Saturday, 20 February 2016

Blackwater, after suffering heavy losses, abandons Taiz, Yemen

Blackwater-after suffering heavy losses

(Leith Fadel, AMN) ~ The U.S. based Blackwater Group has reportedly abandoned the Ta’iz front in western Yemen after suffering heavy casualties over the last two months while fighting alongside the Saudi-led Coalition forces and the Hadi loyalists.

Local activists have reported this news after they intercepted a communication between Blackwater officers and members of the Saudi-led Coalition in the coastal province of Ta’iz.
In a matter of two months, the Blackwater Group has lost well over 100 casualties at the volatile Ta’iz front, including operatives from a dozen countries around the world.

Most of the Blackwater operatives killed in Yemen were believed to be from Colombia and Argentina; however, there were also casualties from the United States (U.S.), Australia, and France.

Blackwater Group’s withdrawal from the Ta’iz Governorate comes just four days after the Houthis and the Yemeni Army’s 48th Brigade of the Republican Guard seized Jabal Al-Shabakah.


Leith Fadel, Almasdarnews
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Airstrikes of the US-led coalition kill 38 Syrian civilians in Shadadi, Hasakah

After a warplane of the U.S. coalition on Monday struck a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the northern Idlib province killing at least eleven people, new U.S.-led airstrikes in northeastern Syria hit the town of Shadadi, Hasakah province, killing nearly 40 civilians since Wednesday. The US and a number of its allies have been conducting air raids inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from Damascus or a U.N. mandate.

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To the Gulf… Here are the Words of Zionists

Designed by: Nour Fakih
Some Arabs opened their arms wide to the normalization policy with the “Israeli” entity. The historical enemy of Arabs and Muslims, now, became a “friend” and an “ally” to some Gulf countries.
However, the enemy’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu is no more satisfied with keeping such coalition low.
To the Gulf... Here are the Words of Zionists
20-02-2016 | 08:57
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ستون دقيقة مع ناصر قنديل الحلقة ال 14 2016
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the “Chosen Ones” (“Chosen by whom?”

trump28730105_n (23)

There is plenty here (167 on last count) ~ visual commentaries on the usual critters and situations: Trump, Syria, Hillary, the KSA and the Saudi family, the American elections, the “Chosen Ones” (“Chosen by whom?” I always ask.), the media and communications, the crumbling EU, and goodness knows what else. As always, please enjoy and share widely.

Hopefully, I have provided you with some bittersweet smiles, new insights, and maybe even a genuine chortle of merriment.

Saturday Alternative Cartoons

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Bouthaina Shaaban: “Once Syria & Russia succeed vs terrorists, Turkey, Saudi are going crazy” ~ “Want to Help Civilians? Help Syria Deal With Terrorism”

Bouthaina Shaaban-2016-990x260
Bouthaina Shaaban, Asssad’s adviser:
Once Syria & Russia succeed vs terrorists,
Turkey & S. Arabia are going crazy

Bouthaina Shaaban: “Main condition for success of political solution is eliminating terrorism”

(SANA, H.Said) ~ Presidential Political and Media Advisor Bouthaina Shaabanreaffirmed that uprooting terrorism is the main condition for the success of the political solution in Syria and the region in general.
She told Russia Today TV channel in an interview Thursday night that the Syrian state has always sought a political solution and is at the same time determined to root out terrorism.
“Both issues complete each other and are not at all incompatible,” she said.
She added a Syrian-Syrian dialogue should be one where all issues are put on the table, mainly the humanitarian aid and a cessation of hostilities and not a ceasefire, as such a thing happens between two armies.
Shaaban reaffirmed that the Kurdish protection units are Syrian, and the war against terrorism is being fought by all the Syrian people alongside the Syrian army, the popular defense groups and the Russian Air Force.
It is Turkey who is trying to make an issue out of the Kurds’ involvement in fighting terrorism because it has a problem with that, she said.
“We, on the contrary, don’t have a problem with that at all. What counts is Syria’s territorial integrity and the unity of its people,” she added.

