US-trained Division 30 rebels ‘betray US and hand weapons over to al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria’

Pentagon-trained rebels are reported to have betrayed US and handed weapons over to Jabhat al-Nusra immediately after entering Syria

Pentagon-trained rebels in Syria are reported to have betrayed their American backers and handed their weapons over to al-Qaeda in Syria immediately after re-entering the country.
Fighters with Division 30, the “moderate” rebel division favoured by the United States, surrendered to the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, a raft of sources claimed on Monday night.
Division 30 was the first faction whose fighters graduated from a US-led training programme in Turkey which aims to forge a force on the ground in Syria to fight against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
A statement on Twitter by a man calling himself Abu Fahd al-Tunisi, a member of al-Qaeda’s local affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, read: “A strong slap for America… the new group from Division 30 that entered yesterday hands over all of its weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra after being granted safe passage.
“They handed over a very large amount of ammunition and medium weaponry and a number of pick-ups.”

Abu Khattab al-Maqdisi, who also purports to be a Jabhat al-Nusra member, added that Division 30’s commander, Anas Ibrahim Obaid,had explained to Jabhat al-Nusra’s leaders that he had tricked the coalition because he needed weapons.
“He promised to issue a statement… repudiating Division 30, the coalition, and those who trained him,” he tweeted. “And he also gave a large amount of weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a monitoring group, reported that seventy-five Division 30 fighters had crossed into Syria from Turkey early the day before with “12 four-wheel vehicles equipped with machine guns and ammunition”.
US Central Command confirmed about 70 graduates of the Syria “train and equip” programme had re-entered Syria with their weapons and equipment and were operating as New Syrian Forces alongside Syrian Kurds, Sunni Arab and other anti-Isil forces.
The latest disaster, if true, will be the second to befall the programme. Last month, after the first group of fighters re-entered, the militia was attacked and routed by Jabhat al-Nusra, which stormed its headquarters and kidnapped a number of its members.
At the weekend, the group’s chief of staff also resigned, saying the training programme was “not serious”.
In the statement, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad al-Dhaher complained of insufficient numbers of trainees and fighters, inadequate supplies, and even “a lack of accuracy and method in the selection of Division 30’s cadres”.
The latest developments have only added to the scorn heaped on the much-criticized $500 million (£320m) program, which aimed to forge a 5,400-strong force of “moderate” rebels to combat Isil.
It has been hampered by problems almost from the outset, with rebels complaining of a laborious vetting process. The biggest point of contention is that they are only allowed to fight Isil, not the Assad regime, which is the principal enemy for most opposition groups.
Sept. 16, 2015, photo, U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington.

General Lloyd Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee that only “four or five” US-trained rebels were still fighting the Islamic State

Last Wednesday, General Lloyd Austin, head of US Central Command, shocked leaders in the US Senate’s armed services committee when he said there were only handful of programme graduates still fighting inside Syria. “We’re talking four or five,” he said.

By Nabih Bulos, Amman5:22PM BST 22 Sep 2015

Find this story at 22 September 2015

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2015

The Iranian-Saudi Proxy Wars Come to Mali (2015)

The Iranian-Saudi Proxy Wars Come to Mali
In schools, mosques, and cultural centers, Shiites and Sunnis are battling for African hearts and minds.

BAMAKO, Mali — In a country where two-thirds of the adults are illiterate, it is a privileged few who have the chance to study at the Mustafa International School.

Located in the western suburbs of Bamako, a few blocks from the U.S. Embassy, the college-level seminary has just 180 students — 150 men and 30 women. They engage in an intensive curriculum that encompasses theology, history, philosophy, Arabic, Farsi, and world religions. They work in the school’s computer suite, equipped with 12 desktop computers, and get three meals a day at the seminary’s expense. And they do it all under the watchful eyes of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, former supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose likeness gazes down on them from his portrait, which hangs above the bookshelves of the school’s library.

These young students are part of Mali’s tiny Shiite community: a group of about 10,000 families nationally, in a country where the Sunni majority makes up an estimated 95 percent of the population of 15 million.

They’re also the stuff of Saudi nightmares.

Historically, West Africa has had a tolerant approach to religious differences, shunning — at least until recently — the sort of Sunni-Shiite sectarian rivalries that have plagued the Middle East in favor of a patchwork of beliefs that incorporate Sufism, Maliki Islam, and traditional animist practices. But Mali — home to seminaries with ties to Iran, like the Mustafa International School, and where diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks this summer reveal that Saudi Arabia is scrambling to fund its own competing schools, mosques, and cultural projects — provides a case study in how the enmity between Sunni Islam and Shiite Islam may be being spread, via Iranian and Saudi proxies, to places thousands of miles from the Middle East.

Unlike most of Mali’s private schools and universities, which charge hefty fees, the Mustafa International School selects students from outside the capital and gives them free room and board. Few of the students hail from Mali’s elite families; rather, they are selected via tests administered to Shiite youth across the country. The highest achievers are offered the chance to continue their study in Iran.

The school is able to afford such generous support for its students because it is backed by an Iranian university in Qom, a city considered holy by Shiite Muslims and famed for its Islamic learning. The state-run University of Qom provides funding and sets the school’s curriculum, which covers various schools of Islamic thought, as well as Shiite jurisprudence.

“The teaching is very good,” said Adam N’Diaye, a 22-year-old student at the facility who recently converted from Sunnism. He aims to become a teacher when he graduates. A quick survey of his classmates revealed that most of his colleagues are aiming to become imams and missionaries.

