Aletho News


Trump’s Troubling Choice of Sessions

By Gilbert Doctorow | Consortium News | March 17, 2016

I imagine many anti-war colleagues will choke over Donald Trump’s selection of the junior senator from Alabama Jeff Sessions to head his foreign policy team. Sessions’s past strong support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the prosecution of the war that followed features prominently in his Wikipedia entry.

Surely, it is not heart-warming to read about Sessions’s rally in 2005 to protest an anti-Iraq War rally the day before. There he described the other side as committing the sin first highlighted by President Ronald Reagan’s neoconservative United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick in 1984 – “to blame America first.”

Then there are the other, non-foreign policy positions of Sessions that will be galling to all progressives. Ranked as one of the most conservative members of Congress, his positions on civil rights, gay marriage, race relations, immigration and abortion rights follow conservative orthodoxy. The list of his domestic policy red flags goes on and on.

In any case, Sessions is not widely regarded as a foreign policy expert. Despite his membership on the Senate Armed Services Committee, national security policy is not his strong suit. He is known more for his experience as a former state attorney general and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee,

By itself, the choice of Sessions is a seemingly sad commentary on Trump’s campaign. And yet it clearly fit within Trump’s political calculations of getting elected to the presidency. Picking Sessions came not long after Sessions issued his endorsement of Trump, one of the first major figures in the Republican establishment to do so. With his solid standing within the more conservative wing of the party, Sessions is a valuable asset to protect Trump against charges that he is not a real Republican, nor a real conservative.

Whether Trump really intends to take counsel from this new chief adviser on foreign policy is another matter, a question of strategy and not electoral tactics. In this sense, Trump may have been too clever by half.

As he draws together a foreign policy and security team, Trump’s choice of Sessions – a lockstep Republican on national security as illustrated by his staunch support of President George W. Bush’s Iraq War – may push aside “realist” and “anti-interventionist” military and civilian experts who have been left on the curb these past 20 years as the American foreign policy establishment purged its ranks of heterogeneous opinions to become dominated by a monolithic assemblage of warmongers.

A person who regularly communicates with me summarized the challenges facing Trump in formulating foreign policy as follows:

“The key is fleshing out for Trump what his elliptical statements, not only about [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Russia, mean, and translating his deal-making into a new non-militarist diplomacy — making big diplomatic deals that will end the cold war and open other prospects, e.g., on nukes, etc. I sense he is ready for this, but the military people Sessions will recruit have contrary instincts and no regional knowledge. Trump does best tapping into the real conservatives who are closer to Rand Paul and worship the Reagan of 1985-88. Even the retired Gen. [Martin] Dempsey [former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff], based on what [investigative reporter Seymour] Hersh wrote, might advise Trump.” (Hersh described Dempsey as resisting interventionist pressure to engage in “regime change” in Syria and instead worked behind the scenes with Russia to thwart gains by jihadist terror groups.)

The first task for a President Trump would be to take us back from the brink of nuclear war with Russia. In the context of needless confrontations with Moscow, which have produced a feverish atmosphere of mutual distrust, preemptive nuclear strikes have become all too thinkable.

A potential Trump administration in January 2017 should arrive in office with well-defined plans for resuming arms control talks that address directly American concerns over Russian tactical nuclear weapons and Russian concerns over America’s global missile defense system. Trump and his team should be ready to discuss and to act on a desperate need for a new security architecture in Europe that brings Russia in from the cold.

Only after these debts in arrears are resolved can we proceed in positive territory to revising the rules of global governance and replacing rancor and discord with concerted actions by all the big global players. This is the foreign policy which the American public has backed in opinion poll after opinion poll over the past 30 years. It is the policy which the establishment elites have denied us for too long.

Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator, American Committee for East West Accord, Ltd. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? (August 2015) is available in paperback and e-book from and affiliated websites. For donations to support the European activities of ACEWA, write to © Gilbert Doctorow, 2016

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

The Ever-Curiouser MH-17 Case

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | March 16, 2016

The curious mystery surrounding the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, gets more curious and more curious as the U.S. government and Dutch investigators balk at giving straightforward answers to the simplest of questions even when asked by the families of the victims.

Adding to the mystery Dutch investigators have indicated that the Dutch Safety Board did not request radar information from the United States, even though Secretary of State John Kerry indicated just three days after the crash that the U.S. government possessed data that pinpointed the location of the suspected missile launch that allegedly downed the airliner, killing all 298 people onboard.

Although Kerry claimed that the U.S. government knew the location almost immediately, Dutch investigators now say they hope to identify the spot sometime “in the second half of the year,” meaning that something as basic as the missile-launch site might remain unknown to the public more than two years after the tragedy.

The families of the Dutch victims, including the father of a Dutch-American citizen, have been pressing for an explanation about the slow pace of the investigation and the apparent failure to obtain relevant data from the U.S. and other governments.

I spent time with the family members in early February at the Dutch parliament in The Hague as opposition parliamentarians, led by Christian Democrat Pieter Omtzigt, unsuccessfully sought answers from the government about the absence of radar data and other basic facts.

When answers have been provided to the families and the public, they are often hard to understand, as if to obfuscate what information the investigation possesses or doesn’t possess. For instance, when I asked the U.S. State Department whether the U.S. government had supplied the Dutch with radar data and satellite images, I received the following response, attributable to “a State Department spokesperson”: “While I won’t go into the details of our law enforcement cooperation in the investigation, I would note that Dutch officials said March 8 that all information asked of the United States has been shared.”

