As the US and Europe prepare another round of sanctions against Russia over the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, the third round of such sanctions since the conflict began shortly after the Euromaidan unrest resulted in the installation of a NATO-backed regime in Kiev, a curious and inexplicable oversight appears to have been made.
While wild accusations have been leveled against Russia over its involvement over the violence in Ukraine, claims ranging from covert support up to and including unsubstantiated claims of a “full scale invasion,” prominent media organizations across the Western world have for years reported a flow of cash, weapons, equipment and fighters from America’s allies in the Persian Gulf as well as from nations like NATO member Turkey, and into the conflict raging within Syria’s borders.
While baseless claims leveled against Russia have served as ample justification for the West to continue leveling sanctions against Moscow, no sanctions have as of yet been leveled against the overt sponsors of militancy and, in fact, terrorism in Syria. So widespread has state-sponsored terrorism become in the Middle East that what began as a limited proxy war against Syria has transformed into an immense regional army with tens of thousands of paid soldiers requiring millions of dollars a day to operate across multiple borders and confounding the forces of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon combined.
ISIS is State-Sponsored, So Why Aren’t These States Being Sanctioned?
Clearly, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria also known as ISIS or ISIL, are the benefactors of vast state-sponsorship and yet the West has not identified nor condemned these sponsors, let alone move toward leveling sanctions similar to what it is seeking to impose upon Moscow.
News articles by prominent British and American news outlets like the Daily Beast’s “America’s Allies Are Funding ISIS,” the London Telegraph’s “How Isil is funded, trained and operating in Iraq and Syria,” and the Daily Mail’s “Cameron tells European leaders to ‘be good to their word’ and stop funding ISIS with ransom payments,” give explanations ranging from outright admissions that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and Turkey are directly arming, funding, aiding and abetting ISIS, to descriptions that read like an immense money laundering operation, to ridiculous claims including “ransom payments” and “robbed banks” have been behind ISIS’ regional rise to menace.
At one point in the Daily Beast’s article it claims, “the U.S. has made the case as strongly as they can to regional countries, including Kuwait. But ultimately when you take a hands off, leading from behind approach to things, people don’t take you seriously and they take matters into their own hands.” If ever there was a case to use sanctions to be “taken seriously,” it would appear to be in this case, yet sure enough, no sanctions appear to be on the table.
Systematic Hypocrisy Undermines Legitimacy
American and European hypocrisy so stark undermines the legitimacy of both their governments and institutions as well as their agenda domestically and abroad. Condemning and leveling sanctions against Russia for allegedly doing in Ukraine what the West is openly doing in Syria and Iraq with its own immense proxy army leaves the global audience to decide between Russia managing a crisis on its borders and a West meddling thousands of miles from its borders.
Beyond sanctions, the West’s presence across the Middle East has had a negative impact on public perception both across the region and back home. This is owed to a larger pattern of hypocrisy, deceit, and meddling that has been done under various pretenses but for obvious self-serving interests.
What West’s Missing Sanctions Tell Us About Its “War” on ISIS
Versus Russia, the United States and Europe have used every means at their disposal to support their regime of choice in Ukraine as well as undermine both eastern Ukrainians and Russia who has emerged as their champion upon the international stage. From multiple rounds of sanctions, to threats of direct military force, and an overall strategy of geopolitical and military encirclement of Russian territory has been pursued to exact from Moscow concessions regarding Western designs in Ukraine.
Why hasn’t a similar full-spectrum commitment been used to render from Persian Gulf monarchies the same desired capitulation to Western desires in the Middle East and more specifically, in regards to ISIS? The answer is simple, the West does not desire an end to the massive state-sponsorship of ISIS via its own allies, namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, and others.
It appears instead that the West and its partners are pursuing a dual-track strategy of inflaming the region with barbarism and violence so appalling, global public opinion will desperately beg for military intervention by the United States and its allies it has been so far utterly unsuccessful selling to the public under any other pretense.
The lack of biting sanctions against state-sponsors of terrorism aiding and abetting ISIS in both Iraq and Syria is an indictment of the West’s lack of sincerity in its “war” on ISIS. Short of a signed confession, no other indicator could be more telling of yet another war being sold within a pack of lies than a West eager to sanction every nation on Earth to the point of isolating itself to exact global obedience, but absent of sanctions amid overt support for terrorists it believes are so dangerous it must militarily intervene in Iraq and Syria.