It’s unclear how many schools and seminaries in Mali have ties to the Islamic Republic or just how close these ties are. There’s also no direct evidence to indicate that schools like the Mustafa International School are necessarily part of a larger effort by the Iranian government to make Shiite converts. Officials at the Iranian Cultural Center in Bamako declined to give any details about the number of educational institutions to which they have ties; the Saudi-based paper Al Yaum has previously reported that the cultural center runs 10 schools in Mali. Other sources place the number around 13.

Iran and Mali have a warm, if limited, relationship. When Iran’s then-president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, visited Bamako and Timbuktu in 2010, he spoke in glowing terms about solidarity between the two countries and signed a raft of agreements on development aid and Iranian investment in agriculture and extractive industries. The Mustafa International School’s director, Mohamed Diabaté, who studied in Iran and maintains links with clerics there, makes appearances on Malian television to talk about his understanding of Islam. (He argues that the Tidjaniya school of Sufism common across West Africa has roots in Shiite, rather than Sunni, teaching.)

The presence of Shiism here isn’t something Saudi Arabia is taking lightly. Among the nearly 60,000 diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks on June 19 are a slew of documents detailing the kingdom’s fear of a “rising tide of Shiism” resulting from proselytization on the part of Saudi Arabia’s rival in the Middle East, Iran. Cables detailing specific Iranian charities, schools, and media outlets from Kazakhstan to Spain — as well as vague fears of “Shiite activities” elsewhere — show that Saudi diplomats see Shiism not only to be a vile heresy, but a movement inseparably tied to Iranian political clout. And even the smallest Shiite community is considered a threat.

“Despite the Iranian Embassy’s efforts [in Mali], there hasn’t been a lot of uptake, but it is possible that their thinking could spread in the future in a broader way and their Shiite activities could gain a base,” reads a cable from the Saudi Embassy in Bamako to the Foreign Ministry in Riyadh in early 2009. It recommends funding rival projects — mosques, schools, cultural programs, proselytization, and summer courses — to “strengthen the growing position of the [Saudi] kingdom” in Mali and promote Saudi Arabia’s image as “the protector of the noble Islamic faith.” It adds that this should be done “in a way that promotes peaceful coexistence between different ideologies and counters the Shiite spread.”

Mali offers a potentially rich source of converts to Shiism. “People in Mali love the family of the Prophet,” Diabaté said. The Tidjaniya Sufi order, which has a long history throughout West Africa, honors members of the Prophet Mohammed’s family as pure, devout individuals. It’s a small leap from that to the belief, fundamental to Shiism, that members of the Prophet’s family should have taken over leadership of the Islamic community upon his death. It’s a link that has not gone unnoticed in Riyadh.

“Iran is exploiting the Sufis’ love for the family of the Prophet in order to show Iran as a great Islamic nation that is an enemy of the infidels and supports all the Muslims,” reads the cable.

“Many Malians don’t realize the truth of Shiite thinking: fanatical, racist, and the enemy of other Islamic doctrines.”
But though the cables ring of paranoia, the notion that Mali’s tiny Shiite community has outsized political significance and links to Tehran seems to have found traction among some Sunni locals.

“There are not even 1 percent of the population who are Shiite in Mali. But there is a political presence, run by the Iranians,” said Mahmoud Dicko, the president of the High Islamic Council of Mali and one of the country’s most powerful clerics.

Dicko was among 30 senior Malian clerics who signed a 2008 open letter in support of influential Egyptian Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s outspoken stance against Shiite evangelism. The letter warned of “the dangers of the rising tide of Shiism,” which aims to “turn Sunni societies Shiite, undermine their states, and impose Persian hegemony over them.”

Mali has raw memories of religious conflict. In 2012, an alliance of Tuareg separatists and Islamists linked to al Qaeda invaded the country’s northern half and imposed sharia law before being ousted by French forces. But a low-level insurgency has been rumbling on ever since. Militants have targeted the Malian army, U.N. peacekeepers, and foreign aid workers with drive-by shootings and roadside bombs. The extremist group Ansar Dine claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a popular restaurant in Bamako in March and the killing of three soldiers in a village near the border with Mauritania in June.

Despite this, for most Malians the phenomenon of religious extremism is a foreign imposition. The fighters involved in the events of 2012 were from outside Mali, and the violence was an exception in a long history of religious tolerance here. Across West Africa, Sunni Islam, Sufism, and traditional animist practices have rubbed shoulders in relative peace for centuries.

One of Mali’s most prominent Baptists, Pastor Mohammed Yattara, is open about his apostasy, something that would be unthinkable across the Middle East and North Africa. Yattara converted from Islam to Christianity when he was 16. When he told his family he had become a Christian, his father disowned him and threw him out of the house. Yet the two stayed in touch until his father’s death, and Yattara’s act of leaving his faith has had few consequences for his personal security.

Among the Muslim majority, Sufi traditions and animist rituals remain important elements of religious practice. In poorer communities, few imams speak Arabic or are educated in the finer points of Islamic philosophy. Some fear that by funding schools, mosques, and much-needed infrastructure, foreign powers are creating divisions that once did not exist in this country, on the periphery of the Arab world.

Many in Dicko’s camp see institutions such as the Mustafa International School and the Iranian Cultural Center as a vehicle for Iranian political influence — an accusation Diabaté refuted, despite pictures of Khomeini in the school office, in the library, and on the back of his car.

