TBR News October 19, 2015

Oct 19 2015

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. October 19, 2015: “The situation in the Middle East is volatile in the extreme.

The Sunni Muslim Saudis are the ones who have funded ISIS to attack the hated Shi’ite Muslims in Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The US supplied weapons and the CIA trained the ISIS people but then matters got out of control and ISIS ran amok, butchering everyone in sight and destroying historical monuments.

The US has probably the most inept intelligence organizations on the globe and the leadership, so-called, in Washington, is equally inept. Obama shifts this way and that, influenced by different power groups. The one important shift in his policies is anti-Israel in nature.

Once, the Jewish community had considerable political influence in the United States because they owned almost all the American print and television media. With the advent of the Internet, the public turned away from this media and it no longer has much effect on the American public.

And the Israeli Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu, is a fat, vicious cross-dresser who is constantly threatening the Arab population of the area and has now, in a stroke of moronic brilliance, begun to attack and close down very sacred Muslim religious sites in Jerusalem.

The eruptions of savage violence by young Arabs against the Ashkenazi Jewish population are spontaneous and growing.

The Israeli response, typical of the people, is more repression and more provocations until it is clearly obvious that very soon a spontaneous jihad will break out and many, many Israelis will die.

So, of course, will many Arabs but note that they outnumber the Israelis by 30 to 1 and though many die, in the end, Israel will become a smoking charnel house.

And further south, the Russians are backing anti-Saud groups and arming them for the intended overthrow of the Saud dynasty.

And what will the US do about all of this?

Leap futilely up and down, hooting like hungry monkeys in the zoo at feeding time, filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing. 

Russian Military Uses Syria as Proving Ground, and West Takes Notice

October.14, 2015

by Steven Lee Myers and Eric Schmitt 

New York Times

WASHINGTON — Two weeks of air and missile strikes in Syria have given Western intelligence and military officials a deeper appreciation of the transformation that Russia’s military has undergone under President Vladimir V. Putin, showcasing its ability to conduct operations beyond its borders and providing a public

demonstration of new weaponry, tactics and strategy.

The strikes have involved aircraft never before tested in combat, including the Sukhoi Su-34 strike fighter, which NATO calls the Fullback, and a ship-based cruise missile fired more than 900 miles from the Caspian Sea, which, according to some analysts, surpasses the American equivalent in technological capability.

Russia’s jets have struck in support of Syrian ground troops advancing from areas under the control of the Syrian government, and might soon back an Iranian-led offensive that appeared to be forming in the northern province of Aleppo on Wednesday. That coordination reflects what American officials described as months of meticulous planning behind Russia’s first military campaign outside former Soviet borders since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Taken together, the operations reflect what officials and analysts described as a little-noticed — and still incomplete — modernization that has been underway in Russia for several years, despite strains on the country’s budget. And that, as with Russia’s intervention in neighboring Ukraine, has raised alarms in the West.

In a report this month for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Gustav Gressel argued that Mr. Putin had overseen the most rapid transformation of the country’s armed forces since the 1930s. “Russia is now a military power that could overwhelm any of its neighbors, if they were isolated from Western support,” wrote Mr. Gressel, a former officer of the Austrian military.

Russia’s fighter jets are, for now at least, conducting nearly as many strikes in a typical day against rebel troops opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the American-led coalition targeting the Islamic State has been carrying out each month this year.

The operation in Syria — still relatively limited — has become, in effect, a testing ground for an increasingly confrontational and defiant Russia under Mr. Putin. In fact, as Mr. Putin himself suggested on Sunday, the operation could be intended to send a message to the United States and the West about the restoration of the country’s military prowess and global reach after decades of post-Soviet decay.

“It is one thing for the experts to be aware that Russia supposedly has these weapons, and another thing for them to see for the first time that they do really exist, that our defense industry is making them, that they are of high quality and that we have well-trained people who can put them to effective use,” Mr. Putin said in an interview broadcast on state television. “They have seen, too, now that Russia is ready to use them if this is in the interests of our country and our people.”

Russia’s swift and largely bloodless takeover of Crimea in 2014 was effectively a stealth operation, while its involvement in eastern Ukraine, though substantial, was conducted in secrecy and obfuscated by official denials of direct Russian involvement. The bombings in Syria, by contrast, are being conducted openly and are being documented with great fanfare by the Ministry of Defense in Moscow, which distributes targeting video in the way the Pentagon did during the Persian Gulf war in 1991.

That has also given officials and analysts far greater insight into a military that for nearly a quarter-century after the collapse of the Soviet Union was seen as a decaying, insignificant force, one so hobbled by aging systems and so consumed by corruption that it posed little real threat beyond its borders.

We’re learning more than we have in the last 10 years,” said Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, noting the use of the new strike fighters and the new cruise missile, known as the Kalibr. “As it was described to me, we are going to school on what the Russian military is capable of today.”

The capabilities on display in Syria — and before that in Ukraine — are the fruits of Russia’s short, victorious war in Georgia in 2008. Although Russia crushed the American-trained forces of Georgia’s government, driving them from areas surrounding the breakaway region of South Ossetia, Russia’s ground and air forces performed poorly.

The Russians lost three fighter jets and a bomber on the first day of the war that August, and seven over all, according to an analysis conducted after the conflict. Russian ground forces suffered from poor coordination and communication, as well as episodes of so-called friendly fire.

