Saturday 13 September 2014

This Obama Administration Official Thinks Saudi Arabia Borders Syria

It doesn’t.

posted on Sept. 12, 2014, at 12:53 a.m.
Sept. 12, 2014, at 6:27 p.m.

A “senior administration official” joined a background call with reporters on Wednesday ahead of President Barack Obama’s address to the nation announcing his strategy against the militant group ISIS.

A "senior administration official" joined a background call with reporters on Wednesday ahead of President Barack Obama's address to the nation announcing his strategy against the militant group ISIS.
 Pool / Reuters

The discussion was long and fruitful. And then this happened: “Saudi Arabia has an extensive border with Syria.”

Only problem is — it doesn’t. Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, and Turkey do. Saudi Arabia doesn’t. The end.

Only problem is — it doesn't. Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, and Turkey do. Saudi Arabia doesn't. The end.
Juan Camilo Bernal Photographer/Juan Camilo Bernal Photographer
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Why the Real Target is Assad Not ISIS

Obama Declares War on Syria

Invoking the same ominous language as his predecessor, Barack Obama used a prime time presidential address on Wednesday to announce the beginning of a war on Syria. And while there’s no doubt that many Americans will be confused by Obama’s misleading focus on the terrorist organization named ISIL, the real purpose of the speech was to garner support for another decade of homicidal conflicts in the Middle East. The administration is as determined as ever to plunge the region into chaos, erase existing borders, and install its puppets wherever it can.  ISIL–which is mainly an invention of western Intel agencies and their treacherous counterparts in the Gulf– conveniently creates the justification for another bloody invasion followed by years of occupation, subjugation, and revolt.
Barack Obama:
My fellow Americans — tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL. As commander-in-chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people…..
Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.
Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge.
Get it? We are all in great peril and only our loving father, Obama, can save us. Where have we heard that before?
Obama: “In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage…..If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region — including to the United States.”
This is pure demagoguery, the likes of which we haven’t heard since Bush’s ”The Axis of Evil” speech.  The truth is, ISIL poses NO threat to US national security at all. It’s a joke.  Readers should mull that over before they throw their support behind Obama’s proposed crusade in Syria..
More Obama:  “First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists…..I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven…..”
Okay, so borders don’t matter, international law doesn’t matter, national sovereignty doesn’t matter. What matters is oil, money and power. Isn’t that what he’s saying? He’s asking the American people to support another millennia of killing so he can pad the bank accounts of corrupt US oil magnates while strengthening America’s tenuous grip on global power.  Would you be willing to sacrifice your son’s life for such a cause?
Obama: “Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I again call on Congress to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters.”
So, now Obama wants to arm and train the same terrorists which the CIA and our enlightened friends in the Gulf States recruited from around the world. Sounds like a good plan, doesn’t it? What could go wrong?
Obama:  “This is our strategy….. Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity, and in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight.”
So, Senator Botox and his gaggle of neocons are going to fix everything, just like they did in Kiev.  Now I am worried.
Obama: “But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground.”
No American “boots on the ground”?? Is that what he said? What he meant to say was no boots on the ground until after the midterms. After that, the sky’s the limit!
Don’t kid yourself, the Obama claque is as determined to topple Assad as Bush was determined to remove Saddam. That’s why Obama’s public relations team decided to use the prestige of a primetime presidential speech –with all the pompous trappings of high-office–to make their case. It’s because their real target is the American people who are being led by the nose into another hellish bloodbath.
Obama: “American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists.”
Oh boy. American troublemaking is the “one constant” in this world, even death and taxes take a back seat to that.  America started the war on terror. (Blowback) America perpetuated the war on terror. (check the globe. The US is fighting wars everywhere.) And America is entirely responsible for the war on terror. (Afghanistan, Mujahedin) And now–after 13 years of unlawful detentions, black sites, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, death squads, waterboarding, illegal surveillance, drone attacks, and a mountain of carnage that stretches halfway to the moon– Obama is re-launching the  War on Terror under the opaque sobriquet “ISIL”.  Haven’t we had enough of this garbage yet?
As always, the media seems entirely mystified as to the administration’s real intentions. In contrast, analyst Patrick Martin at the World Socialist Web Site sees through the hoax and sums it up like this in an article  titled “Obama announces open-ended war in Iraq and Syria”. Here’s an excerpt:
“It was only 12 months ago that Obama tried and failed to create the political conditions for US air strikes against the Assad regime, making allegations of the use of nerve gas weapons that were later discredited. Now Obama is seeking to achieve the same goal by a different route, using ISIS as a pretext to get American military forces into Syria, where they will become the spearhead of the campaign to oust Assad and install a pro-US stooge regime in Damascus.”
Bingo. The ISIL canard is nothing but a pretext for war.
Write to your Senators and Congressmen: NO WAR IN SYRIA.
MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at
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Mustafa Barghouti on Operation Protective Edge

by Stephen Lendman

Barghouti is special. He's important. He's multi-faceted. He's a man for all seasons. He's a physician, political activist, and human rights champion.

