Peshmerga forces with Kurdish security personnel gather at a site of an attack by Islamic State militants in Kirkuk, Iraq, October 21, 2016. © Ako Rasheed / Reuters
This latest intrusion comes just hours after Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) “sleeper cells” launched an attack on government buildings in the city that sparked clashes with security forces, and also as Iraqi forces continue their offensive on the IS stronghold of Mosul.
“It was expected that ISIS sleeper cells would make a move one day in Kirkuk now that the Mosul offensive has started and they want to boost their own morale this way,” Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim told Rudaw earlier on Friday.
“Some of [the militants] have hidden themselves inside mosques and tall buildings and try to shoot as snipers, but our forces are in control and in places where escalations were feared it was all controlled. Strong forces combined of security, police, and anti-terrorism are all inside Kirkuk today,” he said.
“They were sleeper cells…many women and children fled to Kirkuk as refugees and it is possible that some militants had come with them,” Kiruk added, referring to the attackers.
The city’s police chief and governor have called on residents to stay in their homes until the situation is under control.
The unrest has so far led to the deaths of at least 28 people – six policemen, 12 militants, and 16 power station workers, according to reports from Rudaw and AFP. The workers were killed in the nearby town of Dibis, located 55 kilometers (34 miles) from Kirkuk.
“Three suicide bombers attacked the power plant at around 6:00 am (03:00 UTC), killing 12 Iraqi administrators and engineers and four Iranian technicians,” Dibis Mayor Abdullah Nureddin al-Salehi al-Salehi told AFP.
However, Kirkuk’s governor reported the station had been attacked by four militants, of whom one blew himself up and three were killed. The station is now under the control of Peshmerga Kurds.
Kirkuk is located 174 kilometers (108 miles) from Mosul.
The city has accepted some 700,000 displaced people from the country’s central and southern provinces since Islamic State took control of one-third of Iraq in mid-2014, according to Rudaw. It had been home to about half a million people before the outbreak of hostilities.
The oil-rich city is claimed by both the Iraqi government and Kurds in the region. Kurdish forces assumed full control of the city in the summer of 2014, as the Iraqi army crumbled before an IS advance.
A Swedish city is considering giving jihadists returning from Syria and Iraq free housing, a driver’s license, and tax benefits to ease their reintegration, but social media users have slammed the proposal, saying it ignores the terrorists’ victims.
The support for extremists was proposed by Anna Sjöstrand, a municipal coordinator against violent extremism in the city of Lund in southern Sweden.
“There may be criticism, but [I think] that you should get the same help as others who seek help from us. We can’t say that because you made a wrong choice, you have no rights to come back and live in our society,” Sjöstrand said on Swedish Sveriges Radio.
Sjöstrand’s proposal was based on a report written by author and criminologist Christoffer Carlsson, who says that it is difficult for people to abandon extremism and reintegrate into society without support.
“It’s a straight social, economic and material question. You need to be able to reintegrate into the job market, you may need to have a driving license, debt settlement and shelter,” he said.
According to Carlsson, “the risk is great that they [Islamist extremists] are unable to leave the extremist environment” without support, so “they might make an attempt and fail because they have nothing to keep them out, and there is always something to return to, namely the organization they left.”
The proposal has been eviscerated on social media, however, with users saying that Sweden is forgetting about the terrorists’ victims.
“Lund wants to help terrorists with housing, driver’s license and job, but forgets the victims,” one user wrote on Twitter, while another added: “Rapists, child murderers, terrorists. Everyone should be treated equally.”
Some users were calling for Sjöstrand’s resignation.
“Anna Sjöstrand, of course you should say ‘You have made a choice and are never welcome back,’” added @I_was_Sweden.
According to Sveriges Radio, a similar ‘welcoming’ approach is also being considered in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Borlänge, and Örebro.
