Archive for the ‘Redactie’ Category
10 Jul 2013
Documents reveal US money trail to Egyptian groups that pressed for president’s removal.
Egyptian protesters tear down the US flag during a demonstration at the US Embassy in September 2012
Berkeley, United States – President Barack Obama recently stated the United States was not taking sides as Egypt’s crisis came to a head with the military overthrow of the democratically elected president.
But a review of dozens of US federal government documents shows Washington has quietly funded senior Egyptian opposition figures who called for toppling of the country’s now-deposed president Mohamed Morsi.
Documents obtained by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley show the US channeled funding through a State Department programme to promote democracy in the Middle East region. This programme vigorously supported activists and politicians who have fomented unrest in Egypt, after autocratic president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising in February 2011.
The State Department’s programme, dubbed by US officials as a “democracy assistance” initiative, is part of a wider Obama administration effort to try to stop the retreat of pro-Washington secularists, and to win back influence in Arab Spring countries that saw the rise of Islamists, who largely oppose US interests in the Middle East.
Activists bankrolled by the programme include an exiled Egyptian police officer who plotted the violent overthrow of the Morsi government, an anti-Islamist politician who advocated closing mosques and dragging preachers out by force, as well as a coterie of opposition politicians who pushed for the ouster of the country’s first democratically elected leader, government documents show.
|Make a road bump with a broken palm tree to stop the buses going into Cairo, and drench the road around it with gas and diesel. When the bus slows down for the bump, set it all ablaze so it will burn down with all the passengers inside … God bless.|
Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, interviews, and public records reveal Washington’s “democracy assistance” may have violated Egyptian law, which prohibits foreign political funding.
It may also have broken US government regulations that ban the use of taxpayers’ money to fund foreign politicians, or finance subversive activities that target democratically elected governments.
‘Bureau for Democracy’
Washington’s democracy assistance programme for the Middle East is filtered through a pyramid of agencies within the State Department. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars is channeled through the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), USAID, as well as the Washington-based, quasi-governmental organisation the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
In turn, those groups re-route money to other organisations such as the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and Freedom House, among others. Federal documents show these groups have sent funds to certain organisations in Egypt, mostly run by senior members of anti-Morsi political parties who double as NGO activists.
The Middle East Partnership Initiative – launched by the George W Bush administration in 2002 in a bid to influence politics in the Middle East in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks – has spent close to $900m on democracy projects across the region, a federal grants database shows.
USAID manages about $1.4bn annually in the Middle East, with nearly $390m designated for democracy promotion, according to the Washington-based Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).
The US government doesn’t issue figures on democracy spending per country, but Stephen McInerney, POMED’s executive director, estimated that Washington spent some $65m in 2011 and $25m in 2012. He said he expects a similar amount paid out this year.
A main conduit for channeling the State Department’s democracy funds to Egypt has been the National Endowment for Democracy. Federal documents show NED, which in 2011 was authorised an annual budget of $118m by Congress, funneled at least $120,000 over several years to an exiled Egyptian police officer who has for years incited violence in his native country.
This appears to be in direct contradiction to its Congressional mandate, which clearly states NED is to engage only in “peaceful” political change overseas.
Colonel Omar Afifi Soliman – who served in Egypt’s elite investigative police unit, notorious for human rights abuses – began receiving NED funds in 2008 for at least four years.
During that time he and his followers targeted Mubarak’s government, and Soliman later followed the same tactics against the military rulers who briefly replaced him. Most recently Soliman set his sights on Morsi’s government.
Soliman, who has refugee status in the US, was sentenced in absentia last year for five years imprisonment by a Cairo court for his role in inciting violence in 2011 against the embassies of Israel and Saudi Arabia, two US allies.
He also used social media to encourage violent attacks against Egyptian officials, according to court documents and a review of his social media posts.
US Internal Revenue Service documents reveal thatNED paid tens of thousands of dollars to Soliman through an organisation he created called Hukuk Al-Nas (People’s Rights), based in Falls Church, Virginia. Federal forms show he is the only employee.
After he was awarded a 2008 human rights fellowship at NED and moved to the US, Soliman received a second $50,000 NED grant in 2009 for Hukuk Al-Nas. In 2010, he received $60,000 and another $10,000 in 2011.
In an interview with the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley, Soliman reluctantly admitted he received US government funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, but complained it wasn’t enough. “It is like $2000 or $2,500 a month,” he said. “Do you think this is too much? Obama wants to give us peanuts. We will not accept that.”
‘Pro bono advice’
NED’s website says Soliman spreads only nonviolent literature, and his group was set up to provide “immediate, pro bono legal advice through a telephone hotline, instant messaging, and other social networking tools”.
However, in Egyptian media interviews, social media posts and YouTube videos, Soliman encouraged the violent overthrow of Egypt’s government, then led by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.
“Incapacitate them by smashing their knee bones first,” he instructed followers on Facebook in late June, as Morsi’s opponents prepared massive street rallies against the government. Egypt’s US-funded and trainedmilitary later used those demonstrations to justify its coup on July 3.
“Make a road bump with a broken palm tree to stop the buses going into Cairo, and drench the road around it with gas and diesel. When the bus slows down for the bump, set it all ablaze so it will burn down with all the passengers inside … God bless,” Soliman’s post read.
In late May he instructed, “Behead those who control power, water and gas utilities.”
Soliman removed several older social media posts after authorities in Egypt took notice of his subversive instructions, court documents show.
|Egyptian women supporters of ousted president Morsi|
More recent Facebook instructions to his 83,000 followers range from guidelines on spraying roads with a mix of auto oil and gas – “20 liters of oil to 4 liters of gas”- to how to thwart cars giving chase.
“We know he gets support from some groups in the US, but we do not know he is getting support from the US government. This would be news to us,” said an Egyptian embassy official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Funding other Morsi opponents
Other beneficiaries of US government funding are also opponents of the now-deposed president, some who had called for Morsi’s removal by force.
The Salvation Front main opposition bloc, of which some members received US funding, has backed street protest campaigns that turned violent against the elected government, in contradiction of many of the State Department’s own guidelines.
