also hinted at the threat posed by an Al Qaeda presence in the so-called Af-Pak theatre. In the meantime, the above-mentioned pipeline project has been expanded to include a 400-mile extension to India, giving rise to the acronym TAPI indicative of the countries the project encompasses: Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. In the first seven years of the 21st century, eleven high-level planning meetings have been held with the support of the Asia Development Bank. The next three years remained without much action on the TAPI front however, as the world was focusing on finishing the war in Iraq while the formerly business-friendly Taliban slowly regained ground in Afghanistan. But then, in late 2009, President Obama decided to pay heed to his then-man in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, and authorise the dispatch of more U.S. troops to Afghanistan: a total of 30,000 troops over a period of six months, bringing up the total of US and NATO troops to more than 100,000. In addition, numerous mercenaries or rather private security contractors (PSCs), working for the notorious outfit Blackwater (renamed Xe Services and the US Training Center) as well as other companies, are now also present in the Af-Pak theatre in sufficient numbers. These men and women number up to 104,000, effectively outnumbering the real military presence in the country.

The war in Afghanistan has been heating up lately, and the U.S. and its allies still concentrate on the southern part of the country, on the province of Kandahar to be precise. Consequently, the recent Taliban strike on Forward Operating Base Salerno and Camp Chapman in the eastern Khost province came as a surprise to most if not all. In the south, Kandahar is awaiting the completion of the TAPI pipeline, which will traverse the province on its way to Pakistan and India. In meetings, held in the Turkmen capitol of Ashgabat on 17-18 April, the go-ahead was given and work on the lucrative project started in May, with 2015 as the provisional completion date when Turkmenistan’s liquid gas will start flowing southward. The U.S. government is one of the strongest backers of this project.

How do these machinations surrounding the pipeline project relate to the current war in the Hindu Kush region? According to the former Pakistani diplomat Niaz Naik, approximately two months prior to “9/11”, the Bush administration had already decided to topple the Taliban regime and install a more amenable transitional government of moderate Afghans in its place. In July 2001, a four-day meeting was held in Berlin under the portentous heading of “brainstorming on Afghanistan”. The TAPI project was undoubtedly high on the session’s agenda. Literally one week after the attacks, the BBC’s former Pakistan correspondent George Arney related that Naik had “no doubt that after the World Trade Center bombings this pre-existing US plan had been built upon and would be implemented within two or three weeks”. And Niaz Naik proved right. Was he therefore really a man who knew too much? In early August 2009, Naik was tortured and murdered in his residence in Sector F-7/3 of Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad.

In spite of the very real TAPI project and the American backing for the pipeline in the U.S. pursuit of a fossil fuel policy, President Obama is keen to continue the Bush rhetoric as well as policy. In his address to the nation from the Oval Office on 31 August to mark the end of the combat mission in Iraq, he made the following remarks: “And no challenge is more essential to our security than our fight against al Qaeda . . . Americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those who attacked us on 9/11 . . . As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists”.

Is President Obama being simply disingenuous by keeping quiet about his administration’s support for the TAPI project and continuing to sell War on Terror, renamed Overseas Contingency Operations, to the American public and the world at large? Is he being merely circuitous continuously talking about al Qaeda and its allies while ordering his troops to fight the Taliban and pacify Kandahar province?

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The War in Afghanistan: Jihad, Foreign Fighters and al Qaeda

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Originally published on 18 September 2010

This year, on the momentous date of 11 September, the English-language section of the Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera aired a report on foreign fighters joining the Jihad against U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan. The report showed exclusive footage of a Taliban group in northern Afghanistan where foreign fighters, whom Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton called al-Qaeda, are bolstering the local forces. Turton interviewed the ISAF Spokesperson, Brigadier-General Chris Whitecross. Upon being queried about the identity of the outsiders strengthening the Taliban in Afghanistan’s north – a clear tactical counter-weight to ISAF’s presence in the south – Whitecross spoke without hesitation: “That means al-Qaeda and foreign fighters”.

