Thursday, November 26, 2015

Israel's Field Executions

B'Tselem: Israeli Government Encourages Field Executions

by IMEMC News

Thursday November 26

Israeli human rights center, B'Tselem, is holding PM Benjamin Netanyahu's government responsible for the committing of field executions against Palestinians by both Israeli forces and civilians.

The director general of the center, Hagai Elad, said that the Israeli government encouraged Israeli forces to act as judge or executioner and to shoot Palestinians dead, even after apprehending them.

Elad noted that the security camera footage shows Israeli police shooting both Hadil and Nurhan Awad as they lay motionless on the ground. The footage shows that an Israeli civilian knocked Nurhan to the ground before being shot.

He also noted the incident in which Ashraqet Qatnani, aged 16, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers after being run over by Gershon Mesika, the former head of the Shomron regional council. Gershon confirmed that the soldiers shot her dead even though she was posing no danger to anyone.

The center reported, according to Al Ray, that Israeli ministers and other politicians, as well as top military and police officers, openly encourage civilians to shoot and kill any Palestinian suspected of assaulting Israelis, regardless of the extent of danger that he or she poses at the time.

It explained that the willful killing of a person who does not pose danger is patently unlawful and entails personal criminal responsibility.

Search IMEMC: "B'Tselem"

F*ck ISIS, Our Humanity is the Issue

Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake  

by Ramzy Baroud -

I still remember that smug look on his face, followed by the matter-of-fact remarks that had western journalists laugh out loud.

“I’m now going to show you a picture of the luckiest man in Iraq,” General Norman Schwarzkopf, known as ‘Stormin’ Norman, said at a press conference sometime in 1991, as he showed a video of US bombs blasting an Iraqi bridge, seconds after the Iraqi driver managed to cross it.

But then, a far more unjust invasion and war followed in 2003, following a decade-long siege that cost Iraq a million of its children and its entire economy.

It marked the end of sanity and the dissipation of any past illusions that the United States was a friend of the Arabs. Not only did the Americans destroy the central piece of our civilizational and collective experience that spanned millennia, it took pleasure in degrading us in the process. Their soldiers raped our women with obvious delight.  They tortured our men, and posed with the dead, mutilated bodies in photographs - mementos to prolong the humiliation for eternity; they butchered our people, explained in articulate terms as necessary and unavoidable collateral damage; they blew up our mosques and churches and refused to accept that what was done to Iraq over the course of twenty years might possibly constitute war crimes.

Then, they expanded their war taking it as far as US bombers could reach; they tortured and floated their prisoners aboard large ships, cunningly arguing that torture in international waters does not constitute a crime; they suspended their victims on crosses and photographed them for future entertainment.

Their entertainers, media experts, intellectuals and philosophers made careers from dissecting us, dehumanizing us, belittling everything we hold dear; they did not spare a symbol, a prophet, a tradition, values or set of morals.  When we reacted and protested out of despair, they further censured us for being intolerant to view the humor in our demise; they used our angry shouts to further highlight their sense of superiority and our imposed lowliness.

They claimed that we initiated it all. But they lied. It was their unqualified, inflated sense of importance that made them assign September 11, 2001 as the inauguration of history. All that they did to us, all the colonial experiences and the open-ended butchery of the brown man,  the black man, any man or woman who did not look like them or uphold their values, was inconsequential.

All the millions who died in Iraq were not considered a viable context to any historical understanding of terrorism; in fact, terrorism became us; the whole concept of terror, which is violence inflicted on innocent civilians for political ends, abruptly became an entirely Arab and Muslim trait. In retrospect, the US-Western-Israeli slaughter of the Vietnamese, Koreans, Cambodians, Palestinians, Lebanese, Egyptians, South Americans, Africans, was spared any censure. Yet, when Arabs attempted to resist, they were deemed the originators of violence, the harbingers of terror.

Furthermore, they carried out massive social and demographic experiments in Iraq which have been unleashed throughout the Middle East, since. They pitted their victims against one another: the Shia against the Sunni, the Sunni against the Sunni, the Arabs against the Kurds, and the Kurds against the Turks. They called it a strategy, and congratulated themselves on a job well done as they purportedly withdrew from Iraq. They disregarded the consequences of tampering with civilizations that have evolved over the course of millennia. 

When their experiments went awry, they blamed their victims. Their entertainers, media experts, intellectuals and philosophers flooded every public platform to inform the world that the vital mistake of the Bush administration was the assumption that Arabs were ready for democracy and that, unlike the Japanese and the Germans, Arabs were made of different blood, flesh and tears. Meanwhile, the finest of Arab men were raped in their jails, kidnapped in broad daylight, tortured aboard large ships in international waters, where the Law did not apply.

When the Americans and their allies claimed that they had left the region, they left behind bleeding, impoverished nations, licking their wounds and searching for bodies under rubble in diverse and macabre landscapes. Yet, the Americans, the British, the French and the Israelis, continue to stage their democratic elections around the debate of who will hit us the hardest, humiliate us the most, teach the most unforgettable lesson and, in their late night comedies, they mock our pain.

We, then, sprang up like wild grass in a desert, multiplied, and roamed the streets of Rabat, Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, calling for a revolution. We wanted democracy for our sake, not Bush’s democracy tinged with blood; we wanted equality, change and reforms and a world in which Gaza is not habitually destroyed by Israel and children of Derra could protest without being shot; where leaders do not pose as divinities and relish the endless arsenals of their western benefactors. We sought a life in which freedom is not a rickety dingy crossing the sea to some uncertain horizon where we are treated as human rubbish on the streets of western lands.

However, we were crushed; pulverized; imprisoned, burnt, beaten and raped and, once more, told that we are not yet ready for democracy; not ready to be free, to breathe, to exist  with even a speck of dignity.

Many of us are still honorably fighting for our communities; others despaired: they carried arms and went to war, fighting whoever they perceive to be an enemy, who were many. Others went mad, lost every sense of humanity; exacted revenge, tragically believing that justice can be achieved by doing unto others what they have done unto you. They were joined by others who headed to the West, some of whom had escaped the miseries of their homelands, but found that their utopia was marred with alienation, racism and neglect, saturated with a smug sense of superiority afflicted upon them by their old masters.

It became a vicious cycle, and few seem interested now in revisiting General Schwarzkopf’s conquests in Iraq and Vietnam - with his smug attitude and the amusement of western journalists - to know what actually went wrong. They still refuse to acknowledge history, the bleeding Palestinian wound, the heartbroken Egyptian revolutionaries and the destroyed sense of Iraqi nationhood, the hemorrhaging streets of Libya and the horrifying outcomes of all the western terrorist wars, with blind, oil-hungry dominating foreign policies that have shattered the Cradle of Civilization, like never before.

However, this violence no longer affects Arabs alone, although Arabs and Muslims remain the larger recipients of its horror. When the militants, spawned by the US and their allies, felt cornered, they fanned out to every corner of the globe, killing innocent people and shouting the name of God in their final moment.  Recently, they came for the French, a day after they blew up the Lebanese, and few days after the Russians; and, before that, the Turks and the Kurds, and, simultaneously, the Syrians and the Iraqis.

Who is next? No one really knows. We keep telling ourselves that 'it's just a transition' and ‘all will be well once the dust has settled’. But the Russians, the Americans and everyone else continue bombing, each insisting that they are bombing the right people for the right reason while, on the ground, everyone is shooting at whoever they deem the enemy, the terrorist, a designation that is often redefined. Yet, few speak out to recognize our shared humanity and victimhood.

No - do not always expect the initials ISIS to offer an explanation for all that goes wrong. Those who orchestrated the war on Iraq and those feeding the war in Syria and arming Israel cannot be vindicated.

The crux of the matter: we either live in dignity together or continue to perish alone, warring tribes and grief-stricken nations. This is not just about indiscriminate bombing - our humanity, in fact, the future of the human race is at stake.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of His books include ‘Searching Jenin’, ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada’ and his latest ‘My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story’. His website is:  

Follow the Tax Money: Where Canada's Bombs Go

Operation IMPACT – Air Task Force-Iraq airstrikes

by Canadian Forces

Air Task Force-Iraq (ATF-I) is part of Joint Task Force-Iraq (JTF-I). It is currently deployed as part of Operation IMPACT, which is the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) support to the Middle East Stabilization Force (MESF) – the multinational coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Republic of Iraq and in Syria.

