The New Cold War & The Intercept & Al-Monitor & Consortium News & Press TV & Iran Daily & War On The Rocks – 2017-05-25 23:33:30
The Only Real Way to Stop Atrocities Like the
Manchester Attack Is to End the Wars
That Allow Extremism to Grow
Commentary by Patrick Cockburn, published in The Independent (with extensive, additional analysis further below, compiled by New Cold War.org)
(May 23, 2017) — President Trump leaves the Middle East today, having done his bit to make the region even more divided and mired in conflict than it was before.
At the same moment that Donald Trump was condemning the suicide bomber in Manchester as “an evil loser in life”, he was adding to the chaos in which al-Qaeda and Isis have taken root and flourished. It may be a long distance between the massacre in Manchester and the wars in the Middle East, but the connection is there.
Trump blamed “terrorism” almost exclusively on Iran and, by implication, on the Shia minority in the region, while al-Qaeda notoriously developed in the Sunni heartlands and its beliefs and practises primarily stem from Wahhabism, the sectarian and regressive variant of Islam prevalent in Saudi Arabia. It flies in the face of all known facts to link the wave of terrorist atrocities since 9/11 on the Shia, who have most usually been its target.
This toxic historical myth-making does not deter Trump. “From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region,” he told an assembly of 55 Sunni leaders in Riyadh on 21 May.
In Israel, he informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 is “a terrible, terrible thing. . . we gave them a lifeline”.
By furiously attacking Iran, Trump will encourage Saudi Arabia and Gulf monarchs to escalate their proxy wars throughout the central core of the Middle East. It will encourage Iran to take precautions and assume that a long-term understanding with the US and the Sunni states is becoming less and less feasible.
There are already some signs that Trump’s endorsement of Sunni states, no matter how repressive, is leading to an escalation of hostilities between Sunni and Shia. In Bahrain, where a Sunni minority rules a Shia majority, the security forces attacked the Shia village of Diraz today. It is home to the island’s leading Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim, who has just received a one-year suspended sentence for financing extremism. One man in the village is reported to have been killed as the police moved in, using armoured vehicles and firing shotguns and tear gas canisters.
President Obama had frosty relations with the Bahraini rulers because of the mass incarceration of protesters and use of torture when the security forces crushed democratic protests in 2011. Trump backed away from past policy when he met Bahraini King Hamad in Riyadh at the weekend, saying: “Our countries have a wonderful relationship together, but there has been a little strain, but there won’t be strain with this administration.”
The bombing in Manchester â€“ and atrocities attributed to ISIS influence in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin â€“ are similar to even worse slaughter of tens of thousands in Iraq and Syria. These get limited attention in the Western media, but they continually deepen the sectarian war in the Middle East.
The only feasible way to eliminate organisations capable of carrying out these attacks is to end the seven wars â€“ Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and north east Nigeria â€“ that cross-infect each other and produce the anarchic conditions in which ISIS and al-Qaeda and their clones can grow. But to end these wars, there needs to be political compromise between main players like Iran and Saudi Arabia and Trump’s belligerent rhetoric makes this almost impossible to achieve.
Of course, the degree to which Trump’s bombast should be taken seriously is always uncertain and his declared policies change by the day.
On his return to the US, his attention is going to be fully focused on his own political survival, not leaving much time for new departures, good or bad, in the Middle East and elsewhere. His administration is certainly wounded, but that has not stopped doing as much harm as he could in the Middle East in a short space of time.
British intelligence Warned Tony Blair of
Manchester-like Rerrorism if the West Invaded Iraq
Jon Schwarz, The Intercept
(May 23, 2017) — Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has yet to say anything about Monday’s [May 22] heinous, nihilistic suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. According to current reporting, the attack has been claimed by ISIS and was carried out by a 22-year-old man born in Manchester to Libyan refugees.
But when Blair does speak, we can be certain he won’t mention one key fact: Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq led by the US and UK, he was forcefully and repeatedly warned by Britain’s intelligence services that it would lead to exactly this type of terrorist attack — and he concealed these warnings from the British people, instead claiming the war would reduce the risk of terrorism.
We know this because of the Chilcot Report, the seven-year-long British investigation of the Iraq War, released in 2016. The report declassifies numerous internal government documents that illustrate the yawning chasm between what Blair was being told in private and his claims in public as he pushed for war.
On February 10, 2003, one month before the war began, the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee — the key advisory body for the British Prime Minister on intelligence matters — issued a white paper titled ‘International Terrorism: War With Iraq’.