Given that the current war in the Hindu Kush was supposedly caused by “9/11” and that allied action in Afghanistan still aims to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda”, to use President Obama’s alliterative war mantra, it is interesting to note the ease with which foreigners joining the Taliban Jihad against the ISAF occupation are termed “al-Qaeda”. As such, this recent development, arguably scooped by Al Jazeera, shows the way in which the war effort in Afghanistan has come full circle in the space of 30 years.

On 25 December 1979, Soviet forces officially entered Afghanistan in an effort to support the Communist regime led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). The Communists had seized power in April 1978, during the so-called Saur Revolution when Afghanistan’s first President Mohammed Daud Khan, who had himself seized power in a bloodless coup in 1973, was killed. The Communist government in Kabul was highly unpopular in the conservative countryside, and prone to fall prey to yet another coup or even an armed insurrection.

As a result, the Soviets deployed their troops to support a friendly regime in its southern neighbour. The Director of Studies at the Center on International Cooperation Barnett Rubin argues in his book “The Fragmentation of Afghanistan” (1989) that the Soviets had primarily entered Afghanistan with the aim of establishing a key position in Asia, one with trade possibilities and access to Gulf oil. But, once the Soviets had installed themselves in the country, they “imposed military and social reforms that began to make enemies within different sectors of the indigenous population”, as related by the Reuters Multimedia journalist Sehrish Shaban. Afghanistan as a land-locked country in the Hindu Kush mountains is home to a whole host of different ethnic groups professing adherence to Islam. Islam thus really functions as the single unifying factor in Afghanistan, and as a benchmark of Afghan identity.

The type of Islam practiced in the Afghan mountainside tends to be rather conservative and grounded in local tribal traditions and attitudes. As a result, the Soviets’ proposed “military and social reforms” could not but engender hostility among “different sectors of the indigenous population”. This resentment grew and grew into a fully-fledged call for a jihad against the unbelievers – the Soviets being notoriously atheist.

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Nowadays the term jihad is much bandied about and used and/or abused at will by Muslims as well as non-Muslims the world over. The historian and Islam specialist Mark Sedgwick maintains that the concept of jihad was developed in the 8th century, when it basically functioned as a “mixture of the Army Regulations and the Geneva Conventions, appropriate for the circumstances of the time”. At the time of the Islamic conquests (7-8th centuries), the world was divided between a House of Islam (Darülislam) and the House of War (Darülharb) and international relations between both spheres were primarily military in nature. But as the centuries progressed and relations between Muslims and the outside world achieved a quasi-peaceful status quo, punctuated by commercial exchanges and trade links, the idea of jihad changed as well. There is the well-known distinction between the greater jihad (al-jihād al-akbar) and the lesser jihad (al-jihād al-asghar), between a personal struggle in the way of Allah (crf. Surah 29:69) and an armed struggle to protect believers against oppression and violence perpetrated by unbelievers. In other words, jihad evolved from a code of war into a defensive mechanism, tantamount to a religious duty leading to religious rewards. In Afghanistan during the 1980s, the protection of the land from Soviet occupation warranted the execution of a jihad by locals and other sympathetic believers willing to participate in a meritorious act proving one’s commitment in the way of Allah (al-jihād al- asghar).

