‘Stop Erdogan’s wars in Syria, Iraq’


This video says about itself:

Cüneyt Özdemir and Kenan Taş Report From Sinjar, Liberated from ISIS Terrorists

7 December 2015

Kenan Taş and Fatih Öztürk have entered Sinjar, a city recently liberated from ISIS terrorists, in the northern part of Iraq. 5N1K producer Kenan Tas reports from the front lines of Iraq, Sinjar, a small city in Northern Iraq where battles between ISIS militants and Kurdish Peshmerga forces where prominent for a long time. Recently, peshmerga forces liberated the town from ISIS militants and 5N1K team was one of the few journalists to enter the tumultuous city.

By Steve Sweeney in Britain:

Activists demand end to Erdogan’s killing of Kurds

Thursday 27th April 2017

PROTESTERS gathered outside the Turkish embassy in London yesterday to demand an “end to murderous attacks” and violations of international law by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

The emergency demonstration was called by the British-based Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign as part of a Europe-wide day of action following Turkish air strikes on northern Syria’s Rojava region and the Iraqi town of Sinjar on Tuesday.

Fighter jets attacked People’s Protection Unit positions in the Syrian city of Derik, bombing a radio station and media centre and killing 18 people. Six more were confirmed killed when Kurdish Yazidi positions were targeted in Sinjar.

In an online statement published on Tuesday, the Turkish armed forces said “terrorist targets” had been hit with “complete efficiency.”

But Syrian Democratic Union Party co-chair Salih Muslim warned that the “Turkish attacks support Islamic State [ISIS]” and sources suggested that the air strikes could not have been conducted without the knowledge of the coalition of countries bombing Syria, including Britain.

Protesters urged people yesterday to join them in working for a peaceful solution to the “transnational conflict” and to condemn the murderous attacks and violations of international law by Turkey.

They also condemned the sale of fighter jets to Turkey in a £100 million “deal of shame” struck by Prime Minister Theresa May during a recent meeting with Mr Erdogan in the capital Ankara.

Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign spokesman Zinar Demeni told the Star: “This is the first time we have people from all parts of Kurdistan, in particular from Basur in Iraq.

“I think we haven’t seen unity like this for some time. People are shouting: ‘Turkish state out of Kurdistan,’ ‘terrorist Turkish state.’”

The Foreign Office was not available for comment by the time the Star went to print.

By James Tweedie:

The [Kurdish Syrian women’s anti-ISIS militia] YPJ argued that the raid by Nato member Turkey could not have occurred without the knowledge of the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve coalition.

“The coalition’s silence is proof and approval of this,” it said, adding that Turkey’s aim was to disrupt the SDF offensive against the Isis stronghold of Raqqa.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavosoglu confirmed that suspicion yesterday, telling reporters: “We told the US, our ally, directly that we would conduct the operation. We told them to move their forces 20-30 km to the south.”

But on Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner claimed that Turkey had bombed Syria and Iraq “without proper co-ordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition to defeat Isis.”

“These air strikes were not approved by the coalition and led to the unfortunate loss of life of our partner forces in the fight against Isis that includes members of the Kurdish Peshmerga,” he said.

KURDISH leaders accused Turkey of collaborating with Isis yesterday after the country’s air force killed dozens of militia in Syria and Iraq: here.

SCOTTISH trade unions have vowed solidarity with over 100,000 public-sector workers sacked by Turkey’s right-wing Erdogan regime and have pledged to raise money to support them: here.

United States filmmaker Laura Poitras persecuted for being smeared in Iraq war


This video from the USA says about itself:

Citizenfour” | Oscar winner Laura Poitras on Edward Snowden

18 February 2015

Citizenfour” has won the Oscar for best documentary. Director Laura Poitras talks about her subject Edward Snowden.

By Natasha Hakimi Zapata in the USA:

Director Laura Poitras Learns Why She Was Being Detained at Airports

Posted on Apr 24, 2017

For six years, “Citizenfour” filmmaker Laura Poitras was stopped at airports without an explanation. Recently, a lawsuit uncovered the startling reason.

From The Associated Press:

[Poitras] was stopped without explanation more than 50 times on foreign travel, and dozens more times on domestic trips, before the extra searches suddenly stopped in 2012. Only now is Poitras beginning to unravel the mystery, which goes back to a bloody day in Baghdad in 2004. … On Nov. 20, 2004, Poitras was in Baghdad filming “My Country, My Country.” The film depicts Iraqi elections from the perspective of an Iraqi doctor, who criticized the U.S. occupation yet hoped democracy would take root in his homeland.

