Trump the Hero of the Middle East (ODT)
Trump the Hero of the Middle East (ODT)
March against Trump in Iraq we have seen nothing yet. Will Trump become the ISIS ally he really is? (ODT)
Whatever happened to Iraq? Is it not an independent country with a democratic government thanks to the 2003 US invasion? So says Washington.
The murder of senior Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani suddenly shone a strobe light on ‘independent’ Iraq, and what we saw was not pretty.
Welcome to the new Imperialism 101.
Trump is a know-nothing President simply following plans laid down since the 80s after the 6 day war. No country in the Middle East was allowed to establish an Army let alone a number of Arabic and Muslim States and so the demise of Libya, Iraq Syria and Iran were laid out years ago by Israel and the US acting as it’s proxy their reward oil and global dominance. The greatest threat to that plan today is Renewable and clean energy. (ODT)
And there is no end in sight with Donald Trump now tweeting furiously that if the Iranian government seeks to retaliate for Soleimani the U.S. will strike 52 targets inside Iran, including cultural sites, a war crime. Congress will do nothing to stop the carnage because it is just as completely controlled by the Israel Lobby as is the White House.
The blood of the Americans, Iranians and Iraqis who will die in the next few weeks is clearly on Donald Trump’s hands as this war was never inevitable and serves no U.S. national interest. It will surely turn out to be a debacle, as well as devastating for all parties involved. And it might well, on top of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, be the long-awaited beginning of the end of America’s imperial ambitions. Trump has had three years to learn the lesson gleaned from Iraq and Afghanistan. He obviously used that time to learn nothing.
Axios reports that US State Department initially attempted to stop the parliamentary vote from taking place (presumably by pressuring its Iraqi political allies). That press failed miserably, given the angry mood of the country after the US attack on an Iraqi military officer. After the resolution passed, State pleaded with the Iraqi parliament to rethink its decision, but somehow I don’t think that is going to happen.
Trump went ballistic on hearing the news and threatened to impose “sanctions like you’ve never seen” on Iraq if it does kick out US troops. He also demanded repayment for the costs of constructing the al-Balad Air Force Base. The US invaded Iraq illegally in 2003 and essentially stole its oil income for years to pay for its military occupation of the country.
It is highly unlikely that the world would cooperate with Trump sanctions on Iraq over this issue, and unlikely that the 4.6 million barrels a day produced by Iraq could or would be made up, so that any Trump sanctions would send petroleum prices skyrocketing. This development would be good for the health of the planet, since people would likely buy electric cars in that case.
Some Iraqi militia leaders suggested that US military training could be replaced with Russian or Chinese such help.
Australia, a juniour partner in the Coalition of the Killing, wants senior status it seems. While Trump has declared he’s putting the fight against ISIS on hold in order to deal with IRAN Theresa Payne wants to take over that war on Daesh. Remember when Trump declared that war was won. He relocated troops in Syria to grab the oil and betrayed the Kurds in the process. Now the USA are mercenary force for Exxon It’s always been questioned why we are in Iraq? Why John Howard joined the illegal invasion of a Sovereign State that doesn’t want us there? Now we are ready to partake in yet another escallated war with Iran who signed a peace treaty before Trump came on the scene. A treaty we are now supporting the total shredding of. Payne is proof we are Puppets lapdogs to American politics for profit and its grab for Middle Eastern oil which when said and done we will buy from the US at their price.
More to the point the LNP ready to see the escalation of violence and another unwinnable war offering up Australian lives as we have done time again since WW2. What we are doing is boosting Trump’s desperate efforts in domestic American politics. (ODT)
Foreign Minister Marise Payne will on Tuesday publicly plead for the Iraqi government to let Australian and international partners remain in the country.
“We urge the Iraqi government to ensure the coalition is able to continue its vital work with Iraq’s security forces in countering the shared threat of Daesh,” she said.
“We understand the resolution passed by Iraq’s parliament is non-binding, absent formal approval by the government in Baghdad.”
Militiamen Breach U.S. Embassy In Baghdad; Trump Blames Iran
The developments represent a major downturn in Iraq-U.S. relations that could further undermine U.S. influence in the region.
Here’s a word of advice to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Unless he wants to risk a smudge on his reputation of the sort that accompanies John Howard to this day: don’t get involved in conflict with Iran beyond limited naval engagement in a Gulf peace-keeping role.
What the world new but governments denied it was about oil (ODT)
April 24 marks the 15th anniversary of my initial entry into Baghdad as the senior oil advisor to retired Lieutenant General Jay Garner, our US government civilian leader in Iraq. It was the beginning of my six plus years in Iraq working on the oil sector and denying the allegation that the Iraq war had an oil agenda. I can no longer refute such an allegation.
Was there an oil agenda for the Iraq war? If you had asked me that question four years ago, I would have said no, absolutely not. And, I said no on national television in 2014.
Sjursen says U.S. foreign policy “has been unmoored and drifting away from anything close to sober strategy for coming up on 17 years now. I think the post-9/11 wars have been an absolute tragedy, and probably the greatest foreign policy disaster since the Vietnam War. … I truly believe we are less safe because of American foreign policy and American militarism in the world since 9/11.”
The implicit assumption was that the very serious allegations could not be true because the accused had belonged to the ADF. This is as logical as stating that another of our hallowed institutions, the church, could never give rise to people who abuse positions of power.
Residents of the Iraqi city of Mosul said up to 30 civilians were killed in an air strike on a district held by Islamic State this week.
“They are afraid of a lot of things now. They are afraid of the bombing, they are afraid of the attack that’s coming and they are also really afraid of the foreign spies who are among them”. This was Rashid’s description of what was going on inside Isis. And the Western intelligence agency that has infiltrated Isis the most, claimed the Belgian jihadi, was the British.
TeleSur | – – The United Nations said it was “deeply concerned” about reports the groups are using children on …
The screaming headline on the front of today’s edition of The Sun added to the shredding of Tony Blair’s reputation. “Weapons of Mass Deception,” it blared. That was bit rich, considering the role of The Sun and the rest of the global media empire owned by Rupert Murdoch in the run-up to the Iraq war.
A haggard-looking Tony Blair spent two hours struggling to rescue his reputation from the ruins of Iraq. In his protracted press conference, the former Prime Minister expressed sorrow for the British soldiers killed or maimed after the invasion of March 2003 and offered an apology – but insisted that the world was a better place for the removal of the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, and the Chilcot report proved he had acted in good faith.
The bitter rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran can be seen played out across the Middle East, from the rise of Islamic State to the assault against the Houthis in Yemen. Amin Saikal writes about what this means for the US as it attempts to find a coherent policy.
The Middle East continues to be a zone of frenemies. The latest development is the collective military assault by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a number of its Arab allies against the Houthis as an allegedly Iranian-backed terrorist group in Yemen.
This comes hot on the heels of these countries’ refusal to assist the US-led air campaign with ground forces against ‘Islamic State’ (IS) in Iraq.
Why against the Houthis, but not IS?
The answer lies in the Saudi-Iranian geopolitical driven sectarian rivalries, and America’s attempts to maintain its de facto alliance with Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies, negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran, and fight IS with as much regional support as possible.
The Houthis are followers of Shi’a Islam and claim representation on behalf of 45 per cent of the Yemeni population. As such, they have a sectarian affiliation with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Tehran has been accused of materially supporting the Houthis rebellion, which since last September has taken over the capital Sana. The Houthis have successfully fought the Saudi-backed government of president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who has fled the capital, as well as the Sunni Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Saudis and their partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Egypt want to get rid of the Houthis and reinstall Hadi’s leadership. The Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has condemned the Saudi-led assault as a “genocide” and called for its end. However, the United States has backed the Saudi-led military campaign to Tehran’s annoyance.