“We will not accept the politicization of Islam,” he said. But he admitted that Shiites in Mali look to Iran for support in the face of Salafism. “Every state that represents a sect needs to protect its flock.”

Diabaté, sitting in a small office adjacent to the prayer hall and wearing the long brown robe and white turban of a Shiite scholar, explained how he “used to hate Shiites.” But in the late 1980s, he became part of a group of young scholars who participated in debates with Hassan Hambraze, then Iran’s chargé d’affaires in Bamako and son of a prominent Iranian cleric. In 1988, Hambraze was also responsible for sending a group of Malian students to the first Shiite school in West Africa. Diabaté converted and went on to study in Iran. On his return he became a prominent leader within Mali’s nascent Shiite community.

Today, he speaks of the country’s more hard-line Sunni leaders in conspiratorial terms: “The Salafi thinking is well known. They want to get into power and are planning for that. They plan to take control of the Islamic community.” After a pause, he added: “But we are not staying still. Everyone has their methods.”

Those methods seem clear: to proselytize and offer converts access to a good education and opportunities to travel and work in Iran. The Saudi strategy in Mali is more opaque (widespread rumors among Malians include tales of enormous checks coming from the Gulf to fund prominent Salafists). The diplomatic cables have thrown some light on Saudi activities in the country, which include funding for schools and preacher-training courses run by the Islamic University in Madinah and Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh.

Mali’s minister for religious affairs, Thierno Diallo, says he recognizes that Malian governments have long turned a blind eye to foreign-backed religious projects. Despite the country’s deeply religious population, Mali’s secular constitution means that the state has kept mosques at arm’s length. And while the government is aware of large sums of money entering Mali from unknown sources, it has few resources to reliably track them.

“It’s not documented,” he said, “and there’s no transparency. That’s a serious problem.”

Neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia has explicitly promoted violence in Mali. Diabaté, along with his Sunni counterparts, makes it clear that “Shiites, like everyone else, know that extremist groups in the north show no mercy.” Yet the creation of previously nonexistent sectarian identities for political ends leads to divisions that become associated with political agendas.

Imam Baba Diallo, another member of the High Islamic Council of Mali, said he wants to organize interfaith dialogue between the different sects but has yet to find funding. He looks grave as he talks about the potential consequences of inaction.

“If we fail [to heal the divide], the next war will be between Sunni and Shiite,” he said.

(This reporting was supported by funding from the International Reporting Project.)

BY PAUL RAYMOND, JACK WATLINGAUGUST 19, 2015

Find this story at 19 August 2015
Copyright http://foreignpolicy.com

Todesschüsse in Kiew+ Wer ist für das Blutbad vom Maidan verantwortlich

Georg Restle: „Die Krise in der Ukraine ist noch lange nicht vorbei. Dies haben uns die Bilder aus dem Osten des Landes von dieser Woche gelehrt. Und auch die Propagandaschlacht geht weiter. Eine der zentralen Fragen ist dabei, wer ist verantwortlich für das Blutbad, dem im Februar Dutzende Demonstranten und Polizisten zum Opfer fielen, und das schließlich zum Sturz des Präsidenten Janukowitsch führte? Wer also waren die Todesschützen auf dem Kiewer Maidan? Die vom Westen unterstützte Übergangsregierung hat sich letzte Woche festgelegt: Präsident Janukowitsch und seine Sonderkommandos tragen demnach allein die Schuld für die Toten. Doch an dieser Version gibt es jetzt erhebliche Zweifel, wie die Recherchen von Philipp Jahn, Olga Sviridenko und Stephan Stuchlik zeigen.”

Was geschah am 20. Februar 2014 in Kiew? Aufgeheizte Stimmung, aus den ursprünglich friedlichen Demonstrationen ist ein Bürgerkrieg geworden. Teile der Demonstranten haben sich bewaffnet, rücken in Richtung Regierungsgebäude vor. In einzelnen Trupps versuchen die Demonstranten, auf die Instituts-Straße zu gelangen. Der blutige Donnerstag: Einzeln werden Demonstranten erschossen, viele von den Dächern umliegender Gebäude. Aber wer genau waren diese Scharfschützen, die auf die Demonstranten schossen?

Diese Frage beschäftigt die Kiewer bis heute, zu Hunderten kommen sie täglich an den Platz des Massakers.

Als wir ankommen, sechs Wochen danach, ist anscheinend noch nicht einmal die grundsätzliche Beweisaufnahme abgeschlossen. Sergeij, ein Waffenexperte, ist einer der vielen unabhängigen Ermittler, die eng mit der Staatsanwaltschaft zusammenarbeiten und die Ermittlungen in Gang halten. Vor unseren Augen sichert er noch Patronenhülsen. Danach alarmiert er die staatlichen Ermittler, die den Ort nach eigener Aussage schon gründlich untersucht haben. Erstaunlich, während sie noch arbeiten, hat sich ihre vorgesetzte Behörde in einer Pressekonferenz schon festgelegt, wer die Schuldigen sind.

Oleg Machnitzki, Generalstaatsanwalt Ukraine (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Mit dem heutigen Tag klagt die Staatsanwaltschaft 12 Mitglieder der Spezialeinheit Berkut des Mordes an friedlichen Demonstranten an. Der damalige Präsident Janukowitsch befehligte direkt diese Spezialeinheit Berkut.“

Die neue Regierung sagt also, die alte Regierung Janukowitsch wäre für das Blutbad verantwortlich.