The following provides information about airstrikes conducted by Canadian CF-188 Hornet fighter aircraft to date. An airstrike is an aerial attack which is intended to inflict damage on or destroy an objective.

This map details CAF airstrikes between June 14 (14 / 6) 
and July 5 (5 / 7)  25 Nov 2015
Related links: Operation IMPACT

On 25 November 2015, while taking part in coalition airstrikes to increase Iraqi security forces' freedom of movement in the region, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position in the vicinity of Ramadi using precision guided munitions.
19 Nov 2015

On 19 November 2015, while taking part in coalition airstrikes to increase Iraqi security forces' freedom of movement in the region, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS weapons production facility in the vicinity of Mosul using precision guided munitions.
18 Nov 2015

On 18 November 2015, while taking part in coalition airstrikes in support of Iraqi security forces offensive operations, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck three separate ISIS fighting positions, one south of Kirkuk and two others northwest of Mosul, using precision guided munitions.
17 Nov 2015

On 17 November 2015, while taking part in coalition airstrikes in support of Iraqi security forces operations to clear ISIS from Ramadi, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck three ISIS fighting positions during two separate airstrikes in the vicinity of Ramadi using precision guided munitions.
15 Nov 2015

On 15 November, while taking part in coalition airstrikes in support of Iraqi security forces offensive operations, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position southeast of Haditha using precision guided munitions.
13 Nov 2015

On 13 November 2015, while taking part in coalition airstrikes in support of Iraqi security forces operations to clear ISIS from Ramadi, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS compound and two separate ISIS fighting positions in the vicinity of Ramadi using precision guided munitions.
12 Nov 2015

On 12 November 2015, while taking part in coalition airstrikes in support of Iraqi security forces operations to clear ISIS from Sinjar and seize portions of a significant ISIS supply route between Ar Raqqah, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS ammunition cache in the vicinity of Sinjar and an ISIS fighting position in the vicinity of Tal Afar using precision guided munitions.
7 Nov 2015

On 7 November 2015, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position southeast of Mosul using precision guided munitions.

On 7 November 2015, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position south of Sinjar using precision guided munitions.
6 Nov 2015

On 6 November 2015, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position in the vicinity of Ramadi using precision guided munitions.

On 6 November 2015, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck two ISIS fighting positions north of Fallujah using precision guided munitions.
5 Nov 2015

On 5 November 2015, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck two ISIS compounds southwest of Sinjar using precision guided munitions.

Stones and Bullets: 100th Palestinian Killed Since October 1

100th Palestinian killed by Israeli troops since Oct. 1st: 21 year old shot during protest

by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC News 

November 26, 2015

Dozens of Israeli soldiers invaded the town of Qotna, northeast of occupied Jerusalem, early Thursday morning, shooting and killing one Palestinian, in addition to kidnapping and wounding many residents.

The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that the soldiers killed Yahya Yosri Taha, 21 years of age, with one live round in the head, during clashes that took place between the soldiers and local youths.

Medics who rushed to the scene said the soldiers kept Taha bleeding on the ground for more than 90 minutes, and prevented Palestinian medics from even approaching him.

Clashes took place in various parts of Qotna, after dozens of soldiers completely surrounded the village, and invaded it. The troops stormed and ransacked dozens of homes, and kidnapped scores of residents.

Yahya Yosri Taha (image from family)

The town’s youngsters hurled stones and empty bottles at the soldiers, who fired dozens of live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets and gas bombs.

The soldiers also assaulted and clubbed many residents after forcing them out of their homes. In each of the homes they invaded, the soldiers forced the families into one room and forced them to remain there while the troops ransacked and searched their property.

It is worth mentioning that four Palestinians from Qotna have been killed by Israeli army fire in the last two months, and dozens have been injured and kidnapped in repeated military invasions.

The victim of today’s attack, Yahya, was a close friend and relative of Anas Taha, who was shot dead by the army in August of this year.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said the number of Palestinians killed since October 1, has reached 100, including 22 children and four women; one of the slain women, 30 years of age,was killed along with her two year old child, in their own home, in an Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Eighteen of the slain Palestinians were killed in Gaza, one in the Negev, and the rest in the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem.

The Ministry said the more than 12.000 Palestinians have been injured since October 1, 1578 of them with live Israeli rounds, 1085 with rubber-coated steel bullets, and were all moved to hospitals, in addition to 1528 who were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets and received treatment by Palestinian medics.

Picture of Yahya Yosri Taha after he was killed (image from family)


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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Cozy Relationship: Israel and IS

Israeli Colonel Caught with IS Pants Down

by F. William Engdahl - NEO

This was definitely not supposed to happen. It seems that an Israeli military man with the rank of colonel was “caught with IS pants down.” By that I mean he was captured amid a gaggle of so-called IS–or Islamic State or ISIS or DAESH depending on your preference–terrorists, by soldiers of the Iraqi army. Under interrogation by the Iraqi intelligence he apparently said a lot regarding the role of Netanyahu’s IDF in supporting IS.

In late October an Iranian news agency, quoting a senior Iraqi intelligence officer, reported the capture of an Israeli army colonel, named Yusi Oulen Shahak, reportedly related to the ISIS Golani Battalion operating in Iraq in the Salahuddin front.

In a statement to Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency a Commander of the Iraqi Army stated, “The security and popular forces have held captive an Israeli colonel.” He added that the IDF colonel “had participated in the Takfiri ISIL group’s terrorist operations.”

He said the colonel was arrested together with a number of ISIL or IS terrorists, giving the details:

“The Israeli colonel’s name is Yusi Oulen Shahak and is ranked colonel in Golani Brigade… with the security and military code of Re34356578765az231434.”

Why Israel?

Ever since the beginning of Russia’s very effective IS bombing of select targets in Syria on September 30, details of the very dirty role of not only Washington, but also NATO member Turkey under President Erdogan, Qatar and other states has come into the sunlight for the first time.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that at least a faction in the Obama Administration has played a very dirty behind-the-scenes role in supporting IS in order to advance the removal of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and pave the way for what inevitably would be a Libya-style chaos and destruction which would make the present Syrian refugee crisis in Europe a mere warmup by comparison.

The “pro-IS faction” in Washington includes the so-called neo-conservatives centered around disgraced former CIA head and executioner of the Iraqi “surge” General David Petraeus. It also includes US General John R. Allen, who since September 2014 had served as President Obama’s Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and, until she resigned in February 2013, it included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Significantly, General John Allen, an unceasing advocate of a US-led “No Fly Zone” inside Syria along the border to Turkey, something President Obama refused, was relieved of his post on 23 October, 2015. That was shortly after launch of the highly-effective Russian strikes on Syrian IS and Al Qaeda’s Al Nusra Front terrorist sites changed the entire situation in the geopolitical picture of Syria and the entire Middle East.

UN Reports cites Israel

That Netanyahu’s Likud and the Israeli military work closely with Washington’s neo-conservative war-hawks is well-established, as is the vehement opposition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Israel regards the Iranian-backed Shi’a Islamist militant group, Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, as arch foe. Hezbollah has been actively fighting alongside the Syrian Army against ISIS in Syria. General Allen’s strategy of “bombings of ISIS” since he was placed in charge of the operation in September 2014, as Russia’s Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov have repeatedly pointed out, far from destroying ISIS in Syria, had vastly expanded their territorial control of the country. Now it becomes clear that that was precisely the intent of Allen and the Washington war faction.

Since at least 2013 Israeli military have also openly bombed what they claim were Hezbollah targets inside Syria. Investigation revealed that in fact Israel was hitting Syrian military and Hezbollah targets who are valiantly fighting against ISIS and other terrorists. De facto thereby Israel was actually helping ISIS, like General John Allen’s year-long “anti-ISIS” bombings.

That a faction in the Pentagon has secretly worked behind-the-scenes to train, arm and finance what today is called ISIS or IS in Syria is now a matter of open record. In August 2012, a Pentagon document classified “Secret,” later declassified under pressure of the US NGO Judicial Watch, detailed precisely the emergence of what became the Islamic State or ISIS emerging from the Islamic State in Iraq, then an Al Qaeda affiliate.

