Make Israel Great Again: Greater Israel

The ruling Israeli right-wing coalition, which sees Trump as a potential champion of Greater Israel, believes that the United States’ president will finally remove any outside constraints on settlement construction in the West Bank or the legalization of already existing settlements built without governmental approval. Settlement-friendly politicians in Israel are already working hard on such moves; a bill legalizing settlements built on private Palestinian land passed its first reading in the Knesset, despite the objections of the attorney general and a near certain rejection by Israel’s High Court of Justice. Some in Israel even view the next four years as an opportunity to annex the West Bank outright. This is a “tremendous opportunity to announce a renunciation of the idea of founding a Palestinian state in the heart of the land,” Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, stated. “The era of the Palestinian state is over.”

At the same time, Trump himself toldThe Wall Street Journal of his desire to close the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians. “As a dealmaker, I’d like to do…the deal that can’t be made,” he said. “And do it for humanity’s sake.”

Within his own Likud Party, Netanyahu occupies the left-wing flank and is viewed by Likud Knesset members as being too gradual and cautious in his settlement policies. To Likud’s right, Naftali Bennett and his camp believe Netanyahu is blatantly half-hearted in his commitment to a Greater Israel. Bennett and his supporters have advocated annexing Area C of the West Bank, which under the Oslo Accords was to be gradually transferred to the Palestinians, and have maintained constant pressure on Netanyahu to adopt more expansionist policies.

Israel Says It Will Kill Assad if He Keeps Iran in Syria Newsweek

“If Syrian President Bashar Assad continues allowing the Iranians to operate out of Syria, it would be the end of him, the end of his regime,” Israeli Energy Minister and Cabinet member Yuval Steinitz  told Israeli news site Ynet in an interview, later clarifying his words.

“If Assad allows Iran to turn Syria into a forward operating base against us,” he said, “to attack us from Syrian soil, he should know that will spell his end.”

Israeli Military Admits to Supporting Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria (LiveLeak)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that Israel has been providing aid to Syrian rebels, thus keeping the Druze in Syria out of immediate danger. Israeli officials have previously balked at confirming on the record that the country has been helping forces that are fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“We’ve assisted them under two conditions”, Ya’alon said of the Israeli medical aid to the Syrian rebels, some of whom are presumably fighting with al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. “That they don’t get too close to the border, and that they don’t touch the Druze.”

Al Nusra is Al Qaeda, and closely affiliated with ISIS. And remember, there have never been any “moderate Syrian rebels” … only Islamic Sunni jihadis.

As Vice President Joseph Biden admitted:

The fact of the matter is … there was no moderate middle … Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria … They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and … thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis.

Leaked NSA documents also show that Israeli special forces assassinated a top Syrian government official.

U.S. and Gulf Allies Supported Islamist Extremists in Syria, Qatar’s Ex-Prime Minister Admits, Bolstering Growing Evidence (Alternet)

An NSA secret document was released which revealed that the terrorists in Syria were directly under the command of foreign governments like Saudi Arabia and the United States and that the attack on Damascus International Airport was ordered by KSA and supported by the U.S., a Qatari official has admitted that the tiny Gulf nation colluded with other nations to wage war on Syria, support terrorists in the country, and even support al-Qaeda/al-Nusra.

The Qatari official, former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamid bin Jassim Bin Jaber al Thani, gave an interview with Qatari TV where he revealed what many have known for a long time. Indeed, Jassim would be in a position to know, since he oversaw those operations until 2013. During the course of the interview, Jassim revealed that Qatar, along with the United States, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, shipped weapons to terrorists since the moment the crisis “first started” in 2011.

NSA Document Says Saudi Prince Directly Ordered Coordinated Attack By Syrian Rebels On Damascus (theIntercept)

According to a top-secret National Security Agency document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the March 2013 rocket attacks were directly ordered by a member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Salman bin Sultan, to help mark the second anniversary of the Syrian revolution. Salman had provided 120 tons of explosives and other weaponry to opposition forces, giving them instructions to “light up Damascus” and “flatten” the airport, the document, produced by U.S. government surveillance on Syrian opposition factions, shows.

False Flag: How the U.S. Armed Syrian Rebels to Set Up an Excuse to Attack Assad (ZeroHedge)

A book called The Real Benghazi Story: What the White House and Hillary Don’t Want You to Know details the role Stevens fulfilled in Libya of brokering weapons exports from Libya to countries which backed the Syrian rebels.

The author, Aaron Klein, said a group called the February 17 Brigade worked with the CIA to provide security for a special operation in Benghazi and helped facilitate weapons transfers.

The exact nature of the U.S. involvement with the February 17 Brigade that guarded the U.S. special mission might have been unintentionally exposed when a Libyan weapons dealer formerly with the Brigade told Reuters in an in-person interview he had helped ship weapons from Benghazi to the rebels fighting in Syria.  Klein noted that no one seems to have connected the dots from what the weapons dealer said to the activities taking place inside the Benghazi compound and whether the Brigade serves as a cut out to ship weapons.

In the Reuters interview published June 18, 2013, Libyan warlord Abdul Basit Haroun declared he is behind some of the biggest shipments of weapons from Libya to Syria. Most of the weapons were sent to Turkey, he said, where they were, in turn, smuggled into neighboring Syria.

We know the terrorist groups forming the opposition to Assad had access to chemical weapons.  Is this enough evidence to prove the United States facilitated a false flag chemical weapons attack in order to justify military intervention, and finally defeat Assad, in support of Israel?

President Trump approved the bombing of the Syrian military base controlled by Bashir al-Assad supposedly to destroy the Syrian government’s ability to launch further chemical attacks on civilians.  “Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” Trump said in remarks from Mar-a-Lago, his family compound in Palm Beach, Florida. “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

But Trump’s statements contradict the reality that rebel groups have been trained to secure, monitor, and transport chemical weapons. Included in the opposition to Assad are terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. Should we believe these rebels’ claims against Assad, especially given their access to chemical weapons?

Documents from Wikileaks show that the U.S. State Department wanted to help rebels overthrow Syrian Dictator Assad in order to strengthen Israel’s position against Iran. The State Department discussed how Iran and Syria trained forces in opposition to Israel. The fall of Assad, they said, would destroy the only Iranian ally in the region positioned to help Iran in the event of Israeli aggression to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

‘CIA created ISIS’, says Julian Assange as Wikileaks releases 500k US cables (WikiLeaks)

WikiLeaks diplomatic cables just released describe how what is now Islamist terrorism and ISIS originally began through a project between the government of Saudi Arabia and the CIA, when they created a Mujahideen force in order to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan as the United States then perceived the Soviet Union to be their biggest threat at the time.

Besides ISIS, these new WikiLeaks cables shed light on the election of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident and, interestingly, show how Henry Kissinger was conspiring with David Rockefeller in order to find a location to hide the Shah of Iran and his family at. Mexico, the Bahamas and Argentina were all slated as places for the Shah’s twin sister, Princess Ashraf.

Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton’s State Department (IBTimes)

Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure — derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) — represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.

In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation, the philanthropic enterprise she has overseen with her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Just two months before the deal was finalized, Boeing — the defense contractor that manufactures one of the fighter jets the Saudis were especially keen to acquire, the F-15 — contributed $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to a company press release.

Israel Reveals Size of Its War Against Iran in Syria and Says It May Soon Get Bigger (Newsweek)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he would not interfere with the Syrian government’s rebound to power, but has warned that no Iranian presence would be tolerated. With little sign of Iran backing down from what it considers to be anti-terrorism mission—even after Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that all foreign powers should eventually leave Syria—Israel’s military leadership has suggested it may take action, and go even further than before.

After a Reuters report suggested that Iran had delivered ballistic missiles to Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq in order to defend against potential U.S. military action, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Monday: “As for the threat from Iran, we are not limiting ourselves to Syria. That should be clear.”

Trump’s First Foreign Trip: To Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican (ForeignPolicy)

In Israel, Trump will roll up his sleeves and dive into the spadework of brokering an Israel-Palestine peace deal, a task the former reality television host described as “not as difficult as people have thought,” yet which has eluded every modern president. A senior administration official said Trump and team were approaching their Middle East peace plans “with a lot of humility.”

Trump’s first foreign foray comes relatively late in the game, and he’ll depart from a tradition every president since Ronald Reagan honored: Making Canada his first or second foreign stop. 

July 17, 2018: In a video clip aired by Israeli television, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted that Israel was responsible for US President Donald Trump’s decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal.

“We convinced the US president [to exit the deal] and I had to stand up against the whole world and come out against this agreement,” Netanyahu says in the video. “And we didn’t give up.”

US President Donald Trump’s decision to dump the landmark Iran nuclear deal has shocked the world, with America’s closest allies like France, Germany and the UK expressing concern over it while Iran’s foes Israel and Saudi Arabia welcoming the move.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said: “The US has announced that it doesn’t respect its commitments.”

In a joint statement after Trump’s announcement, May, Merkel and Macron emphasized their “concern” about Trump’s decision and said they would continue to adhere to the Iranian deal because it has made the world “a safer place.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised “courageous leadership” and “bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran.”

Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was on Trump hit list (WashingtonTimes)

The president has made close ties to the kingdom a priority since taking office. Trump made his first overseas trip as president to Saudi Arabia and has touted his arms sales to the kingdom.

It wasn’t just Trump who was taken by Saudi prince, bin Salman. Kushner also felt he had found someone who would help him with his problems. He not only stayed with the prince on Trump’s official visit, he’s been back. And if Donald Trump had come bearing gifts in the form of arms, Jared Kushner had something else.

A House Democrat on the intelligence committee is suggesting that the White House and top aide Jared Kushner maintained a “hit list” of dissidents for the Saudi kingdom to assassinate.

Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas, who sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the supposed list included murdered Saudi dissident/journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“Let me get to the point that is most disturbing right now,” Mr. Castro said. “The reporting that Jared Kushner may have with U.S. intelligence delivered a hit list, an enemy’s list to the crown prince, MbS, in Saudi Arabia and that the prince then may have acted on that and one of the people that he took action against is Mr. Khashoggi.”

The United States government in fact knows what happened to the missing man—and seems to have known something about his fate even before his disappearance. As reported by the Washington Post, “US intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture” Khashoggi. Source: Saudi Arabia’s Government Purge — And How Washington Corruption Enabled It

Read more: Tortured to death and fed to pigs, MBS had journalist Jamal Khashoggi killed and watched via Skype

Erdogan Says Turkey Will Start Operation in Syria Within Days (Bloomberg)

Turkey will start a new military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish militants in northern Syria within a few days, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, a move that could again escalate tensions with Washington. Turkish shares and the lira fell after the announcement.

Turkey has repeatedly threatened over recent months to extend its offensive against the YPG Kurdish militia east of the Euphrates River. The fighters, which receive support from the U.S. in their joint fight against Islamic State jihadists in Syria, are seen by Ankara as an affiliate of the pro-autonomy PKK movement, a designated terrorist group.

“We have made our warnings and completed our preparations,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara.

Donald Trump demands former FBI chief James Comey is jailed (Telegraph)

Donald Trump, the US president, has called for former FBI director James Comey to be jailed, accusing him of revealing classified information and of lying to Congress.

