Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

Egyptian President Morsi Sentenced To 25 Years For Espionage

September 19, 2017 Leave a comment

An Egyptian court has sentenced former president Mohamed Morsi to 25 years in prison, accusing him of spying and leaking highly classified documents to Qatar.

In a final ruling, the Egyptian Court of Cassation on Saturday reduced Morsi’s original sentence in the espionage case by 15 years, reducing it from 40 to 25.

TRT World reports:

Morsi,  who was democratically elected after Egypt’s 2011 revolution, was overthrown in a military coup in mid-2013 by then-general Abdel Fattah al Sisi, who is now the president.

Egypt’s Court of Cassation reduced Morsi’s sentence in the Qatar case to 25 years in its final ruling, from an original 40 years.

Morsi is already serving a 20-year sentence after being convicted for the killing of protesters during demonstrations in 2012.

Since toppling Morsi, Sisi has clamped down on dissent. Mass trials have been held for thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, and hundreds have received death sentences or lengthy prison terms.

In 2014, Egypt charged Morsi and nine others with endangering national security by leaking state secrets and sensitive documents to Qatar. Egypt’s relations with Doha were already troubled by Qatar’s backing of Morsi.

Egypt is one of four Arab nations in a Saudi-led bloc that cut relations with the Gulf state on June 5, accusing it of backing militant groups and cooperating with their arch-foe Iran, allegations Doha denies.

Pentagon Deletes Paperwork Detailing U.S. Weapon Shipments To ISIS

September 16, 2017 Leave a comment

Pentagon caught destroying paperwork proving they supplied weapons to ISIS in Syria

A new report reveals that the Pentagon is destroying paperwork relating to U.S. shipments of weapons to ISIS terrorists operating in Syria.  

The bombshell joint report by two international weapons monitoring groups Tuesday confirms that the Pentagon continues to ship weapons into Syria in order to undermine the Assad regime’s fight against terror. reports:On Tuesday the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) produced conclusive evidence that not only is the Pentagon currently involved in shipping up to $2.2 billion worth of weapons from a shady network of private dealers to allied partners in Syria – mostly old Soviet weaponry – but is actually manipulating paperwork such as end-user certificates, presumably in order to hide US involvement.

The OCCRP and BIRN published internal US defense procurement files after an extensive investigation which found that the Pentagon is running a massive weapons trafficking pipeline which originates in the Balkans and Caucuses, and ends in Syria and Iraq. The program is ostensibly part of the US train, equip, and assist campaign for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF, a coalition of YPG/J and Arab FSA groups operating primarily in Syria’s east). The arms transfers are massive and the program looks to continue for years. According to Foreign Policy’s (FP) coverage of the report:

The Department of Defense has budgeted $584 million specifically for this Syrian operation for the financial years 2017 and 2018, and has earmarked another $900 million of spending on Soviet-style munitions between now and 2022. The total, $2.2 billion, likely understates the flow of weapons to Syrian rebels in the coming years.

But perhaps more shocking is the following admission that Pentagon suppliers have links with known criminal networks, also from FP:

According to the report, many of the weapons suppliers — primarily in Eastern Europe but also in the former Soviet republics, including Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Ukraine — have both links to organized crime throughout Eastern Europe and spotty business records.

The sheer amount of material necessary for the Pentagon program — one ammunition factory announced it planned to hire 1,000 new employees in 2016 to help cope with the demand — has reportedly stretched suppliers to the limit, forcing the Defense Department to relax standards on the materials it’s willing to accept.

It is likely that the organized crime association is the reason why the Pentagon has sought to alter its records. In addition, the sheer volume of weaponry continuing to ship to the Syrian battlefield and other parts of the Middle East means inevitable proliferation among unsavory terror groups – a phenomenon which has already been exhaustively documented in connection with the now reportedly closed CIA program to topple the Syrian government. The associations and alliances among some of the Arab former FSA groups the DoD continues to support in the north and east remains fluid, which means means US-supplied weapons will continue to pass among groups with no accountability for where they end up.

