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Middle East

Discussion in 'Possible Events Impacting Deployments' started by Rover, Dec 11, 2017.

  1. Rover

    Rover Moderator

    Oct 23, 2008
    Currently the Middle East is more volatile than normal.

    Israel being in the headlines but Saudi Arabia in its new forward moves along with Iran and the Yemen are places to watch.

    The Chinese also flexing their military and commercial muscles in the countries around the Horn of Africa.
  2. Rover

    Rover Moderator

    Oct 23, 2008
    Why intensifying international interest in the Red Sea is driving a military build-up.

    The Red Sea is becoming host to three distinct but loosely linked theatres of competition.

    International interest in and around the Red Sea is intensifying, bringing increased geopolitical competition.

    To the north, the Suez Canal links the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean and represents a crucial maritime trade route, transporting about 2.5% of global oil shipments, Global Security.org said.

    At the other end, the Bab el Mandeb Strait — one of the world’s most important chokepoints, only 29km wide at its narrowest point — commands the southern entrance. It has taken on added geostrategic importance since the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen began in 2015.

    Further south is the Horn of Africa, a hotbed of maritime piracy that prompted navies from around the world to form task forces to fight it.

    The Red Sea’s enhanced geostrategic importance is driving unprecedented development and competition. Last year, China boosted its power projection capabilities by inaugurating a nearly $600 million naval base in Djibouti. The newest entrant is Turkey, which recently signed an agreement with Sudan to develop a port at Suakin.

    China and Turkey will join the United States, which has operated its only full-fledged expeditionary military base on Africa, Camp Lemonnier, also in Djibouti, since 2002, as well as the French, Italian and Japanese forces.

    Saudi Arabia has been running operations with coalition allies out of a base in Assab, Eritrea. The United Arab Emirates has a military presence in Yemeni Red Sea ports of Aden, Mokha and Mukalla as well as the island of Perim in Assab, and in Berbera in autonomous Somaliland. Last year, Turkey opened a military base in Somalia to train Somali forces.

    The Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen has necessitated Arab Gulf countries locking off maritime supply routes to Houthi rebels and developing a supporting logistics network for operations. The Saudi-led coalition has been wary of providing Houthi rebels space to blockade or disrupt maritime traffic by mining and anti-ship weapons from the Yemeni coast, especially around the Bab el Mandeb.

    Such burgeoning international interest in and around the Red Sea in the absence of a formal regional framework is straining the environment as a growing number of stakeholders seek to safeguard their interests by counterbalancing competitors. As such the Red Sea is becoming host to three distinct but loosely linked theatres of competition.

    At the global level, the rise of China has been driving international competition. The Chinese want to safeguard freedom of navigation for key maritime trade routes and massive investments into Africa as part of its One Belt, One Road Initiative. The United States wants the regional security landscape preserved favourably, especially with Israel being in close proximity but also against terrorist threats and to counter a rising China and resurgent Russia.

    The Saudi-led coalition is seeking to ease the socio-political instability that has been taking hold around Saudi Arabia’s periphery in good part by counterbalancing the regional footprint of Iran, which supports the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

    Finally, there is the north-east African geopolitical competition. Egypt has strained relations with Sudan, which Cairo charges with supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt opposes Sudan-backed Ethiopian plans for the Renaissance Dam under construction since 2011. When finished it will be Africa’s largest hydro-electric power station and generate much-needed electricity for Ethiopia and Sudan but reduce water flows to Egypt’s Nile.

    Sudan, like Ethiopia, has been the subject of investments and support from Qatar. Egypt views a potential emerging pro-Muslim Brotherhood alliance between Turkey, Qatar and Sudan as an incubating threat. Sudan recalled its ambassador to Egypt following reports Egypt had dispatched troops to Eritrea, which borders Sudan, in response to the announcement of Turkey’s Suakin agreement.

    Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia all border the Red Sea or its entry points but a growing number of extra-regional powers are moving in swiftly to safeguard their interests.

    Some analysts say the Red Sea basin was previously overlooked for its strategic value. Being part Middle East and part Africa, it was approached in a segmented way. The absence of a multilateral regional framework to manage affairs or disputes in the Red Sea is probably a key reason why outside powers have been able to formalise their own presence and, ironically, may be making its emergence even less likely.

  3. Rover

    Rover Moderator

    Oct 23, 2008

    Jordan approves construction of Iraq oil pipeline.

    AFP | Published — Tuesday 6 February 2018



    Excess gas is burnt off at a pipeline at Rumaila oilfield in Basra, southeast of Baghdad, in this file photo. (Reuters)

    AMMAN: Jordan has given the green light for the construction of a pipeline that would bring oil from southern Iraq to its port of Aqaba, a government spokesman said Tuesday.
    In 2013, the neighboring countries agreed on the idea of the 1,700-kilometer (1,000-mile) pipeline to run from Basra to the Red Sea port at a cost of $18 billion.
    But plans for the pipeline — which would run across Iraq — were then put on hold after the Islamic State jihadist group in 2014 swept across large parts of the country.

    Jordan’s cabinet late Monday approved a framework agreement to be signed by both countries to build the pipeline to export Iraqi crude and provide resource-poor Jordan with oil, government spokesman Mohammed Momani said.
    Momani did not give a timeframe for its construction.

    Jordan relies on imports for 98 percent of its energy needs. It currently consumes 134,000 barrels per day and imports most of its oil from Saudi Arabia.
    Oil-rich Iraq, which declared victory against IS nationwide in December, is seeking to boost production and exports to fund its reconstruction after years of war.

