Sep
23

Syrians Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack

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EXCLUSIVE: Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack
Rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaida linked rebel group.

Dale Gavlak assisted in the research and writing process of this article, but was not on the ground in Syria. Reporter Yahya Ababneh, with whom the report was written in collaboration, was the correspondent on the ground in Ghouta who spoke directly with the rebels, their family members, victims of the chemical weapons attacks and local residents. 

Gavlak is a MintPress News Middle East correspondent who has been freelancing for the AP as a Amman, Jordan correspondent for nearly a decade. This report is not an Associated Press article; rather it is exclusive to MintPress News. 

Ghouta, Syria — As the machinery for a U.S.-led military intervention in Syria gathers pace following last week’s chemical weapons attack, the U.S. and its allies may be targeting the wrong culprit.

Interviews with people in Damascus and Ghouta, a suburb of the Syrian capital, where the humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders said at least 355 people had died last week from what it believed to be a neurotoxic agent, appear to indicate as much.

The U.S., Britain, and France as well as the Arab League have accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out the chemical weapons attack, which mainly targeted civilians. U.S. warships are stationed in the Mediterranean Sea to launch military strikes against Syria in punishment for carrying out a massive chemical weapons attack. The U.S. and others are not interested in examining any contrary evidence, with U.S Secretary of State John Kerry saying Monday that Assad’s guilt was “a judgment … already clear to the world.”

However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.

“My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.

Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”

Ghouta townspeople said the rebels were using mosques and private houses to sleep while storing their weapons in tunnels.

Abdel-Moneim said his son and the others died during the chemical weapons attack. That same day, the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is linked to al-Qaida, announced that it would similarly attack civilians in the Assad regime’s heartland of Latakia on Syria’s western coast, in purported retaliation.

“They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K.’ “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”

“When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.

A well-known rebel leader in Ghouta named ‘J’ agreed. “Jabhat al-Nusra militants do not cooperate with other rebels, except with fighting on the ground. They do not share secret information. They merely used some ordinary rebels to carry and operate this material,” he said.

“We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions,” ‘J’ said.

Doctors who treated the chemical weapons attack victims cautioned interviewers to be careful about asking questions regarding who, exactly, was responsible for the deadly assault.

The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders added that health workers aiding 3,600 patients also reported experiencing similar symptoms, including frothing at the mouth, respiratory distress, convulsions and blurry vision. The group has not been able to independently verify the information.

More than a dozen rebels interviewed reported that their salaries came from the Saudi government.

 

Saudi involvement

In a recent article for Business Insider, reporter Geoffrey Ingersoll highlighted Saudi Prince Bandar’s role in the two-and-a-half year Syrian civil war. Many observers believe Bandar, with his close ties to Washington, has been at the very heart of the push for war by the U.S. against Assad.

Ingersoll referred to an article in the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph about secret Russian-Saudi talks alleging that Bandar offered Russian President Vladimir Putin cheap oil in exchange for dumping Assad.

“Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord,” Ingersoll wrote.

“I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” Bandar allegedly told the Russians.

“Along with Saudi officials, the U.S. allegedly gave the Saudi intelligence chief the thumbs up to conduct these talks with Russia, which comes as no surprise,” Ingersoll wrote.

“Bandar is American-educated, both military and collegiate, served as a highly influential Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., and the CIA totally loves this guy,” he added.

According to U.K.’s Independent newspaper, it was Prince Bandar’s intelligence agency that first brought allegations of the use of sarin gas by the regime to the attention of Western allies in February.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the CIA realized Saudi Arabia was “serious” about toppling Assad when the Saudi king named Prince Bandar to lead the effort.

“They believed that Prince Bandar, a veteran of the diplomatic intrigues of Washington and the Arab world, could deliver what the CIA couldn’t: planeloads of money and arms, and, as one U.S. diplomat put it, wasta, Arabic for under-the-table clout,” it said.

Bandar has been advancing Saudi Arabia’s top foreign policy goal, WSJ reported, of defeating Assad and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies.

To that aim, Bandar worked Washington to back a program to arm and train rebels out of a planned military base in Jordan.

