So Czer is ISIS really just a Saudi front created to mess w/Iran?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Utumno, Jun 14, 2014.

  1. Czer

    Czer I'm a poor person. The lambo is my cousin's.

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    This has been the actual map changes

    Turkey and HTS getting rolled, and HTS turned on Turkey once they negotiated a calm with Russia

    I don't use Iranian sources for this, usually an aggregate of SDF/SAA/Turkish to see where things really land, never western for actual information and rarely Russian or Iranian unless I can back up the same source with a local Syrian one

     
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    Czer I'm a poor person. The lambo is my cousin's.

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    Iraq defense head reported that France has withdrawn all military from the country
     
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    How to Help Iran Fight the Virus
    March 24, 2020

    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/help-iran-fight-virus-122521223.html

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Iranian doctors and nurses, like their peers worldwide, are dealing with an unprecedented public-health crisis: the coronovirus has taken more than 1,900 lives and infected 25,000, according to official statistics. But they are also dealing with a unique challenge as U.S. sanctions exacerbate shortages of crucial medical equipment.

    Faced with calls to relax sanctions during the pandemic, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has maintained that the sanctions “do not target imports of food, medicine, and medical equipment, or other humanitarian goods.” But the issue facing Iran’s healthcare system is not about what the sanctions target, but rather what their humanitarian exemptions fail to encompass. On this point, Pompeo is being disingenuous.

    The humanitarian exemptions pertain to “medicine” and “medical devices,” terms that are narrowly defined to emphasize the treatment of disease, excluding medical equipment. For example, personal protective equipment such face shields, which doctors and nurses need to protect themselves from the risk of infection and which are also used in industrial applications, do not fit the typical definition of humanitarian goods.

    Moreover, the Treasury Department requires their specific authorization for the export of a wide range of advanced medical equipment to Iran by American companies. These restrictions apply to equipment crucial for fighting the virus, including ventilators, CT scanners, decontamination equipment, and full-mask respirators.

    European and other foreign companies seeking to exports these goods to Iran are also encumbered by the U.S. regulations. International banks are reticent to accept Iran-related payments, particularly given that the Central Bank of Iran, which is subject to U.S. secondary sanctions, oversees the exchange through which importers receive foreign currency allocations.

    Although the Treasury Department issued a new general license in February reestablishing the ability of Iran’s central bank to play a role in payments related to humanitarian trade, the license does not extend to advanced medical equipment unless authorized by a specific authorization—something non-U.S. companies cannot obtain.

    For this same reason, such equipment cannot currently be sold through the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement, the payment channel often cited by Trump administration officials to show their commitment to the wellbeing of Iranians. SHTA, which launched in February, is also not an option for exporters that do not maintain an account at Banque de Commerce et de Placements, the Swiss commercial bank at the heart of the channel.

    These restrictions help explain why European exports of personal protective equipment to Iran fell by two-thirds as the Trump administration moved to isolate the Iranian economy under its “maximum pressure” campaign. Total European Union exports fell from 39 million euros in 2017 to just 13 million euros last year.

    In late February, the Trump administration “formally conveyed” an offer of assistance to Iran in confronting the virus crisis. On Sunday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said he had rejected that offer, suggesting the U.S. might include in any aid shipment “a drug that will keep the virus alive and prevent its eradication."

    Khamenei’s paranoid response stands in sharp contrast to calls for sanctions relief and other assistance issued by members of the Rouhani administration, business leaders, and prominent artists, as well as ordinary Iranians on social media.

    But the absence of public detail about the administration’s offer meant that Khamenei faced no political cost for dismissing it outright. If the administration had publicized the details for the Iranian public to see, it would have created pressure for the aid to be accepted.

    In any case, the opportunity to provide aid may have passed. Trump will find it politically difficult to send assistance to Iran now that the U.S. is facing its own full-blown crisis and seeking to import equipment from abroad. However, there are three administrative steps that could be taken that would significantly improve Iran’s ability to respond to its virus outbreak while costing the U.S. nothing at all.

    Frist, the administration should widen the scope of the humanitarian exemption to include the full range of items and equipment necessary to help Iranian doctors and nurses fight the epidemic.

    Second, it should provide comfort letters to key international banks at the heart of Iran’s commercial import of medicine and medical equipment, clarifying the scope of acceptable trade. To date, the Treasury Department has only provided such a letter to BCP as part of the new SHTA payments channel.

    Third, the administration should ease Iran’s access to its existing foreign currency reserves. The U.S. already has the means to provide this relief without granting Iran unfettered use of the funds.

    When the Trump administration eliminated waivers permitting the sale of Iranian crude to eight key customers in May 2018, it also discarded a system of escrow accounts which enabled Iran to use accrued oil revenue exclusively for the purchase of humanitarian goods from the countries to which it was exporting. This system allowed oil revenues accrued and spent outside of Iran under the strict oversight of both local regulators and the Treasury Department, effectively eliminating the risk of misuse.

    It would be easy to restore such an escrow system to enable Iran to use a portion of its ample foreign currency reserves now sitting frozen in accounts worldwide. Such a system could even be established in lieu of granting Iran the $5 billion loan it has requested from the International Monetary Fund, which would require the Trump administration to make larger political concessions.

    The Trump administration should acknowledge that limited sanctions relief—amounting to a few administrative acts—would in no way change the overall posture of its maximum-pressure policy and in no way compromise U.S. national security. Helping Iranian doctors and nurses to protect themselves so that they can bring the epidemic under control is essential to shortening the duration of the global crisis—something that is in the clear interest of all Americans.

    This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

    Esfandyar Batmanghelidj is the founder of Bourse & Bazaar, a media company that supports business diplomacy between Europe and Iran through publishing, events and research.
     
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    Jamal Khashoggi: Turkey charges 20 Saudis over journalist's murder
    25 March 2020

    https://preview.tinyurl.com/rbecsmc


    Turkey has charged 20 suspects over the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018.

    Prosecutors said an indictment accused former Saudi Deputy Intelligence Chief Ahmad Asiri and former royal aide Saud al-Qahtani with instigating the murder.

    The 18 others are accused of carrying out the "deliberate and monstrous killing" inside the Saudi consulate.

    Western intelligence agencies believe it was ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – something he denies.

    A United Nations special rapporteur says Khashoggi was "the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible".

    At the time of his death the 59-year-old worked for the Washington Post and had become a prominent critic of the Saudi government.

    Saudi authorities blamed a “rogue operation” for Khashoggi’s death. In December, a court in the kingdom sentenced five unnamed people to death and jailed three more over the murder.

    What are the charges?

    According to the indictments, announced by prosecutors in Istanbul on Wednesday, Ahmad Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani were charged with "instigating the deliberate and monstrous killing, causing torment".

    The prosecutors' statement accused 18 others of carrying out the killing - including a member of the Saudi Royal Guard, a forensics expert, and a Saudi intelligence official who has travelled with Crown Prince Mohammed in the past.

    The charges were based on witness statements, an analysis of Khashoggi’s digital devices, and records of the people entering and leaving Turkey, the statement said.