    In 2013, an Iraqi official said his country would pump 850,000 barrels per day down the pipeline to Jordan, which would be enough to cover Jordan’s needs and export the rest via Aqaba.
    Iraq sits on one of the world’s largest oil reserves — 153 billion barrels by Baghdad’s own estimates.

    Iraq delivered oil to Jordan for preferential prices under the UN oil-for-food program during the rule of late dictator Saddam Hussein.

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  4. Rover

    Rover Moderator

    Oct 23, 2008
    US carrot-and-stick policy to Lebanon could push it into abyss

    Published time: 19 Feb, 2018 01:20

    Rex Tillerson’s visit to Beirut didn’t resolve Lebanon’s persistent war threat from Israel, or Hezbollah’s perceived threat to Washington. The US has its own agenda for this country, which is spooking Lebanon’s president.

    It might have been just a miscalculation, rather than a diplomatic faux pas, as Rex Tillerson did in fact arrive early for his meeting with Lebanese dignitaries, but he had to wait a few minutes before a door at Baabda Palace was opened and he was greeted by President Michel Aoun. It couldn’t have been an easy moment, shaking hands with Lebanon’s Hezbollah-supporting President, but Aoun and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil both viewed the visit by Trump’s own envoy with some suspicion. And they were right to.

    The day before, in Jordan, Tillerson appeared to have gone off message while recognizing Hezbollah’s political role both in Lebanon and the region, but few in Lebanon held out any real hope that the 65-year-old Texan was going to either resolve Lebanon’s gas and oil dispute with Israel, or for that matter its border spat, following Israel’s land grabbing as it carries out construction of a wall. Tillerson said that Lebanon’s own security was compromised by Hezbollah, which he referred to more than once as a “terrorist” organization when he met Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The latter pointed out that Israel’s constant threats of attack and encroaching on Lebanon’s sovereignty were making a permanent ceasefire hard; earlier, Aoun had asked the US to “play an effective role” in resolving the tension.

    But both Aoun and Hariri know that the US has plans for Hezbollah of its own, which will make a mockery of Tillerson’s endearing comments about wanting to help Lebanon “prosper.” There are two critical plans by Washington that are likely to cause chaos in Lebanon if enacted upon that may come into play at the backdrop of the US pouring money into supporting Lebanon’s army, which it believes is the key to redressing the power balance in Lebanon between the state and Hezbollah.

    Lebanese banks cleaned up their act for Congress

    One, is how far the US goes in targeting Hezbollah’s finances. In January, it ratcheted up its sanctions on the Shiite group’s key money people. This recent move follows Obama’s ‘Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act,’ which was expected to both destabilize the Lebanese banking sector and impact Hezbollah, which the US accuses of using Lebanese banks to launder money.

    In fact, it did neither - and now the US is eager to find new ways of blocking the flow of Hezbollah’s money both inside and outside of Lebanon, as it has yet to find a way of preventing Iran’s $800 million dollars from circulating in the banking system. The US money laundering crackdown, aimed at Hezbollah and Shias in general, has actually resulted in Lebanese banks cleaning up their act, with some analysts even going as far to say that Hezbollah knows it can no longer even use the banks. And, given that the US has provided $1.5 billion USD to Lebanon since the beginning of the Syrian conflict (through the banking system), and Lebanese expatriates are sending less money back to make up the $8 billion USD annually that the central bank receives, Lebanon is more committed than ever to working with the US.

    Refugee issue

    But now, with reports in January that Iran’s military budget is about to rise, Washington may be planning another ruse which could destabilize Lebanon and direct anger towards Hezbollah. While Aoun asked Tillerson to assist in the return of almost a million Syrian refugees, he also hinted that he knows Washington is always the ultimate threat to Hezbollah’s led government, which is to cut aid to both Syrian refugees and the Palestinians. Such a move could have seismic implications in Lebanon, as an ‘intifada’ against Israel and the West could easily be carried out in Lebanon itself with 175,000 Palestinians who live in camps that Lebanese security forces fear to enter.

    The carrot and stick of Washington – increase military spending to Lebanon’s army, while at the same time causing widespread insecurity – seems like a nefarious tactic. But Washington is facing tough challenges when it comes to reigning in Hezbollah. Aoun wants help with repatriating Syrians and the US wants Hezbollah to reduce its regional intervention. Is there a deal there to be made?

    Aoun knows that if the US cuts aid to Lebanon, it would be a catastrophe in terms of (local) crime rates, not to mention many turning to terrorism. The situation in the Palestinian camps is at breaking point and there have been a number of ugly incidents in recent months. Lebanon has a lot to lose as the terrorism in Tripoli, which was dealt with in 2014 with the number of key arrests, might return, as hardcore extremist groups already exist in the Palestinian camps. Or, if Palestinians want to fight Israel, they have Fatah and Hamas inside Lebanon who can organize and train them. This is Aoun’s worry about the US cutting aid to UNRWA, which he says so far only affects Palestinians in Gaza.

    It’s a similar situation in the Syrian refugee camps, where this year has been dire, as a funding shortfall was the biggest yet. Most years, the UN falls short of its requests from member states, but this year it was at an unprecedented low, so refugees, in general, are suffering like never before. If a Palestinian-led insurgency got off the ground in Lebanon, many from Syrian camps might join it, as there was evidence in recent years that some from the camps have joined ISIS.

