Syrian journalists’ kidnappers Sunni, not Shia


This video from the USA says about itself:

16 April 2015

Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent at NBC News, was a member of the six-member news team that was kidnapped in Syria in 2012. He has recounted the group’s ordeal after information recently unearthed by the New York Times suggested that Engel had been wrong about the identity of their kidnappers. …

During the ordeal, the crewmembers thought that their kidnappers were Shiite militiamen loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The New York Times, however, has uncovered information suggesting that the Syrian rebels who ‘rescued’ the journalists had some kind of relationship with the kidnappers.

By Michael Calderone in the USA:

NBC’s Richard Engel Reveals Syria Kidnappers’ Ruse Misled Him And Fellow Journalists

Posted: 04/15/2015 11:47 pm EDT Updated: 04/16/2015 12:59 am EDT

NEW YORK — NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel revealed Wednesday night that the masked men who kidnapped him and five colleagues in Syria in December 2012 misled the captive journalists about their affiliation, leading him to misidentify them in accounts of the ordeal.

During a Dec. 18, 2012, appearance on the “Today” show following their escape, Engel identified his captors as members of the shabiha, a Shia militia loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. But as The Huffington Post reported Wednesday afternoon, new questions about the kidnappers’ affiliation recently prompted Engel and a team of journalists to revisit the harrowing five days in captivity.

After reporting for the past several weeks, Engel wrote Wednesday that his kidnappers were Sunni, not Shia, and had “put on an elaborate ruse to convince” the captured journalists they were the shabiha and linked to Assad, Iran, and Hezbollah. Engel had previously described the men as part of the Shia militia in TV interviews and a first-person piece for Vanity Fair in March 2013.

Though California State University professor As’ad AbuKhalil expressed serious doubts early on about Engel’s captors being the shabiha, and aligned with Iran and Hezbollah, the correspondent’s account was never seriously challenged in the news media. On the day Engel surfaced in Turkey, AbuKhalil wrote that graffiti visible in a video of the captured journalists included “clearly fake” slogans intended to falsely suggest the captors were Shiites. “If this one is believable” he wrote, “I am posing as a dentist.”

Following publication of Engel’s piece on Wednesday, AbuKhalil told The Huffington Post that the episode “shows the extent to which Western media were going out of their way to protect the armed thugs and terrorists of the Syrian armed groups.”

“Engel did not want to believe that he was kidnapped by the very ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels that he and other correspondents were promoting on a daily basis,” AbuKhalil wrote in an email. “This is a scandal of major proportion. The moderate rebels are the ones who perfected the art of kidnapping for ransom, of journalists and sectarian kidnapping of innocent Lebanese and Syrians. This should raise questions about the quality of Western reporting on Syria.”

The 28-month-old ordeal gained renewed attention in recent weeks after The New York Times asked Engel about the kidnapping. The Times reported late Wednesday that NBC News executives were informed during and after Engel’s captivity that a Sunni criminal gang may be to blame, but “moved quickly to put Engel on the air with an account blaming Shiite captors and did not present the other possible version of events.”

The Times story raises questions about NBC News’ handling of the ordeal and brings more scrutiny on a network still reeling from “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams’ false claims of coming under RPG fire while reporting in Iraq. Williams was subsequently suspended.

There’s no dispute that Engel and his crew were kidnapped and endured psychological torture for several days. But Engel’s original conclusion about the ordeal — that a pro-government Shia militia seized the journalists and was delivering them to a Hezbollah stronghold in Syria — can no longer be supported. Engel now concludes that he and his crew were “kidnapped by a criminal gang for money and released for propaganda purposes.”

“We still cannot determine whether we were set up to be kidnapped from the start,” Engel said, “and we have found no evidence that the Iranian and Lebanese prisoners whom we were headed to see existed.” (In previous accounts, Engel said a rebel commander was bringing them into Syria to see these prisoners, proof of Iranian government and Hezbollah activity in the Syrian civil war.) Engel also wrote that the Syrian rebels who freed his crew after five days had ties to the kidnappers.

In his article Wednesday, Engel provides new details of the kidnapping, including how an emergency GPS system the crew carried had alerted NBC to their position. As word spread that the journalists were located, Engel wrote, his captors considered killing them and hiding the bodies.

