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Putin: We’re Not Going to Keep Apologising!

Alex Christoforou

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In this excerpt, an Estonian journalist accuses Putin of not apologising for historical wrongdoing. She’s quickly put in her place – Russia has apologised in the past, and it has moved on.

For politicians, it’s time to do something constructive, rather than revert to obsolete matters.

Via Fort Russ: http://www.fort-russ.com/2016/04/putin-were-not-going-to-keep.html

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The future of war: UAE hires U.S. mercenaries to assassinate political leaders (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 137.

Alex Christoforou

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An investigation by BuzzFeed News has revealed that Middle East Monarchy, United Arab Emirates, hired U.S. mercenaries to assassinate political leaders and religious clerical leaders in war torn Yemen.

The U.S. ex-military, elite soldiers were paid by to kill those designated as “terrorists” by the UAE.

The UAE worked with the U.S. based mercenary-for-hire Spear Operations Group, founded by Israeli-American Abraham Golan, who told BuzzFeed News…

“There was a targeted assassination program in Yemen. I was running it.”

Spear Operations Group’s first target in Yemen was Anssaf Ali Mayo, the local leader of the Islamist political party Al-Islah, a party whose members include Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkul Karman.

Is this the future of war?

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda discuss the stunning Buzzfeed News article that exposes the dangerous and dark assassination strategy of the United Arab Emirates, hiring American ex-soldiers to target and kill political enemies.

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Authored by Aram Roston via BuzzFeed News…


The operation against Mayo — which was reported at the time but until now was not known to have been carried out by American mercenaries — marked a pivot point in the war in Yemen, a brutal conflict that has seen children starved, villages bombed, and epidemics of cholera roll through the civilian population. The bombing was the first salvo in a string of unsolved assassinations that killed more than two dozen of the group’s leaders.

The company that hired the soldiers and carried out the attack is Spear Operations Group, incorporated in Delaware and founded by Abraham Golan, a charismatic Hungarian Israeli security contractor who lives outside of Pittsburgh. He led the team’s strike against Mayo.

“There was a targeted assassination program in Yemen,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I was running it. We did it. It was sanctioned by the UAE within the coalition.”

The UAE and Saudi Arabia lead an alliance of nine countries in Yemen, fighting what is largely a proxy war against Iran. The US is helping the Saudi-UAE side by providing weapons, intelligence, and other support.

The press office of the UAE’s US Embassy, as well as its US public affairs company, Harbour Group, did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails.

The revelations that a Middle East monarchy hired Americans to carry out assassinations comes at a moment when the world is focused on the alleged murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia, an autocratic regime that has close ties to both the US and the UAE. (The Saudi Embassy in the US did not respond to a request for comment. Riyadh has denied it killed Khashoggi, though news reports suggest it is considering blaming his death on a botched interrogation.)

Golan said that during his company’s months-long engagement in Yemen, his team was responsible for a number of the war’s high-profile assassinations, though he declined to specify which ones. He argued that the US needs an assassination program similar to the model he deployed. “I just want there to be a debate,” he said. “Maybe I’m a monster. Maybe I should be in jail. Maybe I’m a bad guy. But I’m right.”

Spear Operations Group’s private assassination mission marks the confluence of three developments transforming the way war is conducted worldwide:

  • Modern counterterrorism combat has shifted away from traditional military objectives — such as destroying airfields, gun emplacements, or barracks — to killing specific individuals, largely reshaping war into organized assassinations.
  • War has become increasingly privatized, with many nations outsourcing most military support services to private contractors, leaving frontline combat as virtually the only function that the US and many other militaries have not contracted out to for-profit ventures.
  • The long US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have relied heavily on elite special forces, producing tens of thousands of highly trained American commandos who can demand high private-sector salaries for defense contracting or outright mercenary work.

With Spear Operations Group’s mission in Yemen, these trends converged into a new and incendiary business: militarized contract killing, carried out by skilled American fighters.

Experts said it is almost inconceivable that the United States would not have known that the UAE — whose military the US has trained and armed at virtually every level — had hired an American company staffed by American veterans to conduct an assassination program in a war it closely monitors.

