This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Syria's Commercial Seat and Largest City : Doomed

Syria's resilient, crafty president continues to defend his country against the scum that would destroy it. Bashar al-Assad's identification of the Sunni Syrian rebellion against his elevation in status and importance of his own Alawite tribe as terrorists and ferociously destructive Islamists bent on destruction, appears to have been borne out in the appearance of Syria's once most populous city whose commerce spoke to the commercial heartblood of the country.

It is now divided and in ruins. And it appears that the rebels have launched deadly raids against the very portions of that city abandoned by god and his assembled angels to destroy whatever they have left there to shelter themselves and the Sunni majority that they represent. Most have fled in the panic of life-preservation, leaving a mere 250,000 to reel in fear of death. And oh, of course, it is not the rebels bombing themselves, it is the war machinery of the regime turned once again on its traitors.

The ninth day of violent bombardment has come and gone and with it the deaths of hundreds of civilians through the 20 air strikes on Saturday alone. The rebels have not yet flown their warplanes for they have none. To characterize this conflict as uneven is to understate the obvious; it is the Syrian Sunni population's defense militias striving to sustain themselves against the onslaught of Russian and Syrian war jets aiming to extract the maximum possible damage.

The 'insurgents' have, nonetheless, given as good as they've got. While the government side has killed 140 people accounting for 19 children among them, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the rebels in shelling the government-held area since April 22 have killed 96 people in total, 21 of whom were children. The children, needless to say, are the forgotten casualties of an adult conflict based on historical enmities of sectarian and tribal mutual hatred.

The ceasefire that the regime trumpets to self-extol its goodwill, does not extend to Aleppo. Government warplanes and helicopters will continue to strike that misbegotten city of ancient lineage and its unfortunate residents. Hospitals and medical facilities appear to be as much a target as the rebels, for the regime. The Al Marjeh Primary Health Care Centre, supported in millions in medical supplies from Canada, bombed to extinction.

Proudly successful strikes by both Russian and Syrian government aircraft. The facility, opened in 2014 has performed tens of thousands of consultations focusing on women and children, leading the non-profit agency to call upon the international community to protect hospitals and aid workers targeted in the prosecution of the regime's greater interest of preserving Syria. The rationale is a strange one; destroying the entire national infrastructure to preserve the country.

The main Al Quds hospital backed by Medecins sans Frontieres was bombed days earlier with a death toll of over 50, among whom were patients and six staff members. One of them was Aleppo's only remaining pediatrician. One of the few medical centres in the city that offered pediatric and cardiology wards. Now, a single road out of Aleppo represents the sole supply line for the districts controlled by insurgents. The fear is the quarter-million civilians left will be starved out if the regime blocks the road.

"If Aleppo comes under siege, people will starve to death within a month", said Bara'a al-Halaby a rebel activist, viewing older men, women and children attempting to leave the rebel-held area. "People have already starting fleeing the city", he said. Reflecting the reality that this Syrian regime favours blockades that effectively starve out hundreds of thousands of helpless civilians, and leaving them bereft of needed medical supplies; a most barbaric tactic.

"[The latest fighting demonstrated a] monstrous disregard for civilian lives by all parties to the conflict. In short, the violence is soaring back to the levels we saw prior to the cessation of hostilities. There are deeply disturbing reports of military buildups indicating preparations for a lethal escalation."
Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN high commissioner for human rights

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Harmless UK Labour Party Tics

"There is no place for anti-Semitism or any form of racism in the Labour Party, or anywhere in society."
"We will make sure that our party is a welcoming home to members of all minority communities."
Jeremy Corbyn, leader, UK opposition Labour Party

"When Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews."
"I have been in the Labour Party for 40 years and I have never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic."
Ken Livingston, member, Labour Party

"We invented Israel when saving them from Hitler, who now seems to be their teacher. I will never forget and I will make sure my kids teach their children how evil Israel is."
"Hitler was the Zionist God. What do you know about Jews?"
Vicki Kirby, Labour activist

"[Israelis should be] transported from Israel and relocated where they belong, in the United States. Problem solved and save you bank charges for the [billions] you [the U.S.] transfer yearly."
"Israeli war crimes [should be recognized because] the Jews are rallying."
Labour MP Naz Shah
Over and over again, one following on the other, Labourites are proudly ventilating their credentials as critics of Israel, but never, heaven forfend, as anti-Semites. But perception is reality, isn't it? Or is it that reality simply cannot be avoided forever behind the smokescreen of innocence of intent, unfamiliarity with the unwarranted sensitivities of certain people who see bigotry and racial discrimination everywhere.

