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AKP Turkey’s Favourite Terrorists in Syria: Ahrar al-Sham

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The Berlin-based SWP (or Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik or German Institute for International and Security Affairs)’s Dr Guido Steinberg relates that “Ahrar al-Sham belongs to the Islamist/Salafist part of the rebel spectrum. It aims to topple Asad and replace his regime with an Islamic state based on sharia. While its leadership has never spelled out in detail what the political system of such a state would look like, it is sure to be strongly authoritarian”.(1) Founded by “by Hassan Aboud (aka Abu Abdullah al-Hamawi) [died on 16 March 2016 “from wounds received in a battle near Aleppo”],(2) the group is a coalition of Islamist and Salafist units fighting to unseat Bashar al-Assad. Over time, Hassan Aboud’s outfit even became the ‘principal constituent force’ of the Syrian Islamic Front (or SIF), set up in December 2012 as a ‘Salafi umbrella formation, which is arguably the best fighting force within the opposition’ to the Assad regime in Damascus, in the words of the Richard Borow Fellow at the Washington Institute and founder of the website Jihadology, Aaron Zelin and Charles Lister, the Visiting Fellow, Brookings Doha Center”.(3)

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According to the journalist and freelance writer Aron Lund, “the Ahrar el-Sham Brigades are made up of nearly fifty jihadi groups, such as the Qawafil el-Shuhada (Idleb), Ansar el-Haqq (Idleb), and Salaheddine Brigade (Hama). They exist in most of Syria’s Sunni-populated governorates, but are particularly concentrated in the Idleb Governorate (half of the brigades listed), with Hama a distant second. [In 2012 p]ress reports appear to confirm that the group has a strong foothold in the Sunni countryside stretching from the northern Ghab Plain west of Hama, towards Idleb and the Turkish border, east of the Alawite mountains. Also judging from its own website, the Ahrar el-Sham Brigades are conspicuously weak in some Sunni-majority governorates otherwise known for intensive rebel activity: Homs (only two brigades, in the Houla region and Tel-Kalakh respectively), Deraa (one brigade, no location specified) and Deir el-Zor (no presence)”.(4) On a dedicated website, the group itself posits that “The Islamic Movement of Free Men of the Levant [or Ahrar al-Sham] is an Islamist, reformist, innovative and comprehensive movement. It is integrated with the Islamic Front and is a comprehensive and Islamic military, political and social formation. It aims to completely overthrow the Assad regime in Syria and build an Islamic state whose only sovereign, reference, ruler, direction, and individual, societal and nationwide unifier is Allah Almighty’s Sharia (law)”.(5)

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In spite of the above-quoted programmatic statement, “the movement is generally not seen by the Syrian public as fame or power-hungry, and Syrian activists’ comments on social media often describe the movement as working quietly and in an organised manner”, as expressed by Al Jazeera’s Malak Chabkoun.(6) Ahrar al-Sham’s supposed moderate character also seems to have induced AKP Turkey’s then-Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoğlu to utilize the groups as a middleman in negotiations between the National Intelligence Organization (or MİT) and the Islamic State (or ISIS or the Caliph and his Merry Men) in 2014.(7)

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(1) Guido Steinberg , ‘Ahrar al-Sham: The “Syrian Taliban”’ SWP Comments, 27 (May 2016). file:///C:/Users/K55V/Desktop/Ahrar%20al-Sham.pdf.

(2) C. J. Chivers and Karam Shaoumali, “Hassan Aboud, an ISIS Commander, Dies From Battlefield Wounds” New York Times (17 March 2016). https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/18/world/middleeast/hassan-aboud-an-isis-commander-dies-from-battlefield-wounds.html?_r=0.

(3) C. Erimtan, “Turkey between rock and a hard place in US fight against ISIS” RT Op-Edge (18 September 2014). https://www.rt.com/op-edge/188796-turkey-isis-usa-conflict-syria/.