In addition to suggesting the former intelligence chief be incarcerated, Mr Trump called him “slippery” and a “slimeball” and said he would go down as the worst FBI director in history, during a Twitter rant which spanned the course of two hours on Sunday morning.

He also challenged accusations made by the former FBI director in a tell-all book that is due for release this week.

Mr Trump wrote: “The big questions in Comey’s badly reviewed book aren’t answered like, how come he gave up Classified Information (jail), why did he lie to Congress (jail), why did the DNC refuse to give Server to the FBI (why didn’t they TAKE it), why the phony memos, McCabe’s $700,000 & more?”

He added: “I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty. I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies. His “memos” are self serving and FAKE!”

And shortly after came: “Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!”

The two men have been involved in a ferocious war of words since the president fired Mr Comey last May amid the investigation into his 2016 campaign and Russian meddling in the election.

It was Mr Comey’s firing that prompted the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Why China Wants Syria in its New Belt and Road (TheDiplomat)

China has been actively expanding its influence to the Middle East, and engaging war-torn Syria as part of its signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been a case in point.

On November 24, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Political and Media Advisor to the Syrian President Bouthaina Shaaban in Beijing. During the meeting, Wang offered to support Syria’s reconstruction.

Russia seen sending heavy naval firepower to the Mediterranean after threatening to strike the US (BusinessInsider)

The US and Russia have become engaged in an increasingly hot war of words over the warfare and suffering in Syria, and Russia was seen sending heavy naval firepower to the region around the same time it threatened to retaliate to any US strikes.

Russia has supported Syrian President Bashar Assad for years during his country’s seven-year-long civil war. Russia provides military support and airpower to help Assad cling to power as he fights off Islamist insurgents and a popular uprising in a war where his forces have reportedly killed the wide majority of the half million now dead.

Tensions between Russia and the West are peaking after Russia’s threats to fight back against the US in Syria and the UK accused the Russian state of carrying out a nerve agent attack on a former spy in the British countryside.

Russia responds with veiled nuclear, death threats to UK nerve agent attack

British Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of carrying out a nerve agent attack on UK soil against a former spy — and Moscow’s response has been extremely aggressive, with veiled nuclear and death threats.

After blowing a UK-imposed deadline to answer for the attack, which UK experts assess used a Russian-made chemical weapon, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman warned the UK not to threaten nuclear powers.

The UK also possesses nuclear weapons, but Russia has more firepower and newer nuclear systems than any other nation, and has frequently taken to threatening its neighbors and bragging about its capability to end life on Earth.

Additionally, Russian state TV broadcaster Kirill Kleimenov went on Russia’s popular Channel One to make veiled threats and insinuations that politically motivated murders in Britain would continue.

“The profession of a traitor is one of the most dangerous in the world,” Kleimenov said. “It’s very rare that those who had chosen it have lived in peace until a ripe old age.”

Outside of military threats, Russia has said it would respond in kind if the UK moves to expel Russian diplomats or scraps the media license for RT, a Russian-funded media organization.

“Not a single British media outlet will work in our country if they shut down Russia Today,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in response. International news outlets in Russia already operate under heavy scrutiny and cannot spread their news freely to the Russian people.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson out, CIA Director Pompeo to assume role (FoxNews)

Rex Tillerson is leaving his role as secretary of state, with CIA Director Mike Pompeo assuming the role, President Donald Trump announced, citing disagreements on Iran with the former Exxon Mobil CEO.

It was in the middle of the night in Nairobi, Kenya, that he was awakened by White House chief of staff John Kelly. While the White House says Kelly told Tillerson then that he was fired, a senior State Department official said that Tillerson was only warned that such a tweet may be coming.

“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!” the president wrote in a tweet.
Prior to his role as the CIA chief, Pompeo served as the Republican representative from the fourth district of Kansas.

Saudi Arabia Wants to Fight Iran to the Last American (NationalInterest)

Many observers have connected the dots and concluded that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is seeking to drag the United States into a war with Iran and Hezbollah. But that’s only half the story. Looking at the recent events through a broader geopolitical lens, a much more sinister plan emerges: a Saudi plan to trap the United States in a permanent standoff with Tehran.

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in 2010, the Saudis “ want to fight the Iranians to the last American .” Why the Saudis would see this as attractive is clear. Why Netanyahu would like to go along with this also follows a certain logic. That is not the mystery in this drama. The mystery is why the president of the United States would go along with something that so clearly contradicts U.S. national interest.

It is not the Saudi crown prince that is acting irrationally. It’s the president of the United States.

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Battle for Idlib, Armageddon coming

By Christopher R Rice

“I think it’s a very sad situation in Idlib, the province, what’s going on there,” Trump told reporters in the Oval office on Wednesday as he met the emir of Kuwait. “If it’s a slaughter, the world is going to get very, very angry. And the United States is going to get very angry, too.”

Russian and Syrian warplanes resumed airstrikes against insurgents in the densely populated enclave.

The bombardment began just hours after Trump warned on Twitter that Assad “must not recklessly attack Idlib Province”.

“Let us be clear, it remains our firm stance that if President Bashar al-Assad chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its Allies will respond swiftly and appropriately,” the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

Trump on Wednesday also denied that he wanted to assassinate Assad – one of the many shocking claims made in a new book by the acclaimed Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward.

“That was never even contemplated,” Trump said.

Trump Escalates Syrian Proxy War: At the start of the Trump presidency, it looked like the U.S. covert “regime change” war in Syria might be ending, but it has returned, zombie-like, in a slightly different form.

The parallel measures by the U.S. and Russia signify a race between the two major powers to capture as much territory as possible from the Islamic State before the other side is able to do so.

Under the guise of “defeating ISIS,” both powers are essentially carving out their own spheres of influence throughout the country, dividing it between U.S.- and Russian-backed regions, leading to an inevitable showdown between the two sides over the fate of the country and its territorial integrity.

Today in Idlib, where the FSA is being supported by the CIA, al-Qaeda and its coalition completely dominate the rebel forces. Rebels routinely pass at least half of their U.S.-supplied weapons to Nusra while the U.S.-approved “moderates” only operate under license from al-Qaeda.

It is important to realize the true history of this failed CIA program and the terrorism it has wrought on Syria. It’s also important to understand how the fight against ISIS is currently being utilized to potentially fracture and partition Syria under the guise of eliminating the threat of terrorism.

Syria says it’s been warned that Jabhat Al-Nusra terrorists brought in chlorine containers to a local village, where they aimed to work with the White Helmets to stage “a provocation.”

A chemical weapons provocation, currently being prepared by terrorists in Syria, is aimed at allowing France, the United Kingdom and the United States to carry out a full scale invasion on Syria before the November elections, in the US.

For this purpose, USS The Sullivans destroyer with 56 cruise missiles on board arrived in the Persian Gulf several days ago, while a US В-1В bomber carrying 24 air-to-surface AGM-158 JASSM cruise missiles was deployed at Al Udeid air base in Qatar.

Who’s who: Sunni Islamic fascist militias control Idlib. Sunnis make up 90% of all Muslims in the world. 95% of all terrorist organizations are Sunni. The Sunni under Saddam ruled Iraq and killed millions of Shia, Kurds and Christians. It is the Sunni Saudis that are killing Shia in Yemen. It is Sunni ISIS and al Qaida that have committed genocide against Shia, Kurds, Druz and Christians in Syria.

Salafists are radical Sunnis and an offshoot of the Saudi’s Wahhabi sect.

The rebels (ISIS, Al Qaeda, Alawiyat al-Qasioun, White helmets, Grey wolves, Muslim Brotherhood, and all the rest) are not the good guys.

At least Russia has provided a humanitarian corridor before bombings begin. The US never did this in Mosul with an over two million civilian population and then the US cut off their water supply, cell phones and utilities! The US has no morals to be telling Russia how to fight their moderate rebels!

No mention of the thousands of civilians killed in Raqqua by US bombing, as the world inches closer to World War III.

TheAmericanConservative: On August 9, a Saudi airstrike hit a school bus and killed dozens, including many children. The Saudis have also bombed Yemeni schoolsweddings, and hospitals.

It’s a human rights catastrophe that—despite the fact that America has no quarrel with Yemen or the Yemeni people—President Trump is subsidizing. With its most recent deal to arm the Saudis costing the U.S. over a billion dollars, small government conservatives should be much more concerned about the price tag of this bloody foreign intervention.

Recent events in Syria indicate that “the United States [is] seemingly looking to cement a north-south ‘Sunni axis’ from the Gulf states and Jordan to Turkey,” Fabrice Balanche, a French expert on Syria and a visiting fellow at The Washington institute for Near East Policy, wrote recently.

Iran defeats ISIS: Without the work and help of Iran, ISIS and Al-Qaeda terrorists would take over many countries. The root of all Arab terror groups is in Saudi Arabia teaching of Wahhabi savages. Just like in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the rest of the Arab world.

I want to thank Iran for being the first and only country fighting ISIS in Iraq when Obama denied its existence. I want to thank Iran and Russia for defending a non religious government in Syria from the jihadists fanatics backed by America, Israel, Saudi Arabia that want to impose a Sharia regime.

US interference: Idlib is the last strong hold of Western/Saudi backed Sunni Islamic-Fascist thug militias. Once they have been destroyed peace can return to Syria. The Syrian government has offered to evacuate any civilians that wish to do so.

Hillary In Leaked Email: Saudi Arabia And Qatar Are Funding ISIS (DailyCaller)

The United States is providing de-facto cover for Islamic State units in Syria and only pretending to fight terrorism in the Middle East, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry said the U.S. air force had tried to hinder Russian strikes on Islamic State militants around the Syrian town of Albu Kamal.

“These facts are conclusive evidence that the United States, while imitating an uncompromising fight against international terrorism for the global community, in fact provides cover for Islamic State units,” the defense ministry said.

Government watchdog Judicial Watch published more than 100 pages of formerly classified documents from the U.S. Department of Defense and the State Department.

The documents obtained through a federal lawsuit, revealed the agencies earlier views on ISIS, namely that they were a desirable presence in Eastern Syria in 2012 and that they should be “supported” in order to isolate the Syrian regime.

The U.S. intelligence documents not only confirms suspicions that the United States and some of its coalition allies had actually facilitated the rise of the ISIS in Syria – as a counterweight to the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad- but also that ISIS members were initially trained by members and contractors of the Central Intelligence Agency at facilities in Jordan in 2012.

‘CIA created ISIS’, says Julian Assange as Wikileaks releases 500k US cables (YahooNews)

Former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn confirms to Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan that not only had he studied the DIA memo predicting the West’s backing of an Islamic State in Syria when it came across his desk in 2012, but even asserts that the White House’s sponsoring of radical jihadists (that would emerge as ISIL and Nusra) against the Syrian regime was “a willful decision.”

The large scale air campaign which has resulted in countless civilian casualties has been routinely misreported by the mainstream media. According to  Max Boot, senior fellow in national security at the Council on Foreign Relations. ”Obama’s strategy in Syria and Iraq was not working… [ because] the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS has been remarkably restrained”. (Newsweek, February 17, 2015, emphasis added).

