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More than 100 Australians are Fighting in Syria: Bob Carr

Australia has admitted that more than 100 Australians are fighting alongside the armed terrorist groups in Syria.

AFP quoted the Australian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bob Carr as saying on Friday that the government was aware of reports that more than 100 Australians had joined the fighting in Syria since 2011 but he had no evidence of any citizens currently involved.

Carr warned that Australians who take part in the fighting in Syria face up to 20 years in jail, reminding of the Crimes Act 1978 which states that “A person shall not enter a foreign state with intent to engage in a hostile activity.”

“Any Australian who recruits someone to fight overseas faces seven years’ imprisonment,” the spokesman said.

The Australian Foreign Ministry announced in a statement on January 2nd it was probing into an incident in which an Australian citizen who was killed while fighting alongside the terrorists in Syria.

Western officials and media have admitted to thousands of foreign salafis and takfiris who streamed into Syria to join the armed terrorist groups in the fighting, the majority of which are infiltrating through the Turkish borders.


Forget what you have seen! A farewell yo Al Jazeera

By Aktham Suliman

The news channel Al Jazeera was committed to the truth. Now the truth is being twisted. It is about politics, not about journalism. For reporters this means: it’s time to go.

Aleppo, December 2012: An al-Jazeera correspondent had images relating to Syria that didn’t suit the station’s headquarters and which were not broadcast. This is no isolated incident.

“What do you regard as a terrorist attack and what as an act of legitimate resistance?” Nabil Khoury, the Lebanese-born spokesman for the U.S. State Department in Iraq, asked me one autumn day in Baghdad. His gaze was reproachful. At the time, Al Jazeera stood accused of supporting the violence in Iraq under occupation, in the eyes of American politicians and the media. “The matter is simple, Mr. Khoury,” I replied. “Actions that target U.S. military installations are resistance. Killing Iraqi civilians is terrorism.”

“Name an example!” he demanded. “Well yesterday, rockets were fired at the Al-Rashid Hotel, which houses the U.S. joint chief of staffs. That is resistance.” -  “Aktham! I was at the hotel. The explosions were so close that I was thrown out of my bed. Some friends and colleagues of mine were injured.”

With all due sympathy for Mr Khoury, I could not change the definition. Resistance to occupation is an internationally recognized right, irrespective of sympathies. It was the time of – at least relative – clarity and self-confidence at Al Jazeera. One felt committed to the truth and principles of independent journalism, no matter what the cost. Criticism of the channel from the outside and especially in front of rolling cameras was seen as confirmation, as welcome promotional material that was spliced together and repeatedly rebroadcast on our station.

The declining station

Arab viewers will certainly recall the juxtaposition of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Said Al-Sahhaaf in one of these episodes. Both delivered the message that Al-Jazeera was not telling the truth. Al Jazeera at the time acted according to the motto: If both parties to the conflict are saying so, then it is confirmation of the accuracy of our reporting. For extended periods, politicians, parties and governments were furious with Al Jazeera; spectators and staff, by contrast, were happy. The decline from 2004 to 2011 was sneaky, subtle and very slow, but with a catastrophic end.

“Ali! It’s me, your colleague from Berlin. Have you seen the alleged e-mail correspondence between you and Rola circulating on the Internet?” I asked Ali Hashem,  the Al-Jazeera correspondent in Lebanon, on the phone earlier this year. I had just stumbled upon the alleged email communications between Al Jazeera staff published by the so-called “Syrian Electronic Army,” a Syrian pro-government hacker group. In one of the emails, the correspondent Ali Hashem had  told Syrian TV presenter Rola Ibrahim, who was working at the network’s headquarters in Qatar, that he had seen and filmed armed Syrian revolutionaries on the border with Lebanon in 2011.

The channel didn’t broadcast the images because they showed an armed deployment, which did not fit the desired narrative of a peaceful uprising. “My bosses told me: forget what you have seen!” Hashem wrote to Rola, as published. She is said to have replied that she was faring no better. She had been “massively humiliated, just because I embarrassed Zuhair Salem, the spokesman for the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, with my questions during a news broadcast. They threatened to exclude me from interviews relating to Syria and to restrict me to presenting the late night news, under the pretext that I was jeopardizing the station’s balance.”