In the war’s aftermath, Mr. Putin, then serving as prime minister, began a military modernization program that focused not only on high-profile procurement of new weapons — new aircraft, warships and missiles — but also on a less-noticed overhaul of training and organization that included a reduction in the bloated officer corps and the development of a professional corps of noncommissioned officers.

Russian military spending bottomed out in the mid-1990s but has risen steadily under Mr. Putin and, despite the falling price of oil and international sanctions imposed after the annexation of Crimea, it has surged to its highest level in a quarter-century, reaching $81 billion, or 4.2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, a common measure of military expenditure.

The Russian advancements go beyond new weaponry, reflecting an increase in professionalism and readiness. Russia set up its main operations at an air base near Latakia in northwestern Syria in a matter of three weeks, dispatching more than four dozen combat planes and helicopters, scores of tanks and armored vehicles, rocket and artillery systems, air defenses and portable housing for as many as 2,000 troops. It was Moscow’s largest deployment to the Middle East since the Soviet Union deployed in Egypt in the 1970s.

What continues to impress me is their ability to move a lot of stuff real far, real fast,” Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of United States Army forces in Europe, said in an interview.

Since its air campaign started on Sept. 30, Russia has quickly ramped up its airstrikes from a handful each day to nearly 90 on some days, using more than a half-dozen types of guided and unguided munitions, including fragmentary bombs and bunker busters for hardened targets, American analysts said.

Russia is not only bringing some of its most advanced hardware to the fight, it has also deployed large field kitchens and even dancers and singers to entertain the troops — all signs that Moscow is settling in for the long haul, American analysts said.

They brought the whole package,” said Jeffrey White, a former Middle East analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “It showed me they could deploy a decent-sized expeditionary force.”

For now, Russia’s focus in Syria is mainly an air campaign with some 600 marines on the ground to protect the air base in Latakia. Mr. Putin has excluded the idea of sending in a larger ground force to assist the Syrians.

Michael Kofman, an analyst with the CNA Corporation, a nonprofit research institute, and a fellow at the Kennan Institute in Washington who studies the Russian military, said that the operations over Syria showed that Russia has caught up to the capabilities the United States has used in combat since the 1990s. That nonetheless represented significant progress given how far behind the Russians had fallen.

Conducting night strikes, with damage assessments by drones, is a tangible leap for Russia into a mix of 1990s and even current Western combat ability,” he said.

The Russian Air Force suffered a series of training accidents over the spring and summer — losing at least five aircraft in a matter of months — which Mr. Kofman described as “teething pains” as pilots increased operating tempo under Mr. Putin’s orders. Even so, Russia’s aviation is “often painted in the West as some sort of Potemkin village, which is not the case.”

He and others said that the biggest surprise so far has been the missile technology on display. The cruise missiles fired from Russian frigates and destroyers in the Caspian Sea were first tested only in 2012. With a range said to reach 900 miles, they had not been used in combat before, and despite the loss of four cruise missiles that crashed in Iran in one salvo, they represent a technological leap that could prove worrisome for military commanders in NATO. He noted that the advances in missile technologies improved the precision and firepower even of aging Soviet-era ships or aircraft.

This is an amazingly capable new weapon,” he added.

Russia’s state television network boasted on Monday that from the Caspian, they could reach the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula and the “entire Mediterranean Sea.” It went on to note that trials of the missiles were underway aboard two ships in the Black Sea, which is bordered by three NATO allies: Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania.

The Moskva, a guided-missile cruiser that is the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, based in the newly annexed Crimea, has also deployed with other ships off the coast of Syria, providing air defenses for the aircraft and troops Russia has deployed. Those missiles effectively protect the skies over Syrian territory under control of the government from aerial incursions, and all but block the establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria, as many have called for.

American officials say Russia has closely coordinated with its allies to plan its current fight. Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the head of Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force, went to Moscow in late July in an apparent effort to coordinate on the Russian offensive in Syria, and he is also spearheading the Iranian effort to assist Iraqi militias. “The broad outlines were decided months ago,” said Lt. Gen. Richard P. Zahner, formerly the Army’s top intelligence officer in Europe and in Iraq.

American officials, while impressed with how quickly Russia dispatched its combat planes and helicopters to Syria, said air power had been used to only a fraction of its potential, with indiscriminate fire common and precision-guided munitions used sparingly. It is clear the Russians are already harvesting lessons from the campaign to apply to their other military operations, said David A. Deptula, a retired three-star Air Force general who planned the American air campaigns in 2001 in Afghanistan and in the gulf war.

“Essentially,” he said, “Russia is using their incursion into Syria as an operational proving ground.”

US fears Putin success in Syria

October 16,, 2015

by Finian Cunningham


The US and its allies would like to see Russia’s military operations in Syria go horribly wrong as Russia’s success heralds a crushing defeat for Western regime-change machinations. It would also signal the balance of power shifting away from US hegemony.

Last week, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter darkly predicted that Russia would suffer blowback from its intervention in Syria with acts of terrorism being committed on “Russian soil.”

Within days for Carter’s pointed warning, Russian authorities arrested a jihadist cell in Moscow plotting terror attacks. This week, the Russian embassy in Damascus came under fire from two mortar shells – an attack which Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov quickly condemned as an act of terrorism.

It might be assumed that Washington has taken some nefarious satisfaction over what appears to be a harbinger of the terror blowback Carter warned of.

