400 US mercenaries ‘deployed on ground’ in Ukraine military op

Ukrainian troops outside the town of Andreyevskoe near Slaviyansk, Donetsk Region, where local residents blocked a column of Ukrainian Army armored personnel carriers. (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Voskresenskiy)

Ukrainian troops outside the town of Andreyevskoe near Slaviyansk, Donetsk Region, where local residents blocked a column of Ukrainian Army armored personnel carriers. (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Voskresenskiy)

About 400 elite mercenaries from the notorious US private security firm Academi (formerly Blackwater) are taking part in the Ukrainian military operation against anti-government protesters in southeastern regions of the country, German media reports.

The Bild am Sonntag newspaper, citing a source in intelligence circles, wrote Sunday that Academi employees are involved in the Kiev military crackdown on pro-autonomy activists in near the town of Slavyansk, in the Donetsk region.

On April 29, German Intelligence Service (BND) informed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government about the mercenaries’ participation in the operation, the paper said, RIA Novosti reported. It is not clear who commands the private military contractors and pays for their services, however.

In March, media reports appeared suggesting that the coup-imposed government in Kiev could have employed up to 300 mercenaries.That was before the new government launched a military operation against anti-Maidan activists, or “terrorists” as Kiev put it, in southeast Ukraine.

At the time, the Russian Foreign Ministry said then that reports claiming Kiev was planning to involve “involve staff from foreign military companies to ‘ensure the rule of law,’” could suggest that it wanted “to suppress civil protests and dissatisfaction.”

In particular, Greystone Limited, which is currently registered in Barbados and is a part of Academi Corporation, is a candidate for such a gendarme role. It is a similar and probably an affiliated structure of the Blackwater private army, whose staff have been accused of cruel and systematic violations of human rights in various trouble spots on many occasions.

“Among the candidates for the role of gendarme is the Barbados-registered company Greystone Limited, which is integrated with the Academi corporation,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “It is an analogue, and, probably and affiliated body of the Blackwater private army, whose employees have repeatedly been accused of committing grievous and systematic human rights abuses in different troubled regions.”

Allegations increased further after unverified videos appeared on YouTube of unidentified armed men in the streets of Donetsk, the capital of the country’s industrial and coalmining region. In those videos, onlookers can be heard shouting “Mercenaries!”“Blackwater!,” and “Who are you going to shoot at?”

(FILES) A picture taken on July 5, 2005 shows contractors of the US private security firm Blackwater securing the site of a roadside bomb attack near the Iranian embassy in central Baghdad. (AFP Photo / Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

(FILES) A picture taken on July 5, 2005 shows contractors of the US private security firm Blackwater securing the site of a roadside bomb attack near the Iranian embassy in central Baghdad. (AFP Photo / Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

Academi denied its involvement in Ukraine, claiming on its website that “rumors” were posted by “some irresponsible bloggers and online reporters.”

“Such unfounded statements combined with the lack of factual reporting to support them and the lack of context about the company, are nothing more than sensationalistic efforts to create hysteria and headlines in times of genuine crisis,” the US firm stated.

The American security company Blackwater gained worldwide notoriety for the substantial role it played in the Iraq war as a contractor for the US government. In recent years it has changed its name twice – in 2009 it was renamed Xe Services and in 2011 it got its current name, Academi.

The firm became infamous for the alleged September 16, 2007 killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. The attack, which saw 20 others wounded, was allegedly without justification and in violation of deadly-force rules that pertained to American security contractors in Iraq at the time. Between 2005 and September 2007, Blackwater security guards were involved in at least 195 shooting incidents in Iraq and fired first in 163 of those cases, a Congressional report said at the time.

Kissinger warns of West’s ‘fatal mistake’ that may lead to new Cold War

 Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Reuters / Gero Breloer / Pool)


Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Reuters / Gero Breloer / Pool)

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has given a chilling assessment of a new geopolitical situation taking shape amid the Ukrainian crisis, warning of a possible new Cold War and calling the West’s approach to the crisis a “fatal mistake.”

The 91-year-old diplomat characterized the tense relations as exhibiting the danger of “another Cold War.”

“This danger does exist and we can’t ignore it,” Kissinger said. He warned that ignoring this danger any further may result in a “tragedy,” he told Germany’s Der Spiegel.

If the West wants to be “honest,” it should recognize, that it made a “mistake,” he said of the course of action the US and the EU adopted in the Ukrainian conflict. Europe and the US did not understand the “significance of events” that started with the Ukraine-EU economic negotiations that initially brought about the demonstrations in Kiev last year. Those tensions should have served as a starting point to include Russia in the discussion, he believes.