Members of a U.S. Army National Guard unit from Oregon reported seeing a “white female” holding a camera on a rooftop just before they were attacked. David Roustum, 22, an Army National Guardsman from West Seneca, New York, was killed. Several troops were wounded. Some guardsmen who saw Poitras suspected she had a heads-up about the attack and didn’t share that information with American forces because she wanted to film it. If true, Poitras would have broken U.S. criminal law.

Poitras called the allegation false and said she didn’t film the attack.

Read more.

In a win for government-transparency advocates, the FBI has agreed to turn over records it created when it spied on two anti-war journalists and pay $299,000 to settle their attorneys’ fees: here.

Pentagon commits war crimes in Iraq, Amnesty says


This video says about itself:

28 March 2017

Hundreds of Mosul residents were killed by airstrikes in their homes following repeated instructions from Iraqi authorities not to leave, Amnesty International says. It adds coalition forces should have known they were likely to result in civilian deaths.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

US accused of war crimes in air strikes on Iraqi city of Mosul

29 March 2017

Amnesty International issued a report Tuesday charging the US-led coalition besieging Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, with war crimes involving the “disproportionate and indiscriminate” bombing of residential areas that has slaughtered hundreds of civilian men, women and children.

The report by the human rights group, which chronicles bloody incidents that took place in eastern Mosul during the end of 2016 and the beginning of this year, has been released amid mounting evidence that the Pentagon carried out one of its worst atrocities in decades in the March 17 bombing of the Jadida neighborhood in the densely populated western sector of the city.

While earlier reports spoke of some 160 dead being pulled from the rubble left by the US airstrikes in Mosul’s Jadida district, on Monday the Iraqi Civil Defense Department released a report saying that 531 bodies have been recovered thus far.

“We probably had a role in those casualties,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top US commander in Iraq and Syria, acknowledged to Pentagon reporters Tuesday. At the same time, however, Townsend suggested that the “the enemy had a hand in this,” alleging that there was no reason for civilians to have congregated inside buildings targeted by US warplanes other than their being exploited as “human shields.”

This attempted alibi is contradicted by multiple reports from survivors of the bombing raid, who said that entire families, terrorized by US bombs as well as mortar attacks by Iraqi government forces, had huddled in basements of homes in the neighborhood. Indeed, before launching the offensive last fall, the US-backed Iraqi military dropped leaflets on Mosul, a city of 1.8 million people, urging residents to “shelter in place” rather than flee to safety.

The US and Iraqi commanders on the ground apparently called in the air strikes to kill small numbers of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) snipers located on rooftops, in the process reducing entire city blocks to rubble.

General Townsend dismissed Washington’s responsibility for the carnage. “If the US did this,” said Townsend, it was an “unintentional accident of war.” Chillingly, he added that civilian casualties in western Mosul are “fairly predictable,” given its crowded residential neighborhoods and the intense street fighting. In other words, many more atrocities like that of March 17 are still to come.

Iraqi vice president Osama al-Nujaifi, who is from Mosul and the most senior Sunni official in the country, described the US bombing as a “humanitarian catastrophe” that had resulted in the “martyrdom of hundreds of civilians.” He called for an emergency session of the Iraqi parliament along with an official investigation of the incident. He charged that the mass civilian casualties were the result of changed rules of engagement on the part of the US-led “coalition” that have minimized any attempt to protect the lives of unarmed men, women and children trapped in Mosul.

This same charge was leveled by Iraqi officers cited by the New York Times Tuesday. According to the Times, the officers report that “the American-led coalition has been quicker to strike urban targets from the air with less time to weigh the risks for civilians. They say the change reflects a renewed push by the American military under the Trump administration to speed up the battle for Mosul.”

In a report from the scene of the devastation, the Times described “a panorama of destruction in the neighborhood of Jadida so vast one resident compared the destruction to that of Hiroshima, Japan, where the United States dropped an atomic bomb in World War II. There was a charred arm, wrapped in a piece of red fabric, poking from the rubble; rescue workers in red jump suits who wore face masks to avoid the stench, some with rifles slung over their shoulders, searched the wreckage for bodies.”

The newspaper reported that “One of the survivors, Omar Adnan, stood near his destroyed home on Sunday and held up a white sheet of paper with 27 names of his extended family members, either dead or missing, written in blue ink.”

The Amnesty International report released Tuesday indicates that the atrocity in Jadida is only the bloodiest in a series of attacks carried out by US forces resulting in mass civilian casualties.