From the outset of Russia’s aerial bombing campaign against terror groups in Syria, beginning on September 30, Washington and its Western allies have sought all possible ways of discrediting and derailing the intervention. US President Obama poured scorn saying “it was doomed to fail,” while Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron labeled the Russian move as “a grave mistake” on the part of Putin.

This week, European Union foreign ministers amplified American claims that Russian air strikes are targeting “moderate rebels” and called on Moscow to halt its operations unless they are specifically against Islamic State and other “UN-designated terror networks.” The credibility of American and European claims about Russian air strikes is, of course, highly questionable.

But the point here is that it is becoming glaringly obvious that Washington and its allies want to make as much trouble for Russia’s military intervention in Syria. Why is the West going out of its way to thwart Russia’s intervention?

As has been widely documented, the notion of “moderate rebels” in Syria is something of a fiction peddled by Western governments and their media to provide cover for Western support to foreign mercenaries fighting illegally in Syria to topple the sovereign government. Russia’s Sergey Lavrov last week dismissed the supposed moderate ‘Free Syrian Army’ – much lionized by the West – as a “phantom”. This view was confirmed this week by Britain’s former ambassador to Syria Peter Ford, who said “virtually all the opposition armed groups in Syrian are Islamist radicals, either ISIS [Islamic State] or interchangeable with ISIS.”

One reason why the West is gagging to see a Russian failure in Syria is simply because Putin’s intervention is being so effective in destroying the terror networks, whether they be associated with Islamic State or the plethora of Al-Qaeda-affiliated mercenaries. The latter include brigades from the so-called Free Syrian Army which share weapons and fighters with the Al-Qaeda franchises of Al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Shams and Jaish al-Fatah, among others.

If we assess the four-year conflict in Syria as being the result of a Western-backed covert war for regime change, then it follows that the foreign mercenary groups fighting in Syria are Western assets. We know this because the former head of the US Defence Intelligence Agency, Lt General Michael Flynn has candidly disclosed that the Obama administration made a “willful decision” to sponsor the extremist groups for the purpose of regime change.

So Russia’s effective anti-terror operations – as opposed to the year-long ineffectual US-led so-called anti-terror coalition – are causing angst among Washington and its allies precisely because Moscow is helping to destroy Western regime-change assets. Don’t forget that billions of dollars have been “invested” by Washington, Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to overthrow the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, partly in order to undermine his allies in Russia and Iran.

Another reason for Western vexation over Russia’s intervention in Syria is that it is exposing the fraudulence and criminality of the Western powers and their regional client regimes. Russia is conducting operations that are lawful under international law with the full consent of the Syrian government – unlike the US-led coalition which is bombing the country illegally. Vladimir Putin has cogently delineated the all-important legal difference. From the Western viewpoint, this exposure of their depredations is intolerable. That is partly why Washington and its European minions are desperate to discredit Moscow in Syria. But they are failing.

Even the Western media has had to report on the rising popular support for Russia across the Middle East. The Washington Post this week headlined: ‘Amid Russian air strikes, a Putin craze takes hold in Mideast’. The paper reported how the Arab Street – from Syria to Egypt, Iraq to Lebanon – is celebrating Vladimir Putin as a hero because of Russia’s decisive anti-terror operations.

“Posters of Putin are popping up on cars and billboards elsewhere in parts of Syria and Iraq, praising the Russian military intervention in Syria as one that will redress the balance of power in the region,” says the Post. The paper goes on: “The Russian leader is winning accolades from many in Iraq and Syria, who see Russian airstrikes in Syria as a turning point after more than a year of largely ineffectual efforts by the US-led coalition to dislodge Islamic State militants who have occupied significant parts of the two countries.”

Three days after Russia began its anti-terror campaign in Syria, Obama made a curious offer to Putin. On October 3, CNN reported the American president saying that the US was willing to cooperate with Russia “but only if that plan includes removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” If Russia did not go along with this scheme to unseat Assad, then Obama “warned Russia’s air campaign would only lead to further bloodshed and bog down Moscow.” Russia, he said, would become “stuck in a quagmire.”

Putin has since stated unequivocally that Assad is the legitimate president of Syria and that Russia’s intervention is aimed at supporting his sovereign government. In other words, Obama’s offer of a regime change “pact” was repudiated.

Ominously, this week the New York Times reported that militants in Syria “are receiving for the first time bountiful supplies of powerful American-made anti-tank missiles.” The paper notes: “With the enhanced insurgent firepower and with Russia steadily raising the number of airstrikes against the [Assad] government’s opponents, the Syrian conflict is edging closer to an all-out proxy war between the United States and Russia.”

Washington wants, and needs, Russia to fail in Syria. Given the stakes of America’s dirty war, not just in Syria but across the region, Russia’s success would be too much to bear for Washington’s hegemonic ambitions.

US forces in Afghanistan knew Kunduz site was hospital – report

October 15 , 2015


New information suggests the US deliberately targeted the Kunduz hospital, killing 22 patients and staff, despite knowing it was a protected medical site.

US special operations analysts investigated the hospital for days prior to the deadly October 3 attack, describing the hospital as a base of operations for a Pakistani agent coordinating Taliban activities, AP has learned from a former intelligence official familiar with the documents.