Engel wrote that Abu Ayman, an Islamist commander in the area, feared that the death of American journalists could lead to the U.S. not providing arms to those fighting Assad’s regime. Abu Ayman, he wrote, contacted the Sunni leader of the criminal gang holding the journalists. The details of the intervention remain unclear, as two of the participants are believed dead and a third missing.

Engel and his crew were freed soon after the kidnappers stopped at a rebel checkpoint and were killed in a firefight — or, at least that’s what Engel believed at the time. The situation is increasingly murky, given that the rebels freeing Engel’s crew had some previous interaction with the kidnappers. Engel said a source insisted in his recent reporting that the kidnappers were indeed killed that night.

This article has been updated to include The New York Times report.

Journalist Richard Engel’s 2012 kidnapping account was part of drive to war with Syria: here.

Did NBC Cover Up Role of U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army in 2012 Kidnapping of Richard Engel? Here.

‘War on terror’ causes more terror


This 16 November 2014 video from the USA says about itself:

Jon Stewart: Turkey’s Erdogan helps ISIS at Kobane.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

The terror threat in the Netherlands is still “substantial,” the National Coordinator against Terrorism (NCTV), Dick Schoof, writes in his latest report. The air attacks on targets of terrorist group IS in Syria and Iraq have not reduced the threat. On the contrary, the risk of attacks has increased because of that …

Jihadists are extra motivated by the air strikes to oppose the West, Schoof writes in the Terrorist Threat Assessment for the Netherlands. That applies not only to sympathizers of ISIS, but also for supporters of al-Nusra, the paramilitary group in Syria that is linked to al-Qaida.

The leader of al-Nusra warned in September 2014 that the air attacks could lead to attacks in the West. Until then, the group had never uttered a public threat against the West, the report says.

‘British voters, stop Cameron’s warmongering on Syria’


This video from the British parliament says about itself:

30 August 2013

Cameron loses crucial vote on military intervention in Syria

David Cameron lost a government motion on possible intervention in Syria by 272 votes to 285. This vote came after an amendment, tabled by Labour, also failed to pass. The amendment called for ‘compelling evidence’ that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons. Cameron confirmed that the vote rules out British involvement in military action in Syria.

By Peter Ford in daily The Guardian in Britain:

Cameron’s unthinking policy on Syria has fuelled the rise of British jihadism

The current focus on domestic politics and the election shouldn’t blind voters to the fact that this prime minister has been a foreign policy disaster

Tuesday 7 April 2015 16.25 BST

Foreign policy is virtually absent from the election campaign. But if David Cameron had had his way, we could have been embroiled by now in yet another Middle East war – more than we are already. As it is, his Syria policy has still backfired, contributing to the rise of jihadism in our own back yard.

Cameron should not be let off the hook for supporting the armed opposition in Syria and being ready to start bombing Syrian government forces in 2013 after the Syrians had apparently used chemical weapons. The planes were ready to take off from Cyprus. It was only parliament, in a historic and too soon forgotten vote, which stopped this recklessness in its tracks. True, Syria subsequently disarmed itself of chemical weapons, but this was after the climbdown on bombing had shown western public opinion had no appetite for another war of choice. So it was no thanks to Cameron’s warmongering; rather, it was a result of Russian pressure.

True also, Britain has gone on to join bombing operations against Isis. But it is one thing to bomb a rabble collection of fighters, and another to bomb a regular army with an anti-aircraft capability. And what was Cameron thinking – that decimating the Syrian army would make life harder for the Islamists, who are palpably the bigger and more atrocious threat?

If Cameron had had his way, the jihadists could be in control of Damascus by now. Where is the accountability? William Hague took the fall for the embarrassing failure with parliament – after a decent interval he was removed from the Foreign Office. But Cameron is the Teflon man here. Having got away with bombing Libya (with barely a thought for the poor Libyans, whose country is now a tragic mess) he must have arrogantly thought that Syria would make a nice encore.

This is all the more deplorable because Cameron’s unthinking policy on Syria can only have fuelled the rise of support for jihadism among British Muslim youth. To call for the overthrow of the secular Syrian government, to demonise it out of all proportion (and remember, this is the same President Assad who was having tea with the Queen in 2006), to predict its imminent fall, as Cameron and Hague were doing in 2012 and 2013 – and then to wail as though it was nothing to do with them when British Muslims set off to help hasten said overthrow – is inconsistent and nonsensical.

