Posts Tagged ‘Terrorism’

In their first conversation since Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president, he and President of Russia Vladimir Putin discussed improving cooperation between their countries in the fight against terrorism and the importance of rebuilding bilateral trade and economic ties.

Moscow sees Washington as its most important partner in fighting international terrorism, Putin told Trump, according to the Kremlin’s official statements on the conversation. Both leaders reportedly supported the idea of improving “real coordination” between their nations in the fight against Daesh and other terrorist groups active in Syria.

Trump and Putin also expressed their willingness to work together to “develop and stabilize” US-Russia interaction and assured each other that their nations’ citizens view the other’s positively.

In addition, the two world leaders discussed Iran’s nuclear program, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the situation on the Korean peninsula, and the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, the Kremlin reports, as well as nonproliferation issues.

Trump and Putin also expressed their willingness to work together to “develop and stabilize” US-Russia interaction and assured each other that their nations’ citizens view the other’s positively.

In addition, the two world leaders discussed Iran’s nuclear program, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the situation on the Korean peninsula, and the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, the Kremlin reports, as well as nonproliferation issues.

Trump and Putin are expected to speak again to discuss possible dates and places for a face-to-face meeting.

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Washington looks to have shifted its approach to Russia to language of intimidation and threats. On Wednesday, US State Department Spokesman John Kirby said that if the Syrian army’s offensive does not stop, Russian cities may be faced with the threat of terror attacks. Russian terrorism experts respond, commenting on the implicit threat.
Speaking at a press briefing, Kirby suggested that if Russian-supported Syrian military operations aren’t halted immediately, “extremist groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria to expand their operations, which could include attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities. Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and will continue to lose resources, perhaps even aircraft.”

The Syrian Army’s successful offensive against the eastern, militant-controlled portion of the city of Aleppo is the reason for this new aggressive tone, according to Russian observers. On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov revealed that his counterpart, John Kerry, had threatened to halt cooperation with Russia unless the Syrian military’s offensive, backed by Russian air power, was stopped.

