Aletho News


NYT ‘distorted & took out of context’ words of Russian anti-doping agency head – RUSADA

RT | December 28, 2016

The New York Times misquoted the acting head of Russia’s anti-doping agency (RUSADA), Anna Antseliovich, the agency said in a statement, contesting the newspaper’s claim that Russia acknowledged the existence of an institutional doping program.

“The words of the acting Director General, Anna Antseliovich, have been distorted and taken out of context,” the statement issued by RUSADA says.

The agency went on to explain that Antseliovich was actually just drawing attention to the fact that Richard McLaren, the Canadian lawyer who compiled a report detailing the results of an investigation into doping allegations against Russia, used the words “institutional conspiracy” instead of “state doping system” in his latest December 9 report.

At that time, McLaren said at a news conference that “it was a cover-up that evolved from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalized and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy.”

Antseliovich stressed that McLaren ruled out the possibility of the involvement of the Russian leadership in the alleged doping program but she never confirmed the existence of any “institutional conspiracy,” the RUSADA statement emphasizes.

“Unfortunately, [New York Times journalist] Rebecca Ruiz has taken these words out of context and created an impression that the RUSADA executive group acknowledges the existence of the institutional cheating scheme in Russia,” it adds, stressing that “RUSADA… has no authority to confirm or deny such facts.”

The agency then once again re-affirmed its commitment to the fight against doping and strict compliance with the International Anti-doping Codex and Russia’s anti-doping regulations.

On Tuesday, the New York Times published an article titled ‘Russians No Longer Dispute Olympic Doping Operation,’ in which it claimed that Russia “conceded” that its officials carried out “a far-reaching doping operation.”

In its publication, the newspaper cited Antseliovich, as saying “It was an institutional conspiracy.”

The media outlet also cited McLaren telling the paper that he was pleased Russian officials were no longer disputing his finding.

The article was criticized by Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov, who said that it is inconsistent and stressed that Russia insists on the absence of any state-sponsored doping system and makes every effort to fight doping.

“There was not, there is not and there could not be any system of supporting doping in Russia,” Kolobkov told R-Sport.

Kolobkov then drew attention to the fact that Antseliovich “is neither a governmental official, nor a civil servant at all,” as RUSADA is not a governmental organization and is not subordinate to the Russian Sports Ministry.

Stanislav Pozdnyakov, a member of the RUSADA supervisory board and the deputy head of the Russian Olympic Committee, also sharply criticized the article published in the New York Times by calling it a “journalistic fake.”

“The quotes featured in the article were taken out of context of the [interview]. That is why I would call this article a journalistic fake, a bogus story,” he told R-Sport, adding that this type of approach does not help solve the problem of doping that “concerns not only Russia but all sports around the world.”

He also expressed confidence that the sports community would agree with him in his assessment of the New York Times article, and called on foreign journalists to “be more scrupulous about the publication of such materials.”

In response, Rebecca Ruiz insisted that she did not take anything out of context and stressed that all the quotes featured in the article are “correct.”

Ruiz also said that she received confirmation of Russia’s acknowledgement of the existence of the doping program from Vitaly Smirnov, the head of the Russian independent anti-doping commission, although her piece in the New York Times does not feature an exact quote that could back up that statement.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier told journalists: “It was an interview to the New York Times. One should first check how accurate those words were.”

On December 9, McLaren claimed in his report that over 1,000 Russian athletes – in the summer, winter and Paralympic competitions, including 12 Sochi 2014 Olympic medalists – benefited from the alleged plot to conceal positive doping tests.

It followed another McLaren report published in mid-July which focused on the allegation that the Russian Ministry of Sport took part in swapping test samples in Moscow, also claiming that the Federal Security Service (FSB) assisted in the alleged plot.

The probe was based on accusations made in the New York Times by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory, who is due in court in Russia on charges of abuse of authority and his own involvement in doping schemes.

In response, the Russian Sports Ministry said “there is no state-run program promoting doping in sport” and pledged to “fight doping with a zero-tolerance policy.”

Following the release of the second part of McLaren’s findings, Russia was stripped of the Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships, which was scheduled to take place in Sochi in February 2017.

