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Current MI5 rates: visit a mosque over six weeks, earn two grand.

I argued earlier in the month that MI5 is more than adaquately funded and must be running at least two to three thousand Muslim agents. Much Islamist activity in the UK is paid for by the Security Service, which is a way of making sure it is monitored, but this also means that the threat of Muslim terrorism will never go away, because it pays very well to pretend it exists. I was not in the least surprised to read in today’s papers that the going rate for reporting on a mosque is about two grand for six weeks.

Incidentally, there are at least a thousand working mosques in the UK. If MI5 has an agent in each one, the bill for mosque informers alone runs to over £17m per year, and that still leaves perhaps a further two thousand or so pseudo-Islamists on the payroll. But considering MI5’s annual budget must exceed five hundred million, that’s chicken feed.

Much, if not most, terrorist activity in Northern Ireland was funded by MI5 too. Of course the IRA, and its rivals, are capable of signing a ceasefire agreement. This is not the case with lone wolf domestic Islamism. There are thousands of Islamist agents who have carte blanche to distribute illegal copies of Inspire (which is probably written by spooks in the first place) and pretend they want to blow up the Stock Exchange/Buckingham Palace/Ministry of Sound etc. British anti-terrorism efforts have created and sustained a network of dangerous posers with no command structure. What happens when, like Adebolajo, some decide to turn on their masters? How does the Security Service expect to get the genie back in the bottle?

Answer: it doesn’t. It will run forever. The money is there, after all. This is how institutions work. They can accept anything, except that which undermines the institution. The RUC was not so different.




There Are No Cleanskins: running agents in the age of social media

For as long as humint as existed, agents have supplied it. Defectors and refugees provide human intelligence, sometimes for very long periods of time prior to their actual departure from theatre. Other human intelligence comes from what you might call infiltration, through men and women who are enticed to join target organisations, or occupy other designated areas, using real or assumed identities.

That used to be the model, anyway. Problematically, assumed identities in an age of social media are impossible. You will be found out. Somebody will see you, and remember you. State-level intelligence agencies already have some capability to run automated facial recognition programmes on all popular social media. Indeed, this is one of the key reasons why employees of MI5, SIS and GCHQ are specifically forbidden to post or update social media profiles. Direct infiltration under cover, like the Metropolitan Police were doing with protest groups in the nineties, is no longer a viable technique. You cannot live long under alias if you are on the internet.

With that in mind, let us consider the sheer volume of agents which the British intelligence community is likely to be handling. MI5 used to state in its own recruitment literature that its handling officers are expected to run between twenty and thirty agents a head (remember the vast majority of these will be using their real identities). That sort of workload is probably similar to that found in SIS. Budgets for running agents have increased dramatically since 9/11, so it is reasonable to assume that networks have been growing since then. MI5 employ around 4,000 people. Assuming it can task one thousand operational intelligence officers with Islamic extremism, the Security Service’s biggest concern, they could very easily be expected to be running somewhere between two and three thousand agents. Almost every one of these will be people using their own identities, pretending to be committed jihadis.

In 2007 Jonathan Evans, then Director General of MI5, publicly announced that his officers were monitoring two thousand potential Islamic terrorists (“potential”, nota bene). In February of this year, “highly placed MI5 sources” told the Financial Times there were now 3,000 on the “watchlist”. You will notice that both these figures bracket exactly the likely range of MI5’s Islamist agent population. And I do not think this is a coincidence.

Ponder the history of Northern Ireland, a field in which MI5 applied far less resources than it currently does to combating Islamic extremism. By the time of the Good Friday Agreement, British intelligence was collectively running not hundreds, but thousands, of agents and informers in Ulster. Military personnel I knew often complained to me that “we know who all the bad guys are, we could take them all out in one weekend” but politics made it impossible. This was partly true. We didn’t just know who all the bad guys were, we were paying them. They were agents, also known as Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS).

In Northern Ireland, collusion between paramilitaries and the intelligence community was rife. British intelligence officers bloodied their hands. They protected informants even when they killed innocent civilians, and they continue to protect them today. As astonishing as it may seem, there are many cases where operational officers knew innocents would be killed, and they did nothing to stop it. They even actively helped facilitate it. According the De Silva Report, 85%  of UDA targeting was done by the British intelligence community. Although the BBC’s Panorama programme is often hyperbolic, asinine and biased, Darragh Macintyre’s Britain’s Secret Terror Deals was a superb recap of what we know.

Information about agent handling in Northern Ireland continues to drip into the public domain. The three reports of Lord Stevens are all still classified, but he has let slip some incredible revelations. During his investigations into collusion between terrorists and the British intelligence community, the former Met commissioner arrested 210 former paramilitaries.

“Of the 210 people we arrested,” Stevens told the press, “only three weren’t agents.”

Please, please ponder that statistic. Stevens’ sample shows an infiltration rate of 98.6%. At least half of the IRA were actually British informants. Now apply that ratio to the number of potential Islamist terrorist suspects mentioned above, bearing in mind that we are dedicating far more resources to this newer threat. If you were to draw a Venn diagram of jihadi suspects and jihadi agents, I suspect you would have two circles that almost exactly overlap.

