BACKGROUND: Summary of Hersh's critique of Obama's Syria policy
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 January 2016 06:01
Seymour Hersh mounted an attack on Barack Obama's anti-Assad, pro-Erdogan Syria policy last month with a long, detailed article on the website of the London Review of Books. -- (The piece also appears in the Jan. 7, 2016, number of that exceptionally intelligent publication.) -- The assertions of the article have been judged to be beyond the pale by U.S. mainstream media and all but blacked out, for reasons that will be obvious from this brief... -- SUMMARY: Hersh reports that the Pentagon concluded in 2013 that Obama's decision to aid so-called "moderate" Syrian rebels in their effort to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was in fact "arming extremists" and decided to do something about it without informing Obama. -- "The Joint Chiefs felt that a direct challenge to Obama’s policy would have ‘had a zero chance of success.’ -- So in the autumn of 2013 they decided to take steps against the extremists without going through political channels, by providing U.S. intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State." -- In addition, the Joint Chiefs found a way to downgrade the quality of weapons being shipped to Syrian rebels covertly (Hersh notes in passing, by the way, that Ambassador Christopher Stevens was in Benghazi to help organize the gun-running when he was killed in Sept. 2012, another datum that is unacceptable to U.S. mainstream media). -- Hersh also demonstrated at some length that the Joint Chiefs are far from sharing Obama's (and the U.S. mainstream media's) anti-Russian views. -- Hersh's chief source in this piece is an unnamed "former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs." -- He has other sources as well: "Imad Moustapha, now Syria’s ambassador to China, . . dean of the I.T. faculty at the University of Damascus, and a close aide of Assad’s," an unnamed "Washington foreign affairs analyst," and Christina Lin, "a scholar who dealt with Chinese issues a decade ago while serving in the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld." -- They told Hersh that Chinese-Turkish tensions are rising because Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is helping Muslim Uyghur fighters get to Syria to fight for the Islamic State, and Chinese leaders believe it likely they will later return to wage a separatist campaign in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China. -- Hersh also interviewed U.S. Army Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency who was canned by President Obama for, according to Hersh, telling the truth about Syria and supporting cooperation with Russia, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii 2nd), a member of the House Armed Services Committee who is publicly taking the same position....
BACKGROUND: Appointment in Samarra
Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 January 2016 00:39
In a 5,000-word piece published in Dec. 2014 in the London Guardian, Australian journalist Martin Chulov gave an account of ISIS's origins. -- It is based on interviews with a jihadist using the name Abu Ahmed. -- According to this jihadist, ISIS's origins are to be found in the U.S.-run prison in Iraq known as Camp Bucca, which was in use from 2003 to 2009. -- Chulov says he has been in contact with this "senior leader" of ISIS since 2012. -- Abu Ahmed's account of the group's origins in "a series of expansive conversations" is due to his "second thoughts" about ISIS, but he is afraid to leave the group lest he and his family be killed as a result. -- On this basis, Chulov reported... -- THE STORY: Ibrahim ibn Awwad al-Badri al-Samarrai, the man who would become ISIS's leader and self-proclaimed caliph of all of Islam, was born in 1971 in Samarra, and was already the leader of a militant group when, at the age of 33 and the holder of a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad, he was captured by U.S. forces in Fallujah in February 2004. -- But the U.S. didn't know this. -- Americans used his influence and apparent docility to help settle disputes in the camp, and then awarded him privileges which he used to network with other jihadists (writing contact information on the elastic bands of their boxer shorts for future reference). -- He thus laid the basis of what has now become ISIS. -- "If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no I.S. now," Abu Ahmed told Chulov. -- "Bucca was a factory. -- It made us all. -- It built our ideology." -- According to this version, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad helped ISIS develop because he was interested in destabilizing the American-backed regime in Baghdad. -- To that end, in 2009 Assad's government facilitated a meeting of Syrian military intelligence officers with former Baathists who had taken refuge in Syria and senior al-Qaeda in Iraq (as what would become ISIS or the Islamic State was then called). -- There, according to Iraq's then-intelligence chief, these former enemies made common cause for the first time on this occasion and organized spectacular attacks inside Iraq. -- Abu Ahmed has become fatalistic: "[ISIS] got bigger than any of us. -- This can’t be stopped now. -- This is out of the control of any man. -- Not Baghdadi, or anyone else in his circle." -- NOTE: In September 2015, Chulov wrote that "I remain in regular contact [with Abu Ahmed, who] remains disaffected with the group, which he believes has strayed well beyond its original remit of fighting the U.S. Army and defending Sunnis against their marginalization in post-Saddam Iraq." -- Martin Chulov's account is cited as authoritative in Gwynne Dyer's Don't Panic: ISIS, Terror, and Today's Middle East (Random House of Canada, 2015) and Michael Weiss & Hassan Hassan's ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (Simon and Schuster, 2015). -- Chulov has been called "one of the supreme journalists working in the field [of jihadism]" in John Stapleton's Terror in Australia: Workers' Paradise Lost (A Sense of Place Publishing, 2015). -- Though a few have spoken admiringly of Chulov's "incredible interview" and "incredible scoop," I'm aware of no serious critic who has impugned Chulov's account in the year since it was published. -- Still, one would think that this account would make it possible for the ISIS leadership without much difficulty to identify Abu Ahmed. -- For those wondering how Chulov manages to be "in regular contact" with an ISIS leader, a thirty-minute Pacifica Radio conversation with him about reporting on Syria can be listened to on Soundcloud, in which he says he depends mostly on virtual private networks to communicate with sources....