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

“At the same time, I do not want to say that the Russian response was proportionate,” the Cold War veteran added, saying that Ukraine has always had a “special significance” for Russia and failure to understand that “was a fatal mistake.”

Calling the sanctions against Moscow “counterproductive,” the diplomat said that they set a dangerous precedent. Such actions, he believes, may result in other big states trying to take “protective measures” and strictly regulate their own markets in future.

When introducing some sanctions or publishing lists of people whose accounts were frozen one should wonder “what will happen next?” the former Secretary of State said rhetorically, because when something begins you cannot lose sight of where it is going to end.

Kissinger also said he would expect more action from Berlin on matter. As the most “important” country in Europe it should be more “proactive” rather than reactive, he said.

 

 

Breaking News: Tense stand-off between Million Mask March protesters and police in London

RT UK – November 05, 2014

Reuters / Bobby Yip

Reuters / Bobby Yip

Barricades have been erected in London’s Parliament Square and hundreds of police officers are on standby after protesters announced intentions to “blockade” the center of the capital.

In anticipation of the Million Mask March on November 5, officers from the Metropolitan Police, British Transport Police and the City of London Police Force will be on duty, with many others on standby.

In their invitation to the Million Mask March, Anonymous activists announced they intend to to cause traffic chaos in the capital:

“What I’d like to see is a MASSIVE Anonymous blockade of London City,” the demo’s website said. “Complete physical GRIDLOCK. Only thing that gets through are Fire & Rescue and ambulances. NOTHING ELSE MOVES.”

LIVE – Million Mask March floods London streets

 

The demonstration has been called by the hacktivist group Anonymous, whose manifesto states they protest against austerity, mass surveillance and human rights abuses.

The London march is part of a day of global demonstrations, which include rallies across Europe, the Americas and Asia.

Barricades have been erected in London’s Parliament Square and hundreds of police officers are on standby after protesters announced intentions to “blockade” the center of the capital.

In anticipation of the Million Mask March on November 5, officers from the Metropolitan Police, British Transport Police and the City of London Police Force will be on duty, with many others on standby.

In their invitation to the Million Mask March, Anonymous activists announced they intend to to cause traffic chaos in the capital:

“What I’d like to see is a MASSIVE Anonymous blockade of London City,” the demo’s website said. “Complete physical GRIDLOCK. Only thing that gets through are Fire & Rescue and ambulances. NOTHING ELSE MOVES.”

 The demonstration has been called by the hacktivist group Anonymous, whose manifesto states they protest against austerity, mass surveillance and human rights abuses.

The London march is part of a day of global demonstrations, which include rallies across Europe, the Americas and Asia.

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Last year’s London march saw more than 2,500 protesters take to the streets, in a rally which saw fireworks thrown at Buckingham Palace and a total of 15 arrests.

The heightened security measures come as the Metropolitan Police attempted to contact Anonymous, but no one came forward with any details.

“We are keen to talk with them to ensure they are able to protest; it is important that they talk to us so that we can work together to achieve a safe and successful event,” said Chief Superintendent Pippa Mills.

Rather than communicate directly with local authorities, Anonymous sent a message to the government, and to global world leaders: “To oppressive governments, we say this: we do not expect our campaign to be completed in a short time frame. However, you will not prevail against the angry masses of the body politic.”

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The group further addresses the British government, saying they have “made an enemy of Anonymous,” and that they have “angered them considerably.”

Speaking to RT, one source from the Anonymous movement said, “It’s a night of grievance on a night that’s historically about parliament and how it’s not always working in the people’s interests.”

“We burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes on a fire each year as a warning against standing against parliament so we just felt it would be symbolic,” the source said.

The Million Mask March was due to begin at 1800 GMT from Trafalgar Square.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noam Chomsky calls US ‘world’s leading terrorist state’

U.S. linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky (Reuters/Jorge Dan)

U.S. linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky (Reuters/Jorge Dan)

 

RT news

The United States is the “world’s leading terrorist state,” based on its deadly, CIA-run operations in the likes of Nicaragua and Cuba, according to new op-ed by historian and social philosopher Noam Chomsky.

In a new piece posted at Truthout.org, Chomsky pointed to the Central Intelligence Agency’s classified review of its own efforts to arm insurgencies across the globe in its 67-year history. As RT previously reported, the CIA conducted the effectiveness analyses while the Obama administration contemplated arming rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria.