The evidence confirms that the Islamic State is not the target. Quite the opposite. The air raids are intended to destroy the economic infrastructure of Iraq and Syria. (In comparison, the NATO bombing raids of Yugoslavia in 1999 lasted about three months (March 24-June 10, 1999).

The Islamic State is not only protected by the US and its allies, it is trained and financed by US-NATO, with the support of Israel and Washington’s Persian Gulf allies.

The Global War on Terrorism is a fabrication used to justify a war of conquest. The Jihadist terrorists are “Made in America”. They are instruments of US intelligence, yet they are presented to public opinion as “enemies of America”.

“The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN. (CNN Report, December 9, 2012)

Confirmed by media reports, the illustrious pro-democracy former LIFG leader Abdelhakim Belhadj (alias Sadeeq), who worked in close liaison with US-NATO in 2011 has now (February 2015) joined the leadership of the Islamic State in Libya, thereby facilitating the extension of the Islamic State project into the Maghreb, on behalf of his US-NATO sponsors.

The Jerusalem Post reported on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to the IDF field hospital in the occupied Golan heights.

This hospital was set up to treat wounded Al Nusrah mercenaries, who are directly supported by the Israeli military operating out of the Golan Heights. The JP acknowledges that the hospital is being used to support the jihadist insurgency.

Syria’s not the target but a stepping stone

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in 2010, the Saudis “want to fight the Iranians to the last American.” Why the Saudis would see this as attractive is clear. Why Netanyahu would like to go along with this also follows a certain logic. That is not the mystery in this drama. The mystery is why the president of the United States would go along with something that so clearly contradicts U.S. national interest.

“American unwillingness to confront Iran and its proxies in Syria, if obliged by circumstances, is a thing of the past,” Frederic Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and a former State Department liaison to Syrian opposition forces, told The Christian Science Monitor.

“And Moscow would now have to anticipate with high likelihood aerial combat with US forces should it elect to provide tactical air support to Iran and its proxies on the ground,” Hof added.

“Our people are gathering in the Tanf area right now, so a clash is definitely coming,” a Hezbollah unit commander in Beirut, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Monitor.

Turkey said the United States has 13 bases in Syria and Russia has five. The U.S-backed Syrian YPG Kurdish militia has said Washington has established seven military bases in areas of northern Syria.

U.S.’s Mattis says ‘zero intelligence’ that rebels in Syria’s Idlib have chemical weapons capability By Idrees Ali

New Delhi (Reuters) – There was “zero intelligence” of chemical weapons capabilities possessed by groups opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the province of Idlib, U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said, adding that the facts did not back Russian assertions.

Syrian government forces plan a phased offensive in Idlib and surrounding areas held by rebels opposed to Assad, who has been backed by both Russian and Iranian forces in the country’s civil war.

Russian and Syrian jets hammered the rebel stronghold on Tuesday, days before the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey meet to discuss the expected Syrian government offensive that could spark a humanitarian disaster.

In the past few days, Russian officials, cited by Russian media, have said there was a plan by “militants” to stage a false chemical weapons attack in Idlib province to frame Assad.

“We have zero intelligence that shows the opposition has any chemical capability,” Mattis told reporters traveling with him to the Indian capital of New Delhi for a high-level dialogue on Thursday between the south Asian nation and the United States.

Russia’s Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said he had told U.S. officials that Moscow was concerned over signs the United States was preparing new strikes on Syria and warned against “groundless and illegal aggression against Syria.”

“We have made very clear that by putting out innuendo that somehow any chemical weapon use coming up in the future could be ascribed to the opposition, well, we want to see the data,” Mattis said. “We cannot see anything that indicates the opposition has that capability.”

He said instead there was a history of Assad’s government using such weapons.

U.S. President Donald Trump has twice ordered U.S.-led strikes against targets in Syria in response to what Washington called the Assad government’s use of chemical weapons against civilians.

On Tuesday the White House said that if Assad used chemical weapons “the United States and its allies would respond swiftly and appropriately.”

Asked if he saw indications of the Syrian government preparing to use chemical weapons in Idlib, Mattis said, ” I think the best answer to that is, we are very alert.”

Sputnik, a Russian state-owned news outlet, said recently the White Helmets rescue service had delivered a large shipment of toxic substances to “local armed militant groups.”

The Pentagon said the Russian government was using a “concentrated disinformation campaign” to discredit the United States and its allies.

“That Russia is seeking to plant false lies about chemical weapons use suggests that Moscow is seeking to deflect from its own culpability when these heinous weapons are used,” Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

Maj. Gen. Alexei Tsygankov, head of the Russian Center for Syrian Reconciliation, said on Sunday that the White Helmets group in Syria plans to film videos for Middle Eastern and English-language media outlets after staging a false-flag chemical weapons attack aimed at sharply destabilizing the situation in the war-torn country.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov stressed that the Nusra Front terrorist group, which now refers to itself as the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham group, was plotting a very serious provocation in the Idlib area with the use of chemical weapons. According to the deputy minister, the White Helmets group in Syria will film a video of the “chemical attack,” and the provocation might be used as a pretext for massive strikes on Syria.

A phone call from a resident of the village of Serakab in Idlib province about the planned incident.

According to the source, on the afternoon of February 12, rebels from the Jabhat Al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front) terrorist organization brought three cars packed with more than 20 cylinders of chlorine along with personal protective equipment to Serakab.

The White Helmets have been long hailed by the Western media as “peace-bearing heroes” who save human lives. However, the group has been dogged by allegations of having ties with terrorist groups.

Swedish Professors & Doctors For Human Rights (SWEDHR) is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization engaged in the research and reporting on the effects of war-crimes, torture and human-rights transgressions on civilian populations or on individuals.

Actor George Clooney knew that the organization Swedish Doctors for Human Rights had cited the “White Helmets” as child killers when he produced the Oscar winning propaganda video.

Moreover, Google itself is involved, at war with this group and others, censoring them from their search engines.  The information here will be new to Americans.  

Please note that at no time has the White House or any western media acknowledged the controversy regarding the White Helmets, which we allege is part of al Qaeda’s propaganda operations.  Nor is any mention of the dozens of proven gas attacks by FSA, ISIS and al Nusra which are suddenly “forgotten” as though by magic.

The White Helmets, supposedly an independent NGO, receives up to $100m from the CIA and UK Foreign Office, “dark project” funding.  Murdering children is their stock and trade as we will prove.  Sharing headquarters with Turkish Intelligence in Gaziantep, Turkey this organization is far more “death squad” than civil defense.

The Chairman of the association, Professor Prof. Marcello fer rada de Noli, published at the beginning of March 2017 a first article with an analysis of the case: “Swedish Doctors for Human Rights: White Helmets video, macabre manipulation of dead children and staged chemical weapons attack to justify a” No-fly Zone “in Syria”.

Hundreds of Syrian White Helmets evacuated to Jordan through Israel By CBSNews

The Israeli military in coordination with its U.S. and European allies evacuated hundreds of Syrian rescue workers known as the White Helmets from near its volatile frontier with Syria, in a complex and first-of-a-kind operation. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Sunday that 422 White Helmets volunteers were evacuated, instead of the initial 800 cleared for the operation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a separate video statement, said U.S. President Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others had asked him to help evacuate the group’s members.

“We renew our call on the Assad regime and Russia to abide by their commitments, end the violence, and protect all Syrian civilians, including humanitarians such as the White Helmets, in areas formerly part of the southwest de-escalation zone and throughout Syria,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.

The White Helmets have enjoyed backing and received finances and training from the United States and other Western nations for years.

The White Helmets have been called “terrorists,” accused of being “agents” for foreign powers, and of cooperating with radical insurgent groups. The White Helmets have been accused of staging rescue missions and chemical attacks to blame on the government.

Syrian lawmaker Khaled Abboud said that “foreign powers are pulling their agents out of the battlefield” because of the Syrian military victories that have quashed the “aggression” against Syria.

Separately Sunday, al-Ikhbariya TV quoted a military official as saying that a military post in the town of Masyaf in Hama province was hit by an Israeli airstrike. The area houses several defense ministry facilities.

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

PREPARING FOR WORLD WAR 

New satellite images appear to indicate that Iran is building a new ‎surface-to-surface missile factory in Syria, raising ‎fresh concerns in Israel over the extent of the two ‎countries’ military cooperation across from Israel’s northern border, Channel 10 News recently reported.

Israel has mounted several airstrikes against ‎Iranian assets in Syria in an effort to stave off ‎Iran’s attempts to entrench itself ‎militarily in war-torn Syria.‎

Newsweek: The U.S. has also repeatedly accused Iran of supplying ballistic missiles to Yemen’s Zaidi Shiite Muslim rebels—known as Ansar Allah or the Houthis—and currently engaged in a war against a Saudi-led coalition trying to reinstate the country’s government. Defense Secretary James Mattis warned Tuesday that “Iran has been put on notice” due to their support for Assad, the Houthis and threats regarding the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s busiest oil chokepoint. On Thursday, Iranian military general staff chief Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri warned that no oil would pass through the crucial shipping lane should the U.S. succeed in cutting Iran’s oil exports to zero, an initiative that has earned Trump widespread international criticism.  

Citing three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Reuters reported Friday that Tehran has begun supplying Shiite Muslim paramilitary groups in neighboring Iraq with short-range ballistic missiles. The missiles were identified as Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zulfiqar models with ranges varying from 124 to 435 miles, making Riyadh and Tel Aviv viable targets should the weapons be fired from western Iraq.

Bloomberg: Over the coming weeks, both NATO and Russia will launch a series of super-high-end war games. These games are hardly for fun — rather, they are deadly serious practice sessions for hundreds of thousands of soldiers, thousands of combat aircraft, and flotillas of combat ships. While no one will die (other than by accident, a not uncommon occurrence in such exercises), the messages going back and forth are crystal clear: We are prepared for war.

Russia’s exercise is called Vostok — which means “east” — and will be held principally east of the Ural Mountains. It is the largest military exercise by Russia since Soviet times (in 1981) and will deploy 300,000 troops and more than 1,000 military aircraft. Of note, China will participate with thousands of its troops operating alongside the Russians (there will also be a token contingent of troops from Mongolia, which has been a partner to both Russia and NATO at times).

NATO will conduct its own huge military exercise, named Trident Junction 2018. It will take place on the northern borders of the alliance and will involve 40,000 troops from all 29 nations, a couple of hundred aircraft and dozens of warships. While not as spectacularly large as Russia’s Vostok, it will serve as a “graduation exercise” for NATO’s new Spearhead Force, a serious, highly mobile capability that can put NATO combat troops into the Baltic states to repulse a Russian invasion within a matter of days.

Finally, it is worth looking specifically at the maritime dimension of both the Russian and NATO exercises. It is not a coincidence that the NATO operation will be commanded not by a general, but rather by a four-star U.S. admiral, Jamie Foggo. A former commander of NATO submarine forces and the legendary U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, Foggo has thought deeply (and frequently published) about maritime operations in the current NATO-Russia environment. There will be significant maritime groups both from NATO and Russia operating in the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, eastern Mediterranean and even the Arctic.