In a secret office near the Syrian border here, intelligence agents from the United States and its allies are laying the groundwork for what they hope will become an effective force of Syrian rebels to serve as ground troops in the international battle against the extremist Islamic State.
The office, the Military Operations Command, has slowed funding to Islamist groups, paid salaries to thousands of “vetted” rebels and given them ammunition to boost their battlefield mettle.
But even the program’s biggest beneficiaries — the rebels themselves — acknowledge that turning this relatively small group into a force that can challenge the well-funded and well-armed Islamic State is a challenge that will require tremendous support from its foreign backers.
In President Obama’s strategy of building an international coalition to fight the Islamic State without American troops, these moderate rebels loom large as the best force to fight the extremists in Syria. While the House approved an aid package for the rebels on Wednesday and the Senate followed on Thursday, at present the rebels are a beleaguered lot, far from becoming a force that can take on the fanatical and seasoned fighters of the Islamic State.
The British government has been warned it may face legal action if it fails to consult Parliament and the public on the redeployment of drones outside declared warzones.
Questions have been raised by Saeed Al Yousefi, a Yemeni man from a province that is a frequent target of US strikes, about the fate of at least ten armed Reaper drones currently based in Afghanistan. Ministers have so far declined to reveal where the weapons, which are piloted remotely from US bases in Nevada and Lincolnshire, will be used after December 2014, when UK operations in Afghanistan finish.
The legal proceedings, notified to the government by legal charity Reprieve and law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn on Mr Al Yousefi’s behalf, ask the UK government to make clear its intentions for the Reapers, and confirm that Parliament will be consulted before any new deployment of the drones.
In July, Defence Minister Mark Francois suggested the government would bypass Parliament, telling MPs: “The UK intends to retain the Reaper capability […] there is no intention for parliamentary approval to be sought prior to each deployment or re-deployment.” Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has refused to rule out the use of UK drones against Yemen.
Predators and Reapers have been used by the CIA or Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to carry out secretive strikes in countries with which the US is not at war, such as Yemen and Pakistan. The strikes have killed hundreds of civilians, and take place with little or no oversight; President Barack Obama has refused to acknowledge formally that such strikes are taking place. This week, the UN’s human rights council launched an inquiry into the legality of the drone strikes, which UK officials were expected to attend.
Reprieve’s Legal Director Kat Craig said: “It is bad enough that the UK already supports the CIA’s secret, illegal drone campaign but there is now a real risk that Britain will follow the US down the slippery slope to an endless, global war without limits and without accountability. The public must be allowed to know when and where our government sends armed drones to carry out deadly strikes – if the government resists this, it will strike at the heart of our democratic traditions.”
Daniel Carey, a solicitor at Deighton Pierce Glynn, said: “Using drones outside of armed conflict will be a step change in UK drone operations, yet the MoD is refusing to tell even parliament what its plans are. Our client does not want to see the UK’s drones in the skies of Yemen. And campaigners do not want the UK to lead the way in drone proliferation and the deterioration of the international legal order.”
Pentagon Prepares To Unveil Syria War Plans As “Broad Coalition” Crumbles
A day after US ambassador to The UN Samantha Powers stated, “we will not do the airstrikes alone if the president decides to do the airstrikes,” and Russia warned, “bombing Syria without the cooperation of Damascus can have destructive practical consequences on the humanitarian situation in Syria,” it appears President Obama’s grand strategy to combat IS via a ‘broad coalition’ of allies is flailing. While the WSJ reports, The Pentagon is preparing war plans in Syria that would include an intensive initial wave of strikes against Islamic State targets, Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier explained today that providing air support or sending ground troops to fight Islamic State is “out of the question for us.” For now, it appears, the only nation involved in the ‘broad coalition’ is France. Why? Because as we said yesterday, this is merely over fears of more BNPs. “A key component of this would be allied participation,” said a U.S. official; does ‘1’ ally count?
The U.S. is seeking commitments from allies to join in airstrikes on Syria before it launches attacks against Islamic State targets, American officials said, reflecting concerns about acting unilaterally.
The administration hopes that one or two allies will join in the initial wave of airstrikes, which could be launched as early as next week, these officials said.
