Aletho News


Venezuela’s Maduro Proposes Cucuta Gasoline Deal, Expands Border Closure

By Lucas Koerner – Venezuelanalysis – September 16, 2015

Caracas – In the lead-up to talks with his Colombian counterpart, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro proposed a series of measures aimed at resolving the tense border conflict, including the sale of Venezuelan gasoline in the Colombian border city of Cucuta.

Tensions between the two neighbors have been on the rise since mid-August when Maduro ordered a 60-day closure of sections of the joint border in response to an alleged paramilitary attack on three Venezuelan soldiers in the frontier zone.

As Maduro prepares to sit down with Colombia’s Santos in the coming days, the socialist leader announced Friday the creation of Mission New Border of Peace, which will be charged with expanding all of Venezuela’s social missions established over the previous sixteen years to the border zone.

“This mission is aimed at bringing all of the missions, Homes of the Motherland, Barrio Adentro, Robinson, health and educational missions to teach people there to read and write, [give them their] elementary, secondary, and university education.”

The Venezuelan Head of State also announced a proposal to sell Venezuelan gasoline in the Colombian border city of Cucuta at preferential rates, favoring “cab drivers, workers, professionals, poor people.”

“We are ready to do it, President Santos, as soon as we sit down to talk, because this is how it works, proposal, counter-proposal, conversation, dialogue, and results,” he stated.

Colombian frontier cities such as Cucuta are an estimated 80% dependent on contraband Venezuelan gasoline, which is smuggled across the border at a rate of approximately 100,000 liters daily.

New Border Closures

President Maduro’s initiatives were followed on Tuesday with the announcement of new border closures in ten municipalities along the Colombian border, including seven in the northwestern state of Zulia and three in southwestern Apure state.

These border municipalities, comprising Jesus Enrique Lossada, Rosario de Perija, Machique de Perija, Cañada de Urdaneta, Jesus Maria Semprun, Paez, Catatumbo, Colon, Romulo Gallegos and Pedro Camejo, will be the first to see the roll-out of Mission New Border of Peace, aimed at creating social and economic alternatives to paramilitarism and contraband.

Cross-border smuggling has played a key role in what the President Maduro has termed an economic war against Venezuela, with an estimated 35% of subsidized food items making their way to Colombia.

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , | Leave a comment

EFF Urges Department of Justice Not to Fund LAPD’s Body Cameras

By Jennifer Lynch | EFF | September 16, 2015

Next week the Department of Justice will likely decide whether to issue a grant to the Los Angeles Police Department to purchase 700 body-worn video cameras. Because LAPD’s body camera policy fails to ensure accountability and transparency and would, in fact, hide almost all camera footage from the public, we are urging the DOJ to deny funding.

LAPD applied for the grant to fund its body-worn camera program through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Body-Worn Camera Pilot Implementation Program earlier this year. After the shootings in Ferguson, Missouri and other places around the country created a national discourse about the need for police accountability, President Obama announced plans to “strengthen community policing,” including contributing $75 million over three years to provide a 50 percent match grant to states and localities that purchase body worn cameras. LAPD could be the first law enforcement agency to receive funds under the grant.

Los Angeles could also become the largest city in the country to use body cameras on a wide scale. LAPD has already purchased 860 cameras using private donations and plans to purchase 7,000 cameras total. The city has a goal of outfitting every LAPD officer with a body camera.

But amid these ambitious plans, LAPD has enacted a body camera use policy that runs completely counter to every reason to employ body cameras in the first place. At its heart, the policy appears designed to protect law enforcement officers rather than members of the public who they have sworn to serve.

The policy fails for four main reasons:

  • It does not provide for any public access to body camera video—even in cases of shootings or alleged misconduct. In fact, LAPD has made clear that it will not release video footage unless required to do so in court—or unless the chief, in his discretion, believes it would be “beneficial.”
  • It not only permits but requires officers to review body camera footage before they write up their reports—even before they provide an initial statement to investigators when they are involved in critical uses of force or accused of grave misconduct.
  • It has no consequences for officers who fail to turn on their cameras during use-of-force incidents.
  • It provides no clear rules to prevent LAPD from using body cameras as a tool to surveil the public at large. It doesn’t address the use of back-end analysis tools such as facial recognition on footage; nor does it provide guidelines for use of the cameras during First Amendment-protected activity.

Given LAPD’s notorious history of police misconduct, secrecy, unlawful surveillance, and resistance to outside review stretching back to at least the 1930s, perhaps it should come as no surprise that the agency has enacted a policy to protect its own rather than ensure accountability and transparency. The policy is also consistent with the hard-line stance LAPD has taken with respect to releasing automated license plate camera (ALPR) data. However, the DOJ should not add insult to injury by funding this program.