But what about the Soviets’ main rival, the United States? Were they but passive observers of these weird scenes in the mountains? A few years ago, Hollywood reminded the world of the activities of U.S. Congressman Charles Wilson, whom the New Yorker’s foreign correspondent Mary Anne Weaver called “one of he most enthusiastic supporters of the jihad on Capitol Hill”. The Hollywood movie detailed Wilson’s role in organising and financing the Afghan Mujahedeen against the Soviets throughout the 1980s.The Reagan administration, in conjunction with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the ISI (the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency), actively supported the Mujahedeen fighting the Evil Empire. In 1985, U.S. President Ronald Reagan even entertained the notorious Gulbudin Hikmatyar as well as other Mujahedeen in the White House, calling them “valiant and courageous Afghan freedom fighters”. At the moment, still leading the Hezb-i-Islami, Hikmatyar continues to fight – this time, his enemies are U.S. and ISAF forces, however. Back in the 80s, in struggling for their country’s freedom, not just Afghans volunteered freely, but also militants from nearly thirty counties participated in this jihad, these foreigners were collectively known as “Afghan Arabs”. And now apparently, the unending war in Afghanistan has come full circle. Today’s Mujahedeen, known as Taliban, again seem to enjoy the support and fighting power of non-Afghan militants. The Taliban and these non-Afghan militants, whom ISAF refers to as “al-Qaeda and foreign fighters”, are once again engaged in a jihad to drive an occupying force of unbelievers from Afghan soil – but this time, these unbelievers are Americans and their allies.

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Libya: Five Years On

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Five years ago, Libya’s one-time strongman Muammar Gaddafi was brutally murdered and mutilated by NATO and its Islamist allies on the ground.[1] Now, the writer and commentator John Wight argues that “Gaddafi’s crime in the eyes of the West was not that he was an authoritarian dictator – how could it be when their closest ally in the region is Saudi Arabia? His crime in their eyes, it was revealed in a tranche of classified Clinton emails, released by Wikileaks in January of [2016], was his intention of establishing a gold-backed currency to compete with the euro and the dollar as an international reserve currency in Africa. In this regard the then French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and then US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, were key actors in pushing for NATO intervention. Libyan oil was also a factor”.[2]

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On April Fools’ Day 2011, Sidney Blumenthal, former aide to President Bill Clinton, long-time confidante to Hillary Clinton, (as well as being a sometime journalist) e-mailed the following missive to Hillary Clinton, then-Secretary of State (21 January 2009 – 1 February 2013): “According to sensitive information available to . . . these individuals, Qaddafi’s government holds 143 tons of gold, and a similar amount in silver. During late March, 2011 these stocks were moved to SABHA (south west in the direction of the Libyan border with Niger and Chad); taken from the vaults of the Libyan Central Bank in Tripoli. This gold was accumulated prior to the current rebellion and was intended to be used to establish a pan-African currency based on the Libyan golden Dinar. This plan was designed to provide the Francophone African Countries with an alternative to the French.franc (CFA)”. And then adding this important note: “(Source Comment: According to knowledgeable individuals this quantity of gold and silver is valued at more than $7 billion. French intelligence officers discovered this plan shortly after the current rebellion began, and this was one of the factors that influenced President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to commit France to the attack on Libya. According to these individuals Sarkozy’s plans are driven by the following issues: a. A desire to gain a greater share of Libya oil production, b.Increase French influence in North Africa, c. Improve his intemai political situation in France, d. Provide the French military with an opportunity to reassert its position in the world, e. Address the concern of his advisors over Qaddafi’s long term plans to supplant France as the dominant power in Francophone Africa)”.[3]

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Blumenthal’s electronic missive purports that the driving force behind Gaddafi’s fall from grace and his subsequent bloody death was none other than the diminutive French President of Hungarian descent Nicolas Sarkozy, serving in the Élysée Palace between 16 May 2007 until 15 May 2012. As put by Wight, the “classified emails prove beyond any doubt that what took place in Libya was a monstrous crime for which those responsible have yet to be held accountable. On the contrary, Sarkozy is currently in the process of preparing a political return as French president, while Hillary Clinton is favorite to win the race for the White House against Republican nominee Donald Trump”, continuing that “[o]f the two, it is Clinton who was filmed clapping her hands and laughing at the news of Muammar Gaddafi’s murder in 2011. It is Clinton who pressed for the military intervention that ended in Libya’s destruction. And it is Hillary Clinton who has the gall to present herself as a moral giant in comparison to her rival for the US presidency”.[4]

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[1] “Whither Libya??? The Execution of Gadhafi, the NTC, and a New Prime Minister” The Erimtan Angle (02 Nov 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/whither-libya-the-execution-of-gadhafi-the-ntc-and-a-new-prime-minister/

[2] John Wight, “Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi” CounterPunch (21 Oct 2016). http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/21/hillary-clinton-and-the-brutal-murder-of-qaddafi/.

