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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Washington’s Fake War On ISIS ‘Relocates’ To Libya


Washington’s Fake War On ISIS ‘Relocates’ To Libya

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Libya is one place that the sponsors of ISIS believe Russia can’t get them…

Of all the possible explanations for the Islamic State’s “move” to Libya, the only one that makes any real sense is that they are being relocated there by their foreign sponsors because it is believed they are “out of reach” of the Russian-led coalition that has been truly fighting them in Syria.

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According to New Eastern Outlook:

In 2011, a NATO coalition led by the United States used its own engineered regional campaign of political destabilization, the “Arab Spring,” as a pretext to militarily intervene in first Libya directly, and in a more indirect way, Syria. US and European forces also “quietly” intervened in several other nations, including Mali and the Ivory Coast amid this regional conflagration.
Even in 2011, it was clear to geopolitical analysts that military intervention in Libya was an attempt to divide and destroy the country, giving the US and its collaborators a base of operations to further disrupt and reorder the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). Almost immediately after US-led strikes on Libya coordinated with terrorist factions on the ground successfully overthrew the Libyan government, weapons and fighters were sent to Syria via NATO-member Turkey. CNN’s 2012 article, “Libya rebels move onto Syrian battlefield,” would report that:

Their war for freedom in Libya may be over, but almost a year after they won the battle for the Libyan capital, a group of fighters have a new battlefield: Syria. Under the command of one of Libya’s most well known rebel commanders, Al-Mahdi al-Harati ****(& Belhaj), more than 30 Libyan fighters have made their way into Syria to support the Free Syrian Army rebels in their war against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

It is difficult to believe CNN’s inaccuracy in its report was not intentional. Far from a “war for freedom,” it is clear that Al-Mahdi al-Harati led just one of many proxy armies raised by the United States and its Persian Gulf allies. The group espouses an extremist tinge propagated by US-ally Saudi Arabia, and in no way represents either the Libyan people, nor the people of Syria it claimed to be fighting on behalf of. Al-Harati is now “mayor” of Tripoli, and is just one example which goes a long way in explaining the continuous chaos that has engulfed the country. Quite literally, foreign-funded terrorists are running the country. Ironically, the same CNN that in 2012 celebrated the spreading “war for freedom,” would report in a more recent article titled, “ISIS fighters in Libya surge as group suffers setbacks in Syria, Iraq,” that:

There may now be up to 6,500 ISIS fighters in Libya, twice the number previously thought, according to several U.S. intelligence officials. They attributed the increase to the U.S. analysis that ISIS is diverting more fighters to Libya from Syria — and from Turkey when they cannot get into Syria.
It is ironic because the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) is using precisely the same logistical, financial and political networks to flow back into Libya that CNN’s “freedom fighters” used to get to Syria in the first place. In fact, it is quite clear Libya is simply reabsorbing the mercenary forces organized and sent to Syria in part through direct US-backing in the Libyan terror capital of Benghazi since late 2011 onward.

Why Washington Welcomes the IS Homecoming

Far from truly alarming to US and European special interests, IS arriving in the lawless warzone of what used to be the functional nation-state of Libya is a welcomed reprieve for what is essentially a Washington-London-Brussels mercenary army.

Syria is not only no longer safe for IS, it has become a grave in which IS is being buried alive. This is thanks not to a successful anti-terror campaign waged by Washington and its allies, but by swift and successful operations carried out by Moscow, Tehran, and their allies in Damascus. Indeed, with IS supply lines being cut from their source in Turkey and their forces being pushed back across Syrian territory, liquidation of their assets in Syria is well underway. Likewise in Iraq, feigned US operations to stop IS have given way to an increase in cooperation between Baghdad, Tehran, and Damascus.

What started out as an attempt to divide and destroy Iran’s arc of influence across the region has galvanized it instead.

Moving the mercenary forces of IS out of the region is instrumental in ensuring they “live to fight another day.” By placing them in Libya, Washington and its allies hope they will be far out of reach of the growing coalition truly fighting them across the Levant. Further more, placing them in Libya allows other leftover “projects” from the “Arab Spring” to be revisited, such as the destabilization and destruction of Algeria, Tunisia and perhaps even another attempt to destabilize and destroy Egypt.

IS’ presence in Libya could also be used as a pretext for open-ended and much broader military intervention throughout all of Africa by US forces and their European and Persian Gulf allies. As the US has done in Syria, where it has conducted operations for now over a year and a half to absolutely no avail, but has managed to prop up proxy forces and continue undermining and threatening targeted nations, it will likewise do so regarding IS in Libya and its inevitable and predictable spread beyond.