I wrote back thanking the spokesperson for the response, but adding: “I must say it seems unnecessarily fuzzy. Why can’t you just say that the U.S. government has provided the radar data cited by Secretary Kerry immediately after the tragedy? Or the U.S. government has provided satellite imagery before and after the shootdown? Why the indirect and imprecise phrasing? …

“I’ve spent time with the Dutch families of the victims, including the father of a U.S.-Dutch citizen, and I can tell you that they are quite disturbed by what they regard as double-talk and stalling. I would like to tell them that my government has provided all relevant data in a cooperative and timely fashion. But all I get is this indirect and imprecise word-smithing.”

The State Department spokesperson wrote back, “I understand your questions, and also the importance of the view of these families so devastated by this tragedy. However, I am going to have to leave our comments as below.”

Propaganda Value

This lack of transparency, of course, has a propaganda value since it leaves in place the widespread public impression that ethnic Russian rebels and Russian President Vladimir Putin were responsible for the 298 deaths, a rush to judgment that Secretary Kerry and other senior U.S. officials (and the Western news media) encouraged in July 2014.

Once that impression took hold there has been little interest in Official Washington to clarify the mystery especially as evidence has emerged implicating elements of the Ukrainian military. For instance, Dutch intelligence has reported (and U.S. intelligence has implicitly confirmed) that the only operational Buk anti-aircraft missile systems in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, were under the control of the Ukrainian military.

In a Dutch report released last October, the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) reported that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet belonged to the Ukrainian government.

MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014. MIVD said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country.”

The intelligence agency added that the rebels lacked that capability: “Prior to the crash, the MIVD knew that, in addition to light aircraft artillery, the Separatists also possessed short-range portable air defence systems (man-portable air-defence systems; MANPADS) and that they possibly possessed short-range vehicle-borne air-defence systems. Both types of systems are considered surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Due to their limited range they do not constitute a danger to civil aviation at cruising altitude.”

One could infer a similar finding by reading a U.S. “Government Assessment” released by the Director of National Intelligence on July 22, 2014, five days after the crash, seeking to cast suspicion on the ethnic Russian rebels and Putin by noting military equipment that Moscow had provided the rebels. But most tellingly the list did not include Buk anti-aircraft missiles. In other words, in the context of trying to blame the rebels and Putin, U.S. intelligence could not put an operational Buk system in the rebels’ hands.

So, perhaps the most logical suspicion would be that the Ukrainian military, then engaged in an offensive in the east and fearing a possible Russian invasion, moved its Buk missile systems up to the front and an undisciplined crew fired a missile at a suspected Russian aircraft, bringing down MH-17 by accident.

That was essentially what I was told by a source who had been briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts in July and August 2014. [See, for instance,’sFlight 17 Shoot-Down Scenario Shifts” and “The Danger of an MH-17 Cold Case.”]

But Ukraine is a principal participant in the Dutch-led Joint Investigative Team (JIT), which has been probing the MH-17 case, and thus the investigation suffers from a possible conflict of interest since Ukraine would prefer that the world’s public perception of the MH-17 case continue to blame Putin. Under the JIT’s terms, any of the five key participants (The Netherlands, Ukraine, Australia, Belgium and Malaysia) can block release of information.

The interest in keeping Putin on the propaganda defensive is shared by the Obama administration which used the furor over the MH-17 deaths to spur the European Union into imposing economic sanctions on Russia.

In contrast, clearing the Russians and blaming the Ukrainians would destroy a carefully constructed propaganda narrative which has stuck black hats on Putin and the ethnic Russian rebels and white hats on the U.S.-backed government of Ukraine, which seized power after a putsch that overthrew elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, 2014.

Accusations against Russia have also been fanned by propaganda outlets, such as the British-based Bellingcat site, which has collaborated with Western mainstream media to continue pointing the finger of blame at Moscow and Putin – as the Dutch investigators drag their heels and refuse to divulge any information that would clarify the case.

Letter to the Families

Perhaps the most detailed – although still hazy – status report on the investigation came in a recent letter from JIT chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke to the Dutch family members. The letter acknowledged that the investigators lacked “primary raw radar images” which could have revealed a missile or a military aircraft in the vicinity of MH-17.

Ukrainian authorities said all their primary radar facilities were shut down for maintenance and only secondary radar, which would show commercial aircraft, was available. Russian officials have said their radar data suggest that a Ukrainian warplane might have fired on MH-17 with an air-to-air missile, a possibility that is difficult to rule out without examining primary radar which has so far not been available. Primary radar data also might have picked up a ground-fired missile, Westerbeke wrote.

“Raw primary radar data could provide information on the rocket trajectory,” Westerbeke’s letter said. “The JIT does not have that information yet. JIT has questioned a member of the Ukrainian air traffic control and a Ukrainian radar specialist. They explained why no primary radar images were saved in Ukraine.” Westerbeke said investigators are also asking Russia about its data.

Westerbeke added that the JIT had “no video or film of the launch or the trajectory of the rocket.” Nor, he said, do the investigators have satellite photos of the rocket launch.

“The clouds on the part of the day of the downing of MH17 prevented usable pictures of the launch site from being available,” he wrote. “There are pictures from just before and just after July 17th and they are an asset in the investigation.” According to intelligence sources, the satellite photos show several Ukrainian military Buk missile systems in the area.

Why the investigation’s data is so uncertain has become a secondary mystery in the MH-17 whodunit. During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on July 20, 2014, three days after the crash, Secretary Kerry declared, “we picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.”

But this U.S. data has never been made public. In the letter, Westerbeke wrote, “The American authorities have data, that come from their own secret services, which could provide information on the trajectory of the rocket. This information was shared in secret with the [Dutch] MIVD.” Westerbeke added that the information may be made available as proof in a criminal case as an “amtsbericht” or “official statement.”