A longtime grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy and other US democracy groups is a 34-year old Egyptian woman, Esraa Abdel-Fatah, who sprang to notoriety during the country’s pitched battle over the new constitution in December 2012.
She exhorted activists to lay siege to mosques and drag from pulpits all Muslim preachers and religious figures who supported the country’s the proposed constitution, just before it went to a public referendum.
Federal records show Abdel-Fatah’s NGO, the Egyptian Democratic Academy, received support from NED, MEPI and NDI, among other State Department-funded groups “assisting democracy”. Records show NED gave her organisation a one-year $75,000 grant in 2011.
|We were told by the Americans that if we see big street protests that sustain themselves for a week, they will reconsider all current US policies towards the Muslim Brotherhood regime.|
Abdel-Fatah is politically active, crisscrossing Egypt to rally support for her Al-Dostor Party, which is led by former UN nuclear chief Mohamed El-Baradei, the most prominent figure in the Salvation Front. She lent full support to the military takeover, and urged the West not call it a “coup”.
“June 30 will be the last day of Morsi’s term,” she told the press a few weeks before the coup took place.
US taxpayer money has also been sent to groups set up by some of Egypt’s richest people, raising questions about waste in the democracy programme.
Michael Meunier is a frequent guest on TV channels that opposed Morsi. Head of the Al-Haya Party, Meunier – a dual US-Egyptian citizen – has quietly collected US funding through his NGO, Hand In Hand for Egypt Association.
Meunier‘s organisation was founded by some of the most vehement opposition figures, including Egypt’s richest man and well-known Coptic Christian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, Tarek Heggy, an oil industry executive, Salah Diab, Halliburton’s partner in Egypt, and Usama Ghazali Harb, a politician with roots in the Mubarak regime and a frequent US embassy contact.
Meunier helped rally the country’s five million Christian Orthodox Coptic minority, who oppose Morsi’s Islamist agenda, to take to the streets against the president on June 30.
Reform and Development Party member Mohammed Essmat al-Sadat received US financial support through his Sadat Association for Social Development, a grantee of The Middle East Partnership Initiative.
The federal grants records and database show in 2011 Sadat collected $84,445 from MEPI “to work with youth in the post-revolutionary Egypt”.
Sadat was a member of the coordination committee, the main organising body for the June 30 anti-Morsi protest. Since 2008, he has collected $265,176 in US funding. Sadat announced he will be running for office again in upcoming parliamentary elections.
After soldiers and police killed more than 50 Morsi supporters on Monday, Sadat defended the use of force and blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, saying it used women and children as shields.
Some US-backed politicians have said Washington tacitly encouraged them to incite protests.
“We were told by the Americans that if we see big street protests that sustain themselves for a week, they will reconsider all current US policies towards the Muslim Brotherhood regime,” said Saaddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian-American politician opposed Morsi.
Ibrahim’s Ibn Khaldoun Center in Cairo receives US funding, one of the largest recipients of democracy promotion money in fact.
His comments followed statements by other Egyptian opposition politicians claiming they had been prodded by US officials to whip up public sentiment against Morsi before Washington could publicly weigh in.
Democracy programme defence
The practice of funding politicians and anti-government activists through NGOs was vehemently defended by the State Department and by a group of Washington-based Middle East experts close to the programme.
|Symbolic coffins for the more than 50 people killed Monday|
“The line between politics and activism is very blurred in this country,” said David Linfield, spokesman for the US Embassy in Cairo.
Others said the United States cannot be held responsible for activities by groups it doesn’t control.
“It’s a very hot and dynamic political scene,” said Michelle Dunne, an expert at the Atlantic Council think-tank. Her husband, Michael Dunne, was given a five-year jail sentence in absentia by a Cairo court for his role in political funding in Egypt.
“Just because you give someone some money, you cannot take away their freedom or the position they want to take,” said Dunne.
Elliot Abrams, a former official in the administration of George W. Bush and a member of the Working Group on Egypt that includes Dunne, denied in an email message that the US has paid politicians in Egypt, or elsewhere in the Middle East.
“The US does not provide funding for parties or ‘local politicians’ in Egypt or anywhere else,” said Abrams. “That is prohibited by law and the law is scrupulously obeyed by all US agencies, under careful Congressional oversight.”
But a State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity, said American support for foreign political activists was in line with American principles.
“The US government provides support to civil society, democracy and human rights activists around the world, in line with our long-held values, such as respecting the fundamental human rights of free speech, peaceful assembly, and human dignity,” the official wrote in an email. “US outreach in Egypt is consistent with these principles.”
Out of line
Some Middle East observers suggested the US’ democracy push in Egypt may be more about buying influence than spreading human rights and good governance.
|Egyptians celebrate in Tahrir Square after Morsi’s removal|
“Funding of politicians is a problem,” said Robert Springborg, who evaluated democracy programmes for the State Department in Egypt, and is now a professor at the National Security Department of the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California.
“If you run a programme for electoral observation, or for developing media capacity for political parties, I am not against that. But providing lots of money to politicians – I think that raises lots of questions,” Springborg said.
Some Egyptians, meanwhile, said the US was out of line by sending cash through its democracy programme in the Middle East to organisations run by political operators.
“Instead of being sincere about backing democracy and reaching out to the Egyptian people, the US has chosen an unethical path,” said Esam Neizamy, an independent researcher into foreign funding in Egypt, and a member of the country’s Revolutionary Trustees, a group set up to protect the 2011 revolution.
“The Americans think they can outsmart lots of people in the Middle East. They are being very hostile against the Egyptian people who have nothing but goodwill for them – so far,” Neizamy said.
(Source / 02.03.2015)
By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-4/)
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
South-west of Kobane city, the Kurdish YPG has gained control of Qubbah village which is just to the north-west of Qara Qawazk bridge, and one of the last few outposts in Kobane Canton of the Islamic State (IS) on the shores of the Euphrates.
