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Seymour M. Hersh · The Red Line and the Rat Line: Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels · LRB 17 April 2014

Seymour M. Hersh · The Red Line and the Rat Line: Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels · LRB 17 April 2014
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? Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration’s public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. 4 April

Series of small earthquakes rock Oklahoma in record seismic activity By Carey Gillam (Reuters) - Earthquakes rattled residents in Oklahoma on Saturday, the latest in a series that have put the state on track for record quake activity this year, which some seismologists say may be tied to oil and gas exploration. One earthquake recorded at 3.8 magnitude by the U.S. Geological Survey rocked houses in several communities around central Oklahoma at 7:42 a.m. local time. Another about two hours earlier in the same part of the state, north of Oklahoma City, was recorded at 2.9 magnitude, USGS said. Those two were preceded by two more, at 2.6 magnitude, and 2.5 magnitude, that also rolled the landscape in central Oklahoma early Saturday morning. Austin Holland, a seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey who tracks earthquake activity for the USGS, said the earthquake activity in the state is soaring. "We have had almost as many magnitude 3 and greater already in 2014 than we did for all of 2013," Holland said. Most earthquakes occur naturally.

Syrian Jihad Spawned the Islamic State Let me admit at the outset that Assad is an illegitimate tyrant who must abdicate his hereditary throne to the will of the people when the opportune moment arrives. But at the moment our primary concern shouldn’t be bringing democracy to Syria; at the moment our first and foremost priority should be reducing the level of violence in Syria. There are two parties to this conflict: the regime and the rebels (the majority of whom are takfiri jihadis). The second party to the conflict is the rebels who are generously supported by the Gulf monarchies, Turkey (Sunni Muslims), Western powers and Israel. Another reason for the unnatural Western, especially US, Britain and France’s interest in the happenings in Syria is about making ‘friendly’ autocratic Arab regimes friendlier and about neutralizing the enemy’s capabilities by taking advantage of the opportunity provided to them in the form of a just war based on moral reasons. Sources and links:

Seymour M. Hersh · Military to Military: US intelligence sharing in the Syrian war · LRB 7 January 2016 Barack Obama’s repeated insistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office – and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped. Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the DIA between 2012 and 2014, confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad. Few in the US Congress share this view.

NSA Blows Its Own Top Secret Program in Order to Propagandize Over the last 40 years, the U.S. government has relied on extreme fear-mongering to demonize transparency. In sum, every time an unwanted whistleblower steps forward, we are treated to the same messaging: You’re all going to die because of these leakers and the journalists who publish their disclosures! Lest you think that’s hyperbole, consider this headline from last week based on an interview with outgoing NSA chief Keith Alexander: The NSA engages in this fear-mongering not only publicly but also privately. But whenever it suits the agency to do so–meaning when it wants to propagandize on its own behalf–the NSA casually discloses even its most top secret activities in the very countries where such retaliation is most likely. FT. John “Chris” Inglis just revealed to the world that the NSA was–is? The program, noted the Post, has been in use in one country since 2011, and “planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.” Thus, writes the L.A.

Sending our forces into another mission impossible - The Drum Posted Team Australia is being geed up for war in the manner of a desperate coach approaching the final quarter, writes a lively Mungo MacCallum. Having finally begun to recover from yet another Intensive Care Unit and, of course, from Anne Summers, I feel my recuperation has been set back by yet another tergiversation from our beloved Prime Minister. It appears that Tony Abbott has morphed from the Saviour of the Economy and the Protector of Borders to the Great War Leader. But he had taken the position with a fervour that belies his subordinate role. Abbott is talking in apocalyptic terms about the enemy, and he has the videos to prove it: Islamic State is indeed a horrible bunch, and should be eliminated. "In conscience Australia cannot leave the Iraqi people to face this horror, this pure evil, alone, or ask others to do in the name of human decency what we won't do ourselves," he thundered. He makes a good argument. Sure, IS makes a policy of beheadings - but so does Saudi Arabia.

Seymour M. Hersh · The Killing of Osama bin Laden · LRB 21 May 2015 It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission. ‘When your version comes out – if you do it – people in Pakistan will be tremendously grateful,’ Durrani told me. It began with a walk-in. The US initially kept what it knew from the Pakistanis. Not everyone agreed.

