The videos are harrowing. Children lying wet in the mud, choking like beached fish. Among them are the usual White Helmets fakers and con men, but this is clearly not just one of their chicken-blood-and-chalk-powder B-movies. They treat their “patients” roughly, dumping them unceremoniously on the ground, flipping them like carcasses, jerking a dying child’s head around for the camera like they’re putting a cantaloupe on display on a streetcart. Nevertheless, this time it’s mostly real.
Their “doctor” Shajul Islam, who claims they are victims of Syrian sarin, is a former ISIS terrorist who escaped a long sentence in Belmarsh prison thanks to the journalists he kidnapped & shot mysteriously declining to testify in a trial where they were the plaintiffs. He is clearly lying, as the victims show no sign of nerve damage, a fact backed up by Turkish doctors in Reyhanli. If the poison that killed so many of them were sarin, not only would there be no survivors, but the “aid workers” with no protective clothing would have suffered the same fate. They would have died in extreme agony and bone-snapping contortions, bathing in their own bodily fluids, as their nervous systems collapsed.
Most telling of all, sarin is odorless but multiple mainstream sources like AFP and The Telegraph have reported the presence of a strong stench of rotting matter – an odor that didn’t result in the death of those who smelled it, as it would with any self-respecting military chemical weapon.
Yet, despite all the lies, they have been poisoned. By what, how, when, and where? And who are they? It’s hard to tell from the available photos since their Al Qaeda-affiliated sources downsized them to obliterate details like surface wounds or large pupils that would challenge their sarin story. Nor have they provided any record of the site of the chemical incident. The earliest point where we see the victims is several hours after the 6.30 AM airstrike that triggered the incident. They are lying in an open triage area inside the town waiting to be transported to the cave-and-bunker “hospital” outside of town.
Witnesses told The Telegraph that the airstrike hit Corniche Street in the north of the town. Al Qaeda propagandist Hadi al Abdullah staged a dog-and-pony show around a crater near the grain silos in the north of the town but what the crater contained was a bent and ruptured 122mm tube that might have come from a Grad rocket and a fuse plate from a larger weapon, none of them having any connection to aerial weapons. It is not known at this time whether Corniche Street is the street in front of the grain silo or a street branching off from it and going south, on which a building was hit by the airstrike, producing a cloud of smoke that differed from the other three in that it remained close to the ground.
The attack happened around 6.32am local time. A video distributed by opposition activists claiming to be of the moments after the air strike, which hit Corniche Street in a northern neighbourhood of Khan Sheikhoun, showed several large plumes of smoke.
Later in the day, the choking and dying victims were carried on the backs of pickup trucks to the former Syrian Army Camp Khazanat refueling base southwest of the town where the White Helmets have set up a hospital for treating the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jaish al Izza fighters who hold the town. After the pandemonium of ineffective rescue and treatment efforts, the relatives of the victims arrived in the late afternoon, which tells us that at least some of the victims are bona fide and not hostages abducted during the battles raging at Hama, a short hop to the south.
The bunker-and-tunnel complex was hit by an airstrike later on, destroying a warehouse next to the subterranean hospital’s entrance, where I and others initially mistakenly assumed that the chemical weapons that killed the townsfolk were stored. Apparently the building contained inocuous stores. The bunkers and tunnels of the White Helmet hospital don’t contain any more clues to the truth than this.
The Showcase Crater
The truth begins to emerge with the video shot by a drone operated by the Gaziantep-based Qasioun News Agency, which just “happened” to be hovering north of Khan Sheikhoun at daybreak, when a Syrian Su-22 fired 4 missiles at the town. Frames from the video spliced together by Eliott Higgins, the US- and Qatari-funded self-taught “expert” of military forensics, show clearly where the 4 missiles hit. By Higgins’s own geolocation, none of them hit the street in front of the grain silos in the north of the town. Though Higgins won’t admit it, Hadi al Abdullah’s widely-publicized performance around that hole in the ground is, like most of his “reporting,” a hoax.
There is, however, an impact geolocated at a building not far from the grain silo crater, producing a cloud of smoke on the Turkish drone video that doesn’t rise like the other other three and is a different color. A video of the location shows that the building has been destroyed, indicating that the munition used was conventional. A chemical weapon has a very small explosive payload, enough to disperse the chemical without burning it. It certainly can’t destroy a building.
Then we have the Pentagon’s own strangely low-quality, barely legible graphic that was the supposed justification for the US Tomahawk missile strike on the Al Shayrat airbase of Homs, from where the Su-22 that attacked Khan Sheikhoun took off.
Chrisitian Triebert, a recent addition to Bellingcat who is an experienced and serious conflict analyst, unlike the couch-bound Higgins, pasted the Pentagon’s low-resolution radar flight track as accurately as possible on a larger map. The result shows us that almost all military flights from Al Shayrat circumvented Khan Sheikhoun and none of them were recorded in the north of the town, where the Pentagon and Al Qaeda’s showcase crater is located.
So now we have video from a Turkish quad drone that was manifestly launched in anticipation of the airstrike (not having the range to loiter), the Pentagon’s own radar track, and two witnesses filmed in front of a bombed-out building geolocated at 200m from Hadi al Abdullah’s crater, all telling us that the April 4 early morning airstrike hit a totally different area of the town than the crater bandied about by Al Qaeda’s media man and his Pentagon support team.
Now let’s get to the part where the story becomes one of an ambush. How did the Turks know when there was going to be an airstrike on Khan Sheikhoun to have a short-range quad drone up & running to record it? Former DIA Colonel Patrick Lang tells us:
ANALYSIS by retired Col. Patrick LANG
Donald Trump’s decision to launch cruise missile strikes on a Syrian Air Force Base was based on a lie. In the coming days the American people will learn that the Intelligence Community knew that Syria did not drop a military chemical weapon on innocent civilians in Idlib. Here is what happened.
The Russians briefed the United States on the proposed target. This is a process that started more than two months ago. There is a dedicated phone line that is being used to coordinate and deconflict (i.e., prevent US and Russian air assets from shooting at each other) the upcoming operation.
The United States was fully briefed on the fact that there was a target in Idlib that the Russians believes was a weapons/explosives depot for Islamic rebels.
The Syrian Air Force hit the target with conventional weapons. All involved expected to see a massive secondary explosion. That did not happen. Instead, smoke, chemical smoke, began billowing from the site. It turns out that the Islamic rebels used that site to store chemicals, not sarin, that were deadly. The chemicals included organic phosphates and chlorine and they followed the wind and killed civilians.
You don’t need to be a former DIA officer to know that Russia and the US brief each other on the targets they will hit in Syria. It’s what kept this F-15 and A-10 flying south of Idlib from running into Russian air-to-air or S-300 missiles. It’s called deconfliction. The US knew – until deconfliction was suspended by Russia after the US Tomahawk strike – where the Russian and Syrian air forces would operate as a matter of course, being regularly notified by the Russians who assumed that they were after the same enemies: ISIS and Al Qaeda, not the Syrian government.
That’s of course until the US pulled a fast one and told the Turks that the Syrians were going to hit what it knew was an Al Qaeda chemical weapons factory. The Russians and Syrians had discovered several of these in East Aleppo, such as this one in Masakeen Hanano visited by RT reporter Lizzie Phelan:
None of these chemical weapons, nor the great many times they were fired at both civilians and government forces, nor the great many victims they made, were ever acknowledged by the UN’s relevant authority the OPCW, as the US always blocked the evidence supplied, somewhat naively, by the Russians from being reported. The US was now going to bankroll this supression of information that had generated the near-universal belief that any chemical weapons had to come from the government side, despite the fact that the OPCW had declared all Syrian chemical weapons destroyed on January 4, 2016.
The ambush was prepared first of all by supplying the first responders with Level A hazmat suits and gas masks. Shajul Islam, who appeared to know exactly what was in store for the town, expressed his relief:
I could be wrong but I don’t think the White Helmets knew what was coming because their shock and anger appeared genuine. Tellingly, they totally forgot to don their new hazmat suits. However Hadi al Abdullah, who had prepared his crater coverup scenario and brought along some of his trusted extras to liven the scene, was probably in the loop as well.
Shajul Islam, Probably an Mi6 Asset
Next, Shajul Islam was ready to say the s-word and the usual suspect NGOs – MSF, Amnesty, etc. – were waiting for the signal to underwrite the “sarin” judgement. At this point it might be useful to look back at who this Shajul Islam character is.
The main characters of the story are Omar Bakri’s apprentice-jihadi (and like him, one of Londonistan’s Mi5 asset luminaries) Anjem Choudari, who took over Her Majesty’s jihad business after the old Afghanistan/Bosnia hands of Al Mouhajiroun had either been jailed or offshored like Bakri. Choudari set up Sharia4Belgium, taking advantage of the disarray of the security services in that crisis-ridden country. Choudari and his Belgium rep Fouad Belkacem reeled in angry young Muslim men – a lot of those in racist Europe – and showed them how the Koran wasn’t just an ordinary religious text but a recipe for religious war.
Shajul Islam, an East London kid, was one of Choudari’s converts. As Sharia4Belgium neared the end of its service life with a police crackdown appearing on the horizon, a batch of apprentice-jihadis were taken to Syria under the wing of Amr al Absi, a Syrian former comrade-in-jihad of Abu Musab Zarqawi in Iraq. Amr and his brother Firas set up shop in 2012 at the Bab al Hawa border crossing, which they took over from the FSA and over which they hoisted the first ISIS flag in Syria.
As bad luck would have it, two Western “journalists,” John Cantlie and Jeroen Oerlemans were just crossing over from Turkey at this time to show the world what wonderful democracy-loving people the thieving FSA cannibals were. The hardcore Salafists of the Al Absi gang had no sympathy for the FSA or for the Crusader journalists doing their PR, so they kidnapped them and began to discuss how they would execute them on live video. Shajul Islam was just as gung-ho about beheading the kuffar as all the rest. However their camp was eventually attacked by Turkish intelligence, who freed the two journos. Amr al Absi’s big brother Firas was killed, starting the feud between the FSA and ISIS.
When Al Absi lost Bab al Hawa, he joined forces with a bunch of Georgian Chechens led by Tarkan Batirashvili aka Abu Omar and eventually convinced Omar to give baya to Abu Bakr Baghdadi, head of ISIS.
Cantlie and Oerlemans, returning home, told Scotland Yard about the South London NHS doctor jihadi who had kidnapped and terrorized them, so that Shajul Islam was duly arrested on his return and put on trial for terror offenses. However British intelligence was in no mind to lose such a valuable asset so Cantlie and Oerlemans were persuaded not to testify and the terrorist walked. His doctor’s license was, however, taken from him in a secret hearing.
Neither of the two journalists will ever be able to tell this story, however, as Oerlemans was killed by a sniper and Cantlie ended up in an orange ISIS jumpsuit.
And so it was that Shajul Islam ended up as Her Majesty’s Physician to Al Qaeda in Idlib, in close contact with various Mi6 front NGO’s and the DGSE’s very own MSF, casting the sarin stone at the Syrian government to create a pretext to bomb the Syrian airbase that was pivotal in the Syrian military’s push towards the Euphrates, where US troops are setting up bases and appearing in growing numbers.
As such, the Khan Sheikhoun ambush bears a great resemblance to the September 2016 bombing of Syrian forces at Deir ez Zor by US aircraft. Both operations, no doubt masterminded by the same shifty US Lt Gen Stephen Townsend, aim to weaken the Syrian government’s hand east of the Euphrates, where the US intends to set up a buffer zone between Syria and its Shiite allies in Iraq and Iran.
Postscript: Was the Ambush also a Mass-Murder?
Professor Emeritus Theodore Postol of MIT just published a paper entitled “A Quick Turnaround Assessment of the White House Intelligence Report Issued on April 11, 2017 About the Nerve Agent Attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria” that refutes the entire White House intelligence report of April 11 as amateurish, false, misleading, and not a genuine intelligence product. Postol’s main argument is that what Hadi al Abdullah’s showcase crater contains is not an aerial or artillery munition but an improvised sarin explosive device consisting of a 122mm artillery rocket-type pipe sealed at both ends and filled with sarin, which was ruptured by an explosive placed on top of it.
This hypothesis if verified would make Hadi al Abdullah not only an Al Qaeda propagandist but possibly a mass murderer. There are however obvious problems with the hypothesis. While the IED theory seems likely, the problems of producing and deploying sarin remain. The Aum Shinrikyo sect constructed a veritable chemical factory to produce their sarin and despite releasing it in 5 closed subway cars only managed to kill 12 people. Even supposing that the Khan Sheikhoun sarin was supplied by a major industrialized country and not locally made, it’s unlikely that such a small quantity released in the open on homes with doors and windows closed would cause dozens of deaths. Adding to this the odor reported by many witnesses, we have to conclude that even if there were sarin in that pipe, it wasn’t the only chemical weapon involved in the mass deaths.
That said, whatever evidence may have existed in that crater is now so tainted that we will never know. For example, the circular fuse plate reminiscent of those on the East Ghouta chemical rockets of 2013 that was most likely planted there is now gone.
U.S. general David Petraeus, who got famous losing the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, made COIN a household acronym with his widely-publicised COIN (Counterinsurgency) Manual published in December 2016. The “protecting civilians” and “minimum force” mantras in Petraeus’s “COIN Guidance,” carrying echoes of the “hearts and minds” rhetoric of the Vietnam War, made it sound like the US military would henceforth win wars against the people it sought to conquer by holding hands with them and singing Kumbaya.
In reality, both the COIN hype and the “troop surge” that accompanied it were smoke screens for what Petraeus was really doing in Iraq, namely executing the “Salvador Option,” consisting of unleashing death squads to ethnically cleanse the troublesome Sunnis. To this day, the punditry and the general public alike believe that the US achieved a momentary success in Iraq with the fabed “surge” and the “Sunni awakening,” whereas nothing could be further from the truth. The Sunni insurgency was temporarily checked simply by indiscriminately killing, torturing, and otherwise terrorising the Sunnis.