Örebro was severely criticized in January after two IS terrorists – Liban Qadar, 23, and Mahamed Farah Osman, 24 – were offered internships in the municipality, but chose to return to Syria, where they were later killed in battle.
The incident has been classified as a clear failure for Thomas Gustafsson, Orebro’s head of partnership.
Research from the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) shows that at least 300 Swedish citizens had traveled to Iraq and Syria to join IS extremists as of April of this year.
Meanwhile, some 140 terrorists had already returned to Sweden as of October of this year, local media reported.
Also an April, a report appearing in the Swedish media claimed that Islamists have successfully infiltrated Sweden’s Green Party. Lars Nicander from the Swedish National Defense University said there is “a very similar effect today, in which people close to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist party, are apparently gaining large footholds in the Green Party.”
State Spox Toner Blames FBI Agent, Not Kennedy For Quid Pro Quo Offer Surrounding Clinton’s Emails (October 17, 2016)
WikiLeaks have uploaded yet another batch of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta. This ninth release brings the total number of leaked files to over 12,000.
Among the hundreds of emails released Sunday are discussions about appealing to black voters, Hillary’s email apologies, and Chelsea Clinton being described by one of her father’s longtime aides as a ‘backstabber’.
Ranging from how to take down Sanders, to strategizing around sexual assault allegations against Bill Clinton, multiple aspects of the Clinton campaign have been laid open to public consumption through a series of WikiLeaks releases this week.
The thousands of emails already released also cover topics including US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar clandestinely funding ISIS, the Clinton campaign’s efforts to handle the media, and courting billionaire donors. You name it, John Podesta sent or received an email about it.
Courting black voters
The latest leaked emails highlight campaign concerns that Clinton is not doing enough to appeal to black voters. In the February 2016 messages between Frank White Jr, who raised over $2.3mn for Barack Obama during his 2012 re-election campaign, and John Podesta, White writes: “I’m hearing the same complaint in political circles that I continue to hear while fundraising. ‘The campaign doesn’t value black folks and takes us for granted’.”
Podesta responds: “I have been working on that and will resolve soon. We need to strengthen the overall structure and this is the most critical piece of that.”
Chelsea Clinton’s ‘backstabbing’
Long time Clinton aide Band can be seen slating the couple’s daughter as a backstabber in some of the leaked correspondence.
The businessman, who helped set up the Clinton Global Initiative, shared a message he received from Chelsea Clinton with Podesta and Cheryl Mills on January 27, 2012.
Clinton is seemingly complementary in her email, saying that political strategist Clark Winter had “terrific things” to say about Band.
“She sends me one of these types of email every few days/week,” Band writes. “As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far. A kiss on the cheek while she is sticking a knife in the back, and front.”
It’s not clear which Clinton parent Band was referring with the “apple doesn’t fall far” comment. The email could cause some embarrassment, given Band’s close relationship with former president Bill Clinton.
Chelsea’s email is signed off with her real name but comes from sender “Diane Reynolds”. The email lends credence to an earlier WikiLeaks statement that she uses this alias when communicating online.
Band, founder of advisory firm Teneo, previously labeled the Clinton’s only child a “spoiled brat” in an email to Podesta on November 12, 2011. That message related to Chelsea Clinton’s concern that eyebrows might be raised over Teneo employing former aides who worked at the State Department during Hillary’s term as secretary of state.
Hillary’s apology problem
Hillary’s difficulty with apologizing was acknowledged as her “Achilles heel” in earlier leaked emails. The latest emails underscore the issue with an exchange between campaign aides about public perception of her expressions of regret over her email server controversy.
Clinton’s “inability to just do a national interview and communicate genuine feelings of remorse and regret is now, I fear, becoming a character problem (more so than honesty),” warns Clinton ally Neera Tanden.
“Trying to figure out how to get her there and best way to execute,” Podesta responds.
Podesta on San Bernardino
As news broke of the San Bernardino mass shooting in December 2015, Podesta suggested it would be “better”if the perpetrator named in early reports on the incident was not called “Sayeed Farouk”.