One of the mercenaries, according to three sources familiar with the operation, used to work with the CIA’s “ground branch,” the agency’s equivalent of the military’s special forces. Another was a special forces sergeant in the Maryland Army National Guard. And yet another, according to four people who knew him, was still in the Navy Reserve as a SEAL and had a top-secret clearance. He was a veteran of SEAL Team 6, or DEVGRU, the sources told BuzzFeed News. The New York Times once described that elite unit, famous for killing Osama bin Laden, as a “global manhunting machine with limited outside oversight.”

The CIA said it had no information about the mercenary assassination program, and the Navy’s Special Warfare Command declined to comment. A former CIA official who has worked in the UAE initially told BuzzFeed News there was no way that Americans would be allowed to participate in such a program. But after checking, he called back: “There were guys that were basically doing what you said.” He was astonished, he said, by what he learned: “What vetting procedures are there to make sure the guy you just smoked is really a bad guy?” The mercenaries, he said, were “almost like a murder squad.”

Whether Spear’s mercenary operation violates US law is surprisingly unclear. On the one hand, US law makes it illegal to “conspire to kill, kidnap, maim” someone in another country. Companies that provide military services to foreign nations are supposed to be regulated by the State Department, which says it has never granted any company the authority to supply combat troops or mercenaries to another country.

Yet, as BuzzFeed News has previously reported, the US doesn’t ban mercenaries. And with some exceptions, it is perfectly legal to serve in foreign militaries, whether one is motivated by idealism or money. With no legal consequences, Americans have served in the Israel Defense Forces, the French Foreign Legion, and even a militia fighting ISIS in Syria. Spear Operations Group, according to three sources, arranged for the UAE to give military rank to the Americans involved in the mission, which might provide them legal cover.

Despite operating in a legal and political gray zone, Golan heralds his brand of targeted assassinations as a precision counterterrorism strategy with fewer civilian casualties. But the Mayo operation shows that this new form of warfare carries many of the same old problems. The commandos’ plans went awry, and the intelligence proved flawed. And their strike was far from surgical: The explosive they attached to the door was designed to kill not one person but everyone in the office.

Aside from moral objections, for-profit targeted assassinations add new dilemmas to modern warfare. Private mercenaries operate outside the US military’s chain of command, so if they make mistakes or commit war crimes, there is no clear system for holding them accountable. If the mercenaries had killed a civilian in the street, who would have even investigated?

The Mayo mission exposes an even more central problem: the choice of targets. Golan insists that he killed only terrorists identified by the government of the UAE, an ally of the US. But who is a terrorist and who is a politician? What is a new form of warfare and what is just old-fashioned murder for hire? Who has the right to choose who lives and who dies — not only in the wars of a secretive monarchy like the UAE, but also those of a democracy such as the US?

BuzzFeed News has pieced together the inside story of the company’s attack on Al-Islah’s headquarters, revealing what mercenary warfare looks like now — and what it could become.

Full Story at BuzzFeed News…

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Saudis transfer $100M to US Gov, as suspect in Khashoggi murder dies in “car accident” (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 3.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at a curiously timed $100 million transfer from Saudi Arabia to the US State Department, as a suspect in the Jamal Khashoggi murder dies in a “suspicious car accident”.

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In a strange twist of events, a Jamal Khashoggi murder suspect died yesterday in what is being described as a “suspicious car accident”.

Zerohedge reports that a 31-year-old lieutenant in the Saudi Royal Air Force said to have participated in the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi died in a “suspicious car accident” in Riyadh, according to Turkish media.

Mashal Saad al-Bostani was reportedly on a 15-man hit squad dispatched to Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul Consulate in Turkey on October 2 during Khashoggi’s visit, before the team quickly left the country, according to daily Yeni Şafak.