Labour MP Naz Shah who, if anything has shown herself to be even more tainted by anti-Semitism than the man she defeated in the election to retake  his seat in Parliament -- but who is hard to eclipse, a man who has made a name for himself as the very personification of British anti-Semitism, his name synonymous with Israel and Jew-bashing; one has only to hear the name "George Galloway" to click instantly into mode -- has now defined herself and her agenda of hate.

Not to be undone completely, another reviler of dastardly, Palestinian-oppressing Israel came to her support with his own impeccable knowledge of history, social events, and connections between Jews and the Third Reich who agreeably made that fateful pact that sealed the fate of an expendable six million Jews in the interests of fertilizing the vast fields of European agriculture with the detritus of well-baked bone-meal.

Livingston simply shared the wisdom of his knowledge of historical factoids and this is history, not anti-Semitism.

 Of course Mr. Corbyn, the distinguished arbiter of character and influencer of distinctions between terrorism and loyal believers in fundamentalist Islam, has himself been unfairly criticized in his references to Hezbollah as "friends" with whom dialogue would be useful in understanding their mission. And of course Hamas, whom civilized society also views as an Islamist terrorist group is strangely in his good graces, as people to be dialogued with as understanding can be reached if one but tries.

Mr. Corbyn's dependence on the expert strategizing and communications ability of Seamus Milne is understandable since they appear to share a belief in Hamas's legitimacy as a critic of Israel.

His praise of "the spirit of resistance" of Hamas operatives gives them clearance to attack Israel for its 'occupation' of Palestinian land, resulting from a gross error in judgement of the world community post-Holocaust and World War II, when the world was reeling understandably at the reality of genocidal success in annihilating most of Europe's Jews.

Undeniable that a "crime" against Palestinians was effected by Israel's establishment.

Seumas Milne, Strategy & Communications Director to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (YouTube screen capture)
Seumas Milne, Strategy and Communications Director to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (YouTube screen capture)

There have been some dissenters to what has seemed to become an in-your-face party line of Israel- bashing and Jews-blaming, when in February, Labour launched an investigation into its Oxford University student branch after the chairman stepped down with his surprising assertion that many members "have some kind of problem with Jews".

Perhaps most refreshing of all is the Muslim Labour London mayoral candidate, Sadiq Khan, condemning his own party for its failure to react immediately on the issue: "The comments from Ken Livingstone are appalling and disgusting and there should be no place in the Labour Party for anyone with those views. Racism is racism.”

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Ferreting Out Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao

"Radullan is a fairly committed Jihadist who has spent an extensive part of his life fighting on Jolo Island. Everyone puts it [the abduction of two Canadians, a Filipina and a Norwegian for ransom, the subsequent beheading of one of the captives, John Ridsdel] on him."
"[But Sahiron] is more a tribal elder than an active insurgent these days. It was Sawadjaan's Tanum group which grabbed John. It was his group which held him, it was his group which killed him. In that culture, I am sure Sawadjaan was directly involved in John's actual murder or would have been on hand for it."
"[Sahiron and Sawadjaan are] ruthless monsters. I have seen pictures and videos of what they do and I wish I hadn't."
"If you are young and unemployed, somebody will hand you a gun. But this is not an intense movement. It mostly conducts hits and runs on the military. If any infrastructure comes, their days would be numbered."
"Every day they [the remaining three captives, Canadian Robert Hall, Filiopina Maritess Flor, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad] remain out there is bad for them. From the four videos taken of them we can see how bad their situation is. Each time they are more gaunt. It is barbarism."
Marc Singer, director of business intelligence, Manila office, Pacific Strategies and Assessments Inc.
Militant Video via The Associated Press
Militant Video via The Associated Press   A militant video shows Canadians John Ridsdel, right, and Robert Hall being held captive.
"A region's long-term kidnapping threats are best dealt with through political, military and law enforcement solutions directed at the perpetrators, rather than placing additional burdens on the families of the victim by restricting negotiations or further endangering their lives through a rescue attempt."
"The most dangerous moments during a kidnapping incident are the first few minutes of the abduction and the next most dangerous time is during an attempted rescue."
Pacific Strategies and Assessments: The Myth of 'No Negotiations'
The Air Force and Navy have deployed helicopters to assist soldiers on the ground on an operation against the Abu Sayyaf, the Western Mindanao Command said. File photo