    Saudi Arabia has not yet made a public comment about the indictments.

    What happened to Jamal Khashoggi?

    The journalist – who had gone into self-imposed exile in the US in 2017 – went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018, seeking papers to marry his fiancée Hatice Cengiz.

    Investigators believe that as she waited outside, the 59-year-old was murdered and then dismembered. Khashoggi’s remains have never been found.

    The gruesome killing shocked the world and UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard said there was credible evidence that Crown Prince Mohammed and other high-level Saudi officials were individually liable.

    She called for an independent and impartial international inquiry.
     
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    James Le Mesurier: a reconstruction of his business activities and covert role
    December 16, 2019

    http://syriapropagandamedia.org/jam...on-of-his-business-activities-and-covert-role

    16 December 2019
    1 Summary
    • During the last few months, the Working Group on Syria Propaganda and Media was preparing a briefing note focusing on the publicly-funded business activities of James Le Mesurier. A near-final draft was ready when his death in Istanbul was announced on 11 November 2019. We have decided to publish it, with minimal updating, as the material is relevant both to understanding the role of the UK government in the Syrian conflict and also to the investigation of Le Mesurier’s death.
    • Le Mesurier was founder of three companies named “Mayday Rescue”: Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC in Dubai (2014), Mayday Search and Rescue Training and Consultancy Services Limited in Turkey (2014) and Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation in the Netherlands (2015). No accounts are available for any of these companies.
    • After providing misleading answers to questions submitted under the Freedom of Information Act, the FCO has admitted that its payments to “Mayday Rescue” for support of the White Helmets – £43 million from 2015 to 2018 – were made not to Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation but to the commercial company Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC in Dubai.
    • Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation is not registered as a charitable organisation (Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling) and as it is “without commercial enterprise” it does not have to file accounts. In the Netherlands a Stichting is commonly used as a vehicle to disburse overseas investment income to undisclosed beneficiaries while minimizing tax liability.
    • From September 2016 to February 2018, while Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation was receiving payments from the Dutch Foreign Ministry, the Stichting complied with requirements for governance and transparency by appointing a Secretary and Treasurer. In April 2017 Le Mesurier founded what appears to have been a dummy company named R3Covery BV based in Amsterdam. This company has failed to comply with the legal requirement to file accounts. A possible intended or actual use for this company was to tunnel money out of the Stichting.
    • In January 2019 Le Mesurier registered My Zahara Limited as a dormant company in northern England. As the address belongs to a company formation agent that specializes in business tax management and compliance with money laundering regulations, it is likely that the intended use of this company was to repatriate money from Le Mesurier’s overseas companies.
    • OPCW inspectors have told us that during the investigations of alleged chemical attacks in opposition-held territory conducted by the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) from 2015 onwards, Le Mesurier worked closely with Len Phillips, the leader of FFM Team Alpha, to select White Helmets as “witnesses” for interview by the investigation team in Turkey. We have set out elsewhere evidence that these alleged chemical attacks were staged, and that in at least three of these incidents the staging entailed mass murder of civilian captives. As an experienced military intelligence officer, Le Mesurier should have been able to assess this evidence.
    • Le Mesurier’s activities during the final months of his life indicate that he was following (and possibly coordinating) efforts to smear and silence members of the Working Group on Syria Propaganda and Media. It is likely that by the end of October 2019 Le Mesurier was aware that both the business activities of Mayday Rescue and his connection with the increasingly controversial OPCW investigation of the Douma incident were coming under close scrutiny.
    2 Biography


    As links to many original sources such as a ZoomInfo biography of Le Mesurier have recently been deleted, reconstruction of his biography is based partly on published articles that cited these original sources: * Vanessa Beeley 23 October 2015, Whitney Webb 31 July 2017, Tim Hayward 20 December 2017, Vanessa Beeley and Whitney Webb 27 August 2018, Vanessa Beeley 2 December 2019.

    • 1971: year of birth, named James Gustaf Edward Le Mesurier
    • September 1990: 2nd Lt. (on probation) Undergraduate Cadetships
    • August 1996: Captain (536239) in Royal Green Jackets, British Army.
    • 1998 : seconded to the Office of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina under Carlos Westendorp, before being sent to Kosovo in the summer of 1999 after the deployment of KFOR (the NATO-led Kosovo Force).
    • July 1999 – 2000: appointed Intelligence Coordinator for Pristina City, acting as liaison officer between intelligence officers of different national contingents in KFOR. A correction dated 3 August 2018 to an article in The Guardian confirmed this, stating that Le Mesurier “held a military intelligence post while on peacekeeping operations in the Balkans in 1999 for one year”.
    • June 2000: still recorded as Captain in Royal Green Jackets, retires and is appointed to Reserve of Officers. There is no record of an appointment to the Intelligence Corps in the official British government source, The Gazette.
    • January 2001 – February 2002: Deputy Head of the Advisory Unit on Security and Justice in the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). In this position, Le Mesurier acted as political advisor to the UN Police Commissioner and represented the Special Representative on civil-military-police coordination bodies.
    • February 2002 – July 2003: advisor on economic crime with the EU Mission in Kosovo, supporting units countering money laundering, terrorism, smuggling, anti-corruption and financial disclosure.
    • 2003: posted to Jerusalem where he “worked on implementing the Ramallah Agreement”
    • 2005: Vice President for Special Projects at the Dubai-based security firm Olive Group, and Special advisor to Iraqi Minister of Interior.
    • 2006-2010: Senior Principal at the security company Good Harbor Consulting, based in Abu Dhabi, where his work included training a gas field protection force.
    • 2011-2014: worked with the former diplomat Alistair Harris at ARK. Ark-Lebanon had been founded in 2009 in Beirut, and ARK FZC was registered in Dubai in 2011.
    3 Establishment of the White Helmets
    Following a meeting in March 2013 in Istanbul with the Syrian National Council and the Qatari Red Crescent. With $300,000 in seed money from Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom, Le Mesurier worked with the Turkish disaster response team AKUT to set up a seven-day course to train and equip a 25-person rescue team, recruited by the SNC, for duty in opposition-held areas of Syria. The Syrian National Council made available two Syrian activists — Raed Saleh and Farouq Habib — to assist Le Mesurier in this. In a speech delivered in Lisbon on 26 June 2015 (recording now deleted), Le Mesurier cited a study by the market research agency GfK Verein showing that in fragile states security forces have some of the lowest levels of public trust, and that professions with the highest level of public trust are firefighters, paramedics, rescue workers and other similar types of first responders.

    The White Helmets brand first appeared in August 2014 with the registration of the domain name whitehelmets.org by Alison Weiner of Purpose Inc., a communications agency based in Brooklyn, New York. UK government support for the White Helmets since 2017 has been provided under the Syria Resilience Programme of the Conflict Security and Stability Fund (CSSF). In a Summary of this programme dated 18 July 2017 the FCO reveals some of the UK government’s objectives of this support. The Programme Summary notes that the White Helmets “provide an invaluable reporting and advocacy role”, which “has provided confidence to statements made by UK and other international leaders made in condemnation of Russian actions”. Metadata show that the document was saved by Amanda Harris, manager of the Joint Programme Hub of the CSSF.