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Prepare for the biggest stock-market selloff in months, Morgan Stanley warns

By Ryan Vlastelica, MarketWatch

The U.S. stock market has been partying all throughout July, and a hangover is coming.

That is according to analysts at Morgan Stanley, who said that Wall Street’s rally is showing signs of “exhaustion,” and that with major positive catalysts for trading now in the rearview mirror, there’s little that could continue to propel equities higher.

“With Amazon’s strong quarter out of the way, and a very strong 2Q GDP number on the tape, investors were finally faced with the proverbial question of ’what do I have to look forward to now?’ The selling started slowly, built steadily, and left the biggest winners of the year down the most. The bottom line for us is that we think the selling has just begun and this correction will be biggest since the one we experienced in February,” the investment bank wrote to clients.

The decline “could very well have a greater negative impact on the average portfolio if it’s centered on tech, consumer discretionary and small-caps, as we expect.”

A correction is technically defined as a decline of at least 10% from a recent peak. Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.57%  and the S&P 500 SPX, -0.58%  corrected in early February, on concerns that inflation was returning to markets. While the Dow remains in correction territory—meaning it hasn’t yet risen 10% from its low of the pullback—the S&P exited just last week, following its longest stint in correction territory since 1984. The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -1.39%  never fell into correction.

Equities have done well of late, with the Dow up 4.3% in July. The S&P 500 has gained 3.1% in the month while the Nasdaq has advanced 1.6%, hitting multiple records along the way, though it has stumbled badly in the past three sessions.

Much of the rally has come on the second-quarter earnings season, which has both shown strong growth and featured a high number of companies topping analyst expectations. While there were some high-profile disappointments, including from Netflix Inc. NFLX, -5.70%  and Facebook Inc. FB, -2.19% —which suffered its biggest one-day drop ever after its results—market participants have generally looked past them.

“We must admit, the market sent some misleading signals over the last few weeks by limiting the damage to the broad indices when Netflix and Facebook missed. We believe this simply led to an even greater false sense of security in the market,” wrote the team of Morgan Stanley analysts, led by Michael Wilson, the firm’s chief U.S. equity strategist. Both Facebook and Netflix’s shares fell into bear-market territory on Monday, defined as a drop of at least 20% from a recent peak.

The firm forecast “a rolling bear market,” during which “every sector in the S&P 500 has gone through a significant derating” with the exception of tech and consumer discretionary. Those two sectors have contributed the bulk of the market’s advance in 2018; tech has risen 12.5% while the discretionary sector—boosted by Amazon and Netflix, both of which are up more than 50% year-to-date—is up 12.8%.

That these two industry groups haven’t fallen much doesn’t mean they won’t, Morgan Stanley warned.

“While it is possible tech and consumer discretionary stocks won’t experience the derating witnessed in other cyclical sectors, we think it is unlikely and are only emboldened by the misses from Facebook and Netflix and the price action last week,” they said.

“We recognize that money can also move from these sectors to others thereby leaving the S&P 500

around current levels rather than falling 10% as we expect,” they said.

Wall Street is sending huge warning signs for stocks

Count Marko Kolanovic, JPMorgan’s global head of quantitative and derivatives strategy, as one of those stressing caution. In a client note, he said that record-low volatility should “give pause to equity managers.” Kolanovic even went as far as to compare the strategies that are suppressing price swings to the conditions leading up to the 1987 stock market crash.

“The fact that we had many volatility cycles since 1983, and are now at all-time lows in volatility, indicates that we may be very close to the turning point,” he said.

Baupost Group, a $30 billion fund, recently highlighted the lack of price swings as a harbinger of pain to come, calling it a possible “accelerant for the next financial crisis.” Meanwhile, Highfields Capital Management, which oversees $13 billion, said that low volatility is giving people the false impression that the market is risk-free

Going beyond the much-maligned low-volatility environment, Bank of America Merrill Lynch has its own reasons for expecting an upcoming rough patch in stocks — one it sees coming sometime soon.

Michael Hartnett, the chief investment strategist of BAML Global Research, points to how the S&P 500 has continued climbing to new highs, even as the size of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has stayed relatively unchanged. He says this divergence is a “classic euphoria signal.” Such overexuberance has historically been a sign that investment sentiment is overextended.

Crash that may send Dow down…17,000 points
By Stephanie Landsman

Harry Dent is arguing that the Trump rally is setting investors up for an inevitable stock market crash.

Investors have embraced Donald Trump’s victory by sending stocks on a tear to new record highs. Dent, however, thinks there’s trouble brewing.

“I think this is going to be a stock market peak of a lifetime followed by a crash very similar to the early 1930s. This happens once in a lifetime,” Dent Research Founder Harry Dent recently told CNBC’s “ Futures Now .”

He added: “I think this is the last rally in this bull market.”

Dent may be calling for the rally’s last hurrah, but he’s also forecasting another ten to 20-percent jump for the Dow over the next few months.

“The markets are assuming that he is going to create three to four percent growth on a sustainable basis,” said Dent. “It is demographically impossible…. When the markets figure this out, they are going to crash.”

Dent makes the case that the U.S. workforce will see negative growth, estimating that the population will grow just over a quarter percent over the next 50 years. He also points to rock bottom productivity that not even tax cuts can solve in the immediate term.

“You can’t have stocks keep going up at this rate when earnings are going nowhere,” said Dent. “”I think it [Dow] is going to end up between 3000 and 5000 a couple years from now.”

Debt Bubble

What we have is a debt bubble. The rising debt is the stimulus funding the rally on Wall Street. QE1, QE2, QE3, Operation Twist, bailouts, handouts, and now $85 billion injected into the system every month. Hmm, I wonder if there is a coincidence between enormous debt creation and 43 new highs in the Dow this year?

No, the stock market is not in a bubble. It is reacting normally to new injections of cash and buyers. The debt bubble, however, is a different matter. These things end badly, historically. Eventually, somebody has to pay the Piper.

The stock market is up, while the economy isn’t. Since the stock market is supposed to reflect the economy, it looks a bit overvalued.

There is also a good reason for over-valuation: the cheap money policy by the Fed means that there is no money in bonds, so many investors have loaded up on stocks, which drives their price up.

The NASDAQ and Russell 2000 are in bubbles right now. Once the fed starts increasing its interest rate, the stock market will drop like a rock. Continue reading: Debt Bubble

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War is extending: Bibi-Trump plot against Iran

President Donald Trump has put the United States on the course for war with Iran. That was clearly his objective when he refused to certify the international nuclear accord with Iran and proclaimed heavy sanctions against Tehran’s powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guards Corps.

All of Trump’s senior national security officials and those from the treaty partners and UN reported that Iran had kept its end of the deal.

Bob Corker, Tom Cotton, and Marco Rubio, are all firmly in the pocket of pro-Israel lobbies. The U.S. vociferous ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, is almost a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Las Vegas gambling mogul and uber Zionist billionaire, Sheldon Adelson – who is also a key financial backer of Trump and Netanyahu.

Having pushed the U.S. to destroy its old foes, Iraq and Syria, Israel now has its big guns trained on Iran, the last regional power that can challenge Israel’s domination of the Mideast. Iran, we should remember, is also the only important Mideast power backing the Palestinians and calling for a Palestinian state.

The Israeli lobby and so-called Christian Zionists that make up Trump’s electoral base are beating the war drums against Iran.

President Trump’s administration has put Iran on “final notice”, and with Republicans in control of all branches of government, GOP may finally get what it has been wanting for decades… another country to invade. Trump and the Republicans are furiously beating the war drums against Iran, and have attempted to mislead the American people so they’re able to justify military action in Iran. Legislation was passed on the first day of the 115th session of Congress that would give President Trump the authority to use military force against Iran unilaterally.

“This is the only time in modern presidential history when we’ve had a small number of people from the uniformed world hold this much influence over the chief executive,” said John E. McLaughlin, a former acting director of the CIA who served in seven administrations. “They are right now playing an extraordinary role.”

Commentator and Trump ally Ann Coulter tweeted, “The military-industrial complex wins.”

Kelly, Mattis and McMaster are not the only military figures serving at high levels in the Trump administration. C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke each served in various branches of the military, and Trump recently tapped former Army general Mark S. Inch to lead the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

“The only chance we have of trying to keep this thing from blowing apart is some military discipline,” said Peter Wehner, who served in the three Republican administrations prior to this one and who opposes Trump. “It’s like military rule or a military coup.”

Many retired senior military officers are now working as war consultants (while drawing a fat pension) at $200-$300 per hour. Bleeding our coffers while 40 million Americans are living on food stamps. And now this fake war is extending even after Saddam’s and Bin Laden’s deaths.

A well equipped, well trained, well funded, well supported U.S. troops did not win in Iraq or in Afghanistan. Now, the generals say this is a bigger threat than Saddam and Bin Laden, let us roll the dice once again, to fight the enemy of America! While in 2018 – Saudi troops, Egyptian flight sorties are bombing in Yemen using U.S. supplied war inventory.

Iran, which won its independence in the 1979 Islamic revolution, should be a natural ally of the United States. The most scientifically advanced Middle Eastern nation, Iran has an educated population, a growing and highly-diversified economy, and a crucial geostrategic position in the center of the Eurasian chess board. Its successful experiment in political Islam is pluralistic and at least as democratic as anything in the West.

But the U.S. is owned by international bankers and influenced by ultra-Zionist neoconservatives. These folks are out to conquer the world. So they don’t want allies, they want vassals. Iran will never settle for vassal status, nor will it acquiesce to the Zionist genocide of Palestine. Hence the “Iran problem.”

Now that Bibi Netanyahu has helped install his man Donald Trump in the White House, will the Likkudniks accelerate their plots against the Islamic Republic? Of course they will.

There is no compass in Trump’s negotiations and his need for free-flying improvisation may have worked during his real estate days, but applying the same principle to geopolitics is rife with risk. Within hours of scrapping the nuclear agreement with Iran, missiles were fired between Israel and Syria. The European Union is banning European companies from complying with U.S. sanctions as well as planning to switch to euros instead of dollars for Iranian Oil. When Trump slapped punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum from abroad and then followed with a new round of U.S. sanctions on fourteen Russian companies, the Russian stock exchange plunged, causing chaos in global commodity markets and inadvertently hurt European aluminum manufacturing.

Fortunately, most of the extremists around Donald Trump don’t know what they’re doing. Any major attempt to destabilize or (God forbid) attack Iran will almost certainly turn into a fiasco for the aggressors. Even back in 2004, when Iran’s defenses were far less formidable, the neocons at Atlantic Magazine couldn’t buy a war-game-against-Iran scenario that didn’t implode into mega-disaster for the US.

Since top military people are usually not that stupid, we may assume that they will settle for some kind of regime change effort: Color revolution (that already failed in 2009, but who cares?), coup attempt, Saudi-money-fueled effort to stir up ethnic and religious minorities…you know the drill.

I am already hearing rumors of a supposed “coup attempt” shaping up.

Will this scam work? It may very well succeed in enriching a few Iranian-exile scumbags. But it won’t overthrow the government of Iran. The Iranian people, even those who lack religious enthusiasm for the current government, remember 1953 and are not about to let it happen again.