Yet, despite the U.S. data, Westerbeke said the location of the launch site remains uncertain. Last October, the Dutch Safety Board placed the likely firing location within a 320-square-kilometer area that covered territory both under government and rebel control. (The safety board did not seek to identify which side fired the fateful missile.)

By contrast, Almaz-Antey, the Russian arms manufacturer of the Buk systems, conducted its own experiments to determine the likely firing location and placed it in a much smaller area near the village of Zaroshchenskoye, about 20 kilometers west of the Dutch Safety Board’s zone and in an area under Ukrainian government control.

Westerbeke wrote, “Raw primary radar data and the American secret information are only two sources of information for the determination of the launch site. There is more. JIT collects evidence on the basis of telephone taps, locations of telephones, pictures, witness statements and technical calculations of the trajectory of the rocket. The calculations are made by the national air and space laboratory on the basis of the location of MH17, the damage pattern on the wreckage and the special characteristics of the rockets. JIT does extra research on top of the [Dutch Safety Board] research. On the basis of these sources, JIT gets ever more clarity on the exact launch site. In the second half of the year we expect exact results.”

Quinn Schansman, a dual U.S.-Dutch citizen killed aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. (Photo from Facebook)

Quinn Schansman, a dual U.S.-Dutch citizen killed aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. (Photo from Facebook)

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to stonewall a request from Thomas J. Schansman, the father of Quinn Schansman, the only American citizen to die aboard MH-17, to Secretary Kerry to release the U.S. data that Kerry has publicly cited.

Quinn Schansman, who had dual U.S.-Dutch citizenship, boarded MH-17 along with 297 other people for a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014. The 19-year-old was planning to join his family for a vacation in Malaysia.

In a letter to Kerry dated Jan. 5, 2016, Thomas J. Schansman noted Kerry’s remarks at a press conference on Aug. 12, 2014, when the Secretary of State said about the Buk anti-aircraft missile suspected of downing the plane: “We saw the take-off. We saw the trajectory. We saw the hit. We saw this aeroplane disappear from the radar screens. So there is really no mystery about where it came from and where these weapons have come from.”

Although U.S. consular officials in the Netherlands indicated that Kerry would respond personally to the request, Schansman told me this week that he had not yet received a reply from Kerry.

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

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Deception | , , | 1 Comment

UK Police pursue pensioner’s peace protest

By Peter Lazenby – Morning Star – March 17, 2016

A Weekly vigil outside a military base by a 74-year-old peace campaigner has been put under threat by a police dispersal order.

Lindis Percy, who stages a one-hour vigil at US communications base Menwith Hill in Yorkshire every Tuesday, told the Star yesterday that police turned up this week ordering activists to leave.

A fellow campaigner decided to leave but Ms Percy was arrested after refusing to budge. She has been ordered to appear in court on April 7.

The base is staffed by 1,450 US civilian and military personnel and is a key link in the US’s worldwide electronic intelligence-gathering operations via satellites.

Ms Percy, who is a retired nurse, midwife and health visitor, has been a leading peace campaigner for more than 30 years. She has been arrested hundreds of times.

She says North Yorkshire Police and the Ministry of Defence Police at the base have begun applying a dispersal order to stop her weekly vigils at the base.

“I very much want this in court as it is serious, if they get away with this. It stinks.”

Dispersal orders are part of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill 2014.

According to government guidelines, dispersal orders give police powers “to disperse individuals or groups causing or likely to cause anti-social behaviour in public places.”

The guidelines also state that “police will be able to deal quickly with emerging trouble spots” and that there must be reason to suspect that “the person has contributed or is likely to contribute to members of the public in the locality being harassed, alarmed or distressed, or the occurrence of crime or disorder.”

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Toll from Saudi raids on Yemen market hits 119: UN

Press TV – March 17, 2016

A senior UN official says the death toll from recent Saudi airstrikes on a crowded market in the Yemeni province of Hajjah has risen to nearly 120.

Meritxell Relano, deputy representative for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Yemen, on Thursday put the number of people killed in the Tuesday’s air attacks on the northern province at 119.

The strikes took place in the northwest of the Yemeni capital Sana’a after two Saudi airstrikes hit al-Khamees market in the district of Mustaba on March 15.

The UN sources say the victims include at least 20 children. Many other Yemenis were injured in the deadly aerial raids in the troubled region.

The UN children’s agency in a statement strongly denounced the deadly airstrikes.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also on Wednesday described the Saudi aerial raids as “one of the deadliest “ since Riyadh launched a military campaign against the impoverished Arab country in March last year. The UN chief also demanded a probe into the deadly incident.

The world body has already warned of a “human catastrophe unfolding in Yemen.”

Meanwhile, General Ahmed al-Asiri, a Saudi military spokesman, said on Thursday that Riyadh will scale down combat operations in Yemen in an apparent bid to divert mounting criticism of the military aggression.

However, al-Asiri stressed that the kingdom will continue to provide air support to Yemen’s former regime loyalists battling Houthi Ansarullah fighters and allied army units on the ground.

Riyadh has been under fire by international organizations and rights groups over the rising number of civilian casualties in Yemen.

The Saudi military strikes were launched in a failed effort to undermine the popular Ansarullah movement and bring the former fugitive president back to power.

At least 8,400 people, among them 2,236 children, have been killed so far and 16,015 others have sustained injuries.

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Pentagon Drops the Ball Over Open Skies Treaty With Russia

Sputnik – 16.03.2016

US officials want Washington to deny Russia the right to observe strategic infrastructure facilities in the US from the air under the Open Skies Treaty.