LAPD’s policy not only runs counter to recommendations from the ACLU, but also to recommendations from law enforcement organizations like the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), an “independent research organization” whose board of directors is made up of police chiefs from agencies around the country.  PERF has recommended that

with certain limited exceptions . . . , body-worn camera video footage should be made available to the public upon request—not only because the videos are public records but also because doing so enables police departments to demonstrate transparency and openness in their interactions with members of the community.

Even one of Los Angeles’ own police commissioners—who cast the lone dissenting vote against the policy—criticized it for its failure to address release of footage to the public and for allowing officers to review footage before writing reports. He said that LAPD’s process for adopting the policy “undermines the goal here of accountability and trust.”

LAPD’s policy also runs counter the BJA grant program’s requirements. The program requires recipients to enact policies for body camera use that, “at a minimum increase transparency and accessibility, provide appropriate access to information, allow for public posting of policy and procedures, and encourage community interaction and relationship building.” LAPD’s policy fails to meet even these baseline goals.

The President intended DOJ’s body camera program to “build and sustain trust between communities and those who serve and protect these communities.” But if the DOJ is really serious about doing so, this is not the way. The DOJ must send a message to other grant applicants by denying LAPD’s funding request. Police-worn body cameras are fraught with enough potential threats to civil liberties; we don’t need harmful policies designed to shield police action from public scrutiny reinforcing these threats.

Read our letter to the Department of Justice here.

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception | , | Leave a comment

‘Lipstick on a pig’: EC’s proposed corporate court system slammed by campaigners

RT | September 16, 2015

Campaigners sharply condemned a European Commission (EC) proposal to create a new corporate court system to replace its highly controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism on Wednesday.

The ISDS system is central to an EU-US trade agreement being negotiated behind closed doors, which could allow corporations to sue governments if they act against their interests.

Known as The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the trade deal has been shunned by almost 3 million European citizens. Some 97 percent of respondents to an EC consultation flatly rejected the trade deal’s ISDS dimension.

The EC put forward a proposal for an alternative court system on Wednesday – a move it said would make the ISDS mechanism more transparent and allow states to appeal against multinationals’ legal challenges. But campaigners say the suggested changes are merely cosmetic, and would still allow corporations to sue governments in secret court settings.

Another EU-Canada trade deal known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which is currently awaiting ratification, contains an old version of the ISDS mechanism. It has also received widespread opposition from campaigners worldwide.

Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden said the EC’s proposed new court system is effectively “a PR exercise.”

“The European Commission says that this new proposal is based on ‘substantial input’ from its public consultation, but 97 percent of the thousands of responses it received in this consultation were clearly opposed to ISDS in any form,” he said on Wednesday.

“This alternative proposal is essentially a PR exercise to get around the enormous controversy and opposition that has been generated by ISDS.”

Dearden said the proposed corporate court system will still give corporations unnerving new powers.

“The Commission can try to put lipstick on a pig, but this new proposal doesn’t change the fundamental problem of giving corporations frightening new powers at the expense of our national democracies,” he said.

“Although a little more transparency is no bad thing, the real issue at hand here is that of corporate power.

“This change shows the European Commission is feeling the pressure of nearly 3 million people opposing TTIP and CETA, the two looming deals featuring ISDS,” Dearden added. He noted, however, that the EC has failed to halt the ratification of CETA.

Redacted documents detailing covert meetings between the EC and powerful tobacco lobbyists recently compounded fears TTIP would allow tobacco giants to sue governments that attempt to legislate in the public interest.

The documents, which confirmed the EC had met with lobbyists paid to peddle the interests of Big Tobacco, were published in late August.

This glaring lack of transparency sparked widespread fear among TTIP’s critics that the trade deal would empower tobacco giants to sue governments that seek to regulate the tobacco industry more stringently.

Powerful tobacco firms have previously used comparable trade deals to sue the governments of other states, who sought to crack down on its advertising.

US tobacco giant Phillip Morris previously took legal action against the Australian government after it introduced mandatory plain cigarette packaging. The firm is also embroiled in a $25-million lawsuit against Uruguay’s government in a bid to stop it from enlarging health warnings on cigarette packaging.

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Economics, Video | , , , | Leave a comment

EU Taxpayers to Pay 1 Bln Euros for Ukraine’s Gas

Sputnik – 16.09.2015

To keep Ukrainians warm, EU citizens will have to shell out a total of one billion euros, Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten (DWN) reported.

As Ukraine is broke and needs money to pay for gas for the upcoming winter, European taxpayers will have to cover the bill, the German newspaper predicted.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and European Commission Vice President on Energy Union Maros Sefcovic met in Vienna late last week. The sides agreed that Brussels will pay €500 million for Kiev’s gas supply.