“Evidence gathered on the ground in East Mosul points to an alarming pattern of US-led coalition airstrikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside,” reports Amnesty’s senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera following field investigations in the war-ravaged city.

“The high civilian toll suggests that coalition forces leading the offensive in Mosul have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.”

The Amnesty report quoted Wa’ad Ahmad al-Tai, a resident of the al-Zahra neighborhood of East Mosul, who said he and his family were among those who had followed the advice of the US-backed Iraqi government to stay in their homes rather than flee the siege.

He recounted how his extended family had sought shelter in the two-story home of his brother: “We were all huddled in one room at the back of the house, 18 of us, three families. But when the house next door was bombed, it collapsed on us, precisely over the room we were sheltering in. My son Yusef, nine, and my daughter Shahad, three, were killed, together with my brother Mahmoud, his wife Manaya and their nine-year-old son Aws, and my niece Hanan. She was cradling her five-month-old daughter, who survived, thank God.”

Hind Amir Ahmad, a 23-year-old woman who lost 11 relatives, recounted a similar attack in eastern Mosul that took place on December 13, 2016: “We were sleeping when the house literally collapsed on us. It was a miracle none of us was killed. We ran to my uncle’s house nearby. At about 2 p.m. that house too was bombed and collapsed on us … almost everyone in the house was killed—11 people. My cousin, two aunts and I were the only ones who survived. Everyone else died. It took us six days to find only pieces of their bodies, which we buried in a mass grave in a field nearby. … I don’t know why we were bombed. All I know is that I have lost everyone who was dearest to me.”

The Amnesty report also debunked the Pentagon’s attempt to justify the killing of Iraqi civilians with claims that ISIS is using the population as “human shields.” Even if the Islamist fighters showed indifference to human life, this did not justify the indiscriminate air strikes launched by US warplanes, the human rights group said. It also pointed out that the US-backed Iraqi military is setting up its own firing positions in and around civilian homes, exposing them to return fire from ISIS forces.

As of March 21, the monitoring group Airwars had recorded over 1,000 “civilian casualty events” resulting from airstrikes by the US and its allies in both Iraq and Syria. The number of incidents has risen sharply in the course of the first three months of this year with the siege of Mosul and the preparations for a similar bloodbath in the ISIS-held Syrian city of Raqqa.

The group pointed out that the US air strikes have far eclipsed those being conducted by Russia, which intervened in Syria in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Yet the same US and Western media, which waged an intense propaganda campaign over civilian casualties caused by Russian air strikes against Al Qaeda positions in the Syrian city of Aleppo, has proven itself largely indifferent to the killing of Iraqi men, women and children in Mosul.

Nor for that matter have the changed “rules of engagement” enacted by the Pentagon under the Trump administration elicited any protest from its ostensible political opponents in the Democratic Party. This is because, as the Amnesty report documents, the carnage in Mosul was already well under way before Barack Obama left the White House.

The US escalation in Iraq and Syria enjoys bipartisan support. Launched under the pretense of a campaign against ISIS, which is itself the direct product of the US invasion and destruction of Iraq, followed by the proxy wars for regime change in Libya and Syria, the aim of the ever growing American intervention is to assert US imperialist hegemony over the entire oil-rich Middle East.

The US pursuit of this geostrategic aim has already cost millions of lives over the past quarter century. Its aggressive renewal has been launched in preparation for far more dangerous confrontations with Washington’s chief global rivals, China and Russia.

See also here.

The relentless bombing of civilians in Iraq and Syria, the expanding intervention in Yemen and the open threats of military confrontation with Iran are all being carried out by the Pentagon with no public debate and the full complicity of the Democrats: here.

Belgium probes own possible involvement in Mosul strike that killed 200+: here.

More than half of Iraqi families—around 20 million people—are at risk of food insecurity and cannot withstand any further shocks such as conflict or increases in basic food prices, warned a joint report by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) and the Iraqi government: here.

Pentagon admits killing Iraqi civilians


This video says about itself:

23 March 2017

Over 130 people trying to take shelter from the fighting in Mosul have been buried under the rubble of a building hit by a coalition airstrike, witnesses say in a video released by Associated Press.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Iraq: US admits to deadly civilian air strike

Monday 27th March 2017

THE US-led bombing coalition admitted on Saturday that it had carried out an air strike on the Iraqi city of Mosul that witnesses said killed hundreds. …

It said it had opened an investigation to determine whether reports of more than 200 casualties caused by the raid earlier this month were true. …

Rescue workers said the raid hit two houses where more than 200 people were sheltering from fierce fighting and artillery fire …

Monitoring website Airwars.org said more than 1,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed by the US-led coalition this month.