In contrast, Saudi Arabia and its allies have only made a symbolic contribution to the US-led Western air campaign against IS. Yet, clearly what could help this campaign to roll back IS is a regional ground force to assist the Iraqi military.
Two reasons account for why this has not occurred. First, IS is an extremist Sunni, anti-Shia entity, whose ideology is rooted in the Saudi brand of Wahabi/Salafi Islam. IS, which established itself over large swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territories last June, was initially a beneficiary of funds coming from Saudi Arabia and some of its oil-rich GCC partners. These countries were motivated by the consideration that Iran had gained too much influence in Iraq, which had traditionally been identified with the Arab world, and Syria, where Iranian aid has sustained Bashar al-Assad’s government as Iran’s only Arab strategic partner, and Lebanon, in which the Iranian-backed Hezbollah has reigned supreme in support of Iran’s wider regional interests.
This means that whilst Saudi Arabia and its allies would like to see IS contained, they do not find it in their strategic interests to see it eliminated as an anti-Iranian and anti-Syrian government force. The second reason is that the Iraqi government is dominated by the Shi’as, who form a majority of the Iraqi population, and cannot afford to offend Tehran by being receptive to an Arab force to fight IS on its soil.
Paradoxically, whilst opposed to IS and helping the Iraqi and Kurdish forces, as well as cooperating informally with the US and its Western allies in combating IS, Tehran shares the Arab countries’ step-back approach to IS, although for different reasons.
Iran views IS as an extension of Saudi Salafism, and does not mind to see its continuation in a symbolic form for a while to discredit the Saudi brand of Islam and thus counter the Saudi opposition to Iran. Meanwhile, to shore up its domestic and regional position, the Iranian regime, with moderate/reformist Hassan Rouhani in the presidency, wants a breakthrough in its long-standing hostilities with the United States.
In response, US president Barack Obama has found diplomacy as the best means to settle the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and to come to terms with Tehran. Yet, like the Iranian leadership, Obama faces his internal and regional detractors, who do not view a possible normalisation of US-Iranian relations to be in their strategic interests. Israel has campaigned viciously against it, and Saudi Arabia and its regional allies have voiced serious apprehension about it. For Obama to overcome this opposition, he has engaged in a regional balancing act. He has supported the Saudi-led military action against the Houthis and has blamed Iran for Yemen’s woes (although Yemen’s strife stems largely from internal factors) and assured Israel of America’s unwavering commitment to it.
What may emerge from all this is unpredictable. But one thing is sure. Irrespective of whether or not there will be a US-Iranian rapprochement, the Saudi-Iranian rivalry may continue to be a main cause of regional volatility, unless the two sides agree to a summit to settle their differences peacefully through dialogue and understanding.
As for the United States, it presently lacks a clear and coherent policy in dealing with a region riven by contradictions and paradoxes. It appears to be shuttling between various forces to find a niche of determining influence in the region. However, if there is a major improvement in its relations with Iran, that could help it to play a meaningful role in resolving some of the regional issues, ranging from Iraqi to Yemeni conflicts, that at least partly underpin the Saudi-Iranian rivalry.
Amin Saikal is Distinguished Professor of Political Science, public policy fellow and director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (the Middle East and Central Asia) at the Australian National University, and author of Iran at the Crossroads (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2015, forthcoming).
Iraq’s Sunnis want a bigger role in the battle against ISIL [Al Jazeera]
Fighters from the Shi’ite Kata’ib Imam Ali (Imam Ali Brigades) militia search a house after taking control of a village from Islamist State militants, on the outskirts of Dhuluiya, north of Baghdad December 29, 2014.
(Reuters) – Behind black gates and high walls, Iraqi national security agents watch 200 women and children.
Boys and girls play in the yard and then dart inside their trailers, located in a former U.S. military camp and onetime headquarters for Saddam Hussein’s officials in Babel province’s capital Hilla.
The women and children are unwilling guests, rounded up as they fled with their male relatives in October from Jurf al-Sakhr, a bastion of Islamic State, during a Shi’ite militia and military operation to clear the farming community.
Once they were arrested, security forces separated out the men, accusing them of being Islamic State fighters. They have not been heard from since.
Security forces say the women and children are being investigated, but have not been brought to court.
Their status shows how central Iraq’s mixed Shi’ite and Sunni regions are being altered.
As Shi’ite forces push into territories held by Islamic State, many Sunnis have fled for fear of both the Shi’ite-led government and the Sunni jihadists.
Shi’ite leaders insist Islamic State must never be allowed to strike them again, nor return to areas now abandoned.
Shi’ite groups now decide who can stay in a community and who should leave; whose houses should be destroyed and whose can stand.
In one case, a powerful Shi’ite paramilitary organization has started redrawing the geography of central Iraq, building a road between Shi’ite parts of Diyala province and Samarra, a Sunni city that is home to a Shi’ite shrine.
“The ideas of what Shi’itestan’s limits are is changing,” said Ali Allawi a historian and former Iraqi minister.
“Some of these towns and villages, which were neutral or partial to ISIS, have been retaken. I don’t think the people living there will go back. We are talking about depopulated areas that may be resettled by different groups.”
More than 130,000 people, mostly Sunnis, fled central Iraq in 2014, counting just Baghdad’s agricultural belt and northeastern Diyala province, the International Rescue Committee told Reuters.
The exodus has left villages empty as Shi’ite paramilitaries, tribes and security forces fill the void.
Iraqi government officials including Prime Minister Haider Abadi stress the importance of helping people return home.
But in the current chaos it is questionable whether officials can help, or that the displaced will want to return.
“I AM TRAPPED”
Already dramatic changes are happening on the ground. For the 200 women and children from Jurf al-Sakhr, it has meant an undefined period of detention.
When they ran from their homes in October raising white surrender flags, security forces and militias separated the women from their male relatives.
Now the women, jailed in Hilla, worry about their fate.
“I’m trapped here living on charity without understanding why all this happened to us”, said Um Mohamed, sobbing during a visit Reuters made to the heavily secured compound last week.
“All that I wish is to have my husband back and to return to our small farm.”
Security officials say the women and children have not been brought before a court, and will not be freed soon.
“These families were joining or harboring Islamic State,” said Falah al-Rahdi, head of the Babel provincial council’s security committee. “The judicial system will decide their fate.”
Privately, officials in Babel province vow never to welcome back its Sunni residents.
As Shi’ite militia leaders and tribal allies surround Sunni villages in central Iraq, they insist they have strong intelligence from inside those communities.
“Our orders come from the government: whoever is with Islamic State, we will confiscate their land. Those who aren’t Islamic State will be allowed back,” a national commander from Asaib Ahl al-Haq told Reuters.
He said he contacted sources in Islamic State-held areas and waited until all civilians had escaped before liberating a community.
However, those who have lost their homes say the militias make little distinction between jihadists and civilians when they storm areas.
Akram Shahab, 32, a Shi’ite in Diyala’s Saadiya district, fled with his family last June when Islamic State were about to overrun the town.
He heard from a Sunni neighbor that a jihadist family had moved in. For Shahab it was a relief his house was not blown up.
But after Iraqi militias and security forces kicked Islamic State out of Saadiya in November, Shahab was stunned to learn that the militias had burned his house assuming it was a terrorist’s.
The next day, Shahab went with Shi’ite militiamen to inspect the ruins.
“I blamed the militia members at the scene for burning my house and they defended themselves, saying how could they tell a Sunni house from a Shi’ite house.”
Shahab, who comes from a family with both Shi’ite and Sunni relatives, said he managed to save his Sunni aunt’s house by telling the militia she belonged to their sect.
“They spray-painted (Shi’ite) on the gate to alert the other militia groups,” he said.