Albostani entered Turkey at 1:45 a.m. local time (2245GMT). He stayed at the Wyndham Grand Hotel and left the country at 9:46 p.m. local time (1846GMT) on a private jet which belonged to the Sky Prime Aviation company. –Yeni Şafak

Bostani’s alleged role in the murder of the Saudi journalist are unclear, as are details of the traffic accident in Riyadh – prompting accusations of a cover up by those who orchestrated the Khashoggi hit. Meanwhile, a columnist for Turkey’s Daily Hürriyet wrote on Thursday that Mohammad al Otaibi, Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consul-general, would be “the next execution.”

Turkish daily Yeni Şafak reported Oct. 17 that Al-Otaibi’s voice could be heard in one of the recordings, which Turkish authorities are believed to have, of Khashoggi’s “interrogation” at the consulate.

According to the report, after Al-Otaibi told the interrogators to “do it somewhere else outside or I will be in trouble,” he was told to “shut up if you want to live when you are back in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Otaibi returned to Saudi Arabia on Oct. 16 before his residence in Istanbul was searched by police for more than eight hours on Oct. 17 and Oct. 18. –Daily Hürriyet

Another suspect’s photograph was released from security footage on October 18 by the newspaper Sabah, which reports that 47-year-old intelligence officer Maher Abdulaziz M. Mutreb, who previously served at Saudi Arabia’s London embassy, “landed in Istanbul at 3:38 a.m. on Oct. 2 and went to his country’s Istanbul consulate at 9:55 a.m.,” according to Hürriyet.

Hours after Khashoggi’s arrival and disappearance, Mutreb left the consulate and visited the consul’s residence at 4:53 p.m., left his hotel at 5:15 p.m. and arrived at the Atatürk Airport for his return trip on a private jet at 5:58 p.m. –Daily Hürriyet

Mutreb had travelled extensively with the crown prince, perhaps as a bodyguard according to an October 16 report in the New York Times.

Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post columnist who was critical of the Saudi government, reportedly took seven minutes to die adccording to the Middle East Eye and the Wall Street Journal.

In perhaps the most gruesome details from the report, MEM reported that Dr. Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, who was identified by the Times and other media outlets as an “autopsy expert” whose presence cuts against Saudis’ suggestions that the killing wasn’t premeditated, started cutting Khashoggi’s body into pieces while the journalist was unconscious, but still breathing. Previously, Khashoggi had been knocked unconscious after being injected with a mysterious substance.

Later, the NYT reported that the hit squad cut off Khashoggi’s fingers while he was still conscious during an interrogation where he was also beaten and tortured before being dragged into another room where they finished butchering him.

According to WSJ, voices on the tapes can be heard asking the Saudi consul to leave his office before the hit squad murdered Khashoggi. The consul, al-Otaibi, departed Turkey for Riyadh Tuesday afternoon after the Saudis, in a sudden reversal, denied Turkey’s requests to search Otaibi’s residence, saying his home was off limits to investigators.

The The Middle East Eye then reported that Saudi Arabia had transferred $100 million to the US State Department, described as funds for US efforts against Islamic State groups, which were approved months ago. Critics however claim that the transfer’s timing is suspicious.

When US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew into Riyadh to discuss the disappearance and likely death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia transferred $100m to the State Department for US efforts against the Islamic State (IS) group, the New York Times reported late Tuesday.

While the funding was approved earlier in the summer, critics have viewed the timing of the transfer payment with suspicion.

“The timing of this is no coincidence,” a US official told the New York Times.

The US State Department envoy for the anti-IS coalition said in a statement on Wednesday that they “expected the contribution to be finalized in the fall time frame”.

“The specific transfer of funds has been long in process and has nothing to do with other events or the secretary’s visit,” envoy Brett McGurk said.

The White House has not seemed alarmed amid a barrage of questions about Khashoggi’s disappearance, what Saudi officials know about it and its close ties to Saudi rulers and the country’s powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in particular.

US President Donald Trump has called for people to give the Saudis the benefit of the doubt, stressing Washington’s business and geopolitical interests in staying close to Riyadh.

Trump tweeted that he spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who “totally denied any knowledge of what took place” in Istanbul. Trump said MBS told him “that he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter”.

