Archive | October 2016

Warrantless searches persist, just ask Yahoo

A fresh round of leaks allegedly provided by Yahoo employees spurned reports that last year Yahoo built software for US Intel agencies to aid the Internet giant’s cooperation with government groups to spy on millions of its own customers.

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The leaks prompted Yahoo to write a letter to the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, stating: “Recent news stories have provoked broad speculation about Yahoo’s approach and about the activities and representations of the US government.”

The letter continued: “That speculation results in part from a lack of transparency and because U.S. laws significantly constrain — and severely punish — companies’ ability to speak for themselves about national security-related orders even in ways that do not compromise U.S. government investigations.”

The higher ups at Yahoo explained they had an obligation to its customers to clarify their connections with US intelligence. It “is intended to set a stronger precedent of transparency for our users and all citizens who could be affected by government requests for user data.”

Yahoo also asked intelligence agencies to inform the media when they request data and declassify those requests for its customers and the public in general.

Yahoo has been under heavy fire from its customers who were not told that 500 million email accounts had been hacked in 2014. This is a more likely reason for Yahoo’s call for transparency. Court costs and lengthy litigation cut into the company’s bottom line and they are looking for “high cover” from the federal government.

The ongoing saga of government spying and computer hacking falls on the heels of Apple’s questionable modus operandi of allegedly creating software and/or hardware access or “backdoors” for the federal government’s spies.

Last year, Intel whistleblower Edward Snowden disclosed that the CIA and other federal agencies have spent five years and millions of taxpayer dollars in an effort to crack the encryption of Apple products. Behind the scenes, Apple has criticized the government’s actions and claims they are unwilling to aid government surveillance by “softening” its encryption or allowing a “backdoor” into its operating systems for which millions of consumers pay a much steeper price tag for the added security.

CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, said last year; “It is a cop-out to say: choose between privacy or security. There is no reason why customers should have to select one. There is no reason not to have both. We shouldn’t give in to scare-mongering.”“I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will,” Cook said about Apple’s new privacy policy.

And after a terrorist attack in San Bernardino last year, Apple was asked, again, to hack into an encrypted Apple iPhone, it declined and the FBI hired a private contractor (hacker) to break into the phone demonstrating that encryption-breaking capabilities already exist.

Snowden also claims the CIA has already found its own access point to Apple’s OSX software. Unbeknownst to many American’s, this reporter has been writing for several years about In-Q-Tel (link here), the CIA’s own joint venture firm, that invests taxpayer money in the latest technologies and garners an interest or control of developing technologies.

However, trolling US citizens’ emails through providers is an issue the US Congress must take up if there is any chance of transparency and change. An example came in 2014 when Congress seemed unconcerned with invasive laws or the interpretations of such laws by federal agencies to the detriment of Americans. The federal government harshly revised its rules and demanded Lavabit, a technology firm, turn over private passwords and security keys to federal investigators.

Lavabit, an encrypted email service provider, gained unwanted notoriety by being the service that once delivered NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s secure emails. Lavabit defied a Department of Justice demand to turn over its encryption key for secure users by closing shop. As the feds latest privacy target, the secure email provider shuttered operations rather than give up the encryption codes to its 400,000 subscribers, as Lavabit’s founder, Ladar Levison, made the difficult financial decision based on ethical concerns for his clients.

According to the search warrant, the government demanded “all information necessary to decrypt communications sent to or from the Lavabit e-mail account [redacted] including encryption keys and SSL keys.” That court ruling put into motion a plan that Levison said he made in the presence of his attorney that he would rather than shutter his company than sell out his clients. “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit,” he explained.

On top of that, a virtual gag order was placed on the case forcing the young entrepreneur to carefully construct his response to the media. “We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me to resurrect Lavabit as an American company.” So far Lavabit remains dead, but they did file a court document on behalf of Apple this year, stating his company received similar treatment from the feds.

It remains to be seen if Yahoo’s government woes will result in the loss of 500 million email accounts, but it does highlight that the dysfunctional Congress has failed to take up the warrantless search issue for more than three years.

With the clock ticking, NSA whistleblower William Binney said the cozy government data collection relationships of CIA, NSA, and private sector firms should concern Americans. “If you have information on everybody on the planet that means you might have material to blackmail them or influence them, one way or the other, to make a decision that you want them to make.”

He further explained the dangers of massive data collection. “See that’s the reason why I have been coming out publicly, because where I see it going is a Totalitarian State. I mean you (have) got the NSA doing all the collection of materials on all its (US) citizens, that’s what the SS, the Gestapo, the Stasi, the KGB, and the MVD did. That’s the whole thing, I mean I was there and I watched the people, I worked there for 30 years.”