If we have seen a rise in the terrorist threat in Britain in recent years, Cameron must be held to account for his share in creating the conditions in which it has happened. I would be surprised if the security services had not warned him of this only-too-predictable turn of events. Presumably he ignored them.

Since the debacle in parliament we have sung small on Syria. Even Cameron could belatedly see his gung–ho policy was a tar baby. Now we have a non-policy of saying nothing, shovelling aid at the humanitarian situation and tagging along on the Americans’ coat-tails. Yet to this day our official position remains that Assad must go and the opposition should be supported – as though there was a significant non-Islamist opposition today.

There may have been a significant non-Islamist opposition in the early days, before the withering of the Arab spring. But the Syrian “revolution” was quickly and predictably sidetracked and deformed by the much more powerful Islamists. And it’s no good claiming our support is “nonlethal”: this is still aiding and abetting. We also continue to support sanctions against Syria, even though sanctions, as usual, do little harm to the regime they are directed at. Indeed, they have done immense harm to the Syrian economy, with consequent humanitarian suffering. If we want to help Syrians, it would be a good start to stop making their situation worse.

At the moment we are on the one hand arsonists, causing the situation to deteriorate by indirectly giving succour and encouragement to the Islamists and hampering Syrian government efforts to rebuild in pacified areas and destroying Syrian jobs. On the other hand, we are the firemen hosing taxpayers’ aid money on to a humanitarian disaster that we are helping fuel.

Far from symbolising loss of spine, the parliamentary vote against military intervention in Syria was a perfect instance of how Britain can still provide a moral lead to the world without “punching its weight” militarily. It is no accident that the US Congress drew in its own bellicose horns after the historic vote in Westminster, where 30 brave Conservative rebels joined forces with Labour and others. Obama appeared relieved to be off the hook.

We will need to spend more on defence – more billions than we do already – if we have a government that is going to get us into reckless scrapes. And this is the point about David Cameron: it’s no good having a strong economy and a sound NHS if all this is going to be put at risk by a leader who bases his foreign, defence and internal security policies on little save arrogance, ignorance and wishful thinking.

Peter Ford, former [British] envoy to Damascus, says unthinking policy on Syria has encouraged rise in jihadism among young British Muslims: here.

ISIS opponents are ‘terrorists’, Australian government says


This video about Kurdish northern Syria says about itself:

Anarchy in Rojava: A libertarian revolution in the Middle East

21 February 2015

In this edition, we look at the fierce men and women, who have been fighting the head chopping Islamists of I.S.I.S. to create [a] libertarian commune along the border between Syria, Iraq and Turkey. On the music break we have Kurdish rapper Rezan with “Em Kurdin.” Our guest this week is Chris Dixon, author of “Another Politics” a book about anti-authoritarian organizing in Turtle Island.

In Iraq and Syria, there is the terrorist organisation ISIS. A result of George W Bush’s and Tony Blair’s Iraq war, as President Obama said. For the Pentagon and its allies, they are the pretext for re-starting the Iraq war and starting war in Syria (officially against ISIS, in practice about oil).

The government of NATO country Turkey has often helped ISIS, as even United States Vice President Joseph Biden admitted in a moment of honesty for which he later wrongly apologized.

The government of NATO country Turkey considers the Kurdish opponents of ISIS ‘terrorists’. So do the governments of other NATO countries, like the Netherlands.

So does the government of another NATO country, Great Britain. They recently jailed a Kurdish-British girl for ‘terrorism’ for plans to fight ISIS.

Now, to Australia. Not a NATO country, but usually considered to be a part of the self-styled ‘free world’. Also a military ally of NATO in the re-started Iraq war; though most Australians oppose that.

From the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia:

Former Labor party president Matthew Gardiner arrested at Darwin airport

April 5, 2015 – 7:19PM

Eryk Bagshaw

Matthew Gardiner, the former Northern Territory Labor party president who joined Kurdish forces to help them fight Islamic State, was detained at Darwin Airport on Sunday before being released without charge, the Australian Federal Police have confirmed.