Doch was geschah wirklich am 20 Februar? Fest steht, die Demonstranten rückten auf der Institutsstraße Richtung Regierungsgebäude vor. Von gegenüber gerieten sie unter Feuer, vom Dach des Ministerkabinetts, der Zentralbank und weiteren Regierungsgebäuden. Doch schon früh gab es Hinweise, dass sie auch im Rücken getroffen wurden, von ihrer eigenen Zentrale aus, vom Hotel Ukraina.

Aber welche Beweise gibt es dafür? Zum einen ist da dieses Video, das augenscheinlich beweist, dass der Oppositionelle mit dem Metallschild von hinten getroffen wird. Der Mann in Gelb auf dieser Aufnahme geht sogar noch weiter. Er gehörte zu den Demonstranten, war an diesem Tag stundenlang auf der Institutsstraße. Er heißt Mikola, wir treffen uns mit ihm am Ort des Geschehens. Er sagt uns, es wurde sogar mehrfach in den Rücken der Opposition geschossen.

Mikola (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Ja, am zwanzigsten wurden wir von hinten beschossen, vom Hotel Ukraina, vom 8. oder 9. Stock aus.“

Reporterin (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Von der achten oder neunten Etage?“

Mikola (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Ja, auf jeden Fall fast von ganz oben.“

Reporterin (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Von da oben?“

Mikola (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Ja, da standen Leute oben und haben geschossen und aus der anderen Richtung hier wurden wir auch beschossen.“

Reporter (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Und wer hat von oben geschossen?“

Mikola (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Das weiß ich nicht.“

Reporterin (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Haben Sie eine Ahnung?“

Mikola (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Das waren Söldner, auf jeden Fall Profis.“

Das Ukraina-Hotel hier war das damalige Zentrum der Demonstranten. Hat sich der Augenzeuge geirrt? Wir sind nachts unterwegs mit Ermittler Sergej. Er zeigt uns mit einem Laser, dass es nicht nur Schusskanäle aus Richtung der Regierungsgebäude gibt. Einige Kanäle in den Bäumen deuten in die entgegengesetzte Richtung, wenn man durch Austrittsloch und Einschussloch leuchtet, oben ins Hotel Ukraina, damals die Zentrale der Opposition. Das aber passt schlecht zur Version des Generalstaatsanwalts, der uns nach Tagen Überzeugungsarbeit endlich empfängt. Er ist von der neuen Regierung eingesetzt, gehört dem rechtsnationalen Flügel der damaligen Opposition an, der umstrittenen Svobóda-Partei.

Oleg Machnitzki, Generalstaatsanwalt, Ukraine (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Wir können wirklich heute schon sagen, nach allen Beweismitteln und Expertisen, die wir in der Hand haben, wer prinzipiell Schuld an den Sniper-Attacken ist: der damalige Präsident Viktor Janukowitsch, der ehemalige Verwaltungschef und der ehemalige Innenminister Sacharchenko.“

Reporter (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Sie wissen auch, dass es Sniper vom Hotel Ukraina gab?“

Oleg Machnitzki, Generalstaatsanwalt, Ukraine (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Wir untersuchen das.“

Die Scharfschützen also alles Janukowitsch-Leute? Es gibt noch weitere Beweise, die diese These in Frage stellen. Wir treffen uns mit einem Radio-Amateur, der an diesem Tag aufgezeichnet hat, wie sich Janukowitsch-Scharfschützen untereinander unterhalten. Ihr Funkverkehr beweist: Da schießt jemand auf Unbewaffnete, jemand den sie nicht kennen.

1. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „He, Leute, ihr da drüben, rechts vom Hotel Ukraina.“

2. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Wer hat da geschossen? Unsere Leute schießen nicht auf Unbewaffnete.“

1. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Jungs, da sitzt ein Spotter, der zielt auf mich. Auf wen zielt der von der Ecke. Guckt mal!“

2. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Auf dem Dach vom gelben Gebäude. Auf dem Kino, auf dem Kino.“

1. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Den hat jemand erschossen. Aber nicht wir.“

2. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Miron, Miron, gibt es da noch mehr Scharfschützen? Und wer sind die?“

Wir halten fest: Es gab neben den Regierungs-Scharfschützen also noch andere unbekannte Schützen, die auf unbewaffnete Demonstranten geschossen haben. Und, wer immer vom Hotel Ukraina schießt, hat – so legt dieses Video nahe – auch diese Milizionäre getroffen. Dass Janukowitsch auf die eigenen Leute hat schießen lassen, ist unwahrscheinlich.

Gab es also Scharfschützen der damaligen Opposition? Fest steht, es gab neben den vielen friedlichen Demonstranten durchaus eine Gruppe Radikaler mit professionellen Waffen, wie diese Aufnahmen zeigen.

Und, das Hotel am Morgen des 20. Februar war fest in der Hand der Opposition. Wir sprechen mit Augenzeugen aus dem Hotel Ukraina, Journalisten, Oppositionelle. Sie alle bestätigen uns, am 20. Februar war das Hotel von der Opposition schwer bewacht. Es hätte sich also schwerlich ein Scharfschütze der Regierung einschleichen können.

Haben also radikale Oppositionelle am Ende selbst geschossen, um Chaos zu erzeugen? Um Janukowitsch die Schuld anzuhängen? Die russischen Fernsehsender verbreiten Bilder, auf denen genau das zu sehen sein soll. Unsere Recherchen bestätigen, dass die Aufnahmen tatsächlich im Hotel Ukraina gemacht wurden. Aber wer da genau auf wen schießt, lässt sich nicht endgültig klären.