The site, operated by Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF), was attacked five times in the span of an hour by a C-130 gunship, despite repeated pleas by the MSF to US forces. MSF officials described repeated strafing runs against the main hospital building, which housed the emergency room and the intensive care unit. No surrounding buildings were hit, they say.

The new details suggest “that the hospital was intentionally targeted,” Meinie Nicolai of MSF told the AP by email. “This would amount to a premeditated massacre,” she added.

According to AP’s source, intelligence reports suggested the hospital was being used as a Taliban command and control center and a repository for heavy weapons. MSF insists that no weapons were allowed in the hospital. While the US military has claimed that US and Afghan forces came under fire from the hospital, Afghan hospital employees told AP that no one had fired from the building

MSF staff “reported a calm night and that there were no armed combatants, nor active fighting in or from the compound prior to the airstrikes,” Nicolai told AP.

The US military initially reported the air strike was conducted “in the vicinity” of the MSF medical facility, targeting the Taliban who were fighting US and Afghan forces, and that the strike “may have resulted in collateral damage “ to the hospital.

Two days later, General John F. Campbell, commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, said the Afghan forces had requested air support because “they were taking fire from enemy positions” and said that “several civilians were accidentally struck” in the air strike.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee the following day, however, Campbell described the strike as a decision by US officers, adding there was a special operations unit in the area that was in contact with the gunship. “A hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility,” he said.

US forces in Afghanistan have been authorized to make “condolence payments” to the victims’ families and payments to MSF in order to repair the hospital, the Pentagon said on October 11. The US and Afghan governments have also launched internal investigations into the deadly attack. However, MSF insists on an independent investigation, and has described the hospital bombing as a war crime.

Pentagon officials declined to comment on the AP report.

Palestinians set fire to Jewish shrine; Israeli soldier stabbed

October 16, 2015

by Ari Rabinovitch


JERUSALEM –Palestinians set fire to a Jewish shrine in the occupied West Bank, and an attacker disguised as a journalist stabbed an Israeli soldier on Friday as tensions ran high after more than two weeks of violence.

Shortly after the arson attack on the tomb of biblical patriarch Joseph, Palestinian protesters threw stones over the border of the Gaza Strip at Israeli forces who fired back, killing two and wounding scores of others in the crowd, Palestinian medical officials said.

The worst outbreak in bloodshed in months has killed at least 37 Palestinians, including attackers and children in assaults and confrontations, and seven Israelis in stabbings and other attacks on buses and in the streets.The latest round of violence has been partly fueled by Palestinian anger at what they see as increased Jewish encroachment on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, holy to both Muslims and Jews.

Many Israelis fear it is building into a full Palestinian intifada or uprising while Palestinian leaders have said a Israeli security crackdown amounts to collective punishment that will provoke more violence. Israel’s military said about 100 people converged on Joseph’s tomb in the Palestinian city of Nablus and set parts of it ablaze before Palestinian security forces arrived and pushed them back.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack on the shrine, venerated for centuries by Jews, Samaritans, Christians and Muslims, and ordered repairs and an investigation.

The Drone Papers

October 15, 2015

by Jeremy Scahill

The Intercept

From his first days as commander in chief, the drone has been President Barack Obama’s weapon of choice, used by the military and the CIA to hunt down and kill the people his administration has deemed — through secretive processes, without indictment or trial — worthy of execution. There has been intense focus on the technology of remote killing, but that often serves as a surrogate for what should be a broader examination of the state’s power over life and death.

Drones are a tool, not a policy. The policy is assassination. While every president since Gerald Ford has upheld an executive order banning assassinations by U.S. personnel, Congress has avoided legislating the issue or even defining the word “assassination.” This has allowed proponents of the drone wars to rebrand assassinations with more palatable characterizations, such as the term du jour, “targeted killings.”

When the Obama administration has discussed drone strikes publicly, it has offered assurances that such operations are a more precise alternative to boots on the ground and are authorized only when an “imminent” threat is present and there is “near certainty” that the intended target will be eliminated. Those terms, however, appear to have been bluntly redefined to bear almost no resemblance to their commonly understood meanings.

The first drone strike outside of a declared war zone was conducted more than 12 years ago, yet it was not until May 2013 that the White House released a set of standards and procedures for conducting such strikes. Those guidelines offered little specificity, asserting that the U.S. would only conduct a lethal strike outside of an “area of active hostilities” if a target represents a “continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons,” without providing any sense of the internal process used to determine whether a suspect should be killed without being indicted or tried. The implicit message on drone strikes from the Obama administration has been one of trust, but don’t verify.

The Intercept has obtained a cache of secret slides that provides a window into the inner workings of the U.S. military’s kill/capture operations at a key time in the evolution of the drone wars — between 2011 and 2013. The documents, which also outline the internal views of special operations forces on the shortcomings and flaws of the drone program, were provided by a source within the intelligence community who worked on the types of operations and programs described in the slides. The Intercept granted the source’s request for anonymity because the materials are classified and because the U.S. government has engaged in aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers. The stories in this series will refer to the source as “the source.”

The source said he decided to provide these documents to The Intercept because he believes the public has a right to understand the process by which people are placed on kill lists and ultimately assassinated on orders from the highest echelons of the U.S. government. “This outrageous explosion of watchlisting — of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield — it was, from the very first instance, wrong,” the source said.

We’re allowing this to happen. And by ‘we,’ I mean every American citizen who has access to this information now, but continues to do nothing about it.”