And that attempted rescue is now been carried forward, part of the Philippine military's offensive against Abu Sayyif the fanatical Islamist group in the Philippines that has for decades confronted the government of the Philippines and carried out forays attacking military bases, abducting Filipino citizens and foreigners for profit through offering their release on payment of ransom. In some instances, killing those whom they take  hostage, in the time-honoured manner of how Islam treats its enemies; beheadings.

'No negotiations' with terrorist groups extorting vast sums of money from governments for the release of their captured nationals is indeed a ruse practised by governments claiming to be immune from the kind of criminality that demands payment to support their terrorist agenda. But there are negotiations going forward in just about every instance, some using foreign intermediaries through whom money is funnelled, and others quasi-governmental appointees to act in lieu of government.

No Western government feels comfortable seeing its citizens become victims of barbaric slaughter; it does not play well in the larger community which feels that government has an obligation to protect and come to the rescue of its citizens. The cynical ploys used by government heads to baldly state that their governments will not engage in supplying terrorists with the wherewithal to continue their exploits convinces no one, least of all the very terrorists who receive the funding and release their captives.

And although many intelligence groups and personalities scoff at the links between militant Islam and Abu Sayyif, a group they claim has limited knowledge and vision of Islam, but is criminally motivated through self-interest, claiming affiliation with and allegiance to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL itself is delighted to take credit for inspiring the action of a far-off link to their caliphate, spreading the divine word of Islamic conquest.

Apologists in the West who 'understand' the motivation of young Muslim men to lend themselves to jihad, claiming that poverty and lack of education move them toward enlisting in a group whose modus operandi is to stifle any possible vestiges of humanity in their recruits, in the greater interests of instilling terror in non-Muslims to enable their marauding conquests with their targets shrinking in fear from their formidable reputation for savagery, overlook that just as many jihadists are well educated and from well-off backgrounds.

A reputation for ruthless terrorism works to instill fear in the West, and in the East as well. It worked for ISIL when facing and challenging their sectarian counterparts in the Iraqi military who broke ranks to shirk from confronting Islamic State in Mosul and elsewhere. The Philippines' brand of jihadism is comprised of a relatively limited number of dedicated fighters. The military is in possession of weapons of modern warfare, including helicopters, artillery and gunships that can be deployed for the use of their thousands of soldiers.

The weapon that the Muslim insurgents finds most useful is the dense jungle they find haven in, and the Muslim-majority population among whom they mingle who will not betray their presence and from among whom they are able to operate to advantage. The advantages of surprise and of savage intent are also invaluable assets to guerrilla groups like jihadists. When state militias meet non-state fighting groups like jihadis and they use the same brutal tactics, they are condemned by civilized rules of conflict.

The simple fact is an abhorrent menace to civilization must be eradicated. And to do that is to deploy all means to take the advantage of numbers, and when conflict ensues the rule of law sometimes fades because those meeting in combat with ruthless killers who believe that their religion has given them full consent to destroy what they believe is an offence to Islam, have little choice but to respond in kind to be fully effective. Descending, in other words, almost but not quite to the level of brutality employed by jihadis.

