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Can IMCTC Become the “Islamic NATO”?

What are the realistic prospects for the success of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition?




Alliance is an active agent in the realm of International Relations and perhaps forms the core of the field in its practical manifestation. Mainly created to cater the mutual needs of many countries, the world has witnessed unions of even the most unlikely states. Military alliance however, is a composed term and the aim reflects the term itself – national security of oneself (and other included partners) through mutual intelligence sharing and armed training or operations.

Different situations though out history have resulted in numerous alliances but the most recent shift in shaping a new worldly alliance has been in the Middle East driven by the oil -rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Taking the leader’s role in the Middle East and the much larger Islamic world in particular, the state’s then young Defense minister and now Crown Prince Salman Al Saud announced the formation a thirty four state Islamic Military Alliance. The Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition(IMCTC) is set to be launched on Sunday.

Amid the simmering Saudi-Iran rivalry, the coalition has gained much-needed attention but before delving into that, let’s shed light on the happenings in the past.

Apart from the inter-regional clashes like the Gulf War back in the decades, the Middle Eastern countries stayed rather calm and worked on maintaining their ties until their involvement in proxy wars and funding of rebel and extremists Sunni groups started to cause some internal infections.

Major chunk of funding to the Islamic State was made by the Saudis and company while Qatar supported Muslim Brotherhood in the region. The unnoticed internal swellings within the Arab world first showed in Tunisia from where the “Arab Spring” started to unfold in later part of 2010 and start of 2011 due to which countries like Syria and Libya have been turned into ruins.

To maintain the order within the Gulf states and to surf the tidal wave of Arab Spring , the  already existing solely GCC oriented “Peninsula Shield Force” was called in by Bahrain to assist in maintaining its security , this was the force’s latest  deployment since the year 2003 in Kuwait .

Existence of this force indigenous to the Gulf States now seems inadequate to deal the threat present at large. These   foreign  funded elements fueled sectarian divide within other countries including Pakistan in pervious, during the Arab Spring to escalate the government and civilian clashes and  now are active on multiple fronts including those in Yemen, Iraq, Iran and against Assad in Syria. Former   intelligence chief Prince Bandar played risky cards in support of Nusra Front in Syria then still growing Islamic State of Iraq with intentions to promote Sunni version of Islam and to form favored governmental blocks only to later realize the extent of the extremist mindset and vision to revive Caliphate across the Muslim world and their aversion of the West. After Yemen intervention and Saudi’s vow to topple Assad, bordering Saudi cities were targeted by ISIS to which the response was a massive counterterrorism force.

With reverses and setbacks for Riyadh and its allies in Syria and Iraq, the alliance will have its work cut out, especially given the very many challenges that the alliance faces even before its formal launch.

By forming such an alliance Saudi’s prime objective to expand and maintain its dominance in the region can be entertained along with the export of its Sunni version of Islam, and to deal with terrorism within the country and the Islamic world at large since now the Kingdom seems to understand the scale of the threat.

The stance itself speaks of sudden awaking by the Arab States after the spill of their  proxy games have turned the tables .To prepare their forces for extreme action Saudi Arabia hosted a 20 nation military drill in King Khalid Military city joined in by Arab and other Muslim countries including Pakistan. Dubbed as “North Thunder” it is term as the largest military exercise to have ever taken place in the region and Saudis later called for making a force similar to NATO. The military spending by the Arab states might be for the greater good but the economies of the oil rich states are already feeling the heat.

Practically the concept of forming a force like NATO should serve the intentions of Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries but the viability in foreseeable future seem to be dim. The provided list of counties included in the military alliance- one exclude any majority Shia state , second- not all agree  on the extent of military interventions under any  circumstances ,thirdly- some of the included African states are not majority  Muslim states but most importantly is the vague definition and acts considered as terrorism. The jurisdiction of this force is another serious question that needs working so by now the” whom”, “when” and the “how” have not been seriously addressed which leaves question marks on the idea itself.

IMCTC is being led by Pakistan’s decorated former Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif. The four-infantry general, cognizant of his country’s delicate balancing act has made it clear that he won’t be part of a force targeting one country.