The Pentagon, White House, and Special Operations Command all declined to comment. A Defense Department spokesperson said, “We don’t comment on the details of classified reports.”

The CIA and the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) operate parallel drone-based assassination programs, and the secret documents should be viewed in the context of an intense internal turf war over which entity should have supremacy in those operations. Two sets of slides focus on the military’s high-value targeting campaign in Somalia and Yemen as it existed between 2011 and 2013, specifically the operations of a secretive unit, Task Force 48-4.

Additional documents on high-value kill/capture operations in Afghanistan buttress previous accounts of how the Obama administration masks the true number of civilians killed in drone strikes by categorizing unidentified people killed in a strike as enemies, even if they were not the intended targets. The slides also paint a picture of a campaign in Afghanistan aimed not only at eliminating al Qaeda and Taliban operatives, but also at taking out members of other local armed groups.

One top-secret document shows how the terror “watchlist” appears in the terminals of personnel conducting drone operations, linking unique codes associated with cellphone SIM cards and handsets to specific individuals in order to geolocate them.

The costs to intelligence gathering when suspected terrorists are killed rather than captured are outlined in the slides pertaining to Yemen and Somalia, which are part of a 2013 study conducted by a Pentagon entity, the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Task Force. The ISR study lamented the limitations of the drone program, arguing for more advanced drones and other surveillance aircraft and the expanded use of naval vessels to extend the reach of surveillance operations necessary for targeted strikes. It also contemplated the establishment of new “politically challenging” airfields and recommended capturing and interrogating more suspected terrorists rather than killing them in drone strikes.

The ISR Task Force at the time was under the control of Michael Vickers, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Vickers, a fierce proponent of drone strikes and a legendary paramilitary figure, had long pushed for a significant increase in the military’s use of special operations forces. The ISR Task Force is viewed by key lawmakers as an advocate for more surveillance platforms like drones.

The ISR study also reveals new details about the case of a British citizen, Bilal el-Berjawi, who was stripped of his citizenship before being killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2012. British and American intelligence had Berjawi under surveillance for several years as he traveled back and forth between the U.K. and East Africa, yet did not capture him. Instead, the U.S. hunted him down and killed him in Somalia.

Taken together, the secret documents lead to the conclusion that Washington’s 14-year high-value targeting campaign suffers from an overreliance on signals intelligence, an apparently incalculable civilian toll, and — due to a preference for assassination rather than capture — an inability to extract potentially valuable intelligence from terror suspects. They also highlight the futility of the war in Afghanistan by showing how the U.S. has poured vast resources into killing local insurgents, in the process exacerbating the very threat the U.S. is seeking to confront.

These secret slides help provide historical context to Washington’s ongoing wars, and are especially relevant today as the U.S. military intensifies its drone strikes and covert actions against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Those campaigns, like the ones detailed in these documents, are unconventional wars that employ special operations forces at the tip of the spear.

The “find, fix, finish” doctrine that has fueled America’s post-9/11 borderless war is being refined and institutionalized. Whether through the use of drones, night raids, or new platforms yet to be unleashed, these documents lay bare the normalization of assassination as a central component of U.S. counterterrorism policy.

The military is easily capable of adapting to change, but they don’t like to stop anything they feel is making their lives easier, or is to their benefit. And this certainly is, in their eyes, a very quick, clean way of doing things. It’s a very slick, efficient way to conduct the war, without having to have the massive ground invasion mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan,” the source said. “But at this point, they have become so addicted to this machine, to this way of doing business, that it seems like it’s going to become harder and harder to pull them away from it the longer they’re allowed to continue operating in this way.”

The articles in The Drone Papers were produced by a team of reporters and researchers from The Intercept that has spent months analyzing the documents. The series is intended to serve as a long-overdue public examination of the methods and outcomes of America’s assassination program. This campaign, carried out by two presidents through four presidential terms, has been shrouded in excessive secrecy. The public has a right to see these documents not only to engage in an informed debate about the future of U.S. wars, both overt and covert, but also to understand the circumstances under which the U.S. government arrogates to itself the right to sentence individuals to death without the established checks and balances of arrest, trial, and appeal.

Palestinians set fire to Jewish shrine; Israeli soldier stabbed

‘America is a bomb waiting to explode’

October 18, 2015

by Sam Gerrans


The United States is in decline. While not all major shocks to the system will be devastating, when the right one comes along, the outcome may be dramatic.

Not all explosives are the same. We all know you have to be careful with dynamite. Best to handle it gently and not smoke while you’re around it.

Semtex is different. You can drop it. You can throw it. You can put it in the fire. Nothing will happen. Nothing until you put the right detonator in it, that is.

To me, the US – and most of the supposedly free West – increasingly looks like a truck being systematically filled with Semtex.

But it’s easy to counter cries of alarm with the fact that the truck is stable – because it’s true: you can hurl more boxes into the back without any real danger. Absent the right detonator, it is no more dangerous than a truckload of mayonnaise.

But add the right detonator and you’re just one click away from complete devastation.

We can see how fragile the U.S. is now by considering just four tendencies.

1. Destruction of farms and reliable food source

The average American is a long way from food when the shops are closed.

The Washington Post reports that the number of farms in the country has fallen by some 4 million from more than 6 million in 1935 to roughly 2 million in 2012.