The profile of Islamist terrorists supports this conclusion. There are no cleanskins. Every attempted act of terrorism, every terrorist sympathiser, everyone is already known and on file. But, we are told, the Security Services somehow overlooked them. Do you believe this? Do you believe the argument made by Evans and others, that “we simply don’t have the resources to follow everyone all of the time”? I believe the reverse is more likely. Our intelligence community is more than adequately resourced, and the vast majority of so-called jihadis have existing operational relationships with the police and/or the Security Service and/or some other branch of the intelligence community. Given the sheer scale of Britain’s agent network, mistakes in handling will be made, which explain instances like the murder of Lee Rigby (the Intelligence and Security Committee has yet to deliver its promised report on the mishandling of Michael Adebolajo).

Agents know their job requires that they break the law, and agents expect they will be protected from the consequences. This is the essence of the deal. In the words of one former Belfast agent, they “walked on water”. Some were effectively state-sponsored serial killers. Their successors exist today, paid recruits of SIS and MI5, in Iraq and Syria. I cannot and will not pretend I know that Jihadi John is a British agent, but he is the son of a former agent, and if I was a non-cleanskin Islamist agent in place I would behave exactly as he has done. Indeed, such behaviour may have been expected of me by my target, as a kind of test or induction. You could speculate on any number of reasons why Mohammed Emwazi became “radicalised”, but the most likely is surely that some intelligence agency was paying him. There is even a 2009 audio recording in circulation in which Emwazi claims he isn’t an extremist, and that MI5 are harassing him.

It is absolutely par for the course that Emwazi’s family is protected by the UK government. They have been given safe houses in Britain and Kuwait, where his father is voluntarily talking to Kuwaiti intelligence.

I think I know what will happen to the majority of UK Islamists who left to join ISIS. They will disappear, like all the Iraqi WMD scientists did. They will just vanish. They will be exfiltrated and offered new lives. It won’t be hard to get them out: the SAS are already driving around ISIS territory in fancy dress. Emwazi may already have left. Similarly, I am confident the bodies of Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin will never be found. Undoubtedly, their families have been or will be offered settlements by the government.

“We’re confident [Khan is] dead but not absolutely categoric,” tweeted Shiraz Maher of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization. Of course you can’t be categoric. Very few agents can be accommodated on re-entry as comfortably as Majiid Nawaz or Tommy Robinson.


FOOTNOTE Agents who were recruited in the late nineties, before the dawn of social media, and who are still in place, will have been compelled to continue under their assumed identities. There are probably still a couple in the trade union movement. Indeed I can think of one very likely candidate, who is currently demonstrating a puzzling solidarity with Ukrainian nationalists. I doubt any of his communist/anarchist colleagues have ever met a single member of his family.



On The Bombing Of Markets

Forget about the brokers in Shanghai.

On Sunday the 16th of August the market in Douma, an outer suburb of Damascus, was bombed. The news was first reported by the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, in a series of escalating bulletins until it finally arrived at the headline “more than 330 civilians killed and wounded in the genocide committed by the regime warplanes in Duma”.

Doumas market hours later. Credited to Firas Abdullah, who is reported by Al Jazeera and others to be a local photographer, but who is known to the Austrian police as a Tunisian Al Qaeda supporter.

Doumas market hours later. Credited to Firas Abdullah, who is reported by Al Jazeera and others to be a local photographer, but who is known to the Austrian police as a Tunisian Al Qaeda supporter.

The “international community”, as the West and its satellites are fond of calling themselves, was quick to voice its outrage, as it has been throughout its five year campaign for Syrian regime change.

The UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien (ex-Cambridge, ex-Conservative MP), said he was “particularly appalled” at this “unlawful, unacceptable” targeting of non-combatants. The US State Department formally “condemns, in the strongest terms, the recent deadly airstrikes… on a market in the Damascus suburb of Douma that killed more than 100 people and injured hundreds, including innocent women and children.”

National Security Council Spokesperson Ned Price said: “This latest tragedy is just another reminder of the inhumane acts perpetrated daily by the Assad regime against the Syrian people.  The regime is responsible for killing thousands of innocent Syrian civilians and destroying entire towns and cities, historical sites, schools, mosques, markets, and hospitals.  These abhorrent actions underscore that the Assad regime has lost legitimacy and that the international community must do more to enable a genuine political transition.”

State Department Spokesman John Kirby said, the “airstrikes, following its other recent market bombings and attacks on medical facilities, demonstrate the regime’s disregard for human life. As we have said, Assad has no legitimacy to lead the Syrian people. The United States is working with our partners toward a genuine, negotiated political transition away from Assad that brings an end to such attacks and leads to a future that fulfils Syrians’ aspirations for freedom and dignity.”

The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, inevitably chipped in. Rupert Colville, spokesman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (ex-Harrow, ex-Cambridge, son of Jock Colville, undisclosed relationship with the Foreign Office, wink wink), whose office has maintained since 2012 that they have “enough evidence of war crimes to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court”, was equally keen to voice his concern over “the outrageous bombing of a busy local marketplace.”

