Britain’s Seven Covert Wars


Britain’s Seven Covert Wars

by Mark Curtis

Britain is fighting at least seven covert wars in the Middle East and North Africa, outside of any democratic oversight or control. Whitehall has in effect gone underground, with neither parliament nor the public being allowed to debate, scrutinise or even know about these wars. To cover themselves, Ministers are now often resorting to lying about what they are authorising. While Britain has identified Islamic State (among others) as the enemy abroad, it is clear that it sees the British public and parliament as the enemy at home.

Syria

Britain began training Syrian rebel forces from bases in Jordan in 2012. This was also when the SAS was reported to be ‘slipping into Syria on missions’ against Islamic State. Now, British special forces are ‘mountinghit and run raids against IS deep inside eastern Syria dressed as insurgent fighters’ and ‘frequently cross into Syria to assist the New Syrian Army’ from their base in Jordan. British special forces also provide training, weapons and other equipment to the New Syrian Army.

British aircraft began covert strikes against IS targets in Syria in 2015, months before Parliament voted in favour of overt action in December 2015. These strikes were conducted by British pilots embedded with US and Canadian forces.

Britain has also been operating a secret drone warfare programme in Syria. Last year Reaper drones killed British IS fighters in Syria, again before parliament approved military action. As I have previously argued, British covert action and support of the Syrian rebels is, along with horrific Syrian government/Russian violence, helping to prolong a terrible conflict.

Iraq

Hundreds of British troops are officially in Iraq to train local security forces. But they are also engaged in covert combat operations against IS. One recent report suggests that Britain has more than 200 special force soldiers in the country, operating out of a fortified base within a Kurdish Peshmerga camp south of Mosul.

British Reaper drones were first deployed over Iraq in 2014 and are now flown remotely by satellite from an RAF base in Lincolnshire. Britain has conducted over 200 drones strikes in Iraq since November 2014.

Libya

SAS forces have been secretly deployed to Libya since the beginning of this year, working with Jordanian special forces embedded in the British contingent. This follows a mission by MI6 and the RAF in January to gather intelligence on IS and draw up potential targets for air strikes. British commandos are now reportedly fighting and directing assaults on Libyan frontlines and running intelligence, surveillance and logistical support operations from a base in the western city of Misrata. <= ***which involves of AlQaeda, Isis and other Radical groups.

But a team of 15 British forces are also reported to be based in a French-led multinational military operations centre in Benghazi, eastern Libya, supporting renegade Libyan general Khalifa Haftar. In July 2016, Middle East Eye reported that this British involvement was helping to coordinate air strikes in support of Haftar, whose forces are opposed to the Tripoli-based government that Britain is supposed to be supporting.

Yemen

The government says it has no military personnel based in Yemen. Yet a report by Vice News in April, based on numerous interviews with officials, revealed that British special forces in Yemen, who were seconded to MI6, were training Yemeni troops fighting Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and also had forces infiltrated in AQAP. The same report also found that British military personnel were helping with drone strikes against AQAP. Britain was playing ‘a crucial and sustained role with the CIA in finding and fixing targets, assessing the effect of strikes, and training Yemeni intelligence agencies to locate and identify targets for the US drone program’. In addition, the UK spybase at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire facilitates US drone strikes in Yemen.

Britain has been widely reported (outside the mainstream media) as supporting the brutal Saudi war in Yemen, which has caused thousands of civilian deaths, most of them due to Saudi air strikes. Indeed, Britain is party to the war. The government says there are around 100 UK military personnel based in Saudi Arabia including a ‘small number’ at ‘Saudi MOD and Operational Centres’. One such Centre, in Riyadh, coordinates the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen and includes British military personnel who are in the command room as air strikes are carried out and who have access to the bombing targets.

The UK is of course arming the Saudi campaign: The British government disclosed on 13 October that the Saudis have used five types of British bombs and missiles in Yemen. On the same day, it lied to Parliament that Britain was ‘not a party’ to the war in Yemen.

A secretmemorandum of understanding’ that Britain signed with Saudi Arabia in 2014 has not been made public since it ‘would damage the UK’s bilateral relationship’ with the Kingdom, the government states. It is likely that this pact includes reference to the secret British training of Syrian rebels in Saudi Arabia, which has taken place since mid-2015. Operating from a desert base in the north of the country, British forces have been teaching Syrian forces infantry skills as part of a US-led training programme.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the public was told that British forces withdrew at the end of 2014. However, British forces stayed behind to help create and train an Afghan special forces unit. Despite officially only having ‘advisors’ in Afghanistan, in August 2015 it was reported that British covert forces were fighting IS and Taliban fighters. The SAS and SBS, along with US special forces, were ‘taking part in military operations almost every night’ as the insurgents closed in on the capital Kabul.