The threat from Al Qaida will increase at the onset of any military action against Iraq. They will target Coalition forces and other Western interests in the Middle East. Attacks against Western interests elsewhere are also likely, especially in the US and UK, for maximum impact. The worldwide threat from other Islamist terrorist groups and individuals will increase significantly.
And it concluded much the same way:
Al Qaida and associated groups will continue to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat will be heightened by military action against Iraq. The broader threat from Islamist terrorists will also increase in the event of war, reflecting intensified anti-US/anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim world, including among Muslim communities in the West. [emphasis added in both cases]
The same report concluded that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq “would aspire to conduct terrorist attacks against Coalition interests” only in the event of an invasion. Moreover, “authoritative reporting suggests that Iraqi Intelligence (DGI) has little reach or [terrorism] capability outside Iraq.”
Specifically regarding WMD terrorism, the JIC elsewhere judged that Iraq “would be unlikely to undertake or sponsor such terrorist attacks,” that the threat of it if Iraq were not invaded was “slight,” and that there was no “credible evidence of covert transfers of WMD-related technology and expertise to terrorist groups.”
Tony Blair’s case for war, as most clearly expressed in his March 18, 2003 remarks in the House of Commons, essentially turned all of this on its head. The possibility, Blair said, of terrorist groups obtaining WMD from a state like Iraq was “a real and present danger to Britain and its national security.”
“The real problem,” Blair proclaimed, “is that, underneath, people dispute that Iraq is a threat, dispute the link between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and dispute, in other words, the whole basis of our assertion that the two together constitute a fundamental assault on our way of life.” Blair did not mention that the people disputing this included his own intelligence services.
Then Tam Dalyell, a Labor MP from Scotland, asked Blair this key question: “What could be more calculated to act as a recruiting sergeant for a young generation throughout the Islamic and Arab world than putting 600 cruise missiles — or whatever it is — onto Baghdad and Iraq?”
Blair did not reveal the explicit warnings from the JIC that exactly this would happen. No, he told Dalyell, “Unless we take action against [Al Qaeda], they will grow. That is why we should act.” Terrorist organizations wouldn’t be motivated, as the JIC had told him, by an invasion of Iraq, because their true motivation was that “they detest the freedom, democracy and tolerance that are the hallmarks of our way of life.”
Blair’s stunningly fraudulent case for war carried the day, 412-149. The current British Prime Minister Theresa May, then a Conservative front bencher, voted for it. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn voted against.
Then, exactly what the JIC had predicted occurred. Fifty-two people were killed in July 2005 when four suicide bombers — three of whom were British-born — carried out attacks on the subway and a bus in London. One of the killers taped himself stating that they were killing their fellow citizens because Western governments “continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world.”
In a separate tape, another said, “What have you witnessed now is only the beginning of a string of attacks that will continue and become stronger until you pull your forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Two months ago, a British-born Muslim convert murdered four people with a car on Westminster Bridge, then got out and stabbed a policeman to death. Just minutes before his killing spree he declared via WhatsApp that he was acting in revenge against Western wars in the Mideast.
And now we have the slaughter in Manchester. ISIS has declared that the attack was carried out “in order to terrorize the polytheists, and in response to their transgressions against the homes of the Muslims.”
In her testimony before the Chilcot inquiry, Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of MI5 at the time of the Iraq invasion, explained all of this:
Our involvement in Iraq radicalized, for want of a better word . . . a few among a generation . . . [who] saw our involvement in Iraq, on top of our involvement in Afghanistan, as being an attack on Islam.
An increasing number of British-born individuals . . . were attracted to the ideology of Usama Bin Laden and saw the West’s activities in Iraq and Afghanistan as threatening their fellow religionists and the Muslim world.
If British officials had read the JIC’s warnings, Manningham-Buller said, they could “have had no doubt” that this was likely to happen. So did Blair read the intelligence, specifically the February 2003 paper on international terrorism? He absolutely was aware of it, Blair told the inquiry, “but I took the view then and take the same view now that to have backed down because of the threat of terrorism would be completely wrong.”
But of course, this was just another brazen misrepresentation by Blair. He had not taken “the view then,” at least in public, that invading Iraq would increase the risk that Britons would die in terrorist attacks, but it would be somehow worth it. Instead, he had claimed that they would be at greater risk without a war, because if left alone Saddam Hussein would enable WMD-armed terrorism.