At the center of their concerns is a new sensor suit installed on Tu-214OS, a special-purpose reconnaissance aircraft, used for such flights.

Some Congress and Pentagon representatives have already voiced concerns that Russia might use these flights to spy on American power plants, communications networks and other critical infrastructure.

“I cannot see why the United States would allow Russia to fly a surveillance plane with an advanced sensor over the United States to collect intelligence,” The New York Times quoted Representative Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican who heads the House Armed Services Committee, as saying in a statement earlier in February.

His concerns are echoed by US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) Commander Adm. Cecil Haney:

“The treaty has become a critical component of Russia’s intelligence collection capability directed at the United States.” Defense One, the US defense and national security website, quotes him as saying.

“The Open Skies construct was designed for a different era…I’m very concerned about how it’s applied today,” adds Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart.

Defense One, however has an answer to their concerns.

When the Treaty was first negotiated, the states involved all approved the use of panoramic and framing cameras using film, video cameras, infra-red line-scanning devices and sideways-looking synthetic aperture radar – all far less capable than what was then available to intelligence agencies, it explains.

The maximum ground resolution acceptable with treaty-approved cameras is 30 centimeters. Today, anyone can buy commercial satellite imagery with a resolution of 25 centimeters, it adds.

Russia recently requested to switch from wet-film cameras to digital sensors for its surveillance flights over the US.

The website says that the Treaty has provisions to upgrade and modernize sensors. Film has long ago given way to digital imagery. Treaty members have agreed to allow a digital electro-optical sensor package upgrade, but not to allow Open Skies flights to operate so that higher resolution can be obtained.

So why doesn’t the US military add its own digital sensors, questions the website?

“Because the Pentagon dropped the ball,” it explains.

“A policy directive to proceed with the upgrade was issued in 2012, but the Defense Department didn’t issue a request for proposal until 2015, and still hasn’t chosen a contractor. The issue isn’t money – perhaps $45 million. The problem is that Open Skies flights are a very low priority for the Pentagon.”

“At a time when the Pentagon is embarked on a new $3 billion initiative to reassure European friends and allies worried about Russian belligerence, it makes sense to speed up equipping the US Open Skies plane with digital imaging capabilities, rather than to complain about the disadvantages of mutual transparency,” it furthermore states.

Russia has for years conducted unarmed observation flights over the United States, just as the United States does over Russia, as part of the Open Skies Treaty, which was signed in 1992 by both nations as well as 32 other countries at the end of the Cold War, and entered into force a decade later.

Although the treaty and the flights, unfamiliar to most Americans, amount to officially sanctioned spying, their goal has been to foster transparency about military activity and to reduce the risk of war and miscalculation, especially in Europe.

“Amid last year’s rising tensions, the US Open Skies aircraft carried out twice as many overflights as its Russian counterpart,” Defense One says.

“US flights have strengthened ties between NATO members and have reassured non-NATO states around Russia’s periphery. Under the Treaty’s “ride-sharing” provision, US flights over Russia in 2015 carried crew members from Ukraine, Canada, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Great Britain, Turkey, Italy and Romania.”

“Moreover, complaints about the new Russian advantage under Open Skies may be overblown and are certainly misdirected. The Kremlin isn’t the culprit in this case; the Pentagon is,” it says.

Russian officials confirmed the plans to equip surveillance planes with digital hardware but cited the obsolescence of wet-film equipment as a major reason behind the decision.

“We are switching to digital equipment because nearly nobody produces wet-film equipment any longer,’ said Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the Foreign Ministry Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, in an interview to RBTH.

It also eliminates photochemical processes, allowing an operator onboard to observe terrain in real time, according to Vartan Shakhgedanov, chief design engineer of the new Russian system.

The system, specifically designed for Open Skies flights, includes two Tu-214ON planes produced by the Vega Radio Engineering Corporation (Vega) and the United Instrument Manufacturing Corporation (UIMC), two bodies within the Russian state corporation Rostec.

However, if Russia successfully upgrades its surveillance equipment, the US risks losing its advantage in what has so far been a relatively safe way to obtain strategic intelligence.

The new equipment meets criteria for film resolution set by the Open Skies Treaty, but is less clunky than its predecessor.

Rose Eilene Gottemoeller, the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security for the US State Department sought to temper concerns about Russian overflights, saying that what Moscow gains from the observation flights is “incremental” to what they collect through other means.

“One of the advantages of the Open Skies Treaty is that information — imagery — that is taken is shared openly among all the treaty parties,” she said at a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees back in December.

“So one of the advantages with the Open Skies Treaty is that we know exactly what the Russians are imaging, because they must share the imagery with us.”

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Hillary is a Neocon

She has the record and the vision

Hillary is a Neocon – 03/15/2016

“For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.” —Robert Kagan

“I have a sense that she’s one of the more competent members of the current administration and it would be interesting to speculate about how she might perform were she to be president.” —Dick Cheney

“I’ve known her for many years now, and I respect her intellect. And she ran the State Department in the most effective way that I’ve ever seen.” —Henry Kissinger

Nobody Beats This Record

  • She says President Obama was wrong not to launch missile strikes on Syria in 2013.
  • She pushed hard for the overthrow of Qadaffi in 2011.
  • She supported the coup government in Honduras in 2009.
  • She has backed escalation and prolongation of war in Afghanistan.
  • She voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
  • She skillfully promoted the White House justification for the war on Iraq.
  • She does not hesitate to back the use of drones for targeted killing.
  • She has consistently backed the military initiatives of Israel.
  • She was not ashamed to laugh at the killing of Qadaffi.
  • She has not hesitated to warn that she could obliterate Iran.
  • She is not afraid to antagonize Russia.
  • She helped facilitate a military coup in Ukraine.
  • She has the financial support of the arms makers and many of their foreign customers.
  • She waived restrictions at the State Department on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar, all states wise enough to donate to the Clinton Foundation.
  • She supported President Bill Clinton’s wars and the power of the president to make war without Congress.
  • She has advocated for arming fighters in Syria.
  • She supported a surge in Iraq even before President Bush did.