The Pentagon document stated, “…there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition [to Assad-w.e.] want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).” The supporting powers to the opposition in 2012 then included Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the USA and behind-the-scenes, Netanyahu’s Israel.

Precisely this creation of a “Salafist Principality in eastern Syria,” today’s territory of ISIL or IS, was the agenda of Petraeus, General Allen and others in Washington to destroy Assad. It’s what put the Obama Administration at loggerhead with Russia, China and Iran over the bizarre US demand Assad must first go before ISIS can be destroyed. Now the game is in the open for the world to see Washington’s duplicity in backing what the Russian’s accurately call “moderate terrorists” against a duly-elected Assad. That Israel is also in the midst of this rats’ nest of opposition terrorist forces in Syria was confirmed in a recent UN report.

What the report did not mention was why Israeli IDF military would have such a passionate interest in Syria, especially Syria’s Golan Heights.

Why Israel wants Assad Out

In December, 2014 the Jerusalem Post in Israel reported the findings of a largely ignored, and politically explosive report detailing UN sightings of Israeli military together with ISIS terrorist combatants. The UN peacekeeping force, UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), stationed since 1974 along the Golan Heights border between Syria and Israel, revealed that Israel had been working closely with Syrian opposition terrorists, including Al Qaeda’s Al Nusra Front and IS in the Golan Heights, and “kept close contact over the past 18 months.” The report was submitted to the UN Security Council. Mainstream media in the US and West buried the explosive findings.

The UN documents showed that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were maintaining regular contact with members of the so-called Islamic State since May of 2013. The IDF stated that this was only for medical care for civilians, but the deception was broken when the UNDOF observers identified direct contact between IDF forces and ISIS soldiers, including giving medical care to ISIS fighters. Observations even included the transfer of two crates from the IDF to ISIS forces, the contents of which have not been confirmed. Further the UN report identified what the Syrians label a “crossing point of forces between Israel and ISIS,” a point of concern UNDOF brought before the UN Security Council.

The UNDOF was created by a May, 1974 UN Security Council Resolution No. 350 in the wake of tensions from the October 1973 Yom Kippur War between Syria and Israel. It established a buffer zone between Israel and Syria’s Golan Heights according to the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement, to be governed and policed by the Syrian authorities. No military forces other than UNDOF are permitted within it. Today it has 1,200 observers.

Since 2013 and the escalation of Israeli attacks on Syria along the Golan Heights, claiming pursuit of “Hezbollah terrorists,” the UNDOF itself has been subject to massive attacks by ISIS or Al Qaeda’s Al Nusra Front terrorists in the Golan Heights for the first time since 1974, of kidnappings, of killings, of theft of UN weapons and ammunition, vehicles and other assets, and the looting and destruction of facilities. Someone obviously does not want UNDOF to remain policing the Golan Heights.

Israel and Golan Heights Oil

In his November 9 White House meeting with US President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu asked Washington to reconsider the fact that since the 1967 Six-Days’ War between Israel and the Arab countries, Israel has illegally occupied a significant part of the Golan Heights. In their meeting, Netanyahu, apparently without success, called on Obama to back formal Israeli annexation of the illegally-occupied Golan Heights, claiming that the absence of a functioning Syrian government “allows for different thinking” concerning the future status of the strategically important area.

Of course Netanyahu did not address in any honest way how Israeli IDF and other forces had been responsible for the absence of a functioning Syrian government by their support for ISIS and Al Nusra Front of Al Qaeda.

In 2013, when UNDOF began to document increasing contact between Israeli military and IS and Al Qaeda along the Golan Heights, a little-known Newark, New Jersey oil company, Genie Energy, with an Israeli daughter company, Afek Oil & Gas, began also moving into Golan Heights with permission of the Netanyahu government to explore for oil. That same year Israeli military engineers overhauled the forty-five mile border fence with Syria, replacing it with a steel barricade that included barbed wire, touch sensors, motion detectors, infrared cameras, and ground radar, putting it on par with the Wall Israel has constructed in the West Bank.

Interestingly enough, on October 8, Yuval Bartov, chief geologist from Genie Energy’s Israeli subsidiary, Afek Oil & Gas, told Israel’s Channel 2 TV that his company had found a major oil reservoir on the Golan Heights: “We’ve found an oil stratum 350 meters thick in the southern Golan Heights. On average worldwide, strata are 20 to 30 meters thick, and this is 10 times as large as that, so we are talking about significant quantities.” As I noted in an earlier article, the International Advisory Board of Genie Energy includes such notorious names as Dick Cheney, former CIA head and infamous neo-con James Woolsey, Jacob Lord Rothschild and others.

Of course no reasonable person in their right mind would suggest there might be a link between Israeli military dealings with the ISIS and other anti-Assad terrorists in Syria, especially in the Golan Heights, and the oil find of Genie Energy in the same place, and with Netanyahu’s latest Golan Heights “rethink” appeal to Obama. That would smell too much like “conspiracy theory” and all reasonable people know conspiracies don’t exist, only coincidences. Or? In fact, to paraphrase the immortal words of Brad Pitt in the role of West Virginia First Lieutenant Aldo Raine in the final scene of Tarantino’s brilliant film, Inglorious Basterds, it seems that ‘Ol Netanyahu and his pecker-suckin pals in the IDF and Mossad just got caught with their hands in a very dirty cookie jar in Syria.

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
First appeared:

How Britons Resist Fracking: Voices from the Gasfields

Voices from the Gasfields: It started with Just ONE Well

by Ian R. Crane - 

This is the film the UK & Australian Governments do NOT want you to see! Documenting the accounts of families living with the hydrocarbon industry as a neighbour, this hour long documentary is shocking, as it reveals the day to day pollution these people live with – pollution of water, air, light and sound, some of the the basic human requirements needed to survive. The blind eye that the authorities and the hydrocarbon industry turn to these families living conditions, and the complete disregard to the environmental damage done to the bush by this, is truly disgraceful.

I have not seen another film like it, telling us, warning us how really dreadful life is living amongst the gas wells. I have a huge respect for the families in Australia that held onto their land and shared their stories with us. It was especially moving when Brian Monk speaks directly to the audience near the end of the video, very powerful indeed - we would be very wise to listen and act accordingly.

This film should be distributed and shown as widely as possible so we can learn and act. 

Full credit to Ian R Crane and his colleagues for turning around this moving, informative, high quality film in less than four months since his return from Australia. Thank you Ian and the families from Australia for the absolutely invaluable insight this film gives.

We need to take heed of the “Voices from the Gasfields” so these honourable families have not stayed loyal to their lands in vain.

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East is East: Rejoining the Cold War Arms Race

Do We Really Want a New World War With Russia?

by F. William Engdahl - NEO

November 25, 2016

Washington continues making an international fool of herself by her inability to effectively counter the impression around the world that Russia, spending less than 10% of the Pentagon annually on defense, has managed to do more against ISIS in Syria in six weeks than the mighty US Air Force bombing campaign has done in almost a year and half.

One aspect that bears attention is the demonstration by the Russian military of new technologies that belie the widely-held Western notion that Russia is little more than a backward oil and raw material commodity exporter.

Recent reorganization of the Russian state military industrial complex as well as reorganization of the Soviet-era armed forces under Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu’s term are visible in the success so far of Russia’s ISIS and other terror strikes across Syria. Clearly Russian military capabilities have undergone a sea-change since the Soviet Cold War era.

In war there are never winners. Yet Russia has been in an unwanted war with Washington de facto since the George W. Bush Administration announced its lunatic plan to place what they euphemistically term “Ballistic Missile Defense” missiles and advanced radar in Poland, Czech Republic, Romania and Turkey after 2007. Without going into detail, BMD technologies are the opposite of defensive. They instead make a pre-emptive war highly likely. Of course the radioactive ash heap in such an exchange would be first and foremost the EU countries foolish enough to invite US BMD to their soil.

Then came the highly provocative US-instigated coup d’etat in Ukraine in February 2014, installing a cabal of gangsters, neo-nazis and criminals who launched a civil war against its own citizens in east Ukraine, an ill-conceived attempt to bring Russia into a ground war across her border. It followed two UN Security Council vetoes by Russia and China of US proposals for No Fly zones over Syria as was done to destroy Qaddafi’s Libya. Now Russia has surprised the West by accepting the request of Syrian President Bashar al Assad to help eliminate the terrorism that has ravaged the once-peaceful country for over four years.

