Syria intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern

Massacres of civilians are being exploited for narrow geopolitical competition to control Mideast oil, gas pipelines.

U.N. chemical weapons experts visit people affected by an apparent gas attack, at a hospital in the southwestern Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya.

On 21 August, hundreds – perhaps over a thousand – people were killed in a chemical weapon attack in Ghouta, Damascus, prompting the US, UK, Israel and France to raise the spectre of military strikes against Bashir al Assad’s forces.

The latest episode is merely one more horrific event in a conflict that has increasingly taken on genocidal characteristics. The case for action at first glance is indisputable. The UN now confirms a death toll over 100,000 people, the vast majority of whom have been killed by Assad’s troops. An estimated 4.5 million people have been displaced from their homes. International observers have overwhelmingly confirmed Assad’s complicity in the preponderance of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian people. The illegitimacy of his regime, and the legitimacy of the uprising, is clear.

Experts are unanimous that the shocking footage of civilians, including children, suffering the effects of some sort of chemical attack, is real – but remain divided on whether it involved military-grade chemical weapons associated with Assad’s arsenal, or were a more amateur concoction potentially linked to the rebels.

Whatever the case, few recall that US agitation against Syria began long before recent atrocities, in the context of wider operations targeting Iranian influence across the Middle East.

In May 2007, a presidential finding revealed that Bush had authorised CIA operations against Iran. Anti-Syria operations were also in full swing around this time as part of this covert programme, according to Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. A range of US government and intelligence sources told him that the Bush administration had “cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations” intended to weaken the Shi’ite Hezbollah in Lebanon. “The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria,” wrote Hersh, “a byproduct” of which is “the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups” hostile to the United States and “sympathetic to al-Qaeda.” He noted that “the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria,” with a view to pressure him to be “more conciliatory and open to negotiations” with Israel. One faction receiving covert US “political and financial support” through the Saudis was the exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009: “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business”, he told French television:

“I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria.”

The 2011 uprisings, it would seem – triggered by a confluence of domestic energy shortages and climate-induced droughts which led to massive food price hikes – came at an opportune moment that was quickly exploited. Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”

So what was this unfolding strategy to undermine Syria and Iran all about? According to retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, a memo from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to “attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years”, starting with Iraq and moving on to “Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.” In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of the region’s vast oil and gas resources.

Much of the strategy currently at play was candidly described in a 2008 US Army-funded RAND report, Unfolding the Future of the Long War (pdf). The report noted that “the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource.” As most oil will be produced in the Middle East, the US has “motive for maintaining stability in and good relations with Middle Eastern states”:

“The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized… For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources… The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.”

In this context, the report identified several potential trajectories for regional policy focused on protecting access to Gulf oil supplies, among which the following are most salient:

“Divide and Rule focuses on exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts. This strategy relies heavily on covert action, information operations (IO), unconventional warfare, and support to indigenous security forces… the United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch proxy IO campaigns to discredit the transnational jihadists in the eyes of the local populace… US leaders could also choose to capitalize on the ‘Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict’ trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world…. possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”

Exploring different scenarios for this trajectory, the report speculated that the US may concentrate “on shoring up the traditional Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan as a way of containing Iranian power and influence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.” Noting that this could actually empower al-Qaeda jihadists, the report concluded that doing so might work in western interests by bogging down jihadi activity with internal sectarian rivalry rather than targeting the US:

“One of the oddities of this long war trajectory is that it may actually reduce the al-Qaeda threat to US interests in the short term. The upsurge in Shia identity and confidence seen here would certainly cause serious concern in the Salafi-jihadist community in the Muslim world, including the senior leadership of al-Qaeda. As a result, it is very likely that al-Qaeda might focus its efforts on targeting Iranian interests throughout the Middle East and Persian Gulf while simultaneously cutting back on anti-American and anti-Western operations.”

The RAND document contextualised this disturbing strategy with surprisingly prescient recognition of the increasing vulnerability of the US’s key allies and enemies – Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, Syria, Iran – to a range of converging crises: rapidly rising populations, a ‘youth bulge’, internal economic inequalities, political frustrations, sectarian tensions, and environmentally-linked water shortages, all of which could destabilise these countries from within or exacerbate inter-state conflicts.