December 28, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

Accidental torpedo launch & radioactive leaks ‘no nuclear safety significance,’ UK regulator says

RT | December 28, 2016

Britain’s nuclear regulator is under government investigation for reportedly dismissing several serious accidents as posing no safety risk.

The government launched the investigation after a report by the Times revealed the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has ignored serious mistakes at power plants and military bases, including the accidental discharge of a torpedo at a nuclear submarine base.

Experts accuse the regulator of being cozy with the nuclear industry and too reluctant “to frighten the horses.”

The Times reports officials at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which is responsible for the ONR, are investigating the regulator following the newspaper’s disturbing revelations.

The ONR says all of its safety classifications follow international guidelines and insists it is a robust and independent regulator.

However, the rate of incidents deemed to be “of no nuclear safety significance” has increased to more than one per day over the past five years, raising questions as to how seriously the regulator is treating accidents.

Between 2012 and 2015, these incidents included at least 30 fires, a dozen leaks, three road accidents involving nuclear material, and the inadvertent discharge of a torpedo at Plymouth nuclear submarine docks.

Other serious incidents deemed to be of a no concern include the contamination of at least 15 workers with radioactive material and a complete power cut at a nuclear weapons base.

Dr David Toke, a reader in energy politics the University of Aberdeen, said the revelations indicated safety issues were a “low priority” for the ONR.

Nuclear expert Professor Stephen Thomas said the reports reinforced his suspicions that “the first priority for the ONR is not to frighten the horses.”

“Ironically, since they became an independent body rather than being part of the Health and Safety Executive [in 2014], they seem to have got worse,” Thomas told the Times.

“Independence is just a cheap and easy way for government to wash its hands of its rightful responsibility.”

The University of Greenwich academic added: “Independent regulators must be accountable to the public and if it is not through a democratically elected government, who is it through?”

Thomas said the ONR had previously ignored warnings about the safety of tending the lifespan of an old reactor design, the AGR, that is still in use in the UK, as well as the reliability of the newer EPR model reactor, which will be used at Hinkley Point C.

December 28, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Nuclear Power | | Leave a comment

The Coup against Trump and His Military – Wall Street Defense

By James Petras :: 12.28.2016

Introduction: A coup has been underway to prevent President-Elect Donald Trump from taking office and fulfilling his campaign promise to improve US-Russia relations. This ‘palace coup’ is not a secret conspiracy, but an open, loud attack on the election.

The coup involves important US elites, who openly intervene on many levels from the street to the current President, from sectors of the intelligence community, billionaire financiers out to the more marginal ‘leftist’ shills of the Democratic Party.

The build-up for the coup is gaining momentum, threatening to eliminate normal constitutional and democratic constraints. This essay describes the brazen, overt coup and the public operatives, mostly members of the outgoing Obama regime.

The second section describes the Trump’s cabinet appointments and the political measures that the President-Elect has adopted to counter the coup. We conclude with an evaluation of the potential political consequences of the attempted coup and Trump’s moves to defend his electoral victory and legitimacy.

The Coup as ‘Process’

In the past few years Latin America has experienced several examples of the seizure of Presidential power by unconstitutional means, which may help illustrate some of the current moves underway in Washington. These are especially interesting since the Obama Administration served as the ‘midwife’ for these ‘regime changes’.

Brazil, Paraguay, Honduras and Haiti experienced coups, in which the elected Presidents were ousted through a series of political interventions orchestrated by economic elites and their political allies in Congress and the Judiciary.

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton were deeply involved in these operations as part of their established foreign policy of ‘regime change’. Indeed, the ’success’ of the Latin American coups has encouraged sectors of the US elite to attempt to prevent President-elect Trump from taking office in January.

While similarities abound, the on-going coup against Trump in the United States occurs within a very different power configuration of proponents and antagonists.

Firstly, this coup is not against a standing President, but targets an elected president set to take office on January 20, 2017. Secondly, the attempted coup has polarized leading sectors of the political and economic elite. It even exposes a seamy rivalry within the intelligence-security apparatus, with the political appointees heading the CIA involved in the coup and the FBI supporting the incoming President Trump and the constitutional process. Thirdly, the evolving coup is a sequential process, which will build momentum and then escalate very rapidly.