Bouthaina Shaaban-2016

“Want to Help Civilians? Help Syria Deal With Terrorism!” [Assad Advisor]

(SputnikNews) ~ The US, Europe, and Turkey have accused the Syrian government and Russia of causing civilian casualties during the operation to liberate the country. Bouthaina Shaaban, a political advisor to the Syrian President, suggests that if the West is truly concerned about the fate of civilians, it should unite with Damascus to put an end to terrorism.
Speaking to Russian foreign broadcaster RT Thursday evening, Shaaban recalled that while Moscow and Damascus have joined efforts to fight terrorism in Syria, the Western media and Turkey have taken up a campaign to accuse them, without offering any substantive evidence, of causing civilian casualties. In her opinion, instead of hostility and empty accusations, other countries must join Syria in the struggle against terror, since it is a phenomenon which poses a threat to the entire world.

On an accusation that Russia destroyed schools and a hospitals

Earlier this week, Western media picked up on an accusation levied by Turkish Prime Minister Mehmet Davutoglu that Russian air forces had destroyed a school and a hospital in the northwestern Syrian town of Azaz (which the Turkish military itself has been accused of shelling recently).
Commenting on the accusations, Shaaban recalled
“that there are so many unfounded claims that have been made in the Western media about what the Russians and the Syrian Army are doing; briefly I can say that what the Syrian Army, in cooperation with Russian aircraft are doing is fighting terrorism in Syria. And what we hope for is for other countries to join in, because this terrorism is a threat to the entire[ty of] humanity.”
​Focusing on Turkish allegations specifically, the official suggested that
“it is very clear that once the Syrian Army, in cooperation with the Russians, [began] achieving great success against terrorists, some countries in the region like Turkey and Saudi Arabia [started] going crazy, because they are the ones who [have been] supporting terrorism in Syria right from 2011 until [the present].”
Ultimately, Shaaban said that
“the best way to save innocent civilians is to put an end to this terrorism, and there are all the means available, if there is a real will to put an end to terrorism. There is the Security Council Resolution 2235, which should force countries to stop financing, arming, facilitating and sending mercenaries and terrorists into Syria.”
“Unfortunately, there is no international will to implement that resolution. We would wish that Russia, and America, and all countries in the world would join forces in fighting terrorism; this is the only way – instead of exchanging accusations which lead nowhere, and which have no effect on the ground; and it is the Syrian people, unfortunately, who are suffering the end result of this terrorism.”

Bouthaina Shaaban, Asssad’s adviser:
Defends Kurdish militias as Turkish shelling continues

As for the Turkish government’s accusations that Syrian Kurds [backed by the Assad government] were responsible for the wave of terror plaguing Ankara

As for the Turkish government’s accusations that Syrian Kurds, ‘backed by the Assad government’ were responsible for the wave of terror plaguing Ankara in recent days, Shaaban told the broadcaster that Turkey has repeatedly “accus[ed] the Kurds of things that they are not doing,” adding that she hoped
“that Western viewers would realize” that Turkey was responsible for starting the war on Syria, and for helping “to bring in so many terrorists from 83 countries from all over the world into Syria.”
“And now, at the moment when the Syrian Army is making real advances and liberating our cities and villages, Turkey is attacking our cities and villages directly, because these terrorists were the means for Turkey on the ground in Syria, and once Turkey saw that these terrorists are failing or are being defeated, Turkey jumped in to save them and to help them.”