The New York Times was the first to uncover the story and Chomsky opened by suggesting the Times’ own headline for it should have been titled, “It’s official: The U.S. is the world’s leading terrorist state, and proud of it,” rather than “CIA Study of Covert Aid Fueled Skepticism About Helping Syrian Rebels.”

 

A rebel fighter from the Free Syrian Army holds a position with a Belgium made FAL rifle at a front line in the Salah al-Din neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo (AFP Photo)

A rebel fighter from the Free Syrian Army holds a position with a Belgium made FAL rifle at a front line in the Salah al-Din neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo (AFP Photo)

The longtime MIT professor went on to detail some of the instances assessed in the CIA’s review and why they amount to an American regime – “the world champion in generating terror” – bent on antagonizing its opposition around the world.

“The first paragraph of the Times article cites three major examples of ‘covert aid’: Angola, Nicaragua and Cuba. In fact, each case was a major terrorist operation conducted by the US,” Chomsky wrote.

He added that it was the US, in the 1980s, that supported Apartheid-era South Africa as it invaded Angola to protect itself “from one of the world’s ‘more notorious terrorist groups,” according to Washington: “Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress.”

“Washington joined South Africa in providing crucial support for Jonas Savimbi’s terrorist Unita army in Angola,” wrote Chomsky.

Unita army (AFP Photo)

Unita army (AFP Photo)

“The consequences were horrendous. A 1989 U.N. inquiry estimated that South African depredations led to 1.5 million deaths in neighboring countries, let alone what was happening within South Africa itself.”

Chomsky also mentioned the decades-long “murderous and destructive campaign” the US aimed at Cuba, including the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and a harsh embargo that continues to this day.

“The toll of the long terrorist war was amplified by a crushing embargo, which continues even today in defiance of the world. On Oct. 28, the UN, for the 23rd time, endorsed ‘the necessity of ending the economic, commercial, financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba,’” he wrote.

Chomsky mentioned the dirty wars the US brought to opposition in Central America in the 1980s and current airstrikes in Syria and Iraq aimed at Islamic State, a jihadist group, like others, compiled and strengthened through American interventions in the Middle East, namely the recent Iraq war, he wrote.

 

AFP Photo/U.S. Air Force

AFP Photo/U.S. Air Force

He ended with a note on President Barack Obama’s unmanned drone regime patrolling the skies in the likes of Pakistan and Yemen.

“To this we may add the world’s greatest terrorist campaign: Obama’s global project of assassination of ‘terrorists.’ The ‘resentment-generating impact’ of those drone and special-forces strikes should be too well known to require further comment,” he wrote.

“This is a record to be contemplated with some awe.”

Incumbent Donbass leaders Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky win elections – final results

Donetsk after shelling by Kiev military forces

Donetsk after shelling by Kiev military forces

 

 

Incumbent PM Aleksandr Zakharchenko has won in Sunday’s elections in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine, taking some 75 percent of the votes. In Lugansk, 63 percent have voted for the current leader Igor Plotnitsky.

In Donestk, Zakharchenko was trailed by Aleksandr Kofman, deputy speaker of the Novorossiya Union parliament, and Yury Sivokonenko, an MP from the local Supreme Council.

“After processing all the ballots, Aleksandr Zakharchenko received over 765,340 votes,” said Roman Lyagin, the head of Central Election Committee.

“Aleksandr Kofman got 111,024 votes, and Yury Sivokonenko 93,280,” he added.

Lyagin also said he doesn’t give percentage data, because he thinks that absolute numbers are more open and precise.

Total voter turnout in the Donetsk People’s Republic reached 1,012,682.

In Lugansk, Igor Plotnitsky, the incumbent leader, won with just over 63 percent of the vote, according to final results provided by the local Central Election Committee.

Meanwhile, the lead in the parliamentary elections – also held on Sunday – has been claimed by Zakharchenko’s Donetsk Republic party, which has 662,725 votes, the head of the Election Commission added. The rival Svobodniy Donbass party has collected 306,892 votes.

In Lugansk, the incumbent leader and head of the Peace to Lugansk Region movement, Igor Plotnitsky, has won 69,42 percent of votes, while some 22 percent voted for its closest rival, the Lugansk Economic Union.

Members of the self-defense forces cast their votes during the elections for the leader and the People's Council of the Donetsk People's Republic (RIA Novosti / Alexey Kudenko)

Members of the self-defense forces cast their votes during the elections for the leader and the People’s Council of the Donetsk People’s Republic (RIA Novosti / Alexey Kudenko)

The self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk took to polling stations to vote for their leaders and MPs on Sunday. Over 360 polling stations were open in Donetsk for three million potential voters. Meanwhile, 102 polling stations for approximately 1.5 million voters were open in Lugansk.