Pakistan’s position among the alliance itself is outstanding as the country has dealt with interstate terrorism on a massive scale and owns unmatched nuclear assets and is on the verge of untangling the sectarian clashes, so experience here is a bonus point for Pakistan, giving it an important edge in the 41-member alliance.

Unlike NATO countries which practice “separation of the church and state” rule in their military workings, the Islamic military coalition cannot overcome the religious element which still resides even in the O.I.C.

Here comes the very basic feature of a state functioning – its foreign policy. Case in point can be Pakistan’s refusal to become a member of the Saudi led coalition force and its military intervention in Yemen. Pakistan and few other states maintained their distance and called for peaceful dialogs as for most the Yemen’s situation was an internal matter, also Yemen itself can be studied as a case in point of full scale military intervention in any other state. Given the possible chance that sound guidelines and clauses are set out in order to avoid any unnecessary military involvement, any state still can object to the matter and chose to withdraw owing to its policies. Pakistan’s decision against military intervention in any state is a safe stance but not the same can be said for the other members. Formation of such an alliance would also mean an end to proxy wars against other member states. However, this feature is at odds with the states’ grandiose designs in the region.

NATO over the years has evolved into a mature organization but the formation of Islamic NATO will require clean chits by every member state along with vow of full cooperation including efforts of narrowing down the religious divide. But the behavior by GCC members with Iran and its exclusion from the coalition casts dark shadow on the very intention of the force itself.  Most members in coalition’s list have internal troubles, be it Turkey against PKK, the intra-GCC tiff; rest of the members against the almost-finished ISIS  or even Boko Haram. Moreover, each member also supports rebel elements for personal advantage , hence with this dreadful situation on ground,  working of an Islamic force will hardly be effective in the near future. Also, Pakistan has categorically denounced taking sides in the rivalry and is even bolstering ties with Iran. It deprives the alliance of the services of the best fighting force from within the coalition

By the look of things, Iran appears to be the prime target of the alliance, especially given that the ISIS has been virtually defeated. Also, the unqualified support given by President Trump earlier this year during the Riyadh Summit and the desire on part of Saudi Arabia to bleed Iran and its proxies has meant that the IMCTC will most likely be used to take the Saudi-Iranian to another level.

However, the composition, the military strength, the infighting and also a stronger enemy will most likely preclude its success.

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Russian Il-20 downed by Syrian missile. Russia blames Israel. Israel blames Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou



The unthinkable has happened in Syria.

The world now teeters on the brink of all out war in Syria as a Russian Il-20 was downed by Syrian missile after Israeli F-16s used it as cover during attack, according to statements made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

President Vladimir Putin, answering a reporter’s question during a press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, said the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the tripwire triggered that has the potential to tip the fragile balance in Syria towards conflict between Russia, Iran and Israel.

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The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said…

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

The statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean.

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.”

The statement further said that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result…

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

According to reports from RT, the Russian military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,”the statement said.

The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.

A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.

Meanwhile Israel has come out to blame the Syrian government for the downing of the military plane, according to an IDF statement.

Israel said that it “expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members” of the Russian plane. However, it stated that the government of Bashar Assad “whose military shot down the Russian plane,” is “fully responsible” for the incident.

Israel further blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that its jets were targeting a Syrian facility “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Israel claimed that the weapons were “meant to attack Israel.”

Via RT

The IDF assumed that the Syrian anti-air batteries “fired indiscriminately” and didn’t “bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.” The Israelis said that when the Syrian military launched the missiles which hit the Russian plane, its own jets were already within Israeli airspace. “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”

According to the Israeli military, both IDF and Russia have “a deconfliction system,” which was agreed upon by the leadership of both states, and “has proven itself many times over recent years.” The system was in use when the incident happened, the IDF stated. The IDF promised to share “all the relevant information” with Russia “to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

The military presented a four-point initial inquiry into events in Latakia. It insisted that “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire caused the Russian jet “to be hit and downed.”

The Russian Il-20 aircraft, with 15 crew on board, went off radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province late Monday. Later on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said that an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.



Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr


As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.



Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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