    4 Companies controlled by James Le Mesurier and his associates
    4.1 Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC (2014)
    The domain name maydayrescue.org was registered on 8 August 2014. A business named “Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC” was registered in 2014 in the International Humanitarian City Dubai as a Free Zone Limited Liability Company (FZLLC). a legal designation for a commercial company in this zone. The International Humanitarian City website states that in January 2019 it had 81 members of which 9 were UN agencies, 63 were humanitarian organizations and 18 were commercial companies (FZLLCs). The IHC Special Regulations require FZLLCs to maintain records for accounting purposes that are available for inspection by an authorized person, but do not require accounts to be filed. Unlike an LLC, an FZLLC in Dubai does not have to have a local Emirati as sponsor. There is no withholding tax on dividends so an FZLLC can freely repatriate profits back to a parent company or foreign shareholders. On 11 July 2019 Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC placed an announcement in the Khaleej Times stating that the company “wishes to reinstate their license”. Soon after this, the registered name of the business was changed to “Mayday Rescue Foundation” though as Mayday Rescue Foundation is still listed under the category “commercial companies”, it must still be registered as an FZLLC.

    4.2 Mayday Arama Kurtarma Egitim ve Danismanlik Hizmetleri Limited (2014)
    A Turkish company Mayday Search and Rescue Training and Consultancy Services Limited is listed with Le Mesurier as director, startup date as 22 September 2014 and registered address in the suburb of Ataşehir on the Anatolian side of Istanbul. An article dated 14 September 2018 in the Turkish-language site of the Iranian Fars News agency gives some details of the accounts filed for 2017. The company is listed in the phone directory at 3 Ali Pasa Medresesi Sok. in Beyoğlu, a fashionable and historic district on the European side of Istanbul. This three-storey building, recently renovated with a cafe on the ground floor, was one of the residences of Le Mesurier and his wife during the last few months of his life. His body was found in the street outside this building on 11 November 2019.

    4.3 Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation (2015)
    Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation (64492915) was registered by Le Mesurier as sole founder in Breda on 5 November 2015 with registered address given as De Cuserstraat 93, 3e en 4e verdieping, 1081CN Amsterdam. The articles of association of Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation state that “De Stichting beoogt niet het maken van winst” which translates as “The Foundation does not intend to make a profit”. This implies that Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation is a Stichting “without commercial enterprise” that does not employ labour to generate profit via commercial activities and transactions. A Stichting without commercial enterprise is not required to pay taxes or file accounts. This is not the same as a charitable organization, which in the Netherlands would be registered as an Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling (ANBI), translated as Public Benefit Organisation. While a Stichting can apply to be recognized as a Public Benefit Organization, this imposes requirements for transparency, including provision of a financial statement and the names of the directors on a website, that are not met by Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation.

    A Stichting without commercial enterprise is created for the benefit of specifically named persons or an identifiable group of persons who are called the “beneficiaries”. The founder donates assets to the Stichting, which remains the legal owner of the assets. The beneficiaries are issued with certificates through which dividends are paid. The Stichting’s board of directors administers the purpose and objectives of the Stichting and manages its assets. A Stichting has many advantages for protecting privacy and minimizing tax liability: foreigners can form foundations where all parties and assets are foreign, all passive foreign income received is non-taxable, and the identities of the beneficiaries remain private. Thus if Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation in the Netherlands is the owner of the FZ-LLC in Dubai, it would be able to receive profits from the FZ-LLC free of tax and the directors would be able to pay dividends to the beneficiaries, whoever they are.

    4.3.1 Directors of Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation
    The directors of a Stichting “without commercial enterprise” may not be in paid employment by the Stichting. A Kamer van Koophandel (Dutch business registry) document dated 21 October 2018 shows that three directors were appointed in September 2016:

    • Thiessen, Per Fredslund (Treasurer). His LinkedIn profile records that he was Finance Director of “Mayday Rescue” from September 2015 to August 2018. As this does not correspond to the period (September 2016 to February 2018) for which he was Treasurer of the Stichting, he must have been employed by another entity named “Mayday Rescue”. In October 2019 Thiessen declined to answer questions about his role.
    • Plathonoff, Katie Elias Dimitri (Secretary). From a job advertisement it appears that at this time she was employed by Mayday in Turkey. She had formerly worked for CISV (originally “Children’s International Summer Villages”).
    • Davis, Rupert Charles Owen (born April 1979) / Chairman. This is Captain RCO Davis (556347) Rifles, who entered the British Army on a Short Service Commission on 7 April 1999 and retired on 11 January 2008, appointed to Reserve of Officers. His LinkedIn profile records that he worked for the BBC from 2008 to 2010 as Deputy and Acting Head of High Risk, then from 2011 to 2012 as Head of Capability and Special Projects for Aegis Defence Services Ltd, in which capacity he was responsible for diplomatic protection during the Libyan war. From 2012 to 2015 he was “functional head within Rio Tinto Exploration (RTX) Africa & Eurasia Region”. He has a protected twitter account @chameleonglbltd.
    Davis, Thiessen and Platonhoff appear to have been the “Board of Supervisory Directors” that is mentioned on the Mayday Rescue website:

    The Board of Supervisory Directors appointed James Le Mesurier as the Director of Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation on 17 October 2016. James Le Mesurier receives an annual stipend of €14,207.00 ($15,000.00) for performing the duties of Director of Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation.

    Although these individuals were not in paid employment by the Stichting, it thus appears that they were employed by other companies named Mayday Rescue and controlled by Le Mesurier. On 13 February 2018 Thiessen and Plathonhoff were removed, Davis ceased to be Chairman but remained as director, and Emma Hedvig Christina Winberg was appointed as director.

    Winberg’s curriculum vitae can be reconstructed from an undated biography as a “contributor” on the website of the Skoll Foundation (though a search of this site finds no other mention of her) and her LinkedIn profile.

    My postings have been in Kabul, Damascus, East Jerusalem, Istanbul and Erbil with shorter postings in Yemen and East Africa. I have been working in the Middle East and South Asia for the past ten years, first as a member of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and subsequently in the fields of strategic communications and community resilience.

    “Strategic communications” and “resilience” appear to refer to InCoStrat and Mayday Rescue respectively. InCoStrat was set up by former Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Tilley as the contractor for funds awarded by the UK government for media support of the “moderate armed opposition”, registered in Washington DC (L00004999639). Emma Winberg lists herself as co-founder. Tilley and Winberg’s time at Incostrat lasted till December 2016, when he left to set up a new company named IN2-Comms and she left to join Mayday Rescue as “Chief Impact Officer”. Her engagement to Le Mesurier was recorded on a genealogy website in September 2017 and recent media reports mention that they were married in 2018. In June 2018 Winberg gave a presentation at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab where she stated that “the high profile nature of this work has resulted in a sustained disinformation campaign against the White Helmets” and showed a slide listing ten supposedly disinformative points, without attempting to rebut them. A twitter account @emmathielers created on 23 May 2017 appears to belong to Winberg. The output of this twitter account was markedly hostile to the journalist Vanessa Beeley who had investigated Le Mesurier’s career and the role of the White Helmets: one tweet enquired about the possibility of prosecuting Beeley for “inciting hatred”.