In 2014, the government stated that it had ended its drone air strikes programme in Afghanistan, which had begun in 2008 and covered much of the country. Yet last year it was reported that British special forces were calling in air strikes using US drones.

Pakistan and Somalia

Pakistan and Somalia are two other countries where Britain is conducting covert wars. Menwith Hill facilitates US drone strikes against jihadists in both countries, with Britain’s GCHQ providinglocational intelligence’ to US forces for use in these attacks.

The government has said that it has 27 military personnel in Somalia who are developing the national army and supporting the African Union Mission. Yet in 2012 it was reported that the SAS was covertly fighting against al-Shabab Islamist terrorists in Somalia, working with Kenyan forces in order to target leaders. This involved up to 60 SAS soldiers, close to a full squadron, including Forward Air Controllers who called in air strikes against al-Shabab targets by the Kenyan air force. In early 2016, it was further reported that Jordan’s King Abdullah, whose troops operate with UK special forces, was saying that his troops were ready with Britain and Kenya to go ‘over the border’ to attack al-Shabaab.

Drones

The RAF’s secret drone war, which involves a fleet of 10 Reaper drones, has been in permanent operation in Afghanistan since October 2007, but covertly began operating outside Afghanistan in 2014. The NGO Reprieve notes that Britain provides communications networks to the CIA ‘without which the US would not be able to operate this programme’. It says that this is a particular matter of concern as the US covert drone programme is illegal.

The Gulf

Even this may not be the sum total of British covert operations in the region. The government stated in 2015 that it had 177 military personnel embedded in other countries’ forces, with 30 personnel working with the US military. It is possible that these forces are also engaged in combat in the region. For example, the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, has said that in the Gulf, British pilots fly US F18s from the decks of US aircraft carriers. This means that ‘US’ air strikes might well be carried out by British pilots.

Britain has many other military and intelligence assets in the region. Files leaked by Edward Snowden show that Britain has a network of three GCHQ spy bases in Oman – codenamed ‘Timpani’, ‘Guitar’ and ‘Clarinet’ – which tap in to various undersea cables passing through the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf. These bases intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies, which information is then shared with the National Security Agency in the US.

The state of Qatar houses the anti-IS coalition’s Combined Air Operations Centre at Al Udeid airbase. The government says it has seven military personnel ‘permanently assigned to Qatar’ and an additional number of ‘temporary personnel’ working at the airbase. These are likely to be covert forces; the government says that ‘we do not discuss specific numbers for reasons of safeguarding operational security’.

Similarly, the government says it has six military personnel ‘permanently assigned’ to the United Arab Emirates and an additional number of ‘temporary personnel’ at the UAE’s Al Minhad airbase. Britain also has military assets at Manama harbour, Bahrain, whose repressive armed forces are also being secretly trained by British commandos.

Kenya and Turkey

Kenya hosts Britain’s Kahawa Garrishon barracks and Laikipia Air Base, from where thousands of troops who carry out military exercises in Kenya’s harsh terrain can be deployed on active operations in the Middle East. Turkey has also offered a base for British military training. In 2015, for example, Britain deployed several military trainers to Turkey as part of the US-led training programme in Syria, providing small arms, infantry tactics and medical training to rebel forces.

The web of deceit

When questioned about these covert activities, Ministers have two responses. One is to not to comment on special forces’ operations. The other is to lie, which has become so routine as to be official government policy. The reasoning is simple – the government believes the public simply has no right to know of these operations, let alone to influence them.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told parliament in July that the government is ‘committed to the convention that before troops are committed to combat the House of Commons should have an opportunity to debate the matter’. This is plainly not true, as the extent of British covert operations show.

Similarly, it was first reported in May that British troops were secretly engaged in combat in Libya. This news came two days after Fallon told MPs that Britain was not planning ‘any kind of combat role’ to fight IS in Libya.

There are many other examples of this straightforward web of deceit. In July 2016, the government issued six separate corrections to previous ministerial statements in which they claimed that Saudi Arabia is not targeting civilians or committing war crimes in Yemen. However, little noticed was that these corrections also claimed that ‘the UK is not a party’ to the conflict in Yemen. This claim is defied by various news reports in the public domain.

British foreign policy is in extreme mode, whereby Ministers do not believe they should be accountable to the public. This is the very definition of dictatorship. Although in some of these wars, Britain is combatting terrorist forces that are little short of evil, it is no minor matter that several UK interventions have encouraged these very same forces and prolonged wars, all the while being regularly disastrous for the people of the region. Britain’s absence of democracy needs serious and urgent challenging.