There is only one solution for this problem – Just get all U.S. troops out of the Middle East. We all know this won’t happen because there is too much money to be made! So far the U.S. government has spent over 3 trillion on this war of terror. 9,000 dead US troops!!

This trade clash with Beijing is not even over steel and aluminum but the dominance of core information technology into the 21st Century. China has its own “Made in China 2025” strategy which aims to establish a world leading role in technology with giants like Alibaba and Tencent whose market values are already over half a trillion. China has the world’s fastest supercomputer and is building its own Hadron supercollider. While the U.S. has taken a laissez-faire approach, heading in a different direction in technology, China is funding centers in India and Japan. China has supercomputers faster than the U.S., chips that are Chinese made and fifth generation wireless networks (5G) will be first in China, not America.

Semiconductor chips have replaced oil as the lifeblood of the global economy. The arms race over the future and technological dominance will shake American hegemony to its very foundations. In an attempt to stall China’s technological advancement and catch up, America introduced tariffs. Tariffs won’t work. S&P Global warned that American companies would be the biggest losers in a trade war with China.

Professor Allison and his colleagues studied the conflicts between a rising power and an established ruling power over a 500 year period showed that when one power threatens to displace the other, that in 12 of 16 cases, they ended badly in bloodshed.

In America businesses are at war on a daily basis against a rogue US Government.

The soft tyranny we endure now on a daily basis has turned scores of Americans into reluctant activists, no longer satisfied with participation in mundane “demonstrations” that prove and accomplish nothing.

Nearly everywhere you turn, crowds of angry Americans are gathering, no longer content to merely sit idly by and remain spectators to the cavalcade of injustices being perpetuated ad nauseum against We the People by criminal governments that have long since lost their legitimacy.

As the Fed’s quantitative tightening intensifies, the financial system will contract further raising alarms over the $164 trillion of debt held by the U.S., Japan and China. Inflation long feared to be dormant has picked up as the sanctions have affected everything from aluminum to oil. And, ominously the benchmark 10 year Treasury yield continues to breach levels not seen in seven years, indicating rising inflation expectations and stormy times ahead.

Trump’s tax cut will cost $5.5 trillion in lost revenues and add over $1 trillion to the deficit over the next decade, deepening the hole in America’s debt to GDP currently over 100 percent.

A decade after the global financial crisis, the world led by the United States has loaded up on debt again. Once the biggest buyer, China has started dumping US government debt.

After years of easy money, Trump’s trillion dollar spending plans risks America becoming the next global crisis as its debt spirals out of control.

The truth is that Iran is simply not behind most of the turmoil in the Middle East, and until Washington’s policymakers change their all-Iran-all-the-time mental model, they are doomed to failure. One thing is guaranteed: they are going to misdiagnose the patient and attack the wrong disease.

The Iran Exaggeration

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a Middle Eastern country — no, not Israel — but one with a sizeable, protected Jewish community, a place where Islam is the state religion but its president regularly tweets Rosh Hashanah greetings for the Jewish New Year.

Sounds like somebody’s wild fantasy, but it’s actually Iran. In fact, the Islamic Republic sets aside one mandatory seat in its parliament for a Jew, three for Christians, and another for a Zoroastrian. It would be a mistake to conclude from such token gestures that Iran is a paragon of tolerance. But they do speak to the complexity of a diverse society full of paradox and contradiction.

85% of domestic terrorists turned out to be American citizens or permanent residents.  Most were American-born.  Of the 13 U.S. citizens involved in such fatal terror attacks, none were Iranian-American.

It always struck me as odd that Iran made the cut for the very exclusive membership in George W. Bush’s “axis of evil.”  After all, unlike those 15 Saudi hijackers and perhaps even the Saudi government, it had no connection to 9/11 and was “comprehensively helpful” in the initial take down of the Afghan Taliban and the arrest of fleeing al-Qaeda fighters.

By contrast, consider just a few of Washington’s “partners” in the region:

* Saudi Arabia: this monarchy enforces a strict brand of conservative Wahhabi Islam not so terribly different from the basic theology of ISIS.  The Saudi government publicly executes an average of 73 people per year, including juveniles and the mentally ill.  Beheading is the favored technique. (Sound familiar?)  Nor are all the victims convicted murderers.  According to a 2015 Amnesty International report, “Non-lethal crimes including adultery, robbery, apostasy, drug-related offenses, rape, ‘witchcraft,’ and ‘sorcery’ are punishable by death.”  In addition to its citizens carrying out the 9/11 attacks, Saudi Arabia supported a branch of al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra) in the Syrian conflict.  Furthermore, its ongoing U.S.-backed air strikes against Yemen’s Houthi rebels have been killing numerous civilians and may have helped to cause and further intensify a disastrous famine. The U.S. response: a record-breaking $110 billion arms deal for the Saudis.

* Egypt: In the wake of a 2013 coup d’état led by General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi against an elected government, that country’s military gunned down hundreds of demonstrators.  Since then, its strongman has used “mass, arbitrary arrests,” tortured detainees, and conducted “extrajudicial executions” — all in the interest of retaining power.  The U.S. response: $1.4 billion in (mostly military) foreign assistance in fiscal 2017.  To top it off, President Trump recently invited Sisi to the White House, lauded the dictator’s “fantastic job in a very difficult situation,” and is planning a future visit to Egypt.

There’s an uncomfortable truth that Washington needs to face: U.S. policy toward Iran hasn’t achieved its goals despite almost four decades of effort since an American-installed autocrat was overthrown there in 1979.  Foreign policy hawks — Democrats and Republicans alike — will undoubtedly fight that reality tooth-and-nail, but as with the Cuban embargo, Iranian isolation has long outworn any imagined usefulness.  That ostracizing Iran remains fashionable reflects domestic political calculus or phobic thinking, not cogent strategy, and yet our new president just traveled to Saudi Arabia, a truly autocratic country, and in the wake of an Iranian election that was by all accounts resoundingly democratic, denounced that land as despotic and all but called for regime change.

U.S. policy in the Middle East is confused, contradictory, counterproductive, and dangerous. It could leave Washington involved in a war with Iran. (And given our recent wars in the region, imagine where that’s likely to land us.)

Major Danny Sjursen is a U.S. Army strategist and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge.  He lives with his wife and four sons near Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Sources:

Gold Eagle: The war drums

Common Dreams: Beating the war drums…again

Toms Dispatch

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Thousands of Migrants Have Reported Sexual Abuse While in ICE Custody

By

Data from the Department of Homeland Security showed that thousands of migrants have alleged sexual abuse while in the custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The data, obtained from the DHS’s Office of the Inspector General by The New York Timesrevealed complaints going back as far as 10 years.

While the number of sexual abuse claims from detainees that ICE reported was significantly lower (the agency reported 1,310 claims between fiscal years 2013 to 2017), watchdog organizations estimate the occurrence of sexual abuse to be significantly higher.

One woman, identified only as “Maria,” told the Times she had been sexually assaulted by a male guard shortly after being released from the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center in Texas.

The woman said that she had been given permission to stay in Washington, D.C., with her brother while her asylum case was pending.

Instead of being given safe transfer to D.C., however, the woman described a harrowing experience of sexual assault by a guard both before and after entering a van meant to transport her to be reunited with her family.

“He grabbed my breasts… He put his hands in my pants and he touched my private parts,” Maria said. “He touched me again inside the van and my hands were tied. And he started masturbating.”

Another woman, who was identified only as “E.D.,” alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by a male guard while being held at a family detention center in Pennsylvania with her 3-year-old son.

“I didn’t know how to refuse because he told me that I was going to be deported,” the woman, 19, told the newspaper.

“I was at a jail and he was a migration officer. It’s like they order you to do something and you have to do it,” she said.

Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union said it had fought an application from ICE to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which instructs federal agencies on how to maintain their records and approves plans for destroying records, which in ICE’s case would include files documenting sexual assaults.

The civil liberties union called on NARA to review the proposal “more closely,” arguing on its website that “government agencies with a long and well-documented record of abuse should not be permitted to destroy records about those abuses.”

The ACLU said the archives and records body has since committed to reviewing the request more closely and said ICE has not made any new proposal regarding the destruction of such records since.

“We will continue to keep a watchful eye for attempts by ICE and [Customs and Border Protection] to destroy records about their own wrongdoings,” the ACLU said.

ICE has not responded to a request for comment from Newsweek. Source: Newsweek

This is an ongoing problem all across America, in jails, prisons and even juvenile detention facilities:

Rape and Other Sexual Violence Prevalent in Juvenile Justice System

A 2010 investigation by the Tennessean found a series of allegations that had gone largely uninvestigated and unpunished by authorities. One of the facilities’ kitchen employees, the newspaper discovered, had reportedly given a 17-year-old boy chlamydia, and later lived with a different male juvenile who she had been accused of abusing while he was in the facility. The woman was cleared in four separate state investigations despite failing a lie detector test. She was ultimately convicted only after she turned herself in to police. In another case uncovered by the paper, a different female guard went on to marry a former inmate after he was released from the facility. The woman kept her job even after her marriage came to light.

Such incidents are sadly common inside our juvenile justice system. In the most recent federal survey of detained juveniles, nearly 8 percent of respondents reported being sexually victimized by a staff member at least once in the previous 12 months. For those who reported being abused, two things proved overwhelmingly true, as they were in Woodland Hills: They were teenage boys, and their alleged assailants were female employees tasked with looking out for their well-being. Nine in 10 of those who reported being victimized were males reporting incidents with female staff.

Hundreds of teen-agers are raped or sexually assaulted during their stays in the country’s juvenile detention facilities, and many of them are victimized repeatedly, according to a U.S. Department of Justice survey.

The teens are most often assaulted by staff members working at the facilities, and fully 20 percent of those victimized by the men and women charged with protecting and counseling them said they had been violated on more than 10 occasions.

“Today’s report illustrates the fundamental failure of many juvenile detention facilities to keep their youth safe,” said Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International, a California-based health and human rights organization.

Source: ProPublica, Slate

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Saudi Arabia Wants to Fight Iran to the Last American

By Trita Parsi, The National Interest

Many observers have connected the dots and concluded that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is seeking to drag the United States into a war with Iran and Hezbollah. But that’s only half the story. Looking at the recent events through a broader geopolitical lens, a much more sinister plan emerges: a Saudi plan to trap the United States in a permanent standoff with Tehran.

While most of the world has been aghast by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s radical actions of this past week, his conduct is only inexplicable when viewed from the wrong lens, such as the Sunni-Shia sectarian frame or the even more absurd attempt to cast this conflict as part of a greater fight against terrorism. After all, Saudi Arabia provided the seed money for Al Qaeda and openly funded and armedAl Qaeda in Syria (Jabhat al-Nusra), according to the U.S. government.

When seen from a geopolitical lens, however, the unlikely alliance between Zionist Israel and the Wahhabi House of Saud, their opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and their coordinated effort to ratchet up tensions in the region suddenly acquire a degree of logic.

Rather than ethnic or sectarian motivations, Saudi Arabia’s ultimate aim is to drag the United States back into the Middle East in order for Washington to reestablish its military dominance and reimpose on the region an equilibrium that favors Tel Aviv and Riyadh. This, however, does not require just a war in Lebanon, but a permanent state of conflict between the United States and Iran.