US mass murder in western Mosul is aiding, abetting and strengthening ISIS – and not defeating it: here.

The US-led “coalition” has admitted that its forces carried out the March 17 air strike in Mosul—ostensibly against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters—that slaughtered as many as 200 civilians, including numerous children. The admission was only made in the face of evidence provided by survivors to Iraqi journalists, whose accounts were reported by sections of the Western press: here.

International poetry festival in Iraq


This video, in Spanish, is about Maurilio de Miguel from Spain reading his poem Escudo humano en Bagdad (Human shield in Baghdad) at the Al-Marbed international poetry festival in Basra, Iraq, on 24 March 2010.

By Andy Croft from Britain:

A sense of shared humanity in a war-ravaged country

Saturday 4th March 2017

ANDY CROFT reports on the annual Al-Marbed international poetry festival, held last month in Basra, Iraq

I HAVE never seen so many people at a poetry festival before – or so many Kalashnikovs.

A few weeks ago I was in the southern Iraq city of Basra with my friend, the Punjabi poet Amarjit Chandan. We were guests of the Iraqi Writers Union for the 13th annual Al-Marbed international poetry festival.

“Poetry is the Present and Future of Basra” read the banner over the stage in the main hall of the hotel where most of the readings were held.

Dedicated to the late Iraqi poet and communist Mehdi Mohammad Ali, the festival attracted almost 100 poets from Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Iran, Kuwait, Sudan, Iraq, Assyria, Lebanon, Syria and the Iraqi diaspora scattered across the world.

During a crowded week of readings and debates, poetry and music, food and friendship, we visited the birthplace of Basra’s most famous poet Badr Shakir al Sayyab, as well as the Basra international football stadium. There was a showing of the film Samt al-Rai (The Silence of the Shepherd), introduced by its director Raad Mushatat, and one of the festival readings took place on a river cruise on the Shat al-Arab waterway.

The British poetry world likes to think it is popular, with its prizes and awards and celebrities. But this is nothing compared to the role of poetry in Arab culture, where TV shows like Million’s Poet and Prince of Poets regularly attract more viewers than football.

Although six million Iraqis — 20 per cent of the population — cannot read or write, the idea that poetry is a publicly owned, shared and common language somehow persists across all classes.

At some of the evening readings, there must have been 1,000 people — men and women, young and old. One of the most striking performances was by a six-year-old boy reciting, entirely from memory, a 10-minute-long poem comparing Iraq to a beautiful woman.

Although Amarjit and I did not know the literal meaning of many of the poems, we were able to concentrate on the richness of their different cadences and rhythms.

Thanks to our hard-working translators we were also introduced to the work of some fascinating poets, including Iraqi poets Abdulkareem Kasid and Chawki Abdelamir, Hani al-Selwy from Yemen, Mojtaba Al Tatan from Bahrain, Sabah Kasim, Najah Ibrahim, and Souzan Ibrahim from Syria, and Al Wathiq Younis from Sudan.

But, of course, the festival was taking place in a deadly context. Iraq is still at war. The billboards by the side of the roads don’t advertise consumer goods but the faces of young men killed fighting Isis. Each night I was woken by the sound of gunfire to mark the repatriation of local boys killed fighting in Mosul. A notice outside the new shopping centre in Times Square solemnly reminds shoppers: “No smoking. No weapons.”

With a heavily armed security presence at most of the readings, it was hardly surprising that the festival was a serious-minded affair. There were no stand-up poets, comics or performance poets. Instead most of the poets recited long poems, usually about the suffering and grief of the Iraqi people.

An old man read a poem about the death of his son, killed fighting in Fallujah. One poet compared Iraqi children to a forest of young trees cut down before they are full grown. Another observed that every Iraqi child grows up with an older brother called Death.

There was a poem about a local teacher injured by an Isis car bomb. Although she managed to crawl out of the car, her clothes were on fire — which meant that her modesty before God was threatened — so she climbed back into the burning car to die.

Another poet described the poor of the world as the fuel that keeps the fires of war burning. The prayers of the religious, he said, do not belong to God, only the tears of a mother grieving for her dead child.

It is more important than ever that we understand as much as we can about our neighbours on this small planet.

Despite the commercial, ideological, cultural and political pressures to emphasise our uniqueness and our separateness, the differences between us are not very great.