[3] “H: FRANCE’S CLIENT & Q’S GOLD. SID” ‘Hillary Clinton Email Archive’ WikiLeaks. https://wikileaks.org/clinton-emails/emailid/6528.

[4] John Wight, “Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi”.

Illicit Oil Trade between Turkey and the KRG: RedHack Revelations

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The deputy director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) Ahmet Yayla writes that “[i]n late September [2016], a Turkish hacker group, RedHack, released the emails of Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources and the son[-]in[-]law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan [aka the Prez]. Hackers have claimed that they downloaded around 20 gigabytes of data from Albayrak’s email accounts. As the group started to release the emails through social media, controversial issues have been brought to the surface once again. The Turkish government was quick to react, immediately issuing a court order prohibiting the release of the hacked emails and their publication in the media. The issuance of the court order, however, lends credence to the authenticity of the leaked emails. One of the most contentious issues uncovered with the leaked email communications and documents was the transfer of oil controlled by the so[-]called Islamic State and the Erdoğan family’s involvement via a company named Powertrans”.[1]

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Following the Turkish downing of a Russian fighter jet,[2] a war-of-words ensued between Putin and the Prez, and various accusations hurled back and forth: “Vladimir Putin issued [his accusatory] words to the TASS news agency, the Russian state news agency whose pronouncements used to be so prominent during the Soviet and Cold War era. In response, Tayyip Erdoğan told the 15th Meeting of Municipal Headmen the following: ‘[t]hey say that we are in the midst of an effort to Islamize Turkey. Given that 99% of Turkey[‘s population] is Muslim, how can you make such a statement? Tayyip Erdoğan is a Muslim. [As] 99% of Turks.’ The Turkish President, talking about himself in the third person as is his wont, responded to Putin’s words in a facile and arguably jocular manner sure to elicit a favourable response from his audience and garner sympathy among the wider Turkish public breathlessly sucking up his every word appearing on Turkish TV. Putin’s remark was actually part of a much larger accusatory discourse linking Turkey-under-the-AKP to the Islamic State (or IS/ISIS/ISIL) and its illegitimate oil deals and weapon shipments, a charge Erdoğan dismissed in an equally light-hearted manner, saying that ‘ISIS sells the oil it extracts to Assad. [And t]hat is also where it gets its money from'”.[3] Though the Prez dismissed the Russian President’s charges easily, the Turkish hacker cooperative RedHack now seems to have provided proof positive that the Russians weren’t just inventing stories about an illicit oil trade between Raqqa and Ankara. But, as the relations between Moscow and Ankara have taken another turn for the positive, following early Turkish overtures and Russian support for the AKP-led government in the wake of the Coup-that-was-no-coup, talk of illicit oil flowing between Raqqa and Ankara has now all but dried up.[4] In some detail, Yayla explains that “[b]ased on the Russian satellite images, Islamic State oil entered Turkey via three different paths. The western path involved the transfer of oil from Raqqa through Azaz, a city in northwestern Syria, to Iskenderun port on the Mediterranean. The northern path is a busy one, with oil coming from Deir ezZor and transferred to Turkey by tankers. One satellite image from Oct. 18, 2015 shows 1,722 tankers in a queue carrying oil. The eastern path involved oil from the northeast of Syria transferred to northern Iraq and then sent to Turkey through Cizre, a town near Turkey’s border with Syria. A satellite image from Nov. 14, 2015 shows 1,104 tankers along this route. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov stated that over 8,500 tankers transporting up to 200,000 tons of oil used to enter Turkey and Iraq from Islamic State-controlled territories daily. In order for oil to be transported along these routes, a large network of operations must have been set up in Turkey”.[5]