Fest steht nur, es wurde nicht nur auf Oppositionelle, sondern auch auf die Milizen der Regierung geschossen. Vielleicht sogar von denselben Leuten? Wir treffen einen der wenigen Ärzte, der die Verwundeten beider Seiten versorgt hat.

Oleksandr Lisowoi, Krankenhaus Nr. 6, Kiew (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Die Verwundeten, die wir behandelt haben, hatten denselben Typ Schussverletzungen, ich spreche jetzt von dem Typ Kugeln, die wir aus den Körpern herausoperiert haben, die waren identisch. Mehr kann ich nicht sagen.“

Reporterin (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Aber die haben Sie…“

Oleksandr Lisowoi, Krankenhaus Nr. 6, Kiew (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Bei der Miliz und bei der Opposition gefunden.“

Warum geht die Staatsanwaltschaft solchen Fragen nicht nach? Der deutsche Außenminister und die Europäische Union haben bereits im Februar per Abkommen festgestellt, dass die Schuldfrage in der Ukraine ein politisch zentrales Thema sei, die Aufarbeitung sollte „ergebnisoffen“ sein, um das Vertrauen in die neue ukrainische Regierung zu stärken. Doch mittlerweile mehren sich die Zweifel, ob wirklich sachgerecht ermittelt wird, auch bei den eigenen Mitarbeitern. Wir sprechen mit einem hochrangigen Mitglied der Ermittlungskommission. Er erzählt uns Unglaubliches.

Zitat: „Das, was mir an Ergebnissen meiner Untersuchung vorliegt, stimmt nicht mit dem überein, was die Staatsanwaltschaft erklärt.“

Wurden also Beweismittel unterdrückt oder sogar unterschlagen? Auch die Rechtsanwälte, die die Angehörigen der Toten vertreten, alle eigentlich auf Seiten der neuen Regierung, beklagen sich, dass sie überhaupt nicht darüber informiert werden, womit genau sich die Staatsanwaltschaft beschäftige.

Roman Titikalo, Anwalt der Nebenklage (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Wir haben nicht gesagt bekommen, welcher Typ Waffen, wir bekommen keinen Zugang zu den Gutachten, wir bekommen die Einsatzpläne nicht. Die anderen Ermittlungsdokumente haben wir auch nicht, die Staatsanwaltschaft zeigt uns einfach keine Papiere.“

Reporter (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Haben Sie ballistische Gutachten?“

Roman Titikalo, Anwalt der Nebenklage (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Nein.“

Reporter (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Rechtsmedizinische Gutachten?“

Roman Titikalo, Anwalt der Nebenklage (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Ich durfte in den Obduktionsbericht reingucken, aber nicht kopieren, ballistische Gutachten habe ich nicht bekommen.“

Ein Anwalt der Verletzten geht sogar noch weiter:

Oleksandr Baschuk, Anwalt der Geschädigten (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Wir kommen alle an keine Ermittlungsprotokolle ran und wenn Sie mich fragen, gibt es dafür einen einfachen Grund, es wird nicht richtig ermittelt. Ich als Anwalt der Verletzten sage Ihnen, die Staatsanwaltschaft ermittelt nicht richtig, die decken ihre Leute, die sind parteiisch, so wie früher. Die wollen wie in der Sowjetunion oder unter Janukowitsch alles unter der Decke halten, so ist das.“

Der blutige Donnerstag: Über 30 Menschen werden an diesem Tag in Kiew ermordet, ein Blutbad im Zentrum einer europäischen Großstadt. Unsere Recherchen zeigen, dass in Kiew schon Schuldige präsentiert werden, obwohl es auch zahlreiche Hinweise gibt, die in Richtung Opposition weisen. Spuren, die nicht verfolgt werden. Und möglicherweise gibt es auch noch andere Kräfte, die an den Schießereien beteiligt waren. Die Kiewer Generalstaatsanwaltschaft ist sich in ihrer Einschätzung sicher, wir sind es nicht.

Georg Restle: „Bei allen offenen Fragen, dass ein Vertreter der nationalistischen Svoboda-Partei als Generalstaatsanwalt die Aufklärung des Kiewer Blutbads ganz offensichtlich behindert, wirft ein schlechtes Bild auf die neue Übergangsregierung – und damit auch auf all jene westlichen Regierungen, die die neuen Machthaber in Kiew unterstützen.“

DasErste.de – Monitor –
15-4-2014

Find this story at 10 April 2014

© WDR 2014

It’s not Russia that’s pushed Ukraine to the brink of war

The attempt to lever Kiev into the western camp by ousting an elected leader made conflict certain. It could be a threat to us all

‘The reality is that after two decades of Nato expansion, this crisis was triggered by the west’s attempt to pull Ukraine decisively into its orbit … ‘ Illustration: Matt Kenyon
The threat of war in Ukraine is growing. As the unelected government in Kiev declares itself unable to control the rebellion in the country’s east, John Kerry brands Russia a rogue state. The US and the European Union step up sanctions against the Kremlin, accusing it of destabilising Ukraine. The White House is reported to be set on a new cold war policy with the aim of turning Russia into a “pariah state”.

That might be more explicable if what is going on in eastern Ukraine now were not the mirror image of what took place in Kiev a couple of months ago. Then, it was armed protesters in Maidan Square seizing government buildings and demanding a change of government and constitution. US and European leaders championed the “masked militants” and denounced the elected government for its crackdown, just as they now back the unelected government’s use of force against rebels occupying police stations and town halls in cities such as Slavyansk and Donetsk.