He supports nonviolent resistance. He's a Palestinian National Initiative (PNI) co-founder. He currently serves as secretary-general.

PNI aims to build Palestinian unity. It does so in struggling for self-determination. It does it by promoting democratic values.

Barghouti is a Palestinian Legislative Council/PLO member. He's a former presidential candidate. Israel rigged Abbas' 2005 election to deny him.

He was harassed while campaigning. He was intimidated. He was arrested. He was expelled from East Jerusalem.

He was excluded from Nablus and Gaza. He was prevented from  competing fairly against Israel's preferred choice.

Israel rigged things for Abbas. He lacked legitimacy from day one in office. He has none now.

Barghouti is genuine. He's polar opposite Abbas. He's a grassroots democracy advocate.

He's president of the Palestinian Medical Relief Committee. It provides health and community services for over one million Palestinians annually.

He heads the Health Department Information and Policy Institute. It's a Ramallah-based think tank. It specializes in policy research and planing for the Palestinian healthcare system.

He co-founded the Grassroots International Protection for the Palestinian People. He formerly served as Palestinian People's Party general-secretary.

He's an Oxford Research Group associate. It's dedicated to developing effective methods for positive change on security issues through non-violent means.

Barghouti is well-known. He enjoys worldwide respect. Nobel Peace Prize recipient Mairead Maguire nominated him for the 2010 award.

She was "inspired by the life and work of Dr. Barghouti whose commitment to nonviolence, in his personal and public life, is truly in the Ghandian spirit."

Honoring Barghouti "would be a recognition of not only his great spirit of peace and nonviolence, but also the Palestinian Nonviolent Movement, which gives us all hope for the future of Palestine, Israel and the Middle East Community," she explained.

Britain's parliament passed a motion. It paid tribute to his nomination.

It cited his "invaluable role…in organizing and encouraging Palestinian civil society in the fundamental principles of non-violence."

It acknowledged "the tirelessness of his activities in the face of so many seemingly insurmountable obstacles that face all Palestinians living under Israeli occupation whether that be in the West Bank or imprisoned in Gaza."

In 2010, France awarded Barghouti its Legion of Honor (Legion d'Honneur). Napoleon established it in May 1802.
It was the first modern-day order of merit. It's France's highest honor. It's awarded for excellent civil or military service.

Throughout Operation Protective Edge (OPE), Barghouti debunked the official narrative.

He denounced Israeli high crimes. He separated myths from reality.
War didn't start in Gaza, he said. It began in the West Bank. It had nothing to do with Hamas rockets.  
Israel bears full responsibility. It does so for state-sponsored terrorism.

The dominant narrative called it self-defense. Justifiable Palestinian resistance is called terrorism.

During OPE, Israel rampaged throughout the territories. It did so multiple times daily.

It terrorized West Bank/East Jerusalem communities. It invaded over 3,000 homes.

It ransacked them. It destroyed many. It stole money and other personal possessions.

It used tear gas, stun grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets and live fire against peaceful Palestinian demonstrators.
It arrested over 1,000 Palestinians. They included parliamentarians doing their jobs.

Nearly three dozens are lawlessly imprisoned. They languish in Israel's gulag. Conditions are brutal.
Torture is official Israeli policy. Horrific abuses are commonplace.

OPE was much more than war on Hamas. It was war on Palestine. It was collective punishment writ large.
Dozens of families were annihilated to the last man, woman and child.

"Entire neighborhoods…were completely eliminated within 24 hours," said Barghouti.

Eight hospitals were attacked. So were clinics, ambulances and healthcare workers. Palestinian journalists were murdered in cold blood.

Obama and other world leaders ignored Israeli aggression. They defended its right to mass murder and destroy.
"(N)ot a single word" supported Palestinians' right of self-defense, said Barghouti.