One of the authors of the OCCRP/BIRN report, Ivan Angelovski, told Foreign Policy that, “The Pentagon is removing any evidence in their procurement records that weapons are actually going to the Syrian opposition.” The report is based on internal US government memos which reveal that weapons shipment destination locations have been scrubbed from original documents.

Falsified and altered Pentagon procurement documents (Click to enlarge):

Is an EUC (End User Certificate) still an EUC if it doesn’t include an end user?

Balkan Insight, which is hosting the original investigative report: “Seven US procurement documents were whitewashed to remove reference to ‘Syria’ after reporters contacted the Pentagon to enquire about whether the exporting countries – Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia – had been informed of the destination.”

The fact that Foreign Policy, which is the foremost establishment national security publication in the world, would admit that the Pentagon’s Syria weapons procurement program is tied to East European organized crime is itself hugely significant. At this point the evidence is simply so overwhelming that even establishment sources like FP – which itself has generally been pro-interventionist on Syria – can’t deny it.

FP further reports that the Pentagon program “appears to be turbocharging a shadowy world of Eastern European arms dealers.” And adds further that, “the Pentagon is reportedly removing documentary evidence about just who will ultimately be using the weapons, potentially weakening one of the bulwarks of international protocols against illicit arms dealing.”

Map/Infographic produced as part of the OCCRP/BIRN report, itself confirmed by Foreign Policy magazine. Notice the map denotes that prior CIA weapons went directly to Idlib province (northwest, section in green) and the Golan border region (south). Both of these areas were and continue to be occupied by al-Qaeda (in Idlib, AQ’s Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham). In Idlib specifically, analysts have confirmed genocidal cleansing of religious minorities conducted by AQ “rebels” directly assisted by CIA weapons.

Late last month we featured the story of Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, who was fired from her job after being interrogated by national intelligence officials for exposing the same Pentagon arms network which is the subject of the latest OCCRP/BIRN investigation. At the time, Al Jazeera was the only major international outlet which covered the story, which confirmed that Bulgarian agents interrogated Gaytandzhieva and “tried to find out her sources.” An anonymous source had leaked a large trove of internal government files connected to the arms trafficking to the East European-based Trud Newspaper journalist, which was the basis of her reporting. The newest investigation released Tuesday appears to include some of the same documents, also confirmed by Gayandzhieva.

Read the full OCCRP/BIRN investigation here.

Comedy Of Errors: Israel Ready For Rematch War With Hezbollah

September 15, 2017 Leave a comment

Israel has amassed thousands of personnel and missile defence systems along its northern border in a massive military drill, simulating a major rematch war with Iranian affiliated Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) has deployed thousands of air, sea and land personnel to the Lebanese border for its biggest military drill in almost two decades, a show of strength designed to intimate Hezbollah and Iran even as their power grows in neighbouring Syria,”  the Independent reports.rematch war

The ten day exercises are supposed to end on September 14.

Israeli forces were defeated in the 2006 Israel–Hezbollah War after they invaded Lebanon, by a small group of Hezbollah fighters using new fighting techniques.

2006 Defense Minister Amir Peretz (on the right) watching the action through capped binoculars

Israel was forced to withdraw after a 34-day military conflict in Lebanon, Northern Israel and the Golan Heights, as its battle tanks were getting blown up one after the other by zealous Hezbollah fighters. And not to mention the overzealous antics of 2006-2007 Israel Defense Minister Amir Peretz, trying unsuccessfully to emulate Ariel Sharon in the 1982 “Operation Peace for Galilee.”

By Darius Shahtahmasebi:

Beginning last Monday, soldiers and reservists alike practiced simulating a 10-day-long war with Hezbollah, an Iranian-sponsored Shi’a militant group located mainly in Lebanon. Israel even prepared two field hospitals, as well as trucks and helicopters for evacuating simulated casualties.

According to the Independent, the drill began with small border skirmishes and escalated into a full-on war with the aim of completely obliterating the Lebanese opponents. Even the soldiers playing the role of Hezbollah were to be dressed in the group’s traditional attire and will don their yellow and green flag.

The purpose of the drill is to test the fitness of the Northern Command and the relevant battalions during an emergency,” one IDF officer told Haaretz. In the exercise, Israel was to give the armed forces an order to vanquish” Hezbollah, “the state in which Hezbollah either has no ability or desire to attack anymore,” the IDF officer explained.

The drill, known as the “Light of the Grain” drill, took 18 months to plan. It utilizes fighter planes, ships, submarines, drones, cyber and canine units, and Israel’s missile defense system.

Speaking of Israel’s missile defense system, Defense News recently reported that Israel is readying its Iron Dome defense system for its first intercept test in the U.S., part and parcel of the U.S. Army’s demonstration aimed at selecting an interim solution for a medium and short-range air defense system.

The Iron Dome has proven very effective, scoring over 1,500 intercepts against Gaza-launched rockets since it was first deployed in 2011. However, it is now being tested to see if it can defend Israel against other potential threats, as its proven capabilities “don’t even come close” to the full extent of the system’s capabilities, according to Ari Sacher, Rafael Ltd.’s Iron Dome Systems Project Manager.

Clearly, Israel is preparing its defense systems for something far greater than the standard home-made rockets found flying out of the Gaza strip. Considering the fact that an Israeli military general is drafting a defense policy document with the specific goal of launching a war with Iran, this might give us some clues about what Israel is preparing for specifically.

Over a decade ago, Israel fought a major short-lived war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel has been preparing for its rematch with Hezbollah for some time now, as well as striking Hezbollah targets from within Syria. Hezbollah has been a natural ally of Syria, even dating back to the reign of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad’s father.

Israel also continues to strike Syrian territory to this day in a flagrant disregard for international law, specifically targeting Syrian government facilities with ties to Hezbollah. Syria and Hezbollah have not responded yet, but no one seems to be able to answer the question: what happens if Iran, Syria and/or Hezbollah decide to respond in kind with an equally aggressive act?

A senior Israeli official warned the Russian government that if Iran continues to expand its presence in Syria, Israel plans to respond by bombing the Syrian president’s palaces. This is all while Israel knows full well that it cannot realistically take on Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah by itself and without American intervention.

Hezbollah is a quasi-ally of not only Iran, but Russia, too. Russia recently threatened to veto any UN Security Council resolution that describes Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Russia also warned Israel indirectly not to attack Iran in Syria, explaining that parties that violate international law and undermine Syria’s sovereignty will not be tolerated.

Not to mention that in response to Donald Trump’s April strike on the Syrian government, Russia and Iran issued a joint statement with Hezbollah warning that the next time such an attack occurs, they will all respond in kind.

It is also worth noting that Hezbollah has spent six years in the brutal Syrian battle arena, during which time they have attained new recruits, battle-hardened their members, and developed the belief that they can successfully take on a number of military forces in the region. As the Hill explains:

The new cadre of fighters Hezbollah is bringing in is also professionalizing what was previously an explicitly guerrilla-oriented organization. The fight for Syria against the nominally Sunni ‘Takfiri’ (apostate) ISIS, has been a gift to the Shia Hezbollah, spurring recruitment efforts. Put simply, Hezbollah is not just getting better at fighting, its army is also getting bigger.

Prior to the 2006 conflict, Hezbollah had approximately 13,000 rockets. It now boasts some 150,000 rockets and missiles, as well as Russian-supplied missiles that “can hit anywhere in Israel,” according to one Lebanese commander.