Handout    A poster showing Rudullan Sahiron, a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group responsible for the murder of Canadian hostage John Ridsdel in the Philippines.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

The House of Peace

"Many of the Canadians [recruits travelling to Syria and Iraq to join the jihad], for example, found their way into the propaganda wing of Daesh."
"I would argue that would be equally as dangerous, maybe more, than someone who is joining the military wing. A lot of these young Western adherents to Daesh are put on the front lines and die very quickly. Someone who is working in the propaganda wing can hurt us over and over and over again."
"[Propaganda plays a prominent role in ISIL recruitment as interviews with returning foreign fighters suggest they had been] mesmerized by the abhorrent violence that they saw on the screen and there was something in that violence that drew them to participate in it."
"The unsaid promise of sex, either legitimately through the promise of marriage to like-minded people in the caliphate, or through the participation in pillage and rape, has also been cited, albeit privately, as a key recruitment driver by some returnees."
Andy Ellis, formerly assistant director of operations, Canadian Security Intelligence Service

'Flames of War' screen grab
An Islamic State group fighter is pictured in this screen grab from the group's video "Flames of War." Photo: al-Hayat Media

The RCMP is in the process of investigating to determine whether it had been a Canadian voicing threats on an English language ISIL video, called Flames of War. The video showed the narrator dressed in camouflage, black mask covering his face as he forced prisoners to dig their own graves. And then the video showed the climax, with the prisoners executed, the graves made instant use of.

Not that precisely this scenario hadn't surfaced before; it was, until the Nazis perfected their ghoulish extermination machinery of gassing and then incinerating the bodies of millions of Jews, a genocidal device of the Holocaust. This is merely the Islamist jihadists' more modest, beginner-series version of the holocaust they plan to execute on the world of non-Muslims at large in the greater interest of transforming humanity into a homogeneous Islamist slave market.

Canadians, stated Mr. Ellis, do not yet fully appreciate the gravity of the terrorist threat that struggles to envelope the world, including Canada. In fact, the same could certainly be said of the entire non-Muslim world, with few exceptions. Society in the West, civilized society that models itself on the Judeo-Christian template and whose governments feature some version of democracy, is given to the generous belief that such ghastly scenarios cannot prevail.

And that a world religion is being slandered through the base interpretation of a relative handful of violent believers. When in fact the religious ideology those believers rely upon is baldly stated in the scriptures sacred to Islam and represent the two most important pillars in the scaffolding of the faith; the superiority and exceptionality of Islam as the one and only true faith, and the imperative to action of all believers to transform the world into a House of Islam.

Most Friday night sermons faithfully repeated by imams in mosques throughout Europe and North America quote traditional prayers that in point of fact repeat ad infinitum the inferiority of non-Muslims, infidels and Jews as the enemies of Islam. Yet the West insists on viewing Islam as a religion of peace, because this is what the faithful themselves call it. They term Islam as a religion of peace because in the Koran Muslim states are referred to as the House of Peace.

And that contrasts directly with the rest of the world, the non-Muslim part, which, not worshipping Islam, is referred to as the House of War. It is the sacred obligation of the House of Peace to turn the House of War into a complete landscape of submission to Islam, thereby transforming the House of War into the House of Peace. And when the world is Islamic in its devotion, then peace will prevail.

In theory, at any event, since Islam is comprised of various sects, all of which appear on the evidence, to loathe one another.

In the House of Peace that is Muslim countries of the world, the world is witness to the murderous conflict taking place between Sunni and Shiite Islam. Syria, as the most obvious current example, has become a charnel house, the landscape soaked with the blood of Sunnis slaughtered by Shiites and Shiites slaughtered by Sunnis. And this is the House of Peace.

isis news, isil news, is news, islamic state news, daesh news, syria news, iraq news, terrorism news, africa news, al qaeda news

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Negotiating With Islamist Terrorists

"You [Abu Sayyaf, Philippine-based Islamist jihadi group linked to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] have chosen only the language of force, and we will speak to you only in that language."
Brig.-Gen. Allan Arrajado, Jolo Island, Philippines
The April 6 clash with Abu Sayyaf on the island of Basilon was the largest single-day combat loss by government forces in Mindanao this year [AP File Photo]
The religiously Roman Catholic Philippines has struggled for years with the separatist ambitions of a minority Muslim Filipino population on Jolo Island, a heavily forested mountainous region of the country. The jihadi group formerly aligned with al-Qaeda and more recently identifying themselves with ISIL has all the trappings of a group of violent thugs covering themselves with the religious mantel of Islamist jihad.