And so on, and so on.

Then the Douma Co-ordinating Committee, one of a network of committees set up on or before 2011, and funded by the US State Department and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, released a list of the dead (although it requires translation). It has 102 names on it. Ninety nine of them are men. Does that sound like a normal gender spread for an Arabic market? The Syrian government maintain they actually targeted a rebel HQ near the market. Given the fatalities, and Douma’s long-standing status as a rebel bastion, doesn’t that sound more plausible than the idea Assad’s air force are targeting Sunday markets?

For those keen to pore over pictures of this and other bombed markets, and ponder the damage and corpses therein, or lack therof, Eric Draitser has a compendium of links in this very relevant article. Draitser is of the opinion that the extant footage from Douma is far less gruesome than might be expected. What makes things murkier still is that soon afterwards all the bodies were buried in mass graves, so no identification or inquest is possible.What footage we do have reveals no sign at all of how the men were killed. They’re wrapped in blankets, and most do seem to be of fighting age. Draitser even speculates they might just as easily have been brought in from fighting elsewhere. Unsurprisingly it turns out that at least one of the Douma market victims miraculously survived.

Get into character Mohammad: you've just emerged from three days trapped in rubble.

Mohammad has just emerged from three days trapped in rubble.

In 2013 Douma was also the scene of another alleged war crime: a chemical weapons attack, one of several such attacks across Syria, attacks which were extensively recorded and reported. However, as with the market bombing, I’m not quite sure the evidence for these stacks up either (the UN feels the same way, so does Stratfor, and so does Gareth Porter, to name but a very few, while Mossad, the JIC and The Sun thought otherwise).

The story reminded me that despite the fact markets have no military value, they’re bombed all the time. Sometimes we presume it is simply an accident, like when the RAF bombed the market at Fallujah, killing between 50 people (the MoD’s figure, when they eventually admitted responsibility) and 200.  But in almost every case, with the exception of four or five relatively minor incidents in Israel, whenever markets have been bombed over the last twenty years or so, the victims have been Muslim (I have started to compile a spreadsheet). These bombings occur with incredible frequency, and an astonishing number of them are never claimed by any terrorist group. Isn’t that bizarre? It suggests a strategy of tension, or perhaps several of them. Certainly it warrants further study.

Most of all, the reports from Douma reminded me of the market bombings in Sarajevo, or the Markale massacres, as they are sometimes known. The market in Sarajevo was bombed three times: once in 1992, once in 1994, and again in 1995. Or perhaps more accurately, it was hit by 120mm mortar shells. On each occasion there was ambiguity about whether the Bosnian Serbs were actually responsible. General Michael Rose believed the shells actually came from the Bosnian side. Multiple sources (such as Michael Rose, David Owen, Boutros Boutros Ghali, President Mitterand, and Yasushi Akashi, the UN Special Envoy for Bosnia) refer to a secret UN investigation which found exactly that. A second, non-secret UN report (the one intended for publication) confined itself to saying the attack could not be confidently attributed to any particular faction.

I have visited the market in Sarajevo. An arc of attack was not apparent. Sightlines were few and very narrow. It would take exceptional skill, I think, to accurately and reliably hit it with the groupings and timings we are asked to believe in. I do not seek to exonerate the Bosnian Serbs, who seem to have sniped and shelled Sarajevo at will, but the mortar attacks in question reveal what you might call a tradition of unattributed, misreported, propagandistic attacks on Muslim markets. And the CIA and the Saudi-funded Islamists were present then just as they are today.

Sarajevo market bombed. What started here? (Patrick Chauvel, 5 February 1994).

The bombing of Sarajevo market. What started here? (Patrick Chauvel, 5 February 1994).

In memoriam.



Further evidence of the Israeli-Saudi Alliance: Pinkwashing Yemen

This piece, by an American undergraduate intern at The Tower magazine, was picked up by the Irish Times on the weekend, and it is the most cynical bit of “pro-intervention” journalism I have seen for some time. Someone on Tara Street should get their knuckles rapped for running it, and not lightly.

Yemen threw off its Saudi-US puppet, the “internationally backed” Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in a popular uprising in January (Hadi come to power during the Arab Spring in a deal which meant his predecessor could step down without facing criminal charges; Hadi was the sole election candidate and he claimed to have won over 99% of the vote). The uprising had been conducted under the aegis of the Houthis, a Shia-orientated power bloc which represented huge swathes of the country. Naturally, the Saudi royalty and other Emirati were terrified, as their brittle monarchies are particularly susceptible to popular revolution. As they are wont to do (see Bahrain), they blamed Iranian subterfuge for the fall of Hadi, rather than admit to their own inherent, undemocratic weaknesses, and thus the Houthi are portrayed not as any kind of national movement but simply as the agents of Tehran.