Despite endless pledges by the US and Europe to take on IS in Libya, neither has admitted they themselves and their actions in 2011 predictably precipitated IS’ rise there in the first place. Despite the predictable danger destabilizing and destroying Libya posed to Europe, including a deluge of refugees fleeing North Africa to escape the war in Libya, predicted by many prominent analysts at the time even before the first of NATO’s bombs fell on the country, the US and Europe continued forward with military intervention anyway.

One can only surmise from this that the US and Europe sought to intentionally create this chaos, planning to fully exploit it both at home and abroad to continue its campaign to geopolitically reorder MENA.

Today, we watch what appears to be “ineffective” attempts to confront the growing threat the US and its allies intentionally created in Libya in the first place. In reality, as Russia has proven in Syria, a decisive and relatively small military campaign can deal IS a deathblow. The US and Europe are more than capable of executing such a military campaign, but is intentionally avoiding doing so. This is not for a lack of political will, but rather because their collective political will instead seeks much wider chaos giving them carte blanche to act regionally with spanning, open-ended military interventions.

Article by New York-based geopolitical analyst Ulson Gunnar

Wikileaks: Hillary Clinton Helped Topple Gadhafi While France & UK Fought Over Libya’s Oil


Wikileaks: Hillary Clinton Helped Topple Gadhafi While France & UK Fought Over Libya’s Oil

Clinton bragged about the U.S. role in Moammar Gadhafi’s death, and her emails leaked by Wikileaks show the race to claim Libya’s resources in the aftermath.

By Kit O’Connell
WASHINGTON — A message from Hillary Clinton’s private email server reveals that France and the United Kingdom both sought to control Libya’s oil in the days after the U.S.-backed coup in 2011.

An email sent on Sept. 16, 2011 to Clinton, then the U.S. Secretary of State, from journalist and family friend Sidney Blumenthal, shows that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron each traveled to Tripoli about one month after Moammar Gadhafi’s government fell in order to assert their claim on Libya’s energy reserves.

They made these demands, Blumenthal wrote, during meetings with the country’s National Transitional Council, a de facto government which formed with Western support in the aftermath of the coup:

“According to knowledgeable individuals, as part of this effort, the two leaders, in private conversations, also intend to press the leaders of the NTC to reward their early support for the rebellion against Muammar al Qaddafi. Sarkozy and Cameron expect this recognition to be tangible, in the form of favorable contracts for French and British energy companies looking to play a major role in the Libyan oil industry. According to this source, Sarkozy feels, quite strongly, that without French support there would have been no revolution and that the NTC government must demonstrate that it realizes this fact.”

Blumenthal reported that Cameron sought to downplay the historically strong ties between the U.K.-based BP Oil and the Gadhafi government. France, he wrote, was negotiating “to reserve as much as 35% of Libya’s oil related industry for French firms, particularly the major French energy company TOTAL.”

Analysis of the Clinton emails by Antiwar.com shows Sarkozy also lusted after Gadhafi’s gold and silver reserves, valued at about $7 billion.

The United States, France, U.K. and other NATO allies backed rebel forces in Libya that ousted Gadhafi in August 2011, in what was widely reported to be a “humanitarian intervention” against a government with a history of severe human rights abuses.

Clinton played a major role in convincing allied nations to join in the attacks, and after Gadhafi was killed that October, she boasted during a break in an interview for CBS, “We came, we saw, he died.”

However, far from improving conditions, the fall of Libya’s government left what was once an economically prosperous nation in chaos and disarray.

The failed state proved to be a perfect opportunity for Daesh, the terrorist group commonly known in the West as ISIS or ISIL, as Catherine Shakdam reported for MintPress last March. She highlighted that it brought extremists closer to European shores:

“With ISIS now inserted into the mix of Libya’s unravelling, the country is back on the forefront of the war on terror. Two days after the video surfaced, Egypt’s Ambassador to the U.K. Nasser Kamel told the BBC that ISIS would attempt to break into Europe by exploiting conventional migration routes, camouflaging its fighters within the waves of illegal migrants pouring toward Western capitals.”

Both the U.S. and France were reported to have re-entered the conflict in Libya in February.

Clinton’s emails also suggest that another U.S. ally, Israel, supported the destabilization of Syria through efforts to weaken Iran and control energy reserves in Syria’s Golan Heights, a region illegally occupied by Israel.

Similar to the conflict in Libya, the Syrian civil war is driven by competing interests in gas pipelines which would run through the country.

This Is Why America Is Bringing “Freedom” To The Middle East


This Is Why America Is Bringing “Freedom” To The Middle East

Submitted by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog,

I can’t figure out why we are so concerned about the Middle East. Can you?

If we are swimming in shale oil and our future is driver-less electric cars, why are we so concerned about the Middle East?