“Ukraine urgently needs to fill its gas storages to survive the winter,” DWN said, adding that the €500 million only covered half of the bill and soon Brussels will need another half a million to pay Ukraine’s gas bill.

The bill might increase if winter months turn out to be colder than the last year, DWN reported.

Earlier this week, Ukraine’s Deputy Energy Minister Olexandr Svetelik said that Kiev was satisfied with the conditions for Russian gas supplies, which it suspended for the period July-September, despite Moscow’s discount proposal. Reverse flows from Slovakia, Hungary and Poland currently supply Ukraine’s gas needs.

Kiev expects to receive a foreign loan for winter gas supplies by late October, which Novak had said would help finance 2 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Ukraine’s underground storage facilities this and next month.

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

Convenient memory lapses of the Anglo-American Press

OffGuardian | September 16, 2015

A quick scan of today’s major press outlets in the US, Britain and Israel reveals the Empire’s continuing attempt to conceal the full depth and extent of its culpability for the last three years of bloodshed and destruction in Syria.

To begin with today’s Guardian, which carries an article on Syria that still claims “Officially, Russia has staunchly backed Assad through the four-and-half-year Syrian war, insisting that his removal cannot be part of any peace settlement.“ The major news purveyed in the article are the details of a 2012 plan Russia had proposed to avoid the escalation of violence in Syria, which had by that point taken some 7,000 lives — a proposal rejected by the US, Britain, and the rest of the self-declared “Friends of Syria” group of countries.

Relying on the Guardian, today’s Washington Post also cites Martti Ahtisaari, Finnish diplomat and Nobel laureate, and his revelation that “in February 2012, when the conflict had claimed under 10,000 lives, Russia’s envoy to the United Nations outlined a peace plan that could have led to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s exit from power.”

Reporting the same news, Isreal’s Haaretz similarly claims that “Russia supposedly proposed President Bashar Assad step down in 2012 as part of a larger Syrian peace deal, but was ignored by the West that thought opposition forces would oust the embattled dictator first” [emphasis mine].

Note the hedging and the rhetoric of doubt and uncertainty evident in the phrasing above. In reality, there is, as I will show, nothing of a mere supposition about it.

As early as June 6, 2012, in fact, Bloomberg had reported that “Russia is signaling that it no longer views President Bashar al-Assad’s position as tenable and is working with the U.S. to seek an orderly transition.” As Bloomberg also pointed out over 3 years ago, on June 1, 2012, speaking to the international press, Putin himself had indicated Russia’s commitment to finding a solution which would avert the possibility of a full-scale war in Syria. That solution, as he hinted, could involve Assad’s stepping down:

“We aren’t for Assad or for his opponents. We want to achieve a situation in which violence ends and a full-scale civil war is avoided.”

It is highly improbable that literally everyone at the Guardian’s, Washington Post’s, and Haaretz’s newsdesks suffers from such enormous memory deficits as to have forgotten the original reports on Russia’s flexibility regarding Assad from 2012. It seems much more likely, in fact, that Matti Ahtisaari’s statements are now being offered to the public as breaking news because the UK and the US administrations, in particular, are facing serious international embarrassment — and opprobrium at home — for having unnecessarily prolonged bloodshed in Syria and, by refusing Russia’s 2012 offer, both financially and practically facilitated the death of over 200,000 Syrians in the proxy-war they’ve been supporting there. Not incidentally, this also makes them directly responsible for the greatest refugee crisis of the last 50 years, now threatening stability and security in Europe.

The official Western narrative, pushed by the Anglo-American and EU mainstream media since 2011, has almost invariably claimed Russian intransigence on the issue of Assad. That narrative is now in tatters. The Guardian, Washington Post and Haaretz articles of the last 24 hours demonstrate that what now needs to be air-brushed from our view is the fact that it was always only a narrative – an anti-Russian, pro-war propaganda story the Western press knowingly imposed on the public.

There were always chinks in that story, of course. In June 2012, the Guardian itself had carried an item headlined “Russia backs Assad’s departure ‘if that is what Syrians want’,” with the subheading:

Foreign minister’s comments suggest that Moscow’s backing for Syrian president is weakening

The article opened with,

Russia has indicated that it will no longer stand in the way of the departure of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad if that is what Syrians want.

and went on to quote Lavrov saying that “If the Syrians agree [on Assad’s departure] between each other, we will only be happy to support such a solution.”

The current attempt to re-write history – all Ahtisaari has now revealed are some of the actual details of the Russian plan the US and EU rejected in 2012, not the fact that Moscow clearly signalled its flexibility on Assad long ago — stands as just another starkly pointed instance of bad faith on the part of the Western press.