And according to the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, only about 2 percent of the US population live on farms.

That means that around 4.6 million people currently have the means to feed themselves.

Food supply logistics are extended, sometimes stretching thousands of miles. The shops have nothing more than a few days’ stock. A simple break in that supply line would clear the shops out in days.

2. Weak economic system

The American economic system is little more than froth.

The US currency came off the gold standard in 1933 and severed any link with gold in 1971. Since then, the currency has been essentially linked to oil, the value of which has been protected and held together by wars.

The whole world has had enough of the US and its hubris – not least the people of the US themselves, which the massive support currently for Putin’s decision to deal with ISIS demonstrates.

Since pro-active war is what keeps the US going, if it loses the monopoly on that front, its decline is inevitable.

Fiat economies always collapse. They last on average for 37 years. By that metric the US should have already run out of gas.

Once people wake up and smell the Yuan, the Exodus out of the dollar will be unstoppable.

3. Americans increasingly on mind-altering drugs

According to the Scientific American, use of antidepressants among the US population was up 400 percent in the late 2000s over the 1990s. Many of these drugs are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

These are the type of FDA-approved narcotics lone gunmen are frequently associated with, and their psychoses often attributed to a forced or sudden withdrawal from such drugs.

Pharmaceuticals are produced at centralized points by companies which themselves rely on extended logistics systems both to produce and to deliver their output. If the logistics system fails, there’s no more supply.

4. Morals in decline

During the objective hardship of the 1930s, there was surprisingly little crime. People were brought up with a conception of morals and right and wrong. Frugality and prudence were prized virtues. Communities were generally fairly cohesive.

Relative to then, society today is undisciplined, unrealistic and selfish.

Around 250 million shoppers participated in the Black Friday sales in 2013 in which around USD 61 billion was spent on consumer items – up roughly 100 percent on 2006 figures.

Stampedes and even murders are not uncommon each year with people openly fighting each other over reduced-price items.

The goods bought in such sales tend to be non-essential and many of them are bought on credit cards which then have to be paid off at interest.

Part of the problem in what I have outlined above is that there is little explicit tension. Sure, it is depressing, vulgar and immoral. But it doesn’t look catastrophic. It looks normal.

My point is that just because US – and many other countries organised after the same template – do not look explosive, doesn’t mean they won’t blow up.

Whereas 80 years ago we could absorb major shocks, today we cannot.

5.Nowhere to run

In the past, people were in rural communities. They could grow food. They had real communities. They also had self-control and a conception of morality.

Today, if the supply lines go down, you are stuck in a house you can’t heat surrounded by millions of FDA-approved drug addicts who are going psycho because they have run out of juice and people who would murder their own grandmother to get a cut-price iPhone.

I would argue that the right shock event – or combination of shock events – will detonate the explosive.

Potential detonators happen all the time. Either they are contained or they are simply incompatible with the explosive or they don’t go off. But that doesn’t mean it’s never going to happen or that we are not sitting on a mountain of explosives.

There was one such potential detonator – which presently has not gone off – in the UK just last week.

The UK’s Independent reported Friday that experts were ‘staggered’ after Pauline Cafferkey – who had been brought to London of all places – rapidly declined after being declared cured from Ebola.

This woman had been allowed out into the community – still sick with Ebola – and managed to visited Mossneuk Primary School in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, on Monday to thank children for their fund-raising efforts.

We will assume these events have their origins in incompetence; the fact is: we have a woman dying from Ebola in the UK’s largest population center.

What if there is more incompetence?

Boris Johnson, the current Mayor of London, primed the British public for the possibility of Ebola in London just last week.

Perhaps he knows something we don’t.

What do you think will happen if people start dying from Ebola in London or New York? The natural response will be to get out of the urban centre as quickly as possible.

During the Great Plague of London of 1665, for example, Defoe wrote “Nothing was to be seen but wagons and carts, with goods, women, servants, children, coaches filled with people of the better sort, and horsemen attending them, and all hurrying away”.

Once the better off city people reach the countryside there will be instant resistance from the host population, not least because they will not want potentially infected people entering their communities.

Meanwhile, the poor people who are left in the cities will run out of food in short order as suppliers refuse to enter the city.

Those who fled London in 1665 had somewhere to go: they were returning to the fields that fed them.

Today, the fields which feed us are largely in other countries, and the ones which are in our own are mainly owned by large corporations.

I am not predicting exactly this scenario for the US or for any other country. I am saying that all the ingredients are there for complete breakdown and large-scale deaths given the right initiating incident.

I am saying that volatility is baked into the cake – even into the cake of what today looks and feels normal.

I am saying that while it may be possible to keep loading box upon box of societal Semtex into the truck, given the right detonator the collapse will be swift, unstoppable and devastating.

Syrian jihadists feud & bomb each other over funds as Russian jets destroy supply line

October 18, 2015


Russian attack jets have hit 51 Islamic State targets in Syria in the past 24 hours, including four command posts, six arms depots, a mortar battery, two underground bunkers, 32 field camps and six outposts.

The strikes took place in the Latakia, Aleppo, Hama and Damascus provinces.

The damage the Russian SU-34 jets caused to the underground bunkers was especially significant, Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said.

They hit the terrorists’ underground infrastructure in Homs, which had allowed the militants to move undetected and increase their effectiveness in combat.

The well-funded Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has been hiding whole weapons caches underground, which included explosive devices for carrying out terrorist attacks.