    4.4 Chameleon Global Limited (2016)
    Rupert Davis registered a company Chameleon Global at Office 32, 19-21 Crawford Street, London W1H 1PJ on 5 April 2016. 26 companies are registered at this address, which is a retail outlet of Mail Boxes Etc, a UK company that provides “virtual office solutions”. A single-page website states that:

    Chameleon Global specialises in the creation of innovative, amplified and sustainable solutions, which address the critical threats and challenges within and from the worlds complex environments – be they national or trans-national.

    Davis’s LinkedIn profile lists Director of Chameleon Global as his sole occupation since November 2015, though for each year up to 30 April 2019 he has filed accounts for it as a dormant company. In the UK it is common practice for privately held companies to file accounts as dormant when they are in fact trading.

    4.5 R3covery BV (2017)
    Le Mesurier, Davis and Winberg appeared in April 2017 as directors of R3covery BV based at Herengracht 282, Amsterdam. The domain name r3covery.com had been registered on 7 November 2016. R3covery BV has a minimal website stating that “R3covery specialises in developing and implementing resilience solutions in stabilisation environments.” R3 denotes “rescue response resilience”. R3covery BV has filed no accounts though this is a legal requirement. In the Netherlands, unlike the UK, the company registrar does not take action to strike off companies that fail to file accounts. On 20 August 2018 the company name was changed from R3covery to Sisu Global BV (KvK 68510705), and on 6 November 2018 Le Mesurier resigned as director. Based on the identities of the directors, Sisu Global BV appears unrelated to a company named Sisu Global Limited, incorporated in Guernsey on 31 May 2012 and struck off by the registrar on 15 May 2015. The domain sisuglobal.com had been registered on 5 December 2015; the server responds to a ping, but the website is down. Google cache shows a minimally informative web page with “Resilience against hybrid threats”, together with a definition of the Finnish word “sisu”.

    The relationship of Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation to this company is unknown. Between September 2016 and February 2018 Le Mesurier would not have been able to pay beneficiaries of the Stichting without the agreement of Thiessen and Platonhoff as treasurer and secretary. A possible motive for Le Mesurier to set up R3covery BV could have been to tunnel money out of the Stichting through purchasing “resilience solutions in stabilisation environments”.

    4.6 My Zahara Limited (2019)
    Le Mesurier registered a UK company My Zahara Limited on 2 January 2019, giving his own address as the virtual address of Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation in Amsterdam. The company’s registered address is in Lancashire: Suite 14C, Link 665 Business Centre Todd Hall Road, Haslingden, Rossendale, BB4 5HU. 91 companies are registered in Suite 14C at this address. Of these, the only ones that appear to be physically present with phone numbers are two companies directed by Stephen O’Neill that provide company formation and compliance services: Business Tax Centre Limited and Money Laundering Compliance Limited.

    5 Government funding of Mayday Rescue
    An archived version of the the mayday.org website shows the donors as:

    • UK – Conflict Security and Stability Fund
    • Kingdom of Denmark – Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Kingdom of The Netherlands – Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Germany – Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    The Financial Tracking Services database hosted by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs shows funding of $607,311 during 2019 to “Mayday Rescue Foundation” from the French government.

    A Review Memorandum from the Department for Stabilisation and Humanitarian Aid of the Dutch goverment dated January 2015 lists payments from other governments up to that time: US $6 million, UK £10.3 million, Denmark $4.5 million, and Japan $0.55 million. FCO expenditure records show payments totalling £43 million between May 2015 and October 2018. The Danish ministry of Foreign Affairs lists DKK 60 million (£7.2 million) to “White Helmets” beginning in 2016. The Evaluation report of the Policy and Operations Evaluation Department (IOB) of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported in September 2018 that the Netherlands government had contributed almost €10 million to Mayday. US funding for the White Helmets is provided through a US-based company Chemonics.

    5.1 UK Government support for Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC
    An FCO response in 2016 to an FOI request for information about UK support of the White Helmets stated that:

    the total value of funds committed between June 2013 and the end of the current financial year (31 March 2016) is £19.7m. All funds are accounted for in line with HMG guidelines, including the receipt and review of quarterly financial reports.

    The Syria Resilience CSSF Programme Summary document shows CSSF funding for “May Day Rescue Foundation” as £9 million for the three years beginning April 2017. A letter dated 11 October 2017 from the FCO Near East Department in response to an FOI request dated 4 August 2017 stated that:

    By way of background, UK support to the Syria Civil Defence (White Helmets) is provided through our implementing partner Mayday Rescue, which is a registered foundation in The Netherlands. Under applicable law it is required to maintain financial and administration records. And as a recipient of Conflict Stability and Security Fund money, Mayday Rescue is required to submit regular accounting for its support to Syria Civil Defence.

    A request for the accounts submitted by Mayday Rescue received the following reply on 10 November 2017 from the FCO Near East Department:

    I can confirm that as a recipient of Conflict Stability and Security Fund money, Mayday Rescue is required to submit regular accounting for its support to Syria Civil Defence. However, the information details fall under the exemption in section 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act, which relates to commercial interests. In applying this exemption, we have had to balance the public interest in withholding the information against the public interest in disclosure. There is a public interest in the disclosure of commercial information to ensure effective, open and honest use of public money and the scrutiny of public authorities in accordance with published policy and to provide an environment where business can better respond to government opportunities. However, we consider that this transparency also poses risks in that companies and individuals would, if this information were disclosed, be much less likely to provide the FCO with commercially sensitive information.

    This refusal in November 2017 to provide accounts citing “exemption in section 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act, which relates to commercial interests” and “commercially sensitive information” suggests that the FCO was aware that the “Mayday Rescue” entity in receipt of FCO funding was a commercial company rather than a nonprofit foundation.

    Having discovered that payments to “Mayday Rescue” in FCO expenditure records dated from March 2015, though Stichtung Mayday Rescue had not been registered till November 2015, JM submitted the following questions (FOI request 1185-18):

    1. With respect to the FCO’s payment of £825,342 to Mayday Rescue on 31 March 2015, please can you provide me with the full legal name of Mayday Rescue (including its legal company form e.g. LTD, PLC, LLC) and its full registered address?
    1. Can you confirm whether all FCO payments to ‘Mayday Rescue’ as listed in published government transparency data have been to the same company?
    He asked also about payments to IncoStrat and Regester Larkin. The FCO Middle East and North Africa Directorate replied on 14 December 2018:

    1. Information relevant to company/organisation details can be found respectively at the following links: http://www.incostrat.com/; http://www.maydayrescue.org/; and https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/press-releases/articles/deloitte-acquires-regester-larkin.html.
    1. Since 2013 the FCO has contracted Mayday Rescue to implement a project to support Syria Civil Defence (White Helmets). All FCO payments to Mayday Rescue listed in the transparency data have been made to the same organisation.
    This reply did not explicitly state that the legal name and registered address of the entity paid by FCO were those on the website www.maydayrescue.org: only that “Information relevant to company/organization details can be found” on this website. JM requested an internal review on the basis that the FCO had failed to provide the information requested. On 6 March 2019, the FCO finally admitted that they had been paying Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC.