Qubbah on the Euphrates Recaptured from Islamic State
The Coalition report 6 airstrikes in Kobane Canton on Monday through Tuesday morning, hitting a large IS tactical unit, 3 other IS tactical units and 2 fighting positions, as well as destroying 3 other fighting positions completely, plus an IS checkpoint and an IS vehicle.
Two of the strikes are thought to have been on IS positions near Sarrin and Qara Qawazk bridge and there is a suggestion that these were interventions by the French who have now got their aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, in position off Bahrain, but this has not been absolutely confirmed.
IS are using Sarrin as a launching post in order to try and retake Nur Ali just to the north of it, however, for the first time, air attacks are being reported on Islamic State positions west of the Euphrates river.
On the south-eastern front, YPG sources have confirmed that the Kurds have retaken Girek and Cede and yesterday, Tuesday, they recaptured Judaydah village, just 15 kilometres west of IS stronghold of Tel Abayd.
Some reports say that YPG units are within just 5 kilometres of Tel Abayd and that they have captured the Lavarj cement factory on their way to it.
Also on the south-eastern front YPG/YPJ units destroyed an IS pick-up, killed 4 x IS fighters and seized 2 x heavy machine guns in an ambush near Degirmen. As many as 32 dead bodies of IS fighters are reported in the last few days, with 5 x YPG killed in the same period.
An IS suicide vehicle bomb was also reported to have exploded near Degirmen on Monday, but so far no reports of casualties.
Latest Kobane Canton situation map dated 24.02.15, prepared in a fast moving situation, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:
Kobane Canton Situation Map 24.02.15
YPG TAKES FIGHT AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE TO SYRIA’S HASAKAH PROVINCE AS POSSIBLY AS MANY AS 150 CHRISTIANS ABDUCTED:
Much of the world’s attention now seems to be slipping away from Kobane, officially in Syria’s Aleppo province, to the adjacent province of Hasakah where the YPG are trying to drive the Islamic State away from the Syria/Iraq border area.
At least 132 Islamic State fighters are reported killed since last Saturday and 100 villages south of Qamishli, seized by the YPG, who are advancing rapidly with the help of Coalition airstrikes. Centcom (US Central Command) reports 10 airstrikes in the province on Monday this week through to Tuesday am, hitting 9 x IS tactical units and destroying 2 x IS vehicles.
Assyrian Christian Militia Fighter from MFS
Most of the fighting is around the towns of Tel Hamis and Tel Tamir, between the largely Kurdish cities of Qamishli and Hasakah, where IS are said to have imprisoned as many as 150 Christian Assyrians (first reports said 90), mainly women, children and the elderly, in a school.
The villagers were rounded up in dawn raids.
Some Assyrian sources claim that the Jihadists have captured 3 or 4 hundred of their small ethnic group, which amounted to around 30,000 people before the war in Syria began, and destroyed many of their churches and looted their houses.
Almost all of the Assyrians in Syria are concentrated in this north-east corner of the country and in cooperation with the YPG and Peshmerga, they have formed their own small fighting force of around 900, known as the Syriac Military Council or MFS for short.
You can read more in Foreign Policy Syria news.
Some commentators believe IS has opened up a new front in compensation for losing at Kobane, but the YPG, used now to battling with them, are striking back hard.
Currently the YPG have Tel Hamis surrounded with a military cordon 5 to 8 kilometres deep and are bringing in reinforcements.
Significantly, the YPG have cut the road between Tel Hamis and Al-Houl near the Iraq border and a main supply artery for the Islamic State from across the frontier.
Round Tel Tamir, IS are doing exactly the same, bringing in extra fighters so they can relieve the pressure on Tel Hamis and they also managed to kill 2 members of a Kurdish security team with a car bomb on Al-Khabour bridge.
Not far away in northern Iraq, the Kurdish Peshmerga are busy removing the last Islamic State fighters around Mount Sinjar. In a major joint operation with the YPG last Sunday, the Kurds recaptured 6 villages around Khanasour and, crossing the border into Syria, removed IS from 2 villages there.
Hopefully, all Islamic State routes between Syria and Iraq will soon be broken.
KOBANE UPDATE 56: KURDS PUSH ON TO TAKE 19 VILLAGES FROM ISLAMIC STATE IN THEIR HOME PROVINCE OF RAQQAH
By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-4/)
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
The Kurdish advance out from Kobane city, has now moved from Aleppo province into the Islamic State’s home province of Raqqah, where by Thursday the Kurds had captured 19 villages.
More Kobane Citizens Return to the Liberated City
Since January 26th, when the Islamic State were driven out of Kobane city, the Kurdish YPG/YPJ backed by the Peshmerga and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have recaptured 242+ villages formerly occupied by the invading Islamic State (IS) Jihadists.
East of Kobane city the Kurds are now positioned just 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the IS stronghold of Tel Abayd where the Islamic State have a major crossing into Turkey.
On the eastern front this week the YPG retook Eydanê and Mendik, seized an IS military vehicle and yet more good supplies of weapons and ammunition.
South of Kobane city by Wednesday this week, the Kurds had liberated the village of Xêrûs, Hemdînê Rojava, Hemdînê Rojhilat, Seyîd Keta, Xirab Bergîr, Dafîyê, Zagros, Xatûnîyê, Kofîn, Xidir Şetê,Aşmê, Zerik, Xwedê hill and Nasir and freed 2 more to the south-east, Şam and Piling.
2 x Is Jihadists confirmed killed on this front, and by reaching Zerik, the Kurdish forces have reached a point which they held before the IS invasion started on September 15th 2014.
At the village of Kurek, IS set off large amounts of explosive as they retreated, severely damaging the homes of villagers but causing no casualties. Operations in the area resulted in the deaths of another 12 x IS Jihadists and the capture of 3 x AK-47s, 1 x RPG-7 rocket launcher and a thermal scope.
To the south-east, the YPG and Peshmerga are reported to be on the perimeter of a large concentration of IS Jihadists at the La Farge Cement Plant (55 kilometres out from Kobane city – see map below) and besieging it.