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Since then, the Russians have all but forgotten about accusing Turkey and the Islamic State of complicity, focusing instead on joint anti-terror efforts and renewed cordial relations between the Prez and Putin, including above-board pipeline deals between Moscow and Ankara: “Turkey and Russia on Monday [, 10 Ocotber 2016] signed an inter-governmental agreement on realizing the construction of the planned Turkish Stream gas pipeline to pump Russian gas under Turkish waters in the Black Sea towards Europe. The agreement was signed by Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Turkish counterpart Berat Albayrak, in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after their talks in Istanbul”, as reported by the pro-AKP Daily Sabah.[6] And now that Russia and Turkey are back in business, the Turkish hacker team RedHack has been able to prove that Putin’s earlier accusations were indeed based on credible information, as recounted by Ahmet Yayla: “[b]ased on documents released by Redhack, [the company] Powertrans was established by Ahmet Muhassiloglu and Grand Fortune Ventures, and was registered at an Istanbul address. However, soon after Powertrans was established, Muhassiloglu’s shares were sold to a Singaporean company named Lucky Ventures on April 21, 2011. It was later revealed that Grand Fortune Ventures and Lucky Ventures were established as front companies in Singapore on Aug. 8, 2008, and they moved their operations to the British Virgin Islands on Nov. 7, 2009. It was unclear who owned these companies, and therefore who owned Powertrans. Still, Powertrans was granted the privileges to carry oil from northern Iraq through Turkish oil pipelines and ports. As the Islamic State oil became available in 2014, Powertrans took the opportunity to set up schemes to transfer the oil to the Batman refinery in Turkey and to the Turkish international ports of Mersin, Dortyol, and Ceyhan”.[7]

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The ICSVE deputy director continues that the “documents released by RedHack provide evidence that Albayrak was, and still is, unofficially running the company. The documents also revealed that Albayrak’s cousin, Ekrem Keles, used to work for Çalık Holding as the coordinator for sales and marketing. Keles sent an email to Albayrak on Aug. 9, 2015 reporting on the company’s marketing in northern Iraq. Another important figure who emailed Albayrak often was Betül Yılmaz, who did not have official ties with Powertrans but was the human resources manager of Çalık Holding. Yılmaz communicated with Albayrak frequently via email to get approval for personnel issues. On Dec. 11, 2015 Albayrak wrote to his lawyer regarding a press release responding to a news report naming him as the owner of Powertrans. He asked his lawyer to edit the line by the lawyer stating, ‘his client has no longer had ties with Powertrans.’ Albayrak got upset, firing back at his lawyer, ‘What does it mean? … I have never had any ties with this company!’ The RedHack email releases supported allegations about the Erdoğan family’s illicit and corrupt business activities, which included granting opportunities and contracts without public bids to concealed companies and transferring and selling Islamic State oil. This amounts to providing the terror network with the funds to pay its fighters, to purchase weapons and explosives, and to incite violence around the world. While members of the Erdoğan family were making millions of dollars through shady business activities, their dealings with the Islamic State facilitated brutal killings and displacement of people in Syria and Iraq”.[8]

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The cooperative RedHack released the e-mail trove on 23 September 2016, but direct proof linking Ankara and Raqqa does not appear to be readily available . . . instead, there appears to be a lot of circumstantial e-mail chatter about, detailing the important role played by the Prez’ son-in-law, Berat Albayrak. On the other hand, already in March this year, a “RT Documentary crew filming in northern Syria has seen Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL) documents abandoned by retreating terrorists and found by the Kurds that, along with captured IS recruits, provide a stunning insight into IS oil trade . . . Turkey, which has been actively engaged in the Syrian war since the outset, has repeatedly denied claims that it is aiding IS. However, while Ankara insists that it is the jihadist group’s sworn enemy, facts on the ground often tell a different story. RT has spoken to several witnesses who were involved in Islamic State’s trade activities and accessed the terror group’s documents, which provide insight into how and where foreign militants enter Syria to join the terrorist ‘state’ . . . RT spoke to local residents who had been forced to work in the IS oil industry about what it was like working at the terrorist-controlled oil refinery and where the extracted oil was sold. The locals attested that ‘the extracted oil was delivered to an oil refinery, where it was converted into gasoline, gas and other petroleum products. Then the refined product was sold,’ the RT documentary’s author said. ‘Then intermediaries from Raqqa and Allepo arrived to pick up the oil and often mentioned Turkey.’ Important information revealing the connection between IS and Turkey was provided by a Turkish militant previously captured by the Kurds. The IS recruit said on camera that the terrorist group does, in fact, sell oil to Turkey. ‘Without even us asking the fighter directly, he admitted that the reason why it was so easy for him to cross the Turkish border and join IS was, in part, due to the fact that Turkey also benefited. When asked how, he said that Turkey gets something out of it – something such as oil.'”.[9]

