Sleepwalking to Another Mideast Disaster
June 4, 2015
Exclusive: Denied crucial information about Syria, the American people are being led toward the precipice of another Middle East war, guided by neocons and liberal hawks who are set on “regime change” even if that means a likely victory for Sunni terrorists, writes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
If sanity ruled U.S. foreign policy, American diplomats would be pushing frantically for serious power-sharing negotiations between Syria’s secular government and whatever rational people remain in the opposition – and then hope that the combination could turn back the military advances of the Islamic State and/or Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.
But sanity doesn’t rule. Instead, the ever-influential neocons and their liberal-hawk allies can’t get beyond the idea of a U.S. military campaign to destroy President Bashar al-Assad’s army and force “regime change” – even if the almost certain outcome would be the black flag of Islamic nihilism flying over Damascus.
As much as one may criticize the neocons for their reckless scheming, you can’t call them fickle. Once they come up with an idea – no matter how hare-brained – they stick with it. Syrian “regime change” has been near the top of their to-do list since the mid-1990s and they aren’t about to let it go now. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”] That’s one reason why – if you read recent New York Times stories by correspondent Anne Barnard – no matter how they start, they will wind their way to a conclusion that President Barack Obama must bomb Assad’s forces, somehow conflating Assad’s secular government with the success of the fundamentalist Islamic State.
On Wednesday, Barnard published, on the front page, fact-free allegations that Assad was in cahoots with the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in its offensive near Aleppo, thus suggesting that both Assad’s forces and the Islamic State deserved to be targets of U.S. bombing attacks inside Syria. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT’s New Propaganda on Syria.”]
On Thursday, Barnard was back on the front page co-authoring an analysis favorably citing the views of political analyst Ibrahim Hamidi, arguing that the only way to blunt the political appeal of the Islamic State is to take “more forceful international action against the Syrian president” – code words for “regime change.”
But Barnard lamented, “Mr. Assad remains in power, backed by Iran and the militant group Hezbollah. … That, Mr. Hamidi and other analysts said, has left some Sunnis willing to tolerate the Islamic State in areas where they lack another defender. … By attacking ISIS in Syria while doing nothing to stop Mr. Assad from bombing Sunni areas that have rebelled, he added, the United States-led campaign was driving some Syrians into the Islamic State camp.”
In other words, if one follows Barnard’s logic, the United States should expand its military strikes inside Syria to include attacks on the Syrian government’s forces, even though they have been the primary obstacle to the conquest of Syria by Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and/or Al-Qaeda’s spinoff, the Islamic State. (Another unprofessional thing about Barnard’s articles is that they don’t bother to seek out what the Syrian government thinks or to get the regime’s response to accusations.)
The Sarin Story
So, “regime change” remains the neocon prescription for Syria, one that was almost fulfilled in summer 2013 after a mysterious sarin gas attack on Aug. 21, 2013, outside Damascus – that the U.S. government and mainstream media rushed to blame on Assad, although some U.S. intelligence analysts suspected early on that it was a provocation by rebel extremists.
According to intelligence sources, that suspicion of a rebel “false-flag” operation has gained more credence inside the U.S. intelligence community although the Director of National Intelligence refuses to provide an update beyond the sketchy “government assessment” that was issued nine days after the incident, blaming Assad’s forces but presenting no verifiable evidence.
Because DNI James Clapper has balked at refining or correcting the initial rush to judgment, senior U.S. officials and the mainstream media have been spared the embarrassment of having to retract their initial claims – and they also are free to continue accusing Assad. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Fact-Resistant Group Think on Syria.”]
Yet, the DNI’s refusal to update the nine-days-after-the-attack white paper undermines any hope of getting serious about power-sharing negotiations between Assad and his “moderate” opponents. It may be fun to repeat accusations about Assad “gassing his own people,” a reprise of a favorite line used against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, but it leaves little space for talks.
There has been a similar problem in the DNI’s stubbornness about revealing what the U.S. intelligence community has learned about the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down over eastern Ukraine killing 298 people on July 17, 2014. DNI Clapper released a hasty report five days after the tragedy, citing mostly “social media” and pointing the blame at ethnic Russian rebels and the Russian government.
Though I’m told that U.S intelligence analysts have vastly expanded their understanding of what happened and who was responsible, the Obama administration has refused to release the information, letting stand the public perception that Russian President Vladimir Putin was somehow at fault. That, in turn, has limited Putin’s willingness to cooperate fully with Obama on strategies for reining in hard-charging crises in the Middle East and elsewhere. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “US Intel Stands Pat on MH-17 Shoot-down.”]
From the Russian perspective, Putin feels he is being falsely accused of mass murder even as Obama seeks his help on Syria, Iran and other hotspots. As U.S. president, Obama could order the U.S. intelligence community to declassify what it has learned about both incidents, the 2013 sarin gas attack in Syria and the 2014 MH-17 shoot-down in eastern Ukraine, but he won’t.