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Saudi Navy Set to Order American Littoral Combat Ships

Sputnik – 16.09.2015

Saudi Arabia has selected a variant of a warship Lockheed Martin is building for the US Navy as the frigate for the kingdom’s Eastern Fleet modernization program, a source told Defense News.

The frigates sale will be the cornerstone of the modernization of the Royal Saudi Navy’s eastern fleet and its aging US warships in the Arabian Gulf.

A letter of request from the Saudi Navy that detailed requirements for the program was signed in early August, the source said, and the Saudis have asked the US Navy and Lockheed to complete a letter of agreement by November, Defense News reported.

The deal calls for four frigates capable of hosting Sikorsky MH-60R helicopters.

Saudi and US officials also are finalizing a $1.9 billion deal to buy 10 MH-60R helicopters, which can be used for anti-submarine warfare and other missions. Lockheed is in the process acquiring Sikorsky.

The ships are also expected to be fitted with a vertical launch system that can accommodate surface-to-air missiles.

The entire Eastern Fleet expansion program is expected to cost between $16 billion and $20 billion and also includes patrol boats, three maritime patrol aircraft, and 30 to 50 unmanned aerial vehicles, Defense News reported.

The four large frigates are expected to take up about 20-25% of the total cost. Saudi Arabia earlier this year budgeted $3.5 billion for the program, money that needs to be spent in calendar 2015.

The deal, if finalized, would mark the first international sale of a US littoral combat ship.

The Saudi Navy’s expansion program has been in the works for years, but US sources say Saudi Arabia’s concerns about Iran have accelerated the effort.

In July, world powers and Iran reached a deal aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions. Regional neighbors worry about the threat posed by a financially strong Iran.

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Assad Must Go? No, American Arrogance Must Go!

By Andrew Korybko – Sputnik – 15.09.2015

The US’ obsessive insistence that “Assad must go” is the most dangerous expression of American arrogance in years.

White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest channeled President Obama’s famous chant that “Assad must go” when he claimed during a regular press briefing that:

“The international community has decided that it’s time for Assad to go. He clearly has lost legitimacy to lead. He has lost the confidence of those citizens of his country — at least the ones that — or I guess I should say particularly the ones that he is using the resources of the military to attack.”

The arrogance on display is both stupefying and dangerous. The problem in Syria isn’t, nor ever has been, President Assad – it’s always been the US’ arrogance in dictating demands and then militarily enforcing them after they’ve been rejected.

American Arrogance

Syria’s ills are directly traceable to the failure of American foreign policy in the Mideast. The US rabidly went on a regime change streak that began during the Bush years, with former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe for NATO General Wesley Clark revealing in his 2007 memoirs that a senior general showed him a memo and said:

“‘Here’s the paper from the Office of the Secretary of Defense [then Donald Rumsfeld] outlining the strategy. We’re going to take out seven countries in five years.’ And he named them, starting with Iraq and Syria and ending with Iran.”

Earlier that year, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote an expose in The New Yorker in which he detailed, among other proposed regional regime change specifics, that the Bush Administration was planning to use the Muslim Brotherhood to launch a Gulf-funded sectarian war against the Syrian government.

At the time, the reason was supposedly because of Damascus’ closeness to Tehran, but later information as reported by The Guardian reveals that the decision to build a Friendship Pipeline between Iran, Iraq, and Syria in 2010, and Damascus’ rejection of a similar one from Qatar, likely had a lot to do with why the anti-government terrorist plan was pushed forward for activation the year after.

Beginning in 2011, the Mideast was rocked by the so-called “Arab Spring”, which Russian General Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov would in hindsight categorize as a theater-wide Color Revolution during an official conference on the topic last year in Moscow.

What the US had wanted to do is overthrow all of the Mideast’s republics (even those allied with the US such a Egypt) in order to bring a transnational Muslim Brotherhood clique to power in each of them that would thus make it a lot easier to control the entire region.

Think of it as the neocons’ version of a 21st-century communist party, but directed towards control of the Mideast and not Europe (which has the EU for that).

The Gulf Monarchies were not targeted because of their staunch pro-American allegiance and the potential that any domestic disruption would have in upsetting the US’ economic interests there.

Between the pro-American Gulf Monarchies and the pro-American EU thus lay a handful of republics that weren’t so firmly under the US’ sway (or not at all influenced by it like Syria), so in order for the US to securely control the broad swatch of Afro-Eurasia stretching from Iceland to Yemen, it needed to overthrow those governments, ergo the “Arab Spring” Color Revolutions.

The People’s Will

But something went wrong as it always does with the US’ plans, and it was that the Syrian people wholeheartedly rejected the Muslim Brotherhood’s ploy at regime change, instead favoring to preserve the secular and multicultural society that Syrian civilization is historically known for.