Israel and Saudi Arabia see this as justified return to the order that existed prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The “dual containment” policy of the Clinton administration established a balance in the region centered on Israel, Saudi and Egypt, with the explicit goal of isolating and containing both Iran and Iraq. Tehran vehemently opposed the order and sought to undermine it by all means, including by targeting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

But despite Tehran’s extensive efforts, Iran failed to bring about the collapse of the U.S.-led order. Instead, it was the United States itself under George W. Bush that—inadvertently—brought about the end of the U.S.-backed balance by committing the disastrous mistake of invading Iraq. The spectacular failure of this endeavor destabilized the region and weakened the United States, to a point where it no longer could restore the old order or foist a new balance upon the region.

The Middle East has ever since essentially been orderless—there is no single dominant power or combination of states that can establish and sustain a new balance. This is precisely why it is experiencing so much instability and violence: the absence of a clear order draws all major powers into a fierce competition to define the new equilibrium. This is also why Israel and Saudi Arabia have found common cause against Iran and why they have been pushing the United States to take military action against Iran.

Israel and Saudi Arabia were the biggest losers of the Iraq war and the collapse of Pax Americana. They enjoyed maximum security and maneuverability under the previous order, and their regional rivals were checked and contained, courtesy of American treasure and blood. Their priority for the last decade has been to compel the United States to recommit itself to the region and restore the pre-2003 balance, or at a minimum re-embrace the role as hegemon over the Middle East.

But while the United States saw benefit in Middle Eastern hegemony twenty years ago, American, Israeli and Saudi interests have sharply diverged over the past two decades. Not only does the United States lack the resources to resurrect the previous balance, the benefits to U.S. national security are increasingly in question. President Barack Obama had ordered a global audit of America’s resources, commitments, challenges and opportunities early on in his presidency. The conclusion was unmistakable: the most strategically vital area for the United States in this century is East Asia. Yet, most of America’s resources were committed to the Middle East in unending wars of increasingly marginal strategic significance. America needed a course correction that reversed its overcommitment in the Middle East and undercommitment in East Asia: a pivot to Asia.

Both Tel Aviv and Riyadh viewed Washington’s reorientation towards Asia with concern. They feared it would weaken Washington’s commitment to their security while also potentially making the United States more inclined to reach an accommodation with Iran. Those fears rose dramatically as Obama resisted the Saudi and Israeli push to bomb Iran, and instead opted for diplomacy. To the Saudis, Obama had sided with Iran. The details of the nuclear deal were irrelevant to Riyadh: the problem was the very idea of the United States striking a deal with Iran, which by definition would signal the end of Washington’s policy of fully balancing Iran and leave Saudi facing its Persian rival without unreserved American backing.

Saudi Arabia’s only prospect of balancing Iran today remains the same as it was ten years ago: by dragging the United States back into the region militarily. If Iran’s nuclear program or its role in Iraq won’t compel Washington to bomb Iran, the Saudis must instigate a crisis that will force America back into the squabbles of the Middle East. Lebanon can serve this purpose precisely because it brings in a critical factor absent in both Iraq and Yemen—the Israeli angle and its American political potency. What the American public needs to fully understand, though, is that Riyadh is not seeking a one-off in Lebanon but rather a perpetual U.S. confrontation with Iran, a never ending war on behalf of Saudi Arabia.

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in 2010, the Saudis “want to fight the Iranians to the last American.” Why the Saudis would see this as attractive is clear. Why Netanyahu would like to go along with this also follows a certain logic. That is not the mystery in this drama. The mystery is why the president of the United States would go along with something that so clearly contradicts U.S. national interest.

It is not the Saudi crown prince that is acting irrationally. It’s the president of the United States.

Trita Parsi is author of Losing an Enemy—Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy. He is the president of the National Iranian American Council.

Read more: How to boycott Saudi Arabia

The Destruction of Black Wall Street

By Josie Pickens, Ebony

Greenwood, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa, was the type of community that African Americans are still, today, attempting to reclaim and rebuild.  Black Wall Street was modern, majestic, sophisticated and unapologetically Black. Tragically, it was also the site of one of the bloodiest and most horrendous race riots (and acts of terrorism) that the United States has ever experienced.

Today marks ninety-two years since as many as 300 African Americans lost their lives and more than 9,000 were left homeless when the small town was attacked, looted and literally burned to the ground beginning in 1921.  It’s impossible, however, to realize what was lost in Greenwood, which was affectionately known as “Black Wall Street.”

The Greenwood community seems almost imagined when we examine it through a historical lens.  The oil booms of the early 1900’s had many moving to Tulsa for a shot at quick economic gains and high life, and African Americans hoped to prosper from the new industry as well.  Tulsa, like many cities and towns throughout the US, was hostilely segregated, with African Americans settling into the northern region of the city.  As we often saw before integration, Blacks in the area created entrepreneurial opportunities for themselves, which housed an impressive business center that included banks, hotels, cafes, clothiers, movie theaters, and contemporary homes.  Greenwood residents enjoyed many luxuries that their White neighbors did not, including indoor plumbing and a remarkable school system that superiorly educated Black children.

It was pure envy, and a vow to put progressive, high achieving African Americans in their place that would cause the demise of the Black Mecca many called “Little Africa”, and its destruction began the way much terrorism, violence and dispossession against African Americans did during that era.  A young White woman accused a young Black man of attempted sexual assault, which gave local mobs and White men acting as police just cause to invade the unsuspecting community. On the malevolent and horrifying attack, Linda Christenson writes the following:

“The term “race riot” does not adequately describe the events of May 31—June 1, 1921 in Greenwood… In fact, the term itself implies that both blacks and whites might be equally to blame for the lawlessness and violence. The historical record documents a sustained and murderous assault on black lives and property. This assault was met by a brave but unsuccessful armed defense of their community by some black World War I veterans and others.

During the night and day of the riot, deputized whites killed more than 300 African Americans. They looted and burned to the ground 40 square blocks of 1,265 African American homes, including hospitals, schools, and churches, and destroyed 150 businesses. White deputies and members of the National Guard arrested and detained 6,000 black Tulsans who were released only upon being vouched for by a white employer or other white citizen. Nine thousand African Americans were left homeless and lived in tents well into the winter of 1921.”

Recently, the mother of a Palestian activist friend of mine asked me why African Americans don’t fight harder for reparations. It was a difficult question to answer, but my most immediate response centered on the historical erasure of communities like Greenwood and the state-sponsored violence against African Americans that created its expiry.

Even after slavery was abolished, any advancements towards the American dream, that Blacks paid most dearly to establish, was met with revulsion and terror, often from those whose legal obligation was to serve and protect.  For that a debt is surely owed.

Further, when we consider the deaths of those Black Tulsans and the inevitable property loss that followed, we again see one example of many that proves how wealth inequities and disparities became a part of the substance of this nation- inequities and disparities that must be considered before we go blaming Black youth for the catastrophes this nation has endorsed.

And as we consider what has become the new face of terror, we should never forget that Greenwood was bombed from the sky by White local and national law enforcement organizations.

To learn more about the attack on “Black Wall Street,” check out Scott Ellsworth’s account here. Never forget.

Want more?

U.S. owes black people reparations for a history of ‘racial terrorism,’ says U.N. panel

How the FBI Conspired to Destroy the Black Panther Party

The genocide of young black men

The US Police Force Is an Extension of Slavery

False Flag: How Obama Armed Syrian Rebels to Set Up an Excuse to Attack Assad

By The Daily Bell Staff

Evidence suggests a false flag chemical weapons attack on the Syrian people was initiated by Syrian rebels with the help of the United States in order to justify a U.S. Military attack on a Syrian base.

President Trump approved the bombing of the Syrian military base controlled by Bashir al-Assad supposedly to destroy the Syrian government’s ability to launch further chemical attacks on civilians.

“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” Trump said in remarks from Mar-a-Lago, his family compound in Palm Beach, Florida. “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

But Trump’s statements contradict the reality that rebel groups have been trained to secure, monitor, and transport chemical weapons. Included in the opposition to Assad are terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. Should we believe these rebels’ claims against Assad, especially given their access to chemical weapons?

Documents from Wikileaks show that the U.S. State Department wanted to help rebels overthrow Syrian Dictator Assad in order to strengthen Israel’s position against Iran. The State Department discussed how Iran and Syria trained forces in opposition to Israel. The fall of Assad, they said, would destroy the only Iranian ally in the region positioned to help Iran in the event of Israeli aggression to stop Iran’s alleged nuclear program.

Washington should start by expressing its willingness to work with regional allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to organize, train and arm Syrian rebel forces. The announcement of such a decision would, by itself, likely cause substantial defections from the Syrian military. Then, using territory in Turkey and possibly Jordan, U.S. diplomats and Pentagon officials can start strengthening the opposition.

The State Department makes it quite clear their belief that “Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel’s security, it would also ease Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly.”

This is nothing new, and really not surprising, as the U.S. has been involved in dozens of similar operations around the world. But just how far would the U.S. and Israel go to bring down Assad?

Just what type of training would be given to the rebels to help overthrow Assad? The groundwork had already been laid out by President Obama. As soon as chemical weapons were used by Assad, the international community would have the justification to become more involved in removing him from power. We know they were interested in doing so regardless of whether or not he used chemical weapons against the people of Syria.

CNN reported in 2012 that America was involved in training the rebels to secure and monitor chemical weapons sites.

The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN.

The training, which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.

This confirms that rebel forces had access to chemical weapons and that the U.S. helped familiarize rebel groups with storing and transporting the weapons.

But a removed article from The Daily Mail seems to prove that the U.S. had planned on helping the rebels actually use chemical weapons as well. The article was supposedly removed because the source of the information was untrustworthy. A Malaysian hacker was said to have taken emails from British defense contractors from an unprotected server.

Leaked emails have allegedly proved that the White House gave the green light to a chemical weapons attack in Syria that could be blamed on Assad’s regime and in turn, spur international military action in the devastated country.

A report released on Monday contains an email exchange between two senior officials at British-based contractor Britam Defence where a scheme ‘approved by Washington’ is outlined explaining that Qatar would fund rebel forces in Syria to use chemical weapons.

Barack Obama made it clear to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad that the U.S. would not tolerate Syria using chemical weapons against its own people.

Lending credence to this theory that the United States trained rebel forces in the use of chemical weapons in order to initiate a false flag attack are the events surrounding the death of Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens in 2012.

The story is far from Trump’s claim that the U.S. attempts to “prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

The U.S. is an active player in moving weapons all throughout the middle east, arming all sorts of rebel groups, militias, and governments. It appears the United States funneled weapons out of Libya to provide Syrian rebels the ability to fight Assad.

A book called The Real Benghazi Story: What the White House and Hillary Don’t Want You to Know details the role Stevens fulfilled in Libya of brokering weapons exports from Libya to countries which backed the Syrian rebels.

The author, Aaron Klein, said a group called the February 17 Brigade worked with the CIA to provide security for a special operation in Benghazi and helped facilitate weapons transfers.