Instead, the Obama administration has used these propaganda clubs to continue pounding on Assad and Putin – and Obama’s team shows no willingness to put down the clubs even if they were fashioned from premature or wrongheaded analyses. While Obama withholds the facts, the neocons and liberal hawks are leading the American people to the cliffs of two potentially catastrophic wars in Syria and Ukraine.
Though Obama claims that his administration is committed to “transparency,” the reality is that it has been one of the most opaque in American history, made much worse by his unprecedented prosecution of national security whistleblowers.
Even in the propaganda-crazy days of the Reagan administration, I found it easier to consult with intelligence analysts than I do now. While those Reagan-era analysts might have had orders to spin me, they also would give up some valuable insights in the process. Today, there is much more fear among analysts that they might stray an inch too far and get prosecuted.
The danger from Obama’s elitist – and manipulative – attitude toward information is that it eviscerates the American people’s fundamental right to know what is going on in the world and thus denies them a meaningful say in matters of war or peace.
This problem is made worse by a mainstream U.S. news media that marches in lockstep with neoconservatives and their “liberal interventionist” sidekicks, narrowing the permitted policy options and guiding an enfeebled public to a preordained conclusion – as New York Times correspondent Anne Barnard has done over the past two days.
In the case of Syria, the only “acceptable” approach is the reckless idea that the U.S. government must militarily damage the principal force – the Syrian army – that is holding back the rising tide of Sunni terrorism and then must take its chances on what comes next.
[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Day After Damascus Falls” and “Holes in the Neocons’ Syrian Story.”]
Lindsey Graham’s plan for Mideast peace: more war
By Eric Black | 06/04/15 MinnPost
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has a plan to bring peace to the Mideast. It’s called war. Open-ended, U.S.-led war. To his credit, Graham is willing to level with those among the electorate who might want to know when and how we will ever get out:
“You don’t get out,” Graham told NBC’s Chuck Todd in an interview taped in a bar and continued in the back of a moving car. “You don’t get out.”
Graham, like his best friend and ally in the U.S. Senate, John McCain, is a neoconservative dream candidate. His plan is likewise a neocon dream plan that, in my view, is discredited by the U.S. experience in Iraq since 2003. It is a plan that continues to rely on a version of the sale jobs that held that the Americans would be welcomed, greeted with candy and flowers, and accepted as a model for new or reorganized nations that would be born of our renewed intervention.
But as regular readers of this space know, I’m desperate for straight talk in politics and Graham may be the straightest talker in the nine-going-on-15-or-more Republican presidential field. I give him big points for this, and he answered Todd’s questions forthrightly. But his answers beg some follow-up questions that I hope he will deal with in some forum.
Here’s my possibly flawed transcription of the key points:
Lindsey Graham: “If I were president the first thing I would announce is that we’re going to arm the Ukrainians so they can fight for their own freedom. I’d leave a residual force behind in Afghanistan. And I would send more troops into Iraq to facilitate their ability to reconstitute their army so they could deny ISIL some safe havens in Iraq.
“Now Syria’s the hard one. I’d ask Egypt, I’d ask Turkey and the other regional allies that we have to form an army, and we’d be part of that army and we’d go in and take territory back from ISIL. And we’d hold it. And we’d try to get political reconciliation between the Alawites and the rest of the population of Syria.
Chuck Todd: “How do you get out?”
Graham: “You don’t get out. You don’t get out. [Here Todd tries to ask him if he’s prepared to tell America that they will never get their troops out of the Mideast but Graham answers on top of the question with, “We’re still in Japan.”]
“… I think we have to be involved in the Middle East politically, economically, militarily. If you’re not, you’re making a huge mistake. If we’d have left Germany and Japan after a certain period of time, only God knows what would have happened.
“Here’s the good news: With a small number of troops, probably less than we have in Korea, you could bring stability back to Iraq. I think you could get together an army to go into Syria…
“You’re going to have to leave some troops behind. And here is what I’m going to tell America: It’s not the day we leave that matters, it’s what we leave behind. And I don’t see this ending in my lifetime. I don’t’ see us being able to disengage from the Mideast.
“But I do see this. The military side will go down in time. But building a small schoolhouse in Afghanistan can do more damage to the Taliban than a 500-pound bomb.
“I’ve got to convince the American people that if you disengage from the region, if you do what we did before 9/11, just let it all go to hell, you’ll pay a price.
“So I’m trying to be smart. Trust me. I believe economic aid is just as valuable, even more valuable, than hard power. I’m a soft-power guy. But the one thing I can tell people in South Carolina and the country at large is that I don’t see a path forward where we just walk away.”
More questionsNow here are a few questions that Sen. Graham should address:
You propose to put U.S. forces back into Iraq. You do not mention that President Obama was willing to leave a residual force in Iraq if he could negotiate a “status of force agreement” (SOFA) with the Iraqi government, but the Iraqis refused. The Iraqis did this in the face of heavy popular pressure to get the U.S. troops out, and would not agree or even discuss the U.S. demand that U.S. troops be granted immunity from prosecution by local Iraqi authorities (a provision that is standard in U.S. SOFA agreements around the world). How would you, as President Graham, get around this problem? Would you insist on immunity for U.S. troops? Do you have a plan for solving Sunni-Shia hostility within Iraq that has prevented the Shia-led national government from trusting Sunnis with a military role in Anbar Province where Sunnis predominate and where ISIS now occupies much of the province?