Consequently, a military alliance has been formed, to take back the country for the ousted placeman (he resigned, actually, but the details are convoluted). The Saudis and the UAE have ground troops inside the country. The UAE would appear to be working in loose conjunction with Al Qaeda, also an active force inside southern Yemen. Egypt, under Sisi, has also allied itself with Riyadh, although only in so far ( I believe) as offering to deploy some friendly warships. The US and the UK, both long-term opponents of popular government in the Middle East, are helping with intelligence-sharing and targeting (and they’ve been atrocious at it). I wouldn’t be surprised if some spec ops were involved too.

Formally, Israel and Saudi Arabia are sworn enemies, but it’s long been speculated they formed a secret alliance after “the redirection” of 2007, a theory supported by Gladstone’s article. The Tower magazine is the house publication of The Israel Project, an organisation described (by its supporters) as “Israel’s most effective nongovernmental public relations agency”, being “a private initiative funded by wealthy backers that [engages] journalists (and others) with information targeting their working needs.”

Founded in 2002, The Israel Project quickly became “one of the Jewish community’s fastest-growing organizations”, and is noted (again, by its supporters) for its “aggressive, in-your-face, style of operation”. It is headed by a guy who used to work as communications director at AIPAC. Everything The Tower publishers serves to advance Israeli interests. By its own admission, the magazine and the body behind it serve no other purpose. Surely the Irish Times must know this? It explains the article is an extract from a longer Tower piece in the footer.

Gladstone’s article is an example of pinkwashing, which is not a uniquely Israeli technique by any means, but the country does have a reputation for doing rather a lot of it. Homophobia is a major problem inside Israel itself, of course, but it would much rather use LGBT rights as an excuse to bomb countries it sees as geopolitical threats than attend to its own domestic problems.

Gladstone is fairly simple in his approach. Essentially, he argues that the Houthi are terrible because they have made it more difficult for middle class homosexuals to have house parties. You might think the Saudi bombs posed a bigger danger, and to Yemeni of all sexualities, but that’s not how pinkwashing works.

Bombing for gay rights!

Bombing for gay rights!

Irish Times readers might be interested to know that the article was originally titled ‘Will Yemen’s Gay Community Survive the Iran-Backed Militias Trying to Take Over?’ However, the article offers absolutely no evidence for any increased jeopardy whatsoever, and omits the fact that in Yemen, as in many Arabic countries, homosexuality has long been punishable by death. In short, it forgoes all context in order to construe a Houthi-related human rights emergency. It also repeats unqualified claims that the Houthi are Iranian-backed, and falsely asserts that Hadi is Yemen’s legitimate leader.

I have contacted Gladstone’s sole named interviewee for his opinion on the article but he has not yet responded. I understand he left the Yemen when he was three.

For those who are interested, I blogged about pinkwashing here.

Media reportage of events in Yemen has been appalling, so I will endeavour to construct a reliable timeline sometime over the next few days. If this is possible I will blog it, but if you know where to find one, please say.

The Syrian Civil War and the UN five years in

It’s been a while since we heard anything about the evils of the Syrian government. There is only so much media bandwidth for moral condemnation, and much of that has been taken up by Russia and ISIS (and in America, Iran). Although a lot of money has been spent vilifying Syria, usually in very discreet ways, it has slipped from the limelight as Washington becomes increasingly persuaded that the way to break-up Syria is to drop Assad as a casus belli and adopt ISIS instead.

The most official body charged with investigating Syrian war crimes is the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. That the UN feels the need to include the words ‘independent’ and ‘international’ in the Commissions’s formal title shows how sensitive it is to accusations of Western influence, but these fears cannot be allayed by nomenclature. It doesn’t help that of the five founding Commissioners one was a Turk who had completed a PhD in America (and who even spun her resignation into anti-Assad propaganda), another is an American whose employment history prior to joining the UN is unknown, while a third commissioner and the chairman have both held positions at American universities. Turkey and America, of course, are two long-standing belligerents in Syria’s proxy war.

The Commission itself was born out of a UN resolution, but not one derived from neither the Security Council nor the General Assembly. It was a consequence of S-17/1, passed by the UN Human Rights Council, which currently counts amongst its rotating members Qatar and Saudi Arabia, two notorious and systematic human rights abusers who comprise the two key backers of the Islamist paramilitaries inside Syria (and also Iraq, and also Yemen). This was not an auspicious start.

The resolution, and by obligation the Commission, took as read that there were “continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the killing and persecution of protesters and human rights defenders, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, [and the] torture and ill-treatment of detainees, including of children.” This followed on from an earlier fact-finding mission dispatched by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, a man who was previously Jordan’s Ambassador to the United States (Jordan being yet another opponent of the Syrian government). It’s worth pointing out the Human Rights Council could have made the same condemnation, almost word-for-word, as regards the US inside Iraq, or Saudi Arabia generally, of Qatar, or of Bahrain, of Israel, or any number of Western proxies. That it didn’t is another suggestion of institutional bias.

The Syrian Civil War is now in its fifth year, and the Commission has grown quiet. Its communications have been few. Nevertheless, its chair continues to present the crimes of the insurgents as lesser in scale, intent, and effect than that of the government, even going so far as to refute the idea that anti-government forces have any strategy to indiscriminately shell or bomb civilian areas. At the same time, the Commission has highlighted the use of “barrel bombs” by the Syrian Air Force. Barrel bombs are a crude aerial munition “increasingly employed… to reduce the cost of the protracted aerial campaigns while increasing its ability to extend them over more restive areas. It also allowed them to expand the fleet of aircraft used in assault operations to include transport helicopters.”

After Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile was officially destroyed (as well as the architecture which housed them) barrel bombs were adopted by the opponents of the Syrian government as a new and media-friendly way to emphasise Assad’s immorality. All news outlets have carried the story (here’s the BBC). Yet while the Commission’s report accepts these weapons are the consequence of a shortage of materiel, its Chairman continues to maintain that Damascus retains a “proven ability to conduct information led and precise attacks on military objectives.” How, exactly? If Paulo Pinheiro is referring to ground operations, I would dearly like to know how keen he’d be to see his son pick up an assault rifle and storm an apartment block.

Whatever the aims of the Syrian Air Force, in the hands of the UN HRC (as with Amnesty International and countless other organisations) the barrel bomb was another attempt at a “red line” triggering Western intervention. Its opinion that “area bombardment is prohibited by international humanitarian law” is a gross simplification (see Protocol I of the Geneva Convention, added 1977), but even if it were not, it’s hopelessly one-sided to indict Syria while ignoring the historical and ongoing bombardments committed by other countries.

The only other comment recently offered by the Commission has been to welcome the release of three “human rights defenders”, Hussein Ghrer, Maen Darwish, and Hani Al-Zaytani, who worked for the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression in Damascus. They were arrested in February 2012 on charges of “publicizing terrorist attacks” and “promoting terrorist activities”. They were released this summer. I have no knowledge of the facts of the case, or of the provenance of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression in Damascus, but it is worth pointing out the law in our own country (and many others) is even more draconian, as the number of putative jihadis inside HMP Belmarsh testifies. Again, this has not met with any interest from the UN Human Rights Council.

The Commission’s most significant communication this year was the 64-page report it delivered this February. The report was originally expected to deal with allegations of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government, allegations which Western media had reported as fact for a number of years, in broadcasts which sometimes resembled blatant propaganda. As regards these alleged CW attacks, most notably the attacks at Al Ghouta and Khan Al Assan, the Commission confined itself to two paragraphs and the following conclusion:

“The Commission’s evidentiary threshold was not met with regard to the perpetrator for these incidents.”

That was it. All those news reports, all those column inches, those hours of tv reportage and political debate, the rise from anonymity of bloggers like Brown Moses, have been swept under the carpet by a single sentence. Events, dear boy, events.

For those, like me, who believed the CW attacks were never anything more than anti-Syrian propaganda, the report is as close to vindication as we are ever likely to get, at least until the victims turn up in later life as unscathed survivors. I haven’t seen a UN chemical weapons report as deliberately equivocal since the Iran-Iraq War. If the Commission cannot bring itself to account for these incidents, at least its most neutral Commissioner has gone off-message to hint at the truth.  For now, the villain de jour is ISIS, and ironically it is ISIS which the West has seized on to justify its long-awaited bombing of the Syrian army – which in turn is the chief opponent of the Islamic State. I haven’t seen foreign policy as perverse as this since the Cold War.

More EMP nonsense about Iran

In my last blog I mentioned that US Senator Ron Johnson (a former plastics executive) was concerned Iran had developed an Electromagnetic Pulse Bomb, or EMP. The chief problem with this ridiculous claim is that no EMP has ever been developed, as far as we know. It is the stuff of science fiction, although Boeing recently announced it was attempting to produce one for the USAF. Whether this turns out to be a feasible weapon remains to be seen, but I’m sure they will spend a lot of tax dollars finding out.

Johnson’s EMP claims, while wildly unfounded, are now being echoed by other American hawks. Senator Ted Cruz is now also adamant that “the single greatest threat to the United States if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon is an Electromagnetic Pulse. A nuclear weapon detonated in the atmosphere over the Eastern seaboard could kill tens of millions of Americans.”

Not content with how the earlier Johnson-Moniz exchange ended (Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was being grilled by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the dangers of Iranian WMD), Cruz went on the offensive from the get-go, claiming Moniz had no idea what EMPs were, and that he hadn’t read the relevant briefing papers.

Moniz is a nuclear physicist and long-time MIT professor with a PhD from Stanford in theoretical physics, and is considered one of the foremost scientific experts in his field. Cruz got quite cross when Moniz felt unable to share his fears, because an EMP weapon remains a speculative what-if even for America’s military, which is the most lavishly funded in human history. Which makes the recent Boeing leak appear rather timely for the military industrial complex, doesn’t it?

It seems some thought and planning has gone into sinking Obama’s deal with Iran, and that an Iranian EMP was settled on as the line to take. Whoever decided that deeply implausiable angle must have had a lot of money on the table. Little wonder that this same week former President Jimmy Carter called the US “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.”

Iran: What about the flux capacitor?