President Barack Obama and other top U.S. officials are attending the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York this month, in part, to try and woo more partners to the U.S.-led coalition.
The Pentagon is preparing war plans in Syria that would include an intensive initial wave of strikes against Islamic State targets.
U.S. officials said adding allies would help spread the burden of the strikes. But far more important is the symbolism a joint strike would have, showing that the U.S. isn’t acting unilaterally but has support from the international community.
“A key component of this would be allied participation,” said a U.S. official.
As Bloomberg reports, Germany is “out”
Providing air support or sending ground troops to fight Islamic State in Iraq is “out of the question for us,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier tells broadcaster ARD in an intv.
Combating IS requires “separation of labor” as France, U.S. carry out air strikes.
Approach in Syria will be different, more political, as there is no single frontline as in Iraq.
Steinmeier sees no reason to lift ban on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) amid IS offensive.
And while France has helped out – fearing more $9 billion “penalties” for its banking system if it did not – even they are backing away…
France has joined the U.S. in striking targets in Iraq, but French President François Hollande has publicly said he would not extend those strikes to Syria. French officials have said they are worried striking Islamic State in Syria could bolster the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
And other nations are faltering…
Foreign ministers meeting with Mr. Kerry Friday appeared split on whether to push the war on Islamic State into Syria.
The narrow focus of the U.S. government on Islamic State militants has hampered diplomatic efforts at building up a coalition, particularly among Arab countries. Some Arab diplomats have said the U.S. should focus on attacking the Assad regime as well as extremist groups.
None of Washington’s Middle Eastern allies have publicly committed to participation in military operations against Islamic State, and administration officials have tried to deflect questions about how far Arab leaders may be willing to go to support the effort.
Other nations in the region have privately raised questions about the depth of the American commitment to push back Islamic State, worried that the U.S. will pull out too quickly, and not press long enough to permanently weaken the militants.
As Russia warns…
“We are concerned about bombing Syria without the cooperation of Damascus,” Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin said. “It can have destructive practical consequences on the humanitarian situation in Syria.”
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So far, the ‘Strategy’ of a broad coalition is failing – but don’t let that shake the administration’s “hope” for “change.”
Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, on Friday played down any potential divisions within the coalition or confusion about who would be leading the effort.
“This will be a unified coalition,” Ms. Rice told reporters. “It will be cohesive. And it will be under one single command authority.”
Ms. Rice reiterated the U.S. position on a ground war, saying: “Our strategy does not involve U.S. troops on the ground in a combat role in either Iraq or Syria.”
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Talking-Points Mission Accomplished…
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As National Review’s Victor Davis Hanson notes, for now, most allies are sitting tight and waiting for preemptive, unilateral U.S. action. If we begin defeating the Islamic State, they may eventually join in on the kill; if not, they won’t. That is a terrible way to wage coalition warfare, but we are reaping what we have sown.
Why the reluctance for allies to join the U.S.?
Most in the Middle East and Europe do not believe the Obama administration knows much about the Islamic State, much less what to do about it. The president has dismissed it in the past as a jayvee team that could be managed, contradicting the more dire assessments of his own secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
When Obama finally promised to destroy the Islamic State, Secretary of State John Kerry almost immediately backtracked that idea of a full-blown war. Current CIA director John Brennan once dismissed as absurd any idea of Islamic terrorists seeking a modern caliphate. It may be absurd, but it is now also all too real.
Such confusion sadly is not new. The president hinges our hopes on the ground on the Free Syrian Army – which he chose not to help when it once may have been viable. And not long ago he dismissed it as an inexperienced group of doctors and farmers whose utility was mostly a “fantasy.”
No ally is quite sure of what Obama wants to do about Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom he once threatened to bomb for using chemical weapons before backing off.
Potential allies also feel that the Obama administration will get them involved in an operation only to either lose interest or leave them hanging. When Obama entered office in 2009, Iraq was mostly quiet. Both the president and Vice President Joe Biden soon announced it was secure and stable. Then they simply pulled out all U.S. troops, bragged during their re-election campaign that they had ended the war, and let our Iraqi and Kurdish allies fend for themselves against suddenly emboldened Islamic terrorists.
In Libya, the administration followed the British and French lead in bombing the Moammar Gadhafi regime out of power — but then failed to help dissidents fight opportunistic Islamists. The result was the Benghazi disaster, a caricature of a strategy dubbed “leading from behind,” and an Afghanistan-like failed state facing Europe across the Mediterranean.