Have Turkey, Egypt or other U.S. allies agreed to provide forces that would fight and die under U.S. leadership in Syria? What happens to your vision if they do not agree?
The Alawite minority of Syria (an estimated 16 percent of the population) has ruled Syria under the Assad family for decades, brutally and in their own interest. It has alienated, repressed and murdered members of most of the other groups. Please specify your plan to “try to get political reconciliation between the Alawites and the rest of the population of Syria?”
Is there any way to estimate the cost in U.S. blood and treasure for your vision of indefinite military occupation of various regions of the Mideast?
Your view seems to rely on the United States being welcome to play a large role in running and managing the Mideast with military power, indefinitely and with license to kill as U.S. presidents may deem necessary. Recent experience since the invasion of Iraq suggests that hatred of the United States is widespread in the region, as is the tendency to see the U.S. role there dominated by interests in oil, U.S. domination and Israel. Do you have some reason to believe that the region wants and would accept U.S. troops in the role you envision?
Why the Conflicts in Tikrit and Yemen Signal a New Middle Eastern War
Alastair Crooke ----- HuffingtonPost
BEIRUT -- With the Iranian involvement against the Islamic State in the assault on Tikrit, and the Saudi invasion of Yemen to stem the tide of Iranian influence, we have entered a new Middle Eastern war.
Tikrit has become something of an augury and symbol of ISIS' prospective fate. The suggestion in much of the commentaries is that the Iranian-directed offensive in Tikrit has stalled. Indeed one can detect a certain pleasurable rubbing of hands at the very prospect of an Iranian setback.
"If this leads to the Iranians forced to concede defeat, that would be a satisfactory outcome," one U.S. defense official told the The Daily Beast An ISIS victory, then, is "satisfactory" to the U.S.?
In fact, the city of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, is surrounded. What is stalling its fall is a dispute between the Iraqi army and Iranian military advisers. It is an issue of tactics. ISIS has rigged the town with explosive booby traps, mines, tripwires and left behind snipers and suicide volunteers. To clear Tikrit of such obstacles is a laborious process. The Iraqi army wants to do it the American way: call in air support and bomb ISIS forces. The Iranian side argues that this will just produce another Fallujah and leave Tikrit's Sunni inhabitants seething with resentment at their destroyed city. The Iranians propose -- based on four years learning from the experience of Syria's fight against jihadi forces -- to mount a siege; to wait, to be patient and then clear Tikrit, street by street. This approach, however, will be more costly in terms of their own casualties -- though undoubtedly will help save ordinary Tikriti lives. As of now, it seems the easier way has been chosen by the Iraqi government.
"If Tikrit was the precursor, then the fall of Aden was the trigger."
Tikrit, and the Iranian involvement in the war on ISIS (now with U.S. air support, ostensibly provided to Iraqi forces) is directly linked to the Saudi-led coalition attacks on the Houthis (Ansar Allah) in Yemen. Saudi Arabia's leadership was already in a state of great alarm at Iran's growing influence -- occasioned by its boots-on-the-ground approach to fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria -- when the Houthi forces unexpectedly overran Aden in South Yemen, to which ousted President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi (supported by the Gulf states) had just fled, and named as his "temporary seat of power." Jon Alterman, a former senior U.S. State Department official, has noted that "there is a growing consensus [in the Kingdom and amongst its allies] that this [the Houthi takeover] is the finger of Iran and it needs to be put down decisively."
If Tikrit was the precursor, then the fall of Aden was the trigger.
"The Saudi default position on Yemen," Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy writes, "can be best described as paranoia." And thus we have a new Middle Eastern war -- one which will complicate the region greatly.
On the one hand, the Gulf states are muttering about withdrawing from the coalition fighting ISIS (owing to Iran's prominence), and Saudi Arabia may be expected, Henderson speculates with regard to Yemen, to deploy "the full Saudi diplomatic toolbox -- money, arms supplies and perhaps even a blind eye to actions that would be described anywhere else as terrorism -- to block Tehran." And on March 20, Henderson writes, "suicide bombings at Houthi mosques in San'a killed 152 people; responsibility was claimed by San'a Province, a Sunni group loyal to Islamic State but previously virtually unknown."
In short, yet again inflamed radical Sunni jihadi groups will become the policy tool of choice in the region. In reality, it is about the only tool which Yemen's fugitive President Hadi and his patrons have available. This will constitute a major reverse to Washington's hope to contain and degrade groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS.
The War on Yemen, America’s Plans to Use Nuclear Weapons against the Middle East
By Prof Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research, June 02, 2015
Unconfirmed reports based on a video release dated May 20, 2015 point to a massive and unprecedented bomb explosion in Yemen.
The reports suggest without corroborating evidence that the explosion could have been the result of a nuclear strike, using a tactical nuclear weapon. There is no evidence to that effect.
Whatever the nature of this explosion, it constitutes a crime against humanity.