What the Russian General Staff has managed, since the precision air campaign began September 30, has stunned western defense planners with Russian technological feats not expected. Two specific technologies are worth looking at more closely: The Russian Sukoi SU-34 fighter-bomber and what is called the Bumblebee hyperbaric mortar weapon.

Sukhoi SU-34 ‘Fullback’ fighter-bomber

The plane responsible for some of the most damaging strikes on ISIS and other terror enclaves in Syria is manufactured by the Russian state aircraft industry under the name Sukhoi SU-34. As the Russian news agency RIA Novosti described the aircraft, “The Su-34 is meant to deliver a sufficiently large ordnance load to a predetermined area, hit the target accurately and take evasive action against pursuing enemy planes.” The plane is also designed to deal with enemy fighters in aerial combat such as the US F-16. The SU-34 made a first test flight in 1990 as the collapse of the Soviet Union and the chaos of the Yeltsin years caused many delays. Finally in 2010 the plane was in full production.

According to a report in US Defense Industry Daily, among the SU-34 features are:

• 8 ton ordnance load which can accommodate precision-guided weapons, as well as R-73/AA-11 Archer and R-77/AA-12 ‘AMRAAMSKI’ missiles and an internal 30mm GSh-301 gun.

• Maximum speed of Mach 1.8 at altitude.

• 3,000 km range, extensible to “over 4,000 km” with the help of additional drop tanks. The SU-34 can also refuel in mid-air.

• It can fly in TERCOM (Terrain Contour Matching) mode for low-level flight, and has software to execute a number of difficult maneuvers.

• Leninets B004 phased array multimode X-band radar, which interleaves terrain-following radar and other modes.

Now new EW technologies

Clearly the aircraft is impressive as it has demonstrated against terrorist centers in Syria. Now, however, beginning this month it will add a “game-changer” in the form of a new component. Speaking at the Dubai Air Show on November 12, Igor Nasenkov, the First Deputy General Director of the Radio-Electronic Technologies Concern (KRET) announced that this month, that is in the next few days, SUKHOI SU-34 fighter-bombers will become electronic warfare aircraft as well.

Nasenkov explained that the new Khibiny aircraft electronic countermeasures (ECM) systems, installed on the wingtips, will give the SU-34 jets electronic warfare capabilities to launch effective electronic countermeasures against radar systems, anti-aircraft missile systems and airborne early warning and control aircraft.

KRET is a holding or group of some 95 Russian state electronic companies formed in 2009 under the giant Russian state military industry holding, Rostec.

Russia’s advances in what is euphemistically termed in military jargon, Electronic Counter Measures or ECM, is causing some sleepless nights for the US Pentagon top brass to be sure. In the battles in eastern pro-Russian Ukraine earlier this year, as well as in the Black Sea, and now in Syria, according to ranking US military sources, Russia deployed highly-effective ECM technologies like the Krasukha-4, to successfully jam hostile radar and aircraft.

Lt. General Ben Hodges, Commander of US Army Europe (USAREUR) describes Russian ECM capabilities used in Ukraine as “eye-watering,” suggesting some US and NATO officers are more than slightly disturbed by what they see. Ronald Pontius, deputy to Army Cyber Command’s chief, Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, told a conference in October that, “You can’t but come to the conclusion that we’re not making progress at the pace the threat demands.” In short, Pentagon planners have been caught flat-footed for all the trillions of wasted US taxpayer dollars in recent years thrown at the military industry.

During the critical days of the March 2014 Crimean citizens’ referendum vote to appeal for status within Russia, New York Times reporters then in Crimea reported the presence of Russian electronic jamming systems, known as R-330Zh Zhitel, manufactured by Protek in Voronezh, Russia. That state-of-the-art technology was believed to have been used to prevent the Ukrainian Army from invading Crimea before the referendum. Russian forces in Crimea, where Russia had a legal basing agreement with Kiev, reportedly were able to block all communication of Kiev military forces, preventing a Crimean bloodbath. Washington was stunned.

USS Donald Cook…

Thereafter, in April, 2014, one month after the accession of Crimea into the Russian Federation, President Obama ordered the USS Donald Cook into the Black Sea waters just off Crimea, the home port of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, to “reassure” EU states of US resolve. Donald Cook was no ordinary guided missile destroyer. It had been refitted to be one of four ships as part of Washington’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System aimed at Russia’s nuclear arsenal. USS Donald Cook boldly entered the Black Sea on April 8 heading to Russian territorial waters.

On April 12, just four days later, the US ship inexplicably left the area of the Crimean waters of the Black Sea for a port in NATO-member Romania. From there it left the Black Sea entirely. A report on April 30, 2014 in Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta Online titled, “What Frightened the American Destroyer,” stated that while the USS Donald Cook was near Crimean (Russian by that time) waters, a Russian Su-24 Frontal Aviation bomber conducted a flyby of the destroyer.

The Rossiyskaya Gazeta went on to write that the Russian SU-24 “did not have bombs or missiles onboard. One canister with the Khibin electronic warfare complex was suspended under the fuselage.” As it got close to the US destroyer, the Khibins turned off the USS Donald Cook’s “radar, combat control circuits, and data transmission system – in short, they turned off the entire Aegis just like we turn off a television by pressing the button on the control panel. After this, the Su-24 simulated a missile launch at the blind and deaf ship. Later, it happened once again, and again – a total of 12 times.”

While the US Army denied the incident as Russian propaganda, the fact is that USS Donald Cook never approached Russian Black Sea waters again. Nor did NATO ships that replaced it in the Black Sea. A report in 2015 by the US Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office assessed that Russia, “does indeed possess a growing EW capability, and the political and military leadership understand the importance…Their growing ability to blind or disrupt digital communications might help level the playing field when fighting against a superior conventional foe.” Now new Russian Khibini Electronic Counter Measure systems are being installed on the wingtips of Russia’s SUKHOI SU-34 fighter-bombers going after ISIS in Syria.

Killer Bumblebees

A second highly-advanced new Russian military technology that’s raising more than eyebrows in US Defense Secretary ‘Ash’ Carter’s Pentagon is Russia’s new Bumblebee which Russia’s military classifies as a flamethrower. In reality it is a highly advanced thermobaric weapon which launches a warhead that uses a combination of an explosive charge and highly combustible fuel. When the rocket reaches the target, the fuel is dispersed in a cloud that is then detonated by the explosive charge. US Military experts recently asked by the US scientific and engineering magazine Popular Mechanics to evaluate the Bumblebee stated that, “the resulting explosion is devastating, radiating a shockwave and fireball up to six or seven meters in diameter.” The US experts noted that the Bumblebee is “especially useful against troops in bunkers, trenches, and even armored vehicles, as the dispersing gas can enter small spaces and allow the fireball to expand inside. Thermobarics are particularly devastating to buildings — a thermobaric round entering a structure can literally blow up the building from within with overpressure.”


We don’t go into yet another new highly secret Russian military technology recently subject of a Russian TV report beyond a brief mention, as little is known. It is indicative of what is being developed as Russia prepares for the unthinkable from Washington. The “Ocean Multipurpose System: Status-6” is a new Russian nuclear submarine weapons system designed to bypass NATO radars and any existing missile defense systems, while causing heavy damage to “important economic facilities” along the enemy’s coastal regions.

Reportedly the Status-6 will cause what the Russian military terms, “assured unacceptable damage” to an adversary force. They state that its detonation “in the area of the enemy coast” (say, New York or Boston or Washington?) would result in “extensive zones of radioactive contamination” that would ensure that the region would not be used for “military, economic, business or other activity for a long time.” Status-6 reportedly is a massive torpedo, designated as a “self-propelled underwater vehicle.” It has a range of up to 10 thousand kilometers and can operate at a depth of up to 1,000 meters. At a November 10 meeting with the Russian military chiefs, Vladimir Putin stated that Russia would counter NATO’s US-led missile shield program through “new strike systems capable of penetrating any missile defenses.” Presumably he was referring to Status-6.