ANALYSIS: Saudi Arabia's US PR machine in action after mass execution
The governments of U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been close allies for decades, and mainstream media in the United States are strongly influenced by pro-Saudi propagandists, as Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani demonstrated on Monday in an article in The Intercept
analyzing how news of Saudi Arabia's Jan. 2 mass execution is being reported. ...
TRANSLATION: Riyadh and Tehran spiraling toward abyss of war (Le Monde)
Comparing Saudi Arabia and Iran to "the sleepwalkers of 1914 . . . inexorably advancing toward the abyss of war," Le Monde
(Paris) sounded an alarm Monday in an editorial translated below. -- "[E]ach of these two powers, already shaken by the spectacular drop in the price of oil since 2014, feels besieged and threatened. -- Tehran, which thinks it made an unprecedented gesture by renouncing its nuclear program last July, sees the threat of the Islamic State organization to the west and of the Taliban to the east as a Sunni trap ready to close on it. -- Riyadh is convinced that its rival, whose allies are already dominant in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and half of Yemen, is engaged in a vast undertaking to weaken Sunnis and encircle the Arab world. -- The resolution of the Iran nuclear dispute has only heightened the Saudi leaders' fears, persuaded as they are that Tehran, which has preserved its installations, will resume its march toward the bomb at the first opportunity." -- Complicating their regional rivalry are their pretensions to religious authority: "[B]oth . . . have pretensions with respect to global Islam. -- Saudi Arabia because it is the 'protector' of the two holiest sites in Islam, Mecca and Medina, and therefore of the annual pilgrimage that draws nearly two million believers. -- And Iran because its Islamist revolution, the first and the only one to have succeeded in creating a durable political system, has been accompanied since its onset in 1979 by appeals for a global uprising against the 'imperialism' of the United States, the principal support of the Al Saud regime." ...
NEWS: Saudi executions & fallout guarantee further mayhem in Mideast
On Saturday, in twelve different cities, Saudi Arabia carried out executions of forty-seven Muslims convicted of terrorism. -- Forty-three were Sunnis and four were Shi'ites. -- One of the Shi'ites executed, Nimr al-Nimra, was a prominent cleric whose principal crime seems to have been criticism of the brutal, obscurantist, intolerant, theocratic, yet faithfully Western-backed Saudi monarchy, an absolutist regime that in 2014 was the leading importer of military hardware in the world
. -- "The executions are Saudi Arabia's first in 2016. -- At least 157 people were put to death last year, a big increase from the ninety people killed in 2014," Reuters reported. -- "[F]our prisons us[ed] firing squads and the others beheading." -- It was the largest mass execution in Saudi Arabia since Jan. 9, 1980, when sixty-three were publicly beheaded in the aftermath of the Grand Mosque seizure
of Nov. 29, 1979, but Saturday's executions were not carried out in public. -- Saturday's executions "seemed mostly aimed at discouraging Saudis from jihadism," Angus McDowall said. -- But many Shi'ites believe the four Shi'ites executed were innocent. -- Their families "have vigorously denied they were involved in attacks and said they were only peaceful protesters against sectarian discrimination in the Sunni-ruled kingdom," McDowall said. -- Iraq's Shi'ite leaders expressed outrage at the executions, with Ayatollah Sistani describing them as "an injustice and an aggression" and Moqtada al-Sadr calling them a "horrible attack," AFP reported Sunday. -- After the Saudi embassy in Tehran was stormed and partially burned by protesters, "Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran . . . and gave Iranian diplomats forty-eight hours to leave the kingdom," the New York Times
reported Sunday. -- This despite the fact that "The Iranians did, however, appear to be taking steps to prevent the dispute from escalating further," Ben Hubbard and Thomas Erdbrink said. -- "Forty Iranians were arrested in the anti-Saudi mayhem -- a sign that the authorities were trying to contain public outrage." -- Michael Stephens, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, said the "very disturbing escalation" of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran guaranteed that "instability across the region is going to continue," particularly in Syria, whose civil conflict is also a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran...
NEWS: Unit's 14th loss points up US military's inadequate approach to suicide among vets
The suicide on Dec. 9 of Tyler Schlagel, 29, a model "great Marine" from Longmont, Colorado, about 30 miles north of Denver, whom no one expected of suicidal thoughts, has deeply disturbed fellow soldiers and has highlighted once more a Kafkaesque aspect of the U.S. military's approach to suicide among veterans, Wednesday's New York Times
reported. -- The U.S. military has no authority over former military personnel and the V.A. is not allowed to contact veterans until they seek help. -- As a result, although the development of "suicide clusters" can put lives at risk, the military does nothing for units like the 2/7 (Second Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment), which has seen fourteen suicides among its veterans returning from Afghanistan. -- The Pentagon does not even have the capability accurately to assess the problem. -- "'I don’t understand -- they should at least do something,' Madelyn Gould
, an epidemiologist at Columbia University who helped create national guidelines on responding to suicide clusters, said in an interview." -- COMMENT:
Strange to say, apart from the Times
article Schlagel's death seems to have prompted little commentary. -- A search of the Longmont Times-Call
, the local paper owned by the MediaNews Group, turns up nothing. -- The same holds true of The Denver Post
, the Colorado Springs Gazette
, the Boulder Daily Camera
, The Pueblo Chieftain
, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel
, the Fort Collins Coloradoan
, the Loveland Reporter-Herald
, The Durango Herald
, and Cañon City Daily Record
. -- The New York Times
posted a series entitled "Remembering a Marine
" consisting of seven photos by Todd Heisler of Schlagel's funeral and burial in Longmont....