Asked how she saw this perspective, Manningham-Buller told the inquiry that “It is a hypothetical theory. It certainly wasn’t of concern in either the short-term or the medium-term to my colleagues and myself.”
In the end, the most plausible explanation of Blair’s motivation is simply that he was willing to sacrifice the lives of British citizens so that the US could continue running the world with the UK holding its coat.
Richard Shultz, a professor of international politics at Tufts who has long been a key national security state intellectual, wrote in 2004 that “A very senior [Special Operations Forces] officer who had served on the Joint Staff in the 1990s told me that more than once he heard terrorist strikes characterized as ‘a small price to pay for being a superpower’.”
The victims of the Manchester bombing, among them an 8-year-old girl, are that small price.
Iranian Media Ties
Manchester Bombing to Trump’s Saudi Visit
Rohollah Faghihi / Al-Monitor
(May 24, 2017) — In the hours after the May 22 terrorist bombing in Manchester that claimed at least 22 lives, Iranian media sought to cover developments second by second and published analyses about it.
On May 23, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said, “We believe that the roots and the ideological origin of the terrorist incidents in Iran’s Mirjaveh and the UK’s Manchester are one and the same,” referring to a recent attack in the southeastern border district of Mirjaveh in which 10 Iranian soldiers were killed by the terrorist group Jaish al-Adl, which is allegedly funded by Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, both Reformist and conservative print and online media in Iran notably tied the bombing in Manchester to US President Donald Trump’s recent high-profile trip to Saudi Arabia.
Under the headline “Dancing in Riyadh, the Death Concert in Manchester,” conservative newspaper Javan noted Trump’s visit to Riyadh and his signing of a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, writing May 24, “Many of the Western experts have repeatedly warned about the US and Europe’s support for terrorism in the Middle East, and have asked the leaders of these countries to cut their ties with terrorism in Syria and Iraq.”
Trump Goes on Iran-bashing Tour
Laura Rozen / Al-Monitor
WASHINGTON (May 22, 2017) — US President Donald Trump, arriving in Israel on May 22 right after a stop in Saudi Arabia, found another ally eager to praise him for his tough stance on Iran — and encourage him to get even tougher. “I want you to know how much we appreciate the change in American policy on Iran, which you enunciated so clearly,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in joint remarks with Trump at their third meeting of the day.
At an earlier meeting with the Israeli leader at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, Trump had lambasted the nuclear deal negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama in remarks that Netanyahu could almost have drafted himself. He called the 2015 agreement a “terrible, terrible thing” and promised that Iran will never obtain a nuclear weapon, “that I can tell you.” . . .
Trump Panders to the Saudi Royals
Paul R. Pillar / Consortium News
(May 22, 2017) — President Trump’s speech to the Islamic world amounted to a pander to his regal Saudi hosts and a blindness toward the realities of Mideast terrorism.
The bar for Donald Trump’s speech in Riyadh had been set so low that it was scraping the sand. How much could be expected from a notorious exploiter of Islamophobia speaking to a gathering of leaders of majority Muslim countries? Getting through the experience without causing major new damage should perhaps be considered a success. Perhaps Trump and his speechwriters were wise not to attempt anything more.
White House Blames Exhaustion for Donald Trump’s
‘Islamic terrorism’ Dog Whistle in Saudi Arabia
Mattathias Schwartz / The Intercept
(May 22, 2017) — What is President Donald Trump’s position on Islam? Does he consider Islam to be a religion of peace? Or, as Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn once put it, is Islam “like a cancer”?
Judging by Trump’s own ad-libbed departure from the speech he delivered yesterday in Saudi Arabia, the president is thinking about Islam with his typical combination of deep cynicism and utter cluelessness . . . .
US-led Strikes Record
Highest Civilian Toll in Syria, Says Monitor
Press TV & Iran Daily
(May 23, 2017) — A coalition of military forces allegedly fighting Daesh and other terror groups in Syria under the leadership of the United States has killed the highest number of civilians in a matter of one month since it began operations three years ago.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group mostly advocating anti-government forces in the war in Syria, said on Tuesday that the US-led coalition killed a total of 225 civilians between April 23 and May 23, the highest 30-day toll since the campaign began in 2014. “There has been a very big escalation . . . The past month of operations is the highest civilian toll since the coalition began bombing Syria,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said . . . .
The Art of a Lethal Deal:
Trump’s Offer to Saudi Arabia
David Des Roches / War On The Rocks
(May 24, 2017) — The president offered the Saudis a lot of weapons on his trip to Riyadh. Can he deliver?