Mistakes become the routine

“Desirable” and less desirable images? Penalties for interviews that are “too critical”? At Al Jazeera? Here it must be said that in the online propaganda war between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime, anything is possible, including lies and deception, as the months since the outbreak of the uprising in mid-March 2011 have shown. Regime supporters wanted to show that the rebellion is solely waged by “armed gangs.” Regime opponents wanted to show that the Syrian army is the only [party] committing [acts of] violence.

That’s why I asked Ali Hashem whether the story was true. His answer was devastating: “Yes, it’s true. Those are really my emails with Rola. I do not know what to do now.”

Several days later, he knew the answer. Ali Hashem left.

Leaving is the only option that remains when these mistakes – altogether common in the fast-paced news industry – become the routine and are no longer recognized, treated or penalized as mistakes.

“There must be consequences. What do we do if the supervisor who told Ali that he should forget what he had seen, tells us one day: Forget that a hand has five fingers! Does a hand have more or fewer fingers based on the whims and needs of our superiors?” I remarked on Al Jazeera’s Talkback, an internal platform for employees.

No reaction. Internal discussions were no longer fashionable at Al Jazeera.

This process did not remain an isolated case. On the contrary: it became a lesson. It quickly became clear to employees: this is about politics, not about journalism. More precisely: about Qatari foreign policy, which had subtly started to employ Al Jazeera as a tool to praise friends and attack enemies.

A hostage becomes a turncoat

It was not the first incident. When Al Jazeera’s Japan correspondent, Fadi Salameh, came to Doha at the end of 2011 to help out for a month at the channel’s headquarters, colleagues asked him how he – as a Syrian – assessed or felt about their Syria coverage. He responded evasively with something like: So-so. And why was that? He said: well, the issue of accuracy is no longer taken as seriously as it ought to be, and mentioned the story of his cousin, who  had been depicted as a deserter from the Syrian military only a few days earlier in a video broadcast on the channel. He was said to have defected to the Free Syrian army in a short recording placed online by the rebels.

But that could well be true, replied a colleague. “Not at all.” Fadi replied. “That was a hostage video. The fear apparent on my cousin’s face, having just been captured by the rebels, was unmistakable.”

Later Fadi went on to say that al-Jazeera now presumes to know better than one’s own family members what is happening to someone in Syria. “Only when I said that my cousin had disappeared two days before his wedding, were some people willing to reconsider,” Fadi said. “Thank God no one got the idea that the groom was trying to escape a forced marriage.” He doesn’t muster a laugh. His cousin never returned and is presumed dead. When the story was leaked to a Lebanese newspaper, this was the response from a person in charge at al-Jazeera: “Oh, those [damn] yellow papers…”

“This is an office of the Muslim Brotherhood”

Al-Jazeera has become the mother of invention: Those who have protested to the editorial board or turned their backs on the station are “supporters of the Syrian regime,” as  Yaser al-Zaatra, the Jordanian author affiliated with the Islamist camp, wrote this spring in a guest article published on –  it almost defies belief –  al-Jazeera’s very own website.

The attacks against its employees [waged] on its own website are meant to obscure the fact that Syria is not the core issue in this internal conflict, but rather the station’s lack of professionalism. Cairo’s al-Jazeera correspondent Samir Omer moved to Sky News earlier this year not because of Syria, but rather, as he told his colleagues: “Because I could not stand it anymore. This is no longer an Al-Jazeera office. This is an office of the Muslim Brotherhood” – in other words, the very group that is supported by Qatar in all Arab countries, and is heralded as the winner of the “Arab Spring.”

Ministers are made into prophets

The Paris bureau chief Ziad Tarrouch was Tunisian, not Syrian. He left in silence last summer, shortly after the presidential elections in France. Unsurprisingly, after weeks of continuous suffering and following repeated subpoenas from the French authorities, because Al Jazeera’s regular guest, Sheikh Yusef Al Qaradawi, had appeared on the station and called for the killing of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. This had invited a lawsuit against the station in France for “incitement to murder.”

 ”Damn it, I’m a journalist!” Ziad had mumbled to himself during his last days at the station. When the Russia correspondent Mohammad al-Hasan also left later that summer, he replied to media queries about his departure by saying that he was expected to deliver incendiary reporting on Russia. In response, the fanciful minds in al-Jazeera’s editorial department sought salvation in the claim that al-Hasan was leaving to open a kabab shop in Moscow.