    But Tillerson is not the deal maker for this. He is not respected by all the main players, so the Lebanese leaders know he is not the one to cut a deal. But, they also know that, even within Lebanon, Washington’s carrot-and-stick game is idiotic at best and dangerously ill-conceived at worst. The more the Americans interfere, the stronger Iran and Hezbollah get. Washington’s meddling in the Syria war has allowed the fatuous Tillerson and others to whine about Iran’s presence in Syria, rather like an old man complaining about how ungrateful the younger generation is these days. And Aoun and the political elite in Lebanon know only too well that, just as it was in Iran and Hezbollah, in Syria, which wiped out most of the Sunni extremist groups there, the same is the case along Lebanon’s border with Syria. Tillerson mentioning Hezbollah as a stoic political entity is what is important about this trip, as it is a coded message that the Americans are ready to talk, which is a milestone in itself. The US program to destabilize Hezbollah and the Lebanese banking system has simply backfired, as Congress under-estimated the resilience of the Lebanese and its formidable central bank governor. It seems Tillerson is going to have to get used to waiting.

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  5. Rover

    Rover Moderator

    Oct 23, 2008
    Russia-Lebanon deal?

    What the resurgent power sees in Syria's tiny neighbor.

    Lebanon, saddled with debt and a long list of political woes, has yet to reply to Russia's offer of $1 billion worth of arms on favorable terms. The deal, say analysts and diplomats, is designed to erode US influence and represents a shift in Russian thinking as the war in Syria enters a more complex multinational phase.
    • Nicholas Blanford

      March 15, 2018 Beirut, LebanonAt first glance, it may seem unclear why resurgent world power Russia, flush with success after restoring its regional foothold in Syria, would show much interest in Lebanon.

      The tiny country on the eastern Mediterranean, once a vassal state of its far more powerful neighbor Syria, a former Soviet client, is grappling with a long list of political and economic woes.

      It has a tangled sectarian political system that often throttles progress; it hosts some 1.5 million Syrian refugees, the highest per capita refugee population in the world; it suffers from a stagnant economy; and it is saddled with crippling debt. In addition, Lebanon seems forever perched on the edge of a potentially catastrophic war between Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah organization, the dominant political force in the country.

      But as the United States and Russia give growing indications of squaring off in Syria, where the seven-year civil war is entering a more complicated multinational phase, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main backer Moscow appears to be calculating that it can expand its leverage against Washington by stepping up its influence in Lebanon.

      In what is being described here as a political shift by Moscow in its policy toward Lebanon, Russia is offering it a $1 billion arms package and reportedly seeking a military cooperation agreement. The maneuver could threaten to undermine an existing US military assistance program that has seen more than $1.6 billion in weapons, training, and equipment delivered to the Lebanese Army since 2006.

      And, depending on how Lebanon responds, analysts say, the move could also subject the country to US sanctions and even treatment as a pariah by the same Western and Gulf Arab countries that have supported it.

      International donor countries are scheduled to meet in Rome Thursday in a demonstration of support for the Lebanese Army and police.

      Lebanon and Russia have been discussing potential arms deals since 2009, but it is only recently that Moscow has shown any willingness to subsidize a major armaments package. The $1 billion credit line, which includes a 15-year repayment term at zero percent interest, may have less to do with selling Russian weapons to Lebanon and more to do with building up its influence in the tiny country given the growing competition with the US in Syria, analysts and Lebanese politicians say.

      “This offer signals a political shift by Russia toward Lebanon,” says a Lebanese parliamentarian familiar with the deal. “At one point there was no interest from Russia in bankrolling an arms deal. But the more discord there is in Syria with the Americans, the more the Russians show interest here. That’s what has got the [US and British] sponsors [of the Lebanese Army] nervous.”

      Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (r.) and his Lebanese counterpart, Saad al-Hariri, attend a signing ceremony outside Moscow, Sept. 12, 2017.

      What Lebanon risks

      The US and Britain, which also supports the Lebanese Army, have signaled to the Lebanese government that the military assistance programs could be threatened if Beirut accepts the Russian offer, according to several Lebanese politicians, analysts, and foreign diplomats in Beirut.

      Furthermore, analysts warn that Lebanon could even face US sanctions if it deals with Russian arms companies that have been blacklisted by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was adopted last summer and targets Russia, North Korea, and Iran.

      “Sanctions by association under CAATSA run the risk of making Lebanon a regional pariah with uncertain long-term effects on the stability of Lebanon,” says Aram Nerguizian, CEO of The Mortons Group, a Washington-based strategy consultancy. “Ultimately the Lebanese need to understand that while the Trump administration may appear to seek new ways to engage Russia in areas of common interest, engagements by countries like Lebanon with Russia continue to be regarded with extreme hostility by the executive and legislative branches of the US government.”

      Sources close to the Lebanese government deny having received any warnings from the US or UK and note that the Russian offer has yet to be accepted. In such cases, says one of the sources, the Lebanese government asks the army to assess whether the offer suits its requirements and capabilities.

      “This has not been answered yet,” says the source, speaking on condition of anonymity. “In all cases, the government and Lebanese Army will not endanger existing strategic relationships. They are both adults and don’t need warnings.”

      However, the Lebanese government has been eager to pursue closer ties to Russia, perhaps in recognition of Moscow’s growing sway in Lebanon’s immediate neighborhood. Last September, Prime Minister Saad Hariri paid a visit to Russia, where he sought bilateral economic and military cooperation and discussed with Russian President Vladimir Putin “Russia’s military assistance and ways to develop this relation.”

      Russian news outlets reported last month that Moscow wants to begin negotiating a military cooperation agreement with Lebanon. The mooted agreement would permit Russia to use Lebanese ports and airports as well as have Russia train the Lebanese Army and hold joint military exercises, the reports said.

      Russian companies also are bidding for oil and gas exploration rights in Lebanon’s coastal waters, and both countries are looking to boost their cultural exchanges – Russia has plans to open a Russian language school in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

      Competition in Syria

      But many diplomats and analysts say the main motivation for Russia’s newfound interest in Lebanon is related to the competition with the US over Syria and the Middle East more generally.