    While I am satisfied that every intention was made to respond to your request I am sharing the following information which I hope meets your request [for the legal name of Mayday Rescue and its registered address].

    Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC: Suite 220, Building 1 International Humanitarian City, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

    This attempts to pass off the letter sent three months earlier as an oversight (“While I am satisfied that every intention was made to respond to your request …”). The sentence as written does not make sense: the word “intention” may have been substituted for “effort”. It is difficult to read the wording of the letter dated 14 December 2018 as anything other than an attempt to mislead without resorting to an outright lie. It would be scarcely less disturbing if the FCO officials overseeing these payments – Christian Dennys, Amanda Harris, and Eleanor Szpona – had been unaware that the CSSF had paid more than £40 million to a commercial company in Dubai rather than to a foundation in the Netherlands.

    5.2 Netherlands government support for Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC and Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation
    5.2.1 2015: contract with Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC
    A Review Memorandum dated 4 Jan 2015 with the title “activity appraisal”, prepared by the Department for Stabilisation and Humanitarian Aid of the Dutch goverment, scores a proposal from Mayday Rescue against various criteria. The memorandum states that the contract is with Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC in Dubai and that this company is an afsplitsing (spinout) from ARK. The review memorandum lists other donors: US $6 million, UK £10.3 million, Denmark $4.5 million, and Japan $0.55 million. The total value of the Department for Stabilisation and Humanitarian Aid contract was €1.147 million, to run from 1 Apr 2015 to 31 Dec 2015.

    5.2.2 2016-2017: payments to Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation
    The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) records transactions for Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation between 6 December 2016 and 31 December 2017 submitted by Per Thiessen, with the last submission on 31 January 2018.

    • Incoming funds: two payments from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, totalling €5.19 million.
    • Disbursements: four payments totalling €2.61 million, with receiver-org given as “Syria Civil Defence”.
    • Expenditure: €2.31 million.
    Under IATI rules “disbursements” are outgoing funds that are placed at the disposal of a recipient government or organisation, or funds transferred between two separately reported activities. Under IATI traceability standards the recipient of a disbursement should also be required to report their activities to IATI. “Syria Civil Defence” does not appear in the list of IATI publishers. Outgoing funds that are spent on goods and services for the activity should be reported as “expenditure”. The recipients of expenditures fall outside of IATI traceability standards.

    This indicates that at some time no later than December 2016 the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs began paying the Stichting in the Netherlands rather than the FZ-LLC in Dubai as in the 2015 contract. It is likely that this required Le Mesurier to take measures to give at least the appearance of transparency: the appointment in September 2016 of a Board consisting of himself, Thiessen, Platonhoff and Davis; and the submission of transaction records to IATI. Thiessen’s final submission to IATI was on 31 January 2018. By 6 February 2018 the services of Thiessen and Platonhoff were no longer required, and Winberg was appointed in their place.

    5.2.3 Funding during 2018
    On 7 September 2018 the Policy and Operations Evaluation Department (Directie Internationaal Onderzoek en Beleidsevaluatie, IOB) of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs released an Evaluation report of the monitoring of the White Helmets project. The report refers to “Mayday” but without making clear whether this is the Stichting in the Netherlands, the FZLLC in Dubai, or Mayday Arama Kurtarma Egitim ve Danismanlik Hizmetleri Limited in Turkey.

    Mayday and the White Helmets are two separate entities on paper. In reality, however, their responsibilities overlap. Until last year, the two organisations shared their M&E [Monitoring & Evaluation] desk in the past and many White Helmets have completed traineeships with Mayday. At present, the organisations continue to share the same building but are now working from separate floors.

    The IOB complained that:

    There is little coordination amongst the donors and important information is not shared; reviews from the British CSSF and the Danish have not been shared with other donors or with Mayday/White Helmets. For the Vision 2020 report, an annex was prepared solely for the British and that information has not been shared with other donors..

    The report mentiond SREO and RMTeam as consultants hired “to collect data on perceptions and stipends from the field”. The founder of “RMTeam” is an opposition activist named Bassam al Kuwatli, a Canadian national resident in Turkey. The domain name of the website was registered in 2013, but the company was registered in the UK in March 2019, with Bassam as sole shareholder. SREO Consulting was founded in Turkey by Matt Trevithick and Daniel Seckman, and reported to have 26-50 employees.

    On 10 September 2018 the Netherlands government announced that funding for the White Helmets would be discontinued after December 2018. This raises the question of what entity they were paying during 2018, as for Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation no treasurer was in post after 6 February 2018 and no transaction records were submitted to IATI after 31 January 2018.
     
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    6 Role of Le Mesurier in providing evidence to the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) in Turkey
    From 2015 to 2018, FFM Team Alpha undertook investigations of alleged chemical attacks in opposition-held territory based on material gathered from opposition-linked NGOs in Turkey. It is clear that since 2015 these FFM investigations relied on White Helmets as witnesses and providers of samples and alleged munitions, though the FFM reports sometimes attributed this to other NGOs such as the Chemical Violations Documentation Centre in Brussels or the Syrian Institute for Justice. We have been informed by OPCW inspectors that during these investigations in Turkey Le Mesurier worked closely with Len Phillips, the leader of FFM Team Alpha, to select White Helmets as “witnesses” for interview by the FFM team. We have reported also that Phillips worked closely with his successor as leader of FFM Team Alpha, Sami Barrek, on the preparation of the interim and final Reports of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Douma incident. Le Mesurier’s role in providing purported witnesses for the FFM indicates that that he was closely involved in managing the FFM investigations and raises the possibility that he was involved in planning these incidents.

    Of the alleged chemical attacks investigated by FFM Team Alpha, three were associated with civilian fatalities that were documented by images: six members of the Taleb family in Sarmin (2015), some 70 civilians in Khan Sheikhoun (2017), and at least 35 civilians in Douma (2018). In each of these incidents people dressed as White Helmets and endorsed by the leadership of that organization had a key role as purported first responders. We have reviewed elsewhere evidence that these incidents were staged and that the victims were massacred captives. The clearest evidence that the White Helmets were actively involved in managing a massacre of civilians is from the Khan Sheikhoun incident on 4 April 2017, where a Syrian jet was alleged to have dropped a sarin-containing munition on the town causing the deaths of at least 70 people. The Joint Investigative Mechanism’s subsequent investigation of this incident reported that a flight map (presumably provided by the US military) “indicated that the closest to Khan Shaykhun that the [Syrian] aircraft had flown had been approximately 5 km away”, effectively ruling out an airstrike as the explanation for the incident. The only possible alternative is that the Khan Sheikhoun incident was organized on the ground, and this must have required the active involvement of the White Helmets. Although the White Helmets are famous for videoing their activities, there were no images of a search and rescue operation from the Khan Sheikhoun incident. The first images of the incident were recorded from about 7 am onwards, showing victims being hosed down by the White Helmets outside their base in a cave complex near the town. Later they were seen laid out in morgues in the town. Images of the children who were laid out in morgues showed that several had recent head injuries. In at least two cases by arranging images in temporal sequence and matching identities it was possible to establish that they had received these head injuries after the time they were purportedly rescued by the White Helmets.