After Pompeo’s meetings with the king and crown prince on Tuesday, Pompeo said Saudi Arabia has committed to conducting a full investigation.

Asked whether they said Khashoggi was alive or dead, Pompeo said: “They didn’t talk about any of the facts.”

Via Zerohedge…

After returning from his trip to Riyadh and Ankara where he addressed the burgeoning diplomatic crisis over the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a mercifully brief press conference at the White House where he took only two questions from reporters who were skeptical about the US’s decision to give the Saudis the benefit of the doubt to pursue their own investigation of the incident.

While Pompeo didn’t have any new information to offer, he did say that he spoke with President Trump about allowing the Suadis “a few more days” to complete their investigation, after Trump said earlier Thursday that he expected the probe to wrap up within 72 hours.

To be sure, Pompeo also emphasized the importance of the US-Saudi partnership to US interests in the region, but between the dual investigations in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Pompeo said he’s confident that we will get to the bottom of what happened inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

In response to a question about the disturbing details of Khashoggi’s final moments that have leaked to the press, Pompeo acknowledged that “there are lots of stories out there” but that the administration would “allow the process to unfold” and eventually “make a determination for ourselves about what happened there based on the facts that are presented to us.”

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Putin stuns crowd: ‘700 hostages captured by ISIS in Syria including US and European citizens’ (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 4.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Vladimir Putin’s stunning statement at the Valdai Discussion Club meeting in Sochi, where the Russian President claimed that 700 hostages have been captured in Syria by Islamic State terrorists, including US and European citizens, and are being killed off 10 people a day.

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Speaking at the annual Valdai Discussion Club meeting in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin told those in attendance that ISIS had taken 700 hostages in the US-controlled area of Syria.

Putin said at the annual Valdai Discussion Club meeting in Sochi…

“We now see what is happening on the left bank of the Euphrates River, our colleagues know that. This territory is under the protection of our American partners, they rely there on the Kurdish armed forces. But they obviously did not work it through, members of Daesh remained in several settlements.”

According to the statement made by the Russian President, the 700 hostages captured in Syria by ISIS terrorists include US and European citizens and are being killed off 10 people a day.

ISIS terrorists “have delivered ultimatums and made certain demands, threatening to shoot ten people every day,” Putin said, adding that Daesh already executed ten hostages two days ago.

The Russian President stressed that ISIS had expanded its presence in the US controlled area, taking 130 families hostage, which is nearly 700 people, including US and European nationals.

“They [terrorists] put forward ultimatums and certain demands, and warned that if these ultimatums are not followed up to, they will be gunning down 10 people everyday. The day before yesterday they executed ten people.”

“Our information shows that several citizens of the United States and [some] European countries were also taken hostage [by Daesh].”

Via RT

“This is just horrible, it is a catastrophe,” Putin said, adding that the US forces that claim to control the area around the east bank of the Euphrates River, relying on the Kurdish armed forces on the ground, stay conspicuously silent on this crisis.

Some US and European citizens are among the hostages,” the president warned, adding that “everyone is silent … as if nothing has happened.”

“They [the US] have clearly fallen short of their target,” Putin said, adding that Washington and its allies apparently failed to combat terrorists in the part of Syria they occupy. Islamic State terrorists continue to expand their presence in the area, he said.

Russian forces dealt a “heavy blow” to terrorists in Syria, eliminating many of them and forcing others to lay down their arms, Putin said. “Over these years, we liberated almost 95 percent of the Syrian Republic’s territory,” the president added.

“We maintained its sovereignty and did not let [the Syrian] state fall apart,” he continued, arguing that Russia’s actions helped “stabilize the situation in the region.”

He also praised Turkey for its efforts in driving terrorists out of northern Syria. “They work and we see it,” he said, adding that the Turkish side “does its best to fulfill its obligations” as he hailed the “effectiveness” of Ankara’s actions.

Putin has called on the world’s nations to “unite their efforts” to combat terrorism effectively. This cooperation has been reduced to some “separate instances of cooperation, which are not enough,” he added.

 

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