US Defense Secretary Carter declared on November 8 in a speech that Russia and China are challenging “American pre-eminence” and Washington’s so-called “stewardship of the world order.” Carter added that, “Most disturbing is Moscow’s nuclear saber-rattling,” which in his view, “raises questions about Russian leaders’ commitment to strategic stability, their respect for norms against the use of nuclear weapons…”

Not surprisingly, Carter did not mention Washington’s own very loud nuclear saber-rattling. In addition to advancing the US Ballistic Missile Defense array targeting Russia, Carter recently announced highly-advanced US nuclear weapons would be stationed at the B├╝chel Air Base in Germany as part of a joint NATO nuclear program, which involves non-nuclear NATO states in Europe hosting more than 200 US nuclear warheads. Those NATO states across Europe, including Germany, have just become a potential Ground Zero in any possible nuclear war between the United States and Russia. Perhaps it’s time for some more sober minds to take responsibility in Washington for restoring a world at peace, minds not obsessed with such ridiculous ideas of “pre-eminence.”

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
First appeared:

International Law and Syria: What You Need to Know

Breaking International Law in Syria

by Sharmine Narwani - RT

November 25, 2015

The war drums are getting louder in the aftermath of ISIS attacks in Paris, as Western countries gear up to launch further airstrikes in Syria.

But obscured in the fine print of countless resolutions and media headlines is this: the West has no legal basis for military intervention.

Their strikes are illegal.

“It is always preferable in these circumstances to have the full backing of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) but I have to say what matters most of all is that any actions we would take would…be legal,” explained UK Prime Minister David Cameron to the House of Commons last Wednesday.

Legal? No, there’s not a scrap of evidence that UK airstrikes would be lawful in their current incarnation.

Then just two days later, on Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2249, aimed at rallying the world behind the fairly obvious notion that ISIS is an “unprecedented threat to international peace and security.”

"It's a call to action to member states that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures against (ISIS) and other terrorist groups," British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters.

The phrase “all necessary measures” was broadly interpreted – if not explicitly sanctioning the “use of force” in Syria, then as a wink to it.

Let’s examine the pertinent language of UNSCR 2249:

The resolution “calls upon Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures, in compliance with international law, in particular with the United Nations Charter…on the territory under the control of ISIL also known as Da’esh, in Syria and Iraq.”

Note that the resolution demands “compliance with international law, in particular with the UN Charter.” This is probably the most significant explainer to the “all necessary measures” phrase. Use of force is one of the most difficult things for the UNSC to sanction – it is a last resort measure, and a rare one. The lack of Chapter 7 language in the resolution pretty much means that ‘use of force’ is not on the menu unless states have other means to wrangle “compliance with international law.”

What you need to know about international law

It is important to understand that the United Nations was set up in the aftermath of World War 2 expressly to prevent war and to regulate and inhibit the use of force in settling disputes among its member states. This is the UN’s big function – to “maintain international peace and security,” as enshrined in the UN Charter’s very first article.

There are a lot of laws that seek to govern and prevent wars, but the Western nations looking to launch airstrikes in Syria have made things easy for us – they have cited the law that they believe justifies their military intervention: specifically, Article 51 of the UN Charter. It reads, in part:

“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”

So doesn’t France, for instance, enjoy the inherent right to bomb ISIS targets in Syria as an act of self-defense - in order to prevent further attacks?

And don’t members of the US-led coalition, who cite the “collective self-defense” of Iraq (the Iraqi government has formally made this request), have the right to prevent further ISIS attacks from Syrian territory into Iraqi areas?

Well, no. Article 51, as conceived in the UN Charter, refers to attacks between territorial states, not with non-state actors like ISIS or Al-Qaeda. Syria, after all, did not attack France or Iraq – or Turkey, Australia, Jordan or Saudi Arabia.

And here’s where it gets interesting.

Western leaders are employing two distinct strategies to obfuscate the lack of legal justification for intervention in Syria. The first is the use of propaganda to build narratives about Syria that support their legal argumentation. The second is a shrewd effort to cite legal “theory” as a means to ‘stretch’ existing law into a shape that supports their objectives.

The “Unwilling and Unable” Theory – the “Unable” argument

The unwilling and unable theory – as related to the Syria/ISIS situation - essentially argues that the Syrian state is both unwilling and unable to target the non-state actor based within its territory (ISIS, in this case) that poses a threat to another state.

Let’s break this down further.

Ostensibly, Syria is ‘unable’ to sufficiently degrade or destroy ISIS because, as we can clearly see, ISIS controls a significant amount of territory within Syria’s borders that its national army has not been able to reclaim.

This made some sense - until September 30 when Russia entered the Syrian military theater and began to launch widespread airstrikes against terrorist targets inside Syria.

As a major global military power, Russia is clearly ‘able’ to thwart ISIS –certainly just as well as most of the Western NATO states participating in airstrikes already. Moreover, as Russia is operating there due to a direct Syrian government appeal for assistance, the Russian military role in Syria is perfectly legal.

This development struck a blow at the US-led coalition’s legal justification for strikes in Syria. Not that the coalition’s actions were ever legal – “unwilling and unable” is merely a theory and has no basis in customary international law.

About this new Russian role, Major Patrick Walsh, associate professor in the International and Operational Law Department at the US Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Virginia, says:

“The United States and others who are acting in collective defense of Iraq and Turkey are in a precarious position. The international community is calling on Russia to stop attacking rebel groups and start attacking ISIS. But if Russia does, and if the Assad government commits to preventing ISIS from attacking Syria’s neighbors and delivers on that commitment, then the unwilling or unable theory for intervention in Syria would no longer apply. Nations would be unable to legally intervene inside Syria against ISIS without the Assad government’s consent.”

In recent weeks, the Russians have made ISIS the target of many of its airstrikes, and are day by day improving coordination efficiencies with the ground troops and air force of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies -Iran, Hezbollah and other foreign groups who are also in Syria legally, at the invitation of the Syrian state.

Certainly, the balance of power on the ground in Syria has started to shift away from militants and terrorist groups since Russia launched its campaign seven weeks ago – much more than we have seen in a year of coalition strikes.

The “Unwilling and Unable” Theory – the “Unwilling” argument

Now for the ‘unwilling’ part of the theory. And this is where the role of Western governments in seeding ‘propaganda’ comes into play.

The US and its allies have been arguing for the past few years that the Syrian government is either in cahoots with ISIS, benefits from ISIS’ existence, or is a major recruiting magnet for the terror group.

Western media, in particular, has made a point of underplaying the SAA’s military confrontations with ISIS, often suggesting that the government actively avoids ISIS-controlled areas.

The net result of this narrative has been to convey the message that the Syrian government has been ‘unwilling’ to diminish the terror group’s base within the country.

But is this true?

ISIS was born from the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in April, 2013 when the group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a short-lived union of ISI and Syria's Al-Qaeda branch, Jabhat al-Nusra. Armed militants in Syria have switched around their militia allegiances many times throughout this conflict, so it would be disingenuous to suggest the Syrian army has not fought each and every one of these groups at some point since early 2011.

If ISIS was viewed as a 'neglected' target at any juncture, it has been mainly because the terror group was focused on land grabs for its "Caliphate" in the largely barren north-east areas of the country - away from the congested urban centers and infrastructure hubs that have defined the SAA's military priorities.

But ISIS has always remained a fixture in the SAA's sights. The Syrian army has fought or targeted ISIS, specifically, in dozens of battlefields since the organization's inception, and continues to do so. In Deir Hafer Plains, Mennagh, Kuweires, Tal Arn, al-Safira, Tal Hasel and the Aleppo Industrial District. In the suburbs and countryside of Damascus - most famously in Yarmouk this year - where the SAA and its allies thwarted ISIS' advance into the capital city. In the Qalamun mountains, in Christian Qara and Faleeta. In Deir Ezzor, where ISIS would join forces with the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA): al-Husseiniyeh, Hatla, Sakr Island, al-Hamadiyah, al-Rashidiyah, al-Jubeileh, Sheikh Yasseen, Mohassan, al-Kanamat, al-Sina'a, al-Amal, al-Haweeqa, al-Ayyash, the Ghassan Aboud neighborhood, al-Tayyim Oil Fields and the Deir ez-Zor military airport. In Hasakah Province - Hasakah city itself, al-Qamishli, Regiment 121 and its environs, the Kawkab and Abdel-Aziz Mountains. In Raqqa, the Islamic State's capital in Syria, the SAA combatted ISIS in Division 17, Brigade 93 and Tabaqa Airbase. In Hama Province, the entire al-Salamiyah District - Ithriyah, Sheikh Hajar, Khanasser. In the province of Homs, the eastern countryside: Palmyra, Sukaneh, Quraytayn, Mahin, Sadad, Jubb al-Ahmar, the T-4 Airbase and the Iraqi border crossing. In Suweida, the northern countryside.