While there is no concrete evidence that the US led alliance has used nukes against Yemen, the broader issue of nuclear war against the Middle East is, nonetheless, of utmost relevance.
Washington’s nuclear agenda as defined by the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review (2001) consists in developing its tactical nuclear arsenal for use against non-nuclear States.
Since 2002, US-NATO tactical nuclear weapons targeting the Middle East are fully deployed.
Tactical nuclear weapons or so-called “mini-nukes” are bunker buster bombs equipped with a nuclear warhead. Their explosive capacity (e.g. the B61-11) varies between one third and six times a Hiroshima bomb.
The image (right) is a B61-11 tactical nuclear bomb, which can be launched either from a B-2 bomber or an F-16.
The B61-11 is a bon fide thermonuclear bomb, a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) in the real sense of the word.
Sofar the evidence is scanty. There are no reports on the aftermath of the alleged strike in Yemen which would provide further information.
The mainstream media has not covered the issue. The matter requires further investigation in the context of a longstanding US agenda to use nuclear weapons against targets in the Middle East.
Video: The Yemen Bomb Explosion
Nuclear Attacks against countries in the Middle East
The alleged yet unconfirmed use of mini-nukes against Yemen raises the broader issue of US nuclear doctrine:
The man behind this diabolical project to nuke Libya was Assistant Secretary of Defense Harold Palmer Smith Junior. “Even before the B61 came on line, Libya was identified as a potential target”. (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists – September/ October 1997, p. 27, emphasis added)
Harold Palmer Smith had been appointed by President Bill Clinton to oversee nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs with a focus on “the reduction and maintenance of the US arsenal of nuclear weapons”. From the outset, his actual mandate, was not to “reduce” but to “increase” the nuclear arsenal by promoting the development of a new generation of “harmless” mini-nukes for use in the Middle East war theater.
The Department of Defense’s objective under Harold Smith’s advice was to fast-track the “testing” of the B61-11 nuclear bomb on an actual country in the Middle East.
Five months after [Assistant Defense Secretary] Harold Smith called for an acceleration of the B61-11 production schedule, he went public with an assertion that the Air Force would use the B61-11 [nuclear weapon] against Libya…
While the Pentagon later denied its intention to bomb Libya’s Tarhunah plant, it nonetheless confirmed that “Washington would not rule out using nuclear weapons [against Libya]“. (Ibid., emphasis added.)
What is the relevance of the history of the B61-11 tactical nuclear bomb and the earlier threats directed by the Clinton administration against Libya?
Was the project to nuke Libya shelved?
Are countries in the Middle East potential targets for a nuclear attack? (For further details, see Michel Chossudovsky, Dangerous Crossroads: Is America Considering the Use of Nuclear Weapons against Libya? Global Research, April 2011).
The tactical nuclear weapons were specifically developed for use in post Cold War “conventional conflicts with third world nations”. In October 2001, in the immediate wake of 9/11, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld envisaged the use of the B61-11 in Afghanistan. The targets were Al Qaeda cave bunkers in the Tora Bora mountains.
Rumsfeld stated at the time that while the “conventional” bunker buster bombs “‘are going to be able to do the job’, … he did not rule out the eventual use of nuclear weapons.” (Quoted in the Houston Chronicle, 20 October 2001, emphasis added.)
The use of the B61-11 was also contemplated during the 2003 bombing and invasion of Iraq as well as in the 2011 NATO bombings of Libya.
In this regard, the B61-11 was described as “a precise, earth-penetrating low-yield nuclear weapon against high-value underground targets”, which included Saddam Hussein’s underground bunkers:
”If Saddam was arguably the highest value target in Iraq, then a good case could be made for using a nuclear weapon like the B61-11 to assure killing him and decapitating the regime” (.Defense News, December 8, 2003).
There is no documentary evidence, however, that the B61-11 was used against Iraq.
The use of mini-nukes against non-nuclear states in the Middle East as defined by the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review remains on the Pentagon’s drawing board. Moreover, the B61-11 tactical nuclear weapon (Made in America) as well as the B61 12 upgrade have been deployed for use against targets in the Middle East including Iran, Syria and Libya by several European countries including five non-nuclear states (Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey). The new B61 12 is a 50 kiloton weapon, which would be delivered by the F-35 fighter jet.
According to reports, Israel also has an arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons.
Source: Federation of American Scientists
The Nature of The Yemen Explosion
While the Yemen explosion in the video (above) appears similar to that of a B61-11 tactical nuclear bomb with a mushroom cloud, it is worth noting that the conventional Mass Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) bomb triggers a similar explosion.
The largest conventional bomb in the US arsenal is the so-called Mass Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) or the Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) (see images below). The explosion of a MOP (which is a conventional weapon) is (according to photographic evidence) similar to that recorded in the Yemen video. Moreover, according to unconfirmed reports, the MOP was used during the war on Iraq.
In other words, the nature of the explosion does not in itself prove that it was the result of a (tactical) nuclear strike. It could have been a MOP or a bunker buster bomb explosion. But even in this case, the evidence is scanty.