One must wonder how the federal law of Posse Comitatus (Title 18 U.S.C. § 1385) does not arise when the NSA, a Department of Defense enterprise, conducts warrantless searches of American communications to aid law enforcement in the prosecution of crimes.

US Navy retaliates against Yemen missiles attack

According to the Pentagon, last week the USS Nitze, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, targeted three radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory along Yemen’s Red Sea coast. President Obama authorized Tomahawk missile strikes in retaliation against Yemen missile launches against Nitze. Pentagon officials said initial assessments show the targeted Houthi positions were destroyed.

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The limited double tap self-defense strikes were conducted to protect US ships and freedom of navigation in the region. The show of force comes after the rebels were blamed for shooting missiles at US ships patrolling international waters near Yemen. The Houthis have denied the allegations.

The retaliatory missile strikes against the Houthis mark the first time American Naval forces have become openly involved militarily in the war between the Iranian-backed Houthis and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabian-backed government in exile.

Peter Cook, a Pentagon spokesman, warned Yemenis that the US was prepared to strike the region’s poorest country again if rebel fighters continued to target offensive strikes at US naval vessels.

“These limited self-defense strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway,” a Pentagon statement read. “The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic.”

So far, the Obama administration has been reluctant to openly admit US involvement in the 18-month long war but insisted the strikes were pinpointed and successful. It’s important to note that the Obama administration has provided nearly $25 billion in precision weaponry to the House of Saud, who in turn, has been slowly obliterating Yemen.

The targeted airstrikes sparked outrage with anti-war groups who are monitoring the fractious regional war and prompted the State Department to address the media.

“So in response to these – these aggressive acts, we made a decision – the President did – to support a very specific and targeted strike on these missile – sorry, these radar sites that we believe have played a role in the – in targeting these vessels of ours. The key points that I think you should be aware of about these strikes that we’ve tried to really strongly emphasize, these were taken in self-defense. So underscoring the point that I made that we were responding to provocations by the Houthis’ militia toward our ships, and so we responded,” the senior State Department official told reporters on a background call.

However, the senior official tried to explain that the strikes did not change America’s involvement in Yemen. “We were very clear that this was not meant to indicate support for coalition operations either in Yemen at large or on the Red Sea. And we also made clear in public statements that we were not intending to be brought into the war in any – in any fashion.”

The official continued, “As you know, these particular strikes that we took sort of bring up to the present more than a year of activity by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen which has had a number of unfortunate consequences which we have talked about publicly: one, our discomfiture with the way that the war has dragged out, the loss of life; and number two, particularly the civilian casualties. And so that’s been sort of an underpinning, I think, of this conflict.”

Behind the scenes, Secretary of State John Kerry claims to be working on a ceasefire agreement. “We had, as you know, fledgling attempts over the summer in Kuwait to bring the sides together. Some progress (has been) made but not enough to reach any sort of permanent deal,” DoS said.

The sugarcoated background interview did little to alleviate fears that KSA’s war with Yemen would remain just between the two countries.

“Even though what has happened in the last couple of days is certainly an escalation [of the Yemeni conflict], the United States was involved in this conflict for many months,” Kristine Beckerle told Sputnik. “It’s an escalation, but it’s not a fundamental change in the standoff, which has already claimed the lives of more than 4,000 civilians.”

Meanwhile, the State Department issued an October 8th statement regarding a KSA airstrike that killed more than 150 and injured another 500 attendees of a funeral.

“The United States welcomes the initial results of the Arab Coalition Investigation into the October 8 airstrike that struck a funeral hall in Sana’a, Yemen and considers it an important first step toward better understanding the events of that day. Throughout this conflict, we have expressed our deepest concern about the ongoing actions by all parties involved. This conflict has killed and injured civilians, damaged civilian infrastructure, and inflicted a heavy humanitarian toll paid by the Yemeni people. We urge all sides to recommit to an immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities that can lead to renewed negotiations and a political settlement that ends the conflict.”

To date the Yemen war has claimed 6,000 lives, injured 35,000 and displaced three million.

Read Part One Here

Read Part Two Here

Middle East Part Two- Yemen & Proxy war

The world caught a glimpse of the human tragedy unfolding in Yemen this week. The relentless Saudi Arabian-led (KSA) and American-supported air campaign in the region’s poorest nation have left thousands of women and children dead since its inception last year. Last weekend’s bombing ripped through a funeral home in the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a. Officials in the country said the airstrike killed at least 150 civilians and injured another 500.