The newspaper reports that he met with the “uneasy Jordanians about such a base”:

His meetings in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah sometimes ran to eight hours in a single sitting. “The king would joke: ‘Oh, Bandar’s coming again? Let’s clear two days for the meeting,’ ” said a person familiar with the meetings.

Jordan’s financial dependence on Saudi Arabia may have given the Saudis strong leverage. An operations center in Jordan started going online in the summer of 2012, including an airstrip and warehouses for arms. Saudi-procured AK-47s and ammunition arrived, WSJ reported, citing Arab officials.

Although Saudi Arabia has officially maintained that it supported more moderate rebels, the newspaper reported that “funds and arms were being funneled to radicals on the side, simply to counter the influence of rival Islamists backed by Qatar.”

But rebels interviewed said Prince Bandar is referred to as “al-Habib” or ‘the lover’ by al-Qaida militants fighting in Syria.

Peter Oborne, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday, has issued a word of caution about Washington’s rush to punish the Assad regime with so-called ‘limited’ strikes not meant to overthrow the Syrian leader but diminish his capacity to use chemical weapons:

Consider this: the only beneficiaries from the atrocity were the rebels, previously losing the war, who now have Britain and America ready to intervene on their side. While there seems to be little doubt that chemical weapons were used, there is doubt about who deployed them.

It is important to remember that Assad has been accused of using poison gas against civilians before. But on that occasion, Carla del Ponte, a U.N. commissioner on Syria, concluded that the rebels, not Assad, were probably responsible.

Some information in this article could not be independently verified. Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates . 

Dale Gavlak is a Middle East correspondent for Mint Press News and has reported from Amman, Jordan, writing for the Associated Press, NPR and BBC. An expert in Middle Eastern affairs, Gavlak covers the Levant region, writing on topics including politics, social issues and economic trends. Dale holds a M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago. Contact Dale at dgavlak@mintpressnews.com

Yahya Ababneh is a Jordanian freelance journalist and is currently working on a master’s degree in journalism,  He has covered events in Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Libya. His stories have appeared on Amman Net, Saraya News, Gerasa News and elsewhere.

 

Sep
23

Obama and Al Qaeda: United in Kenya and Syria

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Wayne Madsen Report

Obama and Al Qaeda

 

September 23-25, 2013 — Obama and Al Qaeda: United in Kenya and Syria

President Obama and his “Responsibility to Protect” policy crew of UN ambassador Samantha Power, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes have not only made common cause with Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al Nusra and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria but by pressuring Kenya’s government internationally have weakened Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto. The Kenyan government has been battling against Al Shabab Islamist terrorists from Somalia who killed scores of shoppers at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall and may have been behind a costly fire that destroyed the international terminal at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Obama could have given Kenya’s government a boost by visiting the nation of his alleged father’s birth during his recent trip to Africa. However, Obama has supported the International Criminal Court genocide proceedings against Kenyatta and Ruto over allegations that they were behind violence against supporters of Obama’s distant cousin, Raila Odinga, during 2007 and 2008 election violence that pitted members of Ruto’s Kalenjin tribe against Odinga’s Luo tribe. The Kalenjins were allied with Kenyatta’s Kikuyu tribe against Odinga and the Luos. Obama is half Luo. Odinga lost the 2007 presidential election to Mwai Kibaki, who was supported by Ruto and Kenyatta. Odinga, who was educated in the German Democratic Republic, became Prime Minister in 2008. Odinga and his “Orange” revolution, inspired by George Soros’s “themed” revolutions elsewhere, lost to Kenyatta in the 2013 election and they boycotted Kenyatta’s inauguration. Kenyatta is the son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president who was despised by Barack Obama, Sr. for not appointing him Finance Minister because of what the elder Obama charged was his Luo identity.

Ruto has asked for a postponement of the ICC trial so that he can return to Kenya from The Hague to handle the Westgate terrorist attack. Many African leaders, including the president of Uganda, Attorney General of Tanzania, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and Foreign Ministers of Rwanda, Burundi, and Eritrea have complained that the ICC trials of Ruto and the planned trial of Kenyatta in November are harming Kenya. Obama bypassed Kenya on his recent trip to Africa, a clear vote of no confidence in Kenya and a signal to Al Shabab in neighboring Somalia that Kenya does not have the support of the United States.