To the south-west, the Kurds have secured more of the M4 highway between Aleppo and Hasakah, thereby impeding a major IS supply route. Latest reports say a further 6 villages were captured last night, Friday, namely Têlek, Ewênê, Qinê, Êlecax, Zarkotek and Koordînê, on the south-west front, and a total of 18 IS Jihadits killed in various operations.
West of Kobane city the Kurds by Wednesday of this week were able to liberate the villages of Berkel, Bîreloz, Sêv Elî, Derbenov, Derbazina Mezin, Derbazina Navîn, Derbazina Horan and Getaş, plus the hill at Zazros and nearby farmland.
The Kurds have also retaken Jeb-Al-Faraj and completed a siege on Shuyuk near the banks of the Euphrates, capturing the lower part of the town today, Saturday, while the Peshmerga have started to shell IS positions in their stronghold of Jarablous on the west bank of the river.
The Tomb of Suleiman Shah – A Tiny Turkish Enclave in Syria
At Qara-Qawazk the Kurds are at the main bridge river crossing and control part of the bridge.
Next to it is the promontory with the tomb of the Suleiman Shah, the grandfather of Osman 1 who founded the Ottoman empire, which is still guarded by Turkish troops and considered (by arrangement with the Assad regime) to be Turkish territory.
Suleiman Shah is believed to have drowned in the Euphrates at around this point on the river.
TWO UPDATES – Sunday 22nd: Turkey, which normally sends regularly convoys to supply and rotate its troops guarding the tomb, apparently sent in a 100 vehicle heavily armed column with tanks, via Kobane city on Saturday night to evacuate the promontory, including the remains of Suleiman Shah which will be reburied later, because of the heavy fighting.
The Turks completed the operation by removing all their troops, normally numbering around 40, and returning across the Turkish frontier through Kobane city. One Turkish soldier was accidentally killed in the transfer.
In a statement on Sunday, the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has said that the tomb and its surrounding buildings have been destroyed to prevent their use by the Islamic State and Turkey has selected a piece of land and raised its flag over another site at the village of Esme in Aleppo province for a new tomb in Syria just 200 metres from the Turkish frontier. For the moment the remains of Suleiman Shah, who lived from about 1178 to 1236, will however stay in Turkey.
600 Turkish troops, 57 armoured vehicles and 39 tanks were involved in the operation which began around 19.00 GMT on Saturday night and ended early on Sunday morning. The mausoleum was about 35 kilometres (20 miles) south-west of Kobane city before it was destroyed. The Syrian Government has impotently described the Turkish incursion as “flagrant aggression”. You can read more and watch video at BBC Syria news.
(EDITOR: Must have been sickening for the citizens of Kobane to see 600 Turkish soldiers drive through to “rescue” the 700 year old remains of Suleiman Shah – but never, ever lift a finger to help them in their hour of need against the Islamic State.)
There are still Islamic State fighters north of the former tomb’s site on the same promontory, being supplied and reinforced by small boats from the other side of the Euphrates, but Coalition airstrikes are said to be hitting their positions. @ChuckPfarrer has supplied this map, for 21.02.15, specific to the area, here:
Situation at Qara Qawazk Bridge 21.02.15
7 x YPG/YPJ fighters were reported killed this week and another 8 injured.
Among the dead, sadly, was Perween Feryal, a YPJ fighter with a beautiful smile who was featured towards the end of 2014 meeting up with her Father, also a YPG fighter, by accident, in Kobane city while it was still under siege.
YPJ Fighter Who Discovered Her Father in the Besieged City, Killed in Action – RIP
4 other Kurdish men were reported killed this week by landmines left by IS, which is very much an ongoing problem.
Latest Kobane Canton situation map for 21.02.15, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:
Kobane Situation Map 21.05.15
Across the border in Turkey it was announced on Thursday that Turkey and the USA had reached a agreement on the training of “moderate” Syrian Opposition fighters on Turkish territory, probably at Kirsehir in central Anatolia.
1,200 fighters have already been “vetted” and the “train and equip” programme is due to start at the end of this March, with a target of training 5,000 Syrian Opposition fighters in the first 12 months and 15,000 over 3 years.
The US has only said that they are being trained to fight the Islamic State. Turkey has made it clear that they are being prepared to fight both IS and Assad. (EDITOR: Time will tell how this works out, whether they are properly equipped after training and how effective they are on the battlefield)
ASSAD’S “OPERATION ZERO HOUR” IN ALEPPO COMES TO NOTHING WITH MANY OF HIS TROOPS KILLED AND CAPTURED:
On Tuesday of this week, Assad’s forces launched an offensive called “Operation Zero Hour” in an attempt to close the gap north of Aleppo through which the last Opposition supply route runs and to relieve the siege of the 2 Alawite enclaves of Nubl and Zahraa, which have been under siege by Opposition fighters since 2012.
After initially gaining control of 3 villages, the Opposition sent reinforcements and took back 2 of them, Rityan and Hardantain, killing around 129 pro-Assad forces and forcing around 50 of them, mainly from Assad’s National Defence Force (NDF) and some from Hezbollah to surrender after they ran out of ammunition, here:
Most of Assad’s forces have now retreated to the town of Bashkuy where they are heavily under attack and the Al-Nusra front has tried to break in with a vehicle bomb. The pro-Assad fighters appear to be a mixture of NDF militia, Hezbollah, Palestinian Quds Brigade fighters (from a nearby Palestinian refugee camp), Iranian regular troops and Shiite fighters from Afghanistan and Iran. The Opposition can be seen shelling Bashkuy, HERE:
The Opposition claimed that they had captured 3 Iranian officers of the Revolutionary Guard and member of Hezbollah in Rityan village, where the regime has also been accused of executing 21 civilians, including 10 children and 5 women, and more civilians in Hardantain, during their brief occupation. The Opposition additionally said that they had killed Abdullah Ali Abdullah the leader of the Hezbollah Reconnaissance squad in rural Aleppo.
In Hardantain village, many Assad troops escaped through olive groves under cover of darkness, but Opposition fighters were able to release 48 civilian hostages there once they had retaken control. Footage shows Opposition fighters on the attack in Hardantain, just before the regime withdrew, HERE:
The Opposition attack was led by the Islamic Front and the Al-Nusra Front (ANF), who themselves lost a reported 116 fighters, including a senior ANF commander. But their tactics were good managing to split 2 government groups from the main force and then surround them.