If anything, the Russian intervention has assisted the Syrian state in going on the offensive against ISIS and other like-minded terror groups. Before Russia moved in, the SAA was hunkering down in and around key strategic areas to protect these hubs. Today, Syria and its allies are hitting targets by land and air in the kinds of coordinated offensives we have not seen before.

Seeding ‘propaganda’

The role of propaganda and carefully manipulated narratives should not be underestimated in laying the groundwork for foreign military intervention in Syria.

From “the dictator is killing his own people” to the “regime is using chemical weapons” to the need to establish “No Fly Zones” to safeguard “refugees fleeing Assad”…propaganda has been liberally used to build the justification for foreign military intervention.

Article 2 of the UN Charter states, in part:

“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

It’s hard to see how Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity has not been systematically violated throughout the nearly five years of this conflict, by the very states that make up the US-led coalition. The US, UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the UAE and other nations have poured weapons, funds, troops and assistance into undermining a UN member state at every turn.

“Legitimacy” is the essential foundation upon which governance rests. Vilify a sitting government, shut down multiple embassies, isolate a regime in international forums, and you can destroy the fragile veneer of legitimacy of a king, president or prime minister.

But efforts to delegitimize the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have also served to lay the groundwork for coalition airstrikes in Syria.

If Assad is viewed to lack “legitimacy,” the coalition creates the impression that there is no real government from which it can gain the necessary authority to launch its airstrikes.

This mere ‘impression’ provided the pretext for Washington to announce it was sending 50 Special Forces troops into Syria, as though the US wasn’t violating every tenet of international law in doing so. “It’s okay – there’s no real government there,” we are convinced.

Media reports repeatedly highlight the ‘percentages’ of territory outside the grasp of Syrian government forces – this too serves a purpose. One of the essentials of a state is that it consists of territory over which it governs.

If only 50 percent of Syria is under government control, the argument goes, “then surely we can just walk into the other ‘ungoverned’ parts” – as when US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and US Senator John McCain just strolled illegally across the border of the sovereign Syrian state.

Sweep aside these ‘impressions’ and bury them well. The Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad is viewed by the United Nations as the only legitimate government in Syria. Every official UN interaction with the state is directed at this government. The Syrian seat at the UN is occupied by Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari, a representative of Assad’s government. It doesn’t matter how many Syrian embassies in how many capitals are shut down – or how many governments-in-exile are established. The UN only recognizes one.

As one UN official told me in private: “Control of surface territory doesn’t count. The government of Kuwait when its entire territory was occupied by Iraq – and it was in exile – was still the legitimate government of Kuwait. The Syrian government could have 10 percent of its surface left – the decision of the UN Security Council is all that matters from the perspective of international law, even if other governments recognize a new Syrian government.”

Countdown to more illegal airstrikes?

If there was any lingering doubt about the illegality of coalition activities in Syria, the Syrian government put these to rest in September, in two letters to the UNSC that denounced foreign airstrikes as unlawful:

“If any State invokes the excuse of counter-terrorism in order to be present on Syrian territory without the consent of the Syrian Government whether on the country’s land or in its airspace or territorial waters, its action shall be considered a violation of Syrian sovereignty.”

Yet still, upon the adoption of UNSC Resolution 2249 last Friday, US Deputy Representative to the United Nations Michele Sison insisted that “in accordance with the UN Charter and its recognition of the inherent right of individual and collective self-defense,” the US would use “necessary and proportionate military action” in Syria.

The website for the European Journal of International Law (EJIL) promptly pointed out the obvious:

“The resolution is worded so as to suggest there is Security Council support for the use of force against IS. However, though the resolution, and the unanimity with which it was adopted, might confer a degree of legitimacy on actions against IS, the resolution does not actually authorize any actions against IS, nor does it provide a legal basis for the use of force against IS either in Syria or in Iraq.”

'British government doesn't want left out of Syrian bombing campaign'

On Thursday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron plans to unveil his new “comprehensive strategy” to tackle ISIS, which we are told will include launching airstrikes in Syria.

We already know the legal pretext he will spin – “unwilling and unable,” Article 51, UN Charter, individual and collective self-defense, and so forth.

But if Cameron’s September 7 comments at the House of Commons are any indication, he will use the following logic to argue that the UK has no other choice than to resort to ‘use of force’ in Syria. In response to questions about two illegal drone attacks targeting British nationals in Syria, the prime minister emphasized:

“These people were in a part of Syria where there was no government, no one to work with, and no other way of addressing this threat…When we are dealing with people in ISIL-dominated Syria—there is no government, there are no troops on the ground—there is no other way of dealing with them than the route that we took.”

But Cameron does have another route available to him - and it is the only ‘legal’ option for military involvement in Syria.

If the UK’s intention is solely to degrade and destroy ISIS, then it must request authorization from the Syrian government to participate in a coordinated military campaign that could help speed up the task.

If Western (and allied Arab) leaders can’t stomach dealing with the Assad government on this issue, then by all means work through an intermediary – like the Russians – who can coordinate and authorize military operations on behalf of their Syrian ally.

The Syrian government has said on multiple occasions that it welcomes sincere international efforts to fight terrorism inside its territory. But these efforts must come under the direction of a central legal authority that can lead a broad campaign on the ground and in the air.

The West argues that, unlike in Iraq, it seeks to maintain the institutions of the Syrian state if Assad were to step down. The SAA is one of these ‘institutions’ - why not coordinate with it now?

But after seven weeks of Russian airstrikes coordinated with extensive ground troops (which the coalition lacks), none of these scenarios may even be warranted. ISIS and other extremist groups have lost ground in recent weeks, and if this trend continues, coalition states should fall back and focus on other key ISIS-busting activities referenced in UNSCR 2249 – squeezing terror financing, locking down key borders, sharing intelligence…”all necessary measures” to destroy this group.

If the ‘international community’ wants to return ‘peace and stability’ to the Syrian state, it seems prudent to point out that its very first course of action should be to stop breaking international law in Syria.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony's College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Asia Times Online,, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BRICS Post and others.
You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani 

Second Russian Pilot Alive: Rescued by Syrian Army, Says Turks Issued No Warning Before Attack

Is Turkey Lying?: Rescued Russian Pilot Says There Was No Warning Before F-16 Opened Fire

by Tyler Durden - ZeroHedge

November 25, 2015

The conflicting stories over yesterday's dramatic downing of a Russian jet on the Syria-Turkish border continue to grow, and after the ongoing confusion whether the Russian pilot did or did not enter Turkish territory for a grand total of 17 seconds, moments ago Konstantin Murahtin, the co-pilot from the downed Russian jet who survived the ground fire by US-armed rebels unlike his pilot, and who was rescued by the Syrian army, said that contrary to official reports that Turkey had somehow warned the Russian jet "10 times" (in 17 seconds?) that it would fire, Turkey had in fact given no warning whatsoever before downing the Russian jet.

This is what he said, cited by Sputnik:

"There were no warnings. Not via the radio, not visually. There was no contact whatsoever. That's why we were keeping our combat course as usual. You have to understand what the cruising speed of a bomber is compared to an F-16. If they wanted to warn us, they could have shown themselves by heading on a parallel course. But there was nothing. And the rocket hit our tail completely unexpectedly. We didn't even see it in time to take evasive maneouvres."

Murahtin shown in the photo below:

And here he is speaking to the Russian press with an English voiceover:

It would be quite easy to confirm or deny his allegation that Turkey is lying by simply checking the data from the plane's Black Box, and alternatively, from the F-16 that was responsible for the downing of the Russian Su-24, who as shown on the photo below, is one Yb. Uner:


Murahtin also made it clear that he thought there was no violation of the Turkish airspace and added that the crew of the downed Russian bomber jet knew the area of the operation "like the back of their hands."