The ICC proceedings against Kenyan officials are considered a joke in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa. There have been charges by African leaders that the ICC is “hunting” African leaders. Ruto and former radio journalist Joshua arap Sang have asked the ICC to transfer jurisdiction to Kenya but the Soros R2P gang has adamantly refused, even rejecting a request by the African Union to transfer the proceedings to either Kenya or Tanzania.

Some prosecution witnesses have been found to be frauds. However, former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, who brought the genocide charges against Kenyatta, Ruto, and five others, has, himself, been accused of the rape of a journalist in South Africa and of protecting pedophiles in Argentina, has pursued Kenyan leaders with a peculiar zeal and the support of Obama. But, so far, the ICC failed to get a single conviction. In addition, Ocampo’s Wikipedia entry has been purged of any negative information from his past in Argentina and his sexual indiscretions in South Africa.

The blood of the shoppers who died in this partly Israeli-owned Nairobi mall is on the hands of the Luo-aligned Obama.

Kenyan Industrializtion Minister Henry Kogsei, Cabinet Secretary Francis Mauthara, and Police Commissioner Mohammed Hussein Ali, three of a group that became known as the “Ocampo Six,” were acquitted. The cases against Ruto, Kenyatta, and Sang are as weak as those brought against those acquitted. Ocampo’s deputy prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda of Gambia, succeeded him as chief prosecutor in 2012, has been an apologist for her nation’s dictatorial president Yahya Jammeh. Ruto, Kenyatta, and Sang are now known as the “Bensouda Three.”

Secretary of State John Kerry recently hosted Somalian self-declared president Hussein Sheik Mohamed in Washington. Mohamed is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in Somalia, which, in turn, has connections to Al Shabab. Kerry elicited strong support from Mohamed for the Obama administration’s support for Syrian rebels, including Al Qaeda linked rebels allied with Al Shabab, in the Syrian civil war. Mohamed seeks to expand Islamist influence in Somalia to the more secular autonomist region of Puntland and the independent Republic of Somaliland, which has been separated from Somalia since 1991, in a “federal framework.” There is no indication anywhere in the world that any Islamists favor federalism in any form but total submission to a radical Islamist “ummah” or nation operating under the most radical interpretations of sharia law.

 

Sep
10

Obama Blinks on Syria, Who Won and Lost?

Obama Blinks on Syria. Who Won and Lost?

This has been a wild afternoon, for a change in a good way. Obama has overruled John Kerry, Susan Rice, and Samantha Powers in their opposition earlier today to the Russian face-saving proposal, which had been accepted by Syria and endorsed by the Ban Ki-Moon and David Cameron, of having Syria destroy its chemical weapons. The State Department tried walking back Kerry’s remarks that Syria needed to give up its nasty WMD and Susan Rice said that only regime change would do.

But at the end of the afternoon, Obama said he was willing to pursue the Russian plan. From Politico:

President Barack Obama would put strikes against Syria on hold if Bashar Assad’s regime were to turn over control of its chemical weapons, he said Monday, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he will wait to hear the president make his case to the nation Tuesday before holding an initial vote on military action.

The moves came at the tail end of a tumultuous day for a White House that appeared to be knocked off-message by Secretary of State John Kerry’s positive response to a question about whether the administration would consider a proposal that would allow Syria to avoid a military strike by turning over any stockpile of chemical weapons.

The president said his team will engage in talks with Russia and Syria. “We’re going to run this to ground,” he told CNN. “And John Kerry and the rest of my national security team will engage with the Russians and the international community to see can we arrive at something that is enforceable and serious.”

Not surprisingly for an Administration which is fond of taking unusually aggressive measures to rewrite history, the Politico write-up reveals that the Administration is trying to spin that this plan is moving forward due to, rather than despite, Kerry’s efforts.

But what appears instead to have occurred is that support for the AUMF collapsed in the Senate. And it apparently was not due to just to the wild card of the Russian proposal but also Kerry’s ineptitude. From Jane Hamsher:

Update 12:30 PM: Senate sources say that John Kerry’s comments this morning about an “unbelievably small” planned attack on Syria have “lost them every undecided Republican in the Senate,” and the vote may be pulled.