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The Middle East oil/nuclear puzzle


The Middle East oil/nuclear puzzle

by Pepe Escobar

Reuters / Ali Jarekji

Reuters / Ali Jarekji

US Secretary of State John Kerry may be starting to enjoy the brinkmanship, as he says it’s “unclear” whether the US and Iran would reach a political framework nuclear deal before the end of this month.

Loud applause may be heard in corridors ranging from Tel Aviv to Riyadh.

As negotiations resume in Lausanne, the fact is a potential nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (US, UK, France, BRICS members Russia and China, and Germany) is bound to open the possibility of more Iranian oil exports – thus leading oil prices to fall even further. As of early this week, Brent crude was trading at $54.26 a barrel.

Assuming the US and the EU nations that are part of P5+1 really agree to implement the suspension of UN sanctions by the summer (Russia and China already agree), not only will Iran be exporting more energy – that should take a few months – but also OPEC as a whole will be increasing its oversupply.

The EU badly wants to buy loads of Iranian energy – and invest in Iranian energy infrastructure. Beijing, a key yet discreet member of the P5+1, is also watching these developments very carefully.

Whatever happens, for China this is a win-win situation, as Beijing keeps actively building up its strategic petroleum reserves profiting from low prices. And even as oil prices also remain under pressure from the strong US dollar – which makes oil way more expensive if you are paying with a different currency – that’s certainly no problem for China, with its mammoth US dollar reserves.

The oil price war essentially unleashed by Saudi Arabia has hit Iran with a bang. The country may be down, but not out. There were no good options for Tehran except to try to keep its market share by offering the same discounts – especially to Asia – the Saudis are offering.

Tehran has been under a tsunami of nasty Western sanctions for years, which limit its ability to export oil and increase production. It’s extremely difficult for the Iranian governments to reduce the gap of the expected revenue based on previous high oil prices.

Now the name of the game among major oil producers is to keep market share at all costs. Iran can’t escape it – as it needs to keep in check at all times the fear of oversupply and its desire to increase production. Some oil producing countries are definitely keeping upcoming oil supplies out of the market. The result is Iran will have serious trouble going for more production and more exports while trying to regain its pre-sanctions market share.

Reuters / Azad Lashkari

Reuters / Azad Lashkari

Wanna buy a Middle East condo?

While a sort of undeclared “oil war” is still far from reaching an endgame, the nuclear front promises some eye-popping breakthroughs.

Powerful – if sometimes conflicting – ‘Empire of Chaos’ factions in Washington are actively entertaining the dream of transferring US military assets from the Middle East to Europe to keep ratcheting up the pressure on Russia, under the pretext of the “aggression” on Ukraine.

That might happen only after “control” of the Middle East is somewhat shared between Turkey, Iran, and to a much lesser extent, the House of Saud. For the notoriously wobbly “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration’s foreign policy, this development would be a key rationale behind the push for a successful P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran to be reached this summer.

Iran has already cultivated – and blossomed – its own sphere of influence. It’s the Turkey-Saudi case that is way more complicated.

As much as Ankara is well aware of the fierce catfight for regional power between Tehran and Riyadh, it tries to maintain good relations with both.

Crucially it’s in Syria that Ankara and Riyadh are almost on the same “Assad must go” page. Almost – because in fact a pro-Muslim Brotherhood Turkey-Qatar alliance has found itself for four years in direct competition with a Salafi-boosting House of Saud.

Anyway, when Turkey’s President, also known as ‘Sultan’ Erdogan, visited the new Saudi King Salman in early March, they reached an understanding; they will both turbo-charge “support” – weaponized and otherwise – for the Syrian opposition. Problem is there is no credible Syrian opposition; virtually everyone that knows how to fight has migrated to the fake Caliphate of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

What this means in a nutshell is once again a Sunni against Shi’ite set up; a classic Divide and Rule gambit that is the perennial House of Saud priority.

The ’Empire of Chaos’, in theory, should but be pleased. But it’s not. The Obama administration’s objective – on the record – is “[prioritizing] the Islamic State, not Assad.”

But that may also change in a heartbeat. New Pentagon supremo Ashton Carter has just admitted, “the forces that we train in Syria, we will have some obligation to support them after they’re trained.” But that would also “include the possibility that, even though they’re trained and equipped to combat ISIL, they could come into contact with forces of the Assad regime.”

No wonder Damascus is weary, and will wait for US “actions” before any possible negotiation with Washington. One day Kerry says talks with Damascus are necessary to end the Syrian civil war. The next day he repeats, “Assad must go.”