President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia was a triumph of low expectations. In contrast to the Obama administration’s poorly attended Camp David summit that convened Gulf Cooperation Council leaders (or sought to), Trump basked in the glow of approving Arab leaders and their publics.
Indeed, there were more leaders who wanted to attend than were able. Sudan’s president, the indicted war criminal Omar al Bashir, was compelled to cancel his attendance to spare American embarrassment . . . .
TOP SECRET DECLASSIFIED
JIC Assessment, 10 February 2003
INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM: WAR WITH IRAQ
I. The threat from Al Qaida will increase at the onset of any military action against Iraq. They will target Coalition forces and other Western interests in the Middle East. Attacks against Western interests elsewhere are also likely, especially in the US and UK, for maximum impact. The worldwide threat from other Islamist terrorist groups and individuals will increase significantly.
II. Al Qaida associates and sympathisers may well attempt chemical or biological terrorist attacks in the Gulf, including against UK civilian targets there, in the event of war with Iraq. While individual attacks are likely to be small-scale they may be numerous. Individual attacks might inflict relatively few casualties, but will cause significant alarm.
III. Al Qaida associated terrorists in Iraq and in the Kurdish Autonomous Zone in Northern Iraq could conduct attacks against Coalition forces and interests during, or in the aftermath of, war with Iraq. But Al Qaida will not carry out attacks under Iraqi direction.
IV. Saddam’s own capability to conduct terrorist attacks is limited, especially outside the Middle East. But the threat of terrorism conducted or directed by Iraqi Intelligence, including the use of chemical or biological material, cannot be discounted.
V. In the event of imminent regime collapse, Iraqi chemical and biological material could be transferred to terrorists including Al Qaida, whether or not as deliberate regime policy.
VI. Al Qaida and associated networks will remain the greatest terrorist threat to the UK. The risk of attacks will increase following any Coalition attack on Iraq.
VII. Hizballah’s terrorist wing will not conduct attacks in support of Saddam. But it may attack US forces in Iraq following a campaign, if it judges that the US intends to act against Hizballah, Syria or Iran. [. . .] Individual Palestinian terrorists may attack Western interests, without sanction from parent groups.
[Policy implications: Cross-department consular, evacuation and travel contingency plans for the Gulf must be agreed urgently. These, as well as diplomatic and military protection plans, should take account of the terrorist chemical/biological threat.]
INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM: WAR WITH IRAQ
[The JIC Assessment of 10 October 2002 focussed on Iraqi-directed terrorism in the event of conflict. Commissioned by the MOD and FCO, this assessment considers broader terrorist activity that would be triggered by war with Iraq, and updates [the JIC Assessment of 10 October 2002].
Al Qaida and other Islamist terrorists
1. [. . .] continuing determination by Al Qaida and other Islamist terrorists to attack Western interests around the globe. [. . .] We have previously judged that Al Qaida and other Islamist terrorists may initiate attacks in response to Coalition military action against Iraq, and that Al Qaida will use an attack on Iraq as further justification for terrorist attacks in the West and Israel.
2. [. . .] Some reports indicate that Bin Laden has instructed that there should be no terrorist attacks before the start of a conflict. [. . .] Al Qaida intends to exploit both anti-Western sentiment within the Muslim world, and the preoccupation of the US and UK that would come from action against Iraq.
Al Qaida or associated groups may also seek to conduct attacks against Israel, intended to provoke a reaction that would further inflame feeling within the Islamic world.
3. [The JIC believed that Islamist terrorists had manufactured and stockpiled CB material intended for attacks against both UK and US targets in the Gulf.] Instructions for production of similar CB materials have been distributed by Gulf-based terrorists to extremists [. . .]
4. We have some doubts about the viability of the proposed attack methods, but judge [. . .] a serious intention to use CB weapons. Even if successful, individual attacks might inflict relatively few casualties. But attacks could be numerous and cause significant alarm.
5. [. . .] the use of CB materials is an increasing aspiration of Islamic extremists globally, including in Europe. Such material may be manufactured locally or provided by production facilities such as that operating in the Kurdish Autonomous Zone (KAZ) in Northern Iraq.
We have no intelligence that Iraq has provided CB materials to Al Qaida, but we continue to judge that in the event of imminent regime collapse there would be a risk of transfer of such material, whether or not as deliberate Iraqi regime policy. We also continue to judge that Al Qaida retains its long-standing interest in acquiring a nuclear device, but have no convincing intelligence that it has done so.