“Even Democratic loyalists like Barbara Boxer can’t afford to have a 35-65 vote on their record.”

Remarkably, during the Senate debate, AIPAC loyalist Diane Feinstein voiced support for the Russian idea.

And the Congresscritters were running from the AUMF sinking ship. Hamsher again:

5:14: Sent. Kelly Ayotte (R-NY) previously said “I am convinced we must take this limited military action against the Assad regime’s military capabilities.”, but tells the Hill today she’s undecided.

5:34: Ben Cardin (D-MD) tweets that although he voted for attacking Syria in committee but now “I have concerns about action, right now we need to deal with #Syria via diplomacy if possible.” Moving him to undecided because it sounds like he wouldn’t support a vote if it was taken this week.

6:02: Johnny Isakson (R-GA) goes from undecided to firm nay, per the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Everyone was watching the Senators from the defense contractor states as the canaries in the coal mine. If guys like Shelby, Isakson, Sessions et al started going against, it would be taken as a sign that it was all over.

6:26: Majority Leader Harry Reid did not file cloture today, which means there will not be a vote on Wednesday in the Senate.

Mind you, this national security team is capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. All we have at this juncture is an agreement in principle. This deal could still fall apart. Nevertheless, this is huge progress relative to where things stood 24 hours ago.

So who has won and lost? A starter list, readers invited to contribute in comments:

LOSERS

John Kerry, big time. One Beltway insider says that Kerry has proven to be so inept that he doesn’t see how Kerry survives. Obama needs to get rid of Kerry to preserve his credibility. The problem is you can also say the same of Samantha Powers and Susan Rice. But Politico also has a piece up on Kerry’s actions today, which it tries to frame charitably as, “Throughout his career, Kerry’s had a problem with words.” This piece reads like a PR plant to try to salvage Kerry and Rice. My Beltway sources think he’s become too toxic to be redeemed, but the Politico reporting may persuade people removed from the action otherwise. It could also have the nasty side effect of emboldening the national security team that can’t shoot straight at precisely the wrong moment.

AIPAC. I can’t recall AIPAC ever taking such a visible defeat. But the Israel lobby’s eventual decline is inevitable. Young Jews poll as not having much affinity for Israel, and many are firmly opposed to its policies in Palestine. Indeed, I’ve long suspected that Israel’s efforts to escalate against Iran aren’t driven as much by Iran’s projected timetable for nuclear development as by the recognition that demographic change in the US means its days of being able to rely on the US as a staunch ally are numbered.

The Saudis.

Al Quaeda.

The Syrian opposition. Lambert: “Where were the spokesmen? The exiled government? (And IIRC, check me, the video shown on Capitol Hill was a year old. WTF?)”

The War Party is a loser. Whoever propagated the phrase “The War Party” is a winner.

Obama. As one political expert put it, “This was a wild and confused routine. Obama comes out looking stupid. But he would have lost ten times as much if the US had launched airstrikes.” A Congressional staffer said, “Obama ‘s been amazingly inept, but at least we now know he isn’t self-destructive. But he will no longer have any real influence on policy.”

David Cameron is a loser or more accurately, more of a loser.

WINNERS

Putin. The score so far is Putin 2, Obama 0. And Putin’s wins against the world’s only, and widely resented superpower has boosted his stature considerably.

Alan Grayson. Grayson was out early and aggressively against attacking Syria. He went toe-to-toe against the White House and won. Admittedly, the Russia move was a lucky break, but Grayson was also doing a good deal behind the scenes to whip opposition to the AUMF. He’s taken vocal stances on two major issues, financial services reform and US adventurism in the Middle East, which now gives him a considerable authority in the House.

Justin Amash. Amash was less visible on Syria than in the fight against the NSA, but he was still an important player and garnered more power and political good karma points.

Assad. He’ll be negotiated with as a ruling head of state.

Charlie Rose. Lambert: “Nice get on the Assad interview, and who was the genius PR shop that booked it?!”

Larry Summers. If Obama has pushed ahead on Syria, either with no Congressional vote or only Senate approval, the liberals and Republicans would be hopping mad and the widely-anticipated Summers nomination would be an obvious way to retaliate. That does not mean Summers is a shoe-in, but the revenge motive will at least be out of the picture.