“America is with you,” Senator John McCain told demonstrators then, standing shoulder to shoulder with the leader of the far-right Svoboda party as the US ambassador haggled with the state department over who would make up the new Ukrainian government.

When the Ukrainian president was replaced by a US-selected administration, in an entirely unconstitutional takeover, politicians such as William Hague brazenly misled parliament about the legality of what had taken place: the imposition of a pro-western government on Russia’s most neuralgic and politically divided neighbour.

Putin bit back, taking a leaf out of the US street-protest playbook – even though, as in Kiev, the protests that spread from Crimea to eastern Ukraine evidently have mass support. But what had been a glorious cry for freedom in Kiev became infiltration and insatiable aggression in Sevastopol and Luhansk.

After Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to join Russia, the bulk of the western media abandoned any hint of even-handed coverage. So Putin is now routinely compared to Hitler, while the role of the fascistic right on the streets and in the new Ukrainian regime has been airbrushed out of most reporting as Putinist propaganda.

So you don’t hear much about the Ukrainian government’s veneration of wartime Nazi collaborators and pogromists, or the arson attacks on the homes and offices of elected communist leaders, or the integration of the extreme Right Sector into the national guard, while the anti-semitism and white supremacism of the government’s ultra-nationalists is assiduously played down, and false identifications of Russian special forces are relayed as fact.

The reality is that, after two decades of eastward Nato expansion, this crisis was triggered by the west’s attempt to pull Ukraine decisively into its orbit and defence structure, via an explicitly anti-Moscow EU association agreement. Its rejection led to the Maidan protests and the installation of an anti-Russian administration – rejected by half the country – that went on to sign the EU and International Monetary Fund agreements regardless.

No Russian government could have acquiesced in such a threat from territory that was at the heart of both Russia and the Soviet Union. Putin’s absorption of Crimea and support for the rebellion in eastern Ukraine is clearly defensive, and the red line now drawn: the east of Ukraine, at least, is not going to be swallowed up by Nato or the EU.

But the dangers are also multiplying. Ukraine has shown itself to be barely a functioning state: the former government was unable to clear Maidan, and the western-backed regime is “helpless” against the protests in the Soviet-nostalgic industrial east. For all the talk about the paramilitary “green men” (who turn out to be overwhelmingly Ukrainian), the rebellion also has strong social and democratic demands: who would argue against a referendum on autonomy and elected governors?

Meanwhile, the US and its European allies impose sanctions and dictate terms to Russia and its proteges in Kiev, encouraging the military crackdown on protesters after visits from Joe Biden and the CIA director, John Brennan. But by what right is the US involved at all, incorporating under its strategic umbrella a state that has never been a member of Nato, and whose last elected government came to power on a platform of explicit neutrality? It has none, of course – which is why the Ukraine crisis is seen in such a different light across most of the world. There may be few global takers for Putin’s oligarchic conservatism and nationalism, but Russia’s counterweight to US imperial expansion is welcomed, from China to Brazil.

In fact, one outcome of the crisis is likely to be a closer alliance between China and Russia, as the US continues its anti-Chinese “pivot” to Asia. And despite growing violence, the cost in lives of Russia’s arms-length involvement in Ukraine has so far been minimal compared with any significant western intervention you care to think of for decades.

The risk of civil war is nevertheless growing, and with it the chances of outside powers being drawn into the conflict. Barack Obama has already sent token forces to eastern Europe and is under pressure, both from Republicans and Nato hawks such as Poland, to send many more. Both US and British troops are due to take part in Nato military exercises in Ukraine this summer.

The US and EU have already overplayed their hand in Ukraine. Neither Russia nor the western powers may want to intervene directly, and the Ukrainian prime minister’s conjuring up of a third world war presumably isn’t authorised by his Washington sponsors. But a century after 1914, the risk of unintended consequences should be obvious enough – as the threat of a return of big-power conflict grows. Pressure for a negotiated end to the crisis is essential.

Seumas Milne
The Guardian, Wednesday 30 April 2014 21.01 BST

Find this story at 30 April 2014

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Rebel videos show first U.S.-made rockets in Syria

Rebel videos show first U.S.-made rockets in Syria: Syrian opposition fighters carry a rocket launcher during clashes against government forces in the Sheikh Lutfi area, west of the airport in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo in January 2014.

LONDON (Reuters) – Online videos show Syrian rebels using what appear to be U.S. anti-tank rockets, weapons experts say, the first significant American-built armaments in the country’s civil war.

They would signal a further internationalization of the conflict, with new rockets suspected from Russia and drones from Iran also spotted in the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

None of that equipment, however, is seen as enough to turn the tide of battle in a now broadly stalemated war, with Assad dominant in Syria’s central cities and along the Mediterranean coast and the rebels in the interior north and east.

It was not possible to independently verify the authenticity of the videos or the supplier of the BGM-71 TOW anti-tank rockets shown in the videos. Some analysts suggested they might have been provided by another state such as Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, probably with Washington’s acquiescence.

U.S. officials declined to discuss the rockets, which appeared in Syria around the same time Reuters reported that Washington had decided to proceed with plans to increase aid, including delivery of lower-level weaponry.

U.S. officials say privately there remain clear limits to American backing for the insurgency, given the widely dominant role played by Islamist militants. A proposal to supply MANPAD surface-to-air missiles was considered but rejected.

National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the Obama administration was giving support she did not define.