A small missile factory was among the objects destroyed. However, these underground bases and conduits are believed to be widespread across Syria, so more work needs to be done, Konashenkov says.

A frontline supply junction for transporting fuel, arms and food supply lines was also hit in the Damascus province.

The entire command infrastructure of one of the terrorist groups operating in the Hama province was disrupted by the strikes, sending the militants fleeing from the area, the Defense Ministry added.

According to information from the Russian armed forces, desertions on a massive scale are occurring amongst IS ranks in the north and north-east of the country. In the Raqqa province, IS has started a mobilization of everyone aged 14 and over.

In Idlib and Hama, field commanders with Al-Nusra Front are resorting to separating families at gunpoint in order to get their hands on ever younger child soldiers.

Fighting between different jihadist groups over territory control and funds are also on the rise, the Defense Ministry report states. Intercepted radio communications suggest that IS has targeted Al-Nusra Front with three car bombings in the past week.

IS leaders are demanding that their field commanders employ more car bombs and other home-made explosives against advancing Syrian forces, the report says.

Wal-Mart puts the squeeze on suppliers to share its pain as earnings sag

October 19, 2015

by Nathan Layne


Suppliers of everything from groceries to sports equipment are already being squeezed for price cuts and cost sharing by Wal-Mart Stores (WMT.N). Now they are bracing for the pressure to ratchet up even more after a shock earnings warning from the retailer last week.

The discount store behemoth has always had a reputation for demanding lower prices from vendors but Reuters has learned from interviews with suppliers and consultants, as well as reviewing some contracts, that even by its standards Wal-Mart has been turning up the heat on them this year.

“The ground is shaking here,” said Cameron Smith, head of Cameron Smith & Associates, a major recruiting firm for suppliers located close to Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. “Suppliers are going to have to help Wal-Mart get back on track.”

For the vendors, dealing with Wal-Mart has always been tough because of its size – despite recent troubles it still generates more than $340 billion of annual sales in the U.S. That accounts for more than 10 percent of the American retail market, excluding auto and restaurant sales, and the company increasingly sells a lot overseas too. To risk having brands kicked off Wal-Mart’s shelves because of a dispute over pricing can badly hurt a supplier.

On Wednesday, Wal-Mart stunned Wall Street by forecasting that its earnings would decline by as much as 12 percent in its next fiscal year to January 2017 as it struggles to offset rising costs from increases in the wages of its hourly-paid staff, improvements in its stores, and investments to grow online sales. This at a time when it faces relentless price competition from Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), dollar stores and regional supermarket chains. Keeping the prices it pays suppliers as low as it can is essential if it is to start to claw back some of this cost hit to its margins.

Helped by investments to spruce up stores and boost worker pay, Wal-Mart believes it can grow sales by 3 to 4 percent a year over the next three years, or by as much as $60 billion, offering suppliers new opportunities to boost their own revenues.


The squeeze on suppliers was clear to those selling to Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club warehouse clubs around April this year. Sam’s Club’s buyers summoned major vendors to meetings and told them a “cost gap analysis” showed they should be delivering at a lower price, and demanded millions of dollars in discounts on future purchases, according to emails reviewed by Reuters and interviews with suppliers and consultants involved in the talks.

Unlike in prior talks, which featured give and take, vendors were told they could not ask questions at the meetings, with queries to be handled later via email, according to suppliers and consultants involved in or briefed on the meetings. One food supplier, for example, eventually agreed to cut costs by a few percent, after being asked for a much larger reduction, people familiar with those talks said.

Sam’s Club said it is continually talking with suppliers in an effort to save costs and lower prices. Spokesman Bill Durling said the company, whose merchant teams are separate from those at the Walmart chain, had recently changed its structure so that one account head now manages the relationship across various products, with the ability to see across the work of multiple buyers. This was done with the aim of improving merchandise and wringing out efficiencies, he said.

“There might be unpleasant conversations but ultimately we want to do right by our suppliers because we want to create strategic relationships,” Durling said. “We want them to be along with us for the ride as we continue to grow.”


In June, vendors to Walmart stores got word of sweeping changes to supplier agreements that seek to extend payment terms in some cases and introduced new fees to warehouse goods and place product in new stores. Then, in recent weeks, Wal-Mart told suppliers producing in China they should share any benefit gained from the decline in the value of the Chinese yuan.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Deisha Barnett stressed that it sees its relationships with suppliers as critical to the company’s success. “We will work with every supplier to ensure that terms and agreements are mutually agreed upon,” she said.

Wal-Mart has told suppliers the new terms are aimed at helping it keep prices low, applying fees more consistently across vendors and bringing its practices in line with industry norms. The charges to store goods in distribution centers and for delivery to new stores are common at other retailers but had not normally been the case at Wal-Mart.

The moves followed February’s announcement that Wal-Mart would hike the minimum pay rate for its workers to $9 an hour by April, and to $10 by February 2016. The first move is costing $1.2 billion this year and the second an additional $1.5 billion next year, including other labor costs, such as placing more department managers in stores. The additional expense for its workers is accounting for 75 percent of the projected earnings decline in fiscal 2017.

Chief Executive Doug McMillon, who became CEO 18 months ago, and other executives said they are seeing a payoff in the form of improved customer service.