Bad weather was also on the Opposition side, preventing air support for Government troops all week until this morning when an air raid struck Rityan.
Further problems for the regime side have arisen just to the south-east, between the villages mentioned above and Aleppo city itself, where another Opposition force has recaptured the Al-Mallah farms area and Sheba and is at the entrance to the key town of Handarat, once again putting Opposition fighters not far from Aleppo Central Prison.
Video shows Opposition fighters successfully destroying a Government T-72 tank with a TOW missile and setting it on fire, HERE:
The scale of Assad’s defeat in this offensive, which has achieved neither of its objectives despite sending in 2,500 troops, is yet to become clear and with air support they may still be able to make a comeback, but hopefully the Opposition will keep up the momentum and score a resounding victory.
Situation map for north of Aleppo for 20.02.15, courtesy of @macroarch, here:
Situation Map North of Aleppo 20.02.15
Lastly, if you have had a tough week (EDITOR: Like I have!), here’s something to cheer you up – an outstanding piece of inspirational logic from a Saudi cleric, Sheikh Al-Kaibari (English sub-titles). (EDITOR: Allah help his students!), HERE:
Aid provided by Qatar enters through Rafah for Gaza
Qatar is an important supporter of health services in the besieged Gaza Strip, Palestinian Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra said.
He added: “We are confident that God, followed by Qatar, who has made clear contributions in various fields, including construction, services, relief, and medicine in Palestine, especially in Gaza, will support Gaza’s health sector.”
With regards to the health situation in the Gaza Strip after the intensified blockade on Gaza, Al-Qudra stated that the health sector is suffering from the blockade, noting that the closure of the crossings caused the increased suffering of patients and the shortage of basic medications and medical supplies.
Al-Qudra also noted that the national unity government has not fulfilled its responsibilities regarding the health sector or any other services level. “We are still demanding that the government fulfil its obligations and uphold its responsibilities,” adding that the power outage is still ongoing.
He stated that the during its wars on Gaza, the Zionist enemy used weapons that amputate limbs and dissolve tissue, explaining that the mechanism of healthcare is based on a contingency plan, which allows Gaza, with the help of God, to continue to provide health services to the people.
(Source / 20.02.2015)
By Ramona Wadi © (Source / 18.02.2015)
Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair has made a series of spurious comments on Gaza following his visit to the besieged enclave. “The last conflict left Gaza devastated and its people worn down and impoverished,” he wrote on his website. “Twenty years after Oslo we need a new approach to Gaza and a new approach to peace.”
The article was quoted selectively by the Jerusalem Post, in a manner that disassociated history from Gaza’s current reality. Despite allegedly advocating in favour of a new approach to a “successful peace process”, Blair simply rephrased previous diktats enforced upon Palestine by the international community; the result was the entrenchment of the two-state compromise as being imperative to the illusion of “peace”.
According to Blair, the “peace process” necessitates improvement in the lives of Palestinians, with unified Palestinian politics acquiescing to the two-state rhetoric to safeguard Israel’s existence, and “an enhanced role for the region” which must succumb to the interests of the international community.
Furthermore, Blair embarked upon the division of Gaza from Hamas by questioning the resistance movement’s priorities within the political context of Palestinian reconciliation. “For reconciliation to happen, we need unity to be on a basis which supports peace,” he insisted. The premise upon which Hamas is being scrutinised by Blair reflects not only the enforced oblivion which the international community is competent in applying with regard to Gaza, but also the ambiguities, especially with regard to reconciliation and reconstruction.
Reversing Blair’s discourse would shed light upon the fact that, rather than Hamas being in some way responsible for the discrepancies concerning Gaza, reconstruction and reconciliation, it is the international community, together with Israel, that is responsible for the consequences of colonisation in Palestine.
In the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge, Hamas has been marginalised from the negotiations and reconstruction process that has been stalled intentionally by bureaucratic means and the absence of the funding promised during the Cairo Conference. Blair’s puerile recommendations for supporting the international community’s perception of peace include “credible guarantees” for Egypt’s security, despite the fact that Egypt collaborated with Israel in destroying the tunnels utilised by Hamas for importing much-needed goods blocked by the Israeli-led siege. Additionally, Blair insists upon the international community’s “need” of clarity from Hamas. The statement is followed by a series of questions the answers to which can be researched easily, as opposed to manufacturing assumptions in an attempt to discredit the legality of armed resistance and the anti-colonial struggle. However, as with other imperialist rhetoric, the aim is to portray Hamas in a manner that disassociates the resistance movement from the dynamics of resistance by imposing international political expectations.
In turn, according to Blair, the unnecessary dissection of Hamas and resistance, together with allowing Egypt more autonomy in deciding negotiations with regard to Gaza, would pave the way for resuming “a proper negotiation for the resolution of the peace process”. Ultimately, Blair is not seeking an innovative approach. Rather, his statements reinforce the concepts of compliance and colonisation to which Palestinians are expected to adhere, as part of the wider strategy to ensure Israel’s expansion. As usual, Blair isn’t really interested in peace for the sake of the Palestinians; his concern is to protect Israeli colonialism.
ASSAD FORCES BOGGED DOWN IN NORTHERN DARAA WITH MANY KILLED BUT NORTH OF ALEPPO THEY ATTEMPT TO CUT LAST OPPOSITION SUPPLY ROUTE
By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-4/)
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
First snow, then snow-melt, rain and mud and finally heavy cloud have bogged down Assad’s assault on Opposition held positions in the northern parts of Daraa and Quneitra provinces.
According to several sources, the Government force, primarily led by Hezbollah and Iranian Quds special forces troops have suffered heavy losses, losing at least 43 men (some reports say 110), including 12 officers, in the first few days of last week’s new campaign to reclaim lost ground in the south of Syria.