In Afghanistan, Petraeus’s understudy Stan McChrystal continued on the same tack, talking the “sharing caring” COIN talk while savaging civilians with an unprecedent number of night raids, drone strikes, and “civcas” (civilian casualties) to drive home the message that backing the Taliban “isn’t cost-free.” Petraeus and McChrystal were not anomalies, however. They were a continuation of the counterinsurgency approach that dates back at least to the Vietnam War’s Operation Phoenix – if unbridled savagery can be called an “approach.” As we demonstrated in part 2 of this investigation, nothing much has changed in the U.S.’s “approach” to counterinsurgency since waterboarding was invented – it was called the “water cure” and was invariably fatal back then – at the dawn of the 20th century during the U.S. war on Filipino freedom fighters.
In part 2, we also noted that the British and German empires had adopted highly brutal and genocidal methods of counterinsurgency against populations unwilling to be conquered. Counterinsurgency was “refined” in later years by the French army in Indochina and Algeria: more torture, less killing. However, COIN has always been about state terrorism because there is simply no other way to subdue, even partially or temporarily, a popular rebellion, which is what we call an insurgency. There is no such thing as an invading or occupying army “winning hearts and minds.” It is from this operational and historical perspective that we have to examine an important claim made by military historian Edward J. Erickson in his article “Bayonets on Musa Dagh: Ottoman Counterinsurgency Operations – 1915”  that the Ottoman army in the Musa Dagh area operated within the strict limits of contemporary counterinsurgency doctrine, whose brutal nature hasn’t much changed since then.
 Edward J. Erickson, “Bayonets on Musa Dagh: Ottoman Counterinsurgency Operations – 1915” The Journal of Strategic Studies Vol. 28, No. 3, June 2005, pp.529-548
We’ve traveled to many continents to visit the various genocides committed by the Great Powers at the dawn of the century. Now we return to the Eastern Mediterranean, where the Musa Dagh Armenians were, as legend has it, miraculously saved from the so-called “first genocide of the 20th century” in the nick of time by the French navy, which just happened to be passing through.
“Even children no longer hoped for a warship to pass along the Syrian coast. And if by some unbelievable miracle, against all reason, a warship did appear on the horizon, who would be stupid enough to believe the ship’s watch would even notice that ridiculous handkerchief hanging on a pole atop the Dish Terrace?”
“For many months no one in Alexandretta had seen even the shadow of a warship far out at sea.”
“First, there were no French warships of any description in the Northeast Mediterranean.”
The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, David R. Godine edition, 2012
Was the Clician coast really that devoid of French naval traffic in the summer of 1915? Let’s see what the commander of the French fleet there had to say about that. This is from Admiral Louis Dartige du Fournet’s book Souvenirs de guerre d’un amiral 1914-1916, “War Memoirs of an Admiral, 1914-1916.” Plon, 1920. pp. 33-43.
The French fleet was omnipresent in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Bay of Alexandretta, in particular, “drew it like a magnet.” There was nothing miraculous about the Guichen showing up just when the Musa Dagh rebels needed it.
[. . .]
On July 9, we anchor at Castelorizo. This small island, between Rhodes and the Cape of Gelidonia, is an important maritime trade hub.
[. . .]
Back at Port Said on July 12, we had quite a serious alarm on the 14th.
[. . .]
On August 12, the Jeanne d’Arc arrived at Jaffa.
[. . .]
During the end of July and the whole month of August , the British seaplane carriers Anne and Raven salled the entire coast. Chalakdere bridge, Adana, and Mersina were bombed anew.
[. . .]
In accordance with the orders of the commander in chief, we blew up the German ship Syria in the port of Beirut on August 15.
[. . .]
On August 21, I assembled in front of Beirut the Jeanne d’arc, the d’Estrées, the Jauréguiberry, the Charner, and the seaplane carrier Anne.
[. . .]
Seizing Rouad Island (September 1 1915)
On September 1 at 9:30 AM we landed a party of 90 men…As the city notables who came on board the Jeanne d’Arc on August 30 had predicted, the population greeted us with joy.
[. . .]
Rescue of the Armenians of Musa Dagh (September 1915).
In the first days of September, the cruiser Guichen, skippered by Frigate Captain Brisson, was cruising along the coast of Antioch, when it saw signals on land…
Here is how another naval officer in the same fleet described their mission:
“At the outset of the war, our colors flew in all the ports of the coast: Antalia, Mersin, Alexandretta, Latakia, Tripoli, Beirut, Sidon, Akko, Caïffa, and Jaffa, while our religious protectorate had united around the French flag the Maronites, the Melkites, the Syriacs, The Armenians, and the Chaldeans, an immense clientele to which were added, in Lebanon, the Metoualis and the Orthodox.”
-Paul Chack, Marins à la bataille: Méditerrannée 1914-1918. Gerfaut, 2002. p.141
Chack, who was an ordnance officer in Admiral Du Fournet’s Mediterranean fleet, also expresses the Great Power interest in attacking the Berlin-Baghdad railway at its weakest point, Alexandretta, a stone’s throw from Musa Dagh:
“The Gulf of Alexandretta is truly a sensitive point of Turkish lines of communication. Its wonderful shore and its well-sheltered port seem to invite troop transports to anchor there.
Very early on, as a first warning, the admiral of the British navy in Egypt sent the cruiser Doris there, whose demolitions team blew up locomotives, demolished bridges, and gutted the railway. Excellent work.”
The Spy Ship Doris and Other Allied Ships
British intelligence and sabotage ship HMS Doris in the Bay of Alexandretta. Misnamed a “light cruiser,” she was lightly armed. Two other British ships of similar design, the Philomel and the Proserpine, assisted her.
Paul Chack was well informed. The British intelligence cruiser Doris, hosting the semi-famous British spy Harry Pirie-Gordon, was the most important British asset attacking the Ottoman Achilles’ heel, the stretch of the Berlin-Baghdad railway near the Bay of Alexandretta. The Doris’s logbook was classified until 1966, as it contained the names of many agents landed by the ship on the Cilician coast, as well as ordnance for the Armenian insurgents. In Military historian Edward J. Erickson’s accounts of the Doris’s missions, the second trip beginning January 7, 1914 involves the landing of an “Egyptian spy” and the taking of several prisoners for interrogation, most of them Armenians who volunteered for the position. There are also encounters at Alexandretta with the French cruiser Jauréguiberry, which apparently failed to land the spy and passed him on to the Doris, and the French destroyer Requin, which brought a “proclamation” to be distributed in Tripoli, no doubt calling on Arabs to revolt.
The German-built iron railroad bridge over the Ceyhan River at Çakaldere was one of the favorite targets of the French, British, and Russian warships visiting the Gulf of Alexandretta.
Erickson contends that the Doris’s activities targeting the Baghdad railway on the Cilician coast were the single most important factor that pushed the Ottomans to station 7% of their forces there merely to guard the railway against saboteurs, weakening the more active fronts, as well as to order the deportation of the Armenians in the region, who were induced and forced to collaborate with the British landing forces and spies. 
There is however an obvious discrepancy in Erickson’s reasoning, as the Doris was pulled out of the area and sent to Gallipoli in March 1915, whereas the Armenians were deported in August 1915. The reason for the Armenian deportation wasn’t the British navy, but the French one that replaced it, the same one that “miraculously” appeared in front of Musa Dagh to save the Armenians.
Maybe some readers expected me to say that Erickson was wrong because the Armenians posed no threat. They certainly would have preferred not to and the Ottoman authorities would have preferred that they continue leading their productive lives right where they were, but too much had been done “for” the Ottoman Armenians of Cilicia by their western “protectors” over the decades for them not to collaborate with the imperialists (in the illusion that they would achieve independence).
Unlike Erickson’s account that has the Doris performing just three missions from December 1914 to March 1915, the British Navy’s professional journal The Naval Review relates a much more sustained activity during that period, ending with a bombardment that took a very heavy toll on a garrison defending the railway, after which the flag was passed to the French ship Jauréguiberry: 
The Russian cruiser Askold, unable to return to Russia when the war broke out, was part of the Great Powers fleet pounding the Ottoman Mediterranean coast with her twelve 152mm guns and her impressive 24-knot top speed.
Even the smallest French warship in the Eastern Mediterranean, the coast guard cutter Requin, had far greater firepower than any of the British so-called “cruisers.”.
graph unit. A mirror aimed at the receiving party is used to send Morse coded messages.
Not only was the Doris much more active than Erickson suggested but it was reinforced or relieved during its coaling trips to Port Said by the light cruisers Proserpine (10-25 January 1915) and Philomel (5-17 February 1915) . The log books of the Proserpine also show the non-logged arrival of the HMS Philomel, as well as the presence of the HMS Doris, the USS Tenessee, the Russian cruiser Askold, the French cruisers Amiral Charner and Dentrecasteaux, and the French warship Requin. The log books of the Philomel indicate that it exchanged written messages with the shore on three separate occasions, the messages being transmitted by boat parties from the shore carrying white truce flags. Armenian Ottoman troops and functionaries willingly surrendered to the British and offered up information , as did Arabs further down the coast. A signalling device called a heliograph was found hidden in the reeds, just after a suspicious Armenian’s capture  near the strategic Payas bridge, regularly targeted by the Great Power navies prowling the Gulf of Alexandretta. The bombardments and attacks by landing parties on the railway skirting the coast, the roads, and all other visible infrastructure, as well as the troops defending them, were uninterrupted.
Although the British mischief on the Cilician coast was greater than Captain Larkin’s capers with the little Doris, it was still just a 3-month affair involving what the British optimistically called “light cruisers” (Doris’s previous sail-powered namesake was correctly called a frigate) that didn’t pack anything bigger than a couple of 100 or 120mm guns. In contrast, even the French coast-guard vessel Requin had two walloping 274mm guns and six 100mm ones. On February 3, 1915, she would knock out two entire Ottoman divisions attacking the Suez Canal. The number of ships and the firepower that France deployed in Cilicia was several orders of magnitude greater than Britain’s desultory efforts for the simple reason that the Lord of the Admiralty Churchill had staked his career on punching through the Dardanelles with his ships alone rather than allow Lord Kitchener’s army to land at Alexandretta and neatly snip off the entire raison d’être of the Kaiser’s war, his wild hope of taking Suez and seizing the British Raj.
Unfortunately, the French navy logs are not as readily available as the British ones. What I know of their activities is second-hand, through the memoirs of officers like Admiral du Fournet or the naval historian and former destroyer captain Paul Chack. They make no bones about what they were doing in the Levant, however. They weren’t there in such force to fight the nonexistent Ottoman navy, bombard the few paltry coastal military installations, or even to starve the Ottoman army out with their embargo. They were there to whip up a fifth column.
[. . .]
Jihad was declared in the mosques of Istanbul – a frightening declaration for the 1.5 million Christians who make up two-thirds of Syria’s population. Instinctively their thoughts turn to the open sea. Will the French come, as they always have?
Arwad (Rouad) Island, a former Crusader stronghold facing Tartous, became a French naval and intelligence base for the colonization of the Levant.
The French intention of co-opting the civilian Ottoman populations that they had seduced with their schools and churches to compensate for their lack of manpower, which they had frittered away by the millions in the trenches of the Marne, was a familiar leitmotif of the Balkans and Middle East. The British were marshaling Greek forces to reinforce their troops at Gallipoli and bribing the Bedouins and other Arabs to rise up against the Ottomans. The French were trying to regroup the Serbians and send them back to Serbia in order to cut off the Berlin-Bagdad railway there. They also had plans for the Christians of Syria and Cilicia, whom they considered their “clientele.” Initially, they used them as spies. In August 1915, just before rescuing the Armenians of Musa Dagh, the French fleet occupied Arwad (Rouad) Island, facing Tartous, Syria, and turned it into a spy base. Just as French and British battleships in the Gulf of Iskenderun communicated with spies on shore, French military personnel on Arwad directly controlled spies in Tartous.
French spy chief Father Antonin Jaussen with T.E. Lawrence at El Wedj, an Ottoman port that they helped capture on the Arabian side of the Red Sea.
French and British ships also landed a variety of agents from different ethnicities to conduct and organize subversion and sabotage further inland. As the French consuls, military attachés, and other officials running this spy menagerie before the war were unavailable with the commencement of hostilities, the task fell mainly to the missionaries, who were militarized, just as the British militarized their scholars and journalists in the Middle East. The head of the French spy ring was Father Antonin Jaussen of the Dominican order. Father Jaussin’s intelligence reports at the Vincennes naval archives  reveal the thorough co-option of Ottoman minorities by the French:
- “Rapport de Negueditc Krikorian” – Report of (Armenian) Neguedich Krikorian
- “Renseignements fournis par Mich Ibn Isaac Sunaa grec-orthodoxe de Kérak” – Intelligence provided by Mish Ibn Isaac Sunaa, a Greek Orthodox from Kerak
- “Interrogatoire de Léon Cassarian” – Debriefing of (Armenian) Leon Cassarian
- “Rapport de Radji Ibrahim” – Report of Raji Ibrahim
Carving Up the Turkey
The Infamous Middle East carve-up map signed by Sykes and Picot in May 1916. Most of it is red, i.e. British, because the whole idea was Baronet Mark Sykes’s in the first place. He coined the names Syria, Iraq, and Palestine, designed the red-green-white-black “Arab” flag, and planted a (Yellow) Jewish state in the middle of the mess he created, afterwards dedicating a monument to himself pictured as a crusader with the words “Rejoice Jerusalem.”
The fate of the Armenians of Musa Dagh and Cilicia was decided not so much by the German general staff and their Ottoman underlings but, as was the case for all Ottoman peoples, by the Great Power carve-up of the Ottoman state. Weakened by the reactionary Janissaries and their Ulama allies, the Ottomans were declared “the Sick Man of Europe” (they were considered European then) and the squabbling began not on how to cure the Ottoman state but on how to butcher it. All the squabbling parties – British, Russian, French, and even Egyptian – would pretend at one time or another to “help” the sick man onto his feet, only to tear a piece off of him. This is, after all, what the Great Powers had been doing throughout the 19th century all over the globe.