U.S. Tries To Stop India's Solar Policy While Pushing Fight Against Climate Change WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration talks a lot about the need to develop renewable energy around the world to curb climate change. But right now, it's trying to kill India's effort to boost its domestic solar industry. The U.S. wants India to back off a policy that would require local sourcing for solar energy technology, and has sought World Trade Organization enforcement action. Representatives from the two nations reportedly met last week to try to settle the trade battle over India's rapidly developing solar industry, but reached no resolution. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said in February that India's rules for locally made products for its solar power program "discriminate against U.S. exports" and break WTO rules. The U.S. and India have 60 days from last month's announcement of the enforcement action -- until April 11 -- to resolve the conflict before it goes to the WTO, which can impose sanctions. The U.S. and China have also faced off over solar panels. U.S.

Saudi Arabia Will Grant U.S. Request for Anti-ISIS Training Program - AMMAN, Jordan — Saudi Arabia has agreed to an American request to provide a base to train moderate Syrian opposition fighters, American officials said on Wednesday. “We now have the commitment from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to be a full partner in this effort — the train-and-equip program — to host that program,” said a senior Obama administration official, who added that discussions were underway to determine the specific site and other details. The Saudi willingness to host a training program comes as Secretary of State John Kerry is preparing to fly to Jidda, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday morning for a high-level strategy session on how to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The meeting that is being hosted by the Saudis will also include senior officials from Arab states in the Persian Gulf region, as well as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. Continue reading the main story Video Yet the more forcible approach Mr. To the dismay of the Saudis, Mr. But now Mr. Photo Mr.

Owen Bennett-Jones reviews ‘The Pashtun Question’ by Abubakar Siddique and ‘The Taliban Revival’ by Hassan Abbas · LRB 25 September 2014 The conflict in the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands has similarities with other contemporary struggles. From Timbuktu to Kandahar, jihadis, national governments, ethnic groups and, in some cases, tribes are fighting for supremacy. In each place there are complicating local factors: badly drawn international borders; the relative strength or weakness of non-violent Islamist movements; the presence or absence of foreign forces, whether Western or jihadi; and different historical experiences of colonialism. From the point of view of Western policymakers some of these conflicts seem to be more important than others. For the French, the potential fall of Mali to radical Islamist forces was unacceptable, so they intervened. It’s far from clear that these varied responses to jihadi activity are the result of rational decision-making. In 1893 the British created the Durand Line to divide Afghanistan from the north-west corner of the Raj (now Pakistan).

U.S. Air Force relieves nine officers following nuclear test cheating probe The scandal, which came to light after a probe into suspected drug use among missileers at Malmstrom, has been among the most embarrassing ethical lapses the Pentagon has had to contend with in recent months. The military also faced questions about its ability to prosecute cases of sexual assault and is investigating a similar cheating scandal involving sailors. “We do have some systemic issues in our missile community,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told reporters Thursday afternoon at the Pentagon. Dozens of junior officers will face a range of disciplinary sanctions from letters of reprimand to court-martial, officials said. Investigators found that many airmen were sharing test questions and answers via text messages. Air Force officials said the cheating on job-proficiency tests became routine among airmen who described themselves as being demoralized. “You’re competing for promotion against a pilot who can say he flew this many hours,” said Adam B. Col.

Mexican drug cartels are worse than ISIL The horrific rampage of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has captured the world’s attention. Many Western commentators have characterized ISIL’s crimes as unique, no longer practiced anywhere else in the civilized world. They argue that the group’s barbarism is intrinsically Islamic, a product of the aggressive and archaic worldview that dominates the Muslim world. The ignorance of these claims is stunning. While there other organized groups whose depravity and threat to the United States far surpasses that of ISIL, none have engendered the same kind of collective indignation and hysteria. For example, even as the U.S. media and policymakers radically inflate ISIL’s threat to the Middle East and United States, most Americans appear to be unaware of the scale of the atrocities committed by Mexican drug cartels and the threat they pose to the United States. Cartels versus ISIL Statistics alone do not convey the depravity and threat of the cartels. AFP / Getty Images

America's oil export ban, explained Our nation and world face a major problem of how to deal with carbon emissions, climate change, and the consumption of fossil fuels. And broadly, there are basically two ways to tackle the problem: Reduce demand for carbon-creating products, or reduce the supply of these products. Cap-and-trade systems and carbon taxes squeeze demand by raising the cost of consumption, making it more likely that people will turn elsewhere for energy consumption. The battle against the Keystone XL pipeline was a prime example of the supply-side strategy. And then Congress finally and suddenly killed the ban with one of the many, many, many things tucked away in the sprawling $1.1 trillion spending bill just signed into law by President Obama. Congress passed the ban in 1975, in reaction to spiking global oil prices driven by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). That all changed with the domestic shale fracking boom. It's all very complex and hard to estimate.