Al Qaida in Iraq
6. We have no intelligence to suggest that Al Qaida plans to carry out attacks under Iraqi direction. But intelligence shows the presence of Al Qaida associated extremists in Baghdad. [. . .] We do not know what the current presence is, its purpose, or what relationship it has to Saddam’s regime, if any. But we judge it unlikely that the Iraqi regime are unaware of this presence. We do not know whether these terrorists plan to conduct activities in or from Iraq.
7. Intelligence suggests the presence of [. . .] Al Qaida-linked terrorists in North Eastern Iraq, in the KAZ, with safe haven provided by Ansar al Islam, an Al Qaida-associated extremist group. Some of these individuals [. . .] are involved in production and distribution of CB materials. Intelligence shows that extremists continue to arrive in the region.
The terrorists in Baghdad and the KAZ may re-locate in the event of imminent Coalition action there, perhaps returning to Iran or Afghanistan. But equally they could conduct terrorist activities (including possible use of CB materials) or guerrilla actions against Coalition forces in Iraq.
8. [. . .] (Both groups also had this intent at the time of the 1991 Gulf War, but did not carry out any attacks.) We continue to judge that these groups lack the capability to do so other than on a small-scale.
9. [. . .] Relations between the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Iraq have been strengthened recently. We cannot rule out the possibility that in the event of an attack on Iraq, the PFLP will attack UK or US interests in Israel or the Occupied Territories, perhaps using hired guns from disaffected members of other Palestinian extremist groups. (They could also seek to free the PFLP detainees in Jericho, where US and UK nationals are monitoring their detention, particularly in the event of ramping up of Israeli security activity in the Occupied Territories.)
10. It remains unlikely that other major Palestinian groups would attack Western interests in the event of war, whether or not at Saddam’s request. But recent indications of breakdown of authority within these groups, and greater factionalization, increases the likelihood of terrorist acts by individual Palestinian extremists in protest at Coalition action. [. . .]
11. Hizballah will publicly oppose war against Iraq; they do not intend to back this up with terrorist action in support of Saddam Hussein. [. . .]
12. We have previously judged that Saddam would aspire to conduct terrorist attacks against Coalition interests in the event of military action against him, or possibly if he believed an attack was inevitable.
Authoritative reporting suggests that Iraqi Intelligence (DGI) has little reach or capability outside Iraq, [. . .] But terrorist attacks, for example dispersal of CB material in public places, could be mounted by individuals with little or no specialist training. We have no intelligence of Iraqi intentions to conduct CB terrorist attacks using DGI or its agents; but such activity remains a possibility.
13. [. . .] We have no estimate of the number of non-official cover operatives, many of whom may have been deployed since the 1991 Gulf War.
14. [. . .]
15. Whatever plans Iraq may have made for terrorist activity in the event of conflict will be dependent on individual operatives’ willingness to implement them, which will be in doubt if they perceive regime change to be certain. But the threat from terrorism conducted or directed by DGI cannot be discounted.
Mujahideen e Khalq
16. The Iraq-based anti-Iranian terrorist organization Mujahideen e Khalq (MEK) are more likely to be used as a tool of repression against Shias inside Iraq than against the Coalition [. . .] MEK has a
presence beyond the region, but are unlikely to conduct terrorist attacks outside Iran and Iraq.
Other extremist groups
17. Non-Islamist terrorist groups around the world may seek to exploit a conflict with Iraq. Reporting suggests planning by Turkish Marxist groups to mount attacks in the event of conflict against military facilities including the Incirlik airbase, transport routes and individuals in Turkey.
Reporting also suggests attack plans by KADEK (a Kurdish Separatist group), but we assess they are unlikely to break their current ceasefire. It is likely that attacks by most non-Islamic groups would be small-scale, sporadic, and directed primarily to soft targets.
18. Despite a significant body of intelligence on Iraq’s preparations to conduct terrorism against Western interests, [. . .], we have seen no persuasive evidence that these efforts will be effective. Al Qaida and associated groups will continue to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat will be heightened by military action against Iraq.
The broader threat from Islamist terrorists will also increase in the event of war, reflecting intensified anti-US/anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim world, including among Muslim communities in the West. And there is a risk that the transfer of CB material or expertise, during or in the aftermath of conflict, will enhance Al Qaida’s capabilities.
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