Both the MOP and the mini nukes are bunker buster earth penetrating bombs. The MOP however is a conventional weapon. It does not have a nuclear warhead.
It is worth noting that in mid January 2015, two months prior to the onslaught of the Saudi bombing campaign against Yemen, “the Pentagon was involved in the testing of the largest bomb in its arsenal”, an improved version of the bunker buster Mass Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), developed by Boeing.
According to reports, The Mass Ordnance Penetrator e.g. MOP GBU-57, would be delivered with either a B-52 or a B-2 bomber due to its weight. The decision to undertake a MOP strike would emanate from US “Global Strike Command”.
There are indications, however, that a lighter MOP missile has been developed. According to Air Force Magazine, USAF Lt. Gen. Phillip Breedlove (currently Commander in Chief of NATO) stated in June 2010 that “the Next-generation Penetrator Munition should be about a third the size of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator so it could be carried by affordable aircraft”.
In the image below a B52 bomber releases a MOP, escorted by a F-16. The MOP is a tele-guided missile.
The B-2 bomber operates out of a US Air force base in Missouri. With refuelling it can be deployed Worldwide. The B2 can be used to deliver a Mass Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) missile or a tactical nuclear bomb.
America Loses No Matter Who Wins the Next Great Middle East War
It’s a potentially apocalyptic fight between some of the closest U.S. allies and the country America is desperately trying to court. Will Washington really join in?
A cataclysmic war is taking shape in Yemen, one that pits nearly all of Washington’s key allies in the Middle East against Iran and its proxies in a fight that could quickly spin out of control.
A Saudi-led bombing campaign already has begun and troops from Egypt and some other countries may soon intervene on the ground.
All of this was done, according to a Saudi source who is part of the inner circle in Riyadh, without significant American involvement. “We have done this on our own,” this source told The Daily Beast. While the U.S. has a handful of people in a Saudi operations center, the source noted that this coalition was pulled together and went into action without the U.S. leadership that characterized, for instance, the Desert Shield/Desert Storm operations of 1990 and 1991. The Saudis have dubbed this operation “Decisive Storm.”
Ten Arab countries are involved, including not only those of the Gulf, but Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, and even Sudan. Turkey—which has the second-biggest military in NATO, after the United States—may be the next to join. “The Iranian influence has to be challenged,” said this Saudi source.
But the question now, at the start of what could be the start of the next great Middle Eastern war, is: How far will Washington really go back its old allies? And will it risk alienating its new negotiating partner in Tehran?
“You couldn’t make this stuff up,” one veteran U.S. diplomat said with bitter irony.
The Obama administration finds itself in a position that is full of contradictions and almost completely untenable. It is offering some behind-the-scenes intelligence support to the Saudi-led anti-Iranian offensive in Yemen, but at the same time it is using American airpower to reinforce an offensive by Iranian-backed forces fighting the so-called Islamic State in Iraq. Most significantly, the Obama administration is trying to negotiate a controversial deal to contain Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
“You couldn’t make this stuff up,” one veteran U.S. diplomat said with bitter irony.
The Arab states now arrayed against Iran in Yemen have warned repeatedly—as, indeed, has Israel—that if Iran is able to obtain nuclear weapons its ambition to dominate the region will be virtually impossible to contain. And recent events, in the view of the Saudis and their allies, prove that Iran is on the move even without the backup the Bomb would give it.
In Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen the gains of Iranian-backed militias have been such that the architect of this expansionist policy, Quds Force Commander Qasem Suleimani, is being touted as a contender for the Iranian presidency in 2017. Washington, reacting to events rather than shaping them, has been wrong-footed again and again.
Ironically, only last year President Barack Obama cited Yemen as a model for the kinds of policies he thought the United States should pursue in its war against al Qaeda affiliates. But the U.S. drones, American Special Operations Forces, and local commandos trained by the United States were so heavily focused on their fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula that they failed to perceive the rising power of Iran and the Shiite Houthi rebels that it supported.
Over the last few days, U.S. forces in Yemen have been evacuated in haste, reportedly leaving behind troves of sensitive documents.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, underscored the chaotic development of events on the ground in Yemen. “We’re totally out,” he told our correspondent Tim Mak. “Yemen is going to be, in the president’s own words, a ‘model,’ [but] not of success, [instead] of absolute failure of our foreign policy.”
Since late last year, Tehran’s backing for the Houthi rebels has been increasingly obvious. They took control in the capital Sanaa in January, ousting President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi from his palace there, and they have been closing in on his displaced government in the southern Yemen city of Aden. Hadi is now reportedly in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Scott Atran, a Mideast analyst with Artis Research who has worked closely with U.S. government agencies as a consultant, tells The Daily Beast, “There was no preparation for this and no understanding that I can see within senior U.S. policy circles that the wider Sunni-Shia conflict is what it is all about. The Saudis feel they are fighting for their very existence.”