The shekel has a lot to say about the Iranian nuclear deal. Zionism’s proclivity to see danger lurking everywhere has always made it a welcome influence on Capitol Hill, where shouting about evil foes has been the Republican modus operandi since the Cold War. It itsn’t at all suprising that America’s right-wing, and its mainstream media, are screaming blue bloody murder about Obama’s “historic” nuclear deal with Iran. I haven’t yet read the finer details of the agreement, but I’m sure it contains sufficient loopholes for the hawks to subvert it inside a few years, just as they did with UNSCOM in Iraq.

In my preliminary opinion the deal is a perfectly legitimate piece of politics with the dangers and risks mostly on the Iranian side. The anti-deal hysteria, however, has been ignorant and rampant in equal measure. My favourite nugget, which I relate here for flavour, is related by Said Arikat at al-Araby, concering the four and a half hour grilling the Senate Foreign Relations Committe gave John Kerry:

The hearing itself bordered at times on the ridiculous.For example, Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson (a former plastics business executive) took it upon himself to lecture Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz (a nuclear physicist by trade) about the dangers of something called an Electromagnetic Pulse bomb – a staple of science fiction, and an age-old worry within certain right-wing groups who thrive on conspiracy theories.

Until recently, Iran has never been accused of wishing to acquire fictitious weaponry.


And for Washington that’s business as normal, folks. Ron Johnson has a degree in business and accountancy from the University of Minnesota. AIPAC was actually one of his smallest campaign contributors, although the organization/s behind a further $449,000 of his war chest is categorized by Maplight as “unknown.”



Ten questions from Peter Beswick of the David Kelly Campaign Group

David Kelly campaigner Peter Beswick has supplied ten questions for me to answer as regards the Hutton Inquiry. He and I have different opinions about Kelly’s death, and Peter initially suspected I was some sort of SIS plant. I thought this exchange might illustrate why we differ, and could prove helpful for anyone who is interested in the subject. These questions are an abridged version of an earlier comment by Peter which I have held back on until I was able to contact my handlers for further instructions.*

1. What makes you think Hutton covered up Kelly’s relationships with various intelligence services? And what specifically do you think was covered up?

Hutton omits or belittles the truth that Kelly helped British, American and Israeli governments subvert UNSCOM and UNMOVIC. He sees no disinformation in the inspection process or the drive to war. Indeed he closes his eyes to all Western intelligence activity within the inspectorates. The refusal to countenance this aspect closes several lines of inquiry.

2. What specifically do you think the Hutton inquiry covered up regarding the reality of UK’s foreign policy?

That it was illegal, that it was justified by lies, and that it was ruinously destructive towards Iraq. Hutton is not prepared to ascribe to Kelly any kind of posthumous whistleblower’s defence. Ironically, he is right in doing so: Kelly was no whistleblower.

3. What do you believe were the precise nature of the pressures that drove Kelly to kill himself? The ones that Hutton covered up?

I explain in my book that Kelly had been told he had lost his security clearance. As well as exiling him from his professional world, this would also have triggered an investigation into his personal life which threatened to be deliberately invasive. Imagine it as something that looks, in a best-case scenario, like a smear campaign, and in a worst-case scenario, state blackmail.

Further, Kelly was a loyal civil servant, but his masters lay in SIS, not the MOD, and certainly not DSTL. He was still obliged to keep his work for SIS secret, and he did so up until his death. His loyalty towards SIS was an additional pressure.

Kelly also had certain personal obligations towards the Iraqi scientists he had alternately courted and intimidated for over a decade. He had made all kinds of threats and inducements towards them in secret. Concerns over the treatment of these scientists, all now high value detainees in various military prisons, may have contributed to his mental state. Certainly they appear to have bothered his colleague Rod Barton, who spoke to the media of their mistreatment.

4. Where do you think Kelly stayed on the night of 9th July 2003 and why do you think Janice Kelly went along with the elaborate tale of the flight to Weston Super Mare as described?

I think she and David stayed at an SIS safe house much nearer to home, and she went along with the Weston story because like her husband, she was loyal towards the service, and sought to protect it. There are operational and legal reasons why you might not disclose these things in public, particularly if they are immaterial to Kelly’s death.

5. Why do you think Hutton covered up the repositioning of the body after it was found by the search team?

He didn’t cover it up, perhaps the opposite. Without the testimony of witnesses at the Hutton Inquiry, you wouldn’t know the body had been moved at all. But he did ignore it, one assumes because he judged it to be immaterial. He did the same thing about the third man who was accompanying DC Coe, who we can safely assume was an officer of MI5 or MI6. I have little doubt that Kelly’s body was searched by the intelligence services prior to being handed over to Thames Valley Constabulary, and that such privileged access would be routine for someone of Kelly’s importance. Hutton, like Mrs Kelly, glosses over the activities of SIS as much as humanly possible.

6. What is your take on the disappearing / reappearing dental records, why Page misled the inquiry regarding the fingerprints and why they were only replaced after Kelly’s death? Given that they were most probably taken on the night of 9th July.

My take is that it was probably a mistake on the part of the dental surgery and the records were just misfiled. I can’t see why anyone would need dental records; I can’t see why anyone would physically remove the records instead of snap them with a camera; I can’t see why anyone, having stolen the records, would risk discovery twice by sneaking in to replace them. One could ask the dental surgery, of course.