"The Palestinians are the ones whose land has been occupied for 47  years, who have been forced into displacement and refugee status since 1948, (and who suffer) from a system of apartheid, discrimination and segregation created by the Israeli occupation."

Yet nothing is said in their behalf. Reality is turned on its head.

Israeli suffering is considered unique. Extreme Palestinian misery is ignored.

They dehumanized. Their lives and well-being aren't important. They faced the world's fourth most powerful army.
They did so with light arms and ineffective rockets. Israeli began OPE. It did so lawlessly.

Palestinians were victimized. It wasn't the first time. It won't be the last.

Instigators are called victims. Real ones are called perpetrators and terrorists.

Civilians suffer most in all wars. Palestinians suffer under the longest occupation in modern memory.

Palestine's longstanding struggle affects Israel, said Barghouti. "Israelis will never be free as long as we are not free," he stresses.

What's been ongoing for decades must stop, he says. "(I)mpunity and reality must be exposed."

Enough is enough! No longer can longstanding injustice continue. Things must change. The official Israeli narrative must be challenged.

"Please see the reality," says Barghouti. "Look at the facts."

Truths must replace fiction. Peace, equity, and justice can't wait.

The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) champions Palestinian peace and stability. It deplores militarism, war and other forms of violence.

It calls human rights laws inviolable. It wants violators held accountable.

On September 9, Barghouti addressed PSC members. He did so in London. He discussed what he saw and experienced in Gaza.

"Thank you for everything you have done for Palestine and Gaza," he said.

"We have been watching the demonstrations. What you have done has given the people a great amount of moral support and I hope you can continue with this, because it is very important."

"(S)olidarity work" is vital, he stressed. "(W)e have a very, very big fight ahead of us."

No one can comprehend what happened without living it.

"No footage, no speech, no camera, no television can really show the reality that you can see with your own eyes," he said.
"Please go there if you can. It's so important for you to know the reality, and (vital) for (Gazans) to see you there."
"What happened is beyond description. Even describing it as an act of disproportionality is an insult to humanity. Describing it as an imbalance of power is also an insult."
"After slaughtering thousands of people and destroying thousands of homes and to speak about reconstruction and to immediately allow Israeli companies to make a profit from this is also an insult to humanity."
"What happened in Gaza, as has happened before in the West Bank is nothing but war crimes and crimes against humanity."
"What happened was nothing but massacres against the civilian population and Israel couldn't have done that without a feeling of impunity and without having impunity from international law, and this couldn't have happened if so many Western world leaders hadn't been complicit in what happened."

They support Israeli genocidal high crimes against peace. They ignore Palestinian suffering.

They do virtually nothing to relieve it. They let business as usual continue. Status quo conditions remain.

After endless days of meaningless discussions, Barghouti expressed disgust with "diplomatic talk."

He showed pictures of what he saw. It exceeded some of the worst WW II devastated areas in some places, he said.

"This was not about one house being destroyed and the house next to it being destroyed," he explained.

"This was intentional bombardment by the Israeli army and navy and air force to destroy whole neighborhoods."
Shujaya was completely destroyed. "It was a town. It was was a city with 150,000 people…"
"Every house, every clinic, every mosque, every building was destroyed."
"Even a home for people with disabilities was destroyed. The destruction was beyond belief, and it is there for people who want to see."
"Huge buildings, of five, six, seven, eight storeys were completely destroyed."
"I have never seen even in films such a level of devastation. I saw one bomb which caused a half a square kilometer hole in the ground."