As a result, a retaliatory missile attack aimed at US ships cruising the Arabian Sea forced the US military to employ evasive methods to avoid being struck. The Houthis denied the attack and claimed the reports were nothing more than a fabrication intended to distract attention from the massive air strike on civilians.

The Obama administration is fighting a proxy war for Saudi Arabia by providing logistic support, air surveillance, and naval patrols that enable the Saudis to indiscriminately kill Yemenis with munitions striking the targets supplied by the American taxpayer.

The latest $1.3 billion shipment of weapons from the Obama administration to KSA was approved even though there are multiple investigations underway from human rights’ groups concerned that war crimes are being committed by KSA as well as the US.

According to Reuters: “US government lawyers ultimately did not reach a conclusion on whether US support for the campaign would make the United States a ‘co-belligerent’ in the war under international law. That finding would have obligated Washington to investigate allegations of war crimes in Yemen and would have raised a legal risk that US military personnel could be subject to prosecution.”

Government officials in Washington warned Saudi Arabia that they would review Saudi military actions to “better align with US principles, values, and interests.”

However, documents dated mid-May 2015 to February 2016, highlighted that the US State Department senior staff reviewed and approved the purchase of precision munitions for KSA in order to replenish bombs they had been dropping in Yemen. Another document showed notes from a meeting between State Department and human rights’ groups that acknowledged the bombing campaign was killing high numbers of civilians.

“The strikes are not intentionally indiscriminate but rather result from a lack of Saudi experience with dropping munitions and firing missiles,” Reuters reported. “The lack of Saudi experience is compounded by the asymmetric situation on the ground where enemy militants are not wearing uniforms and are mixed with civilian populations. Weak intelligence likely further compounds the problem.”

The war in Yemen is yet another casualty of the Arab Spring. As the fever spread, KSA was reluctant to cede control in Yemen to the Houthi rebels, who are aligned with the Iranians. The Saudi’s began their air campaign in Yemen in March 2015 in an effort to reinstate President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after Iran-backed Houthi rebels forced him to flee his palace and abscond into KSA. Both factions have been fighting to install their dictator of choice, but the intense bombing campaign has lasted much longer than the US thought. In the meantime, the United Nations says, at least 3,800 civilians have died in strikes against hospitals, markets, and schools in Yemen.

As for the US government, in March of last year, the Pentagon authorized more than $22.2 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, including billions in precision munitions. The State Department (DoS) said the munitions were meant to replenish bombs already used in Yemen. Also part of the new weapons deal was US refueling and logistical support for KSA’ jets.

Reuters obtained information from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. (A selection of the documents can be viewed here: tmsnrt.rs/2dL4h6L; tmsnrt.rs/2dLbl2S; tmsnrt.rs/2dLb7Ji; tmsnrt.rs/2dLbbIX)

Included in the documents were emails that ironically stated, “the government had submitted the Taylor ruling to a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to bolster its case that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al Qaeda detainees were complicit in the Sept 11, 2001, attacks.” That ruling found “practical assistance, encouragement or moral support” could be enough evidence to determine the liability of war crimes. “Prosecutors do not have to prove a defendant participated in a specific crime, the UN-backed court found,” Reuters said.

However, Reuters did not report whether the President signed an End User Certificate. If President Obama signed the document, there will be no war crime charges, if the weapons were used as specified. The document is required for all tier two-three countries (human rights violators) both Saudi Arabia and Yemen fall into that category. (Read this reporter’s award-winning article “Obama outpaces Bush in foreign weapon sales”).

In a statement, Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said: “Secretary Kerry spoke on October 9 to both His Royal Highness Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir regarding the situation in Yemen. Secretary Kerry reiterated our deep concern about the October 8 attack on the funeral hall in Yemen that resulted in a large number of civilian casualties. He welcomed the Deputy Crown Prince’s commitment to launch a thorough and immediate investigation of the strike and urged him to take urgent steps to ensure such an incident does not happen again. The Secretary also reiterated the need for an immediate cessation of hostilities, and the Deputy Crown Prince stated his desire to institute a renewable 72-hour cessation as soon as possible, provided the Houthis will agree.”

The Secretary also noted, “as part of the broader de-escalation effort, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s legitimate request that the Houthis pull back weapons from Saudi Arabia’s border and respect its territorial integrity. The Secretary expressed appreciation for the Deputy Crown Prince’s support for returning the Houthi/ Saleh negotiating delegation to Sana’a as soon as possible to facilitate the UN-led political process.”