Britain, the top global power, was constantly in fear that its far-away source of riches, India, would be torn from its grasp. Its lines of communication with the Raj were vulnerable. The new power in the East, Russia, wanted to send its navy into the Mediterranean and the Turkish Straits were blocking the way, which was exactly how Britain wanted things to stay. Britain tried unsuccessfully, with the help of the Ottomans and French, to stop Russia’s naval ambitions with the Crimean War, and when it failed, switched from open war to proxy war and diplomacy.
The Balkan wars were such a proxy conflict where Britain and Russia set up rival client-states, while blocking the path of Kaiser Wilhelm’s Drang Nach Osten at the expense of the Muslims and Jews, who were ethnically cleansed. Right afterwards, the Kaiser got Austria to create a pretext for invading Serbia and relaunched his railroad into the Ottoman east – namely by sacrificing the unpopular Archduke Ferdinand, regarded as too soft on the Serbs. Germany’s European enemies then decided that the long Ottoman limbo had served its purpose and the time had come to destroy that state and chop up its territory. As Marks Sykes bluntly told Lord Kitchener, “Turkey must cease to be.”
As the battleships lined up before Gallipoli, the partition negotiations began between Britain, France and Russia, which demanded and obtained first dibs on Istanbul and the Dardanelles. Then the Dodecanese Islands and Adalia (Antalya) were offered to Italy to motivate it to attack Austria. Finally, France presented its claim on the Levant, and the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement that wrought havoc with the Middle East was penned. While their spies incited rebellion promising freedom and independence, the Great Powers had already mapped out their new colonies. France got a surprisingly good deal out of the Sykes-Picot bargain, landing a large colony in Cilicia, frustrating Armenian hopes for independence, as well as Syria. The catch, however, was that France had to supply troops for a ground offensive from Egypt, after the defeat at Gallipoli. France could only rustle up a mere 6200 of its own troops to add to Allenby’s ten British divisions but with the addition of the Armenian Legion, its contribution grew to divisional strength rather than a paltry regiment.
That, in the end, had been the aim of France’s actions all along. The French navy’s activities in Cilicia, intensive though they were, did not stop the Ottomans from using the railways near the Cilician shores to mount an assault on the Suez Canal. They did not disrupt Ottoman communications, so vulnerable to the massed French navy, to a significant degree. The French effort to regroup the Serbian army and use it to cut the Berlin-Baghdad railway in the Balkans also serendipitously “failed.” Severing the tenuous German lines of communications with the East would have allowed a swift British victory, leading to the loss of the Levant for France, as Mark Sykes and his mentor Lord Kitchener had no intention of letting France have a cut of the Middle East pie  .
Therefore France didn’t push very hard at all against Churchill’s misguided Gallipoli plan and allowed the Ottomans to continue shifting troops and matériel to the Middle East, where Ottoman and German forces dealt the British forces in Mesopotamia the most crushing defeat in the Empire’s history, taking their commanders prisoner. As Britain’s losses grew in the Dardanelles and Mesopotamia, so did its need for France’s assistance, and the price it would have to pay for it. What the French did instead of slashing the Ottoman arteries at Alexandretta was to create the conditions for raising an Armenian army, which they deployed in Palestine, as a bargaining chip to secure from Britain their Levantine colonies on the lands that had been promised to the Armenians and Arabs.
The French Mediterranean Squadron’s cannonades, landings, and spies weren’t so much a military operation as armed propaganda, designed to impress the Armenians and Arabs with France’s power and convince them of France’s inevitable victory. France’s blockade of the Mediterranean coast that caused famines wasn’t directed so much against the Ottoman military as against the civilians, who were forced to collaborate with France to avoid starvation. The subversive activities by France’s collaborators on land weren’t as significant militarily as they were politically, leading the Ottoman government to treat its minorities with increasing distrust and harshness, thus pushing them into the arms of the imperialists.
Musa Dagh was the culmination of these French efforts. The Armenians of Musa Dagh were first radicalized by Hunchak and Dashnak agents either brought in by the French and British navies or infiltrated through other networks such as the Protestant missions or even the Singer company’s sales network  . When these foreign shenanigans and the local agitation they produced, like the February 1915 Zeitoun uprising, sufficiently alarmed the Ottomans, they produced the desired behavior, viz. an increasingly brutal crackdown. The Musa Daghians, already harangued by Hunchak and Dashnak militants, were further radicalized by the government crackdown, and tensions rose to the point where the Germans and Ottomans both decided that the Armenians had to go. The Musa Daghians then put up a fight with French arms and with the cannons of the French navy supporting them, completing their transition from peaceful villagers to France’s colonial soldiers.
As the underdog of the “Entente cordiale,” France’s stealth strategy of hanging on to its interests in the Levant at Britain’s expense worked well. Lord Kitchener and Mark Sykes had intended to cut France out of the Ottoman carve-up altogether. A German mine took care of Kitchener and the crushing cost of Churchill’s Gallipoli follies forced Sykes’s hand. France shrewdly obtained the command of the Eastern Mediterranean after saving Britain’s bacon at the Suez Canal by blasting the attacking Ottoman army to bits. It then studiously avoided causing any serious disruption to the Ottomans’ fragile rail links at Alexandretta until General Townshend’s Poona division from India was destroyed, leaving the British no option but to attack from Egypt, where France could also join in, both in the action and the spoils. How fortunate that the Musa Daghians were already right there in Port Said to provide the troops for this undertaking!
France played its limited cards right and the Armenians were back in their homes with minimum losses under the tricolor flag before long. Then came the fatal mistake that caused both their downfall and France’s defeat: Instead of disbanding the Armenian Legion or giving its troops civilian jobs, France opted to use them to police its new Cilician colony. Instead, they went on a revenge rampage, causing the local population (mainly the Kurds of Marash) to take up arms against them and the French. When the French finally disbanded the Armenian Legion in 1919 and reassigned the Armenians as railway guards, they refused to comply and continued their attacks. The result, as U.S. High Commissioner Admiral Mark Bristol reported , was a catastrophe for all involved:
The self-inflicted French defeat in Cilicia, caused by the blowback from its radicalization and exploitation of the local Armenians as a fifth column against the Ottomans, was the watershed event that brought about the victory of the Kemalists, who were even firmer than Enver and Talat’s C.U.P. in the belief that Turks could not coexist in their country on an equal footing with other etnicities. This not only brought about the total ethnic cleansing of Armenians, who fled Kemalist-occupied lands in droves, and Greeks, who did the same in the Aegean, but of Kurds as well, who were forced to reliquish their autonomy, language, history, and wealth to the Turks.
French forces handed over their arms to the Turks, to be used against the Greeks, who were Britain’s equivalent of the Armenian Legion. This convinced Lenin to override Stalin’s (prophetic) objections against aiding the treacherous Turks and turned the Turkish nationalist fortunes around with generous donations of Bolshevik arms, gold, and military advisors. After his final victory, Mustafa Kemal strode into Cilicia, cleansed of its Armenians, and told the local merchants in Adana:
 Edward J. Erickson. “Captain Larkin and the Turks: The Strategic Impact of the Operations of HMS Doris in Early 1915,” Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 46, No. 1, 151–162, January 2010.
“Captain Frank Larkin’s voyages in command of HMS Doris in the winter of 1914–15 had an effect out of all proportion to their duration and scale. Larkin’s activities were so actively consistent and aggressive that the Ottomans came to believe that a British amphibious invasion was being coordinated with and supported by an imminent Armenian insurrection in the vicinity of Dörtyol. Unintentionally, Larkin played a key role in driving the Turks to some very poor decisions.”
 “Three Months off the Syrian Coast,” The Naval Review, 1915, Vol.3, Issue 4
 By this time Armenians had already become “usual suspects” because of the spate of Armenian rebellions and terrorist attacks during the reign of Abdulhamit II, including a very bloody attempt on his life with a VBIED. The Armenians were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t now since they were almost invariably punished at every incident they were involved in, even as mere bystanders. Accordingly, the railroad employees who surrendered to the Doris’s crew requested to be taken away to avoid punishment. The Ottomans were pushing the Armenians into the imperialists’ arms almost as hard as the Great Powers were pulling them.
 Erickson, op. cit. p. 158.
 Paul Chack. Marins à la bataille, Tôme III: Méditerrannée 1914-1918, Gerfaut, 2002. pp. 141-142.
 Eugene L. Rogan. Frontiers of the State in the Late Ottoman Empire: Transjordan 1850-1921, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 239.
 Jan Karl Tanenbaum, “France and the Arab Middle East
1914-1920.” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society Vol 68, Part 7, 1978. p. 7
 The US-owned Singer Sewing Machine company, which exclusively employed and catered to Armenians and Greeks, was directly implicated in the 1905 assassination attempt against Sultan Abdulhamit II. After Krisdapor Mikeilian, one of the three founders of the Dashnaktsutsioun (Armenian Revolutionary Federation), blew himself up in Bulgaria while trying to build the bomb for the assassination, the Singer company in Istanbul brought in the famous Belgian terrorist Edward Joris for the job. The VBIED that he built killed 26 people. Joris, like other foreign-backed terrorists caught by the Ottomans, was saved from prosecution by foreign pressure. Abdulhamit then ordered Singer to dismiss all its Greek and Armenian employees, an order that the company and U.S. Ambassador Morgenthau resisted. In February 1915, Agop Basmadjiyan the Singer company cashier in Kilis, the junction of the Berlin-Baghdad and Hejaz railways, was tried and hanged as the regional chief of the Hunchak organisation.
 Hratch Dasnabedian, History of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutiun 1890/1924. OEMME Edizioni, 1989. p.116
 Stanford Shaw, “The Armenian Legion and its Destruction of the Armenian Community of Cilicia.” in Türkkaya Ataöv, Ilber Ortaylı (ed.), The Armenians in the Late Ottoman Period, Turkish Historical Society, 2001, p. 188.
Hundreds of years of Ottoman rule in the Balkans ended with massacres and millions of refugees slogging through mud in the cold without food or shelter.
When World War I broke out, Turkey was a quasi-military dictatorship, ruled by the young officers who has seized power in 1913 after the British-backed Kamil Pasha government, itself installed by military putschists, humiliatingly lost the Balkan Wars, the Bulgarian cannons being heard even in the chic quarters of Istanbul. Millions of Turks were massacred or driven out of their ancestral lands in utter destitution , causing an immense trauma among the Muslim Ottoman population, not just from the physical hardship but from the shock of coming up against the violent nationalist hatred of former Christian Ottoman subjects.
Greeks and Turks celebrating the 1908 constitution in Monastir, just 4 years before that Macedonian city would be ransacked by invading Serbs who ethnically cleansed it of all Muslims.
The First Balkan War was the final straw for any hope that the Young Turk reformers of the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP) may have still entertained of creating an Ottoman union, based on equal citizenship, of the disparate etnicities and religions of the failing Ottoman state. They had hoped, along with their many and influent Armenian and Jewish supporters, to turn a new page with the 1908 constitution, hailed all over the the Ottoman lands as the dawn of freedom. The Balkan Wars, sparked by Russian and British fears that the Kaiser and his Ottoman understudies would form a strong union via the Berlin-Baghdad railway that was being built through the Balkans, snuffed out all the hopes and dreams of 1908 revolution.
Field Marshall Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz, or “Goltz Pasha” as the Turks called him, shaped the minds of all the officers who took over the Ottoman state and fought in World War I.
Since the beginning of the century, when Kaiser Wilhelm II took over the reins of the young German state from its founder Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Germany was engaged in a Drang nach Osten – an eastward impetus – as a result of which its economic and military relations with the Ottoman state were steadily developing. Ever since the Ottomans abolished, or rather slaughtered, their retrograde Janissaries in 1826, forming a modern army to replace them had been a seemingly unattainable top priority. The Prussian officers that Wilhelm sent to Turkey made sure it got done. Foremost among them was Colmar von der Goltz, who took a shine to the Turks, learned fluent Turkish, and trained an entire generation of officers, who worshipped the ground he stood on.
The British put over 100,000 civilians in death camps during the Boer War and killed 28,000 of them, 80 % being children. During the Nuremberg trials, Hermann Goering responded to accusations that he had set up the death camps by pointing out that it was Great Britain that had invented them.
Goltz didn’t confine himself to strictly military matters but also taught his students about politics. He praised the 1908 constitutional revolution that made all Ottoman citizens equal under the law and represented in parliament but he also warned them that in a world of nationalisms, it was impossible for the Muslim Ottoman majority to coexist with the “foreign elements” who were the Armenians, who felt allegiance not to the Ottoman state but to Russia. He proposed to expulse all the Armenians to “the deserts of Mesopotamia,” just as German Schutztruppen had driven the Herero and Nama people of Namibia into the Omaheke Desert, where they perished.  Goltz and his students the CUP officers were highly receptive to the lessons of the Second Boer War (1899-1902) where Great Britain in the person of Cecil Rhodes, seeking to capture the Transvaal diamond fields from the Dutch colonists living on top of them, managed to defeat the formidable Boer guerrilas by destroying their towns, farms, and fields, locking up all their families in death camps and starving them to death until the guerrillas surrendered.  Germany repeated the experiment in Namibia, where it killed off a portion of the Hereros and Namas in the Swakopmund, Windhoek, and Shark Island death camps. 
Goltz’s views, inculcated in his Otoman cadets for over a decade, were shared by all the German staff officers stationed on Ottoman soil in World War I, and by some of the diplomatic staff as well. Vahakn Dadrian, who is widely regarded as the foremost world authority on the Armenian Genocide, states quite unequivocally that the decision to exterminate the Armenians was a Turco-German one:
– Vahakn N. Dadrian. German Responsibility in the Armenian Genocide:A Review of the Historical Evidence of German Complicity
Dadrian notes that various Ottoman officials declared in their memoirs or conversations that the genocide was decided on the insistence of, and according to Rauf Orbay, with “collective urgings amounting to an ultimatum” from, the German staff officers. There is of course a possibility that this was their cover story to shift the blame on the Germans but Dadrian has also found direct deportation orders, demanding “severe treatment” of non-combatant Armenians, issued by General von Schellendorf. The general also instructed the German consul of Erzurum, whose sole function ordinarily would be to defend the rights of Christian minorities, not to do so for Armenians. 
The U.S. genocide between 1899-1902 in the Philippines caused at least a million deaths
Admiral Guido von Usedom, who prepared the Turkish shore and sea defenses at Gallipoli and shared the credit for that great victory with General Otto Liman von Sanders, had a conversation with U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau where he openly admitted that “the Germans had suggested to the Turks the deportation of 100,000 Greeks” and that the Armenians were likewised “removed” because they constituted an obstacle.  Usedom may have thought that Morgenthau could not possibly be shocked by these revelations as his own government had barely finished massacring, torturing, and starving to death over one million Filipinos who were resisting the U.S. colonisation of their country , to loud cries of protest from anti-imperialists like Mark Twain, who advocated replacing the stars in the U.S. flag with a skull and crossbones.
“The Germans to the Front,” a painting depicting British Admiral Seymour ordering Usedom’s marines to lead the assault on a Chinese fort during their abortive attempt to capture Beijing.
Usedom, a purebred Prussian officer unfamiliar with the perfidy and hypocrisy of Great Power diplomacy, spoke with the frankness of a commander who just 15 years earlier had helped save the bacon of the Great Powers in China, where the British and the smaller American expeditionary forces invading and plundering the country had been routed by the imperial army and the Boxer insurgents. Usedom’s Kaiserlischer Marine troops had prevented the failed assault on Beijing commanded by the inept British Admiral Edward Seymour from being encircled and annihilated, while Field-Marshall von Waldersee, unders orders from the Kaiser to emulate the carnage of Attila,  had laid waste to the country after the capture of Beijing. The missionary Arthur Smith commented: “It has seemed as if the foreign troops had come to northern China for the express purpose of committing within the shortest time as many violations as possible of the sixth, the seventh, and the eighth Commandments.”  As the Great Powers’ missionaries and troops went on an orgy of looting and murder and rivers became awash with corpses, journalist E. Dillon describing the holocaust could not suppress a moment of pathos: “I saw two bodies on a low-lying ledge of the shore. . . A father and his boy of eight had been shot down in the name of civilization while holding each other’s hands and praying for mercy. And there they lay, hand still holding hand, while a brown dog was slowly eating one of the arms of the father.” 
According to Peter Balkakian’s book The Burning Tigris, Ambassador Hans Freiherr von Wangenheim told an American journalist “I do not blame the Turks for what they are doing to the Armenians…They are entirely justified”
The Germans had, in effect, kicked in China’s door in service of the U.S.’s “Open Door policy,” all participants of the multinational invasion of China during one of its most severe famines and epidemics having jointly committed the genocidal massacre of hundreds of thousands of Chinese, while indirectly causing the additional deaths from famine, exposure, and disease, of millions, so the last thing that Usedom, a man of honor if not of mercy, had expected was for the U.S. ambassador to use his words to spin a pretext for his country to go to war against Germany.
Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, commander of the Ottoman navy and the man who as skipper of the heavy cruiser Goeben, dragged the Ottoman state into World War I by hoisting an Ottoman flag and bombarding Sevastapol, was far more circumspect in public but he did write in his diary: “It will be salvation for Turkey when it has done away with the last Armenian; it will be rid then of subversive bloodsuckers.”
The German Ambassador Wangenheim was, surprisingly enough, almost as naïve as Admiral von Usedom, when he attempted to bargain with Morgenthau, whose government was technically still “neutral” in the war, for the cessation of U.S. military aid to the Allies in exchange for Germany saving the Armenians from destruction. Boasting “We now control both the Turkish army and navy,” Wangenheim called the Armenians “traitorious vermin” and said “nothing could be guaranteed” if Britain attacked the Dardanelles, urging Morgenthau, whose close relations with President Wilson were well known, to obtain the cessation of ammunition deliveries to Great Britain if he wanted to save the Armenians. “I will help the Zionists,” he said (Morgenthau was one), “but I shall do nothing for the Armenians.” 
 Justin McCarthy. Death and Exile: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ottoman
Muslims, 1821-1922. Darwin Press, 1995. pp. 139-151 Back
 Wolfgang Gust, ed. (2014). The Armenian Genocide: Evidence from the German Foreign Office Archives, 1915-1916, p.XXI Back
 David Olusoga and Casper W Erichsen. The Kaiser’s Holocaust. Germany’s Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism. Faber and Faber, 2010. pp. 144-148 Back
 Gregory Fremont-Barnes. The Boer War, 1899-1902. Osprey Publishing, 2003. pp. 60, 61, 63, 77, 79 Back
 Olusoga, David and Erichsen, Casper W. op. cit., pp.162-171 Back
 Vahakn N. Dadrian. German Responsibility in the Armenian Genocide:A Review of the Historical Evidence of German Complicity. Blue Crane Books, 1996. p.90 Back
 Ibid, pp. 117-118 Back
 Ibid, pp. 133-134 Back
 Mike Davis. Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World. Verso, 2002. pp.198-200 “American officers acknowledged openly in correspondence that starvation had become official military strategy.” Back
 “No quarter will be given! Prisoners will not be taken! Whoever falls into your hands is forfeited. Just as a thousand years ago the Huns under their King Attila made a name for themselves, one that even today makes them seem mighty in history and legend, may the name German be affirmed by you…”
–Kaiser Wilhelm II’s “Hun Speech” Back
 Mike Davis. op. cit. p. 187 Back
 Ibid, pp. 187-188 Back
 Dadrian, op. cit. p.144 Back
A Mountain of Myths
This Musa Dagh is in Adrasan, Antalya, 500km from where the interview was held.
Imagine you’re Frodo the Hobbit setting out on his journey from the Shire to meander into all sorts of unexpected places before reaching Mount Doom. That’s what this series of posts will feel like. The destination of your journey here won’t be as scary as Frodo’s but the meandering part, there’ll be plenty of that.
Our first destination is a physical place: Musa Dagh, somewhere in Turkey. Here’s our first clue: According to this Armenian news agency story, Musa Dagh is a mountain in Hatay, a province of Turkey that was once the Sandjak of Alexandretta before the Turkish dictator Ataturk annexed it and changed its name, something he liked doing a lot, having changed his own name four times . Apparently Armenians lived there and ran into some trouble in 1915, then again in 1939 when they were forced to flee Musa Dagh for good. There’s also something about French warships transporting them in 1915, so this Musa Dagh is probably by the sea.
At the end of the news story, there it is: a photo of mountain by the sea, as billed – except it’s not. That mountain is called Musa Dagh all right but it’s 500 kilometers as the crow flies from Hatay. So what does the Musa Dagh in Hatay look like? Nowhere near as spectacular. The mountain on top of which the elderly gent lives is a low, weathered, rather nondescript mass, not an imposing rocky peak. Honest mistake, right? I mean how is the Armenian news agency that came and interviewed the old man at his home on Musa Dagh supposed to know where Musa Dagh is, especially since it holds such an apparently iconic place in Armenian national history?
Pardon the sarcasm but there is a point to it: The Armenian news agency didn’t pick that fake photo just because it liked it better. There’s more to it than that. There is a whole myth around that mountain that needs to be preserved and its craggy image is part of the myth. From the Turkish dictator calling Alexandretta Hatay and pretending that Hittites founded it to exiled Armenians pretending that their mountain looked sexier than it does, the place is shrouded in myths and fiction. Let’s start to unshroud it.
Hans Werfel, a man in love
This is where the craggy image of Musa Dagh comes from: An artists’s design for the cover of a novel written by Czech poet Franz Werfel who never set foot in the place.
The novel is loosely based on the historical events that took place there in the spring and summer of 1915, as recounted to Werfel by fellow poet and German pro-Armenian activist, Armin T. Wegner, who was a medic under Field Marshall Colmar van der Goltz in Deir ez Zor at the time. Wegner was less interested in the hardships and battles there than in the Armenian deportees who had ended up in the desolation of that arid war zone. He photographed them and got in trouble for doing so, as the Armenian deportation was both approved and backed by his German superiors, the celebrated Field Marshall having said that the Ottoman Empire needed to be cleansed of it “alien elements” the Armenians, for whom he had advocated, long before World War I, a “relocation to the deserts of Mesopotamia.” 
When Wegner found out that Werfel had used his material to write a book, he was furious  but by the time The Forty Days of Musa Dagh was published, Wegner was in all sorts of new trouble, with the Nazis this time, because of his pacifism and his defense of Jews, so he had no time for Werfel. Anyway, Werfel was Jewish himself so the Nazis banned his book before long.
Alma Mahler and Franz Werfel in 1919
Alma Mahler and Oscar Kokoschka, with whom she broke up in 1918
Although Werfel was a Jew by birth, he was no longer one by faith when Hitler came to power in 1933, having renounced Judaism to marry the love of his life Alma Mahler, the talented, seductive, brilliant, and rich widow of the great Gustav Mahler, and an anti-Semite. One of her first recorded impressions of Werfel was “fat, bow-legged Jew.” Theirs was an anguished but surprisingly enduring relationship of dominant disdain and submissive adoration.
Werfel had long resisted Alma’s demand that he renounce Judaism and suffered the moral guilt of their illegitimate love and child while Alma was married to the famous architect Walter Gropius and having an affair with painter Oscar Kokoschka as well. However Alma was not a woman he or anyone else could give up on. She had lain naked on Mahler’s piano, her ex-lover Kokoschka was so smitten he made a life-size sex doll of her, she was a highly talented composer, and did I mention, quite rich? In 1930, he finally relented and they married, going to the Middle East for their honeymoon.
Child labor exploitation in the carpet trade is well-nigh universal.
In Damascus, they visited a carpet-weaving workshop where Alma got emotional over the exploited child laborers, prized for the fine knots that their little fingers could weave. The carpet trader told them a story about their having been orphaned by the evil Turks and how he took them in out of the kindness of his heart.
Musa Daghians back at their homes under the French protectorate flag in the 1930s during a memorial service for the 18 who died fighting in 1915.
Alma was aghast at the Dickensian scene: “Werfel and I left the place, nothing from now on seemed to be of importance or beauty…” It never occurred to the couple that those children were not even born in 1915, let alone orphaned, and that Armenians had now returned to nearby Cilicia, which was a French protectorate. Alma’s emotions for the exploited children, the tale of the carpet-trader exploiting them, and their travelling companion Armin T. Wegner’s account of the desperate Armenian deportees whose plight he had personally witnessed, convinced Werfel to write a book about them.
Musa Dagh refugees in Port Said being trained for the French Foreign Legion.
Newly-built Armenian neighborhood in Aleppo in the early 1930’s, financed by wealthy Armenian benefactors. An even larger neighborhood was built in Bourj Hammoud, Beirut, as well as a village in the Bekaa Valley 50 km from Damascus. More new housing and infrastructure was built in Greece and in the French Cilicia protectorate.
When the Werfels returned to Vienna, Franz went to his friend the French Ambassador Count Clauzel to inquire further about the Armenians of Mousa Dagh, whose plight he thought he had witnessed in the Damascus carpet workshop. France had of course recruited the Musa Dagh Armenians into the Foreign Legion and sent them to fight against the Ottomans and to occupy Cilicia, so it was hardly an objective third party. The count gave Werfel access to French naval records, which should have revealed to Werfel, had he cared to look, France’s aggressive designs in the region (the Picot part of Sykes-Picot carve-up of the Ottoman lands) of which the hapless rural Armenians were clearly made the pawns. But Werfel was only interested in seeing France as an uninterested protector of the Armenians, certainly not as the power that got them into trouble. He also got material from an Armenian catholic order but none whatsoever from the other side, i.e. the Germans and the Turks.
One document influenced Werfel enormously: Pro-Armenian activist Pastor Johannes Lepsius’s tell-all conversation with Ottoman Minister of War Enver Pasha (unconfirmed by anyone else) that was published in chapter 28 of U.S. Ambasador Morgenthau’s 1918 book Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, where Enver allegedly tells Lepsius quite candidly that he massacred many Armenians and will continue to do so unless they simmer down and foreign powers stop helping them. Werfel tore that chapter out (metaphorically), sexed it up a bit, and pasted it into his own book under the heading “Interlude of the Gods.”
The three heavies of the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief: From left to right, 1) Ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau, the commander of the U.S.’s army of consuls in the Armenian-populated provinces, 2) the J.P. Morgan partner and copper magnate Cleveland H. Dodge who ran the whole show as well as Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy, and 3) American Board Secretary James Barton, the leading proponent of an autonomous Armenia. Dodge was also the president of Robert College, from where all pro-Armenian missionary activity was orchestrated. 
While Lepsius’s account rings true and jibes with everything else we know about the CUP leadership and its German sponsors, there’s no getting past the fact that Lepsius was no more an objective observer than Wegner was and in fact was in close collaboration with US “diplomatic” missions and US missionaires, whose reports form the backbone of his work The Massacres of Armenia (1919), and who were all employed by US financial and copper magnates seeking to obtain propaganda material against the Turks, Germany’s allies. They intended to use this material to persuade the public that US troops needed to go to Europe to defeat Germany. The extensive network of US diplomatic and Evangelist missions catering to Armenians in Anatolia had no other purpose than to fabricate the pretext for Woodrow Wilson, who got elected on an isolationist ticket, to declare war on Germany, but more about that later.
Franz Werfel as a “historian”
All of this renders Franz Werfel’s novel’s claim to be “historical” highly dubious. Granted, Werfel researched his subject extensively but not exhaustively, completely neglecting to research opposing sources on the matter. He didn’t speak Turkish or Armenian but claimed to present an accurate picture of both Turkish and Armenian parties of the Musa Dagh events, while totaly neglecting the German, American, and British actors, although German was his mother tongue and he spoke English fluently.
Werfel was also hampered by his utter submission to the opinions of his dominating wife, who was Catholic, royalist, reactionary, and utterly anti-Muslim. When he first met Alma, Werfel was something of a communist in 1918, hanging out with the “Red Guard” in Vienna, until one November night when he made a fiery speech and came home drunk to face Alma’s cold disdain, after which he immediately lost all interest in the revolution of the proletariat. Worse still, he gave up his Jewishness to please his mistress. Werfel was simply incapable of saying or writing anything that displeased his reactionary, anti-Semitic, and racist domina. Therefore, we have to think that whatever duty of accuracy he may have felt during the writing of 40 Days, would have fallen by the wayside if it got in Alma’s way.
Finally, Franz Werfel was not a substantive author. He was interested in fame and success, not literary or academic excellence. After having abandoned Judaism and even signed an oath of allegiance to the Nazis at the Prussian Academy of Literature of which he was a proud member (but was kicked out of for being a Jew anyway), he wrote The Song of Bernadette about the miracle at Lourdes, which was an instant hit with all bible-thumpers and not only stayed on the New York Times list for 13 weeks but became an even worse Fox movie. Thomas Mann called it “a well made bad book.” 40 Days wasn’t even well made.
His characters rant interminably about his confused and reactionary political and religious ideas. Even that wasn’t enough for Werfel so he added pages of his own commentary on the virtues of spirituality and the evils of materialism and nationalism. His Gabriel Bagradian bears no resemblance to the actual leader of the Musa Dagh insurgents, who was a Dashnag militant from Yoghunoluk village, Moses Der Kaloustian, not some dispora Armenian with an identity crisis and an Alma-like bourgeouis wife who slept around. Nor did Der Kaloustian oversleep and miss the rescue boat, where no one inexplicably noticed the valorous leader’s absence so that he could get himself tragicomically killed. The real Musa Dagh leader lived a long and prosperous life.
In fact, unless you read 40 Days as some sort of act of homage to the Musa Daghians, it’s just a boring, annoying, and downright silly book, in the image of the silly man who wrote it.
Now that both Werfel and his book are desecrated as they should be, it’s time to pass from fiction – even if it pretends to be “historical” – to facts.
 His real name is Mustafa. He changed it to Kemal, meaning “perfection” when he was a schoolboy. Later during his military career “perfection” started sounding a bit too pretentious so he changed it to Kamal, which isn’t even a word. Finally, he went back to pretentious and decided to call himself “Father of the Turks,” i.e. Ataturk. [Back]
 The Armenian Genocide: Evidence from the German Foreign Office archives 1915-1916, edited by Wolgang Gust, 2014 [Back]
 Werfel’s biographical details are from the books Understanding Franz Werfel by Hans Wegener, 1993 and Franz Werfel: The faith of an exile by Lionel B. Steiman, 1985. [Back]
 Protestant Diplomacy and the Near East: Missionary Influence on American Foreign Policy 1810-1927 by Joseph L. Grabill, 1971, pp. 80-105 [Back]
Abu Ibrahim Shishani
a.k.a. Salahuddin Sishani
Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili
a.k.a. Abu Omar Shishani
a.k.a. Muslim abu Walid Shishani
Islam Seit-Umarovich Atabiyev
a.k.a. Abu Jihad
Abu Bakr Shishani
High value Chechen targets in Iraq/Syria: The Pankisi connection
The lawless Pankisi Gorge
Turkish television announcing the “murder” of terrorist Dokka Umarov , shown in front of the Imarat Kavkaz banner.
ISIS’s famous red-bearded commander Abu Omar Shishani was again wounded recently in a US airstrike, finally giving up the ghost on March 14, and bringing his bio once again into the media spotlight. Like the other HVTs (High-Value Targets) in the SYRAQ (Syria/Iraq) theater, Abu Omar is a Kist Chechen hailing from the notoriously lawless Pankisi Gorge of NATO-allied Georgia, a staging area and support base for Chechen terrorist operations in the Russian Federation.
Pankisi is home to the Al Qaeda-affiliated Imarat Kavkaz (Caucasus Emirate) founded by the now-defunct Dokka Umarov, whose Syrian branch is Georgiy Kushtanashvili’s (a.k.a. Salahuddin Sishani a.k.a. Feyzullah Margoshvili) Jaish al-Usra. ISIS’s Caucasian operation Vilayat Kavkaz is of more recent date and is based in Daghestan. It is these Caucasian extensions of the Chechen terrorist gangs in the SYRAQ theater that constitute their main avenue of exporting terrorism into the industrialized world. The Chechen terrorists operating in the Caucasus are far more lethal than any other terrorist formations in the world, owing to their Russian and Georgian military training, foreign (mainly US) assistance, and the natural selection operated on them by the even more lethal Russian counterterrorist forces.
Chechen terrorism issued forth from the CIA’s Afghanistan Jihad, whose veterans were repurposed by US, UK, Saudi, and Turkish intelligence, to inflict further damage on the USSR and later the Russian Federation, this time on its own soil. Doku Umarov thus fought in the 1st and 2nd Chechen wars and Murad Margoshvili a.k.a. Muslim abu Walid Shishani fought by his side. Abu Bakr Shishani, who is Margoshvili’s military commander in Syria, likely participated in those conflicts as well, and probably has more military experience than Margoshvili. Judging by his military knowledge, Abu Ibrahim Shishani of ISIS, the commander of its Baiji operations in Iraq was also a seasoned veteran, having built an artillery rocket factory and taken over the training of ISIS recruits in Baiji.It is their unparalleled experience, gained by facing the full force of a superpower’s military and intelligence apparatus, and sometimes their military training in the Russian/Soviet spetsnaz, into which Chechens were often selected, that makes them the highest-value targets in the SYRAQ theater. Of course in Batirashvili’s case, it was the U.S. spetsnaz, or special forces, that turned him into a killing machine.
Chechens proved their game-changing HVT credentials in August 2013, when Tarkan Batirashvili a.k.a. Abu Omar Shishani, trained by US special forces in Georgia, who fought in the US Army 82nd Airborne in Iraq as well as in the Georgian army during its 2008 South Ossetia invasion, reversed the fortunes of the FSA-led sickly siege of Menagh airbase near the Turkish border by taking over the command of operations and promptly capturing the base with suicide bombers and VBIEDs, which have since become the hallmark of the foreign terrorists in Syria. Similarly, freelancer Murad Margoshvili a.k.a. Muslim Abu Walid Shishani, who rents out his Junud al Sham gang to Al Qaeda’s Northern Syria paymaster Sheikh Mohammed al Muhaysini, made his mark in several successful Al Qaeda offensives in Northern Latakia and Idlib.
Batirashvili entered Syria in the the spring of 2013 with a gang of freelancers just like Margoshvili’s, called Kataib al Muhajireen, the Immigrants Battalions, made up, he claimed, of Georgian Chechen survivors of battles with Russia in the Caucasus, as well as jihadis of other nationalities, gathered together by Saudi handlers such as a certain Abdul Aziz in Istanbul. He had arrived in Turkey in the spring of 2012 after his release from prison in Georgia, where his military career had reached a dead end. By March 2013, his Kataib (battalions) had expanded into a Jaish (army) with the addition of other two other Saudi-formed gangs, and possibly also Amr al Absi’s “Belgian Brigade,” providing him with an ample supply of suicide bombers, which he used as smart weapons to capture Handarat and Menagh airbases in Northern Aleppo.
Flush with success, Batirashvili decided to join ISIS. He had come into contact with the Al Absi gang of Azaz, which flew the first ISIS flag in Aleppo over the Bab al Hawa border gate, where it famously clashed with the FSA’s Farouq Brigade over the kidnap of journalists John Cantlie and Jeroen Oerlemans. Amr al Absi, who took over the gang after his brother was killed by the FSA, had been with the Islamic State of Iraq since its earliest days, long before the 2011 Syrian uprising. The Al Absi “Belgian Brigade” was the Syrian end of the Sharia4Belgium jihadi pipeline that spewed out French, Belgian and UK jihadis eager for martyrdom.
UK and French intelligence services, following the US-Saudi playbook of using Sunni radicals to roll back Iran’s influence, had outsourced their Syria jihad to Belgium, much like global corporations did their head offices, to benefit from that disarrayed country’s lax laws and even laxer law enforcement. Sharia4Belgium thus funneled thousands of battle-winning human smart weapons to ISIS and Al Nusra that the FSA could not offer. Chechens, on the other hand, were not only few in number but weren’t that crazy about martyrdom. There were loud grumblings about the number of Chechens and Crimean Tatars that Batirashvili had sacrificed to take Menagh, including a Pankisi boy called Khamzat whose newly-wedded beautiful celebrity widow he took for his own wife. These facts and the excellent introduction that Amr al Absi provided to the ISIS leadership prompted Batirashvili to join them.
The mysterious Abu Ibrahim Shishani
Abu Ibrahim: The elusive older brother Tamaz Batirashvli?
We know far less about another experienced veteran Chechen whose nom de guerre was Abu Ibrahim Shishani, killed by the Iraqi Hashd al Shaabi militia at Baiji refinery, where he was both a field commander and a trainer. A redhead like Tarkan Batirashvili, there is a slight chance that this experienced war veteran might be his older brother Tamaz because he is the only known Russian-speaking older redhead Chechen with battle experience in ISIS – not that redhead Chechens are a rarity. He doesn’t fit the portrait drawn by his father for The Daily Beast too well: “The two brothers have similar features, the same nose, same red beards, yet we are told that Tamaz doesn’t typically wear military fatigues. He dresses simply, in a gown with a scarf on his head.” Moreover, Tamaz is supposed to be a supreme warrior, yet Abu Ibrahim was the first HVT killed so far, admittedly in a difficult battle against vastly superior forces. Still, even if he is no relation at all to Batirashvili, he was the commander of all ISIS operations in the key Tikrit-Baiji sector, so he was an important HVT.
Unfortunately in those early months of 2013 when Batirashvili’s star was rising, ISIS’s Syrian expeditionary force, called Al Nusra, had been co-opted by Qatar and split from its Saudi-backed Iraqi parent organization. The Qataris got Pakistan’s “guest” Ayman al Zawahiri to back Al Nusra and “excommunicate” ISIS. Many of Batirashvili’s Chechens, his right-hand-man Georgiy Kushtanashvili a.k.a. Salahuddin Shishani most of all, had been sent there by Dokka Umarov, who was dependent on Al Qaeda, i.e. Saudi support, as evidenced by Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan’s threat to use Chechen terrorists “controlled by us” to attack the Sochi winter games. Consequently Kustanashvili and many others, including Batirashvili’s protégé Seyfullah, refused to follow Batirashvili. Kushtanashvili took over the command of Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar (JMA) when Batirashvili joined ISIS.
The Chechens’ “Displaced Conflict” in Syria
a.k.a. Abu Jihad in a Karachay-language propaganda video accompanied by an Ingush terrorist preacher. Wearing a status-symbol spetsnaz Gorka uniform, Abu Jihad appealed to his ethnic kinsmen to join ISIS’s jihad.
The split between the Chechens wasn’t just because of the importance of Saudi support, though this was certainly the main factor. There was also what Joanna Paraszczuk calls the “phenomenon of the displaced conflict,” i.e. the displaced revenge of the Chechens against Moscow’s ally Syria, after they dragged themselves bloody and beaten from the Caucasus. They were, in a sense, re-fighting in Syria the Caucasus battles that they had lost against Russia. Certainly, this displaced revenge motivation was visible in the large Imarat Kavkaz logos displayed on their walls, clothes, and vehicles, despite the fact that they officially called themselves Jaish al Muhajireen. Batirashvili was able to think strategically and see how he could have a better shot at the Russians by allying himself with ISIS but most of the other Chechens clung to their past.
Batirashvili’s Caucasus Gambit
I’m not done with ISIS’s Chechens yet because a crucial aspect of the Imarat Kavkaz story is how Batirashvili is using ISIS to wrest control over Caucasus terrorists from IK. The gray-beard often described nowadays as Batirasvili’s “right-hand man” is not his lieutenant in the Syria/Iraq Jihad but the ethnic Karachay-Balkar veteran jihadi Islam Seit-Umarovich Atabiyev a.k.a. Abu Jihad who is setting up Batirashvili’s “Vilayat Kavkaz.” This is the guy Putin should be most worried about because he has already obtained the bay’ah of most Caucasus terrorist imams and appointed his own Vilayat Kavkaz emir, Rustam Asilderov alias Abu Muhammad Kadarsky. Atabiyev is quite a talented propagandist, not at all the rigid salafist mullah type you would expect him to be. Despite ISIS’s strict salafist rules against music, he made use of a german rapper Deso Dogg, from among ISIS’s many German recruits, to produce a music video featuring all the Caucasus preachers who had given bay’ah to ISIS.
The Rise and Fall of Giorgi Kustanashvili a.k.a. Salahuddin Shishani
Georgiy Kushtanashvili a.k.a. Salahuddin Shishani saw himself as the future emir of Imarat Kavkaz
When Batirashvili’s Katibat al Muhajiroun arrived in Syria, Kustanashvili, with whom he had presumably fought in the Caucasus under Ruslan Gelayev, was his field commander. He immediately launched into several high-profile operations from the KM/JMA base in the luxury villa in Hraytan seized by Batirashvili. He captured Kafr Hamra and attacked Layramoun, reaching the outer ring road of Aleppo, and pushing east to organize several SVBIED attacks against the Canadian i.e. Al Kindi Hospital, making a name for himself.
Kustanashvili was eventually pushed out of Al Nusra-allied JMA by Saudi sheikhs, led by Sheikh Mohammed Muhaysini, the Saudi envoy who would gradually wrest back control of Al Nusra from Qatar. Kustanashvili and his Crimean Tatar lieutenant Abdul Karim Krymsky then formed Imarat Kavkaz fi Shame, the Caucasus Emirate in the Levant. However he was pressured out of this command as well, this time by the new emir of Imarat Kavkaz Abu Usman Gimrinsky, who probably wasn’t too happy about Kustanashvili setting up his own parallel emirate in Syria. Kustanashvili then left his command to a younger Chechen fighter, Khayrullah Shishani, and formed Jaish al Usra, again allied with Jabhat Al Nusra. These successive ousters prevented Kustanashvili from expanding his operation to the measure of his ambitions. We never again heard of such thunderous exploits from him as during his whirlwind entry into the Syrian jihad in the spring and summer of 2013. He partnered with Murad Margoshvili in Latakia and they were reportedly on good terms but he got no coverage at all in the victory videos. His Jaish al-Usra is reduced, at this writing, to bombarding Kurdish civilians in the Sheikh Maqsoud quarter of Aleppo in revenge for the vast territory captured from Al Qaeda and its Turkish allies by the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces of Afrin.
The Hired Gun
Unlike Kustanashvili, Murad Margoshvili a.k.a. Muslim Abu Walid Shishani never gave bay’ah to anyone and never had to put up with any political backstabbing. He probably owes his relatively comfortable status to his drug lord uncle the late Vephiya Margoshvili, head of the Margoshvili clan that owns the Pankisi Gorge and hosts the Imarat Kavkaz gangs that hide out there, who double as their personal army.
Margoshvili got his military training with the Red Army in Mongolia but when he returned home to the Pankisi, he set out into the terrorism sector rather than the family drug business. He fought with both Shamir Basayev and Ruslan Galeyev, both of them former spetsnaz, on many fronts. His last Russian caper was in 2002, an unspecified operation led by Aslan Maskhadov. He was captured in 2003 but only stayed in prison for 2 years, though it took him until 2008 to recover from whatever they did to him there.
Shanghaied to Syria
What happened after that is, curiously enough, in the public record: According to the Public Defender of Georgia Ucha Nanuashvili, a group of Kist Chechens, from among the 120 trained by the Georgian Interior Ministry in military bases for subversive operations, decided to enter the Tsuntin district of Russian Daghestan through the Lopota Gorge in August 2012. These men were from Murad Margoshvili’s jemaat in Tsuntin. Georgian special forces intervened and denied them passage, telling them to leave their weapons and go back to their military base. No reason that we know of was given. The men refused, a firefight ensued, and 8 of them, plus 3 Georgian handlers died. One of the dead was a relative of Murad Margoshvili called Aslan Margoshvili. The survivors were not returned to their bases but sent to Syria, at which point the incident starts to make sense: They were ordered to go to Syria but didn’t want to and tried to get to Daghestan. They were then forcibly prevented from escaping and packed off to Syria. Georgia being heavily under U.S. and Turkish influence, it may have been persuaded to relinquish the Pankisi Chechens it had intended to use against Russia for the Syrian jihad.
Margoshvili and his aide Abu Tarib Shishani celebrating their brief victory at Tower 45 in Northern Latakia.
So that’s how Margoshvili ended up in Syria in 2012, where he was shortly joined by Batirashvili, who was apparently framed and jailed for 16 months just motivate him to go to Syria. In the warm months of 2013, they were one big happy terrorist gang living it up at the poolside of Batirashvili’s Hraytan villa, seized from an Aleppo businessman. Then Batirashvili joined ISIS and Margoshvili took more than 100 Chechens with him to Latakia for a whirlwind offensive in the summer of 2013 that would take him all the way to Durin, and which earned him the nickname Sopa Durin: Durin Hilltop. Unfortunately for him, Batirashvili got an even bigger billing at Menagh airbase.
Margoshvili did increase his fame during the March 2014 Kessab offensive, when Al Qaeda terrorists poured out of Turkey into that Armenian village founded by 1915 genocide survivors, thoroughly ethnically cleansing it. He helped briefly capture Tower 45, a dominating strategic location, and had the moment recorded for posterity on video. The next year, Al Qaeda poured out of Turkey again, this time into Idlib, sweeping away the Syrian army, and Batirashvili was there posing for the cameras again. However at the end of 2016, he was no longer celebrating but desperately calling for help in his videos as the Syrian army overran his training camps at Ateera on the Turkish border, forcing him to flee.
The Young Lions
The Jack of our HVT royal flush isn’t a leader like the others but a very competent and experienced tactician nonetheless. Abu Bakr Shishani, whose real name is unknown, was Margoshvili’s field commander but transferred to the younger and more daring Abdul Hakim Shishani’s Khalifat Jamaat after the 2015 Idlib offensive. Abdul Hakim is thought to be Rustam Azhiyev, a young veteran Chechen terrorist (2000-2009) who fought under Shamir Basayev’s son Rustam and later had his own command in the central Nokhchiycho sector of Chechnya.
Young Chechnya veteran Abdul Hakim Shishani with a happy Sheikh Muhaysini after Al Qaeda captured Idlib in 2015.
Well-equipped and professional young Chechen terrorists of Ajnad al Kavkaz in Idlib.
Khamza Shishani, now dead, and Abu Bakr Shishani under an Imarat Kavkaz banner. Abu Bakr displays his status not only with with his Gorka special forces uniform but with an Israeli KPOS Glock pistol submachine gun converter. He is saying “I don’t need an assault rifle, I’m an officer.”
Kamov Alligator attack helicopter being assembled at Hmeymim on March 17, 2016.
Mi-28N Night Hunter attack helicopter overflying Hmeymim airbase on March 16, 2016.
If Abdul Hakim ever gets to be Batirashvili’s age, he will no doubt be the ace in the pack. Even now, he is a very dangerous. He and his young pack of Chechen wolves tore up Idlib , Ariha, and Jisr ash-Shughour, chasing the Syrian army all the way out of the Ghab valley, while capturing scores of armored vehicles and other heavy weapons in the process. They worked in perfect synchronization with CIA-backed FSA TOW missile teams, who destroyed the Syrian armor in their way as they progressed down the Ghab valley.
The man who has the experience to keep the young hothead Abdul Hakim out of fatal trouble is Abu Bakr Shishani. Abdul Hakim came to Syria in the company of Abdulvakhid Edelgireyev a.k.a. Khamza Shishani, a Chechen veteran like him who became his lieutenant. The youngsters were both heavily wounded in Chechnya and bonded in a Turkish hospital in 2009, Abdul Hakim emerging with a damaged left hand and eye and Hamza with his left leg 10 cm shorter. They displayed a gung-ho style throughout the Idlib offensive, with Abdul Hakim often leading the column. That style will no longer fly against the now better-trained and -equipped Syrian army and air force, even without Russian marines backing them up. Worse still, their anti-tank cover provider the FSA has laid down its weapons with the ceasefire in Syria.
Edelgireyev became the victim of his devil-may-care attitude when a Russian hit team gunned him down in Istanbul in January. According to his family, he utterly disregarded his personal security. Edelgireyev’s activites since he left Syria, however, showed clearly why he needed to be taken out. He had gone to Ukraine to fight with the Nazis against Donbass, then returned to Istanbul to recruit & seek funds for Abdul Hakim’s old Chechnya command the Nokhchiycho district. Now Abu Bakr is Abdul Hakim’s military commander, a more experienced and wiser one than Edelgireyev, which makes him a higher-value target to be eliminated ASAP.
It would be foolhardy to second-guess what Russia intends to do about the Caucasian HVTs remaining in Syria but what we do know is that neutralizing them was one of the reasons that pushed it to intervene in Syria. Does the fact that it is pulling out all its SU-34 and SU-25 attack aircraft and some of its SU-24s, as well as 3,000 marines, mean that it has given up on that goal?
First of all, taking out HVTs is not a function of the number of mission flown or the tonnage of bombs dropped, but primarily of intelligence. Are Russia’s electronic surveillance assets still in place? Judging by the swarms of Russian drones monitoring the ceasefire since February 27, that’s a definite yes. Are GRU Osnaz ELINT units still there? They have been there since 1957 so it’s safe to assume they’ll be sticking around. Moreover, Russia has moved in assets more tailored to targeted killings than iron-bomb-dropping jets, namely Mi-28N Night Hunter and Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters, both top-of-the line aircraft bristling with sensors and stand-off weapons. When ground assets spot an HVT, these quasi-invisible sniper aircraft can be deployed at night to take it out. The withdrawal of most of its tactical aircraft has no obvious implications for Russia’s determination to go after Chechen HVTs in Syria and it has everything it needs there for the job.
Thanks also to Misha @filokalia for pointing me to the Guardian story on the assassination of Khamza Shishani.
|The recent death-dive of Saudi foreign exchange reserves|
|Saudi GDP per capita was the highest in the world in 1980 (IMF). The US only caught up when oil prices collapsed.|
|Before he US invasion of Iraq sent oil prices into outer space, Saudi had no cash reserves, tons of debt (the bars), and low oil income, yet survived.|
|One-eyed Abdulaziz trying to convince the USA not to swat him like a fly while learning to sit in a chair at the same time. He brought eight sheep with him on the warship. Churchill, who met him the next day, didn’t even know who he was.|
|The crash of oil prices was caused by the 2 million barrels a day of extra crude that the US dumped on the market since 2011, which the global economy could not absorb, as it was struggling to recover from the 2008 financial crash, also made in the USA.|
As oil prices and Saudi’s war expenses go in opposite directions, there are about as many pundits predicting Saudi’s near demise as there are scoffing at the very thought. Still, the chart looks pretty scary, as does the number 2.4%, which is the amount of Saudi’s forex reserves it took to get the country through January. The IMF gave the tribal state 5 years until it goes bust but at this rate, their remaining $594 billion will be gone by August 2020.
However Saudi has had a lot less cash for a very long time and managed to score as high a GDP per capita as the post-Iraq oil bubble blesses it with today. It has also been deep in debt, as opposed to cash-rich, after the oil price crash of 1980, yet muddled through. So why should it worry now just because its pile of cash got sightly less enormous? It’ll just get a loan until oil prices recover, right? I mean who wouldn’t lend money to the goose with the golden eggs?
Somehow, investors don’t see it that way. There’s a thing called a Credit Default Swap (CDS) which is basically an insurance policy against a debt default. It’s a far more reliable gauge of investment value than agency credit ratings, since rating agencies collect their fees from the actual people they are rating: Not a great system, as recent experience with AAA-rated subprime mortgages proved.
Saudi just got downgraded by Standard & Poors two whole levels from A+ (Japan) to A- (Malaysia), just four months after downgrading it from AA- to A+. That’s still 3 grades above junk, so not bad, right? Except when you look at where Saudi’s CDS rates are, should it choose to borrow on the international market, you see that the guys who can actually lend it money, instead of just take its money to give it a grade, think its investment value is the same as Portugal’s, i.e. junk. If agency ratings were any good, Saudi would be rated BB, 3 steps below where it is now.
What makes Saudi’s position hopeless – and I weight my words – is the perfect storm that its primitive rulers have brought upon themselves with their conceited and short-sighted belief that they could throw money around from their recently-amassed mountain of cash and defeat all their enemies in one fell swoop. Before going into the different weather systems that combine to create the perfect Saud-killing storm, we should keep in mind the single cause that has created all this extreme weather: The bottomless stupidity, ignorance, bigotry, and arrogance of these bedouin tribal chiefs who sit atop the world’s most valuable oil reserves for no other reason than that the British Empire put them there and the US empire saw it convenient that they should remain. If you think that’s hyperbole then read about how the measly sheepherd Abdulaziz had no illusions whatsoever who the real “sultan” of Arabia was:
The sultan of Najd, Abdelaziz al-Saud bowed his head before the British High Commissioner in Percy Cox’s Iraq. His voice quavered, and then he started begging with humiliation: “Your grace are my father and you are my mother. I can never forget the debt I owe you. You made me and you held my hand, you elevated me and lifted me. I am prepared, at your beckoning, to give up for you now half of my kingdom…no, by Allah, I will give up all of my kingdom, if your grace commands me!”
–Servant of the British Empire: On the founding of Ibn Saud’s kingdom
The oil price spike that started with the US’s invasion of Iraq – an invasion that the oil company executives in the White House had promised would bring oil back to $10 – introduced a decade of artificially high oil prices disconnected from supply and demand. An oil price bubble was created by banks, hedge funds, and oil companies although there was no scarcity of oil, in fact quite the opposite. Not only did investors make huge profits on oil futures contracts but US oil multinationals thoroughly gouged China, whose manufacturing-based economy was the world’s most energy-hungry. Meanwhile, high oil prices made the exploitation of US shale oil and deep sea oil reserves economically feasible, since both involved enormous investment and operating expenses. Banks actually hoarded oil in warehouses and tankers to take it off the market. Oil giants reduced refining and transport capacity to create artificial shortages.
Saudi looked on in puzzlement as prices broke through $150 despite slow sales. It reaped the windfall profits and amassed the huge war chest that Salman and his idiot son Mohammed are eating through these days, half suspecting what the bubble would lead to, i.e. US overproduction coupled with sluggish demand due to the burden of the high cost of energy on the global economy. Just as in 1980, high oil prices – imposed this time by Western financial speculators, not OPEC production cuts – helped slow down global economic growth to nearly a stop and almost on the day that the first tanker of export crude left the US, the price of crude plummeted to $30.
Abdullah (1) tried to be a reformer, though all he managed to do, in his last days, was to give women the right to vote in municipal elections (2) but at least got rid of the ogrish and very dangerous Nayef (3) though he failed to replace Salman (4) with Muqrin (5)
The oil price crash occurred at a time when Saudi transited out of the relatively prudent leadership of Abdullah bin Abulaziz, son of one-eyed Abdulaziz’s wife Fahda from the great Shammar tribe that is spread between Riyadh and Syria, passing through Iraq. During his reign, he held back the Sudairi Seven, the seven brothers issued from Abdulaziz’s bigot wife Hassa from the Najd, the dark southern birthplace of Wahhabism from where Mohammed prophesied the “horn of satan” would enter the world.
Abdullah led Saudi for 20 relatively stable years, the first five as a regent for the infirm Fahd, who was also a Sudairi and during whose lucid years Wahhabi mischief proliferated, from the Afghanistan jihad to the 1982 Hama jihad to backing Saddam against Iran to Chechnya. Abdullah tried to remove as many of the Sudairi Seven as he could, killing the worst one, interior minister Nayef, but failing, from his sickbed, to remove Salman from his position as crown prince before Salman could have him killed. So just as oil prices peaked, another deranged Sudairi became head of the Saudi tribe.
The new Saudi tribal chief Salman thought the best use for his new cash stash was to invade poor Yemen next door. The ignorance and incompetence that pervades his country turned the US Apache helicopters and Abrams tanks that he paid a fortune for into Yemeni target practice.
Admittedly, Abdullah engaged in some mischief of his own in Syria, not out of zealotry but because of the strategic threat posed by the US handover of Iraq to Iranian-backed Shiites, creating an unbroken Iranian-controlled “Shiite crescent” through four countries, as well as a possible pipeline route to the Mediterranean for Iran. The reason I’m harping on the difference between Abdullah and the Sudairis isn’t that Abdullah was a great guy but that the Sudairis are immeasurably worse, particularly in the idiot department.
The 1980 oil crash – that was the Sudairi Fahd and his cretin of an oil minister Yamani, descended from a line of Qadis and Muftis. Abdullah managed to hold Saudi’s head above the water during the lean years that followed, when GDP fell 20%. No such level-headed management is available today. Instead, the current batch of Sudairi morons are busy hiring armies from the far corners of Africa and Asia to fight a losing war in Yemen, having already spent billions trying vainly to topple Syria’s Assad. The only dubious distinction they have gained to date is to make Saudi Arabia the world’s top arms importer, up from No 6 in 2004-8 and No 4 in 2009-13.
To be fair, Saudi won that top prize during Abdullah’s watch. He is the one who signed all those “deal of the century” arms contracts, only he didn’t do it to get quagmired in Yemen but to get unquagmired from Syria: He bought piles of French, British, and US military junk not to start a new war but to buy the support of those countries to get him out of the one he’d gotten tar-babied to. It’s how France went from being the world’s 5th arms exporter to its 2nd and from a hijab-banning, Turkey-hating Islamophobic country to a jihadi, Turkey-backing Islamophobic country (see my Allons enfants du djihad post). It’s how London became Londonistan. It’s not, however, how Turkey’s Erdogan went from pro-democracy minority-friendly Islamist good cop to totalitarian, sectarian, and jihadist Islamist bad cop. As I explained in the second part of my Long War post, the deal Tayyip made with Saudi was for massive property purchases in Turkey. All of these generous distributions of bakhsheesh were Abdullah paying the very high price of buying allies for his obnoxious and parasitical regime when he realized he couldn’t topple Assad and that Assad would soon be coming after him.
When Abdullah was forced evict the US from Prince Sultan Airbase in 2005, Saudi was left pretty much naked and defenseless. The $60 billion arms deal in 2010 was his attempt to ensure his own defense rather than rely on the US.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that Saudi has never been a part of any international security alliance. None of its “friends” in the West are fool enough to sign up to defending a bunch of pre-medieval barbaric hopped-up Wahhabis in their tribal and sectarian wars. Despite this lack of formal allies, in 2003, Abdullah was left with no choice but to shoot himself in the foot by asking the US to pull out the 363d Air Expeditionary Wing from Prince Sultan Air Base, an event that was publicized in 2005 as “US forces leaving Saudi Arabia” although they still remained at over a half-dozen other bases in the country. Not only did Saudi thereby lose a powerful deterrent but allowed its detested rival sheikhdom Qatar to score a huge win by hosting the biggest US overseas base, Al Udeid, where the US aircraft leaving Prince Sultan went to perch.
|After 9/11, the Sudairis and their Wahhabi clergy allies targeted the most galling of Abdullah’s reforms, the Western-ish girls’ schools. The first one they burned in 2002 was in Mecca (the one in the photo is in Jeddah), making it clear that they were striking a blow for their insane idea of Allah.|
|At least as mind-boggling as the Kunduz “Airlift of Evil” was the entry of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards unit called the Badr Brigade, made up of Iraqi Shiite traitors, into Northern Iraq in March 2003, to assist the US occupation of Iraq.
AFP PHOTO/Behrouz MEHRI
Abdullah had to make this self-destructive move because after 9/11, the Sudairis capitalized on the local hero status of the 15 Saudi jihadis who had kamikazed into New York and Washington to accuse Abdullah of letting the US kuffars occupy the holy lands, echoing Bin Laden’s gripe against the regime during the Gulf War. Osama had driven his point home by blowing up US pilots from the King Abdulaziz airbase, the US’s first airbase in Saudi, in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, for which both Saudi and the US found it convenient to frame Iran and Shiites. Interior minister and big-time Al Qaeda backer Nayef ostensibly put down street demos against Abdullah but actually provoked them, notably by burning down a girls’ school (one of Abdullah’s reforms) and having his religion police force the girls fleeing the fire back into the flames because they hadn’t put on their abayas. This shocked even Saudis who, geniuses that they are, went out to protest Abdullah for it.
The upshot is, Abdullah could never know what these Wahhabi perverts would come up with next to topple him, so he sought to appease them by shutting down the largest US base. This lost deterrent seemed relatively unimportant when the US invaded Iraq, thus getting rid of the immediate danger of Saddam coming to Jeddah for his revenge. However when the US proved incapable of putting down the Baathist/Sunni insurgency in Iraq and let the Badr Brigade take over the job, alarm bells went off in Jeddah. The Badr Brigade was a unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps made up of Iraqi Shiite traitors. The US had allowed the Iranian-allied force to enter Iraq, ostensibly so that it could police the southern Shiite provinces of Basra, Maysan, Karbala, etc., which the US didn’t have the manpower to do. For the Saudis, however, this was the US selling them down the river and plopping the Iranian army down squarely on their border.
It got worse: The US threw down the towel and instead of occupying Iraq or installing a more docile version of Saddam, it handed the keys of Baghdad to the Shiites and said it was leaving. Abdullah then told Cheney that if the US attempted to cut and run, he would support Sunni insurgents in Iraq and didn’t care how many US soldiers they killed. He did one better by creating Al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’s precursor. After that, Sunnis and Shiites started butchering each other with gusto and still haven’t stopped.
When not just Badr Brigade commander Hadi al Ameri (left) but his Iranian boss Qassem Soleimani (right) showed up in Iraq, Abdullah decided that the time for defense was over and started a proxy jihad against Iran’s ally Syria
By 2007, sophisticated Iranian-made IEDs had showed up in Iraq and in March 2009, a video appeared on the web showing Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s famous Quds Force commander, in the mountains of Iraq near the Iranian border. Abdullah knew that however many tanks and jets he had, as long as it was his fat, indolent, and spoiled countrymen who were manning them, they were no match for Soleimani’s forces, and neither were the Americans able to cope with Soleimani’s advanced IEDs.
He needed to do something fast to throw Iran off balance, so he started a jihad in Syria. Pretty soon, both Soleimani and the Badr Brigade got caught up in saving Assad, then in saving Iraq from ISIS. They no longer had any time to destabilize Saudi. Abdullah’s ploy worked, moving from defensive to offensive. Syria would keep his enemy Iran busy for at least a decade.
Bottom line: However loathsome the means, Abdullah nevertheless steered the Saudi ship through some pretty stormy waters and brought it to port brimming with petrodollars and as prepared as it ever would be to defend itself against its enemies. He paid down the huge debt chalked up by his Sudairi predecessor, stashed away hundreds of billions for a rainy day, and used some of them for a price war that drove the US’s shale oil production out of business and shut down 2/3 of US oil rigs, a decisive Saudi victory that contrasted sharply with his predecessor Fahd’s disastrous oil policies of the 70’s.
So what did the Sudairis, who were finally rid of Abdullah, do with that legacy?
The Sudairis began their demolition of whatever reforms Abdullah was able to make the instant they took power. Salman named reactionary Wahhabi cleric Saad al-Shethri, a notorious enemy of Abdullah’s mixed-gender university and girls’ schools, as his personal advisor as soon as he stepped in, possibly a more destructive move than Nayef burning down girls’ schools.
He then removed the Muslim Brotherhood from the list of the kingdom’s many enemies – Abdullah had bankrolled General Sisi, who toppled Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi -and ended Saudi’s feud with Qatar, the major backer of the Ikhwan (Ikhwan al Muslimin=Muslim Brotherhood) and Al Qaeda in Syria (aka Al Nusra). Instead he put the least reactionary and most pro-Western of the Saudi entourage on his shit list: the Emirates. It was the friends of Al Qaeda reuniting at long last. Overnight, Saudi became a second ISIS, sending the armies of its entourage into Yemen and bombing the country back to the stone age.
Yemen’s descent into hell: 1-The usual Arab Spring song and dance 2-Saudi- and US-backed tribal chief Hamid al Ahmar starts an armed uprising 3-They topple former US-backed strongman Saleh, seen here with burn gloves after al Ahmar and his Al Qaeda pals put a bomb in his mosque and almost killed him 4-Al Qaeda takes over most of the country.
To be continued…
Salman’s excuse for laying waste to Yemen was that the Houthis, whom Saudi alleges are Iranian-backed Shiites, deposed a Saudi stooge who had recently been installed after Yemeni strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh was toppled by the Ikhwan. That’s the short version. The long version is, Saleh was a longtime US ally who managed to keep the fractious country in one piece while assisting the US in its fight against Saudi-backed Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The names Anwar al Awlaki, Omar Faruk Abdul muttalab, and Nidal Hasan may ring a bell (more on those later). So basically, the old devil Saleh was playing along with Obama’s ghost chase in Yemen and using the US military aid that came with the “Long War” to suppress the various rebellions that were chronic to that dirt-poor but fascinating country.
Then in 2009 the powerful pro-Ikhwan tribal leader Hamid al Ahmar stepped into the US embassy and told the Yanks that he was organizing a rebellion to topple Saleh. This fit in perfectly with the US’s harebrained plan to win over the Arab street by backing the Muslim Brotherhood (scroll down to the old guy in the fedora). One month later, Saleh took away Ahmar’s oil export monopoly that was the source of his family’s wealth and the basis of Saleh’s alliance with his deceased father, an alliance that the young upstart chose to discard in the hope of moving on to bigger and better things. Two years later, the requisite angry crowds congregated in front of the cameras in synch with those in Egypt, Libya, and Syria. Meanwhile, Hamid’s heavily armed tribesmen, accompanied by groups of Al Qaeda terrorists, occupied several key Saleh towns like Zinjibar near Aden, where clashes were continuing. Finally, Hamid got Al Qaeda to put a bomb in Saleh’s mosque and Saleh was down – but not out.
The old devil came back from the dead, got himself patched up ASAP and sprung back into action, sealing a pact with the Houthi tribes against the jihadists who no doubt intended to massacre them as Shiite heretics, as they did elsewhere. Meanwhile, Hamid realized he had just been screwed by the Saudis, since he was shut out of the puppet government, upon which he withdrew his tribesmen from the fight. The Houthis went on the counteroffensive, took over the capital Sanaa, and rolled into Aden. That’s the point where Saudi and its Western clients choose to say that things went wrong in Yemen. In other words, it wouldn’t have been so bad if Al Qaeda had taken over and turned the place into another Libya.
Things then turned doubly bad because just as the Houthis took over Sanaa, Abdullah died.
As Houthis were celebrating their victory in Sanaa, Saudis were mourning Abdullah at his unmarked grave, a simple pile of pebbles as dictated by the Wahhabi code of barbarism.
Up until that point, Saudi’s meddling in Yemen had been low-key, allowing the US to set deeper root there by pretending that the various tribes allied with Saudi were Al Qaeda whereas a lot of the Hashid tribes were in fact just as Zaidi (i.e. Shiite) as the Houthis. The US government scared Americans with an underwear bomber who supposedly was sent to America from Yemen whereas he was a Nigerian rich kid radicalized in Londonistan by Mi5’s very own salafist imams. Americans were told that an American called Anwar al Awlaki was running Al Qaeda there, which not only was patently false but Awlaki had been wined and dined at the Pentagon in appreciation of his good services to Muslim deradicalisation. Both the US and Saudi were turning dirty tricks in Yemen and whatever Abdullah had been doing in Yemen up till then had been low-cost, low-key, and with the US’s blessing. There is no better proof of that than the fact that the US didn’t evacuate its embassy even when Al Qaeda blew up a US warship right in front of it, yet it evacuated as soon as the Houthis arrived.
Saudi’s free ride with human rights NGOs is over.
States must stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen conflict-Amnesty International
Amnesty International has investigated over 30 air strikes in Sana’a, Hodeidah, Hajjah and Sa’da, their circumstances and impact. Amnesty International found that the Saudi Arabia-led coalition continued to commit violations of international humanitarian law, including by the apparently deliberate targeting of civilian objects such as hospitals, schools and factories.
The industrial-scale carnage that Salman’s idiot son Mohammed has got going there since March 2015 is a completely different matter. He has been caught several times by human rights NGOs using cluster bombs on civilians and bombing schools and hospitals. The Saudis have no concept of human rights, war crimes, or accountability. They can’t fathom the notion that they with all their money should ever suffer consequences for these crimes. It’s particularly difficult for those of the Sudairi branch of the family, brought up on pure, unedulterated Wahhabism. They are the ones who rape, torture, and murder their maids and servants in their Western mansions or luxury hotel suites, and bite the police who come to arrest them. The Saudis have been having the run of the killing fields of Yemen for over a year and don’t know how to stop. The moment is fast approaching, with the European Parliament waking out of its slumber and calling for an arms embargo (braving Saudi threats of retaliation, even), that others will do the stopping for them.
A cel phone video captured by the YPG on Saudi-backed Jaish al Islam terrorists trying to sneak into Iraq shows them in gas masks launching the types of rockets that landed in Zamalka, Eastern Ghouta.The terrorist shooting the video says that they are in Qaboun and shooting at Jobar, right across the road from Zamalka.
Abdullah was smarter about his war crimes in Syria; he committed them deniably and with Western accomplices. Little chance that anyone will ever haul Saudi over the coals for those. Who can prove the Saudi finger behind Zahran Alloush’s Jaysh al Islam roasting people in ovens in Adra or sending off chemical rockets from Qaboun in the early hours of 21 August 2013? Whereas in Yemen, the unexploded Saudi cluster bombs are all over the place, no plausible denial or guilt-sharing is possible there. Human Rights Watch, loath as it is to point out any crime in the Western camp, was forced to acknowledge at least that much with 2 reports out already. Maybe the US State Department had it file those reports as a sort of shot across the bows to the Saudis.
Saudi’s rap sheet in Yemen doesn’t end with cluster bombs and targeting civilians. It has also been busted as an ally of Al Qaeda, as reported by the BBC:
The BBC having acknowledged the obvious, Al Qaeda is now officially a member of Saudi’s “coalition.”
During a visit to the frontline outside Taiz late last year, documentary maker Safa AlAhmad spoke to pro-government militiamen attacking Houthi fighters on a key hilltop with the support of troops from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who were providing tactical advice.
While there, Ms AlAhmad was warned by one group participating in the battle not to film them.
She was told they were members of Ansar al-Sharia, an affiliate of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and that they were angered by the presence of a woman.
Yemen conflict: Al-Qaeda joins coalition battle for Taiz – BBC, 22 February 2016
The Yemeni major-general appointed by Saudi as governor of Aden was blown up by Saudi’s terrorist “allies,” along with many other Saudi-appointed officials
While Emirati forces may be sharing trenches with Al Qaeda in the north, they are locked in combat in the south, along the Gulf coast where Al Qaeda and Islah (the Ikhwan-linked clans loyal to the al Ahmar oil export mafia family) have taken control of all the ports except Aden, which they have turned into a chaotic battleground. Saudi-appointed officials are shot and blown up daily and Emirates troops fight an indistinct mixture of foreign Al Qaeda, ISIS, Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood (Islah)-linked clans, and southern secessionists, all of whom threaten to cut off their sea link to their home base. The chaos in Aden, largely ignored by the world, finally hit the headlines when Islamist terrorists raided Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, a home for the elderly, and murdered 17 people, including four nuns.
Emirati forces pull out of Yemen in early November, 2015. They staged a “victory parade” at Zayed military city.
A convoy of war-damaged Emirati Oshkosh armored vehicles returning home for repairs. The total losses were left in Yemen.
The Emirates, an unwilling member of the Saudi coalition from the start that has strong objections to serving Saudi expansionism and Al Qaeda, pulled out a large part of its troops in November, both as a result of the chaos spread by Saudi’s local “allies” and of devastating Houthi missile attacks that cost the lives of several high-ranking UAE and Saudi officers.
The occupied south-southeast of the country is a total chaos, with Al Qaeda, ISIS, Islah, and southern secessionists running amok among UAE troops and assorted mercenaries hired from as far away as Senegal and Colombia. The 450 Mexican and Colombian Blackwater mercenaries deployed by the UAE to Yemen suffered casualties from “foreign forces,” which indicates “green on blue” attacks within their own camp since Sanaa had no “foreign forces,” and the Blackwater guys were abruptly pulled out.
Saudi’s dysfunctional “coalition” lacks any sort of chain of command, with Senegalese and Sudanese mercenaries drifting around aimlessly, while Saudi and Emirates forces barely speak to each other, and the various militias and terrorists do their own thing. On top of the “green on blue” attacks from Al Qaeda, Emirates forces have now suffered a “south on blue” attack at Aden airport from the southern secessionists and have withdrawn from there too.
Houthi forces in Saudi Arabia’s Jizan province destroy a Saudi armored column.
And that’s still the least of Saudi’s war worries. Abdullah’s proxy war against Syria had little chance of spilling over into Saudi territory but Salman’s war on Yemen already has, in a big way. Houthi forces and the Yemeni military loyal to Sanaa are already in three Saudi provinces. The westernmost one, Jizan, a major port and Aramco oil industry center, is now a war zone. Saudi & Emirates armor has suffered such huge losses in Yemen, and Saudi’s fleet of Apache attack helicopters as well,that the Saudi military now retreats in disarray whenever Yemeni forces show up. They don’t stick around to put up even token resistance unless they are surrounded.
Saudi has not only lost the Yemen war but is now facing a Yemeni invasion. Salman’s imbecile son got into a war relying on the UAE, with which he and his dad had crossed swords on day 1 of their rule. As far as the Sudairis are concerned , the UAE’s rulers are frenemies. They are to the Sudiaris what Qatar was to Abdullah.
Dumb and Dumber: In order to set him up as his heir, Salman gave his son Mohammed (left) total control over the army and the economy rather that to his deceased brother Nayef’s son (right), also called Mohammed, whom the US backs. The Yanks prefer Mohammed bin Nayef because they can horse-trade with him whereas Salman’s kid is an arrogant little prick. They may be giving Mohammed bin Salman all this rope so he can hang himself and clear the way for the other guy.
Mohammed has been facing heavy flak from rival Saudi families for the Yemen war since the start, when he ignominiously lost Aden to the Houthis because he was too dumb to keep the Hashid tribes on his side. He now has no clue whatsoever what to do and just keeps digging himself deeper, like the US did in Vietnam, by ordering more and more bombing of Yemeni cities. The moron doesn’t understand the notion that constantly committing war crimes is politically unsustainable. He has the example of Israel standing right there in front of him, which is powerless to stop the growing international backlash against its war crimes despite all its foreign political lobbies, once thought all-powerful. Yet Mohammed bin Salman still thinks he can make everything OK by spreading some more bakhsheeskh – which he no longer has.
The Jabal Omar company that has taken out a $2 billion loan to build the Mordoresque Jabal Omar complex on top of the Qaaba in Mecca has defaulted on the paltry $173 million first payment.
The economic debacle is even worse than the military one. The government has stopped contractor payments since April 2015, construction companies are going bust (except the Bin Ladens, who managed to receive an exceptional payment), banks are out of cash and interbank lending rates have shot up, and Saudi is seeking a foreign loan for the first time since the 80’s-for a measly $10 billion. The “julous” (investiture bakhsheesh) that Salman distributed to the people one year ago alone was $ 30 billion.
To further underline the totally unplanned, haphazard way the Sudairi Stupids spend & cut, the “economy czar” Mohammed bin Salman signed off on a 12.4% increase in construction contracts, of a total of 140 billion riyals, in the first half of 2015, even as he was kicking off a war on Yemen!
The populace has also gotten the ax: Contractors can’t pay salaries and it’s not known if the government can, while fuel prices have increased 50% and an income tax is on the way. There’s pressure on payrolls across the board and government hiring has slowed to a trickle.
Trudeau was willing to dent his nice guy image for the $15 billion Saudi is paying him for his LACVs
New arms purchases, on top of the war expenses, seem to have the priority above all else. Salman is trying to buy littoral combat ships from the US and a new batch of Canadian light armored combat vehicles is awaiting delivery, as if not enough Saudi troops had been incinerated in cheap tin cans already.
The drastic cuts that Saudi is making while purportedly still sitting pretty on a very impressive mountain of cash makes you wonder how much of those foreign reserves are actually available. For one thing, Saudi needs to keep that pile from getting too small in order to prevent a run on the Riyal, which is pegged to the dollar. So there’s no question of spending ever last penny, far from it.
The Sudiairi regime thus appears ready to sacrifice everything on the altar of war. Important infrastructure projects have gotten the ax, like the $30 billion port and and shipyard developement that would not only ease the pressure on existing ports and reduce import costs by unloading cargos quickly instead of making them wait at anchor for days, but it would generate income by turning Saudi’s Red Sea coast into a mineral export hub for Africa. New shipyards are vital for offshore oil exploration, which Saudi desperately needs to top up its reserves, which have been grossly overstated. All of that and much more has got the ax so that Saudi can fight a losing war for a few more months.
You might think that a country in this much trouble would start negotiating with its adversaries. The US started negotiating with North Vietnam right after the Tet offensive. With Saudi, intransigeance is the order of the day. When even the US has accepted that Assad won’t and shouldn’t be removed from power, Saudi sabotaged the latest Geneva round to avoid signing a deal to that effect, just as it sabotaged the deal between the Future block and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The man behind all this folly, Mohammed bin Salman, appears to be frozen in an attitude of aggression and defiance. Or he’s frozen in fear and is trying to look mean and tough. He knows too well that concessions or backing down would confirm what everyone has been saying about him, i.e. that he’s young, inexperienced, arrogant, and not half as smart as he thinks he is. Bye bye regency, bye bye throne. Saudi’s doomed fuite en avant (escape forward) is the work of inadequate Sudairis in way over their heads, and one of them in particular, Mohammed bin Salman.
Part 3: Londonistan
White Brits imagine that “Londonistan” designates the racial and ethnic diversity of multicultural Britain that they hate. In fact the term was coined by French intelligence as a derogatory reference to the sanctuary offered by Britain to jihadist terrorists from all over the world.
The free hand given to jihadists by the “New Labour” governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown is well known, “Captain Hook” in the photo being one of the more outrageous specimens of New Labour’s Londonistan. So has anything changed under the Tories? Is Britain Londonistan no more?
Londonistan is alive and well
Not for a minute. Remember John Cantlie? He’s one of those ambiguous chaps cruising the vast grey war zones of the world where spooks and journos mingle. He and Dutch photographer Jeroen Oerlemans entered Syria through the Bab al Hawa border post with Turkey on the exact day that Tawhid Wal Jihad founder Abu Musab Al Zarqawi’s former accomplice and Afghan Jihad buddy Firas Al Absi’s gang of foreign jihadis seized it from the Syrian regime and hoisted the first-ever ISIS flag in Syria there.
The terrorists then captured the two “reporters” and held them prisoner, something the latter apparently didn’t anticipate. The two subsequently got shot trying to escape, were rescued a week later by the Western-backed Farouq Brigades (the infamous cannibal jihadis), who then killed Firas Al Absi. In the meantime, though, the hostages noticed that the men who kidnapped and shot them were mostly British, speaking with South London accents. The medic of the group who first clubbed Cantlie with the butt of his AK-47 and then treated his wound turned out to be an NHS doctor, who was later identified as Shajul Islam and brought to court but walked because, so we’re told, Cantlie refused to testify. He was returning to Syria and didn’t want to make any more enemies there by helping jail the terrorists who nearly killed him.
In retrospect, that may have been a wise decision in view of his subsequent capture by ISIS and the fate of his fellow inmate and colleague James Foley at the hands of East Londoner Mohammed Emwazi aka Jihadi John.
Choudari and Sibai pick up where the Afghan Jihad generation left off
So where did this new generation of British jihadis come from? Abu Hamza and his Muhajiroun mates, who had been serving the crown ever since the Afghan jihad (where “Captain Hook” lost his hands and an eye learning to make nitroglycerine at Al Qaeda’s Darunta training camp in Jalalabad) were now either in jail or in exile. Who took their place? The obvious answer is Anjem Choudari, who is Muhajiroun veteran Omar Bakri’s disciple. In fact Cantlie’s first set of terrorist captors were sent there jointly by Choudari in the UK and Bakri from his Lebanese exile. Fouad Belkacem in Belgium, whose outfit Sharia4Belgium Choudari backed financially, was the European end of the operation, Belgian counterterrorism being much more underfunded and disorganised than it British counterpart and therefore allowing greater freedom of action to the terrorists.
Jihadi John, however, was a different creature altogether. He came from a hitherto unpublicised group who called themselves North London Boys, with links to Al Shabab in Somalia, and whose imam’s name was censored in the court documents. The “Boys” appear to have been thoroughly infiltrated as Emwazi had Mi5 breathing down his neck at every move and both he & other members were targeted by drone strikes in the end. So the whole thing looks like a “set em up ‘n knock ’em down” bowling-alley operation with an unnamed provocateur doing the setting up and Predator drones the knocking down.
Except-and this is where the plot thickens-the London Boys’ imam is anything but unnamed. He is Hani al Sibai, the guy behind the Tunisian jihadist who gunned down 30 Brits on a Sousse beach. The reason his name was blacked out is because the UK government has bent over backwards to protect him for years, even going so far as to campaign unsuccessfully to remove him from the UN Al Qaeda sanctions list. Sibai is, with Choudari, currently Londonistan’s most active terrorist ringleader.
All of the terrorist chiefs mentioned here have been appoached by the intelligence services and most likely recruited. Abu Qatada, Al Qaeda’s top banana in Europe, was famously put up in an Mi5 safehouse not far from Scotland Yard when the Metropolitan Police were looking to arrest him. Omar Bakri readily recounted the details of the deal he had made with Mi5 and Abu Hamza often indicated resentfuly that he was abiding by the deal he’d made but that the authorities weren’t. Yet, all these Mi5 assets continued to kill people in the Western countries they were supposedly recruited to protect.
British authorities argued for decades that they couldn’t prosecute these terrorists because their hands were tied by the realm’s purportedly exemplary libertarian laws, even as they were locking up people with secret evidence and carting them off to secret torture prisons, pretexting the very terror wrought by their Mi5 jihadis to tear down whatever civil liberties still existed. Not a single country outside the UK has ever believed this mendacious argument, particularly as two of Mi5’s informants in possession of particularly damaging information about the terrorists cultivated by HM’s secret services were locked up in Guantanamo Bay. One of them, Reda Hassaine, was the Mi5 asset who set up the London safehouse for Al Qaeda kingpin Abu Qatada.
So why does the UK, supposedly an advanced Western democracy, still cultivate these jihadist terrorists much in the same way as Pakistan or Turkey? The most obvious explanation is its foreign policy, which has always sided with the fundamentalist Gulf oil sheikdoms against secular Arab states, as these tend to oppose British multinationals’ attempts to plunder their resources and markets. However when, in these final stages of Britain’s postimperial decline, British royals humiliate themselves in front of primitive Bedouin oil sheikhs to convince them to invest in the UK and London’s most famous landmarks are owned by Qatar, Britain’s jihadism appears much less an instrument of Perfidious Albion’s traditional divide-and-conquer than an aspect of its servitude to its rich Salafist patrons of the Gulf. So when Britons are mown down by Salafist gunmen on holiday beaches or blown to bits while commuting to work, they can take comfort in the fact that the deaths of kuffars like themselves serve to keep rich oil sheiks’ money coming into the country.