Syrian civilians who would be collateral damage in the alternative future with war.

War-weary American voters and US soldiers.

Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/09/obama-blinks-on-syria-who-won-and-lost.html#QVuKKRgV7d1j2yEl.99

Sep
01

Middle East Experts Jeff Blankfort and Gilbert Mercier Part 4

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Co-Host Kathleen Wells

Sep
01

Middle East Experts Jeff Blankfort and Gilbert Mercier Part 3

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Co-Host Kathleen Wells

Sep
01

Middle East Experts Jeff Blankfort and Gilbert Mercier Part 2

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Co-Host Kathleen Wells

Sep
01

KCAA Radio Show Part 1 w/ Middle East Experts Jeff Blankfort and Gilbert Mercier

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Co-Host Kathleen Wells

Sep
01

Urgent Urgent Urgent! Dempsey Stops WW3

 

Barack Obama, Martin Dempsey

September 1-2, 2013 – Special Weekend Report. Washington, DC  (WMR) Obama caved under last-minute pressure from Dempsey

WMR’s White House sources report that on the evening of Friday, August 29, President Obama was on track to launch a sustained 72-hour cruise missile and drone attack on pre-selected air defense and other strategic military targets in Syria.

Obama had been convinced by his national security adviser Susan Rice, UN ambassador Samantha Power, and deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, all “Responsibility to Protect” advocates, that he could trump congressional approval for his attack by claiming that humanitarian operations do not require approval under the War Powers Resolution or Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

Many of Washington’s insiders went to bed Friday night firmly convinced that Obama would give the final order to attack Syria sometime during the early Saturday morning hours of August 30. However, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey. made a hurried trip to the White House during the early morning hours of Saturday to make one last final plea to hold off on any attack.
WMR has learned from White House sources that Dempsey told Obama that the president’s plan would not work. “If you do this, the plan will fail and you’ll get in deeper. And without congressional approval, you’ll be screwed,” Dempsey told Obama.
Dempsey’s  warning about Congress had merit. Already, 210 House members signed a letter to Obama warning him not to attack Syria without congressional authorization. In addition, a head count showed that some Democrats would join Republicans in voting for impeachment if a bill were introduced.

Dempsey’s argument prevailed and  Obama decided to hold off on any attack until Congress reconvenes after Labor Day. Obama decided he would seek a congressional vote to authorize a military strike on Syria, However, in overriding Rice, Power, Rhodes, and Secretary of State John Kerry, who all favored a military strike, Dempsey incurred the wrath of the R2P faction that dominates the National Security Council. State Department sources began spreading the word that Obama would still attack Syria without congressional approval. The Pentagon, on the other hand, pointed out that none of the National Security Council “heavies,” Rice, Power, or Rhodes had any military experience and that Kerry was channeling the wishes of his good friend Senator John McCain, who has consistently supported Al Qaeda-led rebels in Syria and Libya.

Obama has faced with another grim reality. Some within the Pentagon ranks are so displeased with Obama’s policies on Syria, they have let certain members of Congress of both parties know that “smoking gun” proof exists that Obama and CIA director John O. Brennan personally authorized the transfer of arms and personnel from Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al Sharia Islamist rebels in Libya to Syria’s Jabhat al Nusra rebels, who are also linked to Al Qaeda, in what amounts to an illegal “Iran-contra”-like scandal. The proof is said to be highly “impeachable.”

The developing scandal involves Turkish, Qatari, Lebanese, and Croatian firms and front operations; Qatar Airways Cargo; ousted officials of the Mohamed Morsi government of Egypt; small Turkish and Jordanian air service companies contracted by the CIA; Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud; the September 11, 2012 attack on the CIA annex in Benghazi; and “black” carve-out contracts with the U.S. Air Force.
Barack Obama, right, dressed as a Somali Elder during his visit to Kenya, near the borders with Somalia and Ethiopia.
Obama plays the role of Al Qaeda arms provider.

Obama’s, Brennan’s, and then-CIA director David Petraeus’s knowledge of the operation was so intimate, Petraeus visited GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in October of last year to plead with him not to bring up the covert operation in the third presidential debate. Romney acceded to Petraeus’s request.