The report noted especially that Syria is among several “downstream countries that are becoming increasingly water scarce as their populations grow”, increasing a risk of conflict. Thus, although the RAND document fell far short of recognising the prospect of an ‘Arab Spring’, it illustrates that three years before the 2011 uprisings, US defence officials were alive to the region’s growing instabilities, and concerned by the potential consequences for stability of Gulf oil.

These strategic concerns, motivated by fear of expanding Iranian influence, impacted Syria primarily in relation to pipeline geopolitics. In 2009 – the same year former French foreign minister Dumas alleges the British began planning operations in Syria – Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. An Agence France-Presse report claimed Assad’s rationale was “to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas”.

Instead, the following year, Assad pursued negotiations for an alternative $10 billion pipeline plan with Iran, across Iraq to Syria, that would also potentially allow Iran to supply gas to Europe from its South Pars field shared with Qatar. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project was signed in July 2012 – just as Syria’s civil war was spreading to Damascus and Aleppo – and earlier this year Iraq signed a framework agreement for construction of the gas pipelines.
The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan was a “direct slap in the face” to Qatar’s plans. No wonder Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, in a failed attempt to bribe Russia to switch sides, told President Vladmir Putin that “whatever regime comes after” Assad, it will be “completely” in Saudi Arabia’s hands and will “not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian gas exports”, according to diplomatic sources. When Putin refused, the Prince vowed military action.

It would seem that contradictory self-serving Saudi and Qatari oil interests are pulling the strings of an equally self-serving oil-focused US policy in Syria, if not the wider region. It is this – the problem of establishing a pliable opposition which the US and its oil allies feel confident will play ball, pipeline-style, in a post-Assad Syria – that will determine the nature of any prospective intervention: not concern for Syrian life.

What is beyond doubt is that Assad is a war criminal whose government deserves to be overthrown. The question is by whom, and for what interests?

• This article was amended on 7 October 2015 to provide clearer attribution to a quote about tAssad’s rationale for rejecting Qatar’s proposed oil pipeline.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

A more detailed in-depth special report based on this article is available at the author’s website here.

With many thanks to: The Guardian for the origional story.

Follow these links to find out more: http://anonhq.com/cia-hell-bent-destroying-syria-oil-declassified-document-reveals/

https://skwawkbox.org/2018/04/15/video-bbcs-cbs-clip-gives-away-no-chemical-weapons-in-destroyed-syria-lab/

Johnson: “£160k tennis match did take place”

Mrs Lubov Chernukhin is married to Vladimir Chernukhin, who was Putin’s deputy finance minister in 2000.

Boris Johnson has defended a £160,000 donation made to the Conservatives by a former Russian minister’s wife in return for a tennis match with him.

Confirming the 2014 match, which was also set to include David Cameron, took place, he warned against creating a “miasma of suspicion” against Russians.

“To the best of my knowledge, all possible checks have been made and… will continue to be made” on donations.

Lubov Chernukhin had bid at a fundraising auction at a Tory event.

Mr Johnson was mayor of London in 2014. The match was reported at the time – Mrs Chernukhin is a longstanding Conservative Party donor whose husband served under Vladimir Putin.

Russia hints UK lab was nerve agent source
Russian spy: What we know
The tennis match against Mr Johnson and the then prime minister Mr Cameron was among items auctioned off at the Conservative Party summer ball in the summer of 2014.

Law firm Carter Ruck confirmed at the time that the successful bidder was Mrs Chernukhin, whose husband Vladimir was deputy finance minister under Mr Putin between 2000 and 2002.

Asked about it on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Johnson said: “If there is evidence of gross corruption in the way that gentleman in question obtained his wealth… then it’s possible for our law enforcement agencies to deprive him of his wealth with an unexplained wealth order – that is a matter for the authorities, it’s not a matter for me.”

‘Quite extraordinary’
He stressed that “we have no quarrel with the Russian people” and warned against suspecting “the entire nation” where no evidence was produced against individuals.

Asked if the tennis match had taken place, he replied: “It did.”

But he added: “It’s very important that we do not allow a miasma of suspicion about all Russians in London – and indeed all rich Russians in London – to be created.”

And he said it was “quite extraordinary” while those who had been attacked were critically ill, for the “fire to be somehow turned on Conservative Party funding”.

“To the best of my knowledge, all possible checks have been made and they will continue to be made.”

Analysis
By Jonathan Blake, BBC political correspondent

It was undoubtedly an awkward moment.

The foreign secretary had to admit that he played tennis with the wife of a former Russian government minister, in return for a hefty donation to the Conservative Party.

Albeit four years ago, and albeit in accordance with the Electoral Commission rules.

Now though, it allows Labour and other critics to question the credibility of a Conservative government taking such a tough line against Russia.

But there has been no great clamour to criticise, beyond raised eyebrows and pointed fingers.

Perhaps Mr Johnson’s opponents think it is better to let the facts speak for themselves, than be accused of political point scoring at a very sensitive time.

All parties need money after all, and all need to be careful where it comes from.

Retired military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, 66, and Yulia, 33, remain critically ill in hospital after being found slumped on a bench in Salisbury city centre on 4 March.

The Russian government has denied any involvement, but the UK and its allies say there is “no plausible alternative explanation” to Russia being behind it.

This week, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised the fact there had been “over £800,000 worth of donations to the Conservative Party from Russian oligarchs and their associates”.

He claimed the government was resisting Labour’s amendments to the Sanctions and Money Laundering Bill, currently progressing through the House of Lords.

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has called for the introduction of an “oligarch levy” as part of efforts to strengthen financial sanctions on Russia.

It would introduce a charge on purchases of residential property by offshore trusts in tax havens and, the party says, could raise £875m a year.

Mr Johnson said the government was already “pursuing a number of measures” but would be “intensifying” sanctions on individuals who had obtained “wealth by corruption” and were linked to the Kremlin.

With many thanks to: BBC England for the origional story.

 

SLAUGHTER IN SYRIA

FRESH scenes of the horrific slaughter of innocent civilians in Syria have emerged as violence in the Middle Eastern country spirals out of control.The images show tearful children sobbing over the bloodied bodies of relatives killed in another massacre carried out by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. In the most recent atrocity it was claimed that pro-regime militia killed 12 factory workers on Thursday after forcing them off a bus in the village of Qusair7277050144_cec7c42f7e_b

Video footage released by Assad’s opponents showed the disfigured bodies of at least a dozen victims who were shot in the head or stomach at close range. It follows the slaughter of more than 100 civilians, including 49 children, in Houla last week. Syria’s most important ally, Russia, has again refused to support moves that could lead to foreign intervention.

Last Thursday, a Syrian goverernment investigation into the killings blamed armed rebel groups seeking to trigger foreign military interventon. The claim was dismissed by US permanent representative to the UN, Susan Rice, as a ” BLATANT LIE ” !

Russia slams bid to mislead international community on Syria

 
The Russian Foreign Minister has condemned efforts by certain Western countries for a regime change in Syria by misleading the international community and manipulating the UN Security Council.

Addressing the United Nation Security Council during a meeting about the Middle East, Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that no conclusion can be achieved on Syria by misleading the international community, adding that a stable settlement can be achieved only through dialogue between the government and the opposition.

Lavrov also rejected military intervention in Syria and said that any foreign interference would jeopardize regional stability.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on Russia and China to stand behind resolving what she called the humanitarian and political crisis in Syria. Russia and China have twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions against the Syrian government.

“We believe that now is the time for all nations – even those who have previously blocked our efforts – to stand behind the humanitarian and political approach spelled out by the Arab League,” Clinton told the UNSC meeting in New York in a clear reference to China and Russia.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March and many people have lost their lives in the violence.

The West and the Syrian opposition accuse the government of killing protesters. But Damascus blames ”outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups” for the unrest, insisting that it is being orchestrated from abroad.

HM/HGH

WITH MANY THANKS TO : PRESS TV.