      “Russia sees Lebanon as another arena where it can erode US influence,” says a European diplomat in Beirut. “The last really tangible influence the US has in Lebanon is the relationship with the Lebanese Army. It gives Washington a seat at the table.”

      Last August, the Lebanese Army defeated several hundred Islamic State militants and drove them from their mountainous redoubt in northeast Lebanon. The short and decisive campaign demonstrated the improvements to the army’s capabilities over the past decade, largely due to the US and British support programs. However, since then, questions have been raised in Washington over the future of the program. Critics argue that the US is wasting taxpayers’ money by funding a Lebanese Army that they charge colludes with Hezbollah, classified by Washington as a terrorist organization.

      “If we have tried to make the [Lebanese Army] a counter-balance to Hezbollah, we have failed,” Elliot Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Congress In November.

      On the other hand, if the US abandons its support program for the army, it will significantly reduce Washington’s influence in Lebanon and allow other players such as Russia and Iran (which also has offered to equip the Lebanese Army) to fill the vacuum, analysts say.

      Counterweight to Hezbollah

      For some in Lebanon, an increase in Russian influence here could serve as a welcome counterweight to the power exerted by Hezbollah and indirectly by its sponsor Iran.

      Iran and Russia are battlefield allies in Syria, where the former’s ground forces and the latter’s air force have brought anti-Assad rebels close to defeat. But the interests of both countries could begin to diverge as the conflict winds down. Russia’s interest is to broaden its influence in the Middle East at the expense of the US and seek commercial opportunities for Russian companies. Iran’s main goal in Syria is to consolidate and expand its anti-Israel alliance. The two agendas could prove incompatible in the longer term.

    If Russia and Iran do find themselves at odds over the future direction of Syria, Tehran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, may not welcome an increase in Moscow’s influence in Lebanon.

    And for that very reason, Hezbollah’s political opponents in Lebanon may seek to encourage expanded Russian ties, even at the risk of upsetting the US, in order to make life more complicated for Hezbollah.
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  6. Rover

    Rover Moderator

    Oct 23, 2008
    Outrage grows as Israel rules out inquiry into shooting of Palestinian 'Land Day' protesters

    Outrage is mounting after Israeli leaders rejected international calls for an inquiry over its use of live rounds during a demonstration at the Gaza-Israel border which left at least 15 Palestinians dead.

    More than a dozen funerals took place over the weekend following the deaths on “Land Day”, a symbolic day for Palestinians which kick starts a month and a half of sit-ins and protest.

    Footage has emerged which appears to show men, from a group which left the main demonstration on Friday and approached the border, being shot in the back as they fled.

    Palestinians clash with Israeli troops during mass demonstrations
    The use of live ammunition, alongside rubber bullets , has sparked calls for an inquiry from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, among others who say the response was disproportionate.

    This has been ruled out by Israel’s defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, who told Army Radio the soldiers “acted as necessary” and that some of the group had fired at soldiers and hurled rocks and flaming tyres.

    “I think all our soldiers deserve a medal,” Mr Lieberman added. “As for a commission of inquiry – there won’t be one.”

    He maintained that peaceful protesters were unharmed and troops opened fire on the instigators of a charge at the border.

    Hamas, Gaza’s dominant Islamist movement which is designated a terrorist organisation by Israel, said five of those killed were its members, though Israel says eight of the men were part of Hamas.

    Israel had bolstered its security at the border with paramilitary troops and snipers ahead of an annual commemoration of the land seizures and displacement of Palestinians.

    Major clashes at Gaza-Israel border with Palestinians killed in the violence

    A tent camp has been set up along the border for the duration of the “right of return” demonstrations which will culminate on 15 May, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s creation, with the intention to march through the border fence.

    Many of Gaza’s two million inhabitants are descendants of the hundreds of thousands who fled that day, and Israel has ruled out any right of return.

    Protesters were advised to stay 700 metres back from the border, and soldiers fired on those who came closer, including the tank shells on the morning of the protest.

    The Palestinian health ministry says “1,000 were injured” by rubber bullets, live ammunition and tear gas.

    “The use of live ammunition should, in particular, be part of an independent and transparent investigation,” Mogherini said in a statement on Saturday. “While Israel has the right to protect its borders, the use of force must be proportionate at all times.”

    Link includes video.....


    The day will come when the surrounding countries will have no option but to respond with force.

    Israel is doing itself no favours by its actions.
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  7. Rover

    Rover Moderator

    Oct 23, 2008
    Protests in Gaza are leading to many deaths and injuries among Palestinians, yet Israel has faced little criticism

    The political price of besieging or blockading urban areas like Gaza is rising because it is impossible to prevent information about the sufferings of those trapped inside such an enclaves becoming public

    The sheer scale of the casualties on the first day of the protest a week ago is striking, with as many as 16 killed and 1,415 injured, of whom 758 were hit by live fire according to Gaza health officials Reuters

    Thousands of protesters returned to the border this Friday, burning great heaps of tyres to produce a black smokescreen which they hoped would hide them from Israeli snipers. Gaza’s health ministry has said that five people were killed and 1,070 people were wounded on Friday, including 293 by live fire.

    The demonstrators know what to expect. A video from the first day of the march shows a protester being shot in the back by an Israeli sniper as he walks away from the fence separating Gaza from Israel. In other footage, Palestinians are killed or wounded as they pray, walk empty-handed towards the border fence, or simply hold up a Palestinian flag. All who get within 300 yards are labelled “instigators” by the Israeli army, whose soldiers have orders to shoot them.

    “Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed,” claimed a tweet from the Israeli military the day after the mass shooting on 30 March at the start of 45 days of what Palestinians call the “Great March of Return” to the homes they had in Israel 70 years ago. The tweet was deleted soon after, possibly because film had emerged of a protester being shot from behind.