“They told me,‘We need to clean your town from those germs who supported Islamic State. You might have lost your house but as a Shi’ite you will live with your head high from now on’.”
Not only are homes being demolished, but new infrastructure is being built.
A Shi’ite paramilitary organization is constructing a road to strengthen its positions across the mixed areas of Diyala and neighboring Salahuddin province.
The Badr Organization, a leading political party and militia with ties to Iran, is supervising the new road, which leads to Samarra.
It means Badr can resupply troops guarding Samarra, currently surrounded by Islamic State.
The 35 km road will also allow Shi’ite pilgrims from Iran to visit Samarra, one of Shi’ite Islam’s most sacred shrines.
On a recent day, in olive green sweater and commander’s cap, Badr Organization chief Hadi al-Amri toured the 35 km road.
Arguably the most popular Shi’ite politician in Iraq for defending Diyala, Amri placed orange work cones on the ground and directed bulldozers.
“The road is of strategic importance to finish off Islamic State in the outskirts of Diyala and to put pressure on them in Salahuddin,” said Badr lawmaker Mohammed Naji.
“Hadi Amri suggested this road and he supervises it daily in spite of the dangers.”
Senior Iraqi politicians say Amri is the commander closest to Iran on the battlefield.
Amri’s new project — the Samarra road — passes through one trouble spot: an area called Hawi, which Badr considers to be filled with Islamic State cells.
“We have started neutralizing the villages, putting guards on the road,” Naji said. “We have not displaced the people there. We put forces there to make sure Islamic State cannot enter the villages.”
A Saudi blogger who was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes will be publicly flogged for the first time after Friday prayers outside a mosque in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, according to a person close to his case.
Raif Badawi was sentenced on charges related to accusations that he insulted Islam on a liberal online forum he had created. He was also ordered by the Jeddah criminal court to pay a fine of 1m Saudi riyals, or about $266,000.
Rights groups and activists say his case is part of a wider clampdown on dissent throughout the kingdom. Officials have increasingly blunted calls for reforms since the region’s 2011 Arab Spring upheaval.
Badawi has been held since mid-2012, and his Free Saudi Liberals website is now closed. The case has drawn condemnation from rights groups.
He called from prison and informed his family of the flogging, due Friday, said a person close to the case. The person, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisal, said Badawi was “being used as an example for others to see”.
Badawi’s lawyer Waleed Abul-Khair was sentenced in July to 15 years imprisonment and barred from travelling for another 15 years after being found guilty by an anti-terrorism court of “undermining the regime and officials”, “inciting public opinion” and “insulting the judiciary”.
Amnesty International has said that Badawi is to receive 50 lashes once a week for 20 weeks.
“It is horrifying to think that such a vicious and cruel punishment should be imposed on someone who is guilty of nothing more than daring to create a public forum for discussion and peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and north Africa director.
Badawi was originally sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in relation to the charges, but after an appeal, the judge stiffened the punishment. Following his arrest, his wife and children left the kingdom for Canada.
Max Ehrenfreund points to an interesting tidbit this morning. A pair of researchers have released a working paper that attempts to figure out if watching Fox News makes you more conservative. They do this by exploiting the fact that channel numbers on cable systems are placed fairly randomly throughout the country, and people tend to watch channels with lower numbers. Thus, in areas where Fox has a low channel number, it gets watched a little bit more in a way that has nothing to do with whether the local viewers were more conservative in the first place.
So does randomly surfing over to Fox News tend to make you more right-wing? Yes indeed! “We estimate that Fox News increases the likelihood of voting Republican by 0.9 points among viewers induced into watching four additional minutes per week by differential channel positions.” And this in turn means that we owe the Iraq War to Fox News: “We estimate that removing Fox News from cable television during the 2000 election cycle would have reduced the average county’s Republican vote share by 1.6 percentage points.”
And what about MSNBC? It had no effect until the 2008 election, after it had made the switch to liberal prime-time programming. At that point, it becomes pretty similar to Fox in the opposite direction. But the effect is subtly different:
The largest elasticity magnitudes are on individuals from the opposite ideology of the channel, with Fox generally better at influencing Democrats than MSNBC is at influencing Republicans. This last feature is consistent with the regression result that the IV effect of Fox is greater than the corresponding effect for MSNBC.
….Table 16 shows the estimated persuasion rates of the channels at converting votes from one party to the other. The numerator here is the number of, for example, Fox News viewers who are initially Democrats but by the end of an election cycle change to supporting the Republican party. The denominator is the number of Fox News viewers who are initially Democrats. Again, Fox is more effective at converting viewers than is MSNBC.
The difference in persuasion rates is significant: the study finds that in the 2008 election, a full 50 percent of Fox’s left-of-center viewers switched to supporting Republicans. For MSNBC, the number of switchers was only 30 percent. That’s a big difference.
Now, in real-world terms this is still a smallish effect since neither channel has a lot of regular viewers from the opposite ends of their ideological spectrums in the first place. Still, this is interesting. I’ve always believed that conservatives in general, and Fox in particular, are better persuaders than liberals, and this study seems to confirm that. But why? Is Fox’s conservatism simply more consistent throughout the day, thus making it more effective? Is there something about the particular way Fox pushes hot buttons that makes it more effective at persuading folks near the center? Or is Fox just average, and MSNBC is unusually poor at persuading people? I can easily believe, for example, that Rachel Maddow’s snark-based approach persuades very few conservative leaners to switch sides.
Anyway, fascinating stuff, even if none of it comes as a big surprise. Fox really has had a big effect on Republican fortunes over the past two decades.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has blasted in his strongest terms yet the US management of Iraq following the 2003 invasion, branding it a period of “chaos and confusion”.
During a visit to Baghdad on Sunday, Mr Abbott hinted he could bolster Australian troop numbers in the war-torn country. It came as Fairfax Media learnt that Australian special forces soldiers in Iraq have begun operating “outside the wire” by accompanying local troops beyond Baghdad.
Mr Abbott met with his Iraqi counterpart and discussed what further help Australia could give the government beyond the current commitment, which includes 200 special forces advisers and RAAF airstrikes, for the fight against the brutal Islamic State group.
He used conspicuously strong language to slam the post-2003 handling of Iraq led by the US administration of George Bush and Dick Cheney, and strongly supported by former Prime Minister John Howard, who is Mr Abbott’s political mentor.
“Iraq is a country which has suffered a very great deal,” Mr Abbott said. “First, decades of tyranny under Saddam Hussein. Then, the chaos and confusion that followed the American-led invasion. Most recently, the tumult, the dark age, which has descended upon northern Iraq as a result of the Da’esh death cult. But Australia will do what we can to help.”
The deliberately chosen words about the post-invasion period reflect Mr Abbott’s efforts to distinguish what is now widely seen as a debacle in the aftermath of 2003 from the current more cautious approach, steering Australians away from any impression the West is being drawn back into a quagmire.
Most experts agree Washington made major missteps in the aftermath of the invasion, including by dissolving the ruling Baath Party and the military, and by underestimating the troop levels needed to stabilise security.
Foreshadowing a further possible commitment, Mr Abbott vowed to do more to help the Iraqis beat back the extremist scourge, which has seen nearly a third of the country fall under Islamic State control.
“We are determined to deepen our co-operation with the government and the people of Iraq in the weeks and months to come, not because we are a country which goes forward seeking foreign fights, but because where our vital national interests are threatened, where universal values are at stake, Australia should be a strong partner,” Mr Abbott said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said after the meeting that he had asked Mr Abbott “to increase armament and speed up training to end the battle and eliminate Da’esh”, using the Arabic term for the extremist Islamic State organisation.
Fairfax Media understands that some of the 200 special forces troops who arrived in Baghdad in November to “advise and assist” the Iraqis have begun moving outside the capital.