Human rights’ activist shouldn’t hold their breath on charges against US officials, as the US is the chief sponsor of the United Nations. UN officials have been openly complaining about the lack of international probes for war crimes during the turbulent Arab Spring that some say has turned into the Arab Winter.

“In the law of war, you can be guilty for aiding and abetting war crimes and at some point the … evidence is going to continue to mount and I think the administration is now in an untenable situation,” Congressman and former military prosecutor Ted Lieu (D-CA) concluded.

Pipeline news update

After Sunday’s report on the Middle East nations’ efforts to construct a gas pipeline that will bring energy to the European Union in competition with Russia, Russia seized on chilling relations with the US and announced President Vladimir Putin reached an agreement with Turkish President Recep Erdogan to build a different pipeline.

The Kremlin’s relationship with Turkey was on the ropes after Erdogan shot down a Russian fighter jet that strayed into Turkey’s airspace. But the two-strongman agreed to revive “a suspended natural-gas pipeline project.

The pipeline will be called the Turkish Stream and will be constructed under the Black Sea and end near the Greek border. The new project will allow Russian gas and oil to reach the EU markets without ceding any control to other countries in the region.

However, a concern from the West is Russia’s ability to selectively cut off gas supplies, like it has done with Ukraine, without disturbing deals with countries like Italy or Austria. The Russian leader has been actively working to establish a pipeline he can control and it looks like the diminishing relationship with the US will finally open the door with Turkey.

President Obama has struggled to work with Putin and Erdogan. The New York Times said: “The United States broke off cooperation with Moscow over Syria and then accuses the Kremlin of war crimes. Mr. Erdogan has been criticized by Washington for using the aftermath of a July coup attempt to introduce a sweeping crackdown against a wide array of critics, going well beyond the coup plotters and their backers.”

With the region in such chaos and President Obama operating in lame duck mode, Russia has taken advantage of Turkey’s strained relationship with the US and the Kurds to their east. Thus, it appears American’s power in the region may be dwindling.

Oil drives Mid-East “nation-building” and perpetual war

As the United States considers committing additional troops and resources to defeat ISIS and topple the Syrian government, it provides an opportune time to revisit the reality on the ground and determine what American interests are at risk, if any.

Emerging facts suggest that after the 9/11 attacks against the US by Al Qaeda, the American retaliation against the Taliban was quick, lethal, and decisive. The Taliban was toppled and Al Qaeda was flushed from its safe-haven in Afghanistan – mission accomplished, right? Wrong. So what happened after the crushing victory in Afghanistan?

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According to former Army General Wesley Clark, a think-tank known as the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) had a plan in 2001 to topple seven Middle East regimes in five years while the US was still the undisputed superpower in the world.

The PNAC plan was to nation-build by deposing the governments of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan and Somalia in a five-year period (these names may sound familiar today). The only thing missing from the bold and audacious plan was motive and endgame.

While the PNAC was looking for justification to implement its nation-building (read – nation-toppling) domino plan for the Mid-East and Africa, the 9/11 attack provided the opening needed to launch the region dominating tactic, but motives remained elusive.

We now know the original Bush-Cheney claims of WMD’s in Iraq were unsupported by any credible evidence, for example, the mobile WMD trailers were a figment of the imagination of an Iraqi expat and the “yellow cake” stockpiles were a complete fabrication. Nonetheless, those illusory motives were good enough to take out Saddam. But what about the rapid expansion across the region of US/NATO war-making in the following years?

In a not so strange twist of fate, following the “successes” in Iraq, it appears the Bush/Cheney team further energized the PNAC concept in 2007 when Bush issued a “Presidential Finding” that authorized the CIA to begin clandestine programs in Libya and Syria to build insurgencies among government opposition groups in a furtherance of the PNAC plan.

Nevertheless, it was “The Arab Spring” – when a fruit cart vendor overcome by bureaucratic red tape in Tunisia that protested his frustration in self-immolation that was the “spark”that set the region on fire. The West pounced on the idea of “The Arab Spring.” Finally, the Allah-loving peoples of the Middle East and Africa were determined to rise up against dictatorships and corruption to create democratic countries replete with democracy, equal rights, and individual freedoms – not. Americans have to admit it was a good storyline.

So what was so compelling as to drive the US into a major war that was known at the time to be unwinnable and never ending?

Could it be that all of this “nation building” rhetoric may have just been the cover for US intelligence operatives’ plans to choose the winners and losers in the construction of gas pipelines from the Middle East to Europe? This hegemony would allow the US to reduce Russian and Iranian influence in Europe.