Indeed. From the Saudi point of view, Iran is gaining strength in Syria, where it is the embattled Assad regime’s most important ally, in Iraq, where it is propping up the mainly Shiite central government, and now in Yemen. All of these countries are on Saudi Arabia’s borders, and, what is more, to the extent that pro-Iranian Shiite forces appear to be gaining momentum, that threatens to disrupt the fragile equilibrium in the oil-producing Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, which has a majority Shiite population. Partly because of fears the crucially important production from Saudi Arabia may be disrupted, oil prices rose dramatically on Thursday.
“The Saudis are scared right now. They’re worried about Iran,” a U.S. official in contact with governments in the region told The Daily Beast. Riyadh may have notified the United States about their airstrikes, but they made it clear that they weren’t waiting for the American military to come to their aid, the official said.
The Americans should “join the team” fighting Iran in Yemen, a former senior official in the U.S. intelligence community told The Daily Beast. “We should have helped Hadi long ago against his most significant threat [the Houthis], and not just against AQAP. Had we done so, we would not be where we are now.”
The Saudis are making a strong public showing both of the military operations and their support for the Hadi government. Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the Saudi defense minister and King’s son, visited the border region with Yemen this week. Just 34 years old, he is the youngest defense minister in the world and is “a rising star” within the Saudi government, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The Daily Beast. The prince also reportedly received ousted Yemeni president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Riyadh on Thursday, after Hadi fled Yemen on Wednesday in the face of the Houthi onslaught.
As Riyadh portrays the offensive, the purpose is to let not only Iran but the leaders of al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State know that Riyadh and its allies mean business. “Extremists must know we are ready to fight,” he said. “This is a nucleus of the Arab force to stand against Islamic extremism,” he claimed optimistically.
Riyadh’s hope, according to this source, is that the Houthis and their Iranian backers will be forced to engage in serious negotiations about Yemen’s future.
“As a starting point, we are doing something to stop the Houthis from going to Aden,” the source said. “But once you go into this sort of potential quagmire you have to consult all the options. The Houthis were really surprised by the [Saudi-led] assault and the ferocity of it.”
But the Saudis and their partners may not be able to maintain a military operation against the Houthis for long. “The Saudis don’t have a sizable military force that can launch expeditions in Yemen, which limits their military capability,” the official said. If the Saudi coalition cannot keep up the attack on the Houthis, the Americans may have little choice but to join the fight, the official said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told an Iranian-owned television channel that the Saudi-led bombing would only lead to further loss of life. "Military action from outside of Yemen against its territorial integrity and its people will have no other result than more bloodshed and more deaths,” said Zarif, who is considered to be a moderating force in the Iranian government and is central to the ongoing nuclear negotiations. He called for an "urgent dialogue” among the Yemeni factions "without external interference.”
It seems, in fact, far too late for that.
— with additional reporting by Shane Harris
Middle East War Suddenly Getting a Lot More Warlike
—By Kevin Drum
Mother Jones Thu Mar. 26, 2015
I'm a little behind on the news right now, but it sure looks like things are getting a whole lot hotter in the Middle East. Here are a few headlines:
Saudi Jets Strike Yemen in Bid to Halt Houthis
Tikrit airstrikes draw U.S. into battle between militants and Iraqi forces
Obama Says He Will Delay Withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Afghanistan
Iran-backed rebels loot Yemen files about U.S. spy operations
U.S. Role in Middle East Revamped Amid Chaos
That last headline comes from the Wall Street Journal, and seems to sum things up pretty well. The story includes this:
[Kenneth] Pollack, the former CIA analyst, said the military campaign in Yemen is unlikely to have a positive effect on the country’s fractured dynamics.
“The idea that this is going to produce some kind of a peaceful settlement is ridiculous,” Mr. Pollack said. “The more likely outcome is it just prolongs the stalemate.” The Persian Gulf countries could consider the use of ground troops to make progress, which should be a concern for the U.S., he said.
What could go wrong?
US-Jordan war games prepare wider Mideast conflict
By Patrick Martin ----- World Socialist 6 May 2015
Some ten thousand troops began military exercises in Jordan on Tuesday, in the fifth annual “Eager Lion” war games led by the Pentagon. The drills are in preparation for a greatly expanded military conflict in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.
A total of nine Arab countries—Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Lebanon, and Iraq—join the US, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Poland, Australia and Pakistan for the exercise.
But the US military will dominate Eager Lion, supplying 5,000 of the 10,000 troops, including headquarters, air, land, sea and special operations forces. During the two-week-long exercise, from May 5 through May 19, there will be more American troops in Jordan than in neighboring Iraq, where President Obama has dispatched some 3,000 troops to train Iraqi forces and conduct special operations warfare and airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Maj. Gen. Rick Mattson, Director of Exercises and Training at the US Central Command, said the 2015 version of Eager Lion was the largest military exercise involving US and Jordanian armed forces since the series of drills began in 2011.
The military exercise is focused on counterterrorism, although that term has been stretched to include almost every facet of military operations short of using nuclear weapons. Mattson said, “Everything available is dedicated to the success of the exercise,” including B-52 strategic bombers, which will participate for the first time.
One element of the exercise will be a simulated bombing raid by a new US plane that will take off from the United States and fly directly to Jordan to drop bombs on a desert target.