Svobodnaya Pressa columnist Andrei Polunin suggested that Washington’s concerns are entirely understandable, even if their rhetoric is unacceptable. “If Bashar Assad’s army manages to capture Aleppo, Syria’s second city, it will mean a turning point in the war, resulting in Damascus regaining control over the country’s strategic centers. This, in turn, will be a huge blow to the opposition forces supported by Washington.”
Naturally, this scenario does not suit the White House, Polunin added. In addition to Secretary of State Kerry’s warning, White House Spokesman Josh Earnest threatened “additional sanctions” against Russia in the event that hostilities are not stopped.
On Thursday, Reuters reported, citing anonymous officials, that the US response might include allowing Gulf States to supply the rebels with more sophisticated weapons, or even a deliberate US Air Force attack on a Syrian air base.
In this situation, Polunin suggested that Kirby’s threats “appear to be a kind of final warning. The question then arises: What is behind his words? Let’s begin with the fact that a limited Russian continent has been fighting in Syria for over year, and terrorist attacks inside Russia have yet to occur. Why would they start now? Is Washington threatening to give the go-ahead for the groups it controls in Syria to hit Russian territory?”
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova couldn’t help but get the sense that this may very well be the case. In a Facebook post on Wednesday, she noted that all this “ventriloquism about ‘body bags’, ‘terrorist attacks in Russian cities’ and ‘loss of aircraft’ sounds more like a ‘get ’em’ command, rather than a diplomatic comment.”
Speaking to Svobodnaya Pressa, Alexei Filatov, a retired FSB Lieut. Col. and vice president of the International Association of Veterans of the Alpha Anti-Terror Unit, suggested that first and foremost, it’s necessary to understand that “terrorism has long been a business.” Accordingly, “terror attacks and the threat of terror attacks have been used to deal with many serious economic and political issues.”
This reality of global geopolitics began to emerge with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, which eventually mutated into the Taliban, “not without the participation of foreign ‘investors’, including the United States,” and also includes terror groups al-Qaeda and Daesh, the analyst explained. “I believe that even Daesh was a direct consequence of policy pursued by NATO countries, led by Washington.”
In the current situation, Filatov suggested that any Russian action in Syria will necessarily result in a reaction. “Only a blind man cannot not see the connection between the beginning of our campaign in Syria and the destruction of the Russian Airbus A321 over the Sinai Peninsula. I think, unfortunately, that these are related events. The explosion onboard the aircraft was [Daesh’s] response to our active participation in the Syrian conflict. Moreover, I think that the more serious our participation, the higher the probability that various attacks against Russian citizens will be planned.”
With regard to Kirby’s remarks, the FSB officer suggested that “they sound like a direct threat. I have good reason to suppose that some terrorist acts planned by Daesh or the remnants of the Caucasus Emirate can take place with a certain level of participation by US agencies responsible for fighting terrorism.”
“In the best case, these US structures will not react to signals about imminent terror attacks on Russia; at worst they may even fund such activities. Again, I cannot exclude the possibility our foreign colleagues becoming involved in the preparation of terrorist attacks on Russian territory.”
Ultimately, Filatov emphasized that Russia’s security forces have had over 20 years of experience fighting terror. “Our experience in this area is huge. Russia today practically does not face the threat of complex, large-scale terrorist attacks. This speaks to the fact that our security services have learned how to deal with terrorism effectively. On the other hand, unfortunately, no security service can guarantee 100% protection against terror, especially in a situation where the risk of terror attacks is increased for political reasons.”
For his part, Stanislav Tarasov, director of the Middle East – Caucasus Research Center, suggested that Kirby’s words were extremely undiplomatic, to say the least, especially considering that Moscow still maintains a level of anti-terror cooperation with the United States.
“It’s worth recalling that Americans have been victims of acts of terror for which radical Islamists were responsible. But instead of cooperating with Moscow, including on the Syrian track, Washington arranges such provocations,” the analyst complained.
Ultimately, Tarasov suggested that Kirby’s statement seemed a kind of “a sign of the death throes of American policy in the region, and of US foreign policy in general.”
In any case, the analyst suggested that if Washington’s plans involve shifting militants from Syria to Russia, the recently reestablished cooperation between Ankara and Moscow, including anti-terrorist cooperation, should undermine such plans. “It’s necessary to understand that today, Moscow and Ankara are not interested in each other’s destabilization. Besides, relations between Turkey and the US today are not so trouble-free as they were before,” Tarasov noted.
As Congress attempts to override a presidential veto of legislation that would allow US citizens to sue foreign governments over terror attacks, an organization representing Iraqis killed or wounded by the US military is threatening to sue the American government for war crimes.

The Iraqi National Project has stated that the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which would allow 9/11 victims and families to sue Saudi Arabia over the nation’s role in the attacks, has opened a pathway for lawsuits against foreign governments.

The White House claims that the bill was vetoed because it would open the floodgates for other nations and organizations to sue the US, which is exactly what the Iraqi group wants to do.
“In light of the majority vote by the US Congress and Senate in support of the 9/11 bill removing the sovereign immunity rights of Saudi Arabia and other countries accused of being implicated in terrorism—and in spite of President Obama’s veto on September 23rd 2016—we hereby declare that if this bill is actually passed and becomes a law, then it constitutes a window of opportunity for millions of Iraqis who have lost their sons and daughters in military operations by US military forces and US contracted forces since the US invasion in 2003 to pursue compensation from the US government for what they have endured,” a letter published by the Iraqi National Project states, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
They cited US bombings of civilians and the well-documented torture that took place in Abu Ghraib.
“These US operations included bombings of civilians, arrests, torture [like in Abu Ghraib prison], and in numerous camps set up by the US forces across Iraq,” the letter continues. “There are also tens of thousands of maimed and handicapped Iraqis as a result of this injustice.”
The group also asserts that all of those horrors were based on faulty US intelligence.
“The majority of the injustices were based on very sketchy information and very discriminatory methods with numerous omissions from US officials and ex-officials,” the letter reads. “Once the 9/11 bill becomes law, we will endeavor and assist on a strong effort towards the formation of special committees seated by top Iraqi lawyers and judges along with numerous international legal advisers.”
The Saudi government has repeatedly denied any involvement in the 2001 attacks which left nearly 3,000 people dead, but many have long suspected that the hijackers of four planes that crashed into targets in New York, Washington DC and rural Pennsylvania were backed by Riyadh.
The bill, which may become subject to the first presidential veto override during Obama’s term in office, has left many lawmakers in a tough spot, as they want to see justice for the victims of terror attacks, but are concerned with the precedent it sets.
“I worry about legal matters. I worry about trial lawyers trying to get rich off of this. And I do worry about the precedence. At the same time, these victims do need to have their day in court,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters.
A veto override requires two thirds of lawmakers to vote in favor of it, in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
Even key Democrats have said they will stand by the bill, despite the president’s objections, including Nancy Pelosi.
“I’ve worked with these families for a very long time, and I think they should have their day in court,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters last week.
On Wednesday, nearly 15 years after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, Thomas Kean, once co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, admitted during a conference call that the US has not reached any significant advance in its fight against terror.
“We’re not winning; we’re simply at a stalemate,” Kean said.