Bouthaina Shaaban, Asssad’s adviser:
Urges ‘other countries’ to join fight against terrorism

Commenting on Turkey’s role in the refugee crisis

Commenting on Turkey’s role in the refugee crisis which has hit Europe, Shaaban emphasized that she sincerely hopes
“that the Western world will stop looking at Erdogan’s government as the means to help them, whether in fighting terrorism, or in stopping the refugee crisis. It is Turkey who started the refugee crisis four years ago. It is Turkey who put tanks on the borders well before any Syrian refugee was at any border. Turkey dismantled our factories, stole our heritage, had ambitions to recreate the Ottoman Empire in the Arab World, and Europe has no interest in following this example.”
“The refugee crisis, believe me – has been created, manipulated and used by Turkey against Europe and against Syrian, and the only way I can see…is for Europe and Syria to speak together, and believe me, the refugee crisis would be solved, and terrorism would be eradicated from Syria,” the official added.
As for Western officials’ repeated suggestions that Western-backed rebels are ‘moderate’ opposition, Shaaban answered bluntly:
“Anyone who carries arms against civilians, against the government, against institutions is a terrorist. Political opposition should be dealing with politics, should be an opposition against a government but by political means – without using arms, without killing people, without beheading people.”
“You remember the person who ate the heart of a Syrian soldier – [he] was from the Free Syrian Army, and the FSA is considered to be moderate by some Western countries – as ‘moderate opposition’. Can terrorism be ‘moderate’? Can somebody who is beheading people, killing people, destroying, and raping women and attacking minorities in the country be considered moderate? Can those [people] be considered moderate opposition?”
“I want to talk to you in a Western frame of mind,” Shaaban noted, posing an interesting hypothetical. “Can Britain or France or the US accept any opposition that carries arms, attacks schools, and kills people? Why do they apply terminology [in relation to] us, that does not apply anywhere in the world? This is unacceptable.”

Bouthaina Shaaban-2016-2


Interview with Dr Bouthaina Shaaban, Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s top adviser

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 
Broadcast: 11/02/2016, 
Reporter: Tony Jones
Tony Jones speaks with Dr Shaaban and asks for her reaction to a UN report which uncovers torture and murder on a mass scale, deemed as ‘extermination’, by Syrian security agencies.
Full Transcript: Friends of Syria


  1. Syrian Kurds Have ‘Nothing to Gain’ From Terror Attacks in Turkey
  2. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Zakharova Holds Weekly Press Briefing
  3. NATO Refuses to Comment on Turkey YPG Shelling, Denies Involvement in Syria

Sputnik News
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Video shows execution of Palestinian in Jerusalem

The apparent execution of a Palestinian in occupied East Jerusalem was caught on video by Al Jazeera on Friday.
Israel says that the young man was carrying out a stabbing attack on Israeli Border Police officers when he was killed at the Damascus Gate to Jerusalem’s Old City.
But video of the incident released by Al Jazeera indicates that the young man did not pose an immediate threat to anyone’s life when massive lethal force was used against him.
The video shows a Border Police officer shooting at the man, who falls to the ground.Then several other heavily armed officers shoot dozens of bullets into the body of the man as he lies on the ground and as passersby hurry away from the scene:

The video is a shocking display of Israel’s routine and reflexive use of lethal force, which has resulted in the slaying of approximately 170 Palestinians, including dozens of children, since a new phase of violence began in October last year.
Al Jazeera media workers who were at the scene to film a field report told the Ma’an News Agency that “six Israeli officers on site surrounded the Palestinian and ‘fired almost 50 bullets’ after he had already been shot twice and fallen to the ground.”
An Israeli police spokesperson told Ma’an that the Israeli forces opened fire on the young man after he drew a knife on them. Two officers were lightly wounded after being stabbed in the upper body and taken to hospital.
Palestinian media reported that a Palestinian bystander was wounded by shrapnel in her foot and was taken to hospital for treatment.