The Al-Marbed poetry festival is a brave and important reminder that poetry is one of the ways in which we can enjoy and explore those differences and at the same time assert our shared humanity.

British drones killing Iraqi, Syrian civilians


This British military video says about itself:

RAF drone kills Afghan civilians 06.07.11

It’s emerged that four Afghan civilians were killed and two wounded when an RAF drone targeting insurgent leaders fired on two trucks in Helmand province. … The incident occurred in the Nowzad District of Northern Helmand in March earlier this year.

By Steve Sweeney in Britain:

British drones may have killed 1,000s of civilians

Tuesday 28th February 2017

SECRET British armed drone strikes may have contributed to thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria, a new report revealed yesterday.

Drone Wars UK has gathered information regarding British air strikes against Isis in Iraq and Syria and found that Britain had carried out 1,200 air strikes against Isis — launching over 2,500 missiles in 2015 and 2016.

The figures were uncovered through Freedom of Information requests to the MoD over a two-year period.

The campaigners also revealed that armed British Reaper drones secretly crossed into Syria just weeks after a 2014 parliamentary vote limited military action against Isis to strictly within Iraq.

Officials claimed this did not amount to military action, but intelligence gathered by the drones was used by coalition forces to launch air strikes in Syria.

The report suggests that 22 per cent of Britain’s 726 air strikes in Iraq and Syria in 2016 were carried out by Reaper drones.

It shows weapon launches by British Reaper drones increased by 30 per cent from 274 in 2015 to 358 in 2016.

Airwars, a journalist-led organisation which monitors reports of civilian casualties from air strikes in Iraq and Syria, estimates that between 1,959 and 2,898 people were killed in coalition air strikes in 2015 and 2016.

An MoD spokesman told the Star: “We can’t completely eliminate the risk of civilian casualties but we carefully mitigate that risk through strict targeting procedures.

“The evidence from detailed assessments of each strike is that we’ve avoided any civilian casualties so far in this conflict.”

Airwars has called for an independent review of the MoD’s assessment process.

Campaign Against Arms Trade spokesman Andrew Smith told the Star: “This is an excellent piece of work and exposes the dangerous lack of transparency and accountability that surrounds drones.

“There must be a far greater scrutiny of attacks and strikes being undertaken by the armed forces and the work for Drone Wars is vital in that debate.

Drone attacks often have devastating consequences and have killed thousands of civilians around the world.”

Stop the War national officer Chris Nineham said the report showed that Britain was “fighting almost completely unreported wars” in Syria and Iraq.

He said: “Not only is there a virtual media blackout on this activity, but the MoD is still peddling the ridiculous line that no civilians have been killed in these attacks.”

The MoD refused to reveal the number of British Reapers deployed on operations in Iraq and Syria.

As Iraqi government forces press further into the densely populated areas of western Mosul, the key role being played in the advance by US-led air strikes and artillery barrages is becoming clear. The brutal offensive on Iraq’s second-largest city has already displaced upwards of 200,000 civilians, including 8,000 over the past week: here.

USA: The group UpstateDroneAction.org released a statement Friday morning: “Four drone resisters, James Ricks, Daniel Burns, Brian Hynes, and Ed Kinane, from the 2015 big books action were found innocent of all charges at 11 p.m. at the Dewitt Town Court. After deliberating for only about a half hour, the jury returned with a verdict of not guilty on all charges. Applause erupted in the courtroom upon the jurors’ announcement of the verdict. The four were charged with obstruction of government administration, disorderly conduct, and trespass and faced a year in jail. Following the rendering of the verdict, a juror approached Brian Hynes and said ‘I really support what you are doing. Keep doing it.’: here.

More dead Iraqi, Syrian civilians under Trump?


This video from the USA says about itself:

500,000 Iraqi Civilians Died In Iraq War

17 October 2013

New research on the human cost of the war in Iraq estimates that roughly half a million men, women and children died between 2003 and 2011 as a direct result of violence or the associated collapse of civil infrastructure.

Other estimates are over a million dead Iraqi civilians.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Pentagon prepares for bigger, bloodier war in Iraq and Syria

25 February 2017

The Pentagon has prepared recommendations to be submitted to President Donald Trump at the beginning of next week for a major escalation of the US military intervention in Iraq and Syria.

According to unnamed US officials cited Friday by the Wall Street Journal, the proposal is expected to include “sending additional troops to Iraq and Syria” and “loosening battlefield restrictions” to “ease rules designed to minimize civilian casualties.”