It is now known that Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik carried out the atrocity in California on December 2 last year.
However, on being informed of a tweet by MSNBC host Chris Hayes naming Farook, Podesta quips: “Better if a guy named Sayeed [sic] Farouk was reporting that a guy named Christopher Hayes was the shooter.”
Sunday’s leaks carry a heated exchange between former Clinton Foundation COO and current adviser Laura Graham and longtime Clinton aide Cheryl Mills over budget concerns. In the emails, Graham pushes the importance of support for her role, writing: “I need an assistant. I won’t go wo one. I cannot do this all by myself.”
At one point, Mills forwards the thread of emails to Podesta, and he jokingly responds: “Can we do an HBO movie when this is all over?”
These emails came just weeks after Bill Clinton aide Doug Band highlighted serious concerns over Graham’s mental health, allegedly due to the strain of working at the Foundation and with the Clintons. He wrote that Graham had appeared suicidal and contacted him for help “as she couldn’t reach my brother or her shrink.”
“She called me to tell me the stress of all of this office crap with wjc and cvc as well as that of her family had driven her to the edge and she couldn’t take it anymore,” Band said.
No fewer than 20 advisers were involved in drafting Clinton’s apology earlier this year for crediting the late Nancy Reagan with starting a “very effective” conversation about AIDS in the 1980s.
In fact, the Reagan administration’s silence and lack of response to the AIDS epidemic has been widely ridiculed for many years. Reagan’s presidency is also the subject of a short film, titled “When AIDS Was Funny”, which features press secretary Larry Speakes jokingly talking about the outbreak of the deadly disease.
So when Clinton told MSNBC she admired Nancy Reagan’s “low key advocacy” in fighting AIDS, the Democrat’s campaign team went into overdrive to stem the flow of public outrage.
A thread of emails from March 12 reveals the process of getting a statement out to LGBT members.
“I think our lingering problem on this is that people just don’t understand, on a fact level, what happened and how she could have gotten so mixed up,” Clinton aide Teddy Goff wrote.
The email conversation, sent to top political advisers like Nick Merrill, Brian Fallon and Jennifer Palmieri, charts the draft of an apology. It reveals that the line, “the comment was just wrong, and I said so right away” was removed for sounding too defensive.
The phrase “I made a mistake” was also binned in favor of, “I said something inaccurate”.
Speechwriter Megan Rooney also stated that the group needed a “strategy” to get Hillary Clinton to approve the statement. Clinton’s polished response to the gaffe was later published on Medium.
A “civil war” between women
Clinton supporter and political pundit Brent Budowsky warned the Clinton campaign in February 2016 that asserting younger women must support Hillary because she’s a woman, could cause serious blowback: “Team Clinton has no idea the danger they are causing of creating such an intense antipathy towards Hillary that many Bernie supporters and younger women will not vote for her in November.”
Burdowski said he was inundated with calls from establishment Democrats “who she (Hillary) thinks support her, who are appalled and alarmed by the kind of campaign she is running.”
Burdowski, a political columnist, then turns up the heat, saying: “Would you like a sample of what Bernie and liberals will say about Hillary if they angrily feel she is questioning Bernie’s integrity? The idea of the campaign for the candidate who could become the first woman president initiating a civil war between older women and younger women over her candidacy is political malpractice that leaves me speechless.”
He then backed up his claim by relating an anecdote: ”I had coffee today with a female college senior who is an intern with the Obama administration – the daughter of a Democrat who has worked for senior Democrats who asked me to look after her while she is in Washington, who told me ‘I just hate her so much I might even vote for a Republican but I will never vote for her.’ And she doesn’t even support Bernie.”
‘Take the money!!’
A particularly long email thread discusses what the campaign might do about donations from “foreign agents” – people acting on behalf of foreign entities such as governments.
Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) foreign agents have to register their relationships with the Department of Justice.