    The sheer scale of the casualties on the first day of the protest a week ago is striking, with as many as 16 killed and 1,415 injured, of whom 758 were hit by live fire according to Gaza health officials. These figures are contested by Israel, which says that the injured numbered only a few dozen. But Human Rights Watch spoke to doctors at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City who said that they had treated 294 injured demonstrators, mostly “with injuries to the lower limbs from live ammunition”.

    Imagine for a moment that it was not the two million Palestinian in Gaza, who are mostly refugees from 1948, but the six million Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan who had staged a march to return to the homes that they have lost in Syria since 2011. Suppose that, as they approach the Syrian border, they were fired on by the Syrian army and hundreds of them were killed or injured. Syria would certainly claim that the demonstrators were armed and dangerous, though this would be contradicted by the absence of casualties among the Syrian military.

    The international outcry against the murderous Syrian regime in Washington, London, Paris and Berlin would have echoed around the world. Boris Johnson would have denounced Assad as a butcher and Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, would have held up pictures of the dead and dying before the Security Council.

    Of course, Israel would furiously deny that there was any parallel between the two situations. Its government spokesman, David Keyes, rebuked CNN for even using the word “protest” when “what actually happened is that Hamas engineered an event where they wanted thousands of people to swarm into Israel, to crush Israel, to commit acts of terror. Indeed, we have captured on camera pictures of people shooting guns, people placing bombs, people shooting rockets.”

    In the event, no pictures of these supposedly well-armed protesters ever emerged. But four days later, Human Rights Watch published a report entitled Israel: Gaza Killings Unlawful, Calculated. Officials Green-Light Shooting of Unarmed Demonstrators, which said that it “could find no evidence of any protester using firearms”. It added that footage published by the Israeli army showing two men shooting at Israeli troops turned out not to have been filmed at the protest.

    Israeli ministers are unabashed by the discrediting of claims that the demonstrators pose a military threat to Israel. Defence minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israeli soldiers had “warded off Hamas military branch operatives capably and resolutely ... They have my full backing.” The free-fire policy is continuing as before and, as a result, the Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem, has launched a campaign called “Sorry Commander I Cannot Shoot”, which encourages soldiers to refuse to shoot unarmed civilians on the grounds that this is illegal.

    Why is the surge in Palestinian protests coming now and why is Israel responding so violently? There is nothing new in Palestinian demonstrations about the loss of their land and Israel’s aggressive military response. But there may be particular reasons that a confrontation is happening now, such as Palestinian anger at President Trump’s decision in December to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the move of the US embassy to there from Tel Aviv. This trumpeted Washington’s unconditional support for the Israeli position and the US disregard for the Palestinians and any remaining hopes they might have to win at least some concessions with US support.

    Strong support from the Trump administration is reported by the Israeli press to be further reason why the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, feels that bad publicity over the shootings in Gaza will not damage Israel’s position in the US. In the past, controversy over the mass killings of Palestinian or Lebanese by Israel has sometimes provoked a negative US response that has curbed Israel’s use of force.

    So far, Israel has faced little criticism from an international media uninterested in the Gaza story, or else is happy to go along with Israel’s interpretation of events. The vocabulary used by news outlets is often revealing: for instance, the BBC website on 31 March had a headline reading “Gaza-Israel border: Clashes ‘leave 16 Palestinians dead and hundreds injured”. The word “clashes” implies combat between two groups capable of fighting each other, though, as Human Rights Watch says, the demonstrators pose no threat to an all-powerful Israeli military machine – a point reinforced by the fact that all the dead and wounded are Palestinian.

    Possibly, the Israelis are miscalculating the impact of excessive use of force on public opinion: in the age of wifi and the internet, graphic images of the victims of violence are immediately broadcast to the world, often with devastating effect. As in Syria and Iraq, the political price of besieging or blockading urban areas like Gaza or Eastern Ghouta is rising because it is impossible to prevent information about the sufferings of those trapped inside such an enclaves becoming public, though this may have no impact on the course of events.

    Contrary to Keyes’ claims, the idea of a mass march against the fence seems to have first emerged in social media in Gaza and was only later adopted by Hamas. It is the only strategy likely to show results for the Palestinians because they have no military option, no powerful allies and their leadership is moribund and corrupt. But they do have numbers: a recent report to the Israeli Knesset saying that there are roughly 6.5 million Palestinian Arabs and an equal number of Jewish Israeli citizens in Israel and the West Bank, not counting those in East Jerusalem and Gaza. Israel has usually had more difficulty in dealing with non-violent civil rights type mass movements among Palestinians than it has had fighting armed insurgencies.

    Keyes claims that the demonstrations are orchestrated by Hamas, but here again he is mistaken on an important point because witnesses on the spot say that the impetus for the protests is coming from non-party groups and individuals. They voice frustration with the failed, divided and self-seeking Palestinian leaders of both Hamas and Fatah. The most dangerous aspect of the situation in terms of its potential for violence may be that nobody is really in charge.

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  8. Rover

    Rover Moderator

    Oct 23, 2008
    In Surprising Turn, US Sends "Farewell Message" To Proxies In Syria's South

    by Tyler Durden

    Sun, 06/24/2018 - 15:20

    There's been a significant and unexpected development in southern Syria, where the Syrian Army and allied forces are engaged in a major offensive to take back Daraa and Al-Quneitra provinces from long entrenched FSA, al-Qaeda, and ISIS groups (the ISIS branch is known as Jaish Khaled Bin al-Waleed).