Unsurprisingly, none of this is headline news. Only those paying attention are aware of these looming developments and the dangers of a direct confrontation involving Israel — a stalwart American ally — approaching the Middle East’s numerous battle theaters. Whether or not the world will sleep-walk into this war remains to be seen; perhaps, and, ideally, Israel’s invasion simulation will act as a deterrent only and ensure that cooler heads will prevail in order to diffuse the situation between these regional adversaries.

Assad Complains to UN After Reported Israeli Airstrike Targeting Chemical Weapons Facility

September 11, 2017 Leave a comment

( – The Assad regime on Thursday complained to the United Nations after an Israeli airstrike reportedly targeted a facility linked to its chemical weapons program.

The foreign ministry’s letters to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the president of the Security Council said that the predawn missile strike had hit “Syrian military positions … killing two army personnel and causing material damage to the site.”

The letters were silent on allegations of chemical weapons work at the targeted facility. The regime denies possessing or using chemical weapons, claiming to have surrendered its stockpiles for destruction under a 2013 deal brokered by Russia.

Just a day earlier, a U.N. commission of inquiry report in effect called that a lie, blaming the regime for a deadly sarin gas attack in Idlib province last April 4, and for 20 other chemical attacks since 2013.

The targeted complex was a facility of the Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) near the town of Masyaf in Hama province. The U.S. government has designated SSRC (also known as CERS) for work on chemical and biological weapons and missile systems – most recently imposing sanctions on 271 SSRC employees in retaliation for the April 4 sarin attack.

A Western intelligence agency told the BBC earlier this year that the Assad regime was continuing to make chemical weapons in violation of the 2013 agreement, and that an SSRC facility in Masyaf specializes “in installing chemical weapons on long-range missiles and artillery.”

In its letters to the U.N. the Syrian foreign ministry charged that “Israeli attacks have become systematic behavior to protect the terrorists from al-Nusra Front and ISIS.”

The line is in keeping with the regime’s narrative that Israel (and the U.S.) are covertly supporting terror groups in Syria – even as the regime is leading the fight against the terrorists.

“It is inconceivable that the Security Council has so far taken no action to put an end to these blatant attacks,” the letters said.

“Those who attack the Syrian army provide direct support for terrorism because the Syrian army and its allies are those who fight terrorism on behalf of the entire world.”

Israel has not publicly confirmed responsibility for the airstrike, but statements by senior political and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) officials were interpreted as alluding to it.

Israel was dealing with threats “both near and far,” military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi was quoted by the Times of Israel as telling an event in Tel Aviv, while IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkott said elsewhere that the military was “working to thwart with responsibility and determination any threat that seeks to harm our security and prosperity.”

Past Israeli military intervention in Syria has focused almost entirely on Iranian weapons shipments to Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist group which in alliance with Iran and Russia is fighting to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power.

Among Israel’s gravest publicly stated concerns about the civil war in Syria is that it will result in an armed Iranian presence on its border, cementing an arc of hostile Shi’ite influence stretching from Iran across Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told an Israeli radio station Thursday Israel has no wish to be drawn into a conflict but would “do whatever it takes to prevent a Shi’ite corridor from Iran to Damascus.”

A former head of Israel’s military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, said Thursday that if the airstrike was carried out by Israel, “it would be a commendable and moral action by Israel against the slaughter in Syria.”

“The factory that was targeted in Masyaf produces the chemical weapons and barrel bombs that have killed thousands of Syrian civilians,” Yadlin said on Twitter.

He said the targeted complex was also used for the manufacture of “precision missiles which will have a significant role in the next round of conflict.”

Yadlin also said the strike sent important messages about Israel’s determination to enforce its red lines, notwithstanding the presence in Syria of Russian air defenses.

“Now it’s important to keep the escalation in check and to prepare for a Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah response and even opposition from Russia.”

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held talks in Sochi last month with Russian President Vladimir Putin and said afterwards he had made clear that Israel would act in Syria when it deemed it necessary.

“Most of the discussion dealt with Iran’s attempt to establish a foothold in Syria in the places where ISIS was defeated and is leaving,” he said. “The victory over ISIS is welcome. Iran’s entry is unwelcome, endangering us, and in my opinion, endangering the region and the world.”

Netanyahu said he had spoken to Putin “very clearly about our positions on this matter and the fact that this is unacceptable to us.”

Neither State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert nor a spokesman for Guterres had any comment Thursday on the reported Israeli airstrike.

Saudi Police Arrest Boy Dancer Doing The Macarena

August 25, 2017 Leave a comment

Saudi police have arrested a 14-year-old boy who was seen on social media dancing the Macarena in the holy city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s principal gateway to Mecca and Medina.

The reenager appeared on a viral video from last year, dancing to the 1990’s Los del Rio hit song “La Macarena” in the middle of the junction of Tahlia Street and Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz street, in front of waiting traffic.

Middle East Eye reports:

Police spokesman colonel Ati bin Atiya al-Qarshi said that the “accused” had been arrested, after relevant evidence had been gathered, and “confidential investigations” had been completed.

The video appears to show the boy doing the Macarena, a mid-1990s dance phenomenon, while standing in front of a row of cars on a crossing on Riyadh’s Prince Mohamed bin Abdulaziz Road.

The boy is seen dancing in the middle of a four-lane road, and appearing to stop traffic.

The video first appeared online in 2016, but was later removed.

Social media users had taken the video, which resurfaced on social media last week, in good humour.


Spanish Judge Issues Arrest Warrant For Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu

August 22, 2017 Leave a comment

A Spanish judge has issued an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to local reports. 

Netanyahu and seven other government officials face immediate arrest if they set foot in Spain due to their illegal attempts to stop aid from reaching the Palestinians.

According to the Latin America Herald Tribune, Judge Jose de la Mata made an official order to the police to notify him if Mr. Netanyahu enters Spain. reports: The other men named in the issue are former defence minister Ehud Barak, former foreign minister Avigdor Leiberman, former minister of strategic affairs Moshe Yaalon, former interior minister Eli Yishai, minister without portfolio Benny Begin and vice admiral maron Eliezer, who was in charge of the operation.

The case – which was put on hold by Judge de la Mata last year – was brought against the men following an attack by Israeli security forces against the Freedom Flotilla aid ships in 2010, which was trying to reach Gaza.

It concerns the Mavi Marmara ship, the main civilian vessel in a fleet of six that were attempting to break an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. The six ships were carrying around 500 passengers, humanitarian aid and construction materials. The Israeli Defence Force stormed the ship in a raid that left nine human rights activists dead. A tenth activist died later that month due to wounds sustained in the raid.

The Israeli Prime Minister and other officials now face charges in the case, should it be reopened.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nachshontold the Jerusalem Post: “We consider it to be a provocation. We are working with the Spanish authorities to get it cancelled. We hope it will be over soon.”

‘Syrian War Effectively Over’

August 21, 2017 Leave a comment

(ANTIWAR.COMA key advisor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Bouthaina Shaaban today declared that the Syrian War is effectively over, saying that the Damascus International Fair marks the end of the war and the beginning of reconstruction.

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The Damascus International Fair had been on hold for five years during the war, but kicked off earlier this week, with companies from around the world participating in the trade fair. The largest participants are expected to be from Russia and China.

While claiming this to mark the end of the war nationwide is obviously premature, it does mark a turning point in the situation around the capital city, as it’s unthinkable such an event could’ve been held in recent years, and this underscores increased security in that area.

Still, large chunks of the country remain outside of the Assad government’s control, and Shaaban vowed to see Syria’s Army confront illegitimate foreign forces present in the country, singling out US and Turkish forces in particular as objectionable presences.

By Jason Ditz / Republished with permission / ANTIWAR.COM / Report a typo

This article was chosen for republication based on the interest of our readers. Anti-Media republishes stories from a number of other independent news sources. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect Anti-Media editorial policy.

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