The exact nature of the U.S. involvement with the February 17 Brigade that guarded the U.S. special mission might have been unintentionally exposed when a Libyan weapons dealer formerly with the Brigade told Reuters in an in-person interview he had helped ship weapons from Benghazi to the rebels fighting in Syria.

Klein noted that no one seems to have connected the dots from what the weapons dealer said to the activities taking place inside the Benghazi compound and whether the Brigade serves as a cut out to ship weapons.

In the Reuters interview published June 18, 2013, Libyan warlord Abdul Basit Haroun declared he is behind some of the biggest shipments of weapons from Libya to Syria. Most of the weapons were sent to Turkey, he said, where they were, in turn, smuggled into neighboring Syria.

It was Steven’s job to facilitate the retrieval of these Libyan weapons and funnel them to U.S. interests. His death may have been related to militia groups inside Libya not trusting the United States with these weapons, or wanting them for their own use or profit.

Libyan weapons were shipped to places like Turkey which were already participating in training the Syrian rebels. Part of this training, we know, had to do with chemical weapons.

We also know that the U.S. wanted to see Assad brought down and that they had drawn a line over the use of chemical weapons. They needed a chemical weapons attack to justify stronger interventions in the conflict against Assad.

That chemical attack happened, followed by the subsequent U.S. bombing of an Assad base.

We know the terrorist groups forming the opposition to Assad had access to chemical weapons.

Is this enough evidence to prove the United States facilitated a false flag chemical weapons attack in order to justify military intervention, and finally defeat Assad, in support of Israel?

Erdoğan Not Assad, Gassed Syrian civilians – The Red Line and the Rat Line

By Seymour M. Hersh

In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.

Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.

Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff. The British report heightened doubts inside the Pentagon; the joint chiefs were already preparing to warn Obama that his plans for a far-reaching bomb and missile attack on Syria’s infrastructure could lead to a wider war in the Middle East. As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.

For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria’s neighbours, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups. ‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.’

The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration’s public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’. (According to a Defense Department consultant, US intelligence has long known that al-Qaida experimented with chemical weapons, and has a video of one of its gas experiments with dogs.) The DIA paper went on: ‘Previous IC [intelligence community] focus had been almost entirely on Syrian CW [chemical weapons] stockpiles; now we see ANF attempting to make its own CW … Al-Nusrah Front’s relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group’s CW aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future.’ The paper drew on classified intelligence from numerous agencies: ‘Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,’ it said, ‘were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.’ (Asked about the DIA paper, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence said: ‘No such paper was ever requested or produced by intelligence community analysts.’)

Last May, more than ten members of the al-Nusra Front were arrested in southern Turkey with what local police told the press were two kilograms of sarin. In a 130-page indictment the group was accused of attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin. Five of those arrested were freed after a brief detention. The others, including the ringleader, Haytham Qassab, for whom the prosecutor requested a prison sentence of 25 years, were released pending trial. In the meantime the Turkish press has been rife with speculation that the Erdoğan administration has been covering up the extent of its involvement with the rebels. In a news conference last summer, Aydin Sezgin, Turkey’s ambassador to Moscow, dismissed the arrests and claimed to reporters that the recovered ‘sarin’ was merely ‘anti-freeze’.

The DIA paper took the arrests as evidence that al-Nusra was expanding its access to chemical weapons. It said Qassab had ‘self-identified’ as a member of al-Nusra, and that he was directly connected to Abd-al-Ghani, the ‘ANF emir for military manufacturing’. Qassab and his associate Khalid Ousta worked with Halit Unalkaya, an employee of a Turkish firm called Zirve Export, who provided ‘price quotes for bulk quantities of sarin precursors’. Abd-al-Ghani’s plan was for two associates to ‘perfect a process for making sarin, then go to Syria to train others to begin large scale production at an unidentified lab in Syria’. The DIA paper said that one of his operatives had purchased a precursor on the ‘Baghdad chemical market’, which ‘has supported at least seven CW efforts since 2004’.

A series of chemical weapon attacks in March and April 2013 was investigated over the next few months by a special UN mission to Syria. A person with close knowledge of the UN’s activity in Syria told me that there was evidence linking the Syrian opposition to the first gas attack, on 19 March in Khan Al-Assal, a village near Aleppo. In its final report in December, the mission said that at least 19 civilians and one Syrian soldier were among the fatalities, along with scores of injured. It had no mandate to assign responsibility for the attack, but the person with knowledge of the UN’s activities said: ‘Investigators interviewed the people who were there, including the doctors who treated the victims. It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know.’

In the months before the attacks began, a former senior Defense Department official told me, the DIA was circulating a daily classified report known as SYRUP on all intelligence related to the Syrian conflict, including material on chemical weapons. But in the spring, distribution of the part of the report concerning chemical weapons was severely curtailed on the orders of Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff. ‘Something was in there that triggered a shit fit by McDonough,’ the former Defense Department official said. ‘One day it was a huge deal, and then, after the March and April sarin attacks’ – he snapped his fingers – ‘it’s no longer there.’ The decision to restrict distribution was made as the joint chiefs ordered intensive contingency planning for a possible ground invasion of Syria whose primary objective would be the elimination of chemical weapons.

The former intelligence official said that many in the US national security establishment had long been troubled by the president’s red line: ‘The joint chiefs asked the White House, “What does red line mean? How does that translate into military orders? Troops on the ground? Massive strike? Limited strike?” They tasked military intelligence to study how we could carry out the threat. They learned nothing more about the president’s reasoning.’

In the aftermath of the 21 August attack Obama ordered the Pentagon to draw up targets for bombing. Early in the process, the former intelligence official said, ‘the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the joint chiefs of staff as being insufficiently “painful” to the Assad regime.’ The original targets included only military sites and nothing by way of civilian infrastructure. Under White House pressure, the US attack plan evolved into ‘a monster strike’: two wings of B-52 bombers were shifted to airbases close to Syria, and navy submarines and ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles were deployed. ‘Every day the target list was getting longer,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The Pentagon planners said we can’t use only Tomahawks to strike at Syria’s missile sites because their warheads are buried too far below ground, so the two B-52 air wings with two-thousand pound bombs were assigned to the mission. Then we’ll need standby search-and-rescue teams to recover downed pilots and drones for target selection. It became huge.’ The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had’, the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.

Britain and France were both to play a part. On 29 August, the day Parliament voted against Cameron’s bid to join the intervention, the Guardian reported that he had already ordered six RAF Typhoon fighter jets to be deployed to Cyprus, and had volunteered a submarine capable of launching Tomahawk missiles. The French air force – a crucial player in the 2011 strikes on Libya – was deeply committed, according to an account in Le Nouvel Observateur; François Hollande had ordered several Rafale fighter-bombers to join the American assault. Their targets were reported to be in western Syria.

By the last days of August the president had given the Joint Chiefs a fixed deadline for the launch. ‘H hour was to begin no later than Monday morning [2 September], a massive assault to neutralise Assad,’ the former intelligence official said. So it was a surprise to many when during a speech in the White House Rose Garden on 31 August Obama said that the attack would be put on hold, and he would turn to Congress and put it to a vote.

At this stage, Obama’s premise – that only the Syrian army was capable of deploying sarin – was unravelling. Within a few days of the 21 August attack, the former intelligence official told me, Russian military intelligence operatives had recovered samples of the chemical agent from Ghouta. They analysed it and passed it on to British military intelligence; this was the material sent to Porton Down. (A spokesperson for Porton Down said: ‘Many of the samples analysed in the UK tested positive for the nerve agent sarin.’ MI6 said that it doesn’t comment on intelligence matters.)

The former intelligence official said the Russian who delivered the sample to the UK was ‘a good source – someone with access, knowledge and a record of being trustworthy’. After the first reported uses of chemical weapons in Syria last year, American and allied intelligence agencies ‘made an effort to find the answer as to what if anything, was used – and its source’, the former intelligence official said. ‘We use data exchanged as part of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The DIA’s baseline consisted of knowing the composition of each batch of Soviet-manufactured chemical weapons. But we didn’t know which batches the Assad government currently had in its arsenal.

Within days of the Damascus incident we asked a source in the Syrian government to give us a list of the batches the government currently had. This is why we could confirm the difference so quickly.’

The process hadn’t worked as smoothly in the spring, the former intelligence official said, because the studies done by Western intelligence ‘were inconclusive as to the type of gas it was. The word “sarin” didn’t come up. There was a great deal of discussion about this, but since no one could conclude what gas it was, you could not say that Assad had crossed the president’s red line.’ By 21 August, the former intelligence official went on, ‘the Syrian opposition clearly had learned from this and announced that “sarin” from the Syrian army had been used, before any analysis could be made, and the press and White House jumped at it. Since it now was sarin, “It had to be Assad.”’

The UK defence staff who relayed the Porton Down findings to the joint chiefs were sending the Americans a message, the former intelligence official said: ‘We’re being set up here.’ (This account made sense of a terse message a senior official in the CIA sent in late August: ‘It was not the result of the current regime. UK & US know this.’) By then the attack was a few days away and American, British and French planes, ships and submarines were at the ready.

The officer ultimately responsible for the planning and execution of the attack was General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs. From the beginning of the crisis, the former intelligence official said, the joint chiefs had been sceptical of the administration’s argument that it had the facts to back up its belief in Assad’s guilt. They pressed the DIA and other agencies for more substantial evidence. ‘There was no way they thought Syria would use nerve gas at that stage, because Assad was winning the war,’ the former intelligence official said. Dempsey had irritated many in the Obama administration by repeatedly warning Congress over the summer of the danger of American military involvement in Syria. Last April, after an optimistic assessment of rebel progress by the secretary of state, John Kerry, in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that ‘there’s a risk that this conflict has become stalemated.’

Dempsey’s initial view after 21 August was that a US strike on Syria – under the assumption that the Assad government was responsible for the sarin attack – would be a military blunder, the former intelligence official said. The Porton Down report caused the joint chiefs to go to the president with a more serious worry: that the attack sought by the White House would be an unjustified act of aggression. It was the joint chiefs who led Obama to change course. The official White House explanation for the turnabout – the story the press corps told – was that the president, during a walk in the Rose Garden with Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, suddenly decided to seek approval for the strike from a bitterly divided Congress with which he’d been in conflict for years. The former Defense Department official told me that the White House provided a different explanation to members of the civilian leadership of the Pentagon: the bombing had been called off because there was intelligence ‘that the Middle East would go up in smoke’ if it was carried out.

The president’s decision to go to Congress was initially seen by senior aides in the White House, the former intelligence official said, as a replay of George W. Bush’s gambit in the autumn of 2002 before the invasion of Iraq: ‘When it became clear that there were no WMD in Iraq, Congress, which had endorsed the Iraqi war, and the White House both shared the blame and repeatedly cited faulty intelligence. If the current Congress were to vote to endorse the strike, the White House could again have it both ways – wallop Syria with a massive attack and validate the president’s red line commitment, while also being able to share the blame with Congress if it came out that the Syrian military wasn’t behind the attack.’ The turnabout came as a surprise even to the Democratic leadership in Congress. In September the Wall Street Journal reported that three days before his Rose Garden speech Obama had telephoned Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, ‘to talk through the options’. She later told colleagues, according to the Journal, that she hadn’t asked the president to put the bombing to a congressional vote.