Osama’s pal plays paranoia

As for a no-fly zone over northern Syria – heavily pushed by Erdogan, and a wet dream of neo-cons in Washington – it won’t fly. One extra reason for Ankara to stay away from this new Saudi anti-Iran push.

To complicate things further, power within the House of Saud remains diffused. Both the CIA and BND – German intelligence – agree, and there have been constant rumblings in Washington that the House of Saud eventually should go.

The House of Saud still has not understood that Syria is not the main “threat” against them. They are freaking out about their border with Iraq – as well as their borders with Yemen and Bahrain. On top of it they picked a fight with Russia via the oil price war. The Saudis say they are pumping only 9.5 million barrels of oil a day out of their 12.5 million barrels a day; Moscow is essentially saying they are pumping their entire capacity.

If the oil price war delights the Russia-demonizing ‘Masters of the Universe’, they are at the same time deeply enraged because it is decimating the US shale oil “revolution”. What’s left for masses of unemployed US workers? Find a job in Saudi Arabia. Still one more reason for the ‘Masters of the Universe’ to dump the House of Saud anytime they feel like it.

Predictably, House of Saud paranoia remains the norm. Former Saudi intelligence capo di tutti i capi (and former great pal of Osama bin Laden), Prince Turki, is on overdrive, charging Iran with being “a disruptive player in various scenes in the Arab world, whether it’s Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Palestine or Bahrain”; accusing Iran of “expanding its occupation of Iraq”; insisting “the enemy” is both Assad and ISIS/ISIL/Daesh; and last but not least unequivocally blasting any possible nuclear deal with Iran.

What’s even more worrisome is that King Salman brought Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Riyadh – rushing to meet him at the airport – to confirm a key strategic, secret nuclear agreement before any Iran/P5+1 deal is clinched. The bottom line: the House of Saud does not trust the American nuclear umbrella anymore. They are making their own nuclear power play with the help of nuclear power Pakistan. The connection does exist, but remains extremely mysterious.

No need to outline the upcoming maze of ominous consequences. Demented nuclear Wahhabis, anyone?

 

Run This Lying, War Criminal (SOB)Out Of Town US ‘Not Responsible’ For Crisis In Iraq, Libya: Kerry


Run This Lying, War Criminal (SOB)Out Of Town US ‘Not Responsible’ For Crisis In Iraq, Libya: Kerry

 

US Secretary of State John Kerry attends a joint press conference with Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry (unseen) on June 22, 2014 in Cairo. (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

US Secretary of State John Kerry attends a joint press conference with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry (unseen) on June 22, 2014 in Cairo. (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

 

RT – US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington is “not responsible” for either the crisis in Libya, or violence in Iraq, where militants of the Al-Qaeda offshoot group ISIS are capturing cities one by one. *****(really and who is responsible? It was America who invaded illegally two sovereign countries, bombed to the STONE AGE and brought in the insurgents which were Al Qaeda and Isis who by the way you finance and train. So please tell me who is responsible? Oh yes I forgot its Israel as you (America) are a colony of Israel. With that notion then you are right it’s not your fault but Israels.)

Al-Qaeda offshoot in Iraq offensive LIVE UPDATES

“The United States of America is not responsible for what happened in Libya, nor is it responsible for what is happening in Iraq today,” said Kerry at a press conference in Cairo after a short visit to Egypt for talks with its newly elected President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as part of his Middle East tour.

Speaking on the fallout of the crisis in Iraq, where radical Sunni militants – an Al-Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS, also known as ISIL) – are capturing Iraqi cities one by one and pushing away government forces from strategic posts, Kerry urged the republic’s authorities to overcome sectarian considerations and restrain the extremists.

“ISIL … it’s an ideology of violence and repression, is a threat not only to Iraq but the entire region… this is a critical moment when we must urge Iraq’s leaders to rise above sectarian considerations… and speak to all people,” Kerry said at a media conference.*****(I wonder Mr. Kerry when you open your mouth does your tongue go first through your retarded brain of yours or are you reading a Hollywood script? These extremists are financed and trained by the USA AND ISRAEL to cause a destabilization and to divide the whole of Middle East together with North Africa into smaller states with extremist governments which you control so that Israel will expand. What angers me the most is that the West International community does not realize that these extremists are not MUSLIMS because if they were they wouldn’t be killing their own brothers. There was never any hatred between the Shia’s and Sunnis till 9/11 which you and your Zionist friends wrote the script and executed it to the letter. Your plan begun with the Shah when you brought him down (although he was one of yours) and your CIA agents brought Khomeini to Iran to begin a war between the Shias and Sunni. The idiocy of the Arab world with exception (of Iran,S. Arabia, Qatar and UAE) the rest bought the story and did not realize the truth till it was too late.)   