Their business is to murder and to pillage, and for relief from those heavy duties, kidnapping of foreigners and Philippine citizens alike for profit. Europeans abducted by Abu Sayyaf are usually freed on receipt of the demanded ransom. Unless they're from Britain which has a rock solid policy of having no truck with terrorist demands, or the United States which also does not fund terrorist action through transferring funds for the release of its nationals.

Militant Video via The Associated Press
A militant video shows Canadians John Ridsdel, right, and Robert Hall being held captive. AP

Several days ago, Canadian former journalist and oil and mining executive, John Ridsdel became one of those unfortunate abductees who, no ransom forthcoming, was summarily beheaded as threatened. Although a representative of the government of Canada was involved in negotiations for the release of four captives of his group, two Canadians, a Filipino and a Norwegian, agreement evaded, the deadline passed, and Mr. Ridsdel became another gruesome statistic of jihad.

His head, stuffed in a plastic bag, was tossed from a motorcycle where children were playing in Joli city near the town hall. His torso, yet to be officially identified, was discovered in a forested area. "Our primary objective is to rescue the [remaining] hostages and ensure the safety of the civilian population", said Philippine President Benigno Aquino, adding that the murder was meant to terrorize all Filipinos.

Handout   A poster showing Rudullan Sahiron, a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group responsible for the murder of Canadian hostage John Ridsdel in the Philippines.

"[The situation] is a problem because of the sizeable force surrounding [Radullan] Sahiron [leader of the 400-strong Abu Sayyaf group] and the captives, but it is also an opportunity because smashing these forces is within our grasp. What has to be of utmost importance is neutralizing the criminal activities of Abu Sayyaf", stated Mr. Aquino, whose government will not under any circumstances negotiate with the jihadists.

They point out that to do so is to fund terrorist activities and to encourage them to keep on abducting people to extract additional hostage rescue funding from nations who surrender to their demands. "Aside from state sponsorship of terrorism, ransom payments are the greatest source of terrorist funding today. These ransom payments are used to fuel the whole cycle of terrorist activities, including inflicting indiscriminate harm", noted David S. Cohen, U.S. Treasury Department undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

"Improving the international effort against kidnapping-for-ransom is an urgent challenge", he stated. His Treasury Department calculated that ransom payments to terror groups added up to $165- million in total for the period 1998 to 2014. Two years ago an investigation undertaken by the New York Times showed that al-Qaeda and its affiliates had received approximately 125 million of that total alone, most of it coming from European governments.

A United Nations analysis estimated separately that ISIL had earned a likely $45-million from ransoms for the release of kidnapped foreigners just in 2014. Adding substantially to their income from bank robbery, extortion, oil and antiquities smuggling and other rackets. UN member states were directed to prevent the payment of ransoms through a 2009 resolution passed by the UN Security Council.

An Al Jazeera investigative unit exposed a number of Italian concessions and coverups when a Syrian group was paid around $4-million for the release of an Italian and a Belgian journalist. Another $11-million went to the Syrian al-0Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra for the release of two aid workers, while $525,000 was paid in ransom for the release of a man and woman who had been kidnapped by Somali pirates. Kidnapping represents an easy income for Islamist terrorists.