The Russians had been seeking to build the “South Stream” pipeline that circumvented Ukraine and terminated in Bulgaria where it could link to the EU networks. But the US was concerned that the Russians would gain commercial and political influence in Europe that could undermine its interests. We now know from WikiLeaks documents that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dispatched her senior advisors to Ukraine to try to foment tensions with Russia. The Russians responded by seizing Crimea (which was part of Russia for hundreds of years), which also solidified their routing of the South Stream gas pipeline. (See graphs here)

Meanwhile, Qatar, owner of the world’s largest proven gas fields sought to build a gas pipeline from the Persian Gulf through the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Iraq and Syria to terminate in Turkey and then connect to trans-European pipelines.

Interestingly, the US was unaware that the Iranians also approached Iraq and Syria about cooperating in the construction of an Iranian pipeline beginning at its shared Persian Gulf gas fields with Qatar, which would also terminate in Turkey and connect to trans-European pipelines.

KSA and Qatar were threatened by the idea of Iran selling gas to the EU, which would not only diminish KSA and Qatar’s market share in the EU but would also allow Iran, the so-called world sponsor of terrorism to accumulate great wealth from the pipeline to EU.

The question for policy wonks in the US was how to get their way without the world knowing they were interfering with sovereign nations in the Middle East. That was easy, they took the economic, political and Islamic schism to make the confrontation a Sunni v Shia religious war.

You may recall this column reporting (here) that KSA and Qatar warned the US not to intervene in the ISIS run to Baghdad along the Damascus to Baghdad Highway in 2014 whereupon ISIS was able to seize billions of dollars worth of US and NATO equipment from the fleeing Iraqi army.

The continued rise of ISIS has intensified the hostilities in the region to such an extent that KSA/US are fighting a proxy war in Yemen against Iran; the fledgling Libyan government is now a virtual ISIS jihadi haven; the northern parts of Iraq have been occupied by ISIS leading the Kurds to undertake military operations to expel ISIS from Kurdish lands in Iraq and Syria; the actions of the Kurds have mobilized the Turks to fight both the Kurds and ISIS; the Russians have deployed naval and air units to aid Syrian President Assad; Iran and Iraq have deployed troops to Iraq to expel ISIS from Iraq and Syria; Hezbollah has moved forces from Lebanon to fight ISIS in northern Lebanon and western Syria; and, now the Chinese have agreed to commit forces to aid the Syrian government against the US back anti-Assad insurgents. Confused yet?

The preceding paragraph demonstrates the complexity of the region and the high stakes geopolitical game being played there. To further heighten tensions, both the US and Russia are flexing their nuclear muscles in a show of commitment to their competing interests. But it is the complexity itself that enhances the possibility of the crises slipping into the unthinkable – World War III.

The commitment of multi-national forces to the region of Syria raises a serious chance that US/NATO-Russian-Iranian-Chinese troops could come into direct conflict that could light the fuse for a far-reaching conflict. A few months ago Turkey shot down a Russian warplane that amplified the specter of a Turkish-Russian confrontation.

The US must take into consideration all of the competing interests, rivalries, and history before choosing sides that risk American lives with a negligible outcome to American national security objectives, after all, the US is essentially energy independent and has begun the exportation of its oil.

After the Iraq war disaster, it is imperative that Americans know they are not being duped into another regional war under false pretenses. Acknowledging our mistakes, looking at the real problems and having a national discussion will allow the country to make the best choice.

In addition, Americans must consider the following points before the US military is deployed.

The pipeline deals

For most Americans, the geopolitical landscape playing out in the Middle East is focused on the brutal war between Muslim sects. But what Americans may not know, is control of the Middle East oil and pipelines is really at stake.

Qatar, the owner of the world’s largest gas fields, has been trying to develop a gas pipeline from the Persian Gulf through KSA, Iraq, and Syria in an effort to sell gas to Turkey’s trans-European pipelines.

On the other hand, the Iranians have also approached Iraq and Syria about cooperating in the construction of an Iranian pipeline beginning at its Persian Gulf gas fields and ending in Turkey.

Enter the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) new Fujairah $5.5 billion dollar oil hub. The third-largest oil port will relieve the hundreds of tankers forced to store oil on board at a substantial cost and allow that oil to be stored within the Sunni-dominated UAE.