Greg Foran, head of the U.S. business, said on Wednesday the company has assessed that two-thirds of its 4,500-plus stores now have a “passing grade” in problem areas – cleanliness, checkout speed, and other factors affecting customer satisfaction. That is up from just 16 percent in February.

With its stores in better shape, Wal-Mart now is redoubling its focus on beating competitors on price. Over the next three years, the company said it would spend several billion dollars on keeping prices low.

Foran said vendors will benefit. “We lower the cost of goods, which in turn generates savings and we invest that in price. Lower prices see an increase in traffic and basket, which in turn grows sales and gains share,” Foran said.

Late last year Wal-Mart broke a stretch of six straight quarters without growth in same-store U.S. sales, and logged a 1.5 percent gain in its second quarter ending in July. But that falls short of Target Inc’s (TGT.N) 2.4 percent growth, and Kroger’s (KR.N) 5.3 percent increase, excluding results from sales of gasoline.


Wednesday’s announcement sent ripples through the supplier community in the Bentonville area, where more than 1,000 have offices to stay close to Wal-Mart.

“Now we know why they have been pushing so hard,” said an executive at a major consumer goods supplier to both Walmart and Sam’s Club, adding that his team was shocked by the projected decline in profits. “Maybe they were banking on more suppliers rolling over on the terms.”

Wal-Mart’s success in boosting profits could hinge in large part on the willingness of suppliers to sign on to its new terms and agree to its price demands. Despite signs of resistance, one consumer goods supplier reckons most will eventually give in to Wal-Mart’s market power, though not without a fight.

He pushed back after the retailer asked him for new terms that cut 2 percent off his annual sales. They settled on 1 percent, but he fears further demands down the road.

I just worry that this is a slippery slope of them going in this direction,” he said.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Chicago; Aditional reporting by Tim Aeppel in New York; Editing by Martin Howell)

US strike on Afghan hospital no mistake’ – Doctors Without Borders

19 Oct, 2015


The head of an international medical charity, whose hospital in northern Afghanistan was razed to the ground by a United States airstrike earlier this month, has claimed it may have been deliberate rather than accidental.

“The hospital was repeatedly hit both at the front and the rear and extensively destroyed and damaged, even though we have provided all the coordinates and all the right information to all the parties in the conflict,” Christopher Stokes, general director of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF) told AP.

“The extensive, quite precise destruction of this hospital … doesn’t indicate a mistake. The hospital was repeatedly hit,” he pointed out. The attack, in which the American Lockheed AC-130 gunship repeatedly bombed the hospital, lasted for over an hour despite calls to Afghan, US and NATO to stop it, MSF earlier said.

Repeatedly calling for an independent inquiry into the incident, Stokes told AP that MSF wanted a “clear explanation because all indications point to a grave breach of international humanitarian law, and therefore a war crime.”

The October 3 attack on the compound in the city of Kunduz had “mistakenly” killed 22 people.

Twelve of the victims killed in the bombing were MSF staff, the rest – their patients. The hospital is no longer in operation. The US Department of Defense has pledged to work on compensating the families of the victims killed in the attack.

Earlier this month US President Barack Obama apologized for the deadly airstrike, saying that the MSF hospital had been “mistakenly struck.” Previously, Washington’s official rhetoric embarrassingly changed on at least four times – from “not knowing for certain” that it had struck a hospital, at the same time as the US forces were “taking fire in Kunduz” to shifting the responsibility straight to the Afghan government for requesting the bombardment.

Finally General John Campbell, the commander of the US-NATO Afghan mission, clarified in mid-October that the strike had indeed been requested by Kabul, but that it had been US forces who had called in and directed the assault.

Despite the US military’s admission of their fatal mistake, MSF (a Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization that provides medical aid in conflict zones) has stressed it is not enough. According to the humanitarian organization, the assault simply could not have been accidental, as the hospital’s coordinates had been “regularly shared” with the military to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening.

MSF International President Joanne Liu has previously called for the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, established under the Geneva Convention, to be “activated” to look into the attack. MSF sent letters to the 76 countries that ratified the protocol setting up the commission in 1991. The problem is, neither the US, nor Afghanistan are signatories to the document.

According to AP, American special operations analysts were scrutinizing the Afghan hospital days before it was destroyed because they believed it was being used by a Pakistani operative to coordinate Taliban activity. The analysts knew it was a medical facility, according to a former intelligence official, familiar with some of the documents describing the site. It’s unclear whether that information ever reached commanders who unleashed the attack on the hospital.

MSF has denied there were any armed Taliban on the hospital grounds at the time of the US airstrike.

“The compound was not entered by Taliban soldiers with weapons,” Stokes said. “What we have understood from our staff and guards is that there was very strong, very good control of what was happening in and around the compound and they reported no firing in the hours preceding the destruction of the hospital.”

He said that over 70 staff members were on duty, tending to more than 100 patients at the time.

According to Doctors Without Borders officials, the US gunship made five separate bombing runs over the course of an hour, directing heavy fire on the main hospital building, which contained the emergency room and intensive care unit.

Stokes said that “until we understand what happened and we can gain guarantees that this unacceptable attack cannot happen again, we cannot reopen and put our staff in danger.”

The Afghan authorities have refused to comment before official investigations are completed. President Ashraf Ghani’s deputy spokesman told reporters on Saturday that the Afghan government has “faith” in investigations conducted by the US military and by a joint Afghan-NATO team.

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