The toll throughout Gaza was horrific, said Barghouti. It was devastating. It's catastrophic. It includes:
"18,000 homes and buildings destroyed completely, 41,000 houses partially damaged, 145 schools, eight hospitals, 13 health centers damaged."
"180 mosques damaged, 71 destroyed completely. Even cemeteries were bombarded, 10 bombarded, nine Muslim cemeteries, one Christian cemetery."
"They bombarded the graves." The bones of the dead became visible. "The amount of explosives they used was beyond description."
Tens of thousands of Gazans lost virtually everything. Their homes, belongings, money, papers, photos, passports, and memories unable to "be brought back even if there is reconstruction."
"That is what (Israel) did to people." It "insult(ed) humanity." It mass  murdered Palestinians in cold blood.
Nearly half million Gazans lost their homes and personal possessions. Their loved ones are lost forever. Many still live in shelters. "In huge numbers."
"I almost cried when I was asked to see a girl in one of these shelters."
"She has cancer which has taken away her sight and she was half paralyzed. Her mother was with her also."
"She had to be inside the room with 50 other people. Very hot, very humid, no showers, no clean water."
That's what happened to these people when they went into these shelters."
"We found evidence of scabies, and gastroenteritis and hepatitis."
"Some people decided to live in the rubble rather than in the shelters, because it was so humiliating to live without any privacy."
"Sometimes they still find people who are dead under the destruction."
"Towers, high rises, they were all destroyed. Huge devastation."
"This building hosted 80 families. In two minutes, it was destroyed."
"There was a man, 82 years old, who told me he spent all his life building a house and a family."
"He had a house with four storys and 28 sons and daughters and grandchildren."
"He went to pray during Ramadan, one evening. He came back. The house was completely destroyed, his wife was killed."
"All the 28 sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters were killed."
"91 families were completely annihilated. 91 families were scratched from the civil records in these attacks."
If Gaza's population matched America's, "you('d) (have had) 400,000 killed and 1,934,000 injured, almost two million."
"(H)ow can a country that claims to be…civilized…that has a very special relationship with the United Kingdom, that keeps speaking about the right to defend itself, ask them, how can they be allowed to" commit mass murder and destruction with impunity.
Shrapnel from its explosives cut everything. It's "all over the place."
"It includes very dangerous material. Tungsten and other material that is carcinogenic, and depleted uranium."
UN safe haven refugees were willfully attacked. Israel blamed Hamas for its own crimes.
It used prohibited weapons. They included "(d)ime bombs, tungsten, depleted uranium," white phosphorous that burns skin to the bone, flechettes and others.

Israel wanted maximum destruction, deaths and injuries. Civilians were willfully targeted. It's official Israeli policy.
IDF attacks "destroyed water networks, sewage systems," said Barghouti. "They destroyed the only electricity station in Gaza."
"And they created epidemics. Up until now, in the best case scenario, people in Gaza have electricity for only six hours a day."
"What would you do if you could not have showers every day because the water is so saline?"
"What would you do in a place where 90% of water sources are polluted and salinated, and not good for human use?"
"The devastation is unbelievable. They attacked 36 ambulances. They killed 22 first aid and health providers. They devastated eight hospitals."
"They killed 18 journalists and attacked seven UNWRA schools. They killed five people in Shifa hospital."
"Two disabled women were killed in a disabled centre. 450 factories were destroyed. Farms were destroyed."
"Today there is no meat in Gaza, because all the sheep were killed in the attacks."
"The soil is so covered in chemicals that it's not good for human use, for farming."
"Israel attacked Gaza in 2006, in 2008, in 2013 and in 2014. In 2014, there was one hundred times more destruction and more explosives than in all three previous wars."
"Why? Because they are testing the world. They are testing you. They are testing every single person in humanity to see how much you can tolerate."
"This is what the fascists did before. The fascists tested humanity to see how much it would resist and now it is time to resist Israel."

Fascism grips Israel. Democracy is pure fantasy. Palestinians have no rights.

Gazans face slow-motion genocide. An entire population is up for grabs. World leaders able to make a difference do nothing. They support Israel's killing machine.

Israel "tried to dehumanize us as Palestinians," said Barghouti. "First they tried to dehumanize Hamas, then all Palestinians. Netanyahu even has the guts to try and compare Hamas with ISIS."

It's totally unacceptable to let Israel claim self-defense. "This is not self-defense," said Barghouti. "This is offense."
"Israel shouldn't be allowed this level of impunity. Enough is enough. We have to take them to the International Criminal Court. The PLO must immediately sign the Rome Statute and take Israel to the ICC."

"(T)his inhumanity can't continue. There's only one way out." Boycott, divest, sanction, isolate and prosecute Israeli officials for high crimes against peace.

"(D)ismantle this occupation and this apartheid" once and for all. Afford Palestinians justice they've long been denied.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

posted by Steve Lendman @ 3:25 AM
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It is clear that the US has created ISIS

Washington Menaces America With Its ISIS Creation 

4535121The Washington Times in an article titled, “Intel believes 300 Americans fighting with Islamic State, posing threat to U.S.,” makes the incredible claim that:
The U.S. government is tracking and gathering intelligence on as many as 300 Americans who are fighting side by side with the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria and are poised to become a major threat to the homeland, according to senior U.S. officials.