Muhammad Abu Khalaf (via Quds)
Israeli media circulated a photo of the ID belonging to the man killed during the incident, identifying him as 20-year-old Muhammad Abu Khalaf from the Jerusalem-area town of Kufr Aqab.
The Quds news network stated that at least 10 Palestinians have been slain at Damascus Gate since October, and that 11 alleged attacks have been waged at the main entrance to the ancient walled city.
Two Palestinians were shot and killed there on Sunday after an alleged armed attack on Border Police and three other youths were slain there two weeks earlier during a similar incident.
Israeli forces killed two more Palestinians on Friday.
Khaled Yousif Taqatqa, 21, was shot during confrontations between protesters and the Israeli military in the village of Beit Fajjar near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society told the Ma’an News Agency that medics were prevented from treating the young man at the scene and that he died of his injuries at a hospital in Jerusalem.

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israel in danger of losing the plot over #BDS

Israel in danger of losing the plot

Articles from the Financial Times and The National

A BDS March from Greenwich Village to Union Square In New York. Photo courtesy of The All-Nite Images/cc/flickr

By Henry Mance in London and John Reed in Jerusalem, Financial Times
February 15, 2016

The British government has found itself at the centre of a battle between Israel and Palestinian campaigners, after saying it would punish local councils who boycott Israeli goods.

The Cabinet Office will release guidance on Wednesday saying that locally imposed boycotts, including those targeting Israel, breach WTO rules on procurement.

The move, which could benefit Israeli suppliers and other companies with operations in Israel, comes as the Israeli government seeks to fight back against the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Israel’s political elite has been alarmed by the BDS movement’s recent gains among church groups, students and investors. Companies including security contractor G4S, machinery manufacturer JCB and SodaStream, maker of devices to create homemade carbonated drinks, have all been targeted by campaigners.

Palestinian groups reacted angrily to the Cabinet Office proposals. “This is a bullet at the very heart of a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Middle East and the very heart of democracy in Britain,” Husam Zomlot, a senior Palestinian official, told the Financial Times.
The BDS campaign, which models itself on the fight against apartheid in South Africa, has urged companies and public institutions to boycott Israel until it ends its occupation of Palestinian lands.

A spokesperson for the campaign’s Palestine National Committee said the UK government was “making a grave mistake similar to Margaret Thatcher’s unwavering support of apartheid South Africa”. The Cabinet Office plan “comes at a time when the BDS movement is having unprecedented success”, he added.

Since 2014 Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, has fought against the boycott movement, which is accused of antisemitism and the broader goals of undermining and delegitimising the Jewish state.

The new BDS guidance coincides with a trip by Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock to Israel and the Palestinian territories. It will affect all contracting authorities, including local councils and NHS bodies, on the basis that local boycotts breach the WTO Government Procurement Agreement, which demands that all suppliers are treated equally.

The Cabinet Office did not provide figures on the number of councils that have adopted boycotts, or the sum of contracts affected. A spokesperson said it had no evidence of proceedings having been launched with the WTO on account of existing boycotts.

In October, the government proposed rules aimed at stopping pension funds from “politically motivated boycott and divestment campaigns against UK defence companies and against Israel”.

The Local Government Association has hinted at its unease at the October proposals and the latest guidance, saying that councils “will always seek to promote democratic values”, and this would sometimes include “taking ethical considerations . . . into account where due process allows”.

The guidance would leave private institutions and national and international governments as the focus for the BDS movement. In November the European Commission mandated that goods from illegal Israeli settlements should be labelled, in what the BDS campaign said was “a welcome sign”.

The Israeli response to BDS has included legal warfare or “lawfare” against the movement in foreign countries. “We have stepped up our efforts directly and indirectly, dealing with friends of Israel in a variety of countries in which we have the BDS movement, fighting it with legal instruments,” Emmanuel Nahshon, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, told the Financial Times.

In the US, legislatures in about 30 states, led by South Carolina and Illinois, have adopted or discussed laws or statements meant to counter BDS, according to Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian BDS activist based in Ramallah.

Barack Obama, US president, is expected to sign into a law soon a trade bill that includes anti-BDS measures, although the White House has voiced objections to language in it that equates Israel’s internationally recognised territory with its illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian lands.

Palestinians say Britain holds special responsibility for finding a peaceful resolution to their decades-old conflict with Israel because it was the colonial ruler of Palestine in the run-up to the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.

The new guidance “puts the UK in the position of defending Israel’s expansion and colonialism rather than defending its own rules and laws”, Mr Zomlot said.

The boycott row isn’t just about trade
National Editorial
February 16, 2016

The UK is cracking down on local authorities who take part in the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (BDS), saying that it violates global trade laws. This follows an international lobbying effort by the Israeli government to encourage foreign powers to rein in anti-Israel campaigners. It is the second success for the Israel lobby against BDS campaigners this week, after US president Barack Obama signed a law that included language recognising trade between illegal Israeli settlements and the United States.

The BDS movement has been dubbed by Israel an existential threat to the state, and is even considered by some politicians as a “new intifada”. The economic impact, however, is disputed. One Israeli government report warned that BDS would cost the state $1.4 billion (Dh5.1bn) each year, roughly 0.5 per cent of the country’s GDP. Other analysts believe that the economic effect is smaller. Few Israeli firms will, for example, mourn the decision by Leicester City Council to stop buying products from Israel, they point out.

Instead, the argument has more symbolic motives on both sides. Israel wishes to delegitimise the BDS movement, and therefore protect its control over the narrative of the conflict with the Palestinians. For Israel, the conflict is about what it says is an issue over security and not about rights. For BDS campaigners, the issue is a moral one, with the focus on the deprivation of Palestinians rights and the nature of the occupation.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is based on narratives. It is nearly impossible for BDS campaigners to significantly derail Israel’s economy, but the conversation that they raise by targetting the likes of Leicester City Council alters the complexion of the mainstream debate about Israel’s behaviour. Therefore, the conflict is fought in small increments that, taken as a whole, may ultimately turn the tide. The 40-year battle to boycott apartheid South Africa is a good example of how long these campaigns can take.

The British government argues that local government support for BDS undermines international trade agreements. This is not an unreasonable interpretation because governments are often bound to protect their economic interests above political concerns. However, the battle is not about trade: it’s about how criticism of Israel can be expressed. Israel wants to persuade foreign governments to make it harder for its critics to have a voice. But the argument will not be settled that easily
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Obama admits U.S.-ISIS terror link



Call it a Freudian slip, but US President Barack Obama appears to have come clean, for once, on the connection between American foreign policy and the so called Islamic State (ISIS) terror group.

In an address earlier this week to the leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), gathered in California, Obama was answering questions from news reporters on various international topics. On the matter of terrorist groups expanding their foothold in Libya, the president said the following: “With respect to Libya…we will go after ISIS wherever it appears, the same way we went after al Qaeda wherever they appeared.”

In casual parlance the phrase “go after”can mean “to destroy”. But the more literal meaning and perhaps the one that Obama inadvertently let slip is simply “to follow”–as in a partnered way.

By Finian Cunningham, American Herald Tribune

In that case, what Obama is referring to is the actual foreign policy function of ISIS and its related al Qaeda terror network. Wherever these groups appear, then Washington appoints itself to follow them under the pretext of fighting terrorism.


This pretext works very efficiently to nullify problems of international law. When the US sends its military into a foreign country to ostensibly combat terrorism then it is untrammeled by legal objections that it is violating other countries’sovereignty. What would normally be seen as a gross violation –a military invasion by the US –is neatly transformed into an “anti-terror”operation. And if the incumbent foreign government complains about the “benevolent US assistance”then it can be toppled because it is “siding with the terrorists”.

This is, of course, the whole rationale behind the so-called War on Terror that Washington crafted in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Just uttering the phrase War on Terror gives Washington license to invade and ransack any foreign state it chooses, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, where more than one million people were killed by US forces “hunting down terrorists”.