A Shiite cleric visits members of Iraqi security forces and volunteers, who have joined the Iraqi security forces to fight against the predominantly Sunni militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) who have taken over Mosul and other northern provinces, on the outskirts of Diyala province June 16, 2014. (Reuters)

A Shiite cleric visits members of Iraqi security forces and volunteers, who have joined the Iraqi security forces to fight against the predominantly Sunni militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) who have taken over Mosul and other northern provinces, on the outskirts of Diyala province June 16, 2014. (Reuters)

Amid the growing insurgency threatening the Iraqi government, President Barack Obama said Thursday that up to 300 additional American military personnel will head to Iraq and assume an advisory role.

In turn, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Washington on Sunday of exploiting the violence to regain control of Iraq putting the republicunder its hegemony” and rule of “its stooges,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA news agency.

Kerry rejected these claims saying that the “US is not engaged in picking or choosing any one individual… it’s up to the people of Iraq to choose their own leadership.”

The United States shed blood and worked hard for years for the Iraqis to have their own governance… but ISIL crossed the line from Syria, began plotting internally. They have attacked communities and they are the ones marching through to disrupt the ability of Iraq to have the governance it wants.” *****(please ISIL its you and your stooges who have trained and financed them please explain to us how they got so many new army cars? Guns? if it wasn’t you who gave it to them?)

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on Youtube on June 17, 2014, allegedly shows militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) parading with their weapons in the northern city of Baiji in the in Salaheddin province. (AFP Photo)

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on Youtube on June 17, 2014, allegedly shows militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) parading with their weapons in the northern city of Baiji in the in Salaheddin province. (AFP Photo)

ISIS is focused on achieving total dominance in Iraq by the ongoing rampage aimed at seizing the capital Baghdad. The radical Sunni militants which proclaimed themselves ISIS in April last year have been kept under control by the Arab republic’s government between the initial sectarian strife that broke out following the US-led invasion in 2003 and the American military withdrawal in 2011.

READ ALSO: All you need to know about ISIS and what is happening in Iraq

On March 20, 2003 the United States opened a military offensive against Iraq under the pretext that the Baathist government of Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction – claims later found to be false.

From March 2003 to mid-2011 an estimated 460,000 deaths were caused by violence during the war and occupation by the US and allied forced, statistical research published in PLOS (Public Library of Science) Medicine journal published in October 2013 revealed.

A vehicle belonging to Kurdish security forces fires a multiple rocket launcher during clashes with Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on the outskirts of Diyala June 14, 2014. (Reuters / Yahya Ahmad)

A vehicle belonging to Kurdish security forces fires a multiple rocket launcher during clashes with Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on the outskirts of Diyala June 14, 2014. (Reuters / Yahya Ahmad)

Following the withdrawal of US troops, Iraq has been plunging deeper and deeper into sectarian strife mainly between the country’s majority Shiite community and the Sunni minority.

The war in bordering Syria that began in 2011 prompted even more violence in the region with radical militants receiving a wave of fresh members and growing funding.

2013 became the bloodiest year in Iraq since 2008 with over 7,000 civilian victims.

The UK’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair who joined the US in its diplomatic offensive and offered support in the form of British troops in 2003, now puts the blame for the destabilization of the region and the rising of ISIS on Iraqi authorities. ***(There are no words I could describe this man)

“We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that ‘we’ have caused this. We haven’t. We can argue as to whether our policies at points have helped or not; and whether action or inaction is the best policy and there is a lot to be said on both sides. But the fundamental cause of the crisis lies within the region not outside it,” he wrote in his essay entitled ‘Iraq, Syria and the Middle East’ in June.

US troops from the 82nd Airborne division take position during a search for a weapons cache in Fallujah, 50 kms (30 miles) west of Baghdad, 07 November 2003. (AFP photo / Patrick Baz)

US troops from the 82nd Airborne division take position during a search for a weapons cache in Fallujah, 50 kms (30 miles) west of Baghdad, 07 November 2003. (AFP photo / Patrick Baz)

“Though the challenge of terrorism was and is very real, the sectarianism of the current [Prime Minister Nouri] Maliki government snuffed out what was a genuine opportunity to build a cohesive Iraq.”

“Islamist extremism in all its different manifestations as a group rebuilt, refinanced and rearmed mainly as a result of its ability to grow and gain experience through the war in Syria,” Blair explained.

“And there will be debate about whether the withdrawal of US forces happened too soon.”