Officials say concern is widespread in Washington that radicalized foreign fighters could return to the homeland and commit terrorist attacks with skills acquired overseas, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the information. Those concerns were heightened by the disclosure Tuesday that a California man was killed fighting alongside militants with the group, also known as ISIS.
It is incredible because the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) has not only been tapping and recording phone conversations of Americans for years, but also tracking phone locations as well. How is it that this massive, invasive, illegal, abhorrent surveillance control grid can be put in place, sold to the public as a necessity to “protect Americans” and “national security,” yet miss entire battalions of Americans signing up for and joining overseas, a terrorist organization like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)?

If the very scenarios the NSA uses to justify its abhorrent means have unfolded unimpeded, revealed only by “chance” with the passport of an American turning up in the pockets of dead terrorists upon an alleged battlefield in Syria, either the NSA’s existence serves another purpose, or the narrative we are being fed regarding the true nature of ISIS is a lie, or the most likely scenario – both.

Not the First Fit of Feigned Ignorance 

The very appearance of ISIS on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria allegedly took the US intelligence community by surprise. The unlikely narrative was designed entirely to maintain plausible deniability between ISIS mercenaries and their paymasters in Washington, London, Brussels, Riyadh, Doha, and Ankara respectively. In reality, headlines over the past 3-4 years such as, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition,” “First Syria rebels armed and trained by CIA ‘on way to battlefield’,” “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.,” and “Official says CIA-funded weapons have begun to reach Syrian rebels; rebels deny receipt,” indicate precisely how and from where the immense, multinational ISIS mercenary force originated.
The US has yet to account how its CIA could be operating within territory held by ISIS – including all along the Turkish-Syrian border and within Turkish territory itself – and neither know the existence, movements, or intentions of ISIS forces.

Between NSA surveillance at home, and the CIA operating side-by-side with ISIS and other Al Qaeda-linked terrorist organizations, the sudden revelations that Americans are fighting within ISIS’ ranks seem to be more a matter of politically-motivated propaganda, timed perfectly to justify US military intervention in Syria, than a case of yet another convenient lapse in American intelligence.

Washington Menacing America With Its Own Mercenaries 

Indeed, in order for the US to begin military operations in Syria under the guise of fighting ISIS forces, it must first demonstrate the threat ISIS poses to America. Already, likely false flags serving ISIS no benefit, but giving the US the green light to begin military operations in Syria have begun making their rounds across Western media. A CBS/Associated Press story titled, “Former Deputy CIA Director: ‘I Would Not Be Surprised’ If ISIS Member Shows Up To US Mall Tomorrow With AK-47,” claims:
“The short-term concern is the Americans that have gone to fight with ISIS and the west Europeans that have gone to fight with ISIS could be trained and directed by ISIS to come to the United States to conduct small-scale attacks,” Morell stated. “If an ISIS member showed up at a mall in the United States tomorrow with an AK-47 and killed a number of Americans, I would not be surprised.”
Morell warned that over the long-term the extremist group could be planning for a 9/11-style attack that killed thousands of Americans.
The same report would also claim:
The United States launched a new barrage of airstrikes Wednesday against the Islamic State extremist group that beheaded American journalist James Foley and that has seized a swath of territory across Iraq and Syria. President Barack Obama vowed relentless pursuit of the terrorists and the White House revealed that the U.S. had launched a secret rescue mission inside Syria earlier this summer that failed to rescue Foley and other Americans still being held hostage.
The current justification for ongoing preparations against Syria has been the Foley execution video, which experts have agreed upon was staged. The London Telegraph in its article, “Foley murder video ‘may have been staged’,” would state:
Analysts believe the British jihadi in the video may not have been James Foley’s killer, although it is accepted that the journalist was murdered.
Of course, if the video was staged, and every claim about it made by ISIS thus far proven a fabrication, no evidence at all suggests when and where, or even if Foley was murdered. If he was, no evidence suggests by whom. And despite this revelation, the US continues building momentum to intervene in Syria.

Imperialism Hiding Behind Righteousness 

Several years and hundreds of millions of dollars later, ISIS is clearly the product of long-laid Western designs to overthrow the Syrian government and reorder the Middle East as warned by the prophetic 2007 9-page report titled, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on 
terrorism?,” written by Seymour Hersh and published in the New Yorker. In it Hersh warned about a cataclysmic sectarian war that would ravage the entire region, targeting not only Syria and neighboring Lebanon, but also Iran. He also warned that it was an intentionally engineered conspiracy between the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, with many smaller regional players serving in supporting roles.

With the emergence of ISIS creating the very cataclysmic sectarian conflagration warned about in Hersh’s 2007 report, with no other credible explanation to account for ISIS’ incredible size, strength, and success beyond multinational state-sponsorship, Hersh’s reportage has once again been vindicated.