    Though we and others have noted that this massive final battle to solidify Assad's hold over key areas bordering Jordan and the Israeli occupied Golan Heights could trigger US-Israeli intervention, consistent with recent threats from the US State Department, it now appears Washington has changed its tune.

    On Saturday a Middle East analyst named Sam Heller broke the news that Washington has told rebel groups in southern Syria the US has spent years backing that they should not expect American military intervention on their behalf.

    The message was reportedly sent from the US Embassy in Amman to anti-Assad commanders currently under attack from Syrian government air and ground forces:

    New message from U.S. Embassy Amman to southern rebels: Make your own decision, but “you should not base your decision on the assumption or expectation of military intervention by us.”

    — Sam Heller (@AbuJamajem) June 23, 2018

    Though the State Department has continued its public threats that the US will "take firm and appropriate measures" against Damascus should its military campaign continue in Deraa, it appears Washington has washed its hands of the "Southern Front" militants it helped create now essentially telling them: you are on your own.

    The United States has for months warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies that violations of a southwest “de-escalation” zone brokered between the US and Russia last year would have “serious repercussions."

    Washington and allies Jordan and Israel (along with the gulf states) have propped up the very insurgent groups, including al-Qaeda linked factions, now operating near Israel and Jordan from an "operations room" in Amman. As the AP noted recently, CIA support to these very groups from nearly the start of the war was key to their growth and survival:

    For years, rebel forces known as the Southern Front received covert U.S. arms, funding and training to help them fight both the Syrian government and IS. But President Donald Trump ended the CIA program last year to try and extricate the U.S. from the civil war, an effort that was again thrown into doubt when an alleged chemical attack this month prompted U.S. and allied airstrikes against Assad's forces.

    But this latest message to anti-Assad militants could signal the beginning of the end amidst new reports of rebel collapse in the northwest parts of Daraa province.

    “We in the United States government understand the difficult conditions you are facing and still advise the Russians and the Syrian regime not to undertake a military measure that violates the zone,” the message also stated. And then what sounds like a Washington farewell letter of sorts: "But we need to clarify our position: We understand you need to make your decision based on your interests and the interests of your families and faction, as you see them. You should not base your decision on the assumption or expectation of military intervention by us."

    President Assad has repeatedly vowed to retake "every inch" of sovereign Syrian territory. Though it now appears the US is backing off its pressure in the south, the Pentagon still maintains over a dozen forward operating bases in Syria's north and east, including some 2000 or more reported US soldiers and advisers bolstering Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

    One constant and observable pattern when it comes to US intervention in Syria, however, has been that whenever US leadership declares withdrawal from Syria operations, the "rebels" claim a "chemical attack" or other highly visible mass atrocity perpetrated by the Syrian government against civilians.

    The other possibility and great unknown when it comes to the battle for Daraa and Al-Quneitra is that the US could give Israel a green light to launch further attacks on Syria.

    Early on Sunday the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) announced its Patriot defense system was activated after an unidentified drone approached the Golan border. The IDF acknowledged that Israel's missile defenses failed to hit the target.

    The Russian military officially entered the southwest Syria offensive this evening, a source told Al-Masdar from the Dara’a Governorate.

    The Russian Aerospace Forces unleashed a massive assault over northeastern Dara’a tonight, targeting several areas controlled by the jihadist rebels.

    And significantly, as Al Masdar reports further: "This attack by the Russian Aerospace Forces comes just 48 hours after the U.S. State Department issued a stern warning to both the Russian and Syrian governments about escalating their offensive in southwest Syria."

    Despite Washington's signalling that it will remain on the sidelines in the fight for the southwest region through the US embassy's "farewell message" to opposition commanders, the situation remains fluid and volatile, and US policy has been known to change on a dime in Syria.


    Attached Files:

  9. The Creature of the Night

    The Creature of the Night Valuable Contributor

    Oct 16, 2017
    App Stage:
    Such a complex situation though, I’m guessing ISIS (within Syria at least) are losing ground quickly?
  10. Rover

    Rover Moderator

    Oct 23, 2008
    Simple explanation!.jpg

    A ‘simplified’ explanation.o_O Although the USA is not shown as each protagonist is only allowed two arms. The USA tends to shoot at anyone it feels like!:confused:;)
  11. The Creature of the Night

    The Creature of the Night Valuable Contributor

    Oct 16, 2017
    App Stage:
    Ha :eek:

    It just goes to show our friends, across the Atlantic, can sometimes make enemies for the sake of it. Also (and correct me if I’m wrong) I noted that in modern conflicts, the U.S has seemingly never won a war on its own, single handedly (?)

    I found that very interesting, as we seem to think of the U.S as dominant but it appears it’s unfounded, on that basis.
  12. Rover

    Rover Moderator

    Oct 23, 2008
    In another post NS referred to the incident concerning the USS Vincennes.

    This was during the Iran/Iraq war in which the USA supported Iraq against Iran. The USS Vincennes was a state of the art warship which did not differentiate between an F14 Tomcat fighter and a civilian Airbus passenger aircraft on a regular flight. So destroying the Iranian Airbus and murdering all onboard.

    I was in the Gulf at that time and was asked on occasions if I was an American by some I was with! Thankfully I was not invited to Tehran for a chat.

    Needless to say the US is not welcome by a number of people who have come across them in the Middle East this also now includes Iraq.


    Perhaps of interest.......

    • Like Like x 1
  13. Fibonarchie

    Fibonarchie Venerated Contributor

    Dec 31, 2015
    App Stage:
    Not Applied Yet
    Well it can’t be such a bad thing if the US stops backing rebel groups against terror groups that were formerly rebel groups it backed.

    For those of you who play video games, perhaps a ‘battle royale’ style approach would work where the West slowly close in around the Middle East and leave it to the last group standing?
  14. Rover

    Rover Moderator

    Oct 23, 2008
    From another site......