It is difficult to gauge what the now retired former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Said Al-Sahhaaf are up to these days. But al-Jazeera would have granted them cause for belated delight. Both will go down in history as prophets for having declared that “al-Jazeera does not tell the truth.”

Now, almost ten years later, the statement has unfortunately come true.

And so it has finally come to this. Even for me, this means I must bid my farewell. Since October, al-Jazeera’s Germany correspondent can no longer be found “on the air.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung


Khaled Mahmoud: A Prisoner in Lebanon Turns Emir in Syria

Al-Akhbar-Who is Khaled Mahmoud? The once imprisoned leader from Fatah al-Islam is now the “emir” of an armed group in Syria. Al-Akhbar looks into the murky comings and goings of the man rumored to be behind dispatching groups of young Lebanese to fight in Syria.

The Fatah al-Islam leader Khaled Mahmoud did not remain absent from the scene for long. Shortly after his release from Lebanon’s Roumieh Central Prison in June 2012, he joined the armed opposition in Syria. Six months later, Mahmoud appeared in a video, wearing a black turban and surrounded by militants, and declared the establishment of an armed group named “Jund al-Sham,” or Soldiers of the Levant.

Mahmoud bestowed upon himself the title “Emir Abu Suleiman al-Muhajir,” and called for “jihad to establish God’s rule on Earth.” Thus, a former prisoner in Lebanon somehow managed to become a military commander in Syria.

Mahmoud is widely believed to be responsible for dispatching Lebanese youths to Syria for “jihad.” In this regard, security reports indicate that Yahya J., a close associate of Mahmoud, is in charge of recruiting and then deploying Salafi groups to Syria, including the group that was ambushed by the Syrian Army in Tal Kalakh last November.

These reports confirm that Yahya, who is based in the Bab al-Tabbanehdistrict of Tripoli, along with Nader H. and Bashir M., are actively involved in the recruitment of Salafi cells, bearing in mind that the two latter individuals had been previously detained on charges of belonging to Fatah al-Islam. They spent one and three years in prison respectively.

Mahmoud, the emir, had reportedly entered the Syrian territory through the Mashari al-Qaa region of eastern Lebanon. From there, he went to the Krak des Chevaliers in Syria where he became the commander of the armed groups stationed at this historic crusader castle.

From there, he went to the Krak des Chevaliers in Syria where he became the commander of the armed groups stationed at this historic crusader castle.Shortly afterward, a number of Lebanese Salafis joined him there from Tripoli, and swore allegiance to him. Of those, the following individuals were identified: Samer R.; Wi’am Sh.; Abu Hamza O.; and Saad A., in addition to 15 others from Bab al-Tabbaneh.

In the meantime, according to Islamist reports, there has been tension between Mahmoud and a number of Salafi clerics, as a result of the clerics’ reservations about Mahmoud’s religious commitment. These reports suggest that the emir of Jund al-Sham is overzealous – even by Salafi standards – and some clerics see him as more of a gun-for-hire than a true jihadi.

The security reports link Mahmoud to Sheikh Hussam al-Sabbagh, and allude to the latter’s role in recruiting youths to fight in Syria. Other reliable sources familiar with the issue deny that Sabbagh has any links to the Tal Kalakh group. They maintain that Sabbagh is in principle against Lebanese individuals fighting in Syria, since “they would be a burden on the ‘mujahideen’ there, who have great numbers and only lack weapons.”

Further Information obtained by security services suggests that a Lebanese man from Tripoli was implicated in dispatching the group of youth from Tripoli who would later be killed in Tal Kalakh.

In the same vein, a Salafi sheikh told Al-Akhbar that the majority of young Lebanese men who go to Syria fight for three groups: al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham Brigades, and al-Fajr Brigades. The sheikh said that the three groups had no ties to al-Qaeda, but they nonetheless adopt methods similar to those pursued by the global fundamentalist movement.

The Salafi sheikh, who is close to al-Qaeda, said that in the past, the fighters who came through Turkey would exclusively join al-Nusra Front, while those who came from Lebanon went on to fight in the ranks of Ahrar al-Sham or al-Fajr Brigades.The sheikh pointed out that things have changed today, with al-Nusra Front enjoying a strong presence in Homs and al-Qasir.