(4) Aron Lund,, “Syrian Jihadism” UIBrief, 13 (14 September 2012). file:///C:/Users/K55V/Desktop/Syrian%20Jihadism%20(012).pdf.

(5) Ahrar al-Sham official webpage: http://ahraralsham.net/?page_id=4195. Translated and quoted by Malak Chabkoun, “Syrian Revolution’s Path after Attacks on Ahrar al-Sham” Al Jazeera English (17 September 2014). http://studies.aljazeera.net/en/reports/2014/09/2014“Syrian Revolution’s Path after Attacks on Ahrar al-Sham” . 9147499306405.html#a2.

(6) Malak Chabkoun, “Syrian Revolution’s Path after Attacks on Ahrar al-Sham” .

(7) C. Erimtan, “Turkey between rock and a hard place in US fight against ISIS”.

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Turkey’s New Constitution: Forging an Absolute Presidency

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On 10 January 2017 the Turkish press reported that “Turkey’s parliament [or TBMM] will formally launch debates on a constitutional amendment package that will usher in a powerful presidential system after lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) passed a motion through parliament. The initial vote in parliament was to decide whether to proceed with a debate on 18 articles of the constitutional amendment package, which was drafted by the AKP and MHP. After lengthy and tense arguments inside and outside parliament, 338 lawmakers voted in favor of the motion while 134 voted against. Two lawmakers abstained and five cast blank votes in a secret ballot. Some 480 lawmakers in the 550-seat parliament were present for the vote. During the vote, Health Minister Recep Akdağ voted in the open in violation of parliamentary bylaws. ‘I’m committing a crime; what’s it to you? Am I going to ask you?’ he is heard saying on a video taken by an opposition MP. During the discussions, PM Binali Yıldırım said the regulations outlined in the offer would solve the problems that Turkey will face in the future . . . Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Deniz Baykal criticized the entire bill, saying the content of the charter was not known well by the public and that the charter gave the impression that it was being prepared in a haste”.[1]

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[1] “AKP, MHP win 1st vote in debate for presidency” Hürriyet Daily News (10 Jan 2017). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-parliament-approves-launching-of-constitution-talks-by-338-votes.aspx?pageID=238&nID=108344&NewsCatID=338. .

Caliphal Co-Founder: Hillary Rodham Clinton

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 Some time ago, the Drumpf (aka Donald J. Trump) shocked the world by saying: “No, I meant [Obama]’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton”.[1] In spite of his poor grasp of the English language, Drumpf was clearly accusing his Democratic rival of having been behind the Caliph’s sudden rise to infamy on the world stage. And then, the exiled Julian Assange dropped another time bomb: “Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has said that Wikileaks have obtained information that, when released soon, will guarantee a Hillary Clinton indictment”.[2] On Tuesday, 11 October 2016, then, “Wikileaks released what is, by far, the most devastating leak of the entire campaign. This makes Trump’s dirty talk video looks like an episode of Barney and Friends”.[3]

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In order to make these revelations more readily intelligible, I would now like to quote the above-reproduced e-mail message: “*From*: John Podesta [mailto:john.podesta@gmail.com]” “*To*: H” [aka “H” <hrod17@clintonemail.com> aka Hillary Rodham Clinton], stating that “[a]rmed with proper equipment, and working with U.S. advisors, the >> Peshmerga can attack the ISIL with a coordinated assault supported from the >> air. This effort will come as a surprise to the ISIL, whose leaders >> believe we will always stop with targeted bombing, and weaken them both in >> Iraq and inside of Syria. At the same time we should return to plans to >> provide the FSA, or some group of moderate forces, with equipment that will >> allow them to deal with a weakened ISIL, and stepped up operations against >> the Syrian regime. This entire effort should be done with a low profile, >> avoiding the massive traditional military operations that are at best >> temporary solutions. While this military/para-military operation is moving >> forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence >> assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, >> which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region. This effort will be enhanced by >> the stepped up commitment in the KRG. The Qataris and Saudis will be put >> in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to >> dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious U.S. pressure. By >> the same token, the threat of similar, realistic U.S. operations will serve >> to assist moderate forces in Libya, Lebanon, and even Jordan, where >> insurgents are increasingly fascinated by the ISIL success in Iraq”.[4]