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NATO’s Most Censored Story

By Ronald Thomas West | March 16, 2016

This information has been forwarded on (via email) to the leadership of the German parliament, as well the German federal prosecutor’s office, the German constitutional court, and the International Criminal Court. One can only wonder how long the criminally complicit politicians will sit on their hands and do nothing. German politicians have known for quite sometime that BND (German CIA) head Gerhard Schindler lied to them when he stated Assad ordered the sarin gas attack at Ghouta, Syria in August 2013. As well, Germany has a provision of law under the principle of universal jurisdiction which could be  used to prosecute these crimes and a constitutional loophole bigger than the Brandenberg Gate that allows passing on prosecutions in ‘the best interest of the state.’

When the Turkish government seized Today’s Zaman newspaper on 5 March 2016, it was only a matter of time before the Zaman English website was taken down. Today I checked and discovered the site has indeed been taken offline (and has been replaced with a Turkish language site featuring Erdogan’s government line.) Anticipating something like this, I’d saved a few stories together with screenshots; here is the most damning story and a prime motivation behind the criminal Erdogan administration’s act of taking over the most  popular news outlet in Turkey. As the several NATO states shed what are clearly crocodile tears over Turkey’s suppression of a free press, none will point to stories such as this following; in fact there will be only relief that evidence NATO is doing business with & propping up war criminals will have been swept under the rug. Verbatim text of the screen shots (full story) pasted in, below:

21 October 2015

Two deputies from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) have claimed that the government is against investigating Turkey’s role in sending toxic sarin gas which was used in an attack on civilians in Syria in 2013 and in which over 1,300 Syrians were killed.

CHP deputies Eren Erdem and Ali Şeker held a press conference in İstanbul on Wednesday in which they claimed the investigation into allegations regarding Turkey’s involvement in the procurement of sarin gas which was used in the chemical attack on a civil population and delivered to the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to enable the attack was derailed.

Taking the floor first, Erdem stated that the Adana Chief Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into allegations that sarin was sent to Syria from Turkey via several businessmen. An indictment followed regarding the accusations targeting the government.

“The MKE [Turkish Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation] is also an actor that is mentioned in the investigation file. Here is the indictment. All the details about how sarin was procured in Turkey and delivered to the terrorists, along with audio recordings, are inside the file,” Erdem said while waving the file.

Erdem also noted that the prosecutor’s office conducted detailed technical surveillance and found that an al-Qaeda militant, Hayyam Kasap, acquired sarin, adding: “Wiretapped phone conversations reveal the process of procuring the gas at specific addresses as well as the process of procuring the rockets that would fire the capsules containing the toxic gas. However, despite such solid evidence there has been no arrest in the case. Thirteen individuals were arrested during the first stage of the investigation but were later released, refuting government claims that it is fighting terrorism,” Erdem noted.

Over 1,300 people were killed in the sarin gas attack in Ghouta and several other neighborhoods near the Syrian capital of Damascus, with the West quickly blaming the regime of Bashar al-Assad and Russia claiming it was a “false flag” operation aimed at making US military intervention in Syria possible.

Suburbs near Damascus were struck by rockets containing the toxic sarin gas in August 2013.

The purpose of the attack was allegedly to provoke a US military operation in Syria which would topple the Assad regime in line with the political agenda of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government.

CHP deputy Şeker spoke after Erdem, pointing out that the government misled the public on the issue by asserting that sarin was provided by Russia. The purpose was to create the perception that, according to Şeker, “Assad killed his people with sarin and that requires a US military intervention in Syria.”

He also underlined that all of the files and evidence from the investigation show a war crime was committed within the borders of the Turkish Republic.

“The investigation clearly indicates that those people who smuggled the chemicals required to procure sarin faced no difficulties, proving that Turkish intelligence was aware of their activities. While these people had to be in prison for their illegal acts, not a single person is in jail. Former prime ministers and the interior minister should be held accountable for their negligence in the incident,” Şeker further commented.

Erdem also added that he will launch a criminal complaint against those responsible, including those who issued a verdict of non-prosecution in the case, those who did not prevent the transfer of chemicals and those who first ordered the arrest of the suspects who were later released.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced in late August that an inquiry had been launched into the gas attacks allegedly perpetuated by both Assad’s Syrian regime and rebel groups fighting in Syria since the civil war erupted in 2011.

However, Erdem is not the only figure who has accused Turkey of possible involvement in the gas attack. Pulitzer Prize winner and journalist, Seymour M. Hersh, argued in an article published in 2014 that MİT was involved with extremist Syrian groups fighting against the Assad regime.

In his article, Hersh said Assad was not behind the attack, as claimed by the US and Europe, but that Turkish-Syrian opposition collaboration was trying to provoke a US intervention in Syria in order to bring down the Assad regime.

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March 17, 2016 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran, US: Confrontation Continues

By Nikolai BOBKIN – Strategic Culture Foundation – 17.03.2016

On March 10, leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei met the newly elected Assembly of Experts. He said the United States harbors plans to change the state structure of Iran, but an attempt to stage a coup d’état is doomed to fail.