Jordanian Brigadier General Fhad al-Damin told reporters the exercises would focus on border security and “combating terrorism,” clearly linking the war games to the ongoing conflict with ISIS, the fundamentalist Islamist group whose forces are just across Jordan’s borders with both Syria and Iraq.
According to a report Monday in the Christian Science Monitor, Jordan has stepped up its intervention against ISIS and the Al Nusra Front, the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, which recently took control of Nassib, on the border between Jordan and Syria, the last crossing point still in widespread use.
The Jordanian monarchy views the presence of ISIS and al-Nusra along its borders as the main threat to its security and continued rule, and has sought allies among tribal sheiks whose extended families live on both sides of the Syria-Jordan border, a vast and largely desert region.
According to the Monitor, “Jordan is reaching out to Syrian tribes and civilians. It’s offering support in their fight to regain towns and villages overrun by IS—a preemptive step to prevent jihadists from threatening Jordan’s borders.” Jordan has offered air support from the US-led coalition that is bombing ISIS targets in both Syria and Iraq.
Perfecting his technique of telling barefaced lies to reporters who know he is lying and take dictation anyway, General Mattson declared, “Eager Lion has nothing to do with what is currently happening in the region,” a reference to ongoing US-led or US-backed military operations in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, the Strait of Hormuz and across North Africa.
A look at the map demonstrates how preposterous that claim is. Jordan is of central importance to the US-led imperialist intervention in the Middle East. It lies just south of Syria and west of Iraq, both key battlefields against ISIS, east of Israel and north of Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, nearly all the countries joining in Eager Lion are engaged in one or another of the US-led and US-supported military operations throughout the Middle East.
In Iraq, Britain, France, Canada, and Australia are participating either in airstrikes against ISIS or training of Iraqi combat units, or both.
In Syria, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan have joined in US-led airstrikes, mainly against ISIS targets but in a few cases against the al-Nusra Front. On Friday, a US airstrike killed at least 64 civilians in the Syrian Arab village of Bir Mahali.
In Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf sheikdoms and Egypt are all engaged in airstrikes against Houthi rebels who ousted the US-installed president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. There are reports that Saudi and other special forces troops may be operating inside Yemen as well, and that Saudi warplanes have used US-supplied cluster bombs against Yemeni cities.
UAE, Qatari and Egyptian warplanes have struck Islamic fundamentalist militia targets in Libya as well, and the Egyptian military is fighting Islamist rebels among the Bedouin tribes who live in the Sinai Peninsula, near the Israeli-Egyptian border.
Add to this the enormous US military presence in the Persian Gulf, including major bases in Kuwait (Army), Qatar (Air Force) and Bahrain (Navy), as well as a French base in the UAE and US and British bases in Oman, along with regular US Navy patrols of the Strait of Hormuz, separating Iran and Oman.
The Middle East is a powder keg, and American imperialism is the leading arsonist, both in deploying its own military forces and selling vast (and highly profitable) caches of weapons to its client states throughout the region. That list, of course, includes the state of Israel, the most heavily armed in the region, with an estimated stockpile of at least 250 nuclear bombs, along with missiles, warplanes and submarines capable of delivering them.
The opening of the war games in Jordan follows reports in the New York Timesand Washington Post that members of the US-led “coalition” against ISIS are pressing for an extension of military operations against the Islamists into other countries, including Libya and the Sinai region of Egypt, as well as unspecified repressive measures in Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Yemen.
Meanwhile, the US continues to strike targets in Yemen with drone-fired missiles operated from the American military base in Djibouti, just across the Red Sea. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit the base this week, in a sign of the stepped-up concern in the Obama administration over the deteriorating position of US-backed forces in Yemen.
Also, the Egyptian military junta announced Sunday that it had extended by three months the deployment of “some elements of the armed forces” abroad, i.e., in Yemen. The action came a day after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi visited Saudi Arabia, where he discussed both the war in Yemen and Saudi financial subsidies to the bloodstained military dictatorship in Egypt.
Since 9/11, We've Had 4 Wars in the Middle East. They've All Been Disasters.
By Kevin Drum --- Mother Jones --Feb. 17, 2015
So here's my scorecard for American military interventions since 2000:
I know, I know. If you're a liberal, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. If you're a conservative, I'm being dangerously simplistic. But tell me: From the viewpoint of military action in the Middle East, what have we gotten better at over the past 14 years? What reason is there to believe that ever more military action will work out any better than it has before? In the past 50 years, has there been any case of the U.S. successfully training local troops to prosecute a war against insurgents?
The U.S. Launches Another Dumb War in the Middle East. Why Hitting ISIS Will Just Make Matters Worse.
For most of this century, we've been fighting wars to enhance our security, and each time, we find ourselves with more enemies and less security.
by Steve Chapman | November 6, 2014----- Spritz
War, it's been said, is God's way of teaching Americans geography. Maybe we do learn how to locate the countries we invade or bomb on a map. But recent experience indicates how much we don't know about those societies and how slow we are at learning.
The United States is still involved in a 13-year-old war in Afghanistan, and President Barack Obama has undertaken a new one against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, just three years after he withdrew the last of our troops from Iraq.