    "The number of assassinations in Syria of leading figures among the various terrorists groups has increased rapidly in the last two weeks. I won’t list the names of those killed and their particular groups for the sake of brevity….but they are available for those who may want them.

    Attacks and assassinations have been at a relatively low level since the beginning of the year but the sudden increase in attacks has fuelled some interesting speculation, as all of the attacks have been attributed to “unknown gunmen”

    Additionally the recent decision of the US govt to ditch another group of former allies , and it’s expected abandonment of a surrounded US airbase at Al Tanf is also interesting.

    Most of the above has received scant coverage in the Western media…..hardly surprising.

    With the above in mind, there is also speculation that a false flag chemical attack may be in the planning as the US has resumed it’s funding of the White Helmets (the UK has never stopped it’s support)

    What better excuse for the West to have a major intervention into Syria than a reported chemical attack on Syrian civilians?…...it would give them the excuse they need to attempt to reverse the defeat they are undoubtedly facing.

    This also ties in very nicely with the UK asking that the OPCW be given powers to name perpetrators of chemical attacks.

    Given that this is the case, then Syria would be beyond stupid to engage in such an attack, but minds would already be made up.

    Locals in Idlib have been reporting increased White Helmets activity, including setting up video equipment and individuals wearing chemical suits.

    This has also been very under reported in the West...again, hardly surprising.

    And don’t expect many reports about the amounts of US/Israeli/Western weapons uncovered as the terrorists abandon areas of Dar’a."

    Read more: http://civviestreet.proboards.com/thread/62973/unknown-gunmen#ixzz5K0H88SaI
  15. The Creature of the Night

    The Creature of the Night Valuable Contributor

    Oct 16, 2017
    App Stage:
    Thank you for the links. Never knew about that flight that the U.S Navy took down. Can understand why the U.S is viewed with ambivalence in the Middle East.

    Very interesting about the Vietnam war too. To thimk how easily presidents will lie to justify war. I also find it amusing that the U.S will never admit they ‘lost’ the Vietnam war but the reality points to the fact that’s what happened, on that basis.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Chef01

    Chef01 Member

    Jul 11, 2014
    App Stage:
    Passed PJFT
    It's one of the reasons why there is a lot of evidence that Iran and Syria were behind the Lockerbie / Pan AM bombing as revenge https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_Am_Flight_103

    No evidence that it was Libya

    Netflix have just launched the full Vietnam series from CBS. Something like 10 episodes (20 hours) of Vietnam. Everything from the French Invasion of the 19th century and the reasons why the Yanks went in. Even the reasons why we left Saigon in the mid /late 40's.

    Well worth a watch
    • Like Like x 1
  17. Rover

    Rover Moderator

    Oct 23, 2008
    A film perhaps to make you think being 'Wag the Dog'.:(o_O

    • Like Like x 1
  18. The Creature of the Night

    The Creature of the Night Valuable Contributor

    Oct 16, 2017
    App Stage:
    It is a pretty credible theory too. Iran and Iraq have got bad history; and something tells me that Reagan gave weapons to Iran in exchange for something but can’t remember what?

    Thanks for the heads up on the series. Will certainly give it a watch
  19. Rover

    Rover Moderator

    Oct 23, 2008
    [QUOTE="The Creature of the Night, post: 646167, member: 26960 something tells me that Reagan gave weapons to Iran in exchange for something but can’t remember what?

    Oliver North. Nicaragua/ Contras!.:cool:

    Pan Am Flight 103 Fast Facts

    CNN Library

    Updated 1813 GMT (0213 HKT) December 7, 2017

    (CNN)Here's a look at the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

    On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded 31,000 feet over Lockerbie, Scotland, 38 minutes after takeoff from London.

    Two hundred fifty-nine people on board the New York-bound Boeing 747 were killed, along with 11 people on the ground.

    Afterward, United States and British investigators found fragments of a circuit board and a timer, and ruled that a bomb, not mechanical failure, caused the explosion.

    Libyans Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifah Fhimah were tried for the bombing. Al Megrahi was found guilty, while Fhimah was found not guilty.

    Read More

    The suspects were tried in a Scottish court at Camp Zeist, a former US air base 20 miles south of the Dutch capital of Amsterdam. The Dutch declared 30 acres of the 100-acre base Scottish territory so that the trial could be held in a neutral country as al Megrahi, Fhimah and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi had wanted. There was no jury; three Scottish judges presided, with a fourth as reserve.

    Authorities said al Megrahi and Fhimah manufactured the bomb out of Semtex plastic explosives, concealed it in a Toshiba cassette recorder, hid the recorder in a Samsonite suitcase and slipped the suitcase aboard an Air Malta flight headed from Malta to Frankfurt, Germany. The unaccompanied bag is believed to have been transferred to a Pan Am flight to London and then to Flight 103.

    The CIA and FBI said the suspects, employed by Libyan Arab Airlines in Malta, were also Libyan intelligence agents. Lesser charges of conspiracy to murder and violating Britain's 1982 Aviation Security Act were dropped.

    Over three years, investigators from the United States, Britain, Germany and other countries questioned more than 15,000 people in more than 30 countries and collected thousands of pieces of evidence.

    The death penalty is not permitted under Scottish law. There is no prescribed punishment for a conviction of conspiracy to murder. Any punishment is at the discretion of the court. Life imprisonment is the prescribed punishment for murder or contravention of the Aviation Security Act 1982. Any prison sentence would be served in Scotland.

    December 21, 1988 -
    Pan Am Flight 103 explodes 31,000 feet over Lockerbie, Scotland, 38 minutes after takeoff from London. The 259 people on board the New York-bound Boeing 747 are killed, along with 11 people on the ground.

