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Showing posts from March, 2016

Breaking bad in the Middle East and North Africa: Drugs, militants, and human rights

This April, the U.N. General Assembly will meet for a Special Session on the World Drug Problem. After decades of conformity with a hardline “war on drugs” formerly promoted by the United States, there is increasing dissensus within the international community about how to best address the costs and harms posed by drugs. For years, some European countries have quietly diverged from policies based on aggressive suppression of drug production and the criminalization of users. More recently, some key Latin American states have openly challenged the global counternarcotics regime and called for reforms.

Yet the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) states still cling to hardline drug policies, an approach that is also supported by Russia and many Asian countries.

On March 7 in Doha, we met with police and military officials, NGO representatives, and academics from across the Middle East to discuss the rising drug challenges in the region and the increasingly contested global regime. We found…

There is more to Sunni militancy than language and culture

When I read a recent post by two of my colleagues suggesting that “French political culture” may be to blame for Sunni militancy around the world, Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s paraphrase of Voltaire came to mind: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” But that doesn’t prevent me from disagreeing with some of the premises of the piece by Will McCants and Chris Meserole, which confuses correlation with causation.

There is a long list of cities targeted by jihadis: Paris was attacked twice last year, in January (17 people killed) and November (130 killed, 400 injured); Brussels was targeted three times, once at the Jewish Museum in May 2014 (4 dead), and this month by the two suicide bombings that caused 35 deaths; Madrid was struck in March 2004 in an al-Qaida-related train bombing that killed 192 people and injured over 1,800; and the July 2005 series of suicide bombings in London killed 52 and injured over 700.

It’s not just a European problem, o…

Iraq Situation Report, Part I: The military campaign against ISIS

The military campaign is gathering steam

The U.S.-led coalition’s military campaign to “defeat” Da’esh (the Arabic acronym for ISIS) appears to be going better than is widely realized. The media has begun to pick up on this, but so far, the accounts do not seem to do it justice. The coalition has trained (or retrained) six Iraqi brigades, typically called the “Mosul Counterattack Brigades” or just the “Counterattack Brigades.” It was these formations that did most of the work at Ramadi and several are being shifted north to begin the Mosul operation. They are performing considerably better than other Iraqi brigades, a fact that is increasingly understood throughout the Iraqi government, boosting their prestige and the influence of the United States.

Coalition air power is hitting Da’esh much harder than in the past, not because any additional assets have been allocated, but because the American military leadership has been able to convince the Iraqis to forego copious on-call fire supp…

China and North Korea: The long goodbye?

China’s estrangement from North Korea continues to fester and deepen. Following protracted negotiations in the aftermath of Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear testand subsequent satellite launch, the U.N. Security Council has imposed far more severe restrictions on North Korean trade, finance, and maritime activities. The resolution—which passed on March 2 and for which China was a key drafter—portends a much edgier and uncertain relationship between Beijing and Pyongyang.

Though there are ambiguities and loopholes in the criteria and enforcement provisions governing the resolution (UNSCR 2270), the new sanctions have much sharper teeth than previous resolutions—and China has unequivocally pledged to uphold the letter and spirit of the council’s decision. Even before the resolution passed, South Korean and Chinese media reported that financial transactions in the city of Dandong (where most border trade takes place between China and North Korea) had been sharply curtailed.

By mid-March, Beijin…

Total Confusion: Did Merkel Take a Selfie With Brussels Attack Suspect?

A photo depicting German Chancellor Angela Merkel taking a selfie with a man allegedly resembling Brussels bomber Najim Laachraoui has gone viral.

The image published online depicts Merkel posing for a selfie with a refugee whose resemblance to the Paris bomb-maker and Brussels attacker Najim Laachraoui has been vividly discussed by Internet users.

The picture was taken in September and has caused heated debate after recent terrorist attacks in Brussels.

A series of terrorist attacks took place in the Brussels Airport and the Maelbeek metro station on Tuesday morning. As result of the attacks at least 31 people were killed and over 300 injured.

​The Belgian police released the picture of 24-year-old Najim Laachraoui on Friday, with the prosecutor's office announcing that the man detonated an explosive device in the airport.

Some social networks users argue that Laachraoui looks like the person they've seen on selfie with Angela Merkel. Their assumptions, however, remain unconfirmed…

Surprise Syrian showdown: 'Pentagon-backed rebels fighting CIA-backed rebels'

American soldiers never used to shoot at our CIA agents, and vice-versa, but that’s what’s reportedly happening in the northern part of Syria, former CIA officer Ray McGovern told RT from Washington, DC.

In February, the CIA-armed group ‘Fursan al Haq’, or Knights of Righteousness, were apparently forced out of their positions by the so-called ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’, backed by the Pentagon.

The report - put out by a US Veterans group - comes as President Obama this month authorized a new Pentagon plan to train and arm Syrian anti-government fighters.

RT: How much control do the US military and intelligence have over the groups they are funding on the ground?

Ray McGovern: Well, let’s start with the good news. The good news is that because of Russian intervention and President Obama’s sensible reaction to it, namely, no longer pressing for priority for removing Assad and also allowing Iranians to participate in negotiations, the ceasefire - or what we call the ‘cessation of hostilitie…

The Saudi Connection in the Belgium Attacks

Lincoln Clapper

This past week Europe experienced its second major terrorist attack within the last five months. The ISIS-claimed attack in Brussels signifies again just how real and how serious the militant group is about training, equipping, and tactically carrying out an assault in Europe. Although the attack appears to have been provoked or moved ahead of schedule due to the arrest of Salah Abdeslam (Belgium-born, French national personally involved in the Paris attacks), what is apparent is this attack was forthcoming based on the materials found in the apartment of the attackers, and the overall sophistication of the bombings suggests that this was not a reactionary, random plot. With details of the attackers released, their chief bomb maker Najim Laachraoui, along with two brothers Ibrahim and Khalid el-Barkraoui, are reported as Belgium nationals. As the search continues for the fourth perpetrator, questions are continually raised about where the next possible attack could be, …

Wahhabism, ISIS, and the Saudi Connection

Lincoln Clapper

The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has become somewhat of a revelation to the international community over the last several months. Commencing with the desertion from Al-Qaeda, to the self-proclamation of Caliph by its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and finally the surge in Iraq and Syria, each move has occurred without a countervailing effort. In order to conceptualize the mentality of ISIS and its motivation, look no further than inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to examine how its puritanical Wahhabi doctrine has enabled the ideology of ISIS and terrorist groups alike, and will continue to do so for potential Islamic extremist groups in the future.

It’s all too obvious that the theology of ISIS is reciprocal to the Wahhabi religious doctrine that has governed Saudi Arabia from its inception to this very day.

A Brief History of the Deal at the Heart of Saudi Society

Wahhabism refers to the Islamic doctrine founded by Muhammad Ibn’ Abdul-Wahhab. Born in…

‘Unlikely dangerous’: Radioactive equipment stolen in Spanish city

Spanish authorities have appealed for the public’s help in locating a stolen piece of equipment which contains radioactive elements. An orange suitcase, which is “unlikely” to be dangerous if not tampered with, was stolen in the southern city of Seville.

The Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) is asking the public to help seek the case which contains a computer device used to measure soil density and moisture. The equipment belongs to the Studies Center of Materials and Building Control, SA (Cemosa), and contains two low activity radioactive sources: cesium 137 and americium 241.

While the missing equipment has been placed in the category of threat level 4, “unlikely to be dangerous for people,” CSN warns that anyone who locates the equipment should restrain themselves from tampering with the case and immediately notify the authorities.

Radioactive risk levels set by the International Atomic Energy Agency have a scale of one to five, with five being the least dangerous category.

The theft occur…
Color revolutions would never be enough; Exceptionalistan is always on the lookout for major strategic upgrades capable of ensuring perpetual Empire of Chaos hegemony.

The ideological matrix and the modus operandi of color revolutions by now are a matter of public domain. Not so much the concept of Unconventional War (UW).

UW was spelled out by the 2010 Special Forces Unconventional Warfare manual. Here’s the money quote:

“The intent of US [Unconventional Warfare] UW efforts is to exploit a hostile power’s political, military, economic, and psychological vulnerabilities by developing and sustaining resistance forces to accomplish US strategic objectives… For the foreseeable future, US forces will predominantly engage in irregular warfare (IW) operations.”

“Hostile” powers are meant not only in a military sense; any state that dares to defy any significant plank of the Washington-centric world “order” – from Sudan to Argentina – may be branded“hostile”.

The dangerous liaisons between color…

Future Russian army could deploy anywhere in the world – in 7 hours

In the future, a fleet of heavy transport aircraft will reportedly be capable of moving a strategic unit of 400 Armata tanks, with ammunition, to anywhere in the world. And probably at hypersonic speed, enabling Russia to mount a global military response.

According to a new design specification from the Military-Industrial Commission in Moscow, a transport aircraft, dubbed PAK TA, will fly at supersonic speeds (up to 2,000 km/h) and will boast an impressively high payload of up to 200 tons. It will also have a range of at least 7,000 kilometers.

The PAK TA program envisages 80 new cargo aircraft to be built by 2024. This means in a decade Russia’s Central Command will be able to place a battle-ready armored army anywhere, Expert Online reports, citing a source in the military who attended the closed meeting.

One of the main tasks of the new PAK TA is to transport Armata heavy missile tanks and other military hardware on the same platform, such as enhanced self-propelled artillery weapons…

Explosion rocks nuclear power plant in Belgium

An explosion occurred overnight at a nuclear power plant in Doel, northern Belgium, local media reported, adding that the blast caused a fire. The exact damage from the incident remains unknown.

The blast happened around 11pm local time on Saturday. The fire started in Reactor 1 of the plant, but was soon extinguished by personnel.

The explosion didn’t cause any threat to nature, Els De Clercq, spokeswoman from Belgian energy corporation Electrabel that runs the plant, told Het Laatste Nieuws. There was no fuel present at the time of the incident as the reactor had been shut due to its expired operational license.

READ MORE: ​Mysterious drone over restarted Belgium nuclear plant prompts investigation

Doel Nuclear Power Station, one of the two nuclear power plants in the country, is located near the town of Doel in east Flanders. The plant employs about 800 people.

According to the Nature journal and Columbia University in New York, the plant is in the most densely populated area of all nu…

ISIS, oil & Turkey: What RT found in Syrian town liberated from jihadists by Kurds (EXCLUSIVE)

An RT Documentary crew filming in northern Syria has seen Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL) documents abandoned by retreating terrorists and found by the Kurds that, along with captured IS recruits, provide a stunning insight into IS oil trade.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Syrian war, IS became a game-changer in Iraq and, in particular, Syria. Beheadings on camera, mass killings, and enslavement, as well as apparent connections to the Paris and Brussels attacks had become synonymous with the terror group, giving it wide publicity.

Running a viable militant organization with such remarkable capabilities would be impossible without some logistical and financial support from the outside.

RT films trove of jihadist docs providing a stunning insight i...

##ISIS, oil & #Turkey: shocking details on illegal linksPosted by RT Play on Thursday, March 24, 2016

Turkey, which has been actively engaged in the Syrian war since the outset, has repeatedly denied claims that it is aiding IS. However, …