In April of last year Podesta was in an email chain along with a number of key campaign figures, including Director of Communications Jennifer Palmieri and National Finance Director Dennis Cheng, over whether to allow those lobbying on behalf of foreign governments to raise money for the campaign.
General counsel Marc Elias argued, “this is really a straight up political call. One middle option is to take case by case. If, for example, they are FARA registered for Canada, we may not case. If for N. Korea we would.”
Cheng is concerned that “people we are close with” are among the list of foreign agents. He name checks Tony Podesta – John’s brother, who lobbies for Iraq, Egypt and Azerbaijan among many others – and the law firm DLA Piper.
A list of the lobbyists and who they act for is then circulated and it contains an extraordinary amount of foreign governments, embassies and trade councils.
Among these is the Kurdistan regional Government, the Executive Office of Dubai, the Government of Ethiopia, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Republic of Iraq, the Republic of Kosovo, the Justice Equality Movement Embassy of the Republic of Korea and the National Board for the Following Up and Recovering of the Libyan Looted and Disguised Funds of the Transitional Government of Libya.
It was initially decided not to take money from any currently FARA registered foreign agents but that changed following push back from Cheng and Elias.
Cheng argued: “I feel like we are leaving a good amount of money on the table [both for primary and general, and then DNC and state parties]… and how do we explain to people that we’ll take money from a corporate lobbyist but not them; that the foundation takes dollars from foreign gov’ts but we now won’t.”
Campaign strategist Robby Mook then said he was convinced to take the money, without restrictions, as he said that Obama got judged more harshly for accepting money with restrictions.
The final word went to Jennifer Palmieri who simply said, “take the money!!”
“People don’t trust Hillary Clinton, and no one can agree on why,” begins a sympathetic piece on the Democratic Party presidential candidate in Fast Company last July.
In a CNN poll that same month, only 30 percent of Americans believed Clinton to be “honest and trustworthy.”
If voters don’t know what to make of Clinton or how to read her, the blame may lie directly with the candidate herself. In an April 2013 speech made public by WikiLeaks last week, Clinton confided:
“Politics is like sausage being made. It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be. But if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position.”
That last ‘public vs. private’ comment quickly made the media rounds, and confirmed – for her critics – Clinton’s deliberate duplicity on a number of policy positions.
WikiLeaks has provided an opportunity to delve into some of these, so let’s take a look at one very prominent feature of Clinton’s foreign policy agenda: Syria, a country that stands at the center of a potential global confrontation today.
Not a Syrian uprising; a regime change plan
A 2012 email released by WikiLeaks last year shows that, behind the scenes, Clinton’s State Department was calculating its Syria policy using entirely different metrics than its publicly-stated narrative of supporting reforms and rejecting violence:
“It is the strategic relationship between Iran and the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria that makes it possible for Iran to undermine Israel’s security — not through a direct attack, which in the thirty years of hostility between Iran and Israel has never occurred, but through its proxies in Lebanon, like Hezbollah, that are sustained, armed and trained by Iran via Syria. The end of the Assad regime would end this dangerous alliance. Israel’s leadership understands well why defeating Assad is now in its interests.”
The email, written by an unidentified person and included within the WikiLeaks ‘Clinton archive,’ lays out a plan:
“Washington should start by expressing its willingness to work with regional allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to organize, train and arm Syrian rebel forces. The announcement of such a decision would, by itself, likely cause substantial defections from the Syrian military. Then, using territory in Turkey and possibly Jordan, US diplomats and Pentagon officials can start strengthening the opposition… Arming the Syrian rebels and using Western air power to ground Syrian helicopters and airplanes is a low-cost high payoff approach.”
Arming a Syrian rebellion from outside the country was already a consideration “from the very beginning,” according to a recent WikiLeaks release of a June 2013 speech by Clinton:
“So, the problem for the US and the Europeans has been from the very beginning: What is it you – who is it you are going to try to arm. And you probably read in the papers my view was we should try to find some of the groups that were there that we thought we could build relationships with and develop some covert connections that might then at least give us some insight into what is going on inside Syria.”