    How much Le Mesurier knew about the planning of this incident as a managed massacre, and the role of the White Helmets in carrying it out, we do not know. It is however reasonable to state that as an experienced intelligence officer, he should have been able to assess the reliability of the testimony of the White Helmet witnesses that he selected to be interviewed by the FFM.

    7 Role of Le Mesurier in media operations against critics of the White Helmets
    From late 2016 reports from Syria by Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett began casting doubt on the role of the White Helmets. In April 2017 a counter-attack against these critics was initiated by Chris York of the Huffington Post. Before then, York had written only a few brief articles about the Syrian conflict, from a neutral standpoint. York’s first appearance as a journalist, describing himself as “overqualified”, had been on 24 October 2011 as the author of a HuffPost article reporting how he had been denied entry to Palestine six days earlier. His LinkedIn profile gives no details of his curriculum vitae before 2012. On 6 April 2017, two days after the alleged chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, he posted an article that denounced “‘false flag’ accusations” as “totally wrong” and cited a purported fact-check of an article by Vanessa Beeley that had commented adversely on Le Mesurier and the White Helmets. In response to a question from us, York has stated that he had no contact with James Le Mesurier or Emma Winberg before writing this article, and that he met Emma Winberg only in March 2018. In October 2017 York attended an event in London at which Beeley spoke.

    On 18 December 2017 an article in The Guardian by Olivia Solon denounced Beeley, Bartlett and others who had suggested that the White Helmets were an information operation, describing them as a “network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government”. This was followed two days later by a report from the Syria Campaign that described Beeley as “at the heart of this Russia-backed disinformation campaign” and quoted a study of Twitter conversations commissioned from the social media analytics firm Graphika:

    The social media activity criticizing the White Helmets looks similar to other disinformation campaigns we have analysed and bears some of the same indications of coordination, and a number of the specific accounts attacking the White Helmets have played a role in other specifically Russian disinformation campaigns as well.

    In response, the Working Group on Syria Propaganda and Media posted its first public statement, citing the Syria Resilience CSSF Programme Summary, and arguing that this document provided “grounds for considering the White Helmets as part of a US/UK information operation designed to underpin regime change in Syria”. This brief post by what was at the time an obscure group of academics was followed by a stream of online flak directed at members of the Working Group. In this onslaught George Monbiot of The Guardian and Idrees Ahmad of Stirling University appeared to have leading roles, apparently as triggers for a larger set of mostly anonymous accounts that piled in against their targets. From February to April 2018, hit pieces on the Working Group were published by Brian Whitaker on his blog, by York in the Huffington Post, and in The Times at the instigation of Oliver Kamm.

    A report dated June 2018 written by four students at the Central European University in Budapest and posted by Bellingcat reveals that Le Mesurier had been studying closely the media activities of Vanessa Beeley and others who had expressed doubts about the White Helmets at around this time. The authors describe an interview with Le Mesurier and Winberg on 8 February 2018 in which Le Mesurier appeared to echo the Graphika study:

    The Mayday foundation was a victim of a disinformation campaign released by actors calling themselves “independent journalists” such as Vanessa Beeley, a British blogger who made her way through Russian-controlled media outlets. The campaign tried to claim the White Helmets didn’t exist but were actors instead, or that they were a branch of Al-Qaeda in Syria. “We didn’t design ourselves to do that [counter-attack disinformation campaign],” said James Le Mesurier. He investigated these attacks on social media and found resemblances with Russian information warfare techniques getting disseminated by small segments of pro-Assad, pro-Russia, or anti-Western profiles on Twitter. The anatomy of his work shows prominent levels of coordination by these actors.

    Le Mesurier had two twitter accounts – @lemesurierjames and @USARinwar– that followed 3270 other accounts by September 2019. These follows included not only the individuals mentioned above – York, Monbiot, Whitaker, Kamm, Ahmad – who had led attacks on those who question the role of the White Helmets, but also numerous anonymous accounts that appear to be triggered by their activities. These anonymous accounts generally repeat the same talking points, without adding any original material. It would be surprising for Le Mesurier to have been following them unless he had some role in coordinating or evaluating their activities.

    8 Le Mesurier’s final months
    Le Mesurier’s registration of My Zahara Limited in the UK in January 2019, using a company formation agent that specialized in compliance with money laundering regulations, suggests that he planned to repatriate money from his overseas companies and perhaps to wind them up as the role of the White Helmets came to an end with the return of opposition-held territory to Syrian government control. This is consistent with reports in the Turkish media that in the last few weeks Le Mesurier had told colleagues that he was planning to leave Turkey. In a briefing note posted on 26 June 2019, we included two items of new information about Le Mesurier’s activities: (1) that we had learned from OPCW inspectors Le Mesurier had met regularly in Turkey with Len Phillips, leader of OPCW’s FFM Team Alpha which deployed to Turkey from 2015 onwards to interview purported witnesses to alleged chemical attacks in opposition-held territory; and (2) that the FCO payments to “Mayday Rescue” had been to Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC in Dubai rather than to Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation in the Netherlands. Two weeks later a change of name of Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC to “Mayday Rescue Foundation” was initiated, presumably by Le Mesurier.

    In 2019 online information about Le Mesurier’s past began to disappear. Additions to Le Mesurier’s list of Twitter follows suggest that in the last few months of his life he was monitoring efforts to smear and silence members of the Working Group: Twitter accounts that he began to follow in September and October 2019 included student journalists in Bristol and Edinburgh who had published articles smearing members of the Working Group in their university posts, and a local councillor in Lewisham who had objected to a member of the Working Group being invited to speak. Confirmation of Le Mesurier’s role in media operations against the Working Group was provided on 13 November 2019 by Oliver Kamm, who tweeted a quote from a leading article in The Times that day (presumably written by him):

    Last year The Times identified a small group of academics at British universities spreading pro-Assad conspiracy theories … Le Mesurier was ceaselessly targeted by conspiracy theorists, whose falsehoods have insinuated themselves into public debate. He reached out to this newspaper to urge us to keep on their case.

    On 23 October the Courage Foundation released new information about the OPCW FFM investigation of the Douma incident that had been revealed by a “reluctant but credible whistleblower” to a panel including the first Director-General of the OPCW. At about this time we began contacting former employees of Mayday Rescue with questions about transactions between companies controlled by Le Mesurier. Thus by the end of October Le Mesurier would have had reason to believe that the net was closing on his role in the staging of alleged chemical attacks and on his business dealings.