Currently, the new Fujairah control tower harbormaster, Mousa Morad, monitors flotilla tankers offshore in order to keep track of the region’s oil supply (video link). He says the current glut of oil and continuous war has resulted in: “A long line of tankers parked outside the port due to conflict, this port gives a comfort level, a psychological comfort level which is as important to economic value, because of its strategic location. Yes, I think the capacity to be able to bring in these kinds of vessels fully laden. This will be the deepest port in the Middle East.”

With the completion of this port the UAE, predominately Sunni, expects to grow its capacity to be a global leader in energy.

“We’re looking to compete internationally,” said Al Mazroui, UAE Minister of Energy. “I think we could be at the top as we want to build a second terminal,” to handle super tankers or very large crude carriers in industry parlance. This is the UAE doubling down on their bets to secure market share for their crude oil. Customers value the security of supply, ease of shipping and lower insurance costs — all things Fujairah can offer.”

“I think the capacity to bring this kind of vessel fully laden, this is going to be the deepest port in the Middle East, gives yet another dimension to this growing storage hub,” said Christopher Bake, a member of the executive committee of Vitol, one of the world’s largest energy traders.

Perhaps even more important, the UAE port bypasses the Strait of Hormuz, a critical waterway that accounts for 30 percent of the oil shipped globally on a daily basis. The all-important strait connects the Persian Gulf to the world. But a Sunni-run port would also dispense with any trouble with Iran, which controls navigational passage through the Straits of Hormuz.

With the wars spiraling out of control, what does the Middle East oil market mean for the US?

For starters, the South Stream pipeline enables Russia to move its oil and gas more cheaply. If the Middle East could not move it quicker via a pipeline, then the EU would gobble up the natural gas from the Russians. To counter the Russians, the US/NATO and friends want the Qatar pipeline to proceed, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a staunch ally of Iran, has refused to grant the Sunnis permission to build a pipeline through his territory.

However, an Armed Forces Journal article written by Major Rob Taylor, of the US Army’s Command and General Staff College said the war in Syria was about much more than religion and that rival pipelines were more likely to be the root of the Syrian conflict.

“Viewed through a geopolitical and economic lens, the conflict in Syria is not a civil war, but the result of larger international players positioning themselves on the geopolitical chessboard in preparation for the opening of the pipeline,” Taylor said.

This appears to back up William Engdahl author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics in the New World Order.

“The US-Saudi oil price manipulation is aimed at destabilizing several strong opponents of US globalist policies. Targets include Iran and Syria, both allies of Russia in opposing a US sole Superpower. The principal target, however, is Putin’s Russia, the single greatest threat today to that Superpower hegemony. The strategy is similar to what the US did with Saudi Arabia in 1986 when they flooded the world with Saudi oil, collapsing the price to below $10 a barrel and destroying the economy of then-Soviet ally, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and, ultimately, of the Soviet economy, paving the way for the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, the hope is that a collapse of Russian oil revenues, combined with select pin-prick sanctions designed by the US Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence will dramatically weaken Putin’s enormous domestic support and create conditions for his ultimate overthrow. It is doomed to fail for many reasons, not the least because Putin’s Russia has taken major strategic steps together with China and other nations to lessen its dependence on the West. In fact, the oil weapon is accelerating recent Russian moves to focus its economic power on national interests and lessen dependence on the dollar system. If the dollar ceases being the currency of world trade, especially oil trade, the US Treasury faces financial catastrophe. For this reason, I call the Kerry-Abdullah oil war a very stupid tactic.”

Engdahl continues, “In July 2011, the governments of Syria, Iran, and Iraq signed a historic gas pipeline energy agreement which went largely unnoticed in the midst of the NATO-Saudi-Qatari war to remove Assad. The pipeline, envisioned to cost $10 billion and take three years to complete, would run from the Iranian Port Assalouyeh near the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf to Damascus in Syria via Iraq territory. The agreement would make Syria the center of assembly and production in conjunction with the reserves of Lebanon. This is a geopolitically strategic space that geographically opens for the first time, extending from Iran to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. As Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar put it, ‘The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline – if it’s ever built – would solidify a predominantly Shi’ite axis through an economic, steel umbilical cord.

Shortly after signing with Iran and Iraq, on August 16, 2011, Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Ministry of Oil announced the discovery of a gas well in the Area of Qarah in the Central Region of Syria near Homs. Gazprom, with Assad in power, would be a major investor or operator of the new gas fields in Syria. Iran ultimately plans to extend the pipeline from Damascus to Lebanon’s Mediterranean port where it would be delivered to the huge EU market. Syria would buy Iranian gas along with a current Iraqi agreement to buy Iranian gas from Iran’s part of South Pars field.”