7. What do you make of Gilligans revelations that he was told by journalist Mike Smith that the police were looking for a body. The police knew Kelly was dead before the body was found. And his boss Sambrook was informed painkillers were involved several hours before the blister packs were found in Kelly’s coat pocket by the forensic team?

My memory might have gone, but this is news to me. When did Gilligan say all this, and to whom? He didn’t mention any of this at Hutton. There is a quality of Chinese whispers to it. For now I can only add that, if you worried Kelly had sought to kill himself, it would have been perfectly natural to check the Co-Praxamol packs in the house, and see if any were missing.

8. DC Coe misled the inquiry about who accompanied him to the scene, the position of the body when he said he first saw it, how long he remained at the scene after the ambulance crew arrived and what he did in the two hours that he remained when he said he wasn’t there. He also misled the inquiry about his involvement in the search of Kelly’s home. What do you make of this?

See my answer to question five. The spooks were there first, and Coe was with one of them.

9. Evidence heard at Hutton (supplemented by forensic reports) indicates that 10 times more blood was witnessed on the right knee Dr Kelly jeans in the afternoon than was witnessed in the morning, a similar size stain was witnessed on the left knee but that had been diluted. In the morning the stain was described variously as the size of a 10p, the size of a 50p and 25mm in diameter. In the afternoon the stain was measured by the forensic team as 80mm in diameter, an area increase of more than 10 times. What do you think was going on?

Responding to this off the cuff, it would seem the stain grew a bit by the time it was measured by the forensics team. The body may only have to have been moved very slightly for this to happen. I suppose it is even possible that it might not have to be moved at all, perhaps some very small post-death blood flow from an open would occur during decomposition. The difference in the volume of blood needed to make an 80mm stain as opposed to a 25mm stain is only a few drops. Alternately, the forensics team may have measured the stain on the inside of the fabric, where it would appear bigger.

10. Mai Pederson’s lawyer had supplied the police with a 10 page witness statement 2 weeks before Page took the stand and said she had declined to give a statement. Why do you think that was and do you think her statement would have been useful?

I can tell you that Mai Pederson isn’t in the mood to talk about any of this anymore. Most of the lying at the Inquiry was done to obscure the intervention of MI5 and MI6. If you’re a police officer I am sure it is a requirement of your job that you never reveal your relationships (if any) with either service. But Assistant Chief Constable Michael Page’s comment that Pederson added absolutely nothing to his inquiry is an absolute whopper. I honestly don’t think he knew what was in her ten page report, or what she said at interview. In suppressing this evidence he had no way of knowing she wouldn’t then give an interview to the British media, for example, which is exactly what she did. I can only conjecture that Pederson’s report never found its way into the Thames Valley Investigation, and that she was interviewed by people other than Thames Valley police officers. Probably she was interviewed by MI6, MI5, or Special Branch, who were nominally “helping” out. Nobody from these organisations would owe any obligation to pass on sensitive material to normal constabularies, and it may have been suppressed by them, rather than Page. They would simply lie to him about what was said. It would also express Page’s curious expression that “she declined to give a statement as such”, because intelligence officers wouldn’t be able to take one down.

Pederson’s press interviews reveal that she had a reasonably intimate knowledge of David Kelly. She knew he had an elbow injury, for example. As for his difficulty swallowing pills, I was never able to verify it. Her statement should absolutely have found its way into the Inquiry, even if it pointed in the wrong direction. Pederson, like Norman Baker and Richard Spertzel, is of the opinion he was murdered by Iraqi intelligence. I find this implausible. The capability of Iraqi intelligence in Britain in July 2003 was nil. It was not much better inside Iraq. I don’t understand why they would want to kill Kelly either. The weapons inspectors inside Iraq were much easier targets, and I don’t think any attempt was ever made on any of them, during the inspections or after the war. During the occupation Charles Duelfer was in a Humvee that got hit by an IED, but I don’t know that he was targeted specifically.

One aspect of Pederson’s press interviews, then, is the vilification of Saddam’s Iraq, using Kelly’s death to further the same goal he pursued in his working life. You’ll also notice that few newspapers were able to resist the implication that Pederson and Kelly were sleeping together, even while printing her categorical denial. Tom Mangold has been pushing the idea of a Kelly-Pederson affair for years, but he can’t make the story stand up. These journalists did not arrive at this conclusion on their own. They were led there, and I refer you to my third answer. There were individuals priming to smear Kelly at the time of his death.