The fact that some of those kidnapped were not exchanged for cold hard cash, but instead were used as horrific props in the Islamist propaganda machine appalled a world not yet grown accustomed to seeing people cowering in fear before having their heads sawn apart from their bodies. Not a clean sweep by a sharp scimitar, but the prolonged agony of unspeakable pain and gory aftereffect, the penalty of being an American journalist or aid worker.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Chernobyl, Sealed

"Russian aggression had undermined the trust of non-nuclear governments in the non-proliferation of these weapons, and threatened the repeat of a nuclear catastrophe in our country."
"[Ukraine would] neither today, nor tomorrow [halt nuclear reactors providing power for Ukraine in reflection of its vital need for energy independence from Russian gas]."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
The arch, though, is a formidable structure, said Vince Novak, the director of nuclear safety for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which administers the project’s financing. If necessary, he said, “it might be able to last 300 years or more.”

Addressing his country on the 30th anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power explosion and meltdown, President Poroshenko spoke of Moscow's support for ethnic Russian Ukrainian separatists in the eastern  Ukraine, and the potential threat of a repeat of the catastrophe that might have ensued during the course of its actions there. The domination of the Soviet past was revisited on an unwilling Ukraine by its former nemesis.

It has taken thirty years, but finally the international efforts to seal the remains of the exploded nuclear reactor No.4 is close to completion. The immense dome meant to seal the reactor was the setting for Mr. Poroshenko's speech to his nation. He made note of the fact that fighting between the military and the insurgents had occurred a mere several hundred kilometres from the city of Zapaorozhiye where the nuclear power plant stood.

The New Safe Confinement structure is meant to contain the radiation from the worst nuclear catastrophe in a century, according to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, leading the project. And when that giant deadly tomb is finally sealed, the international community will withdraw, leaving destitute Ukraine to fend for itself in managing future nuclear waste disposal.

"By the time we were evacuated, we had been exposed for 36 hours. My entire family has been affected by this. We are all sick. My daughter, my son, my husband and me", stated Nadiya Makyrevych, a survivor of the catastrophe who lived with her family in the town of Pripyat, where there were no warning sirens installed in the town, and it took Soviet authorities quite some time to alert residents even as a radioactive cloud rose over Eastern Europe.

Even then, there was no word of the sheer magnitude of the nuclear event that tore apart peaceful life in the area, making the area unsafe for human habitation for generations while authorities sat on the botched experiment at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The wrecked reactor No. 4 along with the initial protective "sarcophagus" that had been installed in 1986, are set to be sealed by an immense 35-storey arched dome, wheeled into permanent place, next year.

Once sealed, robotic cranes within the structure will be programmed to disassemble the destroyred reactor. The disposal of a thick, lava-like mass filled with uranium will complete the dismantling and neutralization of the reactor. As long as all goes as planned.

The arch stands 360 feet high and 540 feet long and will be the biggest moving structure in the world when it slides into place atop a concrete sarphogus built atop the melted down reactor four after the disaster. It is tall enough to fit the Statue of Liberty, from the base to the torch.
The arch stands 360 feet high and 540 feet long and will be the biggest moving structure in the world when it slides into place atop a concrete sarphogus built atop the melted down reactor four after the disaster. It is tall enough to fit the Statue of Liberty, from the base to the torch. Photo: John Wendle for The Wall Street Journal

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Canada To The Rescue -- Or Not

"I always admired John [Ridsdel, abducted, beheaded] ; he was a free spirit and he found a rich, full life in the bigger world outside Canada. He was also well aware of the risks he faced in making life choices and lived a well considered life knowing those risks."
"I also know John would be appalled that his passing and the manner in which it happened would be used to close doors to international understanding, our relation to the Muslim community or our ideas about immigration. He embraced culture diversity and international understanding and had immense pride in the roles his daughters were playing in their chosen fields."
Bob Foulkes, Vancouver consultant

"He [Canadian Robert Hall, abducted by Abu Sayyaf along with John Ridsdel, for ransom] talked about the people being amazing and it being such a beautiful place. He just raved about it."
"I asked him, 'Will you come back to Canada?' And he said, 'I don't think so. I love it'. And then this happened and you go, oh my goodness. All your hopes and dreams."
Yvonne Coccio, British Columbia