The Iranian spiritual leader noted that Iranians must not forget what the West has done to their country. They must always remember who Iran has to deal with. The West does not represent the entire world community; it’s just part of it. The Ayatollah warned that those who wish Iran ill will soon have to stay in line willing to normalize the relations.

The Assembly of Experts of Iran is a deliberative body of eighty-eight mujtahids (Islamic theologians) that is charged with electing and removing the supreme leader of Iran and supervising his activities. The members are elected from lists of candidates by direct public vote for eight-year terms. President Hassan Rouhani is a member of the Assembly, as well as other top officials. If Ayatollah Khamenei (76) is not able to continue in the office, the Assembly will elect another person to perform his duties. The spiritual leader called on the Assembly members to serve the interests of the state and preserve allegiance to the values of Islamic revolution.

According to him, today the normalization of the relationship with the United States does not serve the Iranian interests. The US is still viewed as a threat.

The Iranian nuclear dossier was closed in July 2015, but it did not lead to normalization of the relationship. The US continues to exert economic pressure on the Islamic Republic. The United States lifted the sanctions against Iran only partially with numerous reservations unlike America’s European allies who lifted them all on January 17. Obama’s temporary softening his position on Iran was nothing more than just another tactical move.

President Obama extended the status of national emergency vis-a-vis Tehran despite the recent lifting of nuclear-related sanctions stipulated in Iran’s agreement with the P5+1 group of countries, President Barack Obama told the Speaker of the US House of Representatives in a letter on March 9.

“Certain actions and policies of the Government of Iran are contrary to the interests of the United States in the region and continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared with respect to Iran and to maintain in force comprehensive sanctions,” the President informed the Congress.

US firms will still be largely left out of the market. Washington tries to expand the sanctions regime internationally.

This time the United States wants to impose additional sanctions related to Iran’s recent launches of ballistic missiles. The US Congress wants the administration to immediately bring the issue before the UN Security Council. It’s not clear what the Security Council has to consider. Could the Iranian missiles be nuclear-tipped? Probably yes, but Iran has no nuclear warheads to be fitted on the missiles. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) created the Iran Task Force within the Department of Safeguards, reporting directly to the deputy director-general for safeguards. The task force is responsible for all technical activities that now are carried out under the Joint Plan of Action and to be carried out under the new agreement between Iran and the P5+1 upon its entering into force. The Joint Plan of Action is being implemented according to the United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 and the decisions taken in December 2015. The Council simply has nothing to discuss.

Still, the US continues to stick to its present course. The US wants the discussion on Iran to go beyond the missiles program to include the destabilization role of Iran in the region, especially the security of Israel. During the recent visit of US Vice President to Israel, it was stated that Tehran’s Middle East policy was no less dangerous than the activities of international terrorist organizations. Israel’s motivation for rising tensions is clear. Tel Aviv is involved in a bargain deal with the United States over increased military aid in view of the nuclear deal concluded with Iran. It’s hard to understand why the Obama administration puts Israeli security interests above the interests of the United States and why the mission to counter Iran is given higher priority than the fight against terrorism.

Surprisingly, that’s what US military top leaders do. Gen. Lloyd Austin III, the head of the US Central Command and Gen. Joseph Votel – the head of the US Special Operations Command who has been nominated to replace Austin – told lawmakers that Islamic State fighters represent the greatest short-term threat to US security in the Middle East.

But over the long-term, both men are more concerned with Iranian support for terrorist groups and interference in neighboring governments’ operations.

In reality, Tehran’s regional policy is focused on providing aid to the Syrian government in its fight against the terrorist organizations that have seized parts of the Syrian national territory. In 2015, 37 thousand foreign mercenaries were fighting the Syrian army. The absolute majority of them infiltrated Syria from Turkey. Ankara’s main enemy are not terrorist groups, but the Syrian Kurds – the only ground force capable of fighting the Islamic State on the ground. It’s an open secret that in 2013 President Obama allowed the CIA to arm rebels. The arms shipments were paid for by another US vassal state – Saudi Arabia, which provided recommendations on who the weapons should go to. As a result, the weapons went right into wrong hands.

By accusing Iran of supporting international terrorism, the US does not shy away from outright provocations.

For instance, Iran was ordered by a US judge to pay more than $10.5 billion in damages to families of people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and to a group of insurers.

US District Judge George Daniels in New York issued a default judgment Wednesday against Iran for $7.5 billion to the estates and families of people who died at the World Trade Center and Pentagon. It includes $2 million to each estate for the victims’ pain and suffering plus $6.88 million in punitive damages. Daniels also awarded $3 billion to insurers including Chubb Ltd. that paid property damage, business interruption and other claims. Earlier in the case, Daniels found that Iran had failed to defend claims that it aided the Sept. 11 hijackers and was therefore liable for damages tied to the attacks. Daniels’s March 9 ruling adopts damages findings by a US magistrate judge in December. While it is difficult to collect damages from an unwilling foreign nation, the plaintiffs may try to collect part of the judgments using a law that permits parties to tap terrorists’ assets frozen by the government.

It’s clear, the US wants to rob Iran. For instance, a new US export restriction against China’s ZTE Corp. for alleged Iran sanctions violations is likely to disrupt the telecom manufacturer’s sprawling global supply chain and could create substantial parts shortages, according to sanctions experts. Under the measure announced by the Commerce Department on March 7, US manufacturers will be banned from selling components to ZTE, which is a major global supplier of telecom-networking equipment. In addition, foreign manufacturers will be prohibited from selling products containing a significant amount of US-made parts to the Chinese company. The Commerce Department said ZTE planned to use a series of shell companies “to illicitly re-export controlled items to Iran in violation of US export control laws.” It said ZTE acted “contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

Under the circumstances, there is no alternative to the decision made by the Iranian top leadership to improve relations with the whole world, except the United States. Sticking to such a policy seems to be a natural thing to do. It’s also easily understandable why Tehran is reluctant to seek ways to normalize the relations with the United States.