Cameron “Steps Up” To What? Britain is Anti-Syria, not Anti-Islamic State

Ignore the rhetoric, the propaganda, and spin. Washington means to take down Assad, not ISIS, and we’re going to help them. ISIS has long been part of the plan. The US and the UK have effectively backed ISIS for years. Consider a few bullet points:

  • There are no sanctions on ISIS or their Gulf funders. There are sanctions against Syria and its allies Iran and Russia.
  • British citizens are, for the most part, free to leave and join ISIS if they wish.
  • A vociferous propaganda campaign has been waged against the Syrian government in its fight against ISIS, whilst the government (and thus most of the media) has been silent about Saudi and Qatar, which whom ISIS originates.
  • Repeated allegations of CW use by the Syrian government has resulted in comprehensive CW disarmament under international auspices; during this time ISIS has obtained CW shells and the capability to use them.
  • Despite repeated advice, and abandoning all logic, Britain and the US refuse to co-operate with the elected Syrian government, pretending (as they have from the start of the Syrian Civil War) that Syria has something called “a moderate opposition” (whose media figureheads they bankroll).
  • The West are so set against the Syrian government that not only do they refuse to ally with them, they have pooled intelligence with Israel, which assassinates Syria’s senior leaders at will, as they fight against ISIS.
  • No measures have been taken against Turkey, which has been acting as ISIS’ land bridge for men and materiel. At the same time, Turkey has been an open and vocal enemy of the Syrian government.
  • Much of the materiel in use by ISIS in Iraq is of American origin, commandeered from camps and stores left, quite deliberately, in the heart of the Sunni triangle under Sunni command after America’s withdrawal.
  • Western military action against ISIS has confined itself to protecting the Kurdish client statelet.

Lord Richards, former Chief of the Defence Staff, has said that Britain’s plan to take down ISIS won’t work. Of course it won’t. It’s not supposed to. A man of his experience is being disingenuous if he cannot express that, on its current course, Western policy plainly seeks to fragment the Middle East into something that will, under one name or another, recognise the Sunni triangle as a distinct political entity. Lord Richards is allowed to reason why. After all, he’s retired now. But instead it appears he would much prefer to carry on pretending he has a commission, and do what officers have always done, which is to ask for more soldiers.

Defence Committee Chair Julian Lewis has accused Cameron of making up policy “on the hoof”, but there are two very good reasons for that. A) The ultimate goal is so manifestly imperial and exploitative the public isn’t yet ready to hear it. B) Cam has to follow Washington’s lead, and he can’t know exactly what that is. Compared to Blair, whose secret and obsequious promises of blind support for any possible American military action granted him a certain foreknowledge, Cameron is in the dark. But if Lewis or anyone else really wants to know what the plan is, don’t ask the Cabinet. Ask the Washington think tanks.

This June the Brookings Institute published “Deconstructing Syria“. The plan is simple. Use US military power, and the justification of fighting ISIS, to create “safe zones” inside Syria. Inside these zones train a new force (that mythical “moderate opposition” again) to unseat Assad. It’s a stupid plan that didn’t work with Iraq and won’t work with Syria. A nation state generally resists the political will of openly hostile foreign forces, it’s how nation states work. What it could achieve, over ten or twenty years (which is exactly how long the fight against ISIS is supposed to take) is the destruction of Syria, consigning it to the same fate as Libya. That would be perfectly fine for Washington and London and all the Gulf monarchies they protect. But it should be considered yet another war crime by everyone else.

Dark days. During the Iran-Iraq War, at least we contented ourselves simply with selling arms to both sides. As regards ISIS and Assad, we are now planning to fight on both sides: police actions in Kurdistan and guerilla warfare over the border. The scheme’s only saving grace may be that it’s impossible.

Syria: Chemical Weapons Finger Points Yet Again At The Islamists

The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights is a one-man London-based outfit which has made and conveyed allegations of war crimes and human rights abuses against the Syrian government since the outset of the Syrian Civil War. In a conflict that has seen the Saudi and Qatar spend a fortune in anti-Assad propaganda (just as they did during Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait), it can be safely assumed that the SOHR is on somebody’s payroll. I have long suspected that SIS was funding it, because it clearly doesn’t have very much money (the Observatory is run out of a two-bed terrace in Coventry) and our spooks have nowhere near the budgets the Emiratis do. I feel encouraged in this suspicion by the fact that now we are taking military action against the Syrian opposition (albeit in a dodgy, illicit, non-parliamentary way), the SOHR has finally started to report incidents in which non-government forces have done something wrong.

Towards the end of June Islamic State troops used chemical shells against Kurdish YPG fighters south of Tal Brak, and also against a residential neighbourhood in the nearby city of Al Hasakah. The SOHR also tell us the claims are backed up by doctors’ testimony and laboratory analysis, although such claims have proved almost worthless in the past. We don’t have any casualty figures either, but simply to shift the allegations of chemical weapons use from Assad to the Islamists constitutes a remarkable roll-back.

It would be nice to think that SIS have suddenly decided to do something in Syria that actually benefits both Britain and Syria, but in reality our foreign policy now calls for twice as much propaganda. No, three times. Vauxhall now has to vilify both sides in the Syrian Civil War while marketing a non-existent moderate opposition at the same time. Jesus, can’t we just back Assad and stop helping Gulf monarchies to destroy a soverign country? The Syrians have voted him in, he’s promised reform, and he’s the best hope peace has. Anyone in the Foreign Office who can’t see that is a bloody zealot. The collective denial of that institution never ceases to amaze me. It’s like Iraqi WMD all over again.

NB Lebanese television first reported that anti-government forces were using CW against the Kurds in 2013.