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The U.S. is thus supporting the Peshmerga, the FSA or “or some group of moderate forces” as well as cooperating with the “governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia”, “which are [in turn] providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region” . . . While these sentences might come as a surprise to some, those in the know have known this all along . . . Still, the above-quoted e-mail missive shows the complicity of the Obama White House in full living colour . . . After all, Mister Podesta is at present the “Chairman of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. [who] previously served as Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton and Counselor to President Barack Obama”.[5]

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[1] Tal Kopan,” Donald Trump: I meant that Obama founded ISIS, literally” CNN Politics (12 August 2016). http://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/11/politics/donald-trump-hugh-hewitt-obama-founder-isis/.

[2] “Julian Assange: My Next Leak Will Ensure Hillary’s Arrest” Anonymous (s.d.). http://www.anonews.co/hillary-assange/.

[3] “IT’S OVER: Hillary’s ISIS Email Just Leaked & It’s Worse Than Anyone Could Have Imagined…” Friends of Syria (11 Oct 2016). https://friendsofsyria.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/its-over-hillarys-isis-email-just-leaked-its-worse-than-anyone-could-have-imagined/.

[4] “Congrats!” WikiLeaks. https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/3774.

[5] “John Podesta” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Podesta.

Security Council Meeting on Syria: Moderate Opposition or Not?!??

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‘An emergency UN Security Council meeting on Syria has wrapped up in New York. It was requested by the United States, Britain and France amid the escalating conflict in the city of Aleppo. The meeting saw a heated exchange between the Russian and American envoys. Published on Sep 25, 2016’.

A high-ranking commander of the al-Qaeda branch in Syria formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra but now calling itself Jabhet Fateh al-Sham, has made some interesting remarks recently. The jihadi commander Abu al-Ezz told reporter Jürgen Todenhöfer that “[t]he U.S. support the opposition, but not directly. They support the countries which support us. But we are not yet satisfied with this support. They should support us with highly developed weapons. We have won battles thanks to the ‘TOW’ missiles. We reached a balance with the regime through these missiles. We received the tanks from Libya through Turkey. Also the ‘BMs’ – multiple rocket launchers . . . We do not recognize the ceasefire. We will reposition our groups. We will undertake in the next, in a few days an overwhelming attack against the regime. We have rearranged all our armed forces in all provinces, in Homs, Aleppo, Idlib and Hama. We accept no one from the Assad-regime or from the Free Syrian Army, which is called moderate. Our aim is the downfall of the regime and the founding of an Islamic state according to the Islamic shariah”.[1] Todenhöfer originally published the interview in the daily the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger on 26 September 2016.[2]

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[1] Zen Adra,”Nusra commander in Syria: US supporting us…but not enough” Al-Masdar News (26 September 2016). https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/nusra-commander-syria-us-supporting-usbut-not-enough/.

[1] J. Todenhöfer, “Interview mit Al Nusra-Kommandeur „Die Amerikaner stehen auf unserer Seite“”Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger (26 September 2016). http://www.ksta.de/politik/interview-mit-al-nusra-kommandeur–die-amerikaner-stehen-auf-unserer-seite–24802176?__hstc=143095274.842c504416432b8bff55bede166c1ec7.1474922442443.1474922442443.1474922442446.2&__hssc=143095274.1.1474922442446&__hsfp=3022278840.

President Assad’s interview with SBS NEWS AUSTRALIA

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 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has accused Western nations, including Australia, of doing deals with his country in secret an exclusive interview with SBS News reporter Luke Waters. The interview, filmed in Damascus after two years of negotiations, aired on Friday (1 July 2016) night on SBS.In the interview, President Assad said Western countries had double standards – openly criticising his government, in public, but continuing to deal with him in private.[1]

 

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[1] “Exclusive: Syrian President Assad says western countries secretly deal with his government” SBS (01 July 2016). http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/06/29/exclusive-syrian-president-assad-says-western-countries-secretly-deal-his.