"I appeal to my family, the Philippine government, and the Canadian government. My specific appeal is to the Canadian government who I know has the capacity to get us out of here. I wonder what they are waiting for."
Robert Hall, 50, Canadian adventurer
A still image captured from video footage of the kidnappers and their victims is shown in this SITE Intelligence Group video made available to Reuters. File photo

"Canada does not and will not pay ransom to terrorists, directly or indirectly."
"Obviously, this is a significant source of funds for terrorist organizations that then allow them to continue to perpetrate deadly acts of violence against innocents around the world."
"But more importantly, paying ransom for Canadians would endanger the lives of every single one of the millions of Canadians who live, work and travel around the globe every single year."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
And there are plenty of them, those Canadians "who live, work and travel around the globe". Almost 59 million trips were made by Canadians in 2013 to foreign parts. And almost 2.8 million Canadians live overseas. They can be found in remote and dangerous locations; some, like John Ridsdel in exploration for undiscovered mineral reserves. And then there are aid workers and missionaries feeling morally driven to offer their help to people in developing countries.

Canadians, in the past several years, have been abducted by criminal and terrorist groups across Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Experts feel that these abductions are a rising phenomenon as terrorist groups realize they can be useful in raising funds for their operational expenses. Canadians, however, cannot reasonably expect their government to be able always unfailingly to rescue them when they find themselves in these dire situations.

And while there is a limit to what governments can do, and many governments prefer to do nothing officially in shared reflection of the declaration of Mr. Trudeau's statement, the avenue of negotiating with terrorists remains open conducted by private groups, skilled professional negotiators representing families of the abducted. Which is how Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay were released by a West African terrorist group, though it is generally held that government money paid for their release.

That didn't stop former diplomat now retired Robert Fowler from excoriating the government for being laggardly in their release, despite other countries' and their diplomats' interventions in concert with the government of Canada. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper came in for some contemptful and contemptible criticism from Mr. Fowler who felt his choice to place himself in potential danger warranted an all-stops rescue effort from his country.

Had Stephen Harper ever publicly expressed the bald views now aired by his successor, he would have been publicly pilloried as a heartless politician with an overt agenda, pleased to leave unfortunate victims of circumstances to their own devices, and if that included beheading, then so be it. Trudeau, on the other hand, is able to say whatever he wishes, and no one seems to care to consider he could have said less.

In Mr. Hall's case, it seems that the southern Philippines held an especial attraction for this man because of its lawlessness. Courting danger has its moments, no doubt, but once an abduction takes place and a defenceless person is surrounded by dangerous, surly, armed jihadis, the idea of placing oneself in such a personally compromised position may lose much of its lustre. Certainly, Mr. Hall, in his videoed statement seemed to feel, like Mr. Fowler, that Canada has let him down.

"He's an adventurer. He's just always looking for the next thing", stated his stepmother. He planned to ship out from the Philippines and go on to Thailand before his abduction on September 21, 2015 along with Mr. Ridsdel, a Filipino friend and the Norwegian manager of the isolated marina they all had their boats moored at, while they enjoyed the beautifully lush natural surroundings.

The shock of 68 year-old Canadian John Ridsdel's beheading by a Philippines' terrorist cell is still reverberating, with many Canadians who have a penchant for visiting exotic places of the world where threats to their existence in the form of jihadist groups like Abu Sayyaf are becoming an increasing potential no doubt giving second thought to their plans.

Travelling to world hot spots because they are exciting and romantic has its attractions; somewhat modified by the knowledge that danger also lurks.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Conniving as Only a Mind Mired in Medieval Tribalism Can

"In the tangled world of the Middle East, 'My enemy’s enemy is my friend' is the dictum most likely to cause tragic mistakes. Very often, the saying would be more accurate if adapted to read: 'Beware the tyrant who cynically poses as an enemy of your enemy in order to strengthen his grip on power.'
So it is with Bashar al-Assad in Syria. From the very beginning of his country’s insurrection, Assad has done his best to help Islamist zealots hijack the Syrian opposition; he worked particularly hard to create ideal laboratory conditions for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL]. His supremely cynical aim was to convince the West to accept him as an essential bulwark against the very threat he helped to conjure into being. Put bluntly, Assad is an arsonist posing as a fireman.
This is an old trick. Every Arab dictator since Nasser has sought to confront his people and the world with a stark choice: either support me or watch the jihadists take over. The ruse is obvious, time-honoured – and remarkably effective."
David Blair, The Telegraph, December 2015