There is no thaw in the bilateral relationship. Instead, the countries are in for a new round of confrontation.

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Syria, Iraq: Should Borders Be Redrawn to Partition Sovereign States?

By Alexander KUZNETSOV – Strategic Culture Foundation – 16.03.2016

or-37039An article titled It’s Time to Seriously Consider Partitioning Syria published recently by Foreign Policy raises serious concerns.

The author writes that the war in Syria has devastated entire cities, the death toll is 470 thousand (there are no reliable statistics to confirm the figure) and 6 million people have become displaced. As a result, religious communities in Syria cannot live together in one state anymore. He believes that Syria should be divided into parts populated by Alawites (for some reason it includes Damascus) and Sunni Muslims. The options include a partition of the country into independent states or forming some kind of loose confederation like Bosnia and Herzegovina. James Stavridis is a four-star Admiral and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. He is an influential person in military and political circles.

The Admiral made public his views on Syria soon after US State Secretary John Kerry referred to plan B in Syria in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 1.

According to the US top diplomat, he will move towards a plan B that could involve a partition of Syria if hostilities continue because the political forces cannot coexist in one state.

The idea of dividing Syria, Iraq and other states in the Middle East has been considered by US strategic thinkers since the 1980s. Bernard Lewis, the patriarch of American oriental studies, was the first to suggest it. For many years he has been a member of and consultant to the US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Formally an independent think tank, the Council exerts great influence on shaping US foreign policy.

In The Roots of Muslim Rage, an essay published in 1990, Bernard Lewis describes a ‘surge of hatred’ rising from the Islamic world that “becomes a rejection of Western civilization as such.” The thesis became influential.

The essay inspired Samuel Huntington, the author of the clash of civilizations hypothesis. Lewis is a widely read expert on the Middle East and is regarded as one of the West’s leading scholars specialized in that region. His advice has been frequently sought by policymakers, including the Bush Jr. administration in the early 2000s. Jacob Weisberg, a prominent US journalist, writes that Bernard Lewis was perhaps the most significant intellectual influence behind the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In 1979, Bernard Lewis first unveiled his project aimed at reshaping the Middle East to the Bilderberg Meeting in Baden, Austria. The goal was to counter Iran after the Islamic revolution and the Soviet Union with its military deployed to Afghanistan the same year. According to him, the anti-Iranian policy was to include the incitement of an armed Sunni-Shia confrontation and support of the Muslim Brothers movement. The Soviet Union was to be countered by creating an «Arc of Crisis» in the vicinity of its borders. The national states of the Middle East were to be ‘Balkanized’ along religious, ethnic and sectarian lines.

The Lewis project was advanced further after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1992 the scholar’s article titled Rethinking the Middle East appeared in Foreign Affairs, the US leading forum for serious discussion of foreign policy and international affairs published by the Council on Foreign Relations.

There he presented a new map of the Middle East. The plan envisaged breaking Syria up into small fragments with the territories populated by the Druze and Alawites separated to become independent mini-states. Lewis wanted to establish new entities: a tiny state on the territory of Lebanon populated by Maronites, an independent Kurdistan comprising the Kurds-populated areas of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, an independent Shia state in Iraq, an Arab state in the Iranian province of Khuzestan – the major oil-producing region of Iran. The plans also envisaged the creation of independent Balochistan.

Bernard Lewis advocated a policy called ‘Lebanonization’. According to him, “A possibility, which could even be precipitated by Islamic fundamentalism, is what has late been fashionable to call ‘Lebanonization’. Most of the states of the Middle East – Egypt is an obvious exception – are of recent and artificial construction and are vulnerable to such a process. If the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common identity… The state then disintegrates – as happened in Lebanon – into a chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions, and parties,” the scholar wrote.

The main goal of such projects is to prevent the emergence of regional forces able to challenge the hegemony of the United States [or Israel]. That’s what made the US add fuel to the fire of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). Washington succeeded in making the war last for eight years. By provoking the hostilities, the US killed two birds with one stone: it prevented Iran from growing stronger and weakened Iraq ruled by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party.

The West launched Operation Desert Storm to keep Iraq weak. In 2003 it concocted a false pretext (the possession of weapons of mass destruction) to occupy Iraq and deprive it of sovereignty. By and large, the same fate awaited Syria.

In 1990 Syrian troops remained in Lebanon as peacekeepers in accordance with the Taif Agreement. The US gave its consent because Damascus took part in Operation Desert Storm against Iraq. Besides, the Syrian government of Hafez Assad effectively committed itself not to take hostile actions against Israel. In ten years the situation changed. Damascus launched the policy of strategic partnership with Iran. It supported the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. Washington changed its stance to say the Syrian military in Lebanon was an occupying force. Using the imposition of sanctions as a weapon, the United States made Syria withdraw from Lebanon. In 2011 the US started to undermine the Syria’s national sovereignty.

The most faithful US allies – Saudi Arabia for instance – have no guarantees they will not become part of such plans. Nowadays, the United States does not depend on the oil supplies from the Middle East. It has put an end to the policy of direct confrontation with Tehran. As a strategic partner, Riyadh is not as important as it used to be. It’s hardly a coincidence that US media outlets started to publish maps with Hejaz (a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia) drawn as part of Jordan with the eastern part of the Saudi Kingdom together with South Iraq shown as part of Shia Arab state. Actually, a genuine settlement to the problems faced by the Arab world is something quite opposite from what the United States has to offer.