Photo ID of Iranian Officer Killed by Opposition in Daraa Province
There was also a report that 13 Syrian Army soldiers, including a lieutenant, had been executed for “treachery” by the Iranians at the 9th Division base near Sanamayn, after being accused of passing military co-ordinates to the Opposition.
The Opposition in turn claimed to have killed several Iranians, including an officer of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard identified as Lieutenant Colonel Abbas Abdullahi, displaying his picture and ID online.
Heavy cloud prevented Assad’s forces receiving air support for 5 days, but improvements in the weather on Sunday meant the bombing and barrel-bomb attacks on Opposition positions restarted throughout the province and also in adjacent Quneitra, where fierce fighting is reported at Mas Hara.
If you can stand the “over the top” music (EDITOR: I recommend turning the sound off!), this is a recently published visual record of the Opposition’s considerable success on the “Southern Front” over the last 12 months, here:
The Syrian Army at the weekend also repositioned troops normally based in Hama province and sent a large armoured column to Aleppo. Reports this morning, Tuesday, say that these troops have succeeded in closing the ring around Opposition territory in eastern Aleppo and blocked their last supply road north to the Turkish border.
However, later reports on Tuesday morning, in a very fluid situation, say Opposition fighters have already retaken the villages of Rityan, Bashkuy and Hardatnin to the north of the city and hit a bus at Ramouseh carrying Assad’s troops with a mortar shell, killing and wounding many of those on board and capturing others.
Other reports say the Opposition have also started another assault on the Alawite enclaves in the Aleppo countryside of Nubul &and Zahra and there are renewed clashes to the south-east of Aleppo city at Azizia.
Aleppo Situation Map for 16.02.15 courtesy of @archicivilians, here:
Situation Map in Aleppo 16.02.15
HIDEOUS ISLAMIC STATE MURDERS 21 EGYPTIAN CHRISTIANS AND IMPOSES EVEN HARSHER RULES ON WOMEN:
The hideous Islamic State added yet further to its appalling reputation at the weekend by posting a video of the execution on a beach in Libya of 21 immigrant Egyptian workers of the Christian Coptic faith, as a “signed with blood” warning to the “nation of the cross”.
Tens of thousands of poor Egyptians, many of them Copts which make up 10% of Egypts population, seek work in Libya. Unconfirmed reports say that another 45 have since been taken hostage.
Peshmerga Fighters Paraded in Cages by IS
Egypt’s retribution was swift and fast with a series of F16 air attacks early on Monday morning on Islamic State storage warehouses and training facilities near the pro-Islamist town of Derna on Libya’s coast.
This was followed by a second raid later in the day yesterday.
The attacks were co-ordinated with Libya’s Air Force, whose own planes went on to attack other targets in Sirte and Ben Jawad.
The Libyan authorites later claimed that between 40 and 50 Islamic State fighters had been killed in the air raids.
Sources in Derna said that several civilians had also been killed, including women and children, and vowed vengeance.
Egypt already has an Islamic State problem in the Sinai peninsular and Libya is often a starting point for illegal migrants heading for Europe, raising the prospect of IS infiltration into the EU.
Back in Iraq, the Islamic State paraded 17 Kurdish Peshmerga prisoners through the streets in Hawija in cages similar to that used to burn to death the Jordanian pilot.
There were hopes that these Peshmerga fighters would be exchanged for Islamic State fighters held by the Kurds, but latest reports suggest IS is “not interested” in having their fighters back.
The Poster Urges Women to Wear the Hijab
Information from both Iraq and Syria suggests that IS is imposing even harsher rules on women than before, insisting that they can’t go anywhere without a recognised male guardian, known as a “Mahram”, and that they must wear double-layered veils, loose abayas and gloves.
Universities in IS held territory have been closed because the constant escorting of female students is impractical and the rules, including their imposition on small girls, are rigourously enforced by female religious police known as “Hisbah”.
One Mosul resident said, “I went once with my wife to one of the old souqs to do some shopping, and after a short while I lost her among the crowd. The problem was that all the women were wearing veils and it was hard to know who was my wife.
I was utterly scared to make a mistake and go for the wrong woman. It would be a disaster to fall into Hisbah hands. I could not even use my mobile as the network was down.”
Eventually he called out his wife’s name loudly in the souq until she heard him and they were reunited.
You can read more in the Guardian Syria news.
KOBANE UPDATE 55: KURDS NOW CONTROL 2,000 KILOMETRES OF ALEPPO PROVINCE AND PUSHING TOWARDS TEL ABAYD IN THE EAST:
TIMELINE – 16th FEBRUARY 2015 14.40 GMT:
The Kurdish YPG and YPJ, backed by units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Peshmerga and pushing out from Kobane, now control around 2,000 square kilometres of the northern Aleppo countryside.
Their reach now stretches 30 kilometres to the west of the city, between 34 and 50 kilometres to the south and south-west and around 40 kilometres to the east where the YPG are on the borders of Raqqah province.
Kobane Before and After Islamic State Destruction
By last Friday, YPG fighters had liberated the villages of Toraman and Qelha Kon Eftar south of Kobane and on Saturday they pushed back Islamic State (IS) Jihadists from Qelha Kon Eftar Hill, killing 7 of them, destroying an IS vehicle and capturing AK-47s and ammunition.
Another 9 x IS Jihadists were reported killed in battles to the south-west of Kobane, where the Kurds are pressing the Islamic State for control of the entrance to the Euphrates bridge at Qara Qawazk and are attacking IS positions near the village of Jaadah.
Information from yesterday, Sunday, says that the YPG attacked an IS checkpoint on the M4 highway to the south that connects Aleppo and Hasakah, killing 10 x IS fighters and capturing 1.
To the west of Kobane, higher up the Euphrates, the YPG now hold a number of strategic hills on the outskirts of Al-Shuyukh and have taken the village of Çariqli, Şehid Hogir hill and the ponds near Çariqli village. At least 11 x IS Jihadists were killed in this operation and RPG rockets as well as other ammunition captured.