For those in favor of restarting the “cold war” days, like the US clandestine services, the Middle East pipeline strategy puts the US and Russia at odds like in the good old cold war days. Syria is the gateway to Asia’s Silk Road and Russia’s return to economic dominance means it must build South Stream.

If history provides us with context, religious wars have typically been the most savage but when you throw in trillions of dollars in oil and gas revenues outsiders see big reasons to join the fight. It is here where the US/Iranian deal comes into play, both countries think they will gain political and economic power over a huge portion of the energy lifeline, but what they fail to appreciate are the deeply held religious beliefs of the Middle Easterners that could, more likely than not, lead to complete destruction.

False flag operations & the Arab Spring

Oftentimes national leaders seek to exert change through the will of their people by creating a galvanizing event that pulls the country together, thereby concentrating power in the leader. Many times in an effort to get the desired outcome they resort to false flag operations. The world is watching this unfold in Turkey as President Recep Erdogan is successfully moving his country from a secular nation to authoritarian rule using terrorism as his galvanizing event.

The New Yorker Magazine published a story from Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Seymour Hersh, that in 2007 President Bush gave the CIA a “finding” or permission to covertly stir up trouble in Iran. “The Bush administration had cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations intended to weaken the Shi’ite Hezbollah organization in Lebanon.” The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria (Like the Stuxnet virus).

By bolstering the Sunni jihadis, aka al-Qaeda, the US tried to undermine the Assad regime and determine the outcome no matter the expense. So far there are 12 million refugees, 500,000 dead, EU’s economy is on the brink, not to mention the near-total destruction of the once secular nation of Syria.

Hersh contends that the 2011 Arab Spring was not triggered by unhappy civilians but by the Wests’ insatiable desire to control all the energy. Proof of this comes from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who published emails from the private US intelligence firm Stratfor. The emails highlighted “a meeting with Pentagon officials that confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting ‘collapse of Assad’s regime from within.’”

But why would the US want to undermine Iran and Syria? Retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark says he was told about a memo from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense weeks after 9/11. He explained he was stunned that the memo revealed plans to “attack and destroy the governments in seven countries in five years.” The plan was to start with Iraq and then “Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran” (view interview here). General Clark argued this plan was concocted to control the region’s oil and gas.

More proof that senior advisers were, in fact, destabilizing the region to control the oil was detailed in a 2008 US Army-funded RAND study, “Unfolding the Future of the Long War” (read here). The report highlighted that “the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource. Once dwindling supplies run out it is important the US play a key role in 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,” the report surmised.

“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,” the RAND report stated.

The RAND report also speculated that the US was agreeable to “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 the Persian Gulf. Noting that this could actually empower al-Qaeda jihadists… 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 the Persian Gulf while simultaneously cutting back on anti-American and anti-Western operations,” the report concluded.

Conclusion

The facts suggest that oil and gas market share can and do drive political, economic, and military policies across the region and the world. With Americans seemingly tired of the 15-year war and moving away from interventionist policies and globalization, it is clear the US 2016 election will be a watershed, or a BREXIT, moment in US foreign policy.

Part two: The Kennedy’s, Ukraine, Iran, Yemen and Israel’s role in the big switch.

ISIS urges homegrown terror attacks against Americans

This week the Senate Homeland Security committee heard testimony from Secretary Jeh Johnson regarding the uptick in homegrown terrorist attacks. He said the nation is facing a phase in which people quickly radicalize and launch simple, but deadly, attacks. Using social media ISIS has urged Muslims worldwide to use any methods to achieve mass killings.

Watch Kimberly’s CW6 San Diego TV segment here

As a result, DHS officials warn that self-radicalized terrorists are looking at “soft targets” like festivals, concerts, outdoor events, sporting events, theme parks and other mass gatherings to pursue simple and achievable attacks.

“I’ve talked repeatedly about how we see the global terrorist threat evolving and the threat to the homeland evolving from terrorist directed attacks to the global threat environment that now includes the inspired attacks of the type you see most recently where an actor is self-radicalized without receiving direct orders from a terrorist organization. As Senator Carper noted he (Ahmad Khan Rahami) spent most of his life here as a US citizen but is inspired by things that he sees in the Internet, social media and the like,” said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson at a Senate committee hearing.

The likelihood that America will face more terror attacks from lone-wolf terrorists remains high and preventing the next attack will require help from civilians, the nation’s top Homeland Security expert warned. “The nation is facing a phase in which people quickly radicalize and launch simple but deadly attacks before authorities have time to detect them,” Johnson told Senate members.