Before that, the official pretexts were “War on Communism”or “War on Drugs”. But with the collapse of the “Evil Soviet Empire”, the first of these pretexts became redundant. Although, Washington and its NATO allies are trying their best to revive the “Russian Scare”by demonizing Vladimir Putin as the “new Hitler in Europe”. As for the War on Drugs, it didn’t quite have the required kick to pump up the Pentagon’s $600 billion annual budget, or to enthuse the American public, many of whom rather enjoy drugs anyway.

But the War on Terror, now that is, or at least was, a satisfying wheeze. It also has the added benefit of allowing federal authorities to crack down on civil rights and make all sorts of invasive controls over individual liberty, as in the latest controversy of the FBI demanding that Apple give them a digital key for unlocking phones and computers.

The primary function, however, remains: the terror groups, whether they go by the name of al Qaeda or ISIS, give Washington the convenient cover to militarily invade any country on the globe. The real agenda being regime change or commandeering the natural resources of the target country for the gratification of Wall Street banks and other American corporations –in the exact same scam that pertained in the old days of Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, who later confessed to being a henchman on behalf of US capitalism, by overthrowing governments in Central America and the Caribbean during the early 1900s.
Admittedly, sometimes the terrorists do get whacked by the Pentagon. No doubt about it that Obama and his generals have killed numerous al Qaeda-linked operatives with assassination drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Many more innocent civilians have also been murdered along the way by US drones.

The assassination of terror cadres by Washington may seem like a contradiction to the overall argument here that there is a mutual connection between the two. However, we shouldn’t think of Washington as a monolith. There are no doubt people within the US establishment who are dedicated to genuinely fighting terrorism, and sometimes they succeed.

But that doesn’t negate the central point that the US has covertly created these same terrorist groups to expedite its own foreign policy and geopolitical ambitions. We can’t go into the full history here, but it is well documented that the CIA engendered, mobilized and weaponized al Qaeda “the database”to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s. It wasn’t just the CIA. British MI6, French DGSE and Pakistani SIS were involved, as were the Saudi regime who provided the billions of dollars of finance and fundamentalist Wahhabi ideology that perversely empowers cadres to kill anyone –men, women and children –whom is designated an “infidel”. In other words, perfect proxy killers for the powers-that-be.

Despite the propaganda pumped out in the Western mainstream media of a US-led coalition “fighting terrorism”in Syria, the hard fact is that al Qaeda, ISIS and a plethora of other terrorist mercenary brigades were sent into Syria by the same US-led coalition for the purpose of regime change against the Russian and Iranian-allied government of President Bashar al-Assad. Readers can look up the candid admission of Lt General Michael Flynn, the former chief of US Defense Intelligence Agency as to the cynical calculations that Washington made in unleashing the terrorists on Syria.

If the US were really fighting terrorism in Syria then how do you explain thisheadline from McClatchy News referring to the huge discrepancy in Russian bombing raids compared with American. “Russia hit 1,888 targets in Syria in a week; the US count? Just 16”.
Face it. Until Russia intervened last September, the ISIS terror network had proliferated under US “bombing”to such an extent that Syria was in danger of being overthrown (as according to Washington’s plan).

Having failed in that mission largely because of Russia’s military intervention over the past five months, the fallback option provided by the terror groups is that they could be used to justify an outright military invasion of Syria by the US-led coalition, in the form of NATO-member Turkey and Saudi Arabia along with the other American-Arab puppet-regimes.
As Obama let slip at the ASEAN summit this week: “Wherever ISIS or al Qaeda appears, we will go after them.”

Well said Mr President. For once, you told the plain truth.

PS. The ASEAN venue where Obama was speaking at in Sunnylands, California is called “Rancho Mirage”. Kind of appropriate, don’t you think?

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Northern Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. His columns appear on RT, Sputnik, American Herald Tribune, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.

Originally published on American Herald Tribune
By Finian Cunningham
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