Those 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and its Role in 9/11

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‘US President Barack Obama has said the classified pages of the 9/11 Commission report that do not “compromise major national security interests” may “hopefully” be soon released, but argued against any potential legal action against Saudi citizens. Published on Apr 20, 2016’.

‘Finally there is renewed effort to declassify 28 pages of a 838-page congressional report on the events of 9/11. It is all about the role some Saudi officials and others may have played. We have been repeatedly told that the pages are damaging. Should we be surprised? After all, it is said Riyadh supports radical ideologies and groups around the world. CrossTalking with Larry Johnson, Oliver Miles, and Eric Zuesse. Published on Apr 20, 2016’.

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Sunday Surprise: The Panama Papers

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‘Governments across the world began investigating possible financial wrongdoing by the rich and powerful following a leak of documents from a Panamanian law firm. The documents allegedly show how clients avoided tax or laundered money. The documents detailed schemes involving an array of figures from friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin to relatives of the prime ministers of Britain, Iceland and Pakistan and as well as the president of Ukraine. Australia, Austria, Brazil, France and Sweden were among countries which said they had begun investigating the allegations. The documents were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 other news organizations. Published on Apr 4, 2016’.

The funny thing is that the name Putin keep on being bandied about (even by the Chinese CCTV), in spite of the fact that the name does not seem to appear in the leaked papers . . . close associates. Meanwhile, David Cameron’s father is directly implicated as well as a host of other politicians from across the world. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) puts it like this: “Files reveal the offshore holdings of 140 politicians and public officials from around the world” . . . “Current and former world leaders in the data include prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the president of Ukraine, and the king of Saudi Arabia” . . . “More than 214,000 offshore entities appear in the leak, connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories” . . . “Major banks have driven the creation of hard-to-trace companies in offshore havens”.[1] Still, the ICIJ also talks about “associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin” . . . . and adding that the “cache of 11.5 million records shows how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars. These are among the findings of a yearlong investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organizations. The files expose offshore companies controlled by the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the king of Saudi Arabia and the children of the president of Azerbaijan. They also include at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the U.S. government because of evidence that they’d been involved in wrongdoing, such as doing business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist organizations like Hezbollah or rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. One of those companies supplied fuel for the aircraft that the Syrian government used to bomb and kill thousands of its own citizens, U.S. authorities have charged”, and adding that the “leaked data covers nearly 40 years, from 1977 through the end of 2015. It allows a never-before-seen view inside the offshore world — providing a day-to-day, decade-by-decade look at how dark money flows through the global financial system, breeding crime and stripping national treasuries of tax revenues. Most of the services the offshore industry provides are legal if used by the law abiding. But the documents show that banks, law firms and other offshore players have often failed to follow legal requirements that they make sure their clients are not involved in criminal enterprises, tax dodging or political corruption. In some instances, the files show, offshore middlemen have protected themselves and their clients by concealing suspect transactions or manipulating official records”.[2]

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But, the journalist Clark Mindock and David Sirota now also reveal that “U.S. President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed for a Bush administration-negotiated free trade agreement that watchdogs warned would only make the situation worse”, “[y]ears before more than a hundred media outlets around the world released stories Sunday exposing a massive network of global tax evasion detailed in the so-called Panama Papers”.[3] These statements would indicate that, not Putin but rather, Obama should be wary of the recent leak . . . Mindock and Sirota explain that “[s]oon after taking office in 2009, Obama and his secretary of state — who is currently the Democratic presidential front-runner — began pushing for the passage of stalled free trade agreements (FTAs) with Panama, Colombia and South Korea that opponents said would make it more difficult to crack down on Panama’s very low income tax rate, banking secrecy laws and history of noncooperation with foreign partners. Even while Obama championed his commitment to raise taxes on the wealthy, he pursued and eventually signed the Panama agreement in 2011. Upon Congress ratifying the pact, Clinton [aka the Hillerator] issued a statement lauding the agreement, saying it and other deals with Colombia and South Korea ‘will make it easier for American companies to sell their products.’ She added: ‘The Obama administration is constantly working to deepen our economic engagement throughout the world, and these agreements are an example of that commitment.’ Critics, however, said the pact would make it easier for rich Americans and corporations to set up offshore corporations and bank accounts and avoid paying many taxes altogether”.[4]