    One objective of our investigations into the information operations associated with alleged chemical attacks in Syria is to bring to justice the perpetrators of these incidents and those who colluded with them. From open sources combined with material from confidential informants, we have identified some of the key individuals involved, of whom Le Mesurier was one. We appeal to others who have information about these operations to come forward or to contact us in confidence. Documents that are covered by official secrecy laws can be passed securely to Wikileaks.
     
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    The White Helmets brand first appeared in August 2014 with the registration of the domain name whitehelmets.org by Alison Weiner of Purpose Inc., a communications agency based in Brooklyn, New York

    She now works (or recently did anyway) for SSGA, "the world's third largest asset manager, with nearly $2.8 trillion (USD)." This was the same company that put the statue of the "Fearless Girl" in front of the famous Wall Street charging bull statue as a publicity stunt (and to distract from their own then pending lawsuit by female employees for gender discrimination, later settled for $5 million).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_Street_Global_Advisors


    Fearless girl

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fearless_Girl

    Fearless Girl is a bronze sculpture by Kristen Visbal, commissioned by State Street Global Advisors (SSGA), a large asset management company. The statue was installed on March 7, 2017, in anticipation of International Women's Day the following day. It depicts a girl four foot high, promoting female empowerment.[2] It is located across from the New York Stock Exchange in the Financial District of Manhattan in New York City.
     
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    I wonder since Netanyahu was able to worm his way into controlling israel, they are going to go for the messianic war with Iran

     
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    2 Carriers to Stay in Gulf Region as Warning to Iran, General Says
    13 Mar 2020

    https://www.military.com/daily-news...ay-gulf-region-warning-iran-general-says.html

    Two aircraft carriers -- the Eisenhower and the Truman -- will remain in the Persian Gulf region as a warning to Iran against retaliation for U.S. airstrikes that "effectively destroyed" five weapons depots belonging to an Iranian proxy militia in Iraq, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East said Friday.

    "We're going to keep [the carriers] for a while" to signal to Iran that retaliation would bring a massive response, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said at a Pentagon news conference.


    He also said that the U.S. is in the process of moving Patriot anti-missile batteries into Iraq, adding it will be "some days" before they became operational.

    There were no Patriot batteries in Iraq when Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq's Anbar province on Jan. 8, resulting in traumatic brain injuries to more than 100 U.S. troops, U.S. officials said at the time.

    McKenzie did not discuss the types of aircraft that conducted the airstrikes or where they were based, describing their targets as five facilities used by the Kata'ib Hezbollah militia for storing weapons. No unmanned systems, or drones, were used, he said.

    The weapons stored at the depots included 107mm Katyusha rockets of the type used Wednesday in an attack on Camp Taji in Iraq that killed two U.S. troops and a British medic, he said. Fourteen others were wounded.

    The Defense Department on Friday identified the two U.S. troops killed as Army Spc. Juan Miguel Mendez Covarrubias, 27, of Hanford, California, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Marshal D. Roberts, 28, of Owasso, Oklahoma.

    The British casualty was identified as Royal Army Medical Corps Lance Cpl. Brodie Gillon, 26, described by her commanding officer as "a larger-than-life soldier," according to the BBC.

    Since October, U.S. positions in Iraq, including Camp Taji, located about 20 miles north of Baghdad, and the "Green Zone" in Baghdad, which houses the U.S. Embassy, have been hit more than 20 times by rocket attacks, according to U.S. and Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve officials.

    McKenzie said at least 12 of the attacks were attributable to Kata'ib Hezbollah, which is part of the Popular Mobilization Forces and nominally affiliated with the Iraqi security forces.

    The rockets that hit Camp Taji came from a truck launcher that was later found by Iraqi security forces, but none of those responsible was apprehended, McKenzie said.

    "You set the timer" for the rocket launches "and run away," he said. "Had we seen that truck, we would've taken action."

    The airstrikes are expected to limit Kata'ib Hezbollah's ability to conduct future attacks, McKenzie said, adding "I would caution Iran and its proxies against an attempted response."

    "We don't look for opportunities to attack," he said, but the U.S. "will respond to aggression."

    McKenzie said it is his assessment that Iran does not seek a direct confrontation with the U.S. but will continue provocations through proxy groups in Iraq and elsewhere in the region.

    "I think the threat remains very high," he said.

    In another warning, McKenzie said U.S intelligence has a good fix on where the proxy groups are located. "We think we know where most of them are," he said. "There are plenty more places where we can go to work."

    McKenzie said he has no way of knowing whether the Camp Taji attack may have been related to what would have been the 63rd birthday of Iranian Quds Force leader Qasem Soleiman, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike at Baghdad International Airport on Jan. 3.

    He described Soleimani as a ruthless and effective terrorist leader who was difficult to replace by the Iran regime. "He's not there, and they miss him," McKenzie said.

    He also noted that the coronavirus outbreak in Iran has taken a toll on the regime's leadership. "It's going to make it a lot harder for them to make decisions," he said.

    On Friday, Iran's Tasnim news agency reported that Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, has shown symptoms of coronavirus and is quarantined.

    Also on Friday, Iran's Health Ministry said the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country has passed 10,000, Tasnim reported.
     
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    Saw pics of a Russian deck of cards with the names and portraits of US special forces members, 4 types were associated with a branch
     
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    If MBZ is making peace with Assad they must think the US has lost significant influence and/or the US is going to withdraw a lot more troops.
     
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    Pentagon Order to Plan for Escalation in Iraq Meets Warning From Top Commander
    A secret Pentagon directive orders planning to try to destroy a militia group backed by Iran, but America’s top general in Iraq cautions of the risks.
    March 27, 2020

    fhttps://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/27/world/middleeast/pentagon-iran-iraq-militias-coronavirus.html

    WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has ordered military commanders to plan for an escalation of American combat in Iraq, issuing a directive last week to prepare a campaign to destroy an Iranian-backed militia group that has threatened more attacks against American troops.

    But the United States’ top commander in Iraq has warned that such a campaign could be bloody and counterproductive and risks war with Iran. In a blunt memo last week, the commander, Lt. Gen. Robert P. White, wrote that a new military campaign would also require thousands more American troops be sent to Iraq and divert resources from what has been the primary American military mission there: training Iraqi troops to combat the Islamic State.

    The Pentagon directive and General White’s response — both classified internal military communications — were described by several American officials with direct knowledge of their contents. The exchange comes amid a simmering fight inside the Trump administration over policy toward Iran and the course of America’s war in Iraq, which began just over 17 years ago.

    Some top officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, have been pushing for aggressive new action against Iran and its proxy forces — and see an opportunity to try to destroy Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq as leaders in Iran are distracted by the pandemic crisis in their country.

    Military leaders, including Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have been wary of a sharp military escalation, warning it could further destabilize the Middle East at a time when President Trump has said he hopes to reduce the number of American troops in the region.