The partition of the Middle East into tiny powerless states will give rise to new crises accompanied by ethnic and religious cleansing. It will lead to a ‘war of all against all’ (bellum omnium contra omnes) – the term coined by Thomas Hobbs.

In case of such a war, the small principalities will need someone for arbitration. Washington will offer itself for this role.

In the future, the creation of large Arab space (Grossraum) may lead the region out of the deep crisis it faces, but that’s a different and a very serious matter to be discussed some other time.

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Argentina and the Vultures: the Political Economy of the Settlement

By Mark Weisbrot | The Hill | March 14, 2016

After 15 years of court battles, injunctions, smear campaigns, lobbying, and other interventions, the vulture funds have finally won a tentative agreement with the new Argentine government. Vulture funds — the name preceded this particular dispute — are so called because they buy up defaulted debt for a very small fraction of its face value, then sue (and use other tactics) to collect an exorbitant return. In the case of Argentina, the chief vulture, American billionaire and major Republican campaign donor Paul Singer, will get an estimated 370 percent return; another vulture fund in the settlement did even better, with a return of 950 percent.

The agreement is tentative because President Mauricio Macri of Argentina still has to get the nation’s Congress, in which he does not have a majority, to change some laws in order to finalize the deal. And he will also have to reach agreement with some remaining “holdout” creditors. And now the vulture funds are appealing the judge’s order that would have allowed Argentina to issue new debt, presumably in an effort to extract even more concessions. But assuming it all works out, though, there are some important lessons to be learned from this long war over sovereign debt.

Argentina arguably had no alternative but to default in 2002, but the government also did the right thing by standing up to the IMF and its international creditors until it reached a deal (in 2003 and 2005) that would allow the economy to recover. International lenders — in this case a creditors’ cartel headed by the IMF — often succeed in getting a settlement that keeps the country trapped in recession, depression, or very low growth with an unsustainable debt burden; as well as numerous conditions (cuts to social spending, public pensions, public employment) that harm the majority of the debtor country’s citizens. Some of the worst recent examples of these abuses can be seen in countries like Greece and Jamaica, and will likely include Puerto Rico if there is a debt restructuring there.

By taking a hard line with its foreign creditors, Argentina reached an agreement with 93 percent of them that allowed the country to do very well over the ensuing 14 years. Instead of a prolonged depression as in Greece, or limping along from one crisis to the next, Argentina began an extraordinarily robust recovery just three months after its default and enjoyed very high growth — more than 90 percent in real GDP from 2002–2015. (There is some dispute over the exact number but it does not change the story.) This enabled Argentina to reduce poverty by about 70 percent and extreme poverty by 80 percent, in the decade 2003–2013.

So, even though the country would later run into economic trouble — in the world recession of 2009, but also in the last four years — there is no doubt that it pursued very successful economic policies, which it would not have been able to implement under a less favorable agreement with its creditors. Now, about the slowdown of the past four years, in which the economy has grown by about 1.1 percent annually: Part of the problem was that Argentina could not borrow on international markets, due to its inability to settle with the vulture funds. For Argentina’ detractors, this proves that the default and subsequent tough negotiation were wrong. But clearly that is not the case; the alternative offered by the IMF and the creditors was vastly worse.

The problem is really the vulture funds, and also the foreign policy goals of certain actors within the United States, who were against the prior government of Argentina.  Here is Judge Thomas Griesa, of the Federal District court for the Southern District of New York, to whom the New York Times devoted a news article describing his incompetence:  “Put simply, President Macri’s election changed everything.” This is from Griesa’s decision of February 19, explaining why he decided to conditionally lift the injunction he had imposed against Argentina in 2014, which the Financial Times editorial board generously described as “eccentric rulings,” and which prevented Argentina from making its debt payments. In other words, he much preferred the new, right-wing, pro-Washington government, as opposed to the prior, left government that he helped get rid of. Griesa’s unprecedented decision to take 93 percent of Argentina’s creditors hostage on behalf of the vulture funds was obviously political at the time. Now he has admitted it, to the chagrin of our legal system.

Argentina had appealed Griesa’s injunction to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the governments of France, Brazil and Mexico, and the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz filed briefs on its behalf. Interestingly, the IMF announced that it, too, would file a brief on behalf of Argentina. This was not because the IMF loved the Argentine government, but because Griesa’s decision was considered a threat to the stability of the international financial system. But the U.S. Treasury forced the IMF into an embarrassing retreat, most likely due to pressure from the vulture lobby and some anti-Argentina members of Congress, in particular from Florida, who could threaten to hold up legislation that the Fund needed.

Did I mention that the vulture fund chief Paul Singer is a major contributor to Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and is currently rumored to become finance chair for his presidential campaign?

The U.S. government also stopped blocking loans to Argentina at the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, just after Macri was elected. Macri himself also has an interesting history with the U.S. State Department: In conversations with U.S. officials leaked by WikiLeaks, Macri chastised them for being “too soft” on the Argentine government and encouraging its “abusive treatment” of the U.S.

The main lesson from this whole episode is the importance of national economic sovereignty for middle-income countries like Argentina. This is what allowed Argentina to recover from disastrous economic policies implemented under IMF tutelage; and it was the infringement on this sovereignty by U.S. courts and other actors that made it difficult for Argentina to resolve the economic problems of the past few years. We will see how this new, less sovereign government fares going forward, now that it has settled with the vultures.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment