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Friday, April 28, 2017

Lobby: US can’t afford to lose Afghanistan to Taliban

On Friday, Taliban fighters attacked an Afghan military base in Mazar-e-Sharif, killing 140 US-trained Afghan soldiers and wounding many others. It’s Taliban’s response to America’s testing its MOAB weapon to scare those Israel-hating Taliban after they recaptured a major part of Baghlan province from Afghan soldiers on April 7.
On April 11, 2017, Israel propaganda news website The National Interest, founded in 1985 by Jew neocon Irving Kristol (father of Bill Kristol), cried America Can’t Afford Keep Losing the War in Afghanistan.
As the Taliban launch their spring offensive, the Trump administration has yet to announce its strategy for the war in Afghanistan,” said Sabera Azizi.
Gen. John Nicholson, the top US-NATO commander in Afghanistan, told the AIPAC controlled Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2017 that the security situation in Afghanistan was at a stalemate. He estimated that an additional several thousand troops would be needed to reverse that stalemate. Gen. Jospeh Votel, commander of the US Central Command, made a similar assertion to the committee in March 2017.
Dubya Bush administration planned an invasion of Afghanistan in December 2000 to exploit Caspian Sea oil reserves and increase supply of poppy for the Jew Mafia.
Taliban now control nearly 75% of Afghanistan territory by night.
Since 2002, Taliban have been putting armed resistance against both the US occupation and the US-backed regime and the military forces propped up to protect it both in Kabul and across the country. That the base targeted by the recent attack also reportedly garrisoned German troops is also significant. The prospect of ending such attacks or securing any sort of “victory” over the Taliban and the local tribes allied to it is as unlikely now as a US victory was in Vietnam during the 1970’s,” says Ulson Gunnar on April 25, 2017 (here).
Professor Rajan Menon (University of New York) wrote in September 2016: “Few will say it, but the facts are indisputable: America’s war in Afghanistan has failed. There comes a time when persisting in a lost cause amounts to foolishness, indeed irresponsibility. That time has arrived.”
Pakistan’s top spy, Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul had predicted in 2010 that America’s war in Afghanistan was a lost cause.
American Jewish writer, political commentator, author of seven books, anti-war activist and ex-Zionist Phyllis Bennis claims the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were to serve Israeli interests. She also claims that the same Zionists are now pushing America into new war with Iran.
The US is 11 years into its current war in Afghanistan and still losing. We never had a chance to WIN this war of vengeance – and while few in Washington are ready to admit that, they have continued to revise and redefine what WINNING might look like,” Ms Bennis wrote on April 19, 2012.
American invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 has become country’s longest war. It has cost over US$1 trillion so far. More than 3,000 US soldiers and civilian contractors have been killed and over 21,000 wounded. Over 20% of these casualties are inflicted by Afghan soldiers trained by US-NATO forces.

ماذا عندما يقع الشهيد الأول بين الأسرى؟

ماذا عندما يقع الشهيد الأول بين الأسرى؟

ناصر قنديل

أبريل 29, 2017

– يؤكد أحد قادة انتفاضة الأسرى المضيّ قدماً في الإضراب عن الطعام ضمن استراتيجية واضحة تعاقد عليها قادة التحرّك لا تشكّل المطالب المرفوعة إلا عنوانها المعلن، فتلبية «الإسرائيليين» للمطالب هزيمة معنوية يصعب على كيان متغطرس يقوم على إذلال الفلسطينيين لتأمين بقائه أن يرتضي معادلة تقوم على التنازلات أمامهم لتفادي الأسوأ، لأنّ هذا سيفتح باباً لعشرات ومئات التحرّكات المطلبية التي لا تنتهي أملاً ببلوغ ما تريد عبر التصعيد. ويشرح أحد قادة تحرّك الأسرى المنتفضين استراتيجية الانتفاضة ودورها الوطني بالقول إنّ الطريق الذي يفتحه «الإسرائيليون» هو طريق الشهادة للأسرى واحداً تلو الآخر، وهذا ما وضعه المنتفضون في حسابهم، الموت جوعاً والانتصار بالدم على السيف، داعياً قادة الكيان المحتلّ وقادة الشعب الفلسطيني والقادة الحكوميين والسياسيين في العالم العربي ومسؤولي المنظمات الإنسانية والحكومات في الدول الكبرى في العالم والأمم المتحدة إلى التفكير قليلاً في ماذا سيحدث عندما يبدأ المئات من الأسرى بالتساقط الواحد تلو الآخر في سجونهم شهداء؟

– يعتبر قادة انتفاضة الأسرى أنّهم موجودون في ظلّ عدد من أحكام بالسجن المؤبد لكلّ منهم لا يأملون بتخطيها بالتحرّك المطلبي، وهي ليست حاصل صدف في حياة كلّ منهم، بل ثمرة تكريس حياته للدفاع عن قضية شعبه ووطنه. والسجن هو ساحة من ساحات النضال، حيث الطليعة الأشدّ إخلاصاً للقضية، بفعل النضالات التي أوصلت أصحابها للسجون، ولن يكون في حساب القادة أن يتقبّلوا التسليم بما يريده العدو من تحويل السجن انتظاراً للموت والقول عبر سيرة الموت البطيء للقادة الأسرى إنه قادر على إخراجهم من ساحات النضال بسجنهم وتحويلهم كتل لحم تنتظر الموت، والقول لمن يفطر بأن يحذو حذوهم أن مسيرته ستنتهي بدخول السجن، فمعركتهم الآن عنوانها أن يدرك المحتلّ أنّ أعباء وجودهم في السجن عليه تفوق أعباء تركهم أحراراً، ورسالتهم لشعبهم، أنّ أسرهم لم ولن يوقف نضالهم ولا مواقعهم القيادية في مسيرة شعبهم نحو الحرية.

– يثق القادة الأسرى أنهم ذاهبون إلى ما تعاهدوا عليه من السقوط تباعاً شهداء، وهم ينتظرون ذلك اليوم بفارغ الصبر، لأنهم يعلمون أنّ الشارع الفلسطيني سيرتفع إلى درجة الغليان وينفجر مقاومة ومواجهات لا تتوقف، وأنّ المقاومات الفلسطينية المسلحة لن تقف مكتوفة الأيدي أمام هذا التساقط للشهداء القادة في السجون، ويثقون أنّ موجة من الغضب ستعمّ الشارعَيْن العربي والدولي وأنّ نشاطات عدة إنسانية وسياسية ستمتدّ في مدن العالم ومراكز القرار السياسي والحكومي والأممي عنوانها قضية فلسطين ومعاناة شعبه وظلم الاحتلال لأبنائه، وأنّ مبادرات عديدة سيطبّقها حراك الأسرى، ووجهة الوضعين العربي والدولي سيغيّرها الحراك ويفرض عليها روزنامته.

– قادة كبار عظماء قرّروا بأنهم سيدخلون التاريخ شهداء، وبدأوا خطوتهم الأولى نحو الحرية لفلسطين، يدقّون أبواب ضمائر أحرار العالم كلّهم، وبوابات الصمت العربي والدولي، ماذا لو سقط الشهيد الأول وبدأ القادة يتساقطون تباعاً شهداء…؟

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Is Syria’s Invasion from Jordan on the Agenda?


Is Syria’s Invasion from Jordan on the Agenda?

EDITORIAL | 28.04.2017 | EDITORIAL

Is Syria’s Invasion from Jordan on the Agenda?

With focus on the battle of Raqqa and in the governorates of Homs and Idlib, Jordan has been kept away from media headlines. The kingdom’s role will grow immensely if it becomes the staging point for an operation on Syrian soil. And it may happen pretty soon.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made the allegation that «Jordan was part of the American plan since the beginning of the war in Syria».
A perusal of various sources leads to the conclusion that Syria is facing the possibility of a US-led invasion from Jordan. Mike Cernovich, a pro-Trump journalist, reported that Trump’s national security advisor, Gen. Herbert R.McMaster, was pushing the idea of involving the US in a full-scale war in Syria by sending as many as 150,000 troops. According to Derek Harvey, the top Middle East adviser in the NSC, McMaster has been trying to influence the Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Mattis and Dunford support working with our allies in the fight against Islamic State (IS). Harvey and McMaster are advocating for a massive American-only ground force.
Here is another story to confirm the information. Eli Lake writes in his article published by Bloomberg that «Senior White House and administration officials tell me Trump’s national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, has been quietly pressing his colleagues to question the underlying assumptions of a draft war plan against the Islamic State that would maintain only a light US ground troop presence in Syria. McMaster’s critics inside the administration say he wants to send tens of thousands of ground troops to the Euphrates River Valley».
Bloomberg cites Jack Keane, a retired four-star Army general who is close to McMaster, who says «A better option is to start the operation in the southeast along the Euphrates River Valley, establish a US base of operations, work with our Sunni Arab coalition partners, who have made repeated offers to help us against the regime and also Islamic State». Keane added that US conventional forces would be the anchor of that initial push, which he said would most likely require around 10,000 conventional forces, with an expectation that Arab allies in the region would provide more troops to the US-led effort. Other proposals mention 50,000 and 150,000 soldiers.
Arab English-language sources also have their stories to report. For instance, Arabic Al-Hayat newspaper reported that Jordan wants to follow Turkey’s example and conduct its own military operation in south Syria. The report came only a week after Jordan conducted an airstrike against Jaysh Khalid bin Walid – an extremist Al Qaeda-affiliated extremist group holding positions not far from the Jordanian border. Mass media previously reported political sources in Amman speaking about Jordanian-American-British operations to be launched against terrorist groups operating near the northern Jordanian borders with Syria.
These are just media reports, in theory they could be made up, but the authors are respected people and there is no smoke without fire.
It serves the purpose to join isolated pieces of information together to see a bigger picture.
The situation in Syria has been turning in favor of the Syrian government. The army is recovering new ground in Hama governorate and is also making gains in Idlib. It has repelled attacks launched by «moderate rebels» in the south to take the city of Deraa – the key urban area for the implementation of plans to establish a safe zone in the south.
In April, US Defense Secretary James Mattis visited the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. If the US wants other countries to join in an operation, it will badly need their political support and Arab boots on the ground.
In April, 20 US Army armored vehicles were transported by Ro-Ro transport ship Liberty Passion to the Jordanian port of Aqaba. US troops were allegedly accompanied by the Jordanian Army’s 3rd Division. This is the first time when a notable number of US armored vehicles and troops (besides the special operations forces – SOF) were reported in Jordan. The ship was scheduled to drop anchor at seven stations, but its arrival in Jordan coincided with the US cruise missile strike in Syria.
The war preparations started after President Trump received Jordanian king Abdullah at the White House on April 5.
The king expressed concern over the presence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards stationed 70 kilometers away from the border with Jordan. Given that Jordan and Syria share a 235-mile border, Jordanian media have also voiced alarm over Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, a jihadist group formerly known as Nusra Front that many in the Hashemite kingdom perceive as merely a replica of IS. «It is a challenge, but we are ready to face it in cooperation with the US and Britain», the King told the Washington Post.
They say militants use the territory in southern Syria as a springboard for terrorist activity against Jordan. There are 100,000 refugees in two of the major refugee camps along the Jordanian-Syrian border-al-Rukban and Hadalat. The camps are infiltrated by terrorists. The last thing Jordan wants is even more Syrian refugees flowing into the country or finding refuge near its borders. A longtime US ally, Amman is also determined to work closely with the Trump administration, especially as the new US president advocates «safe zones» in Syria, which will inevitably bear major implications for the future of the Hashemite kingdom’s security.
Crossing the border to establish a protected area would be in line with Turkey’s setting up a buffer zone in northern Syria.
Even if joined by Arab allies, the creation of a safe zone in the south of Syria foresees significant increase of the American involvement in the conflict. It will require substantial ground forces and air power. Without an invitation from the Syrian government and an approval by the UN Security Council, the operation will be conducted in violation of international law. There will be a risk of clashes with Syria’s government forces. Actually, the plan hardly has a chance to succeed without cooperation of the Syrian government, Russia and Iran. The US will be dragged into another costly military conflict with no goals defined and no end at the end of the tunnel. Donald Trump won the presidential race largely because Americans were tired of the past 16 years of continuous foreign interventions.
The creation of a buffer zone will mean the division of the country, reducing the chances to find a solution to the conflict. The plan can work only if it is a multinational operation conducted in line with international law. If not, it is doomed to failure at great cost.

غارة «إسرائيلية» إلى الوراء؟


أبريل 28, 2017

ناصر قنديل

– يجزم العسكريون المعنيون والمتابعون للغارات «الإسرائيلية» في سورية من تدمر إلى محيط مطار دمشق أن لا أهداف تتصل بما يدّعيه «الإسرائيليون» من مخازن صواريخ وشحنات للمقاومة، ومثال تدمر يحكي عن نفسه، إذ كيف يمكن تصديق أكذوبة ورود الصواريخ عن طريق بري ينتهي في تدمر إلا إذا كان أوله في الرقة، فهل من هناك تأتي الصواريخ التي يتحدّثون عنها. ويجزم العسكريون أنفسهم أنّ الغارات «الإسرائيلية» التي لها أهداف متعددة منها ما يتصل بمستقبل جغرافيا البادية السورية التي تطلّ عليها جميع المواقع التي استهدفها الأميركيون و«الإسرائيليون»، من دير الزور إلى تدمر والشعيرات وصولاً لمطار دمشق، والبادية هي المنطقة التي يريدها الأميركي ملاذاً بديلاً لداعش بعد الرقة، وقد وظف «الإسرائيلي» لمعاونته في تحقيق هذا الهدف. لكن للضربات وظائف معنوية تتصل بحال المسلحين المنهارة، ومن الزاوية «الإسرائيلية» الصرفة لها صلة بمحاولة رسم قواعد اشتباك لما بعد نهاية الحرب في سورية.

– حاول «الإسرائيليون» رسم معادلة استباحة الأجواء السورية وتكريس ما يتحدّثون عنه كحق لهم بملاحقة شحنات سلاح حزب الله، في كلّ الأراضي السورية وعبر سلاح الجو بيدين طليقتين، بعدما كلّفوا جماعاتهم من هياكل المعارضة والنصرة بضرب منظومات الدفاع الجوي السوري، ونجحوا بتفكيك نسبة النصف منها، كما قال الرئيس بشار الأسد، لكنهم منذ سنة بدأوا يكتشفون أنّ التموضع الروسي من جهة، وإعادة بناء منظومات الدفاع الجوي السورية من جهة أخرى، قد فرضا قيوداً على حركة طيرانهم وعلى التسليم بما افترضوه قد تكرّس لهم بصفته حقاً مكتسباً في أرض سائبة. وبدأ يظهر أنه كلّما تعافت الدولة السورية واستعادت قوتها العسكرية، فذلك لا يحدث بوجه الجماعات المسلحة وحدها، بل يغيّر قواعد الاشتباك مع «إسرائيل»، وخلال ثلاثة شهور واجه «الإسرائيليون» تصدياً صاروخياً سورياً في مرتين متعاقبتين يقول إنّ الأجواء السورية صارت محرّمة على الطيران «الإسرائيلي».

– في المرة الأولى تلقى «الإسرائيليون» المعادلة الجديدة وحاولوا التأقلم معها، فلجأوا إلى صواريخ موجّهة من طائراتهم بمدى ستين كليومتراً يطلقونها من الأجواء اللبنانية، وصواريخ برية يطلقونها من حدود الجولان وتصل إلى مدى موازٍ، حتى جاء الحضور الأميركي ودخوله على الخط بمحاولة تغيير قواعد الاشتباك وإسناده لـ«الإسرائيليين» مهمة الضرب بالوكالة عنهم في تدمر، وتأمين عبورهم الأجواء السورية ما شجّعهم على العودة للرهان على تغيير القواعد والعودة لما قبل الصواريخ السورية، وكانت النتيجة تكريس معادلة حرمة الأجواء السورية عليهم بقوة أشدّ وعزم أكبر.

– يعود «الإسرائيليون» بغارة مطار دمشق ليقولوا إنّ الردع السوري يمنعهم من دخول الأجواء السورية لكنه لا يحول دون التعامل ضمن ما رسموه من مدى أمني لصواريخهم الموجّهة من الجو أو البر من دون الدخول للأجواء السورية، وبهذا المعنى تنتمي غارة مطار دمشق بواسطة صواريخ موجّهة أطلقت من فوق الأجواء اللبنانية، إلى مرحلة ما قبل محاولة كسر ميزان الردع الذي كرّسته الصواريخ السورية، من دون أن يعني هذا تسليماً من سورية والمقاومة بقواعد الاشتباك التي يريد «الإسرائيلي» فرضها، ولو من موقع التسليم بقواعد الردع السورية، بجعل مدى الستين كيلومتراً من الحدود مع الجولان ولبنان منطقة عمليات «إسرائيلية».

– من موقع رسم قواعد الاشتباك عادت المعادلة لردّ يضمن ردعاً جديداً يكمل الردع الذي صنعته الصواريخ لحرمة الأجواء السورية، فيمنع العبث ضمن مدى الصواريخ «الإسرائيلية»، ويبدو أنه آتٍ.


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BREAKING: Personal message from Xi Jinping to Vladimir Putin: our friendship is unbreakable

April 27, 2017
BREAKING: Personal message from Xi Jinping to Vladimir Putin: our friendship is unbreakable
Chinese President Xi Jinping sends personal message of friendship to Russian President Putin on China’s behalf, scotching attempt by US to make trouble between them.
Russia’s President Putin has met in the Oval Hall of the Kremlin with Li Zhanshu, Director of the General Office of the Communist Party of China, and chief of staff of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The meeting was held directly after Li Zhanshu held talks with his Russian counterpart Anton Vaino, who is the head of the Russian President’s Executive Office and who is President Putin’s chief of staff.
I have previously explained who Li Zhanshu is, and why his visit is important, and the likely reason for his visit, which is the ongoing attempt by the Trump administration to cause trouble between China and Russia, and China’s and Russia’s concern to squelch any mistaken impressions which might be caused by that attempt.
That in turn explains the way the Chinese and the Russians – undoubtedly by pre-arrangement – used Li Zhanshu’s meeting with Putin to publicise a personal message from President Xi Jinping to Putin.  The Kremlin’s transcript of Li Zhanshu’s words reads as follows
Before my departure, I went especially to see President Xi Jinping and asked him what he wanted to pass on to you. He told me to say that today, Chinese-Russian relations are going through their best period ever in our history.
Today, our relations are deservedly called an example of relations between great powers, characterised by cooperation and mutual benefit. Today, our relations are very solid, mature, and are distinguished by strategic cooperation and a lasting nature.
He also said that despite the serious changes in the international situation, we will continue to work with you unfailingly adhering to three constants, namely: regardless of the circumstances, we will not change our policy of deepening and developing our strategic partnership and cooperation; our policy, based on joint development and prosperity, will not change; and our joint efforts to defend peace and justice and promote cooperation in the world will not change. These were the words of President Xi Jinping.
(bold italics added)
The “serious changes in the international situation” of course refers to the change of administration in Washington, and the new administration’s attempt to make trouble between China and Russia.  President Xi Jinping in his personal message to President Putin went out of his way to say that this attempt could not succeed, and that China’s strategic partnership with Russia “will not change”.
The message is of course primarily intended for the Trump administration.  The Chinese and the Russians scarcely need to reassure each other about the depth of their relationship, which they are of course far more informed about than anyone else.  However Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are anxious that there should be no illusions about it in Washington.  Alas, given the chaos in Washington, it is doubtful whether anyone there is paying attention.

Syria: a video-investigaton

Syria: The most important interview everyone needs to see… and understand the implications…

Intel Vets Voice Doubt on Syrian Crisis

[ Ed. note – The article below, written by members of the organization Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, focuses mainly on the issue of faulty, or “politicized” intelligence assessments that may have been used to justify the April 6 US missile strike on a Syrian airbase. The writers are concerned that further escalations to the conflict may come about as a result of similarly fraudulent assessments. But in discussing the matter, they divulge a little-known tidbit of history–namely that the intelligence assessment leading up to the Iraq war in 2003 was overseen by a “veteran CIA intelligence analyst” by the name of Stuart Cohen.
While the signatories to the letter don’t say so, I am guessing, judging by the name “Cohen,” that the man they are referring to was/is Jewish. As they write:
The CIA vehemently denies that either Vice President Cheney or anyone at the White House put pressure on its analysts to alter their assessments. This may very well be true, but if it is, then the record of certainty – and arrogance – that existed in the mindset of senior intelligence managers and analysts only further erodes public confidence in the assessments produced by the CIA, especially when, as is the case with Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction – the agency was found so lacking. Stuart Cohen, a veteran CIA intelligence analyst who served as the acting Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, oversaw the production of the 2002 Iraq National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was used to make case for Iraq possessing WMD that was used to justify war.
According to Mr. Cohen, he had four National Intelligence Officers with “over 100 years’ collective work experience on weapons of mass destruction issues” backed up by hundreds of analysts with “thousands of man-years invested in studying these issues.”
On the basis of this commitment of talent alone, Mr. Cohen assessed that “no reasonable person could have viewed the totality of the information that the Intelligence Community had at its disposal … and reached any conclusion or alternative views that were profoundly different from those that we reached,” namely that – judged with high confidence – “Iraq had chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of the 150 kilometer limit imposed by the UN Security Council.”
As we now know, Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. The war was fought under false pretexts. As Greg Bacon noted recently, “The war in Iraq was conceived by 25 neoconservative intellectuals, most of them Jewish.” (The words are not Bacon’s but are quoted from Haaretz.) History now seems to be repeating itself. As the VIPS writers note, Israel now seems to be playing a major role in concocting the “politicized” intelligence assessments on the April 4 chemical weapons attack in Syria. ]
An Open Memorandum for the American People
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (L) and US Defense Secretary James Mattis, hold a news conference in Tel Aviv on April 21, 2017
From: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
Subject: Mattis ‘No Doubt’ Stance on Alleged Syrian CW Smacks of Politicized Intelligence
Donald Trump’s new Secretary of Defense, retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, during a recent trip to Israel, commented on the issue of Syria’s retention and use of chemical weapons in violation of its obligations to dispose of the totality of its declared chemical weapons capability in accordance with the provisions of both the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.
“There can be no doubt,” Secretary Mattis said during a April 21, 2017 joint news conference with his Israeli counterpart, Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman, “in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all.” To the contrary, Mattis noted, “I can say authoritatively they have retained some.”
Lieberman joined Mattis in his assessment, noting that Israel had “100 percent information that [the] Assad regime used chemical weapons against [Syrian] rebels.”
Both Mattis and Lieberman seemed to be channeling assessments offered to reporters two days prior, on April 19, 2017, by anonymous Israeli defense officials that the April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack on the Syrian village of Khan Shaykhun was ordered by Syrian military commanders, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s personal knowledge, and that Syria retained a stock of “between one and three tons” of chemical weapons.
The Israeli intelligence followed on the heels of an April 13, 2017 speech given by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that, once information had come in about a chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun, the CIA had been able to “develop several hypothesis around that, and then to begin to develop fact patterns which either supported or suggested that the hypothesis wasn’t right.” The CIA, Pompeo said, was “in relatively short order able to deliver to [President Trump] a high-confidence assessment that, in fact, it was the Syrian regime that had launched chemical strikes against its own people in [Khan Shaykhun.]”
The speed in which this assessment was made is of some concern. Both Director Pompeo, during his CSIS remarks, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, during comments to the press on April 6, 2017, note that President Trump turned to the intelligence community early on in the crisis to understand better “the circumstances of the attack and who was responsible.” McMaster indicated that the U.S. Intelligence Community, working with allied partners, was able to determine with “a very high degree of confidence” where the attack originated.
Both McMaster and Pompeo spoke of the importance of open source imagery in confirming that a chemical attack had taken place, along with evidence collected from the victims themselves – presumably blood samples – that confirmed the type of agent that was used in the attack. This initial assessment drove the decision to use military force – McMaster goes on to discuss a series of National Security Council meetings where military options were discussed and decided upon; the discussion about the intelligence underpinning the decision to strike Syria was over.
The danger of this rush toward an intelligence decision by Director Pompeo and National Security Advisor McMaster is that once the President and his top national security advisors have endorsed an intelligence-based conclusion, and authorized military action based upon that conclusion, it becomes virtually impossible for that conclusion to change. Intelligence assessments from that point forward will embrace facts that sustain this conclusion, and reject those that don’t; it is the definition of politicized intelligence, even if those involved disagree.
A similar “no doubt” moment had occurred nearly 15 years ago when, in August 2002, Vice President Cheney delivered a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Cheney declared. “There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.” The message Cheney was sending to the Intelligence Community was clear: Saddam Hussein had WMD; there was no need to answer that question anymore.
The CIA vehemently denies that either Vice President Cheney or anyone at the White House put pressure on its analysts to alter their assessments. This may very well be true, but if it is, then the record of certainty – and arrogance – that existed in the mindset of senior intelligence managers and analysts only further erodes public confidence in the assessments produced by the CIA, especially when, as is the case with Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction – the agency was found so lacking. Stuart Cohen, a veteran CIA intelligence analyst who served as the acting Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, oversaw the production of the 2002 Iraq National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was used to make case for Iraq possessing WMD that was used to justify war.
According to Mr. Cohen, he had four National Intelligence Officers with “over 100 years’ collective work experience on weapons of mass destruction issues” backed up by hundreds of analysts with “thousands of man-years invested in studying these issues.”
On the basis of this commitment of talent alone, Mr. Cohen assessed that “no reasonable person could have viewed the totality of the information that the Intelligence Community had at its disposal … and reached any conclusion or alternative views that were profoundly different from those that we reached,” namely that – judged with high confidence – “Iraq had chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of the 150 kilometer limit imposed by the UN Security Council.”
Two facts emerge from this expression of intellectual hubris. First, the U.S. Intelligence Community was, in fact, wrong in its estimate on Iraq’s WMD capability, throwing into question the standards used to assign “high confidence” ratings to official assessments. Second, the “reasonable person” standard cited by Cohen must be reassessed, perhaps based upon a benchmark derived from a history of analytical accuracy rather than time spent behind a desk.
The major lesson learned here, however, is that the U.S. Intelligence Community, and in particular the CIA, more often than not hides behind self-generated platitudes (“high confidence”, “reasonable person”) to disguise a process of intelligence analysis that has long ago been subordinated to domestic politics.
It is important to point out the fact that Israel, too, was wrong about Iraq’s WMD. According to Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli Intelligence Officer, Israeli intelligence seriously overplayed the threat posed by Iraqi WMD in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq War, including a 2002 briefing to NATO provided by Efraim Halevy, who at the time headed the Israeli Mossad, or intelligence service, that Israel had “clear indications” that Iraq had reconstituted its WMD programs after U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998.
The Israeli intelligence assessments on Iraq, Mr. Brom concluded, were most likely colored by political considerations, such as the desire for regime change in Iraq. In this light, neither the presence of Avigdor Leiberman, nor the anonymous background briefings provided by Israel about Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities, should be used to provide any credence to Secretary Mattis’s embrace of the “no doubt” standard when it comes to Syria’s alleged possession of chemical weapons.
The intelligence data that has been used to back up the allegations of Syrian chemical weapons use has been far from conclusive. Allusions to intercepted Syrian communications have been offered as “proof”, but the Iraq experience – in particular former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s unfortunate experience before the U.N. Security Council – show how easily such intelligence can be misunderstood and misused.
Inconsistencies in the publicly available imagery which the White House (and CIA) have so heavily relied upon have raised legitimate questions about the veracity of any conclusions drawn from these sources (and begs the question as to where the CIA’s own Open Source Intelligence Center was in this episode.) The blood samples used to back up claims of the presence of nerve agent among the victims was collected void of any verifiable chain of custody, making their sourcing impossible to verify, and as such invalidates any conclusions based upon their analysis.
In the end, the conclusions CIA Director Pompeo provided to the President was driven by a fundamental rethinking of the CIA’s analysts when it came to Syria and chemical weapons that took place in 2014. Initial CIA assessments in the aftermath of the disarmament of Syria’s chemical weapons seemed to support the Syrian government’s stance that it had declared the totality of its holding of chemical weapons, and had turned everything over to the OPCW for disposal. However, in 2014, OPCW inspectors had detected traces of Sarin and VX nerve agent precursors at sites where the Syrians had indicated no chemical weapons activity had taken place; other samples showed the presence of weaponized Sarin nerve agent.
The Syrian explanation that the samples detected were caused by cross-contamination brought on by the emergency evacuation of chemical precursors and equipment used to handle chemical weapons necessitated by the ongoing Civil War was not accepted by the inspectors, and this doubt made its way into the minds of the CIA analysts, who closely followed the work of the OPCW inspectors in Syria.
One would think that the CIA would operate using the adage of “once bitten, twice shy” when assessing inspector-driven doubt; U.N. inspectors in Iraq, driven by a combination of the positive sampling combined with unverifiable Iraqi explanations, created an atmosphere of doubt about the veracity of Iraqi declarations that all chemical weapons had been destroyed. The CIA embraced the U.N. inspectors’ conclusions, and discounted the Iraqi version of events; as it turned out, Iraq was telling the truth.
While the jury is still out about whether or not Syria is, like Iraq, telling the truth, or whether the suspicions of inspectors are well founded, one thing is clear: a reasonable person would do well to withhold final judgment until all the facts are in. (Note: The U.S. proclivity for endorsing the findings of U.N. inspectors appears not to include the Khan Shaykhun attack; while both Syria and Russia have asked the OPCW to conduct a thorough investigation of the April 4, 2017 incident, the OPCW has been blocked from doing so by the United States and its allies.)
CIA Director Pompeo’s job is not to make policy – the intelligence his agency provides simply informs policy. It is not known if the U.S. Intelligence Community will be producing a formal National Intelligence Estimate addressing the Syrian chemical weapons issue, although the fact that the United States has undertaken military action under the premise that these weapons exist more than underscores the need for such a document, especially in light of repeated threats made by the Trump administration that follow-on strikes might be necessary.
Making policy is, however, the job of Secretary of Defense Mattis. At the end of the day, Secretary of Defense Mattis will need to make his own mind up as to the veracity of any intelligence used to justify military action. Mattis’s new job requires that he does more than simply advise the President on military options; he needs to ensure that the employment of these options is justified by the facts.
In the case of Syria, the “no doubt” standard Mattis has employed does not meet the “reasonable man” standard. Given the consequences that are attached to his every word, Secretary Mattis would be well advised not to commit to a “no doubt” standard until there is, literally, no doubt.
For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
William Binney, Technical Director, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer (ret) and former Office Division Director in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research
Thomas Drake, former Senior Executive, NSA
Bogdan Dzakovic, Former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security, (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)
Larry C Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)
Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (Ret.); ex-Master SERE Instructor for Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units (JSOC)
Brady Kiesling, former U.S. Foreign Service Officer, ret. (Associate VIPS)
Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003
Lisa Ling, TSgt USAF (ret.)
Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Near East, CIA and National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Torin Nelson, former Intelligence Officer/Interrogator (GG-12) HQ, Department of the Army
Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)
Scott Ritter, former MAJ., USMC, former UN Weapon Inspector, Iraq
Peter Van Buren, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA
Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel (USA, ret.), Distinguished Visiting Professor, College of William and Mary (associate VIPS)
Sarah G. Wilton, Intelligence Officer, DIA (ret.); Commander, US Naval Reserve (ret.)
Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)
Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret.); Foreign Service Officer (resigned)

Shambolic Doings in Washington: ‘The Israelis are no doubt particularly delighted’

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FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, and James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence.
By Philip Giraldi
There remains one good thing to say about Donald Trump: he is not Hillary. The boneheaded cruise missile attack in Syria would have occurred even earlier under President Rodham Clinton and there would undoubtedly be no-fly and safe zones already in place. Oh, and Ukraine and Georgia would be negotiating their entries into NATO to make sure that old Vlad Putin would be put on notice and understand that the days of namby-pamby jaw-jaw-jaw that characterized the Obama Administration are now ancient history.
Apart from that, I can only observe dumbstruck how yet again a candidate promising peace and dialogue could be flipped so quickly. Or maybe he never believed in anything he said, which is perhaps more to the point. Be that as it may, we now, after only ninety days in office, have a neo-neocon foreign policy and the folks clustered around their water coolers in the Washington think tanks are again smiling. And as the ruinous Syrian civil war continues thanks to American intervention, there are probably plenty of high fives within Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu government. Bibi again rules the roost.
The Israelis are no doubt particularly delighted to hear Donald Trump’s latest factually exempt voyage into the outer reaches of the galaxy regarding Iran. Or perhaps The Donald is only having continuing digestive problems dealing with “most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen” when dining with mortified Chinese leader Xi Jinping while simultaneously launching cruise missiles intended to send a message to Beijing’s ally Russia. It is inevitably Iran’s turn for vilification, so Trump, while conceding that the Iranians have been compliant with the nuclear weapons agreement they signed, also felt compelled to add that they continue to be a threat and have not entered into the “spirit” of the pact. Apparently the spirit codicil was somehow left out of the final draft, an interpretation that will no doubt surprise the other signatories consisting of Russia, China and the European Union.
To make its point that Tehran is somehow a cheater, the White House has ordered a 90 day review of Iran policy which will empower hardliners in that country in upcoming elections as well as nut cases like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham on this side of the Atlantic. Iranian opposition groups like the terrorist Mujaheddin e Khalq (MEK) are already rising to the challenge by floating phony intelligence while Graham is currently advocating a preemptive attack on North Korea, conceding that it would be catastrophic for every country in the region while noting smugly that the carnage and destruction would not reach the United States. Too bad that Pyongyang’s fury cannot be directed straight to Graham’s house in South Carolina.
Graham is reportedly a good dancer and multitasker who can pivot back to Iran effortlessly as soon as Pyongyang is reduced to rubble, so those who want to deal with Iran sooner rather than later should not despair. As things continue to go south nearly everywhere, tension in the Middle East will no doubt lead to a rapidly deteriorating situation in the Persian Gulf that will require yet another ham-handed show of strength by the United States of Amnesia. There will be a war against Iran.
There have been a couple of other interesting stories circulating recently, all demonstrating that when Benjamin Franklin observed that we Americans had created a republic, “if we can keep it,” he was being particularly prescient. Robert Parry has observed that all the fuss about Russiagate is misleading as the only country that interferes with the political process in the U.S. persistently and successfully while also doing terrible damage to our national security is Israel. He wonders when we will have Congress convening investigative commissions to look into Israel-gate but then answers his own question by observing that it will never happen given who controls what in the United States. “No one dares suggest a probe of Israel-gate,” he concludes, but it is interesting and also encouraging to note that some Americans are actually starting to figure things out.