“The United States is committed to building the capacity of the moderate opposition, including through the provision of assistance to vetted members of the moderate armed opposition,” she said in response to a query over the rocket videos.

“As we have consistently said, we are not going to detail every single type of our assistance,” she said.

While the number of U.S. rockets seen remains small, reports of their presence are steadily spreading, analysts say.

“With U.S.-made TOW anti-tank missiles now seen in the hands of three groups in the north and south of Syria, it is safe to say this is important,” said Charles Lister, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution Doha Centre and one of the first to identify the weapons.

The first three videos were posted on April 1 and 5, Lister said. While two have since been removed, one remains on YouTube.

He posted clearer still images on a blog for Huffington Post last week.

Several other arms experts and bloggers on the Syrian conflict have also reviewed the videos. They include Eliot Higgins, a Britain-based, self-taught arms and video specialist who blogs under the name “Brown Moses” and has emerged as one of the leading authorities on foreign firepower reaching Syria.

The rebel faction shown operating the U.S. missiles in the first videos, a relatively secular and moderate group called Harakat Hazm, declined comment. But an opposition activist based in southeastern Turkey who is a former member of Harakat Hazm said that they were provided by the Americans.

The Syrian activist, who identified himself as Samer Muhammad, said Harakat Hazm received 10 anti-tank missiles earlier this month near Aleppo and Idlib, two cities torn by heavy fighting near the northern border with Turkey.

He said that Harakat Hazm had launched five of those rockets to destroy four tanks and win a battle in the Idlib suburbs of Babulin and Salheiya, and this was the first time such U.S. arms had figured in Syria’s fighting.

His information could not be confirmed independently.

SAUDI, QATARI SUPPLIES

More recent videos had shown the rockets in the hands of the Syrian Revolutionary Front and another group named Awliya wa Katalib al-Shaheed Ahmed al-Abdo, Lister said. Both are also seen as broadly moderate, in contrast with radical Islamists.

Western states have long been reluctant to make good on repeated talk of supplying weapons to Assad’s foes, nervous of arms falling into the hands of jihadi militants or simply abetting more bloodshed in a conflict that has killed over 150,000 people and displaced millions over the past three years.

Lister said that if Washington were unwilling to supply TOW rockets itself, the most likely point of origin was Saudi Arabia which has thousands of anti-tank projectiles in its arsenal.

Under terms of the original sale, Riyadh would be obliged to tell Washington if it were transferring them to any third party.

“Considering the groups already seen with these missile systems and considering Saudis’ already established reputation for providing weapons to moderate… groups, Saudi would seem the most likely candidate at this stage,” Lister said.

The other major regional supporter of the rebels, Qatar, apparently do not hold such rockets in its regular military stores, analysts say, and may have bought Chinese weaponry from elsewhere, perhaps Sudan, for shipment to rebels last year.

Chinese-built HJ-8 anti-tank guided missiles remain a relatively common part of the rebel arsenal, according to Syria arms experts. HJ-8s first popped up largely in the hands of Islamist groups early last year, possibly coming from Qatar.

More recent shipments have been noticed in the hands of relatively secular insurgent factions and are believed by analysts to have been supplied by Saudi Arabia instead.

RUSSIAN ROCKETS, IRANIAN DRONES

Use of Chinese MANPAD anti-aircraft missiles by Islamist militants has dwindled in recent months, monitors say. Such missiles arrived last year, again believed to have come from Qatar, a development that particularly worried Western states.

“I suspect there’s been two waves of Chinese weapons, the first from Qatar and the second from Saudi Arabia going to different groups,” said “Brown Moses” blogger Higgins.

The United States and other Gulf Arab states have bemoaned Qatar’s scattergun approach to arming rebel forces that has seen many weapons end up in the hands of fighters affiliated with al Qaeda linked and other radical Islamists. Qatari and Saudi officials will not discuss their Syria policy in detail.

Gulf states have also been alarmed by growing signs of support from Iran for Assad’s military. The latest new piece of Iranian equipment to appear on the battlefield, an unmanned Shahed 129 drone photographed over Damascus, is said by Tehran to carry weapons as well as conduct surveillance.

Higgins said the other most significant development in Syrian conflict firepower this year had been the government’s growing use of Russian-made BM-27 and BM-30 rocket launchers to deliver cluster munitions. While the former had long been known to be part of Assad’s armories, the latter was not.

(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington, Dasha Afanasieva in Istanbul and Gabriela Baczynska in Moscow; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Reuters 4/16/14 By Peter Apps of Reuters

Find this story at 16 April 2014

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Advanced U.S. Weapons Flow to Syrian Rebels

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have supplied Syrian rebel groups with a small number of advanced American antitank missiles for the first time in a pilot program that could lead to larger flows of sophisticated weaponry, people briefed on the effort said.

The new willingness to arm these rebels comes after the failure of U.S.-backed peace talks in January and recent regime gains on the battlefield. It also follows a reorganization of Western-backed fighters aimed at creating a more effective military force and increasing protection for Christian and other religious minorities–something of particular importance to Washington.

This shift is seen as a test of whether the U.S. can find a trustworthy rebel partner able to keep sophisticated weapons out of the hands of extremists, Saudi and Syrian opposition figures said. The U.S. has long feared that if it does supply advanced arms, the weapons will wind up with radical groups–some tied to al Qaeda–which have set up bases in opposition-held territory.