Certainly, we know that by early 2012, the Obama and Erdogan administrations had struck a deal to establish a rat-line transporting weapons and ammunition from Libya to Syria – via the CIA and MI6, and funded by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The attack on the US consulate in Benghazi which killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens was only a temporary setback. Weapons and financial assistance to militants in Syria, however, continued to flow from America’s regional allies without any US pushback, even though Washington clearly knew arms were being siphoned to extremists.
A declassified DIA document from August 2012 circulated to Clinton’s State Department states plainly that “the Salafist, Muslim Brotherhood and AQI (Al-Qaeda in Iraq) are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” and that “the West, Gulf countries and Turkey support the opposition.”
But if US Special Forces were involved in driving arms and fighters into Syria in early 2012, the groundwork would have had to have begun many, many months before. The US military’s unconventional warfare (UW) strategy requires that target-state population perceptions are first ‘groomed’ into accepting an armed insurrection, using “propaganda and political and psychological efforts to discredit the government”…creating “local and national ‘agitation’”…helping organize “boycotts, strikes and other efforts to suggest public discontent”…before beginning the “infiltration of foreign organizers and advisors and foreign propaganda, material, money, weapons and equipment.”
You get an idea of how this ‘propaganda’ and ‘grooming’ works in a June 2011 email from Clinton’s recently-departed Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter, who openly calls for fabricating sectarian narratives to incite Syrian protestors:
“This suggests US should be making much more of the ways in which Syrian regime is simulating violence. Can’t we call for a meeting of the UNSC where we do not call for action but simply present information along the lines of what is recounted below so as to ‘bring it to the attention of the Council’ in a way that then has greater credibility globally? Making the point repeatedly that the regime wants this to look like/turn into sectarian violence? At the very least that can be broadcast back into Syria in various ways that will encourage protestors. There is an information war going on; we can do much more to elevate and legitimate the truth.”
This is business as usual for a US State Department well-versed in sowing sectarian discord in the Middle East – all while publicly denouncing sectarian strife. A WikiLeaks email from 2006 shows that this thinking was already well-entrenched in Foggy Bottom, with a focus on “exploiting vulnerabilities” – particularly “sectarian” ones – inside Syria.
Fueling the sectarian Jihad
By late 2011, US intelligence had assessed that Al-Qaeda was operating inside Syria. This information was public, but not widely disseminated. Instead, Clinton’s team focused heavily on flogging the narrative that “Assad must go” because of his government’s widespread human rights violations.
Clinton liberally used the “humanitarian” pretext to advance a regime change agenda – pushing, behind the scenes, for increased assistance to militants and direct US military intervention, while publicly decrying the escalating violence inside Syria.
But did she give a toss about keeping Syrians safe? The evidence suggests otherwise. In this new WikiLeaks release of a speech to the Jewish United Fund in August 2013 – “flagged,” incidentally, by her staffers who worried about its content – Clinton outlines one possible Syria policy option:
“One way is a very hands off, step back, we don’t have a dog in this hunt, let them kill themselves until they get exhausted, and then we’ll figure out how to deal with what the remnants are. That’s a position held by people who believe there is no way, not just for the United States but others, to stop the killing before the people doing the killing and the return killing are tired of killing each other. So it’s a very hands off approach.”
To any observer of the foreign-fueled Syrian war of attrition, it looks very much like Clinton opted for this course of action.
And given that Washington’s allies in the Syrian fight consisted mainly of head-chopping, jihadist foot soldiers, Clinton’s scenario of a killing field to keep all sides “exhausted” may have even been the starting plan.
These fighters came equipped with a militant, sectarian mindset courtesy of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar – under the supervision, of course, of a CIA that cut its teeth doing the exact same thing with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan.