The administration is also carrying on a drone missile campaign—which looks eerily like war from the receiving end—in Pakistan and Yemen.
Yet the republic has just concluded an election campaign that gave almost no attention to what the United States government is doing, or should be doing, in these places. For the most part, the topic was discussed in only the vaguest terms, but often it was simply absent. No country in history has ever done so much fighting in so many places with so little interest from its own citizens.
Nor do the people in power who make these ambitious commitments necessarily have a clue where they will lead. Over and over, things turn out in ways that come as a complete and thoroughly unwelcome surprise.
No one could have imagined in October 2001, when we went into Afghanistan to crush the Taliban and al-Qaida, that we would still be there 13 years later and so would they. Nor did we realize that our crucial supposed ally in the fight, Pakistan, would prove not merely unhelpful but downright hostile.
As New York Times correspondent Carlotta Gall documented in her book "The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014," the government of Pakistan was actively helping our foes while reaping $23 billion in aid from Washington. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke eventually realized, "We may be fighting the wrong enemy in the wrong country."
Unexpected? Of course. But it's the sort of thing that happens when governments act with slivers of knowledge and mountains of hubris, relying on bright visions and brute force. That's how we stormed into Iraq and won a swift military victory—which we proceeded to squander by disbanding the Iraqi military and banning former members of Saddam Hussein's party from the new government.
Both decisions sounded sensible—but only because our leaders were so ignorant of Iraq that they had no idea what the effects would be. In practice, we managed to turn huge numbers of Iraqis against us and spawn an insurgency that would kill thousands of our troops. We also inadvertently rained blessings on our longtime enemy to the east. The U.S. fought a war against Iraq, and the winner was Iran.
The war on Islamic State is even more rife with uncertainty, because so many of its enemies are our enemies. If we do damage to it, we are indirectly strengthening the mullahs in Tehran, al-Qaida and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. We're also bolstering the irresponsible Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad whose persecution of Sunnis gave rise to the group.
The Wall Street Journal reports that by hitting Islamic State targets in Syria, we helped al-Qaida units to defeat the "moderate" Syrian rebels we have helped in their fight against Assad. Meanwhile, our NATO ally Turkey balks at assisting us. Why? Because those fighting on "our" side include Kurdish groups allied with separatists it has been fighting for 30 years.
For that matter, the U.S. air war is the best recruiting tool the Islamic State ever had. Already, a confidential UN Security Council report recently noted, some 15,000 foreigners have poured into the region to join it and other extremist groups.
"Numbers since 2010 are now many times the size of the cumulative numbers of foreign terrorist fighters between 1990 and 2010—and are growing," it said, according to The Guardian. As usual, we're creating jihadis faster than we kill them. Chances are excellent that we are also sowing an array of unforeseen problems that will haunt us for years to come.
For most of this century, we've been fighting wars to enhance our security, and each time, we find ourselves with more enemies and less security. By now it should be clear that is not a coincidence. If the war on Islamic State solves nothing or makes things worse, we will be unhappy, but we shouldn't be surprised.
Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.
insanity: repeatedly doing the same thing, over and over, and thinking the result will somehow be different, this time !!!
US, allies created ISIL to make 'perpetual war' in Mideast:
Press TV ---- Jun 7, 2015
“They’re using ISIS to reflate the US and global economy and keep the military-industrial complex alive,” says Dean Henderson.
The United States and its allies have encouraged the spread of the ISIL terrorist group in the Middle East to create a “perpetual war” in the region and advance the American military-industrial complex, a geopolitical commentator in Missouri says.
“This is what ISIS is all about, this is the reason that ISIS exists, because we’re going to be able to make a lot more arms sales to a lot more actors in the Middle East,” said Dean Henderson, an author and columnist at Veterans Today, using another acronym for the terror network.
He made the comments as the United States has quietly started delivering promised weapons for Iraqi troops from a $1.6 billion fund approved by Congress last year, Pentagon officials said.
The US Defense Department said long-awaited equipment from the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF) started being delivered about two weeks ago and was moving as fast as possible.
And more arms were on the way, Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Elissa Smith said. "This is the first of several planned unit equipment issues for the coming weeks."
“This is a big part of the reason why ISIS exists, it’s about perpetual war; the military industrial complex has to have new markets, has to make money, so they have to keep things in the Middle East unstable,” Henderson told Press TV on Saturday.
“The CIA created ISIS, [which is] funded by the Saudis, in cahoots with the Israelis, for the reason of creating another war in Iraq,” he added.
“They’re using ISIS to reflate the US and global economy and keep the military-industrial complex alive and also there’s just some strategic aims they have in Iraq, where they are trying to split the country in three parts for the oil,” Henderson said.
ISIL terrorists, who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, now control parts of Syria and Iraq. They have been engaged in crimes against humanity in the areas under their control.
The US and its allies have been conducting airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria since last year.
Observers say while the US and its allies claim they are fighting against terrorist groups like ISIL, they in fact helped create and train those organizations to affect their policies in the Middle East.
of Various Subjects