    July 1990 - The British Civil Aviation Authority's Air Investigation Branch officially reports that an explosive device caused the crash of Pan Am Flight 103.

    November 13, 1991 - US and British investigators indict Libyans al Megrahi and Fhimah on 270 counts of murder, conspiracy to murder and violating Britain's 1982 Aviation Security Act. The men are accused of being Libyan intelligence agents.

    April 15, 1992 - The United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on air travel and arms sales to Libya, over Libya's refusal to hand the suspects over for trial in a Scottish court.

    March 1994 - Libya says it will consider a proposal to try the suspects in a neutral site with a panel of international judges. Britain and the United States reject the plan, insisting the pair be tried in a British or American court.

    August 24, 1998 - Britain and the United States propose trying the suspects in the Netherlands under Scottish law.

    December 5, 1998 - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan meets with Libyan leader Gadhafi to urge Libya to hand over the bombing suspects.

    December 15, 1998 - A US appeals court rules relatives of the 189 Americans killed in the bombing can sue Libya for its possible role in sponsoring the attack.

    December 16, 1998 - Libyan People's Congress agrees to a proposal to try Lockerbie bombing suspects in the Netherlands under Scottish law.

    April 5, 1999 - Libya hands over the suspects to the United Nations. They are taken to the Netherlands to stand trial.

    April 5, 1999 - United Nations Security Council suspends air and arms sanctions against Libya after the bombing suspects are taken into UN custody.

    June 11, 1999 - US and Libyan representatives meet for the first time in 18 years to discuss lifting UN sanctions.

    December 7, 1999 - Al Megrahi and Fhimah make their first appearance at a two-day pre-trial hearing at Camp Zeist.

    May 3, 2000 - The trial of Pan Am Flight 103 bombing suspects al Megrahi and Fhimah begins.

    November 28, 2000 - Judges at the Lockerbie trial reject a plea to acquit one of the two Libyans accused of planting a bomb on the Pan Am plane.

    January 9, 2001 - Prosecutors drop the lesser charges of conspiracy and endangering aircraft safety against al Megrahi and Fhimah and ask the court to only consider the murder charges.

    January 10, 2001 - Prosecutors present their closing arguments in the case after calling 232 witnesses over eight months. Defense closing arguments follow, after lawyers for the pair call only three witnesses.

    January 31, 2001 - Al Megrahi is found guilty and jailed for a minimum of 27 years. Fhimah is found not guilty.

    March 14, 2002 - Al Megrahi loses his appeal against his murder conviction in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

    2003 - President Gadhafi agrees to pay $2.7 billion in compensation to families of those killed in the bombing.

    June 28, 2004 - The United States resumes direct diplomatic ties with Libya after 24 years.

    June 2007 - The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) rules that al Megrahi can appeal his conviction.

    October 2008 - It is announced that al Megrahi is suffering from terminal cancer.

    October 31, 2008 - US President George W. Bush signs an executive order that restores Libya's immunity from terrorism-related lawsuits.

    November 2008 - US Senator Frank Lautenberg announces at a press conference that the families of American victims of the Pan-Am bombing have received final compensation from the Libyan government. Each family received about $10 million, paid in installments between 2004 and 2008.

    August 20, 2009 - Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announces that al Megrahi will be released from prison on compassionate grounds due to his terminal cancer. After being released, al Megrahi returns to Libya and receives a jubilant welcome.

    August 2, 2010 - Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg hold a press conference to outline their plan to press for more information about the 2009 release of al Megrahi. A group of US senators attempts to investigate rumors that the Lockerbie bomber was released as part of a deal to allow BP to drill off the coast of Libya. BP has denied such claims.

    July 26, 2011 - Al Megrahi appears in a wheelchair at a pro-Gadhafi rally in Tripoli.

    August 28, 2011 - CNN's Nic Robertson tracks down al Megrahi at his family's villa in Tripoli. He appears to be comatose and near death, on oxygen and an *text deleted*. The National Transitional Council announces that it will not allow al Megrahi's extradition. Justice Minister Mohammed al-Alagi says, "We will not give any Libyan citizen to the West."

    October 2, 2011 - Reuters interviews al Megrahi at his home. Al Megrahi claims his innocence.

    May 20, 2012 - Al Megrahi dies in Libya.

    October 15, 2015 - Scottish officials announce that two additional Libyans have been identified as suspects in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

    In 1988 the USA was supporting Iraq against Iran. A war started by Iraq!:(

    Yet how was it that the USA was so definite in its accusations against Libya and not Iran?:confused:

    Conspiracy theories rule. Ok.;)
  20. Chef01

    Chef01 Member

    Jul 11, 2014
    App Stage:
    Passed PJFT
    The conspiracy is one of the weird ones designed to keep us out of a war. If the rumours are true that is., Apparently the US knew that if it was blamed on the Iranian's and Syrian's then they may have to declare war or lose face.

    Instead it was just more pragmatic to blame the Libyan's. Especially as they needed Syria on side at that time to chase down Saddam. They claimed Gaddafi planted the bomb to avenge his daughter's death in a 1986 air raid by US forces. Ironically that daughter was found to be alive and well working in a hospital in 2010.

    One of the Lockerbie victim's father believes it was the Iranian's. There is a big divide between British victim's relatives and that of the US's. US families blame the Libyan's and the British mostly blame the Iranian's and Syrian's. US Families also had 10 million reasons to maintain it was the Libyan's.

    Libya may still have played a part though, just not a major one compared to the other two. The eye witness evidence against Megrahi is by any standard a joke and made a mockery of Scottish law.