Archive for October, 2015

Regime change train chugs on to Riyadh

October 27, 2015

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s junior princes are in crisis mode. Prominent members of the royal family have sent letters to the family calling for Saudi King Salman’s removal in an effort to refuel the Kingdom’s ailing economy. Meanwhile lurking in the shadows are terrorist insurgent groups, like ISIS, who are willing to exploit any weakness demonstrated by the oil-rich country.

“The King is not in a stable condition and in reality the son of the king [Mohammed bin Salman] is ruling the kingdom,” one unnamed prince said.

“So four or possibly five of my uncles will meet soon to discuss the letters. They are making a plan with a lot of nephews and that will open the door (to regime change). A lot of the second generation is very anxious,” according to a letter, published by the Guardian. “The public are [sic] also pushing this very hard, all kinds of people, tribal leaders. They say you have to do this or the country will go to disaster.”

Similarly, another dissident prince claims that 80 percent of the monarchy backs his call for a palace overthrow against King Salman and his designated successors to the throne. “There are two people in Saudi who have to be punished and thrown out,” he told the Times. “It is best for the country for King Salman to step down as well. We cannot take sick people in top leadership.”

The downturn in the economy started last year when KSA decided to take on the US oil industry. They forced oil prices down by not reducing crude production that has cost the Middle East’s largest oil producer hundreds of billions. The calculated effort forced the US/Canadian oil industry to consolidate smaller firms, but has the House of Saud destroyed its own economy in the process?

For the past 14 years the Middle East allowed OPEC to keep barrels of crude oil artificially high, but the lingering slump in oil prices has sent Saudi Arabia into the bond market.

The recent bonds were sold to keep KSA’s social programs fully funded; oil must be traded in the $50-60 per barrel range. Today it’s traded closer to the $45-50/price per barrel that has forced the Saudi’s into the capital markets to pay its bills.

Saudi Arabia is facing a budget deficit for the first time since 2009. With 80 percent of the country’s revenues tied to oil, the recent plunge in crude prices has hit the Kingdom particularly hard. The government has cut spending, sold bonds and tapped foreign reserves to compensate for the self-imposed low oil prices.

“They have a lot of cash, but a lot less than they had this time last year. It’s interesting, the architect of this has decided to hold on to global market share when it comes to oil, to drive down oil prices lower and begin to plug the holes of their finances. The $5 billion sold in the domestic market today in Riyadh could add up to $27 billion by the end of the year,” John Defterios, emerging markets expert in Abu Dhabi told CNN.

A confluence of recent events like sinking oil prices to foreign-policy missteps with Yemen and Iran, pose serious challenges for the year-old Saudi regime. “If not properly managed, these events could eventually coalesce into a perfect storm that significantly increases the risk of instability within the kingdom, with untold consequences for global oil markets and security in the Middle East,” Defterios said.

As a result Saudi Arabia hasn’t paid companies working on infrastructure projects for six months and has resorted to selling bonds to cover its shortfall. Now the Kingdom faces its biggest challenge in years in the form of war, plummeting oil prices and the Mecca tragedy.

The threat from ISIS within and without the Kingdom is becoming increasingly destabilizing as well which is exacerbated by the war in Yemen. The war remains relatively unpopular by most Saudis who view the conflict as the Arab world’s richest country beating up the region’s poorest nation. The mounting civilian causalities are splashed across the Kingdom’s news services, offering more questions than answers.

Saudi’s assign blame to Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Kingdom’s defense minister and even labeled him “reckless.” Like the US’s war efforts in the Middle East, Prince Mohammed bin Salman has hastily sent Saudi’s soldiers into a proxy war in Yemen without a clear strategy or exit plan. The result of the lingering war has drawn international criticism for the humanitarian crisis.

To survive the monarchy’s social welfare apparatuses require a great deal of money, and challenges the self-styled protectors of strict Islam by sinking them deeper into chaos. They increased social spending by $6,000 for every poor person in the country that totals $37 billion per year. Saudi Arabia also spends about $48.5 billion on defense, according to NATO, and plans to increase the total to $63 billion by 2020.

“Saudi Arabia’s clerical establishment is one of the most important stabilizing mechanisms in the kingdom. Salafist Wahhabi ideology requires obedience to the confirmed ruler, which in Saudi Arabia’s case, is the king, but only so long as he enforces Islam,” IHS-Janes analyst Meda al Rowas said in July. “In November 2014 ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on Muslims to rebel against the Saudi monarchy. ISIS staged suicide bombings against the country’s Shia minority earlier this year to assert its authority against the government-allied clerical.”

On the home front, KSA offered extravagant social welfare programs to stave off a 2011-style regime change like Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Iraq. The Kingdom offers generous energy subsidies that cost close to 20 percent of Saudi’s annual GDP. The Kingdom also subsides food, housing, water, as well as other consumer goods to buy compliance.

Over the weekend Department of State Secretary John Kerry met with KSA’s ailing King Salman. The US reassured the Saudis that Syria remains a regional focus; “Both sides noted the importance of mobilizing the international community to support this goal and reiterated the need for a transition away from Assad. They pledged to continue and intensify support to the moderate Syrian opposition while the political track is being pursued.”

In a show of good faith, the US government just approved an $11 billion deal to sell Saudi Arabia four advanced warships, amid a renewed arms race in the Middle East.

But with the deteriorating conditions in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is increasingly looking like the next stop on the regime change train.

Is Erdoğan’s desperation driving Turkish terrorism through false flag attacks?

October 19, 2015

Last week terrorism returned to Turkey. Turkey’s embattled President Recep Erdoğan immediately blamed PKK and ISIS and said, “We consider all terror organization groups a terror threat, but the PKK is the number one threat in terms of terror in our country. Daesh is an outside threat to our country.” The pair of suicide bombers at a pro-Kurdish peace rally rocked the secular country, killing 97 and wounding hundreds more. So far government investigators confirm the bombing was likely the work of ISIS or the PKK Kurds.

The besieged Turkish president made it clear that war in the Middle East has consequences and accused Syria’s allies of propping up the Bashar al-Assad regime, a main factor in his country’s unrest: “They are [Iran and Russia] giving them arms support, financial support and allowing the administration to continue to get rid of the opposition there. And Daesh is the biggest supporter of the regime.”

But, Middle East experts say Erdoğan’s posturing is nothing more than a political play to win a majority of seats in the critical November election so he can avoid corruption probes, and legitimately cement his power.

While the conflict continues to expand throughout the Middle East, Russia’s involvement in Syria forced the Obama administration to respond to critics blaming America’s lack of leadership. And as Russia’s bombing efforts increased, a CNN report stated that the US military airdropped 112 pallets of weapons in northern Syria hoping any US-trained rebels would recover the 50 tons of munitions to fight ISIS.

The regional insurgency and the unrest in Turkey are adding to the growing problems plaguing the European Union. To date, the economic and cultural consequences of Turkey’s two million Syrian refugees, Lebanon’s 1.1 million refugees, Syria’s six million internally displaced citizens, and Europe’s estimated million refugees, all from secular countries, are becoming increasingly catastrophic for the region and beyond.

Domestically, the 15-year wars have the American populace fatigued while allies in the region are continually weakened by the clash of cultures. The concerns for the US will primarily center on economic demands and national security. Currently, US taxpayers fund most major international relief organizations through the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the US Agency for International Development, US Information Agency, and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s).

The concern for many analysts is whether the Turkish terror attack was the work of ISIS/Daesh or PKK or was it a “false flag” operation spearheaded by Turkey’s intelligence agencies to unite Turks behind Erdoğan. The double bombing raised alarms, because they looked like a trademark of Al-Qaeda, but surprisingly no terror organization claimed responsibility for the twin bombings that struck Ankara. Normally terror organizations claim responsibility for attacks to boost insurgent’s moral and its power over other rival jihadis.

However, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaeda or the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) groups have not claimed responsibility for the bombings. This fact leads many political opposition groups inside Turkey to believe the suicide attacks may lie at the feet of the notorious Turkish intelligence agency.

Daniel Pipes, an expert at a DC think tank, the Middle East Forum said, “ISIS involvement must have taken place with the connivance of Turkish intelligence. The government has a motive: Eager to win a majority of seats in the next election both to avoid corruption probes and legitimately increase his power, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has initiated a quasi-war against the Kurds of Turkey hoping thereby to rouse Turkish nationalist feelings. The Ankara bombing fits exactly into this pattern. Further, it conforms to Turkish intelligence’s history of dirty tricks, including some against Kurds, as well as a pattern of fabricating evidence against domestic rivals (such as the military or the Fethullah Gülen movement).”

The Kurdish members in Turkey’s coalition government that stunned Erdoğan’s AKP party in the last election cycle may end up as political losers in the important November elections that will ultimately either consolidate or strip Erdoğan’s power in the EU gateway country.

The leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party, Selahattin Demirtaş, responded to the attacks this way; “The state which has information about the bird that flies and every flap of its wings was not able to prevent a massacre in the heart of Ankara?” He also suggested that his party blames the Erdoğan regime until they view conclusive evidence suggesting otherwise. Not surprisingly, Erdoğan has clamped down on eyewitness reports by shutting off social media. Adding to transparency concerns is a blanket gag order that the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, essentially, banning any reporting or criticism about the Ankara, Turkey bombing. In addition, the Turkish government suspended most of Ankara’s law enforcement. “In order to run a healthy investigation into the abominable terrorist attack … and in line with the requests from chief civil and police inspectors, Ankara’s provincial police chief, intelligence department chief and security department chiefs have been removed from duty,” a statement from the ministry’s website explained

Turkey has identified the twin bombers as Şeyh Abdurrahman Alagöz and Yunus Emre Alagöz. According to court documents presented by Republican People’s Party (CHP), one of the suspected terrorists was taped saying goodbye to another family member two months prior to the attack.

A Cumhuriyet daily report postulated, “This could be our last conversation. Last conversation both with me and with Abdurrahman, God willing. My will is that [you] take care of the family. Do not leave them in that dirt. Do not stay there and do not leave them [the family] there. Come here, for God’s sake.”

Backing up his president is Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. “We are working on (investigating) two terrorist organizations, Daesh (Islamic State) and PKK, because we have certain evidence regarding the suicide bombers having links with Daesh, but also some linkages with PKK groups. Some suspects were in Syria for many months.”

If there is one topic that unites Turkey, it is the growing population of the Kurds. Not only have they have grown their role in the Turkish government, but they now make up approximately 20 percent of the country’s population. The concern for the Turks is the Kurdish group will make a land grab in the north and consolidate with their neighbor’s in northern Syria as well as Iraq.

“We don’t see any difference between Daesh and PKK. They are both criminals, both terrorist organizations attacking Turkey, attacking civilians,” Davutoglu said.

But the Kurds contend the Ankara bombing was work of the sitting government in an effort to thwart any competition for the AK Party founded by President Tayyip Erdoğan. His regime lost its majority for the first time in 13 years last June, in part to the electoral success of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). So far the November election is a dead heat between the two parties.

Also adding to the caldron of complexities inside Turkey is their North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership. Before allowing the US to use Turkish airbases to launch airstrikes on neighboring Syria, Erdoğan called for the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria that would shrink the flow of refugees uprooted by the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars. However, those calls went unheeded.

“The two million Syrians are not a burden only financially, but also in other terms,” Omer Celik, spokesman of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) told reporters. “The best solution would be to set up the safety zone inside Syria, settle the Syrians there, and provide them assistance through Turkey.”

However many European governments don’t want to grant full visa-free access to 78 million Turkish citizens. The East meets West territory is primarily Muslim and if Erdoğan reclaims power it becomes more likely, the last secular country in the Middle East, will lean towards Islamization.

“Syrians don’t see their future in Turkey because of the uncertainty of their status, lack of decent housing and inability to get their children into schools,” said Andrew Gardner from Amnesty International.

Meanwhile the Europeans are considering a pledge of $3.4 billion in humanitarian aid requested by Turkey to stem the flow of migrants currently overwhelming Europe. But before Turkey steps up to the plate, it is demanding EU membership negotiations be restarted and expedited.

Boy play is part of Afghan culture US military says

October 12, 2015

Three Marines are dead, one Marine was seriously wounded, and two professional military careers are ruined – why? Because the United States decided an Afghan child molester was above the law.

Marine Corps Major Jason Brezler is no longer a devil dog (and can’t speak because his case is ongoing), but his attorney, Kevin Carroll, had this to say about an email Brezler forwarded to his Afghanistan replacement.

The entire chain of events unfolded when Brezler received an email from compatriots in Afghanistan. “The subject line of the email he received was in all capital letters with three exclamation points and read–Sarwar Jan is back.”

The Marine knew the Afghan police chief, who was trained by the US and its coalition partners, and stationed aboard the military outpost.

Jan was a controversial Afghan police chief who brought his personal “tea boy” (sex slave) Aynoddin on the base, he ended up using Sarwar Jan’s to gun down four Marines working out in the base gym.

“When Jason was serving in Afghanistan in 2010, he caused Sarwar Jan, a Afghan police official, to be fired from that position because he was raping children,” Carroll told CNN.

But the story gets worse. Less than two weeks after Brezler’s warning, three unarmed Marines working out in the gym on a US forward operating base were shot to death by a boy Jan had given an AK-47. Their names were Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson, Cpl. Richard Rivera and Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley.

Buckley’s father, Gregory Senior, recalled the last phone call he had with his son.

“Dad, at night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” Buckley senior said. “My son said his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture.”

This outrageous response from senior commanders runs counter to American values and the underlining principle that the US is fighting for the little guys who can’t speak for themselves, Buckley’s father explained. What is wrong with American values and Christian principles of freedom and equality that respects life? Do Islamic tenets trump Christian principles?

Those values led Maj. Brezler to send an email to his replacements at the remote Afghanistan military outpost that included the classified dossier on Jan. While the document is no longer classified, the military used the opportunity to end Brezler’s career for sending an email from his personal, unsecure Yahoo account.

But could Brezler’s ignored warning saved the three service members lives?

“It would have (saved) my son,” Buckley’s father insisted.

He also recounted the version of events he was told by the military. “He (killer) walked in with an AK-47 given to him by the chief of police Sarwar Jan at about 8:30 at night and executed three Marines.”

Buckley’s father was saddened by the news that Maj. Brezler was being kicked out of the Marine Reserves for sending an email that included a now declassified report on Sanwar Jan. “They should be giving him a medal not prosecuting him.”

The practice of raping boys is aptly named “bacha bazi” or boy play. It’s a widespread problem in the tribal nation. Keeping this in mind why did the US arm some suspected pedophiles, especially on US bases where everyone is subject to US law? Instead, American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene — in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases, according to numerous New York Times interviews as well as court records.

So far there have only been a few Congressmen willing to take on the Pentagon and speak up for service members.

“The entire Brezler case definitely needs the kind of clarity that only a comprehensive reexamination can bring.  There are too many questions around this case to say the correct outcome was reached,” Republican Congressman and former Marine Duncan Hunter said.

Retired Army lieutenant colonel and former Congressman Allen West described it this way. “All of us who’ve been in Afghanistan know the purpose of the “tea boys,” and for our leadership to allow this child abuse, rape and pedophilia is despicable. During my two-and-a-half years in southern Afghanistan training the Afghan army, we had a serious situation where we had to discipline an Afghan Kandak (Battalion) Commander who was forcing young soldiers at gunpoint to engage in sex with him.”

The story of Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland conjures up similar strong emotions; however, he has the attention of Congress. Allen and Hunter wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter challenging the Pentagon’s decision to kick out the service members for taking a stand against child abuse.

“I am once again dismayed by the Army’s actions in this case,” Hunter, R-Calif., wrote in the letter to Carter.

Martland’s Army career changed course after learning an Afghan boy was raped and his mother beaten. The Sargent and his team leader, US Army Captain Dan Quinn confronted a local police commander they had trained, armed and paid with U.S. taxpayer dollars. When the man laughed off the incident, they beat him up him.”

It started when a 12-year-old showed the Green Berets where his hands had been tied. According to West, a medic took him to a back room for an examination with an interpreter, who told them an Afghan commander named Abdul Rahman had raped the boy. Once the child molester learned the event was reported to US military he beat the boy’s mother.

“It was at this point, the Green Berets had had enough. Quinn and Martland went to confront Rahman. He confessed to the crime and laughed about it, and said it wasn’t a big deal. Even when we patiently explained how serious the charge was, he kept laughing,” Quinn said.

According to reports, Quinn and Martland shoved Abdul Rahman to the ground. “As a man, as a father of a young boy myself at the time, I felt obliged to step in to prevent further repeat occurrences,” Quinn, the Special Forces A-Team Commander explained.

Rahman walked away bruised, but service members at the base contend the man was able to walk away. Nevertheless Rahman reported the confrontation to another Army unit and the next day the Army removed Quinn and Martland.

“Ladies and gents, here’s one of our elite warriors, an Army Green Beret, with several combat tours of duty. He’s a recipient for the Bronze Star for Valor due to his actions in combat. And the Army relieved him of his duty position because he shoved a child rapist, who’d beaten a mother for reporting the heinous assault,” West said.

“Here’s an Army that’s gone so off the rails under the Obama administration that it would punish two men standing up for a raped little boy and his mom. Where are the child rights advocates and the women’s rights activists? Here’s a soldier that stood up and confronted the real “War on Women,” and, as a result, now has a permanent black mark on his personnel file.”

In a statement, Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, denies the policy requiring soldiers to ignore child abuse. He said “he’s taken the time to speak to President Ashraf Ghani about the problem.”

Allen strongly believes this may be adding to the cause of the PTSD for some troops — having to listen to the cries of these boys and not be able to do anything.

As for the USAHRC, “they say this decision is final because there is ‘no new information brought to the table’ is unconscionable. The known information should be enough to reverse this decision, unless the U.S. Army, my Army, now condones child sex abuse, rape, and beating women,” Allen concluded.

So far nobody has been charged with the murder of the Marines or the rape of a minor boy.

Read: ISIS buys & sells girls into sexual servitude here

US Commander admits errors in Afghan hospital attack

October 7, 2015

Afghanistan airstrike kills 19 at Doctors Without Borders hospital

October 6, 2015