A WikiLeaks email sent from Hillary Clinton to her now-campaign chief John Podesta in August 2014 shows that the former Secretary of State is fully aware that her allies were partial to supporting terrorists:
“While this military/paramilitary operation is moving forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are, of course, two staunch US allies in the region that host American military bases and, apparently, also support ISIL.
Another October 2013 Clinton speech ‘flagged’ by her campaign staff, and released by WikiLeaks this week, has her saying:
“The Saudis and others are shipping large amounts of weapons – and pretty indiscriminately – not at all targeted toward the people that we think would be the more moderate, least likely, to cause problems in the future.”
The State Department knows all too well that both fighters and weapons are fungible in the Syrian militant marketplace. It is a key reason the US has always resisted naming those groups it considers “moderate” rebels. Arms and supplies to US-backed groups have often found their way to ISIL and Al-Qaeda, with photo evidence aplenty making the social media rounds.
Despite these loaded disclosures, Clinton and other US policymakers still flog outdated narratives about an ‘evil Syrian regime killing innocent civilians’ while ignoring the narrative they know to be true: bloodthirsty jihadists armed to the teeth by ideologically-aligned US allies.
This Syrian conflict – privately, at least – is about regime change at all costs for the hawkish side of the policy establishment which includes the CIA, Pentagon brass and Clinton. Publicly, however, it’s still about “crimes against humanity” – whatever that means today.
Earlier this month, Clinton began to publicly reveal that truth in advance of the November presidential election. Reuters reports Clinton as saying “removing President Bashar al-Assad is the top priority in Syria.”
She is also once again touting a “no-fly zone” over Syria – much as she did with Libya. In yet another speech ‘flagged’ by her campaign and released by WikiLeaks – this one delivered to Goldman Sachs at their CEO conference in June 2013 – Clinton explains:
“To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk – you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians. So all of a sudden this intervention that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take a lot of civilians.”
So Clinton is advocating for a no-fly zone despite the fact that she recognizes she’s “going to kill a lot of Syrians.” Which then puts that other speech of hers about letting Syrians “kill themselves until they get exhausted” into context.
Her only regional allies in this endeavor will be the Saudis and Qataris, who we now know support ISIL and other terrorists inside Syria. We also know that Clinton will continue to ignore this indiscretion – not because of what she says, but because of what she does:
Her public-versus-private position on the Saudis, after all, has been bandied about since the 2010 WikiLeaks State Department cables were released.
In 2009, a secret WikiLeaks cable signed off by then- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reads, in part: “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide…Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT (Laskhar-e Taiba), and other terrorist groups…It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.”
Yet by 2011, Clinton was ushering through the biggest weapons sale to Saudi Arabia in US history – a massive $67 Billion arms dump into the epicenter of global terror.
Clinton is not averse to cashing in on Saudi riches for her and her family’s foundation either. The Clinton Foundation hasreceived millions of dollars from Saudi, Qatari and other Gulf sources, despite the role their governments have played in funding global Jihad. And her campaign manager’s brother, Tony Podesta, just signed on to furnish the Saudi government with very expensive public relations services earlier this year.
There is something schizophrenic about Hillary Clinton’s compartmentalization of issues that speaks to the very competence of her judgment. Her whole private-versus-public-positions shtick is antithetical to the transparency, process and accountability demanded by democracy.
She speaks of her Iraq “mistake,” yet we have still not heard what lessons she has learned. And it grates, because we can see she has repeated them again and again, in Libya and in Syria.
The ‘public’ Hillary Clinton supports self-determination, freedom and human rights for Syrians. The ‘private’ Hillary Clinton supports the wholesale massacre of Syrians by a closely allied network of depraved sectarian terrorists – in order to weaken Iran and strengthen Israel.
If you’re one of those Americans who don’t trust her, you have good reason. At this point it is hard to ascertain if Clinton herself knows what her truth is anymore.