For this simple reason, the Color Revolution attempt was a dismal failure from the very beginning, hence why the US and its allies (notably Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia) sought to transform it into an Unconventional War by arming their proxies and ordering them to escalate their soft coup attempt into a hard one.

The resultant Hybrid War that’s been raging for the past four and a half years is thus a manifestation of the US’ geopolitical obsession for regime change. Far from realizing that the people had resoundingly rejected such an approach from the very beginning, the US and its allies dug in by reinforcing their proxy elements inside the country and allowing foreign fighters to flood into Syria via the Turkish border.

Amidst this external onslaught being launched against them, the Syrian people continued to bravely soldier on and democratically show the rest of the world that they supported their government.

A constitutional referendum in 2012 passed by an 89% margin and with the participation of 57% of the population, while President Assad was reelected in 2014 with 88.7% of the vote in which 73% of the electorate took part.

Both sets of numbers trump the civil society participation and political legitimacy of Western countries and their leaders, and as President Assad once said, there is no way he could remain in office during this war if he didn’t truly have the support of the vast majority of the population.

It’s also telling that most of the country’s refugees haven’t fled the country, but have instead decided to stay in their homeland and seek safety under the protection of the Syrian Arab Army, which currently provides security to around 80% of Syria’s citizens.

Be that as it is, the US and its allies stubbornly ignored the people’s will, and instead continued to blindly pump weapons and fighters into the country in clear confirmation of the adage that insanity is “repeating the same thing over again but expecting different results”.

Ground Zero In The War On Terror

All of those fighters and weapons that the US and its allies were shipping into Syria were bound to lead to some major problems, chief among them the rise of ISIL, but this was actually predicted and supported by the US government a couple years ago. Judicial Watch published a declassified report that it received in May from a Freedom Of Information Act request that proves that the Pentagon’s Defense Information Agency thought that:

“If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”

This bombshell dovetails with what Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riyad Haddad recently said in an interview where he accused the US of using terrorism to promote regime change in his country. President Putin followed up at the CSTO summit by warning countries of the risks inherent in employing double-standards towards terrorists and directly or indirectly using them to further certain tactical objectives.

In order to stem the tide of terror that the US unleashed in the Mideast, Russia is rapidly moving forward with assembling an inclusive anti-ISIL coalition, and President Putin is expected to use his keynote speech at the UN General Assembly later this month to make his case that the situation is far too pressing to care about regime change, and that the world must unite in supporting Syria as it fights on its behalf on the frontlines against terror.

American arrogance got the world into this mess, but if you ask Russia, it’ll be Syrian humility that gets it out in one piece.

Read more:

EU Migrant Crisis: Coincidence or Plot Aimed at Starting Military Operation in Syria?

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Deception | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Israel Lobby, Neocon Media Continue Campaign Against Iran

By Richard Silverstein | Tikun Olam | September 16, 2015

michael gersonThe dust has barely settled on Pres. Obama’s Congressional victory regarding the Iran nuclear deal, but the Israel Lobby and its assets in the media world refuse to give up, despite their loss.

The Washington Post, known for its hawkish editorial positions on Middle East issues and Israel in particular publishes Michael Gerson, a resident neocon evangelical (one-quarter Jewish, no less), who was George Bush’s chief speechwriter for five years.

Gerson just published a doozy of an attack piece on Iran full of exaggerations, distortions and outright falsehood. But one element in particular cries out for exposure. Ripping a page from George Jahn’s book (see below), Gerson writes this:

As President Obama was busy twisting congressional arms to prevent repudiation of the agreement, the Iranian regime has been systematically humiliating him.

Almost immediately, bulldozers began sanitizing the Parchin nuclear complex, where Iran is suspected to have researched the weaponization of nuclear technology…

Let’s unpack the lies in this passage.  First, Parchin is not, nor ever was a “nuclear complex.” There were claims offered by unnamed “intelligence sources” to the IAEA that Iran did research on nuclear triggering devices at Parchin. In its report, the IAEA says such claims have been made about Parchin. But that report makes clear that there has never been any proof offered to substantiate this claim. So what we know for sure is that Parchin has been a military site for 85 years. That is all that we know.

When George Jahn made the same claim in a story he wrote for the AP, Muhammad Sahimi and I and a dozen or more other journalists and analysts took him to task for this and other mistakes he made in his report (and this wasn’t the first time he’d made such blatantly false claims and errors). As a result, AP buried the original story by changing its original URL. That is now the link for a correction published by the news agency:

In a story Aug. 19 about an arrangement over alleged past nuclear weapons work between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, The Associated Press erroneously referred to Parchin as a “nuclear site. In fact, it’s a military site where some believe nuclear work occurred.

Apparently Gerson, stuck in his neocon bubble, never got the memo.