This, he said, “began six months ago when al-Nusra Front was endorsed by many who have had a long history of jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq.” It should be noted here that the three fundamentalist militant groups are closer in ideology to the Islamic State of Iraq, which is an organization led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, than al-Qaeda, which is led by Ayman al-Zawahiri.

According to security reports, large quantities of assault rifles were sent from an Arab country into Tripoli’s Bab al-Tabbaneh shortly after clashes with the neighboring Jabal Mohsen. Furthermore, large stocks of ammunition, particularly RPGs and mortar rounds, have also made their way to the area. According to the same reports, these weapons are stored deep in the area’s slums, even inside several mosques.

It is believed that a retired Lebanese army colonel is involved in funding such operations, and personally oversees the distribution of weapons to young fighters.



Terrorists CAN make chemical weapons: FSA member said




A member of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) says the militant group has the ability to produce chemical weapons.

Bassam al-Dada, a political adviser to the FSA, made the remarks in an interview with Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency on Wednesday.

Dada stated that the group would use chemical weapons if necessary, and would use them only against the government of Syrian President .

“If we ever use them, we will only hit the regime’s bases and centers,” he was quoted as saying.

He also stated that the know-how comes from defected army officers.

On December 23, 2012, a commander of the Syrian Presidential Guard said that seven Syrian soldiers were killed after they were attacked by chemical weapons, which produced a toxic yellow gas.

Foreign-backed militants have repeatedly threatened to use chemical weapons against the army and pro-government civilians in recent days.

Earlier in the day, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the conflict in the Arab country has claimed over 60,000 lives since it began more than 21 months ago.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Damascus says outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists are the driving factor behind the unrest and deadly violence.

The Syrian government also says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the armed militants are foreign nationals.





Saqr is involved in the Syrian crisis to his core




Both media and judicial authorities wait Future MP Okab Saqr’s reaction to the holidays gift he received from the Syrian TV: new recordings that included no infant’s milk or blankets but rather new devices and military aids.

As both media and judicial authorities expect that Saqr will blatantly deny the accusations and claim that the new recordings are forged, they predict another party of insults and political obscenity similar to that that the public opinion witnessed in the 1st recordings.

Meanwhile, well-informed Syrian media sources look forward to Saqr’s response because according to them, the more he talks, the more he will fall.

“Saqr is involved in the Syrian crisis to his core,” the sources mentioned, and noted that “he leads the Syrian militants from Turkey under the commission of the head of the Future Party Saad Hariri.”

However, Turkey and Saudi Arabia Kingdom blamed Hariri over the new recordings, and asked him to contain the implications of what happened.

On the judicial level, al-Ahed news site learned that more than 85 lawyers working in the field of human rights are preparing for a complaint file supported by around 71 documents.

The lawyers attempt to sue MP Saqr before European courts, in addition to the lawsuits filed before Lebanese courts.

For his part, lawyer Rashad Salameh revealed that he was still waiting the Lebanese prosecutors decision.

He further reminded of the general prosecution’s decision to conduct technical analysis for both recordings: the ones aired by OTV channel and those provided by MP Saqr himself; if he had already provided them to the Lebanese judicial authority.

On the recent recordings published by Syrian TV ,Salameh noted that he quickly briefed those tapes through al-Akhbar Lebanese daily.

“If we find new evidences in this tapes, we have the right to submit a memorandum to the Public Prosecution, including all details that would enhance the filed complaint against Saqr,” he clarified.

It is worth mentioning that General Prosecutor Judge Hatem Madi will combine all lawsuits filed against MP Saqr, based on the criminal correlation rule.

Source: al-Ahed news





Qatar, Saudi Arabia Funding Fugitive Iraqi VP against Maliki




TEHRAN (FNA)- Doha and Riyadh are spending huge sums to bring back the country's fugitive vice-president, Tareq al-Hashemi, to the country in a bid to topple the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, informed sources said.   

Hashemi, a politician in the Iraqiya bloc, fled Baghdad in December days after al-Maliki's government sought his arrest on charges he ran a death squad.

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz and Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani have provided Hashemi with extensive backup to fuel ethnic clashes in Iraq, informed sources revealed on Wednesday.

Meantime, Iraq's Al-Nakhil news agency quoted informed sources as saying today that Turkey has also provided Hashemi with a $4mln budget to stir unrests in Iraq's Western province of Anbar.

The sources noted that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have earmarked huge budgets for fueling ethnic strife in Anbar and Nineveh provinces.

Security forces revealed on Wednesday that several regional states, including Qatar, have paid $100 to each participant in this week's protest rallies in al-Anbar in support of Iraqi Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi, whose bodyguards have been arrested on terrorism charges last month.

Al-Nakhil news agency quoted a security official as saying that after the arrest of Issawi's bodyguards, several groups affiliated to the regional states, specially Qatar, paid huge sums to their sympathizers in Anbar, Salaheddin and Nineveh provinces to stage rallies against the Iraqi government.

Maliki on Wednesday called upon Anbar protesters to end their demonstrations that have led to several days of blockage of a major road in the Anbar province connecting Iraq to Syria and Jordan.

The Iraqi premier said the protesters should "end their strike before the state intervenes to end it." "I warn you against continuing (blocking the highway), because this is against the Iraqi constitution. We have been very patient with you," Almanar quoted Maliki as saying.

The protesters have blocked off the key trade highway since December 23, following the arrest of Issawi's bodyguards on terrorism charges.

The demonstrators allege that the arrests were made on sectarian grounds and demand the release of the detainees.

Maliki, however, says the bodyguards were arrested following an independent judicial inquiry based on the anti-terrorism law.






Turkey Proved the falsity of its Islamic theories

Pirouz Mojtahed Zadeh :NATO has reportedly agreed to increase Israel’s participation in its activities in 2013 after Ankara eased its opposition to the move following the alliance’s approval of the deployment of Patriot missiles to Turkey.

Regarding the recent position of Turkey, the political analyst, Pirouz Mojtahed Zadeh in an exclusive interview with Taqrib News Agency (TNA) delineated the issue.

“Turkey by committing such action proved the falsity of all its Islamic theories and proved that Turkey, no matter having Islamic or non-Islamic system, is the major basis of U.S for supporting the regime of Zionism in Middle East,” said the political analyst.

He went on, “Turkey’s officials showed their real nature of their policy in the Middle East

and proved this fact that they are the member of NATO regardless to their religion.”

The recent position of Ankara officials and their support of Israel and NATO members does not reveal anything except abiding by the rules of United State.

“So we concluded that from Jeo poletic and strategic perspective, Turkey with or without Islamic system, is the major basis of U.S for supporting the regime of Zionism in Middle East

“Turkey does not have any interest in Middle East, and after World War II the country cut its tie with countries in Middles except the regime of Israel,” the political commentator mentioned.

“Turkey through using such an alibi, that is the effect of chaos in Syria on the boarders of Turkey; tries to enter into the opposition phase with the system of Basshar Asad,” Mojtahed Zadeh pointed out.

“The Turkish officials actually claim that migrating Syrian refugees to Turkish remove security in this country,” he said.

“The bottom line is that these refugees also migrate to Iraq and Jordon, but no problem happened in those foresaid countries,” the political commentator mentioned.

Regarding Turkey’s Okay to approving of Israel’s status in NATO, and the potential peril threat other countries in the region such as Iran, the political analyst underscored, “ I do not observe any peril from Turkey, since the country is not in the position to enter into military operation against Iran.”

“Even If Turkey is after such aim, the U.S and NATO do not let this country to accomplish its goal,” he mentioned.

Mojtahed Zadeh went on,” from the other side if Israel wanted to attack Iran, the regime would do that before.”

“Attacking Iran questions the existence of Israel regime; so the regime of Zionism try to use different subterfuges to urge U.S attack on Iran, that all its attempts did not work considering up to here,” he mentioned.

The political commentator added, “Although the military power of Iran in this arena is considerable but we should not turn a blind eye to strategic and Geopolitics power of Iran.”

“The U.S when attacked Iraq and Afghanistan, faced fiasco; given that the country does not dare to attack Iran,” the political analyst mentioned.

“Deployment of Patriot missiles to Turkey and on the Syria’s borders is nothing more than a show which held by the U.S under the title of Defense shield in Eastern Europe and around Israel,” he said.

“The silver point is that even these missiles showed before that they are not that much powerful; in as much as they could not stop launching Missiles by Saddam to Israel,” Mojtahed Zadeh said.

“In short, the military and defensive power of Iran and Turkey should not be compared with each other, since these two countries are each other’s neighbor and it is not expected that their defensive system faced the two countries with danger,” he concluded.

Source: Taqrib news agency