East of Kobane there is heavy fighting around the villages of Solanê and Dêrfilît and the YPG appear to have some IS fighters cornered around the village of Bexdike, not far from the Turkish border, after capturing a strategic hill nearby. The YPG also seized an IS military vehicle, a heavy machine gun, shells, rocket-launchers and good supplies of ammunition. IS deaths are put at 23.
There are also unconfirmed reports that Coalition jets destroyed an IS convoy of 7 vehicles heading west of Tel Abayd towards Kobane on Sunday. The only report from US Central Command says they struck a “large tactical unit” sometime in the 24 hours prior to 8.00am Monday.
Estimates put IS deaths over the weekend at 35+, including an IS commander originating from Kosovo, with 4 killed on the YPG side. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) now puts the total deaths in the Kobane campaign at 1835 since September 16th 2014, 1271 x IS fighters plus another 49 who detonated themselves in suicide bombing attacks.
SOHR puts Kurdish YPG/YPJ deaths at 502 plus 39 Kurdish civilians and 21 from the FSA backing the YPG.
The Islamic State is clearly worried that its town of Tel Abayd (Gere Sepi in Kurdish), east of Kobane is now under threat and has imposed a curfew from 11.00pm to 6.00am, shooting at anyone who moves outside during those times.
Peshmerga forces have been shelling IS positions in Tel Abayd since last Wednesday and the Turks, anticipating a flood of IS refugees from a town once populated by 80,000 people, have sent in tanks and reinforcements to their side of the border there at Akcakale.
Control of Tel Abayd would enable the Kurds to link up Kobane Canton with Jazira (Kurdish, Cizere) Canton in the east and also give them an “official crossing” at Tel Abayd into Turkey.
The frontier gate at Kobane is not considered to be an “official” one by the Turks and at the moment they only allow small amounts of humanitarian aid through and no building materials to repair the city. The returning Kurds are also faced with deadly booby-traps and bombs in houses and even hidden in kitchen appliances.
3 people were killed on Saturday in the Miktala neighbourhood of south-east Kobane by one such device and, more explosive and de-mining experts are urgently needed.
This is the Kobane Canton Situation map as of yesterday, 15.02.15, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:
Kobane Canton Situation Map 15.02.15
By Engelbert Luitsz © (www.alexandrina.nl/?p=4000)
Uri Avnery werd geboren in 1923, net als Shimon Peres. Avnery in Duitsland en Peres in Polen. Beiden kwamen rond dezelfde tijd – begin jaren dertig – naar Palestina. Avnery werd een strijder bij de terreurbeweging Irgoen en Peres was meer iemand die op de achtergrond meewerkte. Hij zou zich later bezighouden met het illegale kernwapenprogramma van Israël en na 1967 een belangrijke rol spelen bij de expansie van de joodse staat door middel van nederzettingen in bezet gebied. Tot vorig jaar was Peres president van Israël.
Avnery richtte in 1993 de vredesbeweging Gush Shalom (“Vredesplatform”) op omdat hij snel inzag dat de zogenaamde vredesonderhandelingen een farce waren. Hij wilde dat de Palestijnen een eigen staat zouden krijgen, zonder de onderdrukking vanuit Israël. Hij schuwde het contact met Arafat en Hamas niet, hetgeen hem kwam te staan op beschuldigingen van “extremisme”.
Peres besloot zijn dubieuze loopbaan als ambassadeur van de vrede. Dat wil zeggen dat hij overal praatjes hield vol vredelievende gemeenplaatsen, terwijl het geweld tegen de Palestijnen en de landroof gewoon doorgingen. Avnery daarentegen ondernam wel degelijk actie tegen de corruptie in de politiek en de misdaden van de bezetters.
Beiden willen echter een joodse staat. Peres een grote en Avnery een kleine. Peres wil geen Palestijnse staat en Avnery wel. Maar het feit dat deze laatste blijft vasthouden aan een 2-statenoplossing is voor velen een reden hem in het kamp van de zionisten te stoppen. Hij noemt zichzelf echter een post-zionist, voor hem was het zionisme geëindigd met de oprichting van de joodse staat. Direct na de oorlog van 1967 publiceerde hij Israel Without Zionists: A Plea for Peace in the Middle East. Hij was er erg vroeg bij. Maar zijn idee van twee staten die op zeker moment zouden kunnen versmelten tot een confederatie werd hem niet in dank afgenomen. Hij werd, samen met zijn vrienden, aangeklaagd wegens anti-zionisme. En om die reden bedacht hij de term post-zionisme als belangrijkste troef in zijn verdediging. Hij won en kreeg zelfs een forse schadevergoeding, die vervolgens werd gebruikt om de “staatsondermijnende” activiteiten voort te zetten.
Avnery en Arafat in Beiroet in 1982.
De term zionisme is ook nu nog springlevend. Zionisme wordt gebruikt om de aandacht af te leiden van wat men zou mogen verwachten van een serieuze staat. Gideon Levy had het er vandaag in zijn column ook weer over. Het Palestijnse Knesset-lid Haneen Zoabi wordt als een verraadster beschouwd, omdat ze Israël niet als joodse staat wil erkennen, maar extreem-rechtse joodse groeperingen die absoluut geen democratie willen, worden wel als zionisten beschouwd en blijven derhalve buiten schot. Levyschrijft:
Ergens tussen pedofilie en moord, erger dan diefstal en mogelijk zelfs erger dan verkrachting, vinden we de nationale misdaad – met nadruk op het bepaalde lidwoord – anti-zionisme.
Avnery’s post-zionisme is een utopische gedachte. Dan was het bij 1948 gebleven; dan was er een Israëlische nationaliteit gekomen; dan waren niet alle joden in de wereld – graag of niet – onderdeel van de joodse natie gebleven; dan zou premier Netanyahu in Parijs, of nu ook weer vanwege een aanslag in Denemarken, niet alle joden kunnen oproepen “naar huis terug te keren”; dan had de krant Haaretz niet bijna elke dag kunnen verwijzen naar een joods succesverhaal ergens in de wereld, alsof dat verhaal onlosmakelijk met Israël verbonden zou zijn; of nog vaker naar de Tweede Wereldoorlog, toen er helemaal geen Israël bestond.
De joodse natie (alle joden) is iets anders dan de geografische locatie van de joodse staat. Dit komt duidelijk naar voren als we zien hoe Israël vanuit het buitenland wordt aangestuurd. The Independent deed begin vorige maand al een boekje open over de Amerikaanse inmenging in de Israëlische politiek.
Meer dan 90% van de recente campagnebijdragen ontvangen door premier Benjamin Netanyahu kwam uit de Verenigde Staten.
Het meeste geld komt van een klein aantal steenrijke families. Maar boven dat alles torent de Amerikaanse multimiljardair Sheldon Adelson uit. Deze man financiert de grootste krant van Israël, een krant die volledig aan Netanyahu zelf is gewijd, nog meer dan aan zijn Likoedpartij. Adelson is een Amerikaan, maar werkt in Israël voor Netanyahu en in de Verenigde Staten voor Israël (en tegen Obama). Avnery beschrijft hem zo:
Behalve casino’s in Las Vegas, Pennsylvanië, Macao en Singapore, bezit hij de Amerikaanse Republikeinse Partij en, sinds kort, zowel het hogerhuis als het lagerhuis van het Amerikaanse Congres.
Hij bezit tevens Benjamin Netanyahu.
Eerder was Yedioth Ahronoth ( “Het laatste nieuws”) de grootste krant, en deze is nu als tegenreactie fel tegen Netanyahu gekeerd. Avnery verwijst zelfs naar een journalist die beweert dat de huidige verkiezingscampagne in feite een strijd is tussen twee dagbladen. Maar dat gelooft Avnery niet, want beide kranten zijn “super-patriottisch, oorlogszuchtig en rechts”.
De krant van Adelson, Israel Hayom, is gratis. Tegenstanders wilden dan ook proberen via een wet gratis kranten te verbieden (vanwege oneerlijke concurrentie). Bij een eerste stemming kreeg dat voorstel veel bijval, wat Netanyahu woedend maakte. Netanyahu ontsloeg twee belangrijke leden van de Knesset, waardoor die ontbonden werd. Volgens Avnery moet dit wel op aandringen van Adelson zelf zijn gebeurd, om de wet tegen te houden die zijn krant zou verbieden.
Adelson heeft in het verleden enorme sommen besteed aan campagnes van (“pro-Israël”) republikeinen in de V.S. En hij is al begonnen met het selecteren van de volgende kandidaat die Obama zou moeten vervangen. Uiteraard telt maar één ding: een onvoorwaardelijke steun aan het beleid van Netanyahu. En aan Israël natuurlijk. Avnery beschrijft de ideale staat weer bloemrijk:
Niet zomaar een Israël, maar een rechts, suprematistisch, arrogant, gewelddadig, expansionistisch, annexionistisch, compromisloos, koloniaal Israël.
En dat is wat het zionisme inhoudt. Iemand als Adelson (of een van de talloze anderen die vanuit of in het buitenland deelnemen aan de Israëlische politiek) wordt niet gezien als een buitenstaander, zelfs niet als een buitenlander. Hij is “een van ons”. De huidige Israëlische ambassadeur in de Verenigde Staten was een Amerikaan, geen Israëliër, maar moest zijn Amerikaanse nationaliteit inleveren toen hij voor de Israëlische regering werkte. Volgens Avnery zit ook hier de hand van Adelson achter.
Deze visie van een gigantisch Israël blijkt ook uit de enorme bedragen die Adelson schenkt aan Birthright Israel (de naam zegt het al), een organisatie die jonge Amerikaanse joden verzorgde reizen naar Israël aanbiedt, waar vervolgens selectief getoerd wordt om het land zo aantrekkelijk mogelijk voor te stellen. Onlangs schonk de man nog 40 miljoen dollar aan deze organisatie. En die kwamen bovenop een eerdere 140 miljoen!
Een laatste voorbeeld. Op 5 februari publiceerde de krant Haaretz een artikel van Uri Misgav, waarin uit de doeken werd gedaan hoe premier Netanyahu in Japan een goed woordje had gedaan voor zijn maatje Adelson. Deze zou ook daar zijn casino-imperium moeten kunnen uitbreiden. Het artikel werd binnen een paar uur weer van de website verwijderd. De televisiezender Kanaal 10, die ook aandacht aan Adelson had besteed, moest excuses aanbieden en daar werd een verantwoordelijke ontslagen. De altijd alerte blogger Richard Silverstein plaatste het stuk met commentaar echter op zijnweblog.
Welke kant het verder opgaat lijkt wel duidelijk: een confrontatie met de bemoeienis van het zionistische netwerk in andere landen. Boycotacties nemen toe, zoals die van meer dan honderd artiesten, musici en schrijvers in Engeland, en vele honderden anderen. Tegelijkertijd probeert het zionisme door middel van directe invloed op parlementen,zoals in Frankrijk, of door wetgeving kritiek op Israël en demonstraties te verbieden. Zelfs de handelsbetrekkingen tussen de V.S. en de E.U. krijgen te maken met de rol die de zionisten op internationaal vlak spelen (bijv. Congresleden werken aan anti-boycotwet).
Het is dus hopelijk voor iedereen duidelijk dat de situatie in Palestina een mondiaal probleem is. Verdere expansie en verdere bewapening zijn alleen mogelijk indien Israël permanent in conflict blijft en daarvoor worden wereldwijd hulpbronnen aangeboord. We zullen niet van de ene dag op de andere de nauwe relatie tussen grootkapitaal en politiek kunnen verbreken, maar er zijn veel signalen dat mensen zich niet langer voor de gek willen laten houden. Griekenland en Zweden laten zien dat men ook op regeringsniveau bereid is de problemen te benoemen. Dat geeft miljoenen mensen hoop. De grootste vijand van het zionisme is tolerantie en openheid, als men met die waarden voor de Palestijnen blijft opkomen moet de onhoudbaarheid van het zionistische project voor iedereen duidelijk worden. En alle idiote maatregelen en wetten die zoveel landen in de maag gesplitst kregen worden daarmee irrelevant.