The White House would neither confirm nor deny it had provided the TOW armor-piercing antitank systems, the first significant supply of sophisticated U.S. weapons systems to rebels. But U.S. officials did say they are working to bolster the rebels’ ability to fight the regime.

Rebels and their Saudi backers hope the Obama administration will be persuaded to ease its long-standing resistance to supplying advanced weaponry that could tip the balance in the grinding civil war–especially shoulder-fired missiles capable of bringing down planes.

Some of the TOWs provided to rebels since March are equipped with a complex, fingerprint-keyed security device that controls who can fire it, said Mustafa Alani, a senior security analyst at the Geneva-based Gulf Research Center who is regularly briefed by Saudi officials on security matters.

“The U.S. is committed to building the capacity of the moderate opposition, including through the provision of assistance to vetted members of the moderate armed opposition,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said. “As we have consistently said, we are not going to detail every single type of our assistance.”

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states lobbied aggressively for the Obama administration to step up its support for the moderate opposition, especially since the collapse of the peace talks.

U.S. refusal to better arm the rebels has created strains with Saudi allies that President Barack Obama tried to mend on his recent visit to the kingdom. After the visit, senior administration officials said the two countries were collaborating more closely on material support for the rebels and the Central Intelligence Agency was looking at ways to expand its limited arming and training program based in Jordan.

A newly created moderate rebel group called Harakat Hazm said it had received about a dozen BGM-71 TOWs and was being trained on them by an unspecified allied country. It is the only group known to have received the weapons so far, though there may be others.

“To make it clear, our allies are only delivering these missiles to trusted groups that are moderate,” said one senior leader of Harakat Hazm. “The first step is showing that we can effectively use the TOWs, and hopefully the second one will be using antiaircraft missiles.”

Another Syrian opposition figure in the region confirmed the U.S., with Saudi assistance, supplied the TOW missiles.

Mr. Alani said the two countries oversaw the delivery through neighboring Jordan and Turkey to vetted rebels inside Syria. Rebels already had some types of recoilless rifles in their stocks, which can also be used against tanks and other targets. But U.S.-made TOWs are more reliable and accurate, opposition officials and experts say.

A senior Syrian opposition official in Washington who works closely with the Americans said the TOWs were part of a small, tailored program coordinated by U.S. and Saudi intelligence services to “test the waters” for a potentially larger arming effort down the road.

The official said the introduction of a small number of TOWs will have limited impact on the battlefield.

The main objective is to develop a relationship between vetted fighters and U.S. trainers that will give the Obama administration the confidence to increase supplies of sophisticated weaponry.

The U.S. has blocked Saudi Arabia from giving rebels Chinese-made man-portable air defense systems, known as Manpads.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia offered to give the opposition Manpads for the first time. But the weapons are still stored in warehouses in Jordan and Turkey because of U.S. opposition, according to Saudis and Syrian opposition figures.

“Basically, this is supposed to be the next step” in the eyes of rebels and their Saudi backers, Mr. Alani said of the hoped-for antiaircraft artillery.

Senior administration officials said the White House remains opposed to providing rebels with Manpads. Antiaircraft and antitank weapons could help the rebels chip away at the regime’s two big advantages on the battlefield–air power and heavy armor. The regime has used its air force to devastating effect in the civil war–frequently dropping crude barrel-bombs packed with explosives on opposition neighborhoods and cities.

In hopes of reinvigorating Western support, more moderate rebels began this year openly battling increasingly powerful extremist groups in their midst and reorganized their ranks in hopes of forming more effective fighting forces.

Harakat Hazm was created in January out of the merger of smaller secular-leaning rebel groups in the north, the main opposition stronghold. It was set up to assuage U.S. concerns that the Western-backed and secular-leaning Free Syrian Army was too fractured to be effective and that rebels weren’t doing enough to protect religious minorities.

The group is working closely with the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, another large formation of several rebel brigades that turned their guns on the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in January. The Front was created in January to address U.S. criticism that rebels were too fragmented and that they were turning a blind eye to extremist groups. “The agreement is that the Syrian Revolutionaries and Hazm work together to get support from the international community but not step on each other,” said a member of the political opposition based in Turkey.

The official added that Hazm started to receive lethal and nonlethal aid from Saudi and the U.S. in March “because [rebels] are organizing like a proper army.”

The Western- and Gulf-backed Free Syrian Army has shaken up its ranks and strategy to try to reverse the regime’s consistent battlefield gains since last year.

“The U.S. wants pragmatic groups within the Free Syrian Army that can deal with a post-Assad Syria and secure Alawites and Christians,” said a member of the political opposition with ties to Harakat Hazm.

Syria’s conflict has strong sectarian undertones. President Assad is a member of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, and his regime is dominated by the minority group while the opposition is made up largely of Syria’s Sunni majority. Many Christians have remained loyal to the regime, hoping it will protect them.

The fate of religious minorities has been a major concern of the U.S. Several extremist rebel groups were involved in massacres of Alawite villagers last year, and desecration of Christian and Alawite religious sites, according to human rights groups.

The opposition made a point of trying to secure the Christian village of Kassab in northern Syria this month after it was overrun by extremist groups, prompting a mass exodus of its population.

Opposition leader Ahmad Jarba visited the village earlier this month and vowed that the FSA wasn’t fighting a sectarian war.

Rudayna El-Baalbaky and Mohammed Nour Alakraa contributed to this article.

April 18, 2014, 7:18 p.m. ET
By Ellen Knickmeyer, Maria Abi-Habib and Adam Entous

Find this story at 18 April 2014

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