Defence has said in the past their role will include operating at the level of battalion headquarters, which could put them well out on the battlefield, clearly raising the risk they face.
And while they are able to defend themselves, the government has ruled out any offensive combat role for Australians.
Defence has already drawn up contingency plans for Australia to provide further forces for a longer-term training role in Iraq, estimated at between 200 and 400 additional personnel.
Fairfax Media understands however that such a further deployment has not been discussed at recent meetings of the National Security Committee of Cabinet and is not imminent.
Mr Abbott, who was accompanied on his visit by new Defence Minister Kevin Andrews and Chief of the Defence Force Mark Binskin, also announced a $5 million aid boost to Iraq through the World Food Program, bringing to $22 million Australia’s humanitarian assistance to the country since June.
This came despite the government’s deep cuts to foreign aid, most recently in the mid-year budget update in December
Howard ignored official advice on Iraq’s weapons and chose war
by Margaret Swieringa>>> Former prime minister John Howard’s justification on why we went to war against Iraq in 2003 obfuscates some issues. I was the secretary to the federal parliamentary intelligence committee from 2002 until 2007. It was then called the ASIO, ASIS and Defence Signals Directorate committee – which drafted the report Intelligence on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. Howard refers to this committee in his speech justifying our involvement in the war.
The reason there was so much argument about the existence of such weapons before the war in Iraq 10 years ago was that to go to war on any other pretext would have been a breach of international law. As Howard said at the time: ”I couldn’t justify on its own a military invasion of Iraq to change the regime. I’ve never advocated that. Central to the threat is Iraq’s possession of chemical and biological weapons and its pursuit of nuclear capability.”
So the question is what the government knew or was told about that capability and whether the government ”lied” about the danger that Iraq posed. At the time, Howard and his ministers asserted that the threat to the world from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was both great and immediate.
On February 4, 2003, he said Saddam Hussein had an ”arsenal” and a ”stockpile” and the ”illegal importation of proscribed goods ha[s] increased dramatically in the past few years”. ”Iraq had a massive program for developing offensive biological weapons – one of the largest and most advanced in the world.”
On March 18, 2003, foreign minister Alexander Downer told the House of Representatives: ”The strategy of containment [UN sanctions] simply has not worked and now poses an unacceptable risk.”
In his speeches at the time, Howard said: ”Iraq has a usable chemical and biological weapons capability which has included recent production of chemical and biological agents; Iraq continues to work on developing nuclear weapons. All key aspects – research and development, production and weaponisation – of Iraq’s offensive biological weapons program are active and most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War in 1991.”
None of the government’s arguments were supported by the intelligence presented to it by its own agencies. None of these arguments were true.
Howard this week quoted the findings of the parliamentary inquiry, but his quotation is selective to the point of being misleading.
What was the nature of the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction provided to the government? The parliamentary inquiry reported on the intelligence in detail. It gathered information from the Defence Intelligence Organisation and the Office of National Assessment. It said:
1. The scale of threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was less than it had been a decade earlier.
2. Under sanctions that prevailed at the time, Iraq’s military capability remained limited and the country’s infrastructure was still in decline.
3. The nuclear program was unlikely to be far advanced. Iraq was unlikely to have obtained fissile material.
4. Iraq had no ballistic missiles that could reach the US. Most if not all of the few SCUDS that were hidden away were likely to be in poor condition.
5. There was no known chemical weapons production.
6. There was no specific evidence of resumed biological weapons production.
7. There was no known biological weapons testing or evaluation since 1991.
8. There was no known Iraq offensive research since 1991.
9. Iraq did not have nuclear weapons.
10. There was no evidence that chemical weapon warheads for Al Samoud or other ballistic missiles had been developed.
11. No intelligence had accurately pointed to the location of weapons of mass destruction.
There were minor qualifications to this somewhat emphatic picture.
The committee concluded the ”case made by the government was that Iraq possessed WMD in large quantities and posed a grave and unacceptable threat to the region and the world, particularly as there was a danger that Iraq’s WMD might be passed to terrorist organisations.
”This is not the picture that emerges from an examination of all the assessments provided to the committee by Australia’s two analytical agencies.”
Howard would claim, no doubt, that he took his views from overseas dossiers. But all that intelligence was considered by Australian agencies when forming their views.
They knew, too, of the disputes and arguments within British and US agencies. Moreover, Australian agencies as well as the British and US intelligence agencies also knew the so-called ”surge of new intelligence” after September 2002 relied almost exclusively on one or two unreliable and self-serving individuals.
They knew that Saddam ‘s son-in-law, Hussein Kamel Hassan al-Majid, who had defected in 1995, had told Western agencies the nuclear program in Iraq had failed, chemical and biological programs had been dismantled and weapons destroyed.
There are none so blind as those who will not see.
Margaret Swieringa is a retired public servant.
#howardbushblaircrimes #hate4sale #rememberwom #auspol
The Real News Channel Australian Labor Party The Australian Greens Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry Bush War Crimes Charge George W. Bush & Dick Cheney With War Crimes War Criminals Watch George w. bush War Criminal George h. w. bush War Criminal Lets indict Tony Blair for War Crimes Tony Blair is a war criminal George Bush And Tony Blair Should Face Trial In The ICC Over Iraq War John Howard War Criminal International War Crimes Tribunal War Crimes Tribunal
Kurdish offensive against ISIL gains momentum
Peshmerga forces have regained ground in northwestern Iraq, while Kurdish fighters also battle ISIL in Syria.
Federal Attorney-General George Brandis says at least 20 Australians have been killed fighting alongside terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, and warns that the Islamic State group is using Australians on the frontline as “cannon fodder, bombers and propaganda tools”.
Senator Brandis said the number of Australians killed had risen in recent weeks and that Western recruits were being duped into thinking they were an important part of a religious crusade.
Around 70 Australians are still believed to be fighting in the Middle East while another 20 have returned home.
Among those fighting is Sydney man Mohammad Ali Baryalei, who has been accused of masterminding a plot to kill random members of the public in Sydney and Brisbane, and had recruited dozens of Australians to fight with extremist groups in Iraq and Syria.
There were reports that he had been killed in Syria, but Vice Admiral David Johnston last month said the Australian Defence Force believed it was less than likely that he was dead.
The Government recently introduced a raft of legislation aimed at stopping would-be jihadists from travelling to the Middle East.
The Foreign Fighters Bill passed Parliament in October, making it illegal to travel to areas declared as terrorist zones, without a specific humanitarian or family purpose.
Australians found to be illegally visiting the region could face up to 10 years in prison.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop used provisions under the recently passed Bill to declare it an offence for Australians to visit the Al-Raqqa province in Syria without a legitimate reason.
Ms Bishop said the province was Islamic State’s de facto capital, and said the terrorist organisation directed many of its operations from the banned region.
“I have today declared Al-Raqqa province an area where a listed terrorist organisation is engaging in hostile activity,” Ms Bishop told Question Time last week.
“This now makes it an offence under Australian law to enter or remain in the province of Al-Raqqa without a legitimate reason.”
These are the guys we are meant to train. We couldn’t do it over a 10 year period what on earth makes us believe we can do it now in such a short time particularly when we are really not wanted.The Iraqi army surrendered 2 years supply of US weapons to Isis and some joined them. This is the organization we are there to train. The Shiia Militia and Sunni tribes wont fight along side the army yet these are the men we are meant to train. We just seem to be fighting like Abbott the boxer punching with our eyes closed.
ISIL have seized most of Anbar province which borders Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and the Baghdad governorate.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) has launched a major attack on the Iraqi city of Ramadi, capital of the troubled western province of Anbar, security officials have said, resulting in the killing of at least 20 soldiers.
The assault came as Joe Biden, the US vice-president, arrived in Istanbul on Friday with a view to push Turkey to step up its role in the international coalition’s fight against the ISIL.