The co-pilot added that he wants to continue serving in the Russian aviation group in Syria: "I can't wait until I get the all-clear from the medics, so that I can step back into the ranks. I'm going to ask our command to keep me on this base — I have a debt to repay, for my commander."

More in the RT report below:

The bottom line is that someone is lying, and while for now there has been no material escalation in tensions between Turkey and Russia, it is almost assured that Putin is now carefully plotting just what his next move should be, one which will likely include the missile cruiser by the Syrian coast and any Turkish fighter jets that stray into Syrian territory.

For now what Russia appears set on doing next is closing the Syrian border with Turkey. As earlier reported, Moscow backs the proposal of French President Francois Hollande to close the Turkish-Syrian border, Sergei Lavrov said.

"I think this is the right decision. I hope President Hollande will tell us more about the issue tomorrow. We would be ready to consider all measures that needed for this [closing the border]. By closing the border we will basically thwart the terrorist threat in Syria," the minister said.

But Lavov was not finished. In a press conference earlier today, he first said that "Moscow is not avoiding contacts with Ankara" citing his phone conversation with the Turkish FM as proof.

He press on saying that "too many indicators showing terrorist threats have appeared on Turkish soil", Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday.

"We cannot leave everything that has happened without a reaction not because we have to respond somehow, that’s not it. Actually there have been too many indicators on Turkish soil that show a direct terrorist threat to our citizens."

“I think that now we will insist on not just a list of members of this group, but also agree on the overall understanding of the channels the terrorists use to get their feedlines and support."

“We will somehow probably have to deal with certain countries so that this support ends,” Lavrov added.

It is quite clear just which "countries" the Russian minister was referring to, and it is safe to say the entire world is eagerly looking forward to see just what Russia's ultimate decision will be.

Black-Out Blackmail: Ukraine Extremists Kill the Lights in Crimea

State of Emergency in Crimea

by Roger Annis - CounterPunch

November 25, 2015  

Late on November, 21, right-wing extremists in Ukraine severed the four electricity lines which transmit electricity from Ukraine to Crimea. The terrorist attacks, using explosives, cut domestic electricity service to much of Crimea’s population of 2.3 million.

Two of the transmission lines were damaged during the night of November 20-21. The coup de grace cutting all service to Crimea was delivered to the other two lines the following night. Photos of downed pylons with Ukrainian or Crimean-Tatar flags hanging on them have been posted online.

“Crimea has been completely cut off,” Viktor Plakida director of Crimea’s state energy company, Krymenergo, told TASS Russian news service.

A state of emergency has been declared in Crimea. Reserve electricity production using portable gas turbines and diesel generators is assuring electricity service to public institutions, including the national airport at Simferopol, bus and train service and television and radio broadcasting. But most Crimean citizens were left without power at home.

Extremists supporting the blasts blocked crews from conducting repairs in the days following. In Kyiv, hundreds of right-wing protesters gathered at the Ministry of Internal Affairs (police) on the evening of the 21st, demanding that a full electricity blockade be instituted against the people of Crimea (video report here).

The Ukrainian National Guard did secure at least one of the damaged lines, during the day on Nov 20. Guardsmen confronted violent protesters; a five-minute video on the right-wing, ATR YouTube channel shows some of the confrontation that took place. But the government soon bowed to the extremists and backed off.

The government refused offers of assistance from Russia to restore electricity transmission, even though the blasts deprived the Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Nikolayev in Ukraine of electricity and Yuriy Katich, deputy director of Ukraine’s energy company Ukrenergo, said that the interruptions have placed two of Ukraine’s nearby nuclear energy stations in “very dangerous” territory. Nuclear and coal each generate approximately 40 per cent of Ukrainian domestic electricity production.

On Nov 23, the Ukrainian government declared a total ban on cargo traffic to and from Crimea. The Wall St. Journal reported that day that the measure was a concession to extremists in exchange for them standing aside to allow repairs to the damaged electrical system. In other words, the government in Kyiv is now officially hostage to right wing and neo-Nazi extremists. The Journal cites President Petro Poroshenko its Nov 23 report:

“We are not satisfied with today’s status quo, when an occupying power [Russia] neglects the basic rights of the Crimean Tatar people,” said President Petro Poroshenko after a meeting with three European foreign ministers.

“Crimea is Ukrainian territory. We will defend the rights of the Crimean Tatar people and all Ukrainians who are living on occupied territory.”

According to the UK Telegraph, Ukraine’s police (interior) minister, Arsen Avakov, wants the country’s national security council to annul contracts for power supply to Crimea in response to Russia’s decision to ban Ukrainian food imports as of January 1. Russia took that action when the European Union and Ukraine decided their “economic association” agreement would proceed on January 1.

There have been no negotiations with Russia over the consequences, even though Ukraine and Russia presently have free exchange of food trade and the European agreement turns Ukraine into an uncontrolled transit point into Russia for food from anywhere in the EU.

The announced transport blockade by the Kyiv regime builds on a food transport blockade of Crimea which Ukrainian extremists have conducted with impunity since September 20.

One of the electricity pylons servicing Crimea sabotaged
on Nov 20, 2015 (TV Rezda image on Twitter)

Consequences of the terrorist attacks

According to a report earlier this month on Krymedia, there are four electricity routes from Ukraine to Crimea, respectively: Melitopol (Ukraine)-Dzhankoy (Crimea) (330 kV), Kakhovka-Ostrovskaya (330 kV), Kakhovka-Dzhankoy (330 kV) and Kakhovka-Titan (220 kV).

Ukraine’s state-run energy firm, Ukrenergo, initially said it could repair the damaged lines within four days. Ukraine’s Energy Ministry said one of the four damaged power lines could be repaired within 24 hours if workers were allowed safe and unfettered access to the site. But that was not to be.

Russia’s Energy Ministry says emergency electricity supplies have been activated in Crimea. Mobile gas turbine generators as well as some 1,000 diesel generators have been mobilized

Crimea’s first vice premier, Mikhail Sheremet, told journalists that Crimea can mobilize some 600 megawatts of electrical production whereas peak daily demand is 1,200 MW. Another Crimean news report said average daily consumption is 850 MW at this time of year.

The Crimean state utility Krymergo says the region’s reserve fuel supply to operate generators could last up to 25 days. Deputy Crimean government chairman Dmitry Kozak is cited in the Wall St. Journal that Crimea is meeting 30 per cent of its normal electricity needs through its emergency generation.

Crimea is planning on energy independence from Ukraine. An electricity cable from mainland Russia to Crimea is under construction and due to begin full service in 2016, delivering app 800 MW of power. The first stage will begin to deliver 400 MW by the end of this year.

A state-owned gas pipeline capable of carrying four billion cubic meters of natural gas to Crimea from Russia is under construction. It will power two gas generation stations under construction, which will bring Crimea’s daily electrical production capacity up to 950 MW. A road and rail bridge connection, also under construction, will open in 2019 and be fully operational in 2020.

Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov has branded the destruction of the pylons “a terrorist act”. He is reported in TASS news agency as saying, “Crimeans will not be brought to their knees or spoken to in the language of blackmail” (reported in The Moscow Times).

Aksyonov warned that Ukrainian electricity providers on whom Crimea currently depends can expect to lose access to the Crimean market as the territory is integrated into Russia’s unified power grid, reported RIA Novosti on Sunday. “If the governing entities of Ukraine think they don’t need the [Crimean] market, then they are going to lose it forever. Just as has happened with food imports.”

The chairman of the of the Committee on International Affairs of the Council of the Russian Federation, Konstantin Kosachev, says the sabotage and the Ukrainian government response constitute “a gesture of final farewell” to Crimea. Noting the hanging of Ukrainian flags on destroyed electricity pylons, he said, “For the first time ever, I’ve seen state flags displayed as tokens of solidarity with terrorists.”

Nonetheless, Kosachev says, he hopes that “Crimea, Ukraine and all of us” will now take a sober look at the situation.

Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported on Monday the results of a survey of Crimeans conducted November 13-16 by the Levada Center, an independent Russian pollster. It shows 87 per cent of respondents believe Crimea should be part of Russia, compared with 73 per cent in August this year. Only three per cent thought the peninsula should be part of Ukraine.