After 15 years in Afghanistan, the opium crop is at record high levels. How could that be? I thought we were there to modernize and democratize their country. At least heroine in the U.S. is now cheaper than a happy meal at McDonalds.

We’ll start with the obvious: the number one export for many countries here is crude oil or related petroleum products. Middle Eastern countries made up a significant portion of global oil export revenues during 2015 with shipments valued at $325 billion or 41.3% of global crude oil exports.

Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iran, and Oman were all among the top 15 exporters of crude oil in 2015. Russia and Kazakhstan, countries on the Central Asian part of the map, were also members of that same group.

Regimes in the region found that there were many other corollary benefits from this economic might. Unrest could be stifled by rising wealth, and these countries would also have more influence than they otherwise would in global affairs. Saudi Arabia is a good example in both cases, though a major driver of Saudi influence has been slipping in recent years.

Outside of Oil

Aside from exports of oil, there are some other interesting subtleties to this map. One of the most advanced economies in the region, Israel, is not dependent on oil exports at all. The country has had to find other ways to create value in the global market and its three major exports include electronics and software, cut diamonds, and pharmaceuticals.

War-torn Afghanistan, which is not a significant producer of petroleum on the world market, gets the majority of its export revenue from different natural resource. Opium is Afghanistan’s most valuable cash crop, and opiates such as opium, morphine, and heroin are its largest export. Fetching an estimated value of $3 billion at border prices, it was estimated to make up about 15% of the country’s GDP equivalent in 2013.

Lastly, countries on the map without oil wealth tend to be less influential on the world stage from a geopolitical perspective. Armenia, for example, mainly exports pig iron, unwrought copper, and nonferrous metals and is the world’s 138th largest exporter by dollar value, ranked in between Jamaica and Swaziland. Surrounded geographically by countries that Yerevan considers hostile, Armenia has increasingly turned to Russia for its support.

Here is the link with the maps: http://jpdf24.biz/w/?p=20458

US Ally in Libya Joins ISIL and Leads Its Forces in the Country – Reports


US Ally in Libya Joins ISIL and Leads Its Forces in the Country – Reports

Abdelhakim Belhadj, who despite ties to al-Qaeda was backed by the United States and NATO during the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi, has joined the Islamic State in Libya and is leading forces there, according to US intelligence officials.

Belhadj, a Libyan national and former head of the al-Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, was considered by President Barack Obama’s administration and some members of Congress as a “willing partner” in the overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011.

“Now, it’s alleged he is firmly aligned with ISIS and supports the training camps in eastern Libya,” Catherine Herridge, chief intelligence correspondent for Fox News, said Tuesday on “America’s Newsroom.”

Also on Tuesday, Sara Carter of The Blaze tweeted: “Abdelhakim Belhadj is now the leader of #IslamicState in #Libya. At CIA rendition camp — let go, later participated overthrow #Qaddafi.”
Belhadj indeed was held in a secret CIA detention center, and his connection to the spy agency remains murky. In 2004, Belhadj and his pregnant wife were arrested in Kuala-Lumpur airport in Malaysia. He was transferred to a CIA “black-site” in Bangkok before being turned over to Gadhafi’s government, which threw him in the Abu Selim Prison.

Belhadj was freed in 2008 by the Gadhafi regime as part of a reapproach toward local Islamists. In 2011, however, he chased the Gadhafi family out of Tripoli as the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group that was backed by the US and NATO.
Despite Belhadj’s well-known ties to al-Qaeda, he was made head of the Tripoli Military Council, a position he held until resigning to run for office in May 2012.

He has also been connected to terrorist operations around the world, including the 2004 Madrid train bombings and the murder of two Tunisian politicians at behest of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Belhadj’s reported move to Islamic State would bolster the terrorist group’s efforts to recruit Libya’s existing militant forces, which includes as many as 3,000 fighters, according to the Washington Times.

A group of Syrian rebels supported by US politicians for their “moderate” position, and who received US military equipment, has disbanded after heavy losses.

America’s Favorite ‘Moderate’ Syrian Group Disbands
This would not be the first time western-backed “moderate rebels” who were recruited to fight terrorists ended up crossing to Islamic State or al-Qaeda. In Syria, the so-called “Hazm movement” defected to al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra front, while 3,000 members of the Free Syrian Army pledged support to Islamic State.

In Libya, Islamic State militants already are receiving “tangible assistance” from training camps at a new support base near the port city of Derna in the eastern part of the country, according to counter-terrorism sources who spoke with Fox News’ Herridge.

The situation raises fresh security concerns as the US and its allies struggle to keep tabs on the terror group as it expands throughout the Middle East.

An unnamed source told Herridge they would not be surprised “if the next 9/11 came out of Libya.”