Obama’s move for congressional approval quickly became a dead end. ‘Congress was not going to let this go by,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Congress made it known that, unlike the authorisation for the Iraq war, there would be substantive hearings.’ At this point, there was a sense of desperation in the White House, the former intelligence official said. ‘And so out comes Plan B. Call off the bombing strike and Assad would agree to unilaterally sign the chemical warfare treaty and agree to the destruction of all of chemical weapons under UN supervision.’ At a press conference in London on 9 September, Kerry was still talking about intervention: ‘The risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting.’ But when a reporter asked if there was anything Assad could do to stop the bombing, Kerry said: ‘Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week … But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.’ As the New York Times reported the next day, the Russian-brokered deal that emerged shortly afterwards had first been discussed by Obama and Putin in the summer of 2012. Although the strike plans were shelved, the administration didn’t change its public assessment of the justification for going to war. ‘There is zero tolerance at that level for the existence of error,’ the former intelligence official said of the senior officials in the White House. ‘They could not afford to say: “We were wrong.”’ (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The Assad regime, and only the Assad regime, could have been responsible for the chemical weapons attack that took place on 21 August.’)

The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line’, a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The idea that the United States was providing weapons from Libya to anyone is false.)  In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the assault by a local militia in September 2012 on the American consulate and a nearby undercover CIA facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others. The report’s criticism of the State Department for not providing adequate security at the consulate, and of the intelligence community for not alerting the US military to the presence of a CIA outpost in the area, received front-page coverage and revived animosities in Washington, with Republicans accusing Obama and Hillary Clinton of a cover-up. A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations.

It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)

The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive.

The annex didn’t tell the whole story of what happened in Benghazi before the attack, nor did it explain why the American consulate was attacked. ‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’

Washington abruptly ended the CIA’s role in the transfer of arms from Libya after the attack on the consulate, but the rat line kept going. ‘The United States was no longer in control of what the Turks were relaying to the jihadists,’ the former intelligence official said. Within weeks, as many as forty portable surface-to-air missile launchers, commonly known as manpads, were in the hands of Syrian rebels. On 28 November 2012, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post reported that the previous day rebels near Aleppo had used what was almost certainly a manpad to shoot down a Syrian transport helicopter. ‘The Obama administration,’ Warrick wrote, ‘has steadfastly opposed arming Syrian opposition forces with such missiles, warning that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used to shoot down commercial aircraft.’ Two Middle Eastern intelligence officials fingered Qatar as the source, and a former US intelligence analyst speculated that the manpads could have been obtained from Syrian military outposts overrun by the rebels. There was no indication that the rebels’ possession of manpads was likely the unintended consequence of a covert US programme that was no longer under US control.

By the end of 2012, it was believed throughout the American intelligence community that the rebels were losing the war. ‘Erdoğan was pissed,’ the former intelligence official said, ‘and felt he was left hanging on the vine. It was his money and the cut-off was seen as a betrayal.’ In spring 2013 US intelligence learned that the Turkish government – through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation – was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability. ‘The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training – including training in chemical warfare,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Stepping up Turkey’s role in spring 2013 was seen as the key to its problems there. Erdoğan knew that if he stopped his support of the jihadists it would be all over. The Saudis could not support the war because of logistics – the distances involved and the difficulty of moving weapons and supplies. Erdoğan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond in March and April.’

There was no public sign of discord when Erdoğan and Obama met on 16 May 2013 at the White House. At a later press conference Obama said that they had agreed that Assad ‘needs to go’. Asked whether he thought Syria had crossed the red line, Obama acknowledged that there was evidence such weapons had been used, but added, ‘it is important for us to make sure that we’re able to get more specific information about what exactly is happening there.’ The red line was still intact.

An American foreign policy expert who speaks regularly with officials in Washington and Ankara told me about a working dinner Obama held for Erdoğan during his May visit. The meal was dominated by the Turks’ insistence that Syria had crossed the red line and their complaints that Obama was reluctant to do anything about it. Obama was accompanied by John Kerry and Tom Donilon, the national security adviser who would soon leave the job. Erdoğan was joined by Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, and Hakan Fidan, the head of the MIT. Fidan is known to be fiercely loyal to Erdoğan, and has been seen as a consistent backer of the radical rebel opposition in Syria.

The foreign policy expert told me that the account he heard originated with Donilon. (It was later corroborated by a former US official, who learned of it from a senior Turkish diplomat.) According to the expert, Erdoğan had sought the meeting to demonstrate to Obama that the red line had been crossed, and had brought Fidan along to state the case. When Erdoğan tried to draw Fidan into the conversation, and Fidan began speaking, Obama cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ Erdoğan tried to bring Fidan in a second time, and Obama again cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ At that point, an exasperated Erdoğan said, ‘But your red line has been crossed!’ and, the expert told me, ‘Donilon said Erdoğan “fucking waved his finger at the president inside the White House”.’ Obama then pointed at Fidan and said: ‘We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.’ (Donilon, who joined the Council on Foreign Relations last July, didn’t respond to questions about this story. The Turkish Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to questions about the dinner. A spokesperson for the National Security Council confirmed that the dinner took place and provided a photograph showing Obama, Kerry, Donilon, Erdoğan, Fidan and Davutoğlu sitting at a table. ‘Beyond that,’ she said, ‘I’m not going to read out the details of their discussions.’)

But Erdoğan did not leave empty handed. Obama was still permitting Turkey to continue to exploit a loophole in a presidential executive order prohibiting the export of gold to Iran, part of the US sanctions regime against the country. In March 2012, responding to sanctions of Iranian banks by the EU, the SWIFT electronic payment system, which facilitates cross-border payments, expelled dozens of Iranian financial institutions, severely restricting the country’s ability to conduct international trade. The US followed with the executive order in July, but left what came to be known as a ‘golden loophole’: gold shipments to private Iranian entities could continue. Turkey is a major purchaser of Iranian oil and gas, and it took advantage of the loophole by depositing its energy payments in Turkish lira in an Iranian account in Turkey; these funds were then used to purchase Turkish gold for export to confederates in Iran. Gold to the value of $13 billion reportedly entered Iran in this way between March 2012 and July 2013.

The programme quickly became a cash cow for corrupt politicians and traders in Turkey, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. ‘The middlemen did what they always do,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Take 15 per cent. The CIA had estimated that there was as much as two billion dollars in skim. Gold and Turkish lira were sticking to fingers.’ The illicit skimming flared into a public ‘gas for gold’ scandal in Turkey in December, and resulted in charges against two dozen people, including prominent businessmen and relatives of government officials, as well as the resignations of three ministers, one of whom called for Erdoğan to resign. The chief executive of a Turkish state-controlled bank that was in the middle of the scandal insisted that more than $4.5 million in cash found by police in shoeboxes during a search of his home was for charitable donations.

Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz reported in Foreign Policy that the Obama administration closed the golden loophole in January 2013, but ‘lobbied to make sure the legislation … did not take effect for six months’. They speculated that the administration wanted to use the delay as an incentive to bring Iran to the bargaining table over its nuclear programme, or to placate its Turkish ally in the Syrian civil war. The delay permitted Iran to ‘accrue billions of dollars more in gold, further undermining the sanctions regime’.

The American decision to end CIA support of the weapons shipments into Syria left Erdoğan exposed politically and militarily. ‘One of the issues at that May summit was the fact that Turkey is the only avenue to supply the rebels in Syria,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘It can’t come through Jordan because the terrain in the south is wide open and the Syrians are all over it. And it can’t come through the valleys and hills of Lebanon – you can’t be sure who you’d meet on the other side.’ Without US military support for the rebels, the former intelligence official said, ‘Erdoğan’s dream of having a client state in Syria is evaporating and he thinks we’re the reason why. When Syria wins the war, he knows the rebels are just as likely to turn on him – where else can they go? So now he will have thousands of radicals in his backyard.’
A US intelligence consultant told me that a few weeks before 21 August he saw a highly classified briefing prepared for Dempsey and the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, which described ‘the acute anxiety’ of the Erdoğan administration about the rebels’ dwindling prospects. The analysis warned that the Turkish leadership had expressed ‘the need to do something that would precipitate a US military response’. By late summer, the Syrian army still had the advantage over the rebels, the former intelligence official said, and only American air power could turn the tide. In the autumn, the former intelligence official went on, the US intelligence analysts who kept working on the events of 21 August ‘sensed that Syria had not done the gas attack. But the 500 pound gorilla was, how did it happen? The immediate suspect was the Turks, because they had all the pieces to make it happen.’

As intercepts and other data related to the 21 August attacks were gathered, the intelligence community saw evidence to support its suspicions. ‘We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’ – who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas – ‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey – that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.’ Much of the support for that assessment came from the Turks themselves, via intercepted conversations in the immediate aftermath of the attack. ‘Principal evidence came from the Turkish post-attack joy and back-slapping in numerous intercepts. Operations are always so super-secret in the planning but that all flies out the window when it comes to crowing afterwards. There is no greater vulnerability than in the perpetrators claiming credit for success.’ Erdoğan’s problems in Syria would soon be over: ‘Off goes the gas and Obama will say red line and America is going to attack Syria, or at least that was the idea. But it did not work out that way.’

The post-attack intelligence on Turkey did not make its way to the White House. ‘Nobody wants to talk about all this,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘There is great reluctance to contradict the president, although no all-source intelligence community analysis supported his leap to convict. There has not been one single piece of additional evidence of Syrian involvement in the sarin attack produced by the White House since the bombing raid was called off. My government can’t say anything because we have acted so irresponsibly. And since we blamed Assad, we can’t go back and blame Erdoğan.’

Turkey’s willingness to manipulate events in Syria to its own purposes seemed to be demonstrated late last month, a few days before a round of local elections, when a recording, allegedly of a government national security meeting, was posted to YouTube. It included discussion of a false-flag operation that would justify an incursion by the Turkish military in Syria. The operation centred on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the revered Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, which is near Aleppo and was ceded to Turkey in 1921, when Syria was under French rule. One of the Islamist rebel factions was threatening to destroy the tomb as a site of idolatry, and the Erdoğan administration was publicly threatening retaliation if harm came to it. According to a Reuters report of the leaked conversation, a voice alleged to be Fidan’s spoke of creating a provocation: ‘Now look, my commander, if there is to be justification, the justification is I send four men to the other side. I get them to fire eight missiles into empty land [in the vicinity of the tomb]. That’s not a problem. Justification can be created.’ The Turkish government acknowledged that there had been a national security meeting about threats emanating from Syria, but said the recording had been manipulated. The government subsequently blocked public access to YouTube.

Barring a major change in policy by Obama, Turkey’s meddling in the Syrian civil war is likely to go on. ‘I asked my colleagues if there was any way to stop Erdoğan’s continued support for the rebels, especially now that it’s going so wrong,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The answer was: “We’re screwed.” We could go public if it was somebody other than Erdoğan, but Turkey is a special case. They’re a Nato ally. The Turks don’t trust the West. They can’t live with us if we take any active role against Turkish interests. If we went public with what we know about Erdoğan’s role with the gas, it’d be disastrous. The Turks would say: “We hate you for telling us what we can and can’t do.”’

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