The new battle plans stem from an executive order signed by Trump on January 28 giving the Pentagon 30 days to deliver a “preliminary draft of the Plan to defeat ISIS [Islamic State] in Iraq and Syria.”

According to independent estimates, as many as 8,000 civilians have already died in air strikes carried out by US and allied warplanes against targets in both Syria and Iraq, even as the Pentagon routinely denies the vast majority of reported deaths of unarmed men, women and children resulting from US bombings. The new policy to be rolled out next week, which the Journal reports is aimed at “increasing the number and rate of operations,” will inevitably entail a horrific intensification of this bloodletting.

Speaking before the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Thursday, the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joseph Dunford, said that the Pentagon would be presenting Trump with a “political-military plan” to deal not only with ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but to “advance our long-term interests in the region.”

Referring to the intense contradictions besetting the US intervention in the region, which has relied on the use of Kurdish militias as proxy ground troops in Syria, even as Washington’s NATO ally, Turkey, has intervened to militarily counter their influence, Dunford insisted that Washington “can’t be paralyzed by tough choices.”

Pointing to the regional scope of the planned US military escalation, Dunford echoed earlier bellicose rhetoric from the administration against Iran, listing it alongside Russia, China, North Korea and “transnational violent extremism” as the major targets of the US military.

The US military commander stated that “the major export of Iran is actually malign influence across the region.” He said that the US military buildup against Iran was designed to “make sure we have freedom of navigation through the Straits of Hormuz, and that we deter conflict and crisis in the region, and that we advance our interest to include our interest in dealing with violent extremism of all forms.” All of these alleged aims are pretexts for continuous US provocations aimed at countering Iran’s regional influence and furthering the drive for US hegemony in the Middle East.

In relation to Iraq, Dunford signaled US intentions to maintain a US military occupation long after the campaign against ISIS is completed. He referred to a “dialog about a long-term commitment to grow the capacity, maintain the capacity of the Iraqi security forces,” adding that Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Abadi had spoken of “the international community continuing to support defense capacity building.”

Dunford’s comments echoed those of Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis during a trip earlier this week to Baghdad. While disavowing Trump’s crude comments last month—“We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil,” Mattis said—he also suggested that plans are being developed for a permanent US military presence in the country.

“The Iraqi people, the Iraqi military and the Iraqi political leadership recognizes what they’re up against and the value of the coalition and the partnership in particular with the United States,” Mattis told reporters Monday. “I imagine we’ll be in this fight for a while and we’ll stand by each other.”

Currently, Washington has more than 5,000 US troops in Iraq and another 500 Special Forces troops operating inside Syria. These forces are backed by tens of thousands of military contractors as well as other military units that are rotated in and out of the region. The plan to be presented next week will likely involve the deployment of thousands more US combat forces.

Trump has repeatedly indicated his support for establishing “safe zones” in Syria, an intervention that would require large numbers of US soldiers backed by air power to seize and control swathes of Syrian territory. It would also entail threats of military confrontation with Russian warplanes operating in support of the Syrian government.

As the Pentagon prepares its plans for military escalation in the region, US ground forces have reportedly entered Mosul, operating on the front lines with Iraqi forces in the bloody offensive to retake Iraq’s second-largest city from ISIS. American Special Forces “advisers” joined Iraqi troops Thursday in the first incursion into western Mosul, with the retaking of the Mosul International Airport as well as a nearby military base. The operation was conducted with close air support from US warplanes.

The airport and the base, located in the southern part of western Mosul, are to be used as the launching pad for a major assault into the most densely populated area of the city, where an estimated three quarters of a million civilians are trapped with no means of escape.

The International Rescue Committee warned that this stage of the offensive would represent the “most dangerous phase” for civilians.

“This will be a terrifying moment for the 750,000 people still in the west of the city, and there is a real danger that the battle will be raging around them for weeks and possibly months to come,” said Jason Kajer, the Iraq acting country director for the humanitarian group.

Referring to the increasingly desperate plight of civilians in western Mosul, the International Committee of the Red Cross’s field coordinator in Erbil, Dany Merhy, said: “Supply routes have been cut from that side of the city and people have been facing shortages of food, water, fuel and medicine. We can only imagine the state people will be in.”

As in previous US-backed offensives against Fallujah and Ramadi, Mosul faces the prospect of being reduced to rubble. It is in this city where the proposed changes in the “rules of engagement” will find their first expression in the elevated slaughter of Iraqi civilians.