The op-ed further mangles the truth in this passage:

Ten days after the deal was announced, Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani flew to Moscow (in defiance of a U.N. travel ban) to meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and President Vladimir Putin. In short order, Iranian and Russian military forces began arriving in Syria

It’s true that Soleimani did travel to Russia and hold such meetings. And new Russian military equipment and forces began arriving in Syria after that. But there has been no escalation in Iranian involvement in Syria. Iranian forces did not “begin arriving in Syria” after the visit to Moscow. There have been Iranian forces there for several years. But there has been no increase as Gerson implies. The link, that he offers to support his claim, is to a NY Times article which highlights Russia’s escalating presence in Syria, but says nothing about any similar Iranian development. Therefore, Gerson’s narrative that Iran is thumbing its nose at the U.S. president, who hasn’t manned up against this perfidious enemy, is ludicrous.

Here is another unsubstantiated Gerson claim:

[In the aftermath of the deal] Iran is effectively announcing that it will be more aggressive in the region after the deal, not less.

On the contrary says Barbara Slavin of the Atlantic Council, quoting an Iranian academic close to the Rouhani government:

Contrary to the impression many in Washington seem to have that Iran will inevitably double down on intervention in regional conflicts, some members of the Iranian policy elite are advocating retrenchment to focus on repairing Iran’s sanctions-battered economy, according to Nasser Hadian, a Tehran University professor of political science who is close to the government of President Hassan Rouhani.

In a new paper to be presented Sept. 14 at the Atlantic Council… Hadian wrote that a “pro-minimal engagement” camp is arguing that Iran should reduce its intervention in neighboring states to “a bare minimum.”

Hadian does not identify who is in this camp, telling Al-Monitor that those having these views have not yet chosen to make them public. But he said that they include “key figures … among conservatives, radicals, reformers, the military, research institutions, and secular and religious people.”

So Michael Gerson, who knows gornisht fun gornisht about the views of Iran’s leaders tells us the Iranians want to take over the world, or at least their own little part of it. While an Iranian political scientist with close connections to the country’s leadership tells us the exact opposite. Gee, I know who I’d believe.

Let’s hope the editors at the Post are as diligent as those at AP in correcting their columnists errors. Especially ones like this which poison political debate on an issue critical to world peace and U.S.-Iran relations.

Gerson may want to brush up his nuclear “Shakespeare” by talking with former Israel Atomic Energy Commission director-general, Uzi Elam, who wrote a new op-ed in Haaretz, All in All, a Good Agreement (behind Hebrew paywall–there is a way to circumvent it). Among the points Elam makes in favor of the agreement is that in the fifteen years it is in effect Iran will not have enough uranium to produce “a single bomb.”

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Deception | , , , | Leave a comment

Are Neocons an Existential Threat?

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | September 15, 2015

The neoconservatives arguably have damaged American national interests more than any group in modern history. They have done more harm than the marginal Communists pursued by Sen. Joe McCarthy in the 1950s, more than the Yippies of the 1960s, more than Richard Nixon’s Watergate burglars in the 1970s or the Iran-Contra conspirators in the 1980s.

The neocons have plunged the U.S. government into extraordinarily ill-considered wars wasting trillions of dollars, killing hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, and destabilizing large swaths of the planet including the Middle East, much of Africa and now Europe. Those costs include a swelling hatred against America and a deformed U.S. foreign policy elite that is no longer capable of formulating coherent strategies.

Yet, the neocons have remained immune from the consequences of their catastrophes. They still dominate Washington’s major think tanks as well as the op-ed pages of virtually all the leading newspapers, including The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and New York Times. They hold down key positions in the State Department, and their “liberal interventionist” pals have the ear of President Barack Obama.

Clearly, the neocons are skilled operatives, knowing how to arrange a steady stream of funding for themselves, from military contractors donating to think tanks, from U.S. taxpayers footing the bill for organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy, and from ideological billionaires set on aligning U.S. foreign policy with hard-line Israeli desires.

The neocons are adept at writing op-ed articles that twist any set of facts into support for their ideological cause; they supply just the right quote that fits into the news cycle’s latest narrative; and they host policy conferences that attract powerful politicians and fawning media coverage.

But are the neocons a force that can coexist with the American Republic? Have they become an existential threat not only to the constitutional structure crafted in 1787 but to continued life on the planet? Are they locked on a course of action that could lead to a nuclear holocaust?

Clearly, the neocons’ commitment to Israeli interests violates a key principle established by the nation’s early presidents who all warned against “foreign entangling alliances” as a fundamental threat to a citizens’ republic that would transform America into a warrior state that would inevitably sap the nation’s liberties.

That loss of liberty has surely happened. Not only is there now bipartisan support for a surveillance state that can spy on the personal lives of American citizens, but the U.S. government has wedded itself to the concept of “strategic communications,” a catch-phrase that merges psychological operations, propaganda and P.R. into a seamless approach toward managing public perceptions at home and abroad.

When information is systematically pushed through a filter designed to ensure consent, the core democratic concept of an informed electorate has been turned on its head: The people no longer oversee the government; the government manipulates the people.

Neocon Tactics

All this has been part of the neocon approach dating back to the 1980s when key operatives, such as Robert Kagan and Elliott Abrams, were part of inter-agency task forces designed to whip the American people into line behind the government’s aggressive war policies. Guided by seasoned CIA propagandists, such as Walter Raymond Jr., the neocons learned their lessons well.

But the neocons are no longer just threatening the existence of the Republic; they are now endangering the continuation of life itself. They have decided to launch a new Cold War against Russia that will push the world toward the brink of thermo-nuclear war.

Of course, the neocons will frame their doomsday strategy as all Vladimir Putin’s fault. They will insist that they are just standing up to “Russian aggression” and that anyone who doesn’t join them is a “stooge of Moscow” or “weak.” They will dictate the shape of the debate just as they have in countless other situations, such as guiding Americans to war in Iraq over non-existent WMD stockpiles.

The neocon pundits will write seemingly authoritative op-eds about devious Kremlin strategies which will glue black hats on the Russians and white hats on whomever is on the other side, whether the neo-Nazis in Ukraine or the Islamic State/Al Qaeda terrorists in Syria. Americans will be whipped up into a frenzy that will demand a direct clash with the “Russ-kies” or “regime change” in Moscow.

There will be little or no concern about the risks. With the neocons, there never is. The assumption is that if “Amur-ika” is tough, the other side will back down. Then, with U.S.-led economic sanctions from the outside and U.S.-funded NGOs stirring up trouble from the inside, “regime change” becomes the cure-all.

Everyone who’s important in Official Washington – everyone on the talk shows and op-ed pages – knows that these disruptive situations always play out just the way they’re diagramed inside the top think tanks. A hand-picked “democratic reformer” who’s traveled the think-tank circuit and gotten the seal of approval – the likes of Iraq’s Ahmed Chalabi – will easily be installed and then the target country will do whatever the neocons dictate. After all, that approach worked so well in Iraq. The neocons always know best.

Raising the Stakes

Yet, with Russia, the stakes are even higher than with Iraq. Yes, it’s easy to find fault with Vladimir Putin. I myself have a personal rule that men over 40 should keep their shirts on when out in public (unless maybe they’re actors in a Bond film or going for a swim at the beach).

But Putin at least is a rational player in global affairs. Indeed, he has tried to cooperate with President Obama on a variety of key issues, including convincing Syria to surrender its chemical weapons and getting Iran to make concessions in the nuclear deal – two contributions to world peace that infuriated the neocons who favored bomb-bomb-bombing both Syria and Iran.

At a dinner party in Europe this summer, I was asked by a well-informed British woman what should be done with Putin. My answer was that Putin doesn’t frighten me; it’s the guy who comes after Putin who frightens me – because despite the neocons’ confidence that their “regime change” plans for Moscow will install a malleable moderate, the more likely result would be a much harder-line Russian nationalist than Putin.

The idea of the nuclear codes being handed to someone determined to defend the honor of Mother Russia is what scares me. Then, the clumsily aggressive neocons in Washington would have their reckless counterpart in Moscow, with neither side having the wisdom of a John F. Kennedy or a Nikita Khrushchev as displayed during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Would American neocons or a Russian super-nationalist have the wisdom and courage to back down, to compromise, to make the concessions necessary to avoid plunging over the edge? Or would they assume that the other guy would blink first and that they would “win” the showdown?

I recall what William R. Polk, one of Kennedy’s mid-level aides during the Cuban Missile Crisis, wrote recently about what happens to the human mind under such stress.

“Since human beings make the decisions, we must be aware of decision makers’ vulnerabilities,” Polk wrote. “During the Cuban Missile Crisis, I was one of about 25 civilians fully engaged in the events. I was not at the center but in the second or third ‘echelon.’ So I did not feel the full strain, but by the Thursday of the Crisis, I was thoroughly exhausted. My judgment must have been impaired even though I was not aware of it.

“I do remember, however, a terrible episode – fortunately lasting only a few minutes – at which I thought to myself, ‘let’s just get it over with.’ When later I met with my Soviet counterparts, I got the impression, although they denied it, that my feelings were not unique. How the strain impacted on the inner group I can only guess.”

If someone as stable and serious as Bill Polk had such thoughts – “let’s just get it over with” – what might happen when American neocons or hyped-up Russian nationalists are inserted into the decision process? That is an existential question that I don’t want to even contemplate.