Although there have not been major attacks similar to 9/11, there have been many smaller attacks, he acknowledged.

“Around the world, the situation is probably even more dangerous than it was on 9/11,” he opined.
 In 2001, the Bush Administration created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has spent billions of dollars on its anti-terror policies. But those expenditures have only managed to replace one fumbling bureaucracy with another, Kean and 9/11 Commission co-chair former Rep. Lee Hamilton suggest, according to the Hill.
Hamilton said that the DHS must improve their actions and do something “with a great deal of robust implementation. We don’t want to go another 15 years before we get our strategy right.”
The 9/11 Commission named several areas prone to security breaches. Among them are bureaucratic oversight that impedes efficient intelligence agency communication. “And until the Congress decides that it’s going to have a single oversight committee for homeland security, and not this panoply of 94 different committees, that’s not oversight, that’s a total lack of oversight,” Kean said.
The 9/11 Commission was established in 2002, charged with giving recommendations to prevent future terror attacks. It was also responsible for giving an account of circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 attack.
Russia’s involvement in Syria has changed the rules of the game, Reda Shehata, former assistant of the Egyptian foreign minister, said. According to him, now the US understands that the settlement should involve all parties, including the Syrian government.
“Russia’s increased political and military influence in Syria is making the United States search for compromises in the Syrian settlement,” Shehata said.
Shehata commented on the Friday meeting in Geneva between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The talks lasted for 12 hours. As a result of the meeting, Kerry and Lavrov said that progress was made but some technical issues would be discussed later.
“We made several very important steps following the agreements we achieved earlier, in Moscow,” Lavrov told journalists.
The ministers discussed a broad number of issues concerning the Syrian crisis, including fighting terrorists in Syria, the humanitarian disaster in Aleppo, the Turkish operation in Jarablus, and steps to end the war.
“Russia’s military and political involvement in Syria was the key factor. Russia changed the rules of the game. The US now understands that the settlement requires the involvement of all parties to the conflict, including opposition groups and the Syrian government. All parties should define the future of Syria. But there should be no terrorists and extremists among the opposition,” Shehata said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
According to Shehata, Russia and the US have a common goal in Syria – to fight terrorism. “The terrorist threat in the Middle East unites Russian and American politicians,” he pointed out.
During the meeting, Sergei Lavrov once again stressed the need to draw a line between Syrian rebel forces and al-Nusra Front (now called Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) militants.
“Technically, it is very hard to imagine,” Yuri Barmin, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, told Gazeta.ru.
Alexander Aksenenok, senior research fellow at the Institute for Eastern Studies, told Lenta.ru that Moscow is afraid that Washington may undermine the separation between opposition and terrorist forces. Thus, the US would try to save the al-Nusra Front from total defeat.
A source in the Russian delegation partially confirmed the assumption, adding that the US may use terrorists to pressure the Syrian government after Daesh is defeated.
After the talks, Lavrov and Kerry underscored that the Syrian crisis cannot be resolved militarily and political ways are needed to end the war. A political solution is possible only when Russia and the US agree on the main issues.
“It’s not easy. We’re trying to deal with misunderstandings and reduce distrust,” Lavrov said.
In turn, Kerry said that Moscow and Washington have different views of the reasons behind the contradictions but they are trying to resolve them together.
“It was the US and Russia who introduced a ceasefire regime in Syria. And only Washington and Moscow can change the situation in Aleppo and stop the bloodshed,” Aksenenok said.
Shehata suggested that the Syrian crisis is going to enter a new stage.
“We hope that this new chapter will be the last before a final agreement to resolve the crisis. This agreement should restore Syria’s role in the region and take into account the interests of Russia and the US,” he pointed out.

Russia and Iran share a common strategic goal – to fight terrorism in Syria and Iraq. Moscow will not deploy a full-fledged military base in Iran but may use the Hamadan airfield in the future, a military analyst told Sputnik.
 Last week, Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3 supersonic long-range strategic bombers and Sukhoi Su-34 strike fighters carried out several counterterrorist missions from Hamadan, an airbase in northwestern Iran. However, later it was reported that Russia stopped using the airfield. The issue generated broad debates in Iranian political circles.
“Discussions are underway in Iranian society and not only in Iran about the possibility of Russia using the Hamadan airbase. There are a number of different opinions on the issue. Distrust towards Russia still remains in Iran, as part of the Cold War legacy. Iran has an independent stance. The country has never allowed a foreign military base access to its territory,” Russian analyst and journalist Vladislav Shurygin told Sputnik.
Article 146 of the Iranian constitution does not allow a foreign nation to establish a military base in the country.
The expert underscored that Moscow has no plans to deploy a military base in Iran.
Moscow and Tehran are working together to reach a common goal – destroying terrorism in Syria and Iraq.
“It is a partnership. Moscow and Tehran are sharing information with each other and providing support. As for Hamadan, Iran provided an airfield for temporary purposes,” Shurygin said.
The expert also recommended not paying much attention to the buzz around Russian aircraft and the Hamadan base.
“Hysteria is fueled by the United States and its allies. Terrorists use it to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran,” he said.
Shurygin suggested that in the future Russian warplanes could return to Hamadan.
“It is very important that Iran never offers the base to Russia. The point is that Russia could use it as a temporary airfield for conducting airstrikes. The base fully complies with Iranian law. But if needed, Tehran may let Russian aircraft use Hamadan for airstrikes in Syria because Moscow and Tehran have a common goal,” he concluded.

By Finian Cunningham

The US air strikes on Libya this week mark a major escalation of American overseas military operations. A Pentagon spokesman said, the air campaign would continue indefinitely in support of the UN-backed unity government in Tripoli against Islamic State (IS) jihadists.

It was the first “sustained” aerial intervention in Libya since 2011 when US and other NATO warplanes conducted a seven-month bombing campaign in order to oust the government of Muammar Gaddafi.

The timing of the latest US air strikes on the Libyan port city of Sirte seems significant. For nearly two months, the Tripoli-based government has been making inroads against the IS brigades in Sirte. So why should US air strikes be called in at this precise juncture?

The deployment of US air power in Libya followed within days of the decisive offensive launched by the Syrian Arab Army and its Russian allies on the strategic city of Aleppo in northern Syria. As the Syrian and Russian allies move towards defeating anti-government militias holed up in Syria’s biggest city that victory portends the end of the five-year Syrian war.

Frustration in Washington over Russia’s successful prosecution of its war against foreign-backed terror groups in Syria has been palpable since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered in his forces to the Arab country – a longtime ally of Moscow – nearly ten months ago.

American frustration reached boiling point when Russia unilaterally announced last week that it was proceeding, along with Syrian forces, to take back the city of Aleppo. Syria’s second city after the capital Damascus has been besieged by illegally armed groups for nearly four years. With its proximity to the border with Turkey, Aleppo has been a crucial conduit for foreign fighters and weapons fueling the entire war – a war that Washington and its NATO allies and regional partners have covertly sponsored for their political objective of regime change against President Bashar al-Assad.

When Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that humanitarian corridors were being opened around Aleppo for fleeing civilians and surrendering fighters, the plan was mocked as a “ruse” by US Secretary of State John Kerry. The US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power described the Syrian-Russian offensive on Aleppo as “chilling”.

However, the sovereign, elected government of Syria has every right to take back control of Aleppo – formerly the country’s commercial hub – which had been commandeered by an assortment of illegally armed groups, some of whom are designated as internationally proscribed terror organizations.

What the pejorative words of Kerry and Power indicate is Washington’s perplexity at Moscow’s success in Syria. Russia’s military intervention has thwarted the US-led foreign conspiracy for regime change. Washington may have got away partially with regime-change schemes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Ukraine. But Russia’s intervention has put paid to a similar maneuver in Syria.