It is clear that the US has created ISIS, and is to this day using it as both a means to target and attack its enemies across the Middle East, as well as serve as a pretext for direct US military intervention when proxy wars flounder. It is also being used in a third context – on the domestic front – as a manufactured and perpetual threat with which to further justify the militarization and centralization of America’s police forces and the continued expansion of the NSA’s invasive domestic spying.

It is also clear that all of this adds up not to promoting freedom and democracy abroad while ensuring national security at home, but rather achieving full-spectrum domination in regions abroad and over the population at home. It is naked hegemony and imperialism playing dress-up in the wardrobe of righteousness.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.


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Split Parliament opinions on UK involvement in airstrikes

Published September 12th, 2014 - 08:27 GMT via
Despite doubts in Parliament, British Prime Minister David Cameron said joining U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria is still a possibility for Britain. (AFP/File)
Despite doubts in Parliament, British Prime Minister David Cameron said joining U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria is still a possibility for Britain. (AFP/File)
David Cameron will urge MPs to support air strikes against Isis in Iraq but is unlikely to ask them to approve military action in Syria against the militant extremist group.
The Independent understands that the Liberal Democrats and Labour are reluctant to endorse air strikes in Syria, forcing the Prime Minister to think again. Last week, he argued that action in Syria would not need the support of the Assad regime, saying: “President Assad has committed war crimes on his own people and is therefore illegitimate.”
However, MPs believe there are serious legal doubts about action in Syria.
There was confusion at the top of the Government today as Downing Street slapped down Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, after he said Britain would not bomb Isis targets in Syria.
It followed Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States would extend its air strikes against Isis in Iraq to Syria. In a White House address, the US President vowed to "degrade and ultimately destroy" Isis and said almost 500 more US troops will be dispatched to Iraq to assist its security forces.
Mr Cameron wants to secure the approval of the Commons before launching air strikes. Soundings by whips suggest there could be a majority in the three main parties for action in Iraq, where the new Government is expected to request such intervention, but not in Syria. One Minister admitted: “For the Lib Dems and Labour, Syria is very different to Iraq.”
Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband are likely to back UK air strikes in Iraq if the US puts together a “coalition of the willing” that includes countries in the region. But they would baulk at a US-UK only operation.
Mr Cameron is anxious to avoid a repeat of his humiliating defeat a year ago, when the Commons voted by 285 to 272 to oppose air strikes against the Assad regime after it used chemical weapons against its own people.
Mr Hammond appeared to reflect the private soundings among MPs when he said in Germany: “Let me be clear, Britain will not be taking part in air strikes in Syria. I can be very clear about that. We have already had that discussion in our Parliament last year and we won't be revisiting that position."
But two hours later, Downing Street insisted: “The point he was making was that last year Parliament expressed its view with regard to taking action with air strikes against the Assad regime. In terms of air power and the like, the Prime Minister has not ruled anything out. That is the position. No decisions have been taken in that regard."
One option would be for the Government to give political support to US air strikes in Syria but to restrict UK military support to Iraq.
Some MPs believe that Mr Cameron’s desire to tackle Isis in Syria may have also been tempered by legal doubts.
Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, who is also a QC, said: “If a suitable alliance can be formed, there may well be support in Parliament for British participation in offensive action against Isis in Iraq. But Syria poses rather different problems. Without an invitation from Assad, which is wholly unlikely, or a [UN] Security Council resolution, which is equally improbable, military action in Syria against Isis could be regarded as being illegal.”
Sir Menzies added: “The question for Britain, and anyone else who became part of an alliance, would be whether they were willing to join in with the Americans, who almost certainly would not feel constrained by international law to the same extent as European countries.”
John Baron, a Conservative MP, said: “Air strikes into Syria are fraught with risks. The legal, technical and military differences between strikes in Iraq and Syria are marked. The UK should be advising caution.”
Demanding a Commons statement, he said: "This reinforces the need for the Government to state clearly its policy to Parliament given that there appears to be a disparity between the Foreign Secretary and No 10. The issue of air strikes in Syria is of seminal importance."
Mr Cameron’s official spokesman welcomed the strategy outlined by Mr Obama. "We need to deal with Isil both in terms of Iraq and in terms of Syria so we are very supportive of that approach,” he said. But he added: "In terms of specific decisions about participation in further action, we are not at the stage of taking those decisions."
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