From December of 2015 and an informed journalist's take on the situation known for quite some time that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was earning huge profits through the oil fields it had taken from the governments of both Iraq and Syria, with the help of Turkey and Syria. Nominally it was taken for granted that both countries viewed ISIL as terrorist threats, but Turkey is well known to have nurtured ties with the Sunni jihadis and it was no surprise that oil reached the black market through Turkey, and Syria's Bashar al-Assad saw sinister profit for himself in their enrichment as well.

So the latest revelations that the Syrian government was busy cutting deals with ISIL -- aiding the jhadis to earn over $40-million monthly from oil sales should be no big surprise. It's just that with the emergence of actual documentation which a U.S./British raid on an ISIL commander's base have revealed the details and since the devil's in the details, there is great fascination to parse those documents. In the form of thousands of spreadsheets maintained by ISIL's oil minister, Abu Sayyaf.

Last year's big U.S. Special Forces raid secured those documents for penetrating inspection into how well ISIL was benefited when it captured some of Syria's eastern oilfields in 2013. Two years earlier claims had surfaced that the regime was purchasing oil from Islamic State, and they were held to be rumours which Syria could easily deny. Now the scale of the collusion between the Syrian regime and Islamic State has been fully revealed.

In late 2014 to early 2015, at the height of production, $40.7-million in monthly profits accrued to the Islamic State treasury. Helping to shore up its wealth just as the wealth of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States swelled through the sale to the West of their petroleum resources. One memo in particular highlights the ties through a query from ISIL's treasury to the office of Abu Sayyaf seeking guidance on the establishment of investment ties with businessman linked to Bashar al-Assad's Baathist regime.

Citing agreements permitting truck and pipeline transit from fields controlled by Syria through ISIL-controlled territory, the background to the guidelines requested was abundantly clear; purported enemies made for tight business partners. Once Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had established his caliphate, he recognized the potential in Abu Sayyaf, appointing him top operator of ISIL's oil business, headquartered in the al-Omar field near the Iraqi border, previously operated by Royal Dutch Shell.

The human dimensions are just as fascinating. Rather than dismiss Syrian state employees from the oilfields, Abu Sayyaf persuaded them to remain where they were, to work for ISIL, and their recompense would be salaries much higher than they had previously earned; up to four times national rates. So 152 Syrians remained to work at the al-Omar field in Deir Ezzour, and aside from their princely salaries they also received the occasional threat of beheading for any disobedience they might be rash enough to engage in.

The division of the ISIL oil ministry headed by Abu Sayyaf was responsible for delivering $289.5-million to ISIL in the space of six months. Until the raid that destroyed Abu Sayyaf in 2015, those handsome revenues continued to roll in, profiting Islamic State with the neighbourly aid of the Syrian regime.

Department official Adam Szubin said militants were selling as much as $40 million a month of oil at the installations which was then spirited on trucks across the battlelines of the Syrian civil war and sometimes further.
"ISIL is selling a great deal of oil to the Assad regime," Szubin, acting under secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence with the Treasury, told an audience at Chatham House in London.
"The two are trying to slaughter each other and they are still engaged in millions and millions of dollars of trade," Szubin said of Assad's government and Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
The "far greater amount" of Islamic State oil ends up under Assad's control while some is consumed internally in Islamic State-controlled areas. Some ends up in Kurdish regions and some in Turkey, he said.
"Some is coming across the border into Turkey," Szubin said when asked for details on the money trail.
"Our sense is that ISIL is taking its profits basically at the wellhead and so while you do have ISIL oil ending up in a variety of different places that's not really the pressure we want when it comes to stemming the flow of funding - it really comes down to taking down their infrastructure," he said.
Reuters, December 10, 2015

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