ISIS oil business, Corbyn smear campaign, Jeffrey Sterling vs CIA: Underreported stories of 2015
Mainstream media often shies away from stories which lack easy hooks or challenge ideological preconceptions. This is where RT comes in – these are seven crucial but under-reported narratives we covered in detail in 2015.
Islamic State shady deals and financing
How does Islamic State manage to keep its reign of terror going? The sale of oil would be a good start and Turkey has reportedly been involved in the illegal trade with the jihadists. The allegations go right to the top, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s family accused of engaging in the shady dealings. Russia says it has proof that Islamic State sends its oil through Turkey. President Vladimir Putin believes it's not only Turkey taking advantage of cheap oil. Russian intelligence agencies allege the terrorists appear to be financed from 40 countries, including some G20 member states.
‘Je ne suis PAS Charlie’: Cartoon outrage & opposition
There was an outpouring of grief and solidarity following the deadly attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris in January. While millions around the world adopted the slogan “Je suis Charlie,” the French satirical magazine has been less than sensitive to the plight of others experiencing utter devastation.
A cartoon by the magazine mocking the drowning of Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi following his perilous journey across the Mediterranean was already turning the tide of public opinion – “So close to the goal,” read the crass caption. The magazine also ran a cartoon after the deaths of 224 passengers as a Russian airplane crashed over Sinai, sparking indignation and condemnation in Russia.
Corbyn smear campaign
He has been branded a “terrorist sympathizer,” while his Labour Party has been called a “disaster.” Those were the opinions of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and ex-Labour PM Tony Blair, as Jeremy Corbyn continues to ruffle more than a few feathers in Westminster by daring to think about what voters might actually want.
Corbyn, who wants to reinstall traditional Labour values, following a deviation towards the right started by Blair in 1997, has been steadfast in his beliefs not to bomb Syria and not to renew the Trident nuclear deterrent. However, the knives are firmly out among Labour MPs for the party leader, with a smear campaign from the Conservatives and right-wing press in full swing.
Nigeria blast hush amid Paris attacks
While the Paris attacks of November 13 shocked the world, two other Islamist attacks around the same time were nearly as devastating, but received just a tiny fraction of the media coverage, as they were outside Western Europe.
On November 12, 43 people died after two ISIS-endorsed suicide bombers blew themselves up in a Shia district in Lebanon’s capital, Beirut. Four days after the Paris attacks, Boko Haram jihadists blew up a Nigerian market, leaving 32 dead and injuring 80.
The response by the international community following the Paris attacks was one of unity as countries offered their support to the French government to carry out airstrikes in Syria against Islamic State. Terror attacks have been a frequent occurrence in Nigeria and Lebanon, but they could only dream of such international backing.
Russia evacuations from Yemen
As Saudi-led coalition bombs rained down on Yemen in a bid to crush Houthi rebel forces, thousands of foreigners were left in limbo, desperate to get out of the country. While India, China and Russia were busy evacuating people of all nationalities, US rescue efforts were nowhere to be seen.
Despite relations between Washington and Moscow being stuck at a low ebb, Russia helped to airlift dozens of US citizens out of the war-torn nation to safety.
Million Mask March
Tens of thousands of people dressed in Guy Fawkes masks took to the streets in November for the 2015 Million Mask March. The attire has become synonymous with Anonymous, the hacktivist group helping to organize the event, which took place in hundreds of cities across the globe.
There were sporadic outbreaks of violence, while protesters in Washington DC briefly tried to storm the headquarters of Monsanto. However, there were also acts of kindness, with the demonstrators stopping to donate money to a homeless man in the US capital. Anonymous and its supporters were rallying against censorship, corruption, war and poverty.
Jeffrey Sterling vs CIA
Jeffrey Sterling was the CIA handler of Merlin, a Russian double-agent scientist who was passing US blueprints of advanced nuclear weapons components to Iran in the 1990s, in what appears to have been a high-risk gambit by Langley. The plans contained deliberate “fatal” errors, and the CIA hoped these would slow down Tehran’s progress.
Sterling, a black man, was fired by the CIA in 2002 in a storm of internal and legal complaints about racial discrimination, but Operation Merlin stayed on his mind. In subsequent years, Sterling told details of his assignment to journalist James Risen, suggesting that rather than sabotage Iran’s program, the blueprints helped it along, containing errors that could easily be identified.
The CIA was not pleased. Sterling was arrested in 2011, and after pleading not guilty, he was convicted in 2015, largely on the basis of data intercepted by the NSA. He is now serving a three-and-a-half year jail sentence.
Treated as niche by the MSM, the story justified wider media coverage. Was Sterling a bitter traitor or a whistleblower? Did he deserve a longer sentence than ex-CIA director David Petraeus, convicted of a similar offense? How far can NSA data be trusted, particularly when it is working to push a CIA case in the court? Was Operation Merlin a success? Did it even follow its stated aims, or was it a cover for something more sinister?