These latest survey results are consistent with results published by several Western-funded polls in late 2014.

The right-wing forces mounting the food blockade have been threatening for several months to cut Crimea’s electricity supply. Last month, on October 6, an electricity pylon in Kherson was damaged by an explosive device (photo and story).

The attacks against Crimea’s electricity supply coincide with increased violations of the Minsk-2 ceasefire in Donetsk and Lugansk regions of eastern Ukraine, as documented by the daily reports of the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and in the Novorossiya Today news outlet.

Western media and government collusion in attacks on Crimea

Ever since the Maidan coup of February 2014, Western media and governments have all but incited violent actions by extremists against the Crimean people.

Unknown to people in the West is the aforementioned, food transport blockade, ongoing since September 20. Western media has self-censored reports of that, including the central role played by the neo-Nazi Right Sector group.

The food blockade is stressful and an inconvenience for the people of Crimea, but for farmers, truckers and traders on both sides of the border, it has dealt a harsh economic blow in a country already enduring near-to catastrophic economic hemorrhaging.

Last month, Ukraine withdrew takeoff and landing rights of Russian airlines, provoking Russia to respond in kind. Again, this was a measure far more detrimental to Ukrainian people and interests than to those of Russia.

On the rare occasion when the food blockade is mentioned in Western media, it is presented as an action waged by “Crimean Tatars”. For example, a November 23 report in Bloomberg writes, “Ethnic Tatars from [Crimea]… have blocked trucks from entering [Crimea] since last week.” The Bloomberg writer shows he is especially misinformed when he reports the Sept 20 food blockade as having commenced “last week”.

The “Crimean Tatars” referred to in Bloomberg and other Western news reports are Mustafa Djemilev and Refat Chubarov, Tatar figureheads who aligned themselves with the government in Kyiv years ago. Both have received appointments as deputies to the Rada (Parliament).

Lenur Islyamov, who served briefly as deputy premier of the Republic of Crimea following the March 2014 secession, has joined their ranks. He is identified in an interview on as the “coordinator” of the “Tatar” protests blocking repairs to the blown up transmission lines. Islyamov is a wealthy businessman. His holdings include the diminished ATR television and radio media network. Earlier this year, a spectacle erupted over broadcast license renewals of ATR. The network refused to apply through established channels for renewals of its licenses and then cried ‘censorship’ when its broadcast rights expired.

The West’s own embargo of Crimea

If the big imperialist governments of Europe and North America are concerned about extremists using food and now electricity as a political weapon against a civilian population, they haven’t said so. That’s not so very surprising because they operate their own food and economic embargo against Crimea. That was imposed in April 2014 after a large majority of the Crimean population voted to secede from Ukraine.

Last week at the G20 summit meeting in Turkey, Western leaders met briefly and extended by another six months their embargo against Crimea and sanctions against Russian political and business leaders. Reuters reports:

U.S. President Barack Obama, Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s David Cameron, Italy’s Matteo Renzi and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who represented President Francois Hollande at the summit, attended the brief meeting near the conclusion of the G20 meeting in Antalya.

The story of electricity ties between Ukraine and Russia is more complicated than Western media bothers to report. Ukraine obtains a significant portion of its electricity and its coal for generating electricity from Russia.

According to an agreement reached nearly one year ago, Ukraine sells electricity to Crimea and, in exchange, Russia sells electricity to Ukraine. Russia has done so at preferred prices, no less, the price of Russian-generated electricity being cheaper than what Ukraine produces.

Earlier this month, Ukrainian Energy Minister Vladimir Demchishin announced that agreement had been reached to extend electricity supply from Ukraine to Crimea through 2016. He spoke against those advocating interruption to service or cutting it altogether. It seems his sentiments did not carry too far in the halls of power in Kyiv.

The latest attack on electricity transmission has sparked a pro forma statement of concern by the German government. Sputnik News reports German Foreign Office spokesman Martin Schaefer as stating, “Attacks on Ukraine’s public infrastructure, including that providing Crimea with electricity, are criminal acts. We expect them to be perceived as such and investigated by Ukrainian officials.”

Ukrainian terrorism and the West

The latest brazen action by Ukrainian extremists raises questions anew about their financial and military ties in the West. Western governments and media have backed, or turned a blind eye to, the prominent role which the extremists have been played in Ukraine’s military intervention in eastern Ukraine. Kyiv’s ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ has killed more than 8,000 people, severely damaged the economy and infrastructure of the entire country, and displaced more than two million people from their homes.

Significant fundraising is taking place in Canada, the U.S. and western Europe for the extremist cause. Earlier this year, two of Canada’s largest newspapers—the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail—favourably reported such fundraising, singling out for praise and support the agency called ‘Army SOS‘ which uses funds to purchase supplies for the Ukrainian army and paramilitaries.

This past summer, at the urging of Western governments and as a cautionary move to limit public relations damage, Ukraine began integrating into its National Guard entire units of the extremist paramilitaries. The measure was prompted by the decision of the U.S. Congress in June–and the media reporting which followed–to prohibit training or other support to one of the paramilitary units, the Azov Battalion.

The fundraising for Ukrainian extremists has eerie parallels to the long history of covert backing and financing by Western governments and regional allies of extremist forces in the Middle East. One week before the attacks against Crimea’s electricity supply, vigilantes of the Daesh (so-called ISIS) movement based in Iraq and Syria killed 130 people in a murderous attack in Paris.

Like Daesh, many extremists in Ukraine hold to arcane, pseudo-religious views. These views are also deeply racist, advocating a ‘white’ Ukraine that could lead the rest of Europe out of a political and moral “degeneracy” caused by the presence of large numbers of non-Caucasian citizens.

Canada’s new, governing Liberal Party has been a strong backer of the government in Kyiv and the civil war it has waged in eastern Ukraine. The new minister of international trade, Chrystia Freeland, is one of the most vocal ideologues in Canada of the Kyiv regime and its allied, paramilitary ‘freedom fighters’.

Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with a delegation of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress last month on October 13, six days before the national election won by the Liberals. The UCC advocates that Canada increase its military support to Ukraine, including advanced, heavy weaponry.

The UCC reported on the October 13 meeting, “We were pleased to be able to have a full, frank and productive exchange with Mr. Trudeau and are pleased to have had the opportunity to hear Mr. Trudeau address the issues and explain the Liberal Party position in person. Following this meeting, I am pleased that Mr. Trudeau and his candidates Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Chrystia Freeland, Arif Virani and James Maloney have committed to ensure that Ukraine is a top policy priority for the Liberal Party of Canada,” said [UCC President Paul] Grod.

“We are pleased that the Liberal Party will press for increased sanctions against Russia including the SWIFT payments system for its illegal occupation of Crimea and ongoing terrorist war in eastern Ukraine.”

Trudeau made brief, ill-informed comments about Crimea to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit meeting earlier this month in Turkey. Trudeau signalled that the harsh, anti-Russia, pro-Kyiv policies of the previous Conservative government would continue. And in a similar foreign policy vein, Canada’s new defense minister said on Nov 22 that Canada would remain part of the U.S.-led ‘regime change’ chorus for Syria.

Three days ago at the United Nations, Canada and three other countries—the U.S., Ukraine and Palau—voted against a resolution condemning racism in all its forms, including the ideology of neo-Nazism. The resolution was approved by 126 countries, including India and China. Fifty three countries abstained, including all the member countries of the European Union.

The myth of a Russian “annexation” of Crimea in March of 2014 is an inaccurate but powerful narrative underlying the ongoing aggression against the Crimean people. Large swaths of liberal and even left-wing opinion in Western countries have bought into this myth. This latest chapter in Ukraine-Crimea relations will hopefully serve to open new eyes as to who are the aggressors in Ukraine-Crimea relations.

The Crimean people have the right to live free of threats and aggression. Their right to self-determination should be respected and the provocative and dangerous embargo against them by Western powers should end.
Roger Annis is an editor of the website The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond. On June 12, he gave a talk in Vancouver, Canada reporting on his visit to Donetsk, eastern Ukraine in April 2015 as part of a media tour group. A video broadcast of that talk is here: The NATO offensive in eastern Europe and the class and the national dynamics of the war in eastern Ukraine.
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