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And then, some of the names appearing in the leaks are Sergi Roldugin, Arkady Rotenberg and Boris Rotenberg, (apparently close friends of Russia’s President), and the soccer star Lionel Messi and the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar (and brother Agustin Almodovar Caballero) and the Argentina President Mauricio Macri as well as Ivan Zamorano, a retired Chilean and Real Madrid soccer player, but also the actor Jackie Chan and the already-disgraced Michel Platini, the former President of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), but also Juan Pedro Damiani, member of the FIFA Ethnics Committee and also an Argentine former soccer player with Manchester United, Gabriel Iván Heinze, in addition to the UK PM’s old man, Ian Cameron, as well as former Spanish King Juan Carlos I’s sister Pilar de Borbon, and a certain Daniel Muñoz, aide to former Argentina presidents Cristina Fernandez de Kichner and Nestor Kichner. And then there are also the names of the Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, and Juan Armando Hinojosa, the “favorite contractor” of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, as well as a certain Néstor Grindetti, Mayor of the Lanús, Argentina (a town with a population of 212,152) and João Lyra, Member of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, and Alfredo Ovalle Rodríguez, intelligence agency associate in Chile as well as Pedro Delgado, former Governor of the Central Bank of Ecuador. In addition to the name Riccardo Francolini, the former chairman of the state-owned Savings Bank in Panama, and César Almeyda, the Director of Peru’s National Intelligence Service. And then there is a former Venezuelan commander-in-chief of the army known as Victor Cruz Weffer, as well as Jesús Villanueva, the former Director of Venezuela’s state-owned oil and gas company PDVSA, as well as Idalécio de Oliveira, potential briber of Brazil’s President of the Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Cunha. Another name is that of Javier Molina Bonilla, a former advisor to Ecuador’s Director of the National Intelligence Secretariat Rommy Vallej, and César Rosenthal, son of former Honduran Vice President Jaime Rosenthal. And the names of two Argentinean businessmen also implicated in the 2015 FIFA corruption case, Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, and yet another professional soccer player, Leonardo Ulloa.[5] But for some strange reason there seem to be no names of big-time American Capitalists and/or philanthropists on the lists, no Gates of Buffet, for one thing. Or, as asked on the website Slashdot, “Where are the US politicians and businessm[e]n?”.

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[1] “Giant Leak of Offshore Financial Records Exposes Global Array of Crime and Corruption” ICIJ (03 April 2016). https://panamapapers.icij.org/20160403-panama-papers-global-overview.html.

[2] “Giant Leak of Offshore Financial Records Exposes Global Array of Crime and Corruption”.

[3] Clark Mindock and David Sirota, “Panama Papers: Obama, Clinton Pushed Trade Deal Amid Warnings It Would Make Money Laundering, Tax Evasion Worse” IBT (04 April 2016). http://www.ibtimes.com/panama-papers-obama-clinton-pushed-trade-deal-amid-warnings-it-would-make-money-2348076.

[4] Clark Mindock and David Sirota, “Panama Papers: Obama, Clinton Pushed Trade Deal”.

[5] “Panama Papers: Partial list of celebrities, government officials named in leak” Fox News Latino (04 April 2016). http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2016/04/04/panama-papers-partial-list-celebrities-government-officials-named-in-leak/.

[6] “Panama Papers: Data Leak Exposes Massive Official Corruption” Slashdot (03 April 2016). https://politics.slashdot.org/story/16/04/03/2026258/panama-papers-data-leak-exposes-massive-official-corruption.