    Still, American officials said Mr. Esper authorized planning for a new campaign inside Iraq — even as the military reduces its counterterrorism presence there — to provide options for Mr. Trump in the event that Iranian-backed militia groups escalate their own attacks against American troops, said two senior administration officials.

    During an Oval Office meeting on March 19, Mr. Trump did not make a decision about whether he might authorize the new campaign in Iraq, but allowed the planning to continue, according to American officials.

    A spokesman for the National Security Council declined to comment. Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement: “Operation Inherent Resolve is in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government and remains focused on partnering with Iraqi security forces for the shared goal of permanently defeating ISIS remnants. We are not going to discuss hypotheticals or internal deliberations.”

    The debate is happening as top Pentagon officials and senior commanders worldwide are also expressing growing concerns about coronavirus cases expanding rapidly in the ranks, potentially threatening the military’s ability to field combat-ready troops.

    Several American officials said they were struck by the blunt tone of General White’s memorandum — sent on March 16, the day after he received the Pentagon directive to start the planning — which they said emphasized the costs and risks against an effort to try to destroy the militia group, known as Kataib Hezbollah.

    The memo also pointed out that such a campaign might run afoul of the current agreement with the Iraqi government that allows American troops to operate in the country.

    Beyond that, it would most likely put the Iraqi leadership and especially its military in the position of having to choose between its American allies — whose leaders are far away — and the Iranians, whom many senior Iraqis do not like but believe they have to live with because they are neighbors.

    “Iraq cannot be a victim of the Iranian-U.S. conflict, because that would end up going in favor of Iran,” said Karim al-Nuri, a senior figure in the Badr Organization, an Iranian-backed militia, meaning that it would force Iraq closer to Iran.

    Iran has long used Shiite militia groups in Iraq as proxy forces both to battle American and Iraqi troops and to exert political influence inside the government. Like Lebanese Hezbollah, Kataib Hezbollah has both military components and political operations, and links to Iraq politicians, businesses, charities and a web of other networks, several regional specialists said.

    “It’s like a shadow state,” said Michael Knights, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who has studied the group for more than a decade.

    As a result, carrying out any large-scale plan to destroy Kataib Hezbollah poses huge political and security risks for the Trump administration, and practical challenges for the military.

    It would also strain already frayed relations with Iraq's weak central government. In January, members of Iraq’s Parliament called for the ouster of all U.S. troops in the country after the American drone strike at Baghdad’s international airport that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a top Iranian commander, as well as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the de facto leader of Iraq’s militia groups.

    Several top American officials, including Mr. Pompeo and General Milley, have urged the Iraqi security forces to crack down on rogue Shiite militia groups that are attacking American troops, or else the United States will be forced to retaliate.

    The Pentagon directive ordered planners at the military’s Central Command and in Iraq to draw up a strategy to dismantle the militia group’s operations, according to several American officials who saw the order or were briefed on it. The directive said that Iranian paramilitary forces — members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps — could be legitimate targets if they are located with the Kataib Hezbollah fighters.

    Kataib Hezbollah rocket attacks killed two American troops and one British soldier at a military base this month — prompting a reprisal strike by American warplanes one day later.

    Even so, American officials said there was no firm evidence that Iran ordered the attack by the militia group. But Mr. Pompeo and other senior officials in recent weeks have argued for aggressive military action not only against Kataib Hezbollah but also against Iranian military forces.

    During a White House meeting on March 12, Mr. Esper and General Milley argued for a more limited response to the rocket attacks — a view that prevailed on Mr. Trump, who ordered nighttime raids on five suspected weapons depots in Iraq used by Kataib Hezbollah.

    Several American officials said there was an increased urgency in planning attack options against Kataib Hezbollah as the group, perhaps along with other Shiite militias, has threatened to ramp up strikes against U.S. troops stationed on Iraqi bases after the celebrations for Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, end soon. American military intelligence agencies have detected signs that big attacks could be in the works, according to a senior U.S. military official who has been briefed on some of the contingency planning in Iraq.

    Kataib Hezbollah, in a statement on Wednesday, warned its fighters to prepare for possible attacks from the United States, and threatened to retaliate against Americans and any Iraqis who help them. “We will respond with full force to all their military, security, and economic facilities,” said the statement, according to SITE, a private company that monitors jihadists’ websites and postings.

    The immediate targets of a Pentagon campaign against Kataib Hezbollah most likely would be the group’s leadership, bases and weapons depots, Mr. Knights said. In addition to a vast array of rockets, the group is believed to have access to a hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles funneled into Iraq by Iran over the past several months, according to American intelligence and military officials.

    An extended campaign could hit militia targets across a wide swath of Iraq and Syria, and possibly other Shiite militias in Iraq that are loosely aligned with Kataib Hezbollah. “You can’t just hit rank-and-file fighters, you’d have to hit leadership, most of whom have probably dispersed,” Mr. Knights said.

    At the same time, American officials said the risks laid out in General White’s memo are genuine, and some military planners believe it would be foolish for the Trump administration to escalate military operations inside Iraq anytime soon.

    More than 5,000 American troops are currently stationed in Iraq, most of them part of the mission to train and advise Iraqi security forces in the mission against the Islamic State. Pentagon officials had been seeking to reduce that presence to about 2,500 troops in the coming months.

    Any campaign against Kataib Hezbollah is likely to draw from the roughly 70,000 American military personnel currently deployed around the Middle East, including in Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations. More than 14,000 of those troops have moved into the region since last May amid rising tensions with Iran.

    The Pentagon has also sent Patriot air and missile defense batteries, B-52 bombers, a carrier strike group, armed Reaper drones and other engineering and support personnel.

    Commanders are still rushing more Patriot antimissile batteries and other weaponry into Iraq, but are still a week or two away from having the additional defensive systems in place there, a senior U.S. military official said.

    In recent weeks, as the threat from militia attacks and exposure to the coronavirus has increased, the United States and its European allies have been turning over smaller coalition bases to their Iraqi counterparts, and either moving to a handful of larger Iraqi bases or leaving the country altogether.

    Speaking to reporters the day after the United States hit the five Khatib Hezbollah weapons depots this month, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of Central Command, said that the threat from Iran and its proxies remained “very high” and added that tensions “have actually not gone down” since the United States killed General Suleimani.

    While American officials say they have no clear evidence that Iran specifically directed the deadly attack on Camp Taji on March 11, they say that Kataib Hezbollah and the Iranian Quds Force coordinate closely.

    General McKenzie said the United States was poised to strike additional militia weapons storage sites and other targets should attacks against American forces continue. He blamed Kataib Hezbollah for about a dozen rocket attacks against American troops based in Iraq in the past six months.

    Mr. Esper suggested on Wednesday that the United States could respond further to the militia’s rocket attacks, but offered no details.

    “You don’t get to kill or wound Americans and get away with it,” Mr. Esper said in an interview with NPR. “We will respond at the time, place and manner of our choosing. We will hold them accountable.”

    Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting from Baghdad.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2020
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    close to that big ww3
     
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