Now, the president claims authorization to bomb the Islamic State based on a 13-year-old joint resolution – a Bush administration-sponsored effort that Obama himself had often criticized. If the president cannot make a new case to Congress and the American people for bombing the Islamic State, then allies will assume that he cannot build an effective coalition either.
Finally, potential allies doubt that the United States wants to be engaged abroad. They are watching China flex its muscles in the South China Sea. They have not yet seen a viable strategy to stop the serial aggression of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Iran seems to consider U.S. deadlines to stop nuclear enrichment in the same manner that Assad scoffed at administration red lines. With Egypt, the administration seemed confused about whether to support the tottering Hosni Mubarak government, the radical Muslim Brotherhood, or the junta of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi — only at times to oppose all three.
Obama himself seems disengaged, if not bored, with foreign affairs. After publicly deploring the beheading of American journalist James Foley, Obama hit the golf course. When the media reported the disconnect, he scoffed that it was just bad “optics.”
There is a legitimate debate about the degree to which the United States should conduct a preemptive war to stop the Islamic State before it gobbles up any more nations. But so far the president has not entered that debate, much less won it.
No wonder, then, that potential allies do not quite know what the U.S. is doing, how long America will fight, and what will happen to U.S. allies when we likely get tired, quit, and leave.
For now, most allies are sitting tight and waiting for preemptive, unilateral U.S. action. If we begin defeating the Islamic State, they may eventually join in on the kill; if not, they won’t.
That is a terrible way to wage coalition warfare, but we are reaping what we have sown.
Panetta says ‘US paying the price for NOT arming Syrian rebels’
Panetta, who served in the Obama administration from July 2011 to February 2013, said in an interview on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” that he was in support of arming the moderate Syrian rebels in 2012, along with several other members of the administration.
“I think that would’ve helped,” Panetta said. “And I think in part, we pay the price for not doing that in what we see happening with ISIS.”
According to CBS News, Panetta writes in his new book “Worthy Fights” that he, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the director of the CIA and the joint chiefs chairman all urged Obama to arm the rebels at a 2012 meeting.
“The real key was how can we develop a leadership group among the opposition that would be able to take control,” Panetta said. “And my view was to have leverage to do that; we would have to provide the weapons and the training in order for them to really be willing to work with us in that effort.”
However, Obama decided against it.
“I think the president’s concern, and I understand it, was that he had a fear that if we started providing weapons, we wouldn’t know where those weapons would wind up,” Panetta said. “My view was, ‘You have to begin somewhere.’”
Political Islam has a long history of cooperating with Western imperialism at certain times and in certain places, and of turning against it at other times and in other places. For example, Osama bin Laden cooperated with the United States to overthrow a progressive pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan, and then launched a jihad against the domination of the Middle East by the United States. Many Palestinians were sent to Afghanistan in the 1980s by the Muslim Brotherhood to struggle against the atheists in Kabul (much to the delight of Israel) only to return to join a Palestinian national liberation struggle against Israel in the ranks of Hamas.
What separates the rebels in Syria that the United States and its allies arm, train, fund and direct from those it seeks to degrade and ultimately destroy is not a secular vs. Islamist orientation. Even the so-called “moderate” rebels are under the sway of Islamist thinking. Instead the dividing line between the good “moderate” rebels and the bad “extremist” rebels is willingness to cooperate with the United States and the region’s former colonial powers. The “good” ones are under the control of the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies, or aren’t, but are working in directions that comport with Western foreign policy goals, while the “bad” ones are working in ways that frustrate the attainment of the foreign policy objectives of the West. In other words, one set of rebels is cooperating with Western imperialism while the other frustrates it.
The “moderate” Syrian rebels who US officials are counting on to battle the Islamic State as part of the Obama administration’s plan to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS comprise dozens of groups which report directly to the CIA  and are under the sway of Islamist thinking.  According to General Abdul-Ilah al Bashir, who led the Free Syrian Army before its collapse at the end of last year, the CIA has taken over direction of the rebel force and FSA groups now report directly to US intelligence. 
The groups are run from military command centers in Turkey and Jordan, staffed by intelligence agents of the United States and the Friends of Syria, a collection of former colonial powers and Sunni crowned dictatorships. The command centers furnish the rebels with arms, training, and salaries. The United States provides overall guidance, while Turkey manages the flow of rebels over its border into Syria, and Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states provide much of the funding. 
The centerpiece of the CIA-directed rebel grouping is the Hazm Movement, formerly known as Harakat Zaman Mohamed, or Movement of the Time of Muhammad. It is strongly backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, and by key Muslim Brotherhood supporters, Qatar and Turkey. 
The US-backed rebels cooperate with the Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaeda operating in Syria,  which the UN Security Council denounced this summer along with ISIS for their “gross, systematic and widespread abuse of human rights”  but which the United States has left out of its war on the Islamic State, even though its origins and methods are the same as those of ISIS, and its goals similar. Accordingly, the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria will continue to coordinate operations with CIA-directed rebels, unhindered by US strikes.
Aron Lund, a Syria analyst who edits the Syria in Crisis blog for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, deems the idea of the moderate secular rebel a myth. “You are not going to find this neat, clean, secular rebel group that respects human rights…because they don’t exist.” 
Andrew J. Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who follows Syrian events, points out that most of the rebels backed by the United States come from “rural, Sunni areas where Islamist thinking has long held sway and often colors their thinking.”  They are not moderate fighters for secular liberal democratic values.
Veteran foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn echoes these views. In his new book, The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising (OR Books), Cockburn observes that there is “no dividing wall” between “America’s supposedly moderate opposition allies” and ISIS and the Nusra Front. 
While US officials and Western mass media promote a false narrative of two sets of rebels occupying opposite ends of two different axes—Islamist vs. secular and extremist vs. moderate—the most relevant axis may be one defining the groups’ orientation toward the West.
Reflecting the ideology of their al-Qaeda progenitor, the Nusra Front and ISIS seek to bring historically Islamic regions under Sunni Islamist political control, which means the ejection of the United States and its local marionettes, the destruction of secular regimes, and the elimination of local “heresies”, including Shia Islam and its heterodox Alawi offshoot, to which Syrian president Bashar al-Assad belongs.
The CIA-directed rebels, in contrast, appear to have a more moderate attitude to the United States, and are open to working with Washington and its Arab and NATO allies. Hassan al-Hamada, a leader of one of the CIA-directed rebel groups says, “We want to be hand in hand with the West, and for the future of Syria to be with the West.” 
The word “moderate,” then, appears to have but one meaning—a willingness to work with the United States, under the direction of the CIA, and in cooperation with Western imperialism…at least for now.
1. Patrick Cockburn, “Syria and Iraq: Why US policy is fraught with danger,” The Independent, September 9, 2014.
2. Ben Hubbard, “U.S. goal is to make Syrian rebels viable,” The New York times, September 18, 2014.
5. Suhaib Anjarini, “Harakat Hazm: America’s new favourite jihadist group”, Al Akhbar English, May 22, 2014.
7. UN Security Council Resolution 2170 (2014). http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2014/sc11520.doc.htm
8. Ben Hubbard, Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. pins hope on Syrian rebels with loyalties all over the map”, The New York Times, September 11, 2014.
10. Belen Fernandez, “Book review: The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising,” The Middle East Eye, September 3, 2014.
Violation of International Law: Where is Obama’s “Authorization to Use Force” in Iraq
There was much enthusiasm in 2008 that President Barack Obama would bring a saner and more lawful approach to issues of foreign policy and war and peace. Six years later — with Americans still being killed in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay still in active operation, US drones killing people in several countries and even American citizens, and now new mischief in Iraq — it is clear that President Obama has done little more than expand the already large war-making powers of his predecessor and fully enabled the vision of a “unitary executive” with unfettered powers in war and peace.
Where is, for example, President Obama’s domestic authorization for the use of force in Iraq against the Islamic State? Obama has taken the position that the 2001 Authorization of Use of Force (“AUMF”) passed by Congress in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, as well as the 2002 AUMF against Iraq passed before that war provide him with the legal basis for further air strikes.
The 2002 AUMF, which provided the domestic legal basis for the Iraq War, is also untenable as justification for this war as it was based on the purported “threat” posed by Saddam Hussein. Indeed, through his National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Obamahimself called for the revocation of the 2002 AUMF in July, mere weeks before now claiming it as a renewed basis for the adventurism in Iraq.
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