Not only that, but as Russia and its Syrian ally close in for a final defeat of the anti-government mercenary networks in Aleppo, it is becoming excruciatingly obvious that Washington’s charade of “moderate rebels” mingling among terrorists is also exposed. For months now, Washington has procrastinated on Moscow’s demands that it provide clear demarcation between so-called moderates and extremists. Washington has studiously balked at providing any distinction or physical separation. As Russian and Syrian forces corner the militants in Aleppo, it becomes evident that Washington and the Western media are caught on a damnable lie, which has been used for the past five years to justify the war in Syria. Furthermore, Russia emerges vindicated in the way it has prosecuted its military campaign in support of the Syrian government.

In other words, Russia is seen as genuinely fighting a war against terrorism, whereas Washington and its allies are evinced as having a mercurial, if not criminal, relationship with terror groups that they claim to be combating.

On Friday, Washington’s top diplomat John Kerry was anxiously waiting for clarification from Moscow on what the Aleppo offensive was about. By Monday, it was clear that Moscow was not going to pander to Washington’s apprehensions about the offensive plan.

“Once again, the Obama administration appears to have been blindsided by Mr Putin, just as it was when Russia dispatched its forces to Syria in September,” declared an editorial in the Washington Post on Tuesday.

It was on Monday-Tuesday night that US air strikes were ordered on Libya.

Washington’s chagrin over Syria is compounded because only a few weeks ago, Kerry flew to Moscow to offer a “deal” on joint military cooperation between the US and Russia, allegedly to fight terrorist brigades in Syria. It transpired that what the American deal was really all about was to inveigle Russia’s concession for Assad to stand down. That is, for Russia to acquiesce to the American goal of regime change.

Russia was having none of it. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated the position that the future of Syria’s presidency was a matter for the Syrian people to determine alone, without any external interference.

Then the military offensive embarked on Aleppo by Syrian and Russian forces – without regard to Washington’s concerns for its “moderate rebels”/terror assets – was a further sign that Moscow was following its own strategic assessment and objectives. To Washington that was a stinging snub.

The Washington Post editorial cited above carried the peeved headline: “Stop trusting Putin on Syria”. It was but the latest in a series of tetchy editorials admonishing the Obama administration for “caving in” to Moscow over Syria. One such earlier headline ran: “Obama retreats from Putin in Syria – again”.

Within the Obama administration there appears to be sharp dissent over its perceived failing policy on Syria. The Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and National Intelligence Director James Clapper were opposed to Obama and Kerry’s now-redundant gambit to enlist Russia’s military cooperation.

Earlier, a list of 51 US diplomats signed a joint letter calling on the Obama administration to step up its military operations in Syria against the Assad government. It is also clear that Obama’s would-be Democrat successor in the White House, Hillary Clinton, is surrounded by Pentagon aides pushing for greater American intervention in Syria – even though that poses a grave risk of confrontation with Russian forces.

Facing mounting criticism for failure in Syria, it seems that the US air strikes on Libya were ordered as some kind of compensation. President Obama reportedly ordered the strikes on the advice of Pentagon chief Ashton Carter. It looks like the Obama administration is trying to fend off accusations of being soft.

Secondly, by ordering air strikes against Islamic State jihadists in Libya’s Sirte, that allows Washington to regain the narrative which it has lost to Russia in Syria.

Russia’s success in Syria has seriously undermined Washington’s claims of waging a war on terror. The last stand of the terror groups in Aleppo – including militia supported by Washington and its allies – represents an incriminating moment of truth.

Hence, as the net tightens on Syria’s Aleppo, Washington’s hand was forced to lash out in Libya, in an attempt to burnish its tarnished claim that it is fighting against Islamist terrorism.

In truth, however, the bigger net seems to be tightening on Washington. World public opinion increasingly understands that terrorism is closely correlated with everywhere Washington engages. The terrorism spawned in Afghanistan and Iraq under US occupation, was grafted onto Libya during NATO’s regime-change bombing operation in 2011, which in turn contaminated Syria as part of another regime-change campaign under Obama and his then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

For Obama to now revisit Libya with further air strikes due to failure of a criminal policy in Syria – a failure resulting from Russia’s principled intervention – is simply plumbing the depths of American degeneracy. And the rest of the world can see it.