In Lugansk, the overall turnout exceeded 60 percent, according to the head of the Central Election Commission in the LPR, Sergey Kozyakov. He added that by 8p.m. local time, nearly 630,000 residents had come to cast their votes.

Kiev has said it will not recognize the elections, as they contradict Ukrainian legislation. Ukraine’s Security Service has opened a criminal case against the organizers of the elections in Donetsk and Lugansk.

EU’s new foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has also spoken out against the elections, arguing that it will be an obstacle to reconciliation in Ukraine.

“I consider today’s ‘presidential and parliamentary elections’ in Donetsk and Luhansk ‘People’s Republics’ a new obstacle on the path towards peace in Ukraine. The vote is illegal and illegitimate, and the European Union will not recognise it,” Mogherini said in a statement.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko condemned the elections as illegitimate on Sunday and called on Russia not to recognize the results. “I count on Russia not to recognize the so-called elections because they are a clear violation of the September 5 Minsk protocol, which was also signed by Russia’s representative,” he said in a statement.

However, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement late on Sunday saying that Moscow “respects the expression of will of the south-eastern [Ukrainians].” The ministry noted a high turnout and reminded that in the current situation it is “extremely important” for Kiev to work on conducting dialogue with the people of the region.

 

Luhansk residents cast their votes at a polling station during the elections for the head and the People's Council of the Luhansk People's Republic (Reuters / Valery Melnikov)

Luhansk residents cast their votes at a polling station during the elections for the head and the People’s Council of the Luhansk People’s Republic (Reuters / Valery Melnikov)

Moscow earlier pointed out that according to the Minsk peace agreements, elections in both Ukraine and the self-proclaimed republics should be conducted between October 19 and November 3.

Thus Poroshenko’s order from October 16, which set the date of elections in the self-proclaimed republics for December 7, “contradicts the Minsk agreements,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Ukraine conducted parliamentary elections on October 26.

No serious violations of public order were reported during the Sunday elections in the DPR. “We have no reports about incidents at polling stations,” a DPR Interior Ministry spokesman told TASS news agency. Minor incidents included a false bomb threat.

International observers said the elections in the self-proclaimed republics followed democratic standards, adding that they saw no violations during the process.

An MP from the Upper Chamber of Italy’s Parliament, Lucio Malan, acting as an observer at the elections in Donetsk, told RT that people “were not influenced in any way” during the vote.

The prevention of double or triple voting appeared to be good, up to international standards” he added.

What was possible for us to see and what we witnessed is that they fit completely into generally accepted democratic electoral standards,” Manuel Ochsenreiter, a German observer in Lugansk, told RT. “What was really impressing – the masses of people at the polling stations, standing sometimes for hours just to put their vote, to express their political will.”

“First I believe the elections followed international standards of democratic elections. I was very impressed with the enthusiasm and the vigor with which the people went to the polls to express their opinion,” US Senior Attorney Frank Abernathy, an observer in Lugansk, told RT.

Will NATO annex Ukraine?

Anti-government protesters carry an injured man on a stretcher in Independence Square in Kiev February 20, 2014 (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)

Anti-government protesters carry an injured man on a stretcher in Independence Square in Kiev February 20, 2014 (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)

 

By Pepe Escobar

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.

Will NATO annex Ukraine?

Anyone who believes Washington is deeply enamored of ‘democracy’ in Ukraine must hit eBay, where Saddam Hussein’s WMDs have been found, and are on sale to the highest bidder.

Or pay attention to the non-denial denials of the Obama administration, which swears on a daily basis there’s no ‘proxy war’ or Cold War redux in Ukraine.

In a nutshell; Washington’s bipartisan Ukraine policy has always been anti-Moscow. That implies regime change whenever necessary.

As the European Union (EU), geopolitically, is nothing but an annex to NATO, what matters is NATO extending its borders to the Ukraine. Or at least Western Ukraine – which would be a valuable consolation prize.

This is a purely military-centric game – the logic of the whole mechanism ultimately decided in Washington, not in Brussels. It’s about NATO expansion, not ‘democracy’. When neo-con State Department functionary Victoria Nuland had her 15 seconds of fame recently, what she actually meant was “We’re NATO, F**k the EU.” No wonder there will be an urgent NATO Defense Ministers meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, centered on Ukraine.

No one will ever read that in US corporate media – or in academia for that matter. Harvard Professor Francis Boyle talking to Voice of Russia, or Princeton’s Stephen Cohen in a recent article for the Nation, are glaring exceptions.

Every informed analyst knows the mastermind of this ‘policy’, since the 1970s, is Zbigniew ‘The Grand Chessboard’ Brzezinski. Dr. Zbig was US President Barack Obama’s mentor at Columbia and is the Talleyrand of the Obama administration’s foreign policy machine.

He may have softened up a notch recently, arguing that although the US must remain the supreme power across Eurasia, Russia and Turkey must be seduced by the West. Yet his historic Russophobia was never diluted.

‘Saint’ Yulia is back

As we’re now on the road (again) of regime change in Ukraine, that seems not such a lousy deal for only $5 billion – the amount volunteered by neo-con Nuland herself. Compare it to other lavish Bush-Obama continuum foreign adventures, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Syria. Yet expect major bumps ahead.

Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko addresses anti-government protesters gathered at Independence Square in Kiev February 22, 2014 (Reuters / Yannis Behrakis)

Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko addresses anti-government protesters gathered at Independence Square in Kiev February 22, 2014 (Reuters / Yannis Behrakis)

Most arguably progressive, as well as some rabidly right wing, Google generation denizens in Western Ukraine and in Kiev seem to entertain the notion that the country, under regime change, will be accepted as an EU member, they will get an EU passport, and will find a good job in Europe, just as Polish plumbers and Romanian restaurant managers did.

Well, not really. If only they could board an EasyJet and see with their own eyes what’s going on, job market-wise, in southern Europe or in London for that matter, now terrified of a horde of Eastern Europeans seizing English jobs.

As for the ultra-nationalists and frankly neo-fascists – totally anti-EU – the only thing they care about is to get rid of the Russian Bear’s embrace. And then what?

In the West’s ardor for ‘democracy’ it’s so easy to forget that Western Ukrainian fascists were aligned with Hitler against the USSR. It’s their descendants that have been in the forefront of the hardcore violence last week. And Right Sector still insists they will continue to ‘protest’. In this sense they may not be Washington’s preferred puppets; they are just momentarily useful patsies.

As for former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko – now elevated in the West to the status of a blonde Mother Teresa – she has called the Maidan (Independence) Square protesters “liberators.” They may soon liberate themselves from her – after highly corrupt ‘Saint’ Yulia runs for president next May.

The Ukraine that works – in the east and south – is made up of historic Russian provinces, think Kharkov, the Black Sea, Crimea. The country’s GDP is roughly $157 billion. That’s one fifth of Turkey (which may become the new Pakistan). As it is, Ukraine holds no economic value whatsoever to the West (even less if it becomes the new Syria). The only ‘positive’ would be NATO’s warped strategic advance.

Anyone who believes a mired-in-crisis EU will buy Ukraine out of is economic mess could once again bid for Saddam’s WMDs on eBay.

Or imagine the US Congress handing out $15 billion for Ukraine to smooth out its foreign debt, not to mention reducing the price of imported gas – just like Moscow did last December.

Say hello to my Iskander

The multi-billion dollar question now is what Russian President Vladimir Putin will do. One must feel tempted to detect roars of laughter in the Kremlin corridors.

For starters, Putin will decide whether or not Moscow will buy $2 billion in Ukrainian eurobonds after there’s a new government in Kiev, as Gazeta.ru reported. Kiev will get absolutely nothing from Moscow until it’s clear the new regime will play ball, in the interests of holding the country together.

‘Saint’ Yulia, by the way, was originally thrown in jail because of a gas deal that was negotiated on Moscow’s high price terms. Back to hard facts: Ukraine cannot survive without Russian gas, and the Ukrainian industry cannot survive without the Russian market. One can mix all shades of Orange, Tangerine, Campari or Tequila Sunrise revolution, and throw in the requisite IMF ‘structural adjustment’ correction – these facts are not going to change. And forget about the EU ‘buying Ukrainian’.

The Western Orangeade gang – from masters to servants – may still bet on civil war, Syria-style. Anarchy looms – provoked by the neo-fascists. It’s up to Ukrainians to reject it. A sound solution would be a referendum. Get the people to choose a confederation, a partition (there will be blood) or keeping the status quo.

Here’s a very possible scenario. Eastern and southern Ukraine become part of Russia again; Moscow would arguably accept it.

Western Ukraine is plundered, disaster capitalism-style, by the Western corporate-financial mafia – while nobody gets a single EU passport. As for NATO, they get their bases, ‘annexing’ Ukraine, but also get myriads of hyper-accurate Russian Iskander missiles locked in their new abode. So much for Washington’s ‘strategic advance’.

No data on ISIS plots against US – Obama

US President Barack Obama (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

US President Barack Obama (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

 

RT news

US intelligence failed to find any specific Islamic State plots against America, President Barack Obama said in an opinion piece. Despite the lack of direct threats, Obama promised not to leave the group unchecked, vowing to ultimately destroy it.

New intelligence has emerged warning Washington that its upcoming confrontation with the Islamic State may leave it blind to a more sinister and direct threat from a much lesser known terrorist group that has arisen from the ashes of the Syrian war.

Very little information is being released at the moment by anyone within American intelligence circles, but the group calling itself Khorasan is said by officials to have concrete plans for striking targets in the United States and Europe as a chosen modus operandi – more so than the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as ISIS.

The first ever mention of the group occurred on Thursday at an intelligence gathering in Washington DC, when National Intelligence Director James Clapper admitted that “in terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State.”

According to the New York Times, some US officials have gone as far as saying that, while the Islamic State is undoubtedly more prominent in its show of force in the Middle East, it is Khorasan who’s intent on oversees campaigns in a way Al Qaeda usually is.

In this sense, the US air strike campaign and the coming actions by the anti-IS coalition might just be what coaxes the IS into larger-scale attacks on American and European soil – what Khorasan is essentially all about.

This brings up another issue seen in the current Western stance on terrorism: it is so focused on the terror spread by the IS that it’s beginning to forget that the destruction and mayhem of civil war across the Middle East is spawning a number of hard-to-track terrorist factions with distinct missions.

“What you have is a growing body of extremists from around the world who are coming in and taking advantage of the ungoverned areas and creating informal ad hoc groups that are not directly aligned with ISIS or Nusra,” a senior law enforcement official told the NY Times on condition of anonymity.

The CIA and the White House declined to give comment.

Al-Qaeda fighter (AFP Photo)

Al-Qaeda fighter (AFP Photo)

“Our intelligence community has not yet detected specific ISIL plots against America. But its leaders have repeatedly threatened America and our allies, and if left unchecked, they could pose a growing threat to the United States,” Obama wrote in the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday.

The US president’s comments follow the emergence of new intelligence warning that Washington’s upcoming confrontation with the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) may leave it blind to a more sinister and direct threat from a much lesser known terrorist group – Khorasan.

Obama reminded the public of his recent fierce efforts to battle the Islamic State, with the final goal of destroying the group.

“That is why, last month, I gave the order for our military to begin taking targeted action against ISIL. Since then, our brave pilots and crews have conducted more than 170 airstrikes against these terrorists,” he said.

“Going forward, as I announced earlier this month, we will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy. Whether in Iraq or in Syria, these terrorists will learn what the leaders of al-Qaida already know: We mean what we say, our reach is long, and if you threaten America you will find no safe haven,” Obama stressed.

He further underscored that US forces will only support Iraqi soldiers, who will be fighting their own fight.

Obama also focused on overall international involvement in the fight against the Islamic State. “This is not and will not be America’s fight alone. That’s why we continue to build a broad international coalition. France and the UK are flying with us over Iraq, others have committed to join this effort, and France has joined us in conducting strikes against ISIL in Iraq. Overall, more than 40 countries – including Arab nations – have offered assistance as part of this coalition.”

Meanwhile, Islamic State fighters have made their way to Jordan, as it was revealed that 11 Islamic State jihadists were arrested in the country, and have confessed to planning terrorists attacks, AFP cited a security official as saying on Sunday.

The detained individuals “admitted their links to the leadership of the Daesh organization in Syria and that they were charged with carrying out terrorist operations in Jordan targeting a number of vital interests,” the official said, using IS’s Arabic acronym.

News of the arrests comes after US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Jordan on September 10 to discuss the creation of US-Arab coalition against the Islamic State with King Abdullah.

During the meeting, Kerry and Abdullah discussed the option of establishing the coalition’s base in Jordan.

Fight with ISIS spreads across globe: How are roles distributed in that battle?

AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye

AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye

“This can’t be America’s fight alone,” US President Barack Obama stressed in his ISIS speech. Indeed, about 40 countries have joined the battle with the radical group that’s left scores dead in Iraq. But who does what on that battlefield?

The main role is still with the US, which has already carried out over 150 airstrikes against the Islamic State (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS/ISIL).

At the same time, the US is keeping relatively quiet about which countries are taking part in the fight and what they do exactly. Secretary of State John Kerry told CBS that nearly 40 nations have agreed to contribute to the fight, but “it’s not appropriate to start announcing” what roles each will play.

However, an international conference on the IS situation is taking place in Paris on Monday, with world leaders set to debate the anti-ISIS coalition. The meeting includes representatives of some 30 countries, but excludes Iraq’s neighbors Syria and Iran. And the roles of the countries and their contributions are already starting to show.

Britain became the first country to officially join the military operation. UK Prime Minister David Cameron called IS “the embodiment of evil” on Sunday, following the group’s beheading of its third Western hostage, this time British citizen David Haines. Earlier, IS killed two US journalists in the same manner.

According to government sources, the Al-Qaeda offshoot group is led by a former senior operative – 33-year-old Muhsin al-Fadhli, reportedly so close to Bin Laden’s inner circle he was one of the few who knew of the 9/11 Twin Tower attacks in advance.

He had reportedly fled to Iran during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda’s story goes hazy after the campaign: many operatives are said to have traveled to Pakistan, Syria, Iran and other countries, forming splinter groups.

In 2012, al-Fadhli was identified by the State Department as leading the Iranian branch of Al-Qaeda, controlling “the movement of funds and operatives” in the region and working closely with wealthy “jihadist donors” in his native Kuwait to raise money for the Syrian terrorist resistance.

Although the first public mention of the group was only this Thursday, American intelligence is said to have been tracking it for over a decade. Former President George W. Bush once mentioned the name of its leader in 2005 in connection with a French oil tanker bombing in 2002 off the coast of Yemen.

Khorasan itself is shrouded in mystery. Little is known publicly apart from its being composed of former Al-Qaeda operatives from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. The group is said to favor concealed explosives as a terror method.

Like many other groups taking up the power vacuum in war-torn Syria, Khorasan has on occasion shifted its alliances.

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri at one point ordered the former ISIS to fight only in Iraq, but cut all ties with it when it disobeyed and branched out. The result was that the Nusra Front became Al-Qaeda’s official branch in Syria. It’s said that Khorasan is to Al Nusra Front what the latter was to Al-Qaeda.

When The Daily Signal spoke to James Phillips, a Middle East expert at The Heritage Foundation, he outlined some American intelligence views on the group: they see their mission in “[recruiting] European and American Muslim militants who have traveled to Syria to fight alongside Islamist extremist groups that form part of the rebel coalition fighting Syria’s Assad regime.”

“The Khorasan group hopes to train and deploy these recruits, who hold American and European passports, for attacks against Western targets,” he said.

He believes Khorasan to be Al-Qaeda’s new arm in attacking America, its “far enemy.” While they are Al Nusra’s allies in Syria, their role is believed to be to carry out terrorist attacks outside the country.

The group reportedly uses the services of a very prominent Al-Qaeda bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, whose devices previously ended up on three US-bound planes. He is known to be a true pioneer of hard-to-detect bombs.

Phillips believes that the next step is taking those bombs and pairing them with US-born and other foreign jihadists returning home.

Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province (Reuters)

Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province (Reuters)

In this respect, Phillips views the Khorasan threat to the US to be much more direct compared to the Islamic State’s more regional ambitions. And since President Obama’s upcoming anti-IS strategy reportedly does not include Al Nusra, this potentially frees Khorasan’s hands.

What sets Al Nusra apart from the many other groups is that it’s now the only faction with active branches throughout Syria.

Syria analyst with the Institute for the Study of War, Jennifer Cafarella, told the NY Times “there is definitely a threat that, if not conducted as a component of a properly tailored strategy within Syria, the American strikes would allow the Nusra Front to fill a vacuum in eastern Syria.”

IRAQ-UNREST-ARMY

Because of al-Zawahiri’s current weakened position in terrorist cricles, both Al Nusra and Khorasan by extension are less prominent than the IS. But these things have a way of changing unpredictably, and because the plans of these more traditional terrorist groups in Syria aren’t yet clear, a danger arises.

The volatile conflict zone that is Syria, with its lax borders and an increasing number of distinct, armed Islamist groups, the US may be surprised by how difficult it soon may be to pinpoint the origin of the next threat.

 

Iran refuses to help ‘self-serving’ US fight ISIS

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer)

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer)

Iran has refused an offer from the United States to join a global alliance preparing to combat Islamic State militants, according to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei said Monday that the US offered to discuss a coordinated effort with Iran against Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL), a common foe in the region, in the midst of an escalating campaign of violence that continues to claim lives across Iraq in Syria.

“The American ambassador in Iraq asked our ambassador (in Iraq) for a session to discuss coordinating a fight against Daesh (Islamic State),” said Khamenei, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported, according to Reuters.

“Our ambassador in Iraq reflected this to us, which was welcomed by some (Iranian) officials, but I was opposed. I saw no point in cooperating with a country whose hands are dirty and intentions murky.”

According to the Washington Post, Khamenei took issue with what he referred to as Washington’s “evil intentions.”

Khamenei said his rejection came prior to Washington’s public exclusion of Iran in Monday’s conference of foreign ministers in Paris, where a coalition of international diplomats have congregated to discuss possible strategies against the jihadist group. Host nation France had wanted to invite Iran, the Post reported.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said Iran’s presence in Paris would not occur based on the Islamic Republic’s support of its ally Syria in the nation’s civil war against Western-backed rebels. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki reiterated that Washington was opposed to any military partnership with Iran.

“Now they (the US) are lying, in saying that it is them who excluded us from their coalition, while it was Iran that refused to participate in this collation to begin with,” said Khamenei, who on Monday had just left a hospital following prostate surgery.

Khamenei pointed to previous US-led military incursions in the Middle East as reason to believe the US is only looking out for its own interests.

“American officials’ comments on forming an anti-Islamic State (alliance) are blank, hollow and self-serving, and contradictions in their behaviors and statements attest to this fact,” said Khamenei.

“The Americans should keep in mind that if they go ahead with such a thing, then the same problems that they faced in Iraq in the past 10 years will come back.”

He added that Washington wants in Iraq what it had in Pakistan, “a playground where they can enter freely and bomb at will.”

Despite the public denunciations from both sides, State Dept. spokeswoman Psaki did not rule out a potential partnership with Iran at a later date.

“We will be continuing those talks on the nuclear issue later this week in New York,” Psaki said, according to the Post. “There may be another opportunity on the margins in the future to discuss Iraq.”

The ongoing, US-dominated negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program were the pretext last year for the first conversation between a US president and Iranian leadership in 30 years. US President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discussed “our ongoing efforts to reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program,” Obama said following the phone conversation.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Arab, European, and other diplomats began talks about supporting the new Iraqi government and slowing momentum of Islamic State.

“Islamic State’s doctrine is either you support us or kill us,” Iraqi President Fouad Massoum told representatives of 30 countries attending the Paris conference. “It has committed massacres and genocidal crimes and ethnic purification.”

The conference comes after Sec. Kerry’s week-long tour of Arab allies and Turkey where he attempted to recruit diplomatic and military support for campaign against IS.

Persian Gulf states Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have reportedly volunteered to conduct airstrikes alongside US forces. The Saudis have also pressured the US to give Syrian rebels surface-to-air antiaircraft weapons, but the Obama administration has thus far refused.

Islamic State militants currently controls large swaths of Syria and neighboring Iraq. Formerly affiliated with Al-Qaeda, IS is one of many opposition groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces – and each other – in Syria.

So-called moderate rebels fighting in Syria have a problematic track record despite the US government’s ongoing reliance on their efforts. The United States has supported these rebels with both lethal and non-lethal aid, lending to fears that arms sent with the help of the Gulf states were channeled to the likes of IS.

A study released last week found that Islamic State fighters are using captured US weapons given to moderate rebels in Syria by Saudi Arabia, a longstanding enemy of Assad’s Syria and his ally Iran.

US allies in the Gulf region have fostered groups like IS in Syria’s civil war, as elite donors from the likes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar have pumped money into destabilizing foes in the region.

President Obama has pledged to use airstrikes against IS strongholds in the region. He emphasized Wednesday that the US will not hesitate to take direct military action against terrorists in Syria and Iraq to “degrade ISIL’s leadership, logistically and operational capability, and deny it sanctuary and resources to plan, prepare and execute attacks.” Obama’s plan will be scrutinized on Capitol Hill in Washington this week.

On Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters during a daily briefing that the Obama administration is “gratified” by what he said was significant bipartisan support so far from Congress for the president’s plan against IS. However, Earnest added that the US would not be coordinating any military action with Iran.

“The thing that we have been really clear about is the US does not coordinate military action or share intelligence with Iran, and we don’t have any plans to do so,” Earnest said, while at the same time acknowledging that representatives from both countries may indeed have had conversations on the sidelines concerning the Islamic State militants.