“If you’re asking how many San Bernardino or Orlando type attacks will we have in the year 2017, no national security, homeland security or law enforcement expert is in a position to quantify it,” Johnson said. “We haven’t ended the scourge, (of) the threat of homegrown violent extremists.”

Also testifying at the hearing was the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Nicholas Rasmussen, who explained that while ISIS is losing territory in the Middle East, it is bound to strikeout against the West. The top counterterrorism official testified that the world’s army of terrorists is “broader, wider and deeper than any point since 9/11, the day al Qaeda attacked America.”

The White House has cautioned US reporters to tone down their national security rhetoric in an effort to calm fears as the presidential election nears. The top homeland security official also scolded the press for only covering bad news. But White House officials said, “The good news in homeland security is often no news.”

“You can’t say everything is a priority,” Johnson asserted. “You’ve got threats that are high impact, but not necessarily a high probability. Then you’ve got threats that are high probability, but likely, or perhaps, less impact, like a (homegrown violent terrorist) attack, which could involve as many as 50, as many as 10” deaths.

“Even ISIL’s (ISIS) leaders know they’re going to keep losing,” President Obama said to reporters. “In their message to followers, they’re increasingly acknowledging that they may lose Mosul and Raqqa, and ISIL is right … they will lose them. And we’ll keep hitting them and pushing them back and driving them out until they do.”

While the White House is painting a rosier image of the American war efforts abroad, the Intel community paints a dramatically different picture of the ISIS spreading from Syria may create a more difficult enemy in the future.

ISIS supporters reached American shores again a week ago with a pair of attacks in Manhattan and New Jersey. The Afghan-born Muslim, Ahmad Khan Rahami, was arrested and charged with multiple charges after a gunfight with US police. ISIS quickly claimed responsibility and advised in a September 23 message that more attacks were on the way.

The Homeland Security Department’s office of intelligence said, “ISIS is assessing commercial facilities… They (ISIS) is (sic) looking for simple, achievable attacks with an emphasis on economic impact and mass casualties.”

A DHS report reaffirmed that homegrown terrorists are hard to detect. “We face an increased challenge in detecting in-progress plots by individuals or small groups acting quickly and independently or with only tenuous ties to foreign handlers. Preoperational indicators are likely to be difficult to detect; therefore, state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners play a critical role in identifying and reporting suspicious activities and raising the awareness of federal counterterrorism officials.”

Rasmussen emphasized that; “While we’ve seen a decrease in the frequency of large-scale, complex plotting efforts that sometimes span months or years, we’re instead seeing much more rapidly evolving threats, or plot vectors, that emerge quickly or suddenly. And this so-called flash-to-bang ratio, the time between when an individual decides to attack and when an attack actually occurs, the flash-to-bang ratio of this kind of plotting is extremely compressed and allows very little time for law enforcement and intelligence officials to get their arms around a plot.”

The Director of the FBI James Comey also had a similar view on the impending battle against ISIS. “It’s our judgment that ISIS’ capacity and ability today to carry out attacks in Syria and Iraq and abroad has not thus far been significantly diminished. And the tempo of ISIS-linked terrorist attacks and terrorist activity in Europe and other places around the globe is a reminder of that global reach.”

Comey continued to say, “The challenge will be through the fingers of that crush are going to come hundreds of very, very dangerous people. They will not all die on the battlefield, in Syria and Iraq. There will be a terrorist diaspora sometime in the next two to five years like we’ve never seen before.”

He added: “We must prepare ourselves and our allies, especially in Western Europe, to confront that threat. Because when ISIL is reduced to an insurgency and those killers flow out, they will try to come to Western Europe and try to come here to kill innocent people.”

In the end, the Secretary of DHS said it was nearly impossible to determine when the next terror attacks will take place. Johnson emphasized the threat of a biological attack, mass shooting, dirty bomb attack, the poisoning of America’s food supply are real. He said the agency must prioritize all these potential terror threats but they only have to be wrong once and sometimes the bad guys get lucky.

“People ask me, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ That is thing number one, the prospect of another home-born violent extremist acquiring a weapon or tool of mass violence and carrying out an attack somewhere here in the homeland,” Johnson said. “That doesn’t always get reported. Bad news is front page news, but the good news in homeland security is often no news.”

Rasmussen said intelligence officials have been predicting the homeland threat would metastasize as ISIS suffered losses on the battlefield. “It’s not surprising. It puts us in a period of sustained vulnerability that I don’t think any of us are comfortable with. But I think it’s a reality,” he concluded.

Remember, if you see something, say something, vigilance is a national responsibility.

 

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