Mr Gardiner, 43, left his wife and two sons in Australia to leave for Syria in January, after making connections with others on social media who were sympathetic to the Kurdish cause. …

The Kurds, who Mr Gardiner was helping, have been involved in a bitter battle with Islamic State since the jihadist group invaded their territory last year. …

The Attorney-General’s department has long maintained that Australians who leave Australia to engage in an illegal conflict and then come back, will be arrested, prosecuted and jailed. …

Under the current legislation it is possible for Australians to join the armed forces of a foreign country. However, the Kurds are not recognised as a legitimate armed force. …

Mr Gardiner served with the Australian army in Somalia during the 1990’s and had over a decade in military experience before becoming a senior Labor figure.

He was also the treasurer of the peak body Unions NT and the secretary of hospitality, childcare and emergency services union United Voice in the Northern Territory.

Friends were shocked when they discovered the dedicated father and vocal unionist had left to join the conflict.

Federal [Labor party] Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he was relieved Mr Gardiner was back home in Australia despite fighting in an overseas conflict which he does not entirely agree with.

“I’m concerned anyone thinks they should be getting involved in these foreign conflicts, no matter what their intentions,” Mr Shorten told the ABC.

“The message has to be to Australians: We’re not going to fix those issues by becoming a foreign fighter and the law’s going to have to take its process.”

Mr Shorten should apply these words to the Australian government’s participation in the re-started Iraq war, rather than for stabbing his party colleague Gardiner in the back; Mr Gardiner, who now may get a long jail term because of governmental hypocrisy.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands, 6 April 2014:

Al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaida, has kidnapped 300 Kurdish men in northern Syria. According to an official in the Kurdish region Kobani the men were with women and children on their way from the city Afrin to Aleppo when they were stopped. Only the men were taken.

”Anti-ISIS’ government spy brings British teenage girls to ISIS’


This video, recorded in Britain, says about itself:

‘Turkey supporting ISIS & fighting against Kurds’

20 October 2014

Michelle Allison, Women’s Representative of the Kurdish National Congress, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about the role of Turkey and the Kurds in the fight against ISIS.

She says that whilst NATO expects Turkey to join in the war against ISIS, they are reluctant to do so, and are attacking Kurds instead. With flags of Abdullah Öcalan, the founder of the PKK, flying in demonstrations in Parliament Square, she explains there is a fight for equal rights for Kurds in Turkey, but any time they demand more rights, the response is ‘brutality’.

Turkey tries to demonise them, but she points to Kobanê, where they are ‘watching the massacre happening’ and hopes this could lead to a change from the West regarding Turkey’s attitude towards them. She says Turkey is ‘supporting ISIS’, with the Prime Minister unable to even say they were a terrorist organisation for a long time.

Most of the Kurdish people are after a secular, democratic establishment in the region, but all Turkey wants is to continue showing them to the world as the enemy. And she says that Kurds fighting ISIS are helping all the communities in Syria, showing the truth behind the two-sided policy in Turkey.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Coalition spy chaperoned UK schoolgirls to ISIS in Syria

THE Turkish authorities have captured a person working for the intelligence agency of a coalition country in connection with the journey of three teenaged British girls to Syria, supposedly to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday 12 March.

The three friends, two aged 15 and the other 16, left their East London homes last month and travelled to Gatwick Airport, where they caught a Turkish Airlines (THY) flight to Istanbul without telling their families.

They are believed to have crossed into Syria to join ISIS.

In televised remarks, Cavusoglu said the person who had been captured had helped the three girls. ‘And do you know who that person turned out to be? They turned out to be a person working for the intelligence agency of a coalition country’ he told the A Haber station.

Cavusoglu did not say which country the person came from but added it was not the US or a European Union member. In addition to the US and EU countries, the anti-ISIS coalition also includes Arab partners such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as well as countries like Australia and Canada.

Security sources told the Hurriyet Daily News on March 12 that the suspect detained was a Syrian national working for Canadian intelligence, without elaborating.

The Canadian Embassy in Ankara declined to comment on the issue.

Officials said the suspect was still in custody and the related country was informed about the situation.

Cavusoglu did not give details about the suspect in the interview, but said the country was neither an EU member nor the United States, adding that he had briefed British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond about the case. Hammond responded by saying ‘just as usual’ when he received the information, Cavusoglu said.

The three teenage girls from London feared to have run off to join ISIS are believed to have crossed into Syria from Turkey, British police said.

Turkey, which has been accused by its Western allies of failing to do enough to stop jihadists crossing into Syria from its territory, had earlier accused Britain of failing to provide information about the girls sooner.