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, said pro-government forces had called in reinforcements to push back the offensive on Ramadi that was coming from four sides.
“Ramadi is a crucial city for ISIL as it attempts to consolidate its grip over all of Anbar province,” Khan said.
Sources told Al Jazeera tens of Iraqi soldiers had been abducted near Ramadi while at least 20 Iraqi soldiers and eight ISIL fighters had been killed in the fighting.
“Clashes are ongoing around the city. A series of mortar attacks have targeted areas inside the city, including provincial council buildings and a police post,” a security official told the AFP news agency said.
Adhal al-Fahdawi, a member of the Anbar provincial council, said on Friday that ISIL had managed to capture part of an eastern district called Mudhiq but pro-government forces had stopped their advance and were encircling the fighters there.
“The security forces need support because we have not received any back-up from the army’s air force or the coalition,” Fahdawi said, referring to the US-led air campaign launched in August.
Parts of the restive province, which borders Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and the Baghdad governorate, have been out of government control since January.
ISIL, which also controls large parts of Syria, spearheaded a major offensive in Iraq in June, seizing territory, including much of Anbar.
A fresh spate of attacks in recent weeks has seen the armed group extend their grip over the province, where only a handful of pockets remain under the control of Iraqi security forces backed by Shia armed groups and Sunni tribal fighters.
Biden met the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutogulu on Friday and will hold talks with the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday.
Biden’s visit follows weeks of public bickering between the two NATO allies. The Turkish president insists if the US wants his help, it must focus less on fighting the ISIL and more on toppling Syrian President Bashar Assad. Erdogan wants the US-led coalition to set up a security zone in northern Syria to give moderate fighters a place to recoup and launch attacks.
The obvious compromise would be if Washington shifted its policy on Syria to do more to force out Assad, and Turkey agreed to do more against ISIL, said James Jeffrey, former US ambassador to Turkey and Iraq who is now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
A new report prepared for the United Nations Security Council warns that the militant group known as the Islamic State (Isis) possesses sufficient reserves of small arms, ammunition and vehicles to wage its war for Syria and Iraq for up to two years.
The size and breadth of the Isis arsenal provides the group with durable mobility, range and a limited defense against low-flying aircraft. Even if the US-led bombing campaign continues to destroy the group’s vehicles and heavier weapons, the UN report states, it “cannot mitigate the effect of the significant volume of light weapons” Isis possesses.
Those weapons “are sufficient to allow [Isis] to continue fighting at current levels for six months to two years”, the UN report finds, making Isis not only the world’s best-funded terrorist group but among its best armed.
Isis, along with its former rival turned occasional tactical ally the Nusra Front, are sufficiently armed to threaten the region “even without territory”, the report concludes.
The report, months in the making, recommends the UN implement new steps to cut off Isis’s access to money and guns.
The Isis arsenal, according to the UN assessment, includes T-55 and T-72 tanks; US-manufactured Humvees; machine guns; short-range anti-aircraft artillery, including shoulder-mounted rockets captured from Iraqi and Syrian military stocks; and “extensive supplies of ammunition”. One member state, not named in the report, contends that Isis maintains a motor pool of 250 captured vehicles.
Much of the Isis weapons stocks, particularly “state of the art” weaponry stolen from the US-backed Iraqi military, was “unused” before Isis seized it, the report finds. But some of the relatively complex weapons “may be too much of a challenge” for Isis to effectively wield or maintain.
Earlier this year, speculation focussed on Isis’s potential ability to produce chemical weapons after it seized Iraqi facilities that had contributed to Saddam Hussein’s illicit weapons programs, but the UN report casts doubt on the likelihood that Isis possesses the “capability to fully exploit material it might have seized”. Nor does the UN report believe that Isis can manufacture its own chemical or other weapons of mass destruction.
But at least one anonymous member state has provided information about “chemicals and poison-coated metal balls” placed inside Isis’s homemade bombs to maximize damage. In October, Kurdish forces defending the Syrian town of Kobani from Isis reported cases of skin blistering, burning eyes and difficulty breathing after the detonation of an Isis bomb.
The UN Security Council is expected to take up consideration of the report on Wednesday.
The report recommends the UN adopt new waves of sanctions designed to disrupt the well-financed Isis’s economic health. Significant among them is a call for states bordering Isis-controlled territory to “promptly seize all oil tanker trucks and their loads” coming in or going out.
While the report warns that Isis has alternate revenue sources, and does not predict that truck seizures can eliminate Isis’s oil smuggling money, it holds out hope that raising the costs to smuggling networks and trucking companies will deter them from bringing Isis oil to market.
To combat Isis’s ability to resupply its weapons stocks and launder money, the report recommends the UN mandate that no aircraft originating from Isis-held territory can land on airstrips in member states, and to prohibit flights into Isis-held territory. Exemptions would be made for humanitarian relief planes.
The report comes on the heels of an October report to the Security Council assessing that 15,000 fighters from 80 countries have flooded into Syria and Iraq to fight alongside Isis and other militant groups.
While still months off, the US has indicated it will intensify its fight against Isis, primarily in Iraq. After doubling the US troop commitment there, defense officials have said the US will bolster 12 Iraqi and Kurdish brigades, and may even join in the Iraqi fighting for key terrain, such as the borderlands between Syria and Iraq or the city of Mosul.
By Ben Hubbard, NEW YORK TIMES
November 15, 2014
BAGHDAD – When the militants of the Islamic State entered the Sunni Arab area of Al Alam, they gave its tribal leaders a message of reconciliation: We are here to defend you and all the Sunnis, so join us.
But after a group of angry residents sneaked out one night, burned the jihadists’ black banners and raised Iraqi flags, the response was swift.
“They started blowing up the houses of tribal leaders and those who were in the security forces,” Laith al-Jubouri, a local official, said. Since then, the jihadists have demolished dozens of homes and kidnapped more than 100 residents, he said. The captives’ fates remain unknown.
In the Islamic State’s rapid consolidation of Sunni parts of Iraq and Syria, the jihadists have used a double-pronged strategy to gain the obedience of Sunni tribes. While using their abundant cash and arms to entice tribal leaders to join their self-declared caliphate, the jihadists have also eliminated potential foes, hunting down soldiers, police officers, government officials and anyone who once cooperated with the United States as it battled al-Qaida in Iraq.
Now, as the U.S. and the Iraqi government urgently seek to enlist the Sunni tribes to fight the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, they are struggling to undo the militants’ success in co-opting or conquering the majority of them.
Officials admit little success in wooing new Sunni allies, beyond their fitful efforts to arm and supply the tribes who were already fighting the Islamic State – and mostly losing. So far, distrust of the Baghdad government’s intentions and its ability to protect the tribes has won out.
“There is an opportunity for the government to work with the tribes, but the facts on the ground are that ISIS has infiltrated these communities and depleted their ability to go against it,” said Ahmed Ali, an Iraq analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. “Time is not on the Iraqi government’s side.”
Much of the Islamic State’s success at holding Sunni areas comes from its deft manipulation of tribal dynamics.
The top-ranking officer in the American military said on Thursday that the US is actively considering the direct use of troops in the toughest upcoming fights against the Islamic State (Isis) in Iraq, less than a week after Barack Obama doubled troop levels there.
General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, indicated to the House of Representatives armed services committee that the strength of Isis relative to the Iraqi army may be such that he would recommend abandoning Obama’s oft-repeated pledge against returning US ground troops to combat in Iraq.
Retaking the critical city of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest, and re-establishing the border between Iraq and Syria that Isis has erased “will be fairly complex terrain” for the Iraqi security forces that the US is once again supporting, Dempsey acknowledged.
“I’m not predicting at this point that I would recommend that those forces in Mosul and along the border would need to be accompanied by US forces, but we’re certainly considering it,” he said.