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Cover of an Islamist, anti-Assad propaganda leaflet printed in Istanbul, Turkey. / RT

Additionally, I would like to point out that the above publisher Guraba is a legitimate company in Turkey, operating openly and plainly since 1992 without experiencing any kind of repression or even legal repercussions for cooperating with the Islamic State in Syria at present. The company’s website is accessible for anyone and everyone interested.[10]

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[1] Ahmet S. Yayla, “Hacked Emails Link Turkish Minister to Illicit Oil” World Policy Blog (17 Oct 2016). https://www.academia.edu/29217920/Hacked_Emails_Link_Turkish_Minister_to_Illicit_Oil.

[2] Can Erimtan, “Escalating the New Cold War: Turkey downs a Russian Jet” NEO (26 Nov 2015). http://journal-neo.org/2015/11/26/escalating-the-new-cold-war-turkey-downs-a-russian-jet/.

[3] Can Erimtan, “Putin, Tayyip Erdogan and the Issue of Sunnification: A Duel of Words” NEO (02 Dec 2015). http://journal-neo.org/2015/12/02/putin-tayyip-erdogan-and-the-issue-of-sunnification-a-duel-of-words/.

[4] See: C. Erimtan, “48 Hours in Turkey: Diplomatic Victory and Defeat followed a Terror Attack” NEO (04 July 2016). http://journal-neo.org/2016/07/04/48-hours-in-turkey-diplomatic-victory-and-defeat-followed-a-terror-attack/; C. Erimtan, “The Failed Coup Attempt – or the Dawning of Sharia Law in Turkey?” The Duran (18 July 2016). http://theduran.com/author/can-erimtan/.

[5] Ahmet S. Yayla, “Hacked Emails Link Turkish Minister to Illicit Oil”.

[6] “Erdoğan, Putin sign agreement on Turkish Stream gas pipeline project” Daily Sabah (10 Oct 2016). http://www.dailysabah.com/energy/2016/10/10/erdogan-putin-sign-agreement-on-turkish-stream-gas-pipeline-project.

[7] Ahmet S. Yayla, “Hacked Emails Link Turkish Minister to Illicit Oil”.

[8] Ahmet S. Yayla, “Hacked Emails Link Turkish Minister to Illicit Oil”.

[9] “ISIS, oil & Turkey: What RT found in Syrian town liberated from jihadists by Kurds (EXCLUSIVE)” RT (24 March 2016). https://www.rt.com/news/336967-isis-files-oil-turkey-exclusive/.

[x] Guraba Yayınevi. http://www.guraba.com.tr/vitrin/.

Last Hours

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‘The film Last Hours is the 2nd film in the Green World Rising Series ( the first one is Carbon that is available on this channel). Last Hours describes a science-based climate scenario where a tipping point to runaway climate change is triggered by massive releases of frozen methane. Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, has already started to percolate into the open seas and atmosphere from methane hydrate deposits beneath melting arctic ice, from the warming northern-hemisphere tundra, and from worldwide continental-shelf undersea methane pools. Burning fossil fuels release carbon that, principally through greenhouse effect, heat the atmosphere and the seas. This is happening most rapidly at the polar extremes, and this heating has already begun the process of releasing methane. If we do not begin to significantly curtail the use of carbon-based fossil fuels, this freed methane threatens to radically accelerate the speed of global warming, potentially producing a disaster beyond the ability of the human species to adapt. With this film, we hope to awaken people to the fact that the earth has experienced five major extinctions in the deep geologic past – times when more than half of all life on earth vanished – and that we are now entering a sixth extinction. Industrial civilization with its production of greenhouse gases has the potential to trigger a mass extinction on the order of those seen in the deep geological past. In the extreme, it could threaten not just human civilization, but the very existence of human life on this planet. An asset for the climate change movement, Last Hours will be disseminated globally to help inform society about the dangers associated with climate change and to encourage the world community to chart a path forward that greatly reduces green house gas emissions . . . Last Hours is narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, presented by Thom Hartmann and directed by Leila Conners. Executive Producers are George DiCaprio, Earl Katz and Roee Sharon Peled. Last Hours is produced by Mathew Schmid and was written by Thom Hartmann, Sam Sacks, and Leila Conners. Music is composed and performed by Francesco Lupica. Last Hours is brought to you by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and produced by Tree Media. Published on Sep 19, 2014′.

 

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Chilcot Inquiry: the Report and the Regrets

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Channel 4 New: Published on Jul 4, 2016. It has been long in coming, but at long last and finally, here it is: “The inquiry has not expressed a view on whether military action was legal. That could, of course, only be resolved by a properly constituted and internationally recognised court . . . We have however concluded that the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory”.

Jeremy Corbyn – Response to the Chilcot Inquiry report

‘This is the entire speech I just gave to the House of Commons in response to the Chilcot Inquiry report into the Iraq war. It is only a provisional response – as I only received the report this morning – but I will be giving a further response later today. The intervention in Iraq was a tragic decision which lead to the deaths of 179 British personnel and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis – while destabilising the region and increasing the threat of terrorism to our own country. Published on Jul 6, 2016’.

The Report of the Iraq Inquiry. Executive Summary

Introduction

  1. In 2003, for the first time since the Second World War, the United Kingdom took part in an opposed invasion and full‑scale occupation of a sovereign State – Iraq. Cabinet decided on 17 March to join the US‑led invasion of Iraq, assuming there was no last‑minute capitulation by Saddam Hussein. That decision was ratified by Parliament the next day and implemented the night after that.
  2. Until 28 June 2004, the UK was a joint Occupying Power in Iraq. For the next five years, UK forces remained in Iraq with responsibility for security in the South‑East; and the UK sought to assist with stabilisation and reconstruction.
  3. The consequences of the invasion and of the conflict within Iraq which followed are still being felt in Iraq and the wider Middle East, as well as in the UK. It left families bereaved and many individuals wounded, mentally as well as physically. After harsh deprivation under Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Iraqi people suffered further years of violence.
  4. The decision to use force – a very serious decision for any government to take – provoked profound controversy in relation to Iraq and became even more controversial when it was subsequently found that Iraq’s programmes to develop and produce chemical, biological and nuclear weapons had been dismantled. It continues to shape debates on national security policy and the circumstances in which to intervene.
  5. Although the Coalition had achieved the removal of a brutal regime which had defied the United Nations and which was seen as a threat to peace and security, it failed to achieve the goals it had set for a new Iraq. Faced with serious disorder in Iraq, aggravated by sectarian differences, the US and UK struggled to contain the situation. The lack of security impeded political, social and economic reconstruction.
  6. The Inquiry’s report sets out in detail decision‑making in the UK Government covering the period from when the possibility of military action first arose in 2001 to the departure of UK troops in 2009. It covers many different aspects of policy and its delivery.[1]

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[1] “The Report of the Iraq Inquiry. Executive Summary” The Iraq Inquiry. http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/246416/the-report-of-the-iraq-inquiry_executive-summary.pdf.