Endless Putin-Bashing

And, if you doubt that the neocons will engage in over-the-top Cold War-style Putin bashing, you should read the op-ed by The Washington Post’s neocon deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl on Monday, entitled “Putin shifts fronts: With a move into Syria, he continues his in-your-face maneuvers.”

Diehl delves into Putin’s psyche – a process that is so much easier than doing real reporting – and concludes that Putin’s decision to join the fight in Syria against the Islamic State and Al Qaeda is just another attempt to stick his finger in the eye of the righteous but clueless United States.

Diehl, of course, starts off with the neocon-approved narrative of the Ukraine crisis, ignoring the key role of neocon Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland (Robert Kagan’s wife) in midwifing the Feb. 22, 2014 coup that overthrew democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych and installed an intensely anti-Russian regime on Russia’s border. Nuland even handpicked the new Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, telling U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt in a phone call several weeks before the coup that “Yats is the guy.”

The coup-makers then dispatched neo-Nazi militias (and Islamist militants) to wage a bloody “anti-terrorism operation” against ethnic Russian Ukrainians who resisted the “regime change.” [See’sUkraine Merges Nazis and Islamists.”]

But all that complexity is neatly boiled down by American neocons and the mainstream U.S. media as “Russian aggression.” Regarding the Syrian civil war, some neocons have even joined with senior Israeli officials in claiming that a victory by Al Qaeda is preferable to the continuation of Assad’s secular regime. [See’sSyria’s Nightmarish Narrative.”]

Yet, however the story goes, the biggest bad guy is Putin, always with sinister motives and evil intent. So, in explaining the situation in Ukraine and Syria, Diehl writes:

“Throughout the summer, Russia’s forces in eastern Ukraine kept up a daily drumbeat of attacks on the Ukrainian army, inflicting significant casualties while avoiding a response by Western governments. On Sept. 1, following a new cease-fire, the guns suddenly fell silent. Optimists speculated that Vladi­mir Putin was backing down.

“Then came the reports from Syria: Russian warplanes were overflying the rebel-held province of Idlib. Barracks were under construction at a new base. Ships were unloading new armored vehicles. Putin, it turns out, wasn’t retreating, but shifting fronts — and executing another of the in-your-face maneuvers that have repeatedly caught the Obama administration flat-footed.”

The rest of the op-ed is similarly didactic and one-sided: Putin is the villain and Obama is the rube. In Diehl’s world, only he and other neocons have what it takes to take on Putin and put Russia down.

Any alternative explanation for Russia’s action in Syria is brushed aside, such as Putin deciding that a victory by either Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front – as favored by Israel – or the even more bloodthirsty Islamic State is unacceptable and thus Assad’s regime must be stabilized to avert a major geopolitical catastrophe.

Typically, the neocons breeze past the frightening logic of what the collapse of Assad’s military would mean for the Middle East, Europe and the world. After all, once Israeli leaders decided to throw in their lot with Al Qaeda in Syria, the die was cast as far as the neocons were concerned.

But the notion that the neocons can micromanage the outcome in Syria, with “moderate” Al Qaeda taking Damascus rather than the more “radical” Islamic State, reflects the arrogant know-nothing-ism of these U.S. opinion leaders. More likely, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front would coordinate with their former allies in the Islamic State and share in the Sunni revenge against Syria’s Christian, Alawite, Shiite and other minorities.

So, while the Islamic State would busy itself chopping off heads of “heretics,” Al Qaeda could use its new headquarters in Damascus to plot the next round of terror attacks against the West. And, as destabilizing as the current refugee flow into Europe has been, it would multiply astronomically as the survivors of the Islamic State/Al Qaeda bloodletting flee Syria.

With Europe in chaos and the neocons still insisting that the real enemy is Russia, the possible consequences would be frightening to contemplate. Yet, this is the course that the neocons have set for the world – and nearly all the Republican candidates for president have signed on for the journey along with Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

In 2014, arch-neocon Robert Kagan, whom Secretary of State Clinton selected as one of her advisers while also promoting his wife, Victoria Nuland, told The New York Times that he could embrace a Clinton presidency: “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue … it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.” [For more, see’sIs Hillary Clinton a Neocon-Lite?” and “Obama’s True Foreign Policy ‘Weakness.’“]

So far, virtually no one in the 2016 presidential race or in the mainstream U.S. news media is seriously addressing the reality of the neocons’ “regime change” chaos spreading across the Middle East and the prospect of a destabilized Europe. What limited discussion there is on the campaign trail mostly echoes Jackson Diehl’s Putin-bashing.

No one dares confront the existential question of whether the United States and the world can continue to tolerate and accommodate the neoconservatives.


Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment