Tuesday, December 8, 2015

War Widens in Iraq & Syria + Spotlight Back on Saudis + Trump & Le Pen Riding High

Sunday night going to bed after watching football on television and reading the news all day I was oppressed by the feeling that world powers are cycling out of control, ably summed up by a Niqnaq blog post this morning titled "come on, cut the shit and start ww4, i was planning to die fairly soon anyway," having to do with Turkey's refusal to withdraw its troops from around Mosul.

Then yesterday Syria accused the U.S.-led coalition of bombing one of its military bases in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, killing three soldiers and wounding 13. The U.S. immediately denied that it was at fault and blamed Russia. Brett McGurk, Obama's ISIS czar, the guy who managed the Western response to the fall of Mosul, tweeted "Reports of coalition involvement are false."

The problem for the U.S. is the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Western, anti-Assad propaganda outlet, puts the blame on the U.S.-led coalition. According to Hwaida Saad and Eric Schmitt in "Syria Blames U.S. in Base Bombing, but Americans Blame Russia":
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an independent monitoring group that tracks the conflict from Britain through a network of contacts on the ground, also reported on Monday that American coalition airstrikes had apparently hit a Syrian military post on Sunday near Ayyash, in the western part of Deir al-Zour.
Over at the Moon of Alabama blog, "Is Erdogan's Mosul Escapade Blackmail For Another Qatar-Turkey Pipeline?," a connection is made between Turkey's invasion of Iraq and the attack on the Syrian military base in Deir al-Zour:
Damascus insists that four jets entered Syria from Al-Bukamal, Iraq and fired 9 missiles against al-Saeqa military base in Ayyash near Deir Ezzour.
The U.S. accuses Russia to have committed the strike. I very much doubt that. There have been accidental "friendly fire" strikes by the Russian air force against Syrian troops and against Hizbullah. But those accidents were always immediately admitted and investigated within the 4+1 alliance. The Russians say they did not do this strike and Damascus agrees. 
But notice the weasel word in the U.S. statements: "U.S.-led coalition". The Turks in Mosul are not part of the "U.S.-led coalition" even if they first claimed to be. If the air strike in Syria today were not done by the "U.S.-led coalition" it could mean that some country committed these air strikes on its own without the strike being officially within the "U.S.-led coalition" framework. Could that country's name start with a Q? [Qatar]
The U.S. will know who really launched this strike. In both, the Turkish aggression on Iraq and the airstrike in Syria today and even with the earlier mountain ambush on the Russian jet, the U.S. is likely "leading from behind" the curtain. All these events are, like the now forming new alliance with Jihadis, part of Obama's bigger plans and designs for Syria and the Middle East.
Events appear to be spiraling out of control. But the spotlight on the Saudi origin of the Wahhabite ideology espoused by the jihadists of the Islamic State, a spotlight that quickly dimmed after shining brightly for about a week following the Paris terrorist attacks of November 13, looks to have been turned back on. 

Yesterday Declan Walsh published a remarkable story, "Tashfeen Malik Was a ‘Saudi Girl’ Who Stood Out at a Pakistani University," about the female member, Tashfeen Malik, of the husban-&-wife terror team of last week's San Bernardino massacre. Malik was born in Pakistan but reared in Saudi Arabia where her father worked as an engineer. She returned to Pakistan where she attended a religious school, Bahauddin Zakariya University, in Multan. Malik studied pharmacy. Her professors considered her such an excellent student (even if they didn't know what she looked like since she was always decked out in a face-covering niqab) that they hoped she would stay on after she received her degree and teach.

Here is the passage where Walsh focuses the spotlight on Saudi Arabia:
In many ways, Ms. Malik was a classic product of the conservatizing influence that Saudi Arabia has brought to bear on countries like Pakistan. 
Critics of Saudi influence usually focus on the funding of hard-line mosques and religious schools, a criticism echoed on Sunday by the German vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, who connected the export of Saudi-style Islam to the danger from growing extremism in Europe. “We must make it clear to the Saudis that the time of looking the other way is over,” Mr. Gabriel said an interview with the newspaper Welt am Sonntag. 
[Germany's foreign intelligence service, the BND, also squarely affixed blame to the Saudi's for exporting jihadist ideology. See Alison Smale, "Germany Rebukes Its Own Intelligence Agency for Criticizing Saudi Policy." 
But Ms. Malik’s family represents a different strand of the same phenomenon: changes wrought by Pakistanis who, since the 1970s, have migrated to Saudi Arabia for work, only to return with a far more conservative creed. 
Relatives and neighbors said that, after some years in Saudi Arabia, Ms. Malik’s father, Gulzar, rejected the Barelvi school of Sunni Islam that his family had traditionally practiced, and turned to the stricter Deobandi school. He stopped returning home for weddings, and his children, including Ms. Malik, did not meet their Pakistani relatives. 
“There was a lot of friction within the whole family as they adhered to different sects,” said Zahid Gishkori, a journalist based in Islamabad who is from the same district as the family.
Walsh obviously struck a bull's-eye based on the preposterous Saudi reaction reported by Ben Hubbard in "Discrepancies Emerge Over Where Tashfeen Malik Grew Up." Saudi officials are denying that Tashfeen Malik grew up in Saudi Arabia:
Maj. Gen. Mansour Turki, a spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry, said via text message on Saturday that Ms. Malik had visited the kingdom twice. In 2008, she arrived in June from Pakistan to visit her father and stayed for about nine weeks before returning to Pakistan, General Turki said. 
Then, in 2013, she arrived on June 8, from Pakistan, and departed for India on Oct. 6 of the same year, General Turki said. 
He gave her full name as Tashfeen Malik Gulzarahmed Malik and said his office did not know whether her father was still in the kingdom. 
General Turki said there was “no evidence” that Ms. Malik had met her husband in the kingdom, but they were in Saudi Arabia at the same time for about five days in October 2013, according to information General Turki provided.

Mr. Farook, 28, visited Saudi Arabia twice, once for the hajj pilgrimage between Oct. 1 and Oct. 20, 2013, and once for an off-season pilgrimage known as umrah for nine days in July 2014. 
American officials reported that the couple flew to the United States together from Jidda in July 2014. And members of a mosque the couple attended in California said they had been married in Saudi Arabia. 
Both Saudi and Pakistani officials have bristled at the suggestion that their respective countries played any role in the radicalization of Ms. Malik and Mr. Farook. 
In Multan, Pakistan, where Ms. Malik went to the university, the authorities swarmed around journalists who were seeking interviews with people who knew the family. "What is your intention?” one security guard asked a reporter seeking comment at the university. “Why do you want to interview people here? We will not allow anyone to malign our institution.”
Saudi officials, meanwhile, have rejected the idea that Ms. Malik took up more fundamentalist views in Saudi Arabia, or that it played a role in the relationship between her and Mr. Farook. The Saudi narrative has varied to the extent that one official denied she had ever been there. 
The day after the attack, Osama Nugali, a spokesman for the Saudi Foreign Ministry, said via text message that Mr. Farook had visited the kingdom only once, for nine days in 2014. He said he had no record of Ms. Malik having ever entered the kingdom. 
“For the lady, we don’t have a record of this name,” he wrote.
The Saudis are lying of course. Anyone who has followed their war on Yemen should know by now that for the House of Saud no lie is too blatant or too big. The Saudis are scared because things are getting out of their "pay-to-play" control. Trump, the candidate who is going to win the White House and/or destroy its remaining patina of legitimacy, is calling for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S., while Marine Le Pen is heading to a resounding victory in France's regional elections.

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