As Dempsey and the US defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, testified, Isis released a new audio message purported to be from its self-proclaimed leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an apparent refutation of suspicions that Baghdadi was killed or critically injured in air strikes over the weekend.
With last week’s ordered US troop increases, designed to aid Iraqi campaign planning against Isis and to prop up 12 Iraqi and Kurdish brigades, US troop levels in Iraq will soon stand at 3,000.
Even with potential US involvement in ground combat looming, Dempsey and Hagel said further troop increases would be “modest” and not on the order of the 150,000 US troops occupying Iraq at the height of the 2003-2011 war.
“I just don’t foresee a circumstance when it would be in our interest to take this fight on ourselves with a large military contingent,” Dempsey said.
But should the Iraqi military prove unwilling to take back “al-Anbar province and Ninewa province” – the majority of territory in Iraq seized by Isis – or should the new Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, exclude Sunnis from power, “I will have to adjust my recommendations,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey has previously described Mosul as potentially the “decisive” battle of the war against Isis, an assessment backed by General Lloyd Austin, the US Central Command chief who is running the war. Austin signaled last month that an Iraqi-led campaign was months away, owing to insufficient combat prowess on the Iraqis’ part.
Representative Buck McKeon, the retiring California Republican who chairs the panel, said that he would not support a congressional authorization for the war against Isis that ruled out direct US ground combat.
“I will not support sending our military into harm’s way with their arms tied behind their backs,” McKeon said, predicting that an authorization explicitly preventing ground combat would be “DOA in Congress”.
Hagel said that he did not “know specifically what they will propose” in terms of language for the authorization, which Obama said he would seek after last week’s midterm elections drubbing which has handed the Republicans control of Congress.
Dempsey and Hagel were more definitive about a looming expansion of the US air war, which has delivered approximately 800 air strikes since August. Hagel told the panel that “the tempo and intensity of our coalition’s air campaign will accelerate” as the Iraqi forces “build strength” under renewed US mentorship.
Over the past week, US officials have indicated openness to adjusting or revising a strategy against Isis in Iraq and Syria that has come under increasing domestic criticism and battlefield pressures. Syrian rebels whom the US hopes to transform into an anti-Isis proxy force have been recently routed, and have expressed frustration with what they consider insufficient US interest in helping them combat their primary adversary, the dictator Bashar al-Assad.
On Wednesday, US Central Command began a 10-day summit with delegates from over 30 partner nations to “further develop and refine military campaign plans”, it said.
Hagel has reportedly expressed concern to the White House that its perceived lack of clarity about Assad’s future was becoming an obstacle to its planned Syrian recruitment, which has yet to proceed in earnest. While Hagel did not on Thursday advocate expanding war goals to include toppling Assad, he conceded that without a rival government to back or an existing ground force to work with, “our military aims in Syria are limited to isolating and destroying [Isis’s] safe havens”.
Representative Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican who opposes a new congressional war authorization, said Hagel’s rhetoric about Isis was reminiscent of 2002 arguments for invading Iraq.
“It looks like we’re going down the same road that Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told us that we had to do,” Jones said.
In a 17-minute audio recording released online on Thursday, which could not be independently verified, Isis leader Baghdadi cited Obama’s deployment orders for an additional 1,500 troops in Iraq last week as evidence that the US campaign was failing.
Baghdadi announced the “expansion of the Islamic State” to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Algeria, claiming that Isis has accepted the pledges of allegiance from various groups within those countries. His proclamation came after Egypt’s most active jihadi group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, pledged allegiance to Isis on Monday, becoming one of the largest militant groups to affirm its loyalty to Isis outside of Baghdadi’s strongholds in Syria and Iraq. This could be an indication that the recording was made as recently as this week.
Before Congress, Dempsey pleaded for “strategic patience” with a US war strategy expected to last for years.
“Progress purchases patience,” Dempsey said
ISIL can be defeated
ISIL is not ISLAM
ISIL will be punished
|ISIL is not the only group using the media as a weapon of war, with one anti-ISIL TV station also gaining ground in Iraq.
Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford reports from northern Iraq.
The Federal Government has left open the possibility of sending more troops to fight Islamic State (IS) militants, a day after confirming that special forces soldiers have begun moving into Iraq.
Australia sent a contingent of about 200 special forces to the defence base in the UAE in September, but they have been waiting there for a formal direction from the Iraqi government.
The troops have begun moving into the strife-torn country in the past week and will initially be placed in Baghdad in an “advise and assist” role.
US president Barack Obama said yesterday he is in talks with Australia and other coalition partners about how they can “supplement” their commitments.
Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert said no decision has been made about sending more troops and would not be made until the success of the current commitment could be gauged.
“The Prime Minister has not announced that and the Prime Minister has not made any statements to that effect – nor should we make any commitments further until we’ve actually bedded down what we’re putting into theatre right now,” he told NewsRadio.
“Our forces have now spent a number of days moving into locations. It will take more days to actually become effective in the advising and assisting.
“It will take weeks if not months for that training force to really come into effect.
“So let’s see what effect we can have on our ground before we jump further.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is in Beijing for the APEC summit, said yesterday that Australia continues to talk with its partners about fighting the terrorist group.
THE Islamic State group has carried out a fresh wave of mass killings, executing more than 200 members of an Iraqi tribe which took up arms against the jihadists.
Women and children were said to be among scores of Albu Nimr tribespeople executed over the past 10 days in western Iraq’s Anbar province.
Reports of the killings came with the country on edge as hundreds of thousands of Shiites prepare to travel to shrine city Karbala this week for a major annual pilgrimage.
IS, a Sunni extremist group that has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria, is expected to target Ashura pilgrims, and 19 people died in attacks on Shiites on Sunday.
The executions in Anbar came after Sunni Albu Nimr tribesmen took up arms against IS in the province, large parts of which have been overrun by the jihadists.
Accounts varied as to the number and timings of the executions, but all sources spoke of more than 200 people murdered in recent days.
Police Colonel Shaaban al-Obaidi told AFP that more than 200 people were killed, while Faleh al-Essawi, deputy head of Anbar provincial council, put the toll at 258.
The killings are probably aimed at discouraging resistance from powerful local tribes in Anbar.
IS also detained dozens of members of the Jubur tribe in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad, officials and a tribal leader said.
Jubur tribesmen and security forces have been holding out for months against IS in the provincial town of Dhuluiyah.
Pro-government forces have suffered a string of setbacks in Anbar in recent weeks, prompting warnings that the province, which stretches from the borders with Jordan and Saudi Arabia to the western approach to Baghdad, could fall entirely.
Security forces who wilted before a lightning IS offensive in June are fighting to retake territory seized by the jihadists in Iraq’s Sunni Arab heartland.
IS has declared an Islamic “caliphate” in territory it controls, imposing its harsh interpretation of sharia law and committing widespread atrocities.
Like other Sunni extremist groups, IS considers Shiites to be heretics and frequently attacks them, posing a major threat to the Ashura religious commemorations which peak on Tuesday.
Two car bombs targeting Shiites in Baghdad ahead of Ashura killed at least 19 people on Sunday, officials said, while a city centre car bombing near a police checkpoint killed at least five.
The US president authorises the doubling of troop levels in Iraq to 3,000, but PM says Australia’s plans have not changed. I thought he was under USA command not an independant. Don’t you just get the feeling that after 3 months no help to those who have been begging, Not wanted by those we call allies that Abbott is just doing it for himself?
Barack Obama’s approval of additional troops in Iraq is welcome but Australia’s current commitment remains, the prime minister, Tony Abbott, has said.
The US president has authorised the doubling of US troop levels in Iraq for the war against Islamic State (Isis) militants, further straining his pledge against “boots on the ground”.
Obama ordered an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq on Friday to bolster the performance of Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting Isis in ground combat. The training, the Pentagon said, is expected to last the better part of a year, raising questions about when the Iraqis will be able to wrest territory away from Isis.
Speaking to reporters in Melbourne on Saturday, Abbott welcomed the US announcement but said there were no plans to change Australia’s commitment. The government announced in October it was sending special forces to Iraq and Australian war planes have led international air strikes, destroying key Isis targets.
“Obviously we work in very close partnership with the United States, with the United Kingdom, with a number of other countries,” Abbott told reporters. “This is a very broad coalition, it’s not just the United States. Isn’t it strange that Iraq government doesn’t rate a mention?
“Our commitment is clear, it’s up to eight Super Hornet strike aircraft … it’s up to 200 special forces. We have made a strong commitment to disrupting and degrading the ISIL death cult and we continue to talk with our partners and allies about how this is best achieved.” I guess sloganeering is one way.
The new US troops, the Pentagon emphasised, would not be used in a combat role, joining roughly the same number of “advisers” who have been performing a similar role in Iraq since June. Troop levels in Iraq will soon stand at about 3,000.
US warplanes will continue their near-daily bombardment of Isis targets from the air.
To finance the expanded effort, the White House has asked Congress for an additional $5.6bn, which will sustain operations like the air strikes and associated logistics. The money includes $1.6bn as a “train and equip fund” for Iraqi and Kurdish units to enable them to “go on the offensive”, said budget director Shaun Donovan.
An additional $3.4bn will be used “to support ongoing operations” including military advisers, intelligence collection and ammunition. The rest would go to the State Department to support diplomacy and to provide aid to neighboring countries including Lebanon and Jordan.
But the Pentagon said that none of the additional troops would arrive in Iraq unless and until Congress approves the funding package.
US officials rejected the assertion that the additional troops represented “mission creep”.
“Even with these additional personnel, the mission is not changing,” a senior administration official said. “The mission continues to be one of training, advising and equipping Iraqis, and Iraqis are the ones who are fighting on the ground, fighting in combat.”
Despite this the Australian Greens leader, Christine Milne, said the US decision to increase ground troops in Iraq confirmed her fears that Australia was involved in mission creep.
“It started off with a humanitarian response, then it moved to dropping weapons, then it moved to committing to air strikes and special forces,” she told reporters on Saturday. “Now we have the Americans significantly increasing their contribution of boots on the ground.”
Milne called on Abbott to rule out increasing the number of Australian special forces. “The effort has to go into cutting off [Isis’s] financial and other supplies,” Milne said.
Officials said the victims included dozens of women and children whose bodies were dumped in a well.
The systematic killings marked some of the worst bloodshed in Iraq since the Sunni militants swept through the north in June with the aim of establishing a medieval caliphate there and in Syria.
The Albu Nimr, also Sunni, had put up fierce resistance for weeks but finally ran low on ammunition, food and fuel last week as Islamic State fighters closed in on their village of Zauiyat Albu Nimr.
“The number of people killed by Islamic State from Albu Nimr tribe is 322,” Iraq’s human rights ministry said.
“The bodies of 50 women and children have also been discovered dumped in a well.”
One tribal leader, Sheikh Naeem al-Ga’oud, said he had repeatedly asked the central government and army to provide his men with arms but no action was taken.
State television said prime minister Haider al-Abadi ordered air strikes on Islamic State targets around the town of Hit in response to the killings.
However, officials at a government security operations command centre in Anbar and civilians said they had not seen any air strikes.
The fall of the village dampened the Shiite-led national government’s hopes the Sunni tribesmen of Anbar – who once helped US Marines defeat Al Qaeda – would become a formidable force again and help the army take on Iraq’s new enemy.
US air strikes have helped Kurdish Peshmerga fighters retake territory in the north that Islamic State militants had captured in its drive for an Islamic empire that redraws the map of the Middle East.
But the picture in Anbar is more precarious.
IS fighters already control most of the vast desert province which includes towns in the Euphrates River valley dominated by Sunni tribes, running from the Syrian border to the western outskirts of Baghdad.
If the province falls, it could give IS militants a better chance to make good on their threat to march on the capital.
In Anbar, the militants are now encircling a large air base and the vital Haditha dam on the Euphrates.
Fighters control towns from the Syrian border to parts of provincial capital Ramadi and into the lush irrigated areas near Baghdad.
Iraqi Kurdish fighters have joined the fight against IS militants in Kobane, hoping their support for fellow Kurds backed by US-led air strikes will keep the ultra-hardline group from seizing the Syrian border town.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the civil war, said heavy clashes erupted in Kobane and that both sides had suffered casualties, while the US military said it had launched more air raids on Islamic State militants over the weekend.
The Peshmerga joined the battle late yesterday and it made a big difference with their artillery, it is proper artillery. We didn’t have artillery, we were using mortars and other locally made weapons.Deputy minister for foreign affairs in Kobane district Idriss Nassan
Deputy minister for foreign affairs in Kobane district Idriss Nassan said Iraqi Kurds using long-range artillery had joined the battle on Saturday night against IS militants.
“The Peshmerga joined the battle late yesterday and it made a big difference with their artillery, it is proper artillery,” he said.
“We didn’t have artillery, we were using mortars and other locally made weapons. So this is a good thing.”
The arrival of the 150 Iraqi fighters – known as Peshmerga or “those who confront death” – marks the first time Turkey has allowed troops from outside Syria to reinforce Syrian Kurds, who have been defending Kobane for more than 40 days.
Air strikes have helped to foil several attempts by IS fighters, notorious for their beheading of hostages and opponents, to take over Kobane.
In their latest air strikes, US military forces staged seven attacks on IS targets in Syria on Saturday and Sunday and were joined by allies in two more attacks in Iraq, the US Central Command said.
In the Kobane area, five strikes hit five small Islamic State units, while two strikes near Dayr Az Zawr, 240km to the southeast in Syria, destroyed an Islamic State tank and vehicle shelters.
US and partner nations hit small Islamic State units near the Iraqi cities of Baiji and Falluja.
In addition to their deployment to Kobane, the Kurds are waging their own battle against the Sunni militants in Iraq.
Meanwhile, a car bomb blast targeting Shiites in Baghdad ahead of the major Ashura religious commemorations killed at least 13 people on Sunday, security and medical officials said.
The blast struck near a tent from which they were distributing tea and water in the Al-Ilam area in southwest Baghdad, and also wounded at least 29 people, the sources said.
Another car bomb exploded near a police checkpoint in central Baghdad later on Sunday, killing at least five people and wounding at least 17.
Hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims will flock to the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala for Ashura, which marks the death of Imam Hussein, one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam.
Pilgrims have been targeted during Ashura before, but this year’s commemorations, which peak on Tuesday, face even greater danger, with Islamic State militants in control of large areas of the country.
IS militants, like other Sunni extremist groups, considers Shiites to be heretics and frequently targets them with bombings.
The pilgrimage is a major test for the new government and Iraq’s security forces, who have struggled to push the militants back.
Tribe leader Sheikh Naeem al-Ga’oud says he was not provided with any arms by the central government and army. Aren’t we supplying weapons anymore?
Islamic State militants have killed 322 members of an Iraqi tribe in western Anbar province, including dozens of women and children whose bodies were dumped in a well, the government said in the first official confirmation of the scale of the massacre.
The systematic killings, which one tribal leader said were continuing on Sunday, marked some of the worst bloodshed in Iraq since the Sunni militants swept through the north in June with the aim of establishing medieval caliphate there and in Syria.
The Albu Nimr, also Sunni, had put up fierce resistance against Islamic State for weeks but finally ran low on ammunition, food and fuel last week as Islamic State fighters closed in on their village Zauiyat Albu Nimr.
“The number of people killed by Islamic State from Albu Nimr tribe is 322. The bodies of 50 women and children have also been discovered dumped in a well,” the country’s Human Rights Ministry said on Sunday.
One of the leaders of the tribe, Sheikh Naeem al-Ga’oud, told Reuters that he had repeatedly asked the central government and army to provide his men with arms but no action was taken.
State television said on Sunday that prime minister Haider al-Abadi had ordered air strikes on Islamic State targets around the town of Hit in response to the killings.
Officials at a government security operations command centre in Anbar and civilians reached by Reuters said they had not heard of or witnessed air strikes.
The fall of the village dampened the Shia-led national government’s hopes the Sunni tribesmen of Anbar – who once helped US Marines defeat al-Qaida – would become a formidable force again and help the army take on Iraq’s new, far more effective enemy.
US air strikes have helped Kurdish peshmerga fighters retake territory in the north that Islamic State had captured in its drive for an Islamic empire that redraws the map of the Middle East. But the picture in Anbar is more precarious.
Islamic State already controls most of the vast desert province which includes towns in the Euphrates River valley dominated by Sunni tribes, running from the Syrian border to the western outskirts of Baghdad.
If the province falls, it could give Islamic State a better chance to make good on its threat to march on the capital.
Ga’aud said 75 more members of his tribe were killed on Sunday under the same scenario – they were hunted down while trying to escape from Islamic State, shot dead execution-style and dumped near the town of Haditha.
The Albu Nimr leader also said Islamic State killed 15 high school and college students in Zauiyat Albu Nimr and that, apart from an air drop, there had been no help from the US-led air campaign.
Security and government officials could not be immediately reached to confirm the latest killings.
In Anbar, the militants are now encircling a large air base and the vital Haditha dam on the Euphrates. Fighters control towns from the Syrian border to parts of provincial capital Ramadi and into the lush irrigated areas near Baghdad.
UN report suggests decline of al-Qaida has yielded an explosion of jihadist enthusiasm for its even mightier successor organisations, chiefly Isis
The United Nations has warned that foreign jihadists are swarming into the twin conflicts in Iraq and Syria on “an unprecedented scale” and from countries that had not previously contributed combatants to global terrorism.
A report by the UN security council, obtained by the Guardian, finds that 15,000 people have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the Islamic State (Isis) and similar extremist groups. They come from more than 80 countries, the report states, “including a tail of countries that have not previously faced challenges relating to al-Qaida”.
The UN said it was uncertain whether al-Qaida would benefit from the surge. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaida who booted Isis out of his organisation, “appears to be maneuvering for relevance”, the report says.
The UN’s numbers bolster recent estimates from US intelligence about the scope of the foreign fighter problem, which the UN report finds to have spread despite the Obama administration’s aggressive counter-terrorism strikes and global surveillance dragnets.
“Numbers since 2010 are now many times the size of the cumulative numbers of foreign terrorist fighters between 1990 and 2010 – and are growing,” says the report, produced by a security council committee that monitors al-Qaida.
The UN report did not list the 80-plus countries that it said were the source of fighters flowing fighters into Iraq and Syria. But in recent months, Isis supporters have appeared in places as unlikely as the Maldives, and its videos proudly display jihadists with Chilean-Norwegian and other diverse backgrounds.
“There are instances of foreign terrorist fighters from France, the Russian Federation and and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland operating together,” it states. More than 500 British citizens are believed to have travelled to the region since 2011.
The UN report, an update on the spread of transnational terrorism and efforts to staunch it, validates the Obama administration’s claim that “core al-Qaida remains weak”. But it suggests that the decline of al-Qaida has yielded an explosion of jihadist enthusiasm for its even mightier successor organizations, chiefly Isis.
Those organisations are less interested in assaults outside their frontiers: “Truly cross-border attacks – or attacks against international targets – remain a minority,” the report assesses. But the report indicates that more nations than ever will face the challenge of experienced fighters returning home from the Syria-Iraq conflict.
Wading into a debate with legal implications for Barack Obama’s new war against Isis, the UN considers Isis “a splinter group” from al-Qaida. It considers an ideological congruence between the two groups sufficient to categorise them as part a broader movement, notwithstanding al-Qaida’s formal excommunication of Isis last February.
“Al-Qaida core and Isil pursue similar strategic goals, albeit with tactical differences regarding sequencing and substantive differences about personal leadership,” the UN writes, using a different acronym for Isis.
Leadership disputes between the organisations are reflected in the shape of their propaganda, the UN finds. A “cosmopolitan” embrace of social media platforms andinternet culture by Isis (“as when extremists post kitten photographs”) has displaced the “long and turgid messaging” from al-Qaida. Zawahiri’s most recent video lasted 55 minutes, while Isis members incessantly use Twitter, Snapchat, Kik, Ask.fm, a communications apparatus “unhindered by organisational structures”.
A “lack of social media message discipline” in Isis points to a leadership “that recognizes the terror and recruitment value of multichannel, multi-language social and other media messaging,” reflecting a younger and “more international” membership than al-Qaida’s various affiliates.
With revenues just from its oil smuggling operations now estimated at $1m daily, Isis controls territory in Iraq and Syria home to between five and six million people, a population the size of Finland’s. Bolstering Isis’s treasury is up to $45m in money from kidnapping for ransom, the UN report finds. Family members of Isis victim James Foley, an American journalist, have questioned the policy of refusing to pay ransoms, which US officials argue would encourage more kidnappings.
Two months of outright US-led war against Isis has suffered from a lack of proxy ground forces to take territory from Isis, as Obama has formally ruled out direct US ground combat. On Thursday at the Pentagon, General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the US has yet to even begin vetting Syrian rebels for potential inclusion in an anti-Isis army it seeks to muster in Syria. Dempsey encouraged the Iraqi government to directly arm Sunni tribes to withstand Isis’s advances through the western Anbar Province.
(Reuters) – When Sunni rebels rose up against Syria’s Bashar al-Assad in 2011, Turkey reclassified its protégé as a pariah, expecting him to lose power within months and join the autocrats of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen on the scrap heap of the “Arab Spring”.
Assad, in contrast, shielded diplomatically by Russia and with military and financial support from Iran and its Shi’ite allies in Lebanon’s Hezbollah, warned that the fires of Syria’s sectarian war would burn its neighbors.
For Turkey, despite the confidence of Tayyip Erdogan, elected this summer to the presidency after 11 years as prime minister and three straight general election victories, Assad’s warning is starting to ring uncomfortably true.
Turkey’s foreign policy is in ruins. Its once shining image as a Muslim democracy and regional power in the NATO alliance and at the doors of the European Union is badly tarnished.
Amid a backlash against political Islam across the region Erdogan is still irritating his Arab neighbors by offering himself as a Sunni Islamist champion.
The world, meanwhile, is transfixed by the desperate siege of Kobani, the Syrian Kurdish town just over Turkey’s border, under attack by extremist Sunni fighters of the Islamic State (IS) who are threatening to massacre its defenders.
Erdogan has enraged Turkey’s own Kurdish minority – about a fifth of the population and half of all Kurds across the region – by seeming to prefer that IS jihadis extend their territorial gains in Syria and Iraq rather than that Kurdish insurgents consolidate local power.
Turkey is thus caught between two fires: the possibility of the PKK-led Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey reviving because of Ankara’s policy towards the Syrian Kurds; and the risk that a more robust policy against IS will provoke reprisal attacks that could be damage its economy and the tourist industry that provides Turkey with around a tenth of its income.
Internationally, one veteran Turkish diplomat fears, IS “is acting as a catalyst legitimizing support for an independent Kurdish state not just in Syria but in Turkey” at a time when leading powers have started to question Turkey’s ideological and security affiliations with the West.