Coup-makers depend on the ‘Big Lie’ as their point of departure – accusing President-Elect Trump of 1) being a Kremlin stooge, attributing his electoral victory to Russian intervention against his Democratic Party opponent, Hillary Clinton and 2) blatant voter fraud in which the Republican Party prevented minority voters from casting their ballot for Secretary Clinton.

The first operatives to emerge in the early stages of the coup included the marginal-left Green Party Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein, who won less than 1% of the vote, as well as the mass media.

In the wake of her resounding defeat, Candidate Stein usurped authority from the national Green Party and rapidly raked in $8 million dollars in donations from Democratic Party operatives and George Soros-linked NGO’s (many times the amount raised during her Presidential campaign). This dodgy money financed her demand for ballot recounts in selective states in order to challenge Trump’s victory. The recounts failed to change the outcome, but it was a ‘first shot across the bow’, to stop Trump. It became a propaganda focus for the neo-conservative mass media to mobilize several thousand Clintonite and liberal activists.

The purpose was to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s electoral victory. However, Jill Stein’s $8 million dollar shilling for Secretary Clinton paled before the oncoming avalanche of mass media and NGO propaganda against Trump. Their main claim was that anonymous ‘Russian hackers’ and not the American voters had decided the US Presidential election of November 2016!

The ‘Big Lie’ was repeated and embellished at every opportunity by the print and broadcast media. The ‘experts’ were trotted out voicing vitriolic accusations, but they never presented any facts and documentation of a ‘rigged election’. Everyday, every hour, the ‘Russian Plot’ was breathlessly described in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Financial Times, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, BBC, NPR and their overseas followers in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Oceania and Africa. The great American Empire looked increasingly like a ‘banana republic’.

Like the Billionaire Soros-funded ‘Color Revolutions’, from Ukraine, to Georgia and Yugoslavia, the ‘Rainbow Revolt’ against Trump, featured grass-roots NGO activists and ’serious leftists’, like Jill Stein.

The more polished political operatives from the upscale media used their editorial pages to question Trump’s legitimacy. This established the ground work for even higher level political intervention: The current US Administration, including President Obama, members of the US Congress from both parties, and current and former heads of the CIA jumped into the fray. As the vote recount ploy flopped, they all decided that ‘Vladimir Putin swung the US election!’ It wasn’t just lunatic neo-conservative warmongers who sought to oust Trump and impose Hillary Clinton on the American people, liberals and social democrats were screaming ‘Russian Plot!’ They demanded a formal Congressional investigation of the ‘Russian cyber hacking’ of Hillary’s personal e-mails (where she plotted to cheat her rival ‘Bernie Sanders’ in the primaries). They demanded even tighter economic sanctions against Russia and increased military provocations. The outgoing Democratic Senator and Minority Leader ‘Harry’ Reid wildly accused the FBI of acting as ‘Russian agents’ and hinted at a purge.

The coup intensified as Trump-Putin became synonymous for “betrayal” and “election fraud”.

As this approached a crescendo of media hysteria, President Barack Obama stepped in and called on the CIA to seize domestic control of the investigation of Russian manipulation of the US election – essentially accusing President-Elect Trump of conspiring with the Russian government. Obama refused to reveal any proof of such a broad plot, citing ‘national security’.

President Obama solemnly declared the Trump-Putin conspiracy was a grave threat to American democracy and Western security and freedom. He darkly promised to retaliate against Russia, “… at a time and place of our choosing”.

Obama also pledged to send more US troops to the Middle East and increase arms shipments to the jihadi terrorists in Syria, as well as the Gulf State and Saudi ‘allies’. Coincidentally, the Syrian Government and their Russian allies were poised to drive the US-backed terrorists out of Aleppo – and defeat Obama’s campaign of ‘regime change’ in Syria.

Trump Strikes Back: The Wall Street- Military Alliance

Meanwhile, President-Elect Donald Trump did not crumple under the Clintonite-coup in progress. He prepared a diverse counter-attack to defend his election, relying on elite allies and mass supporters.

Trump denounced the political elements in the CIA, pointing out their previous role in manufacturing the justifications (he used the term ‘lies’) for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He appointed three retired generals to key Defense and Security positions – indicating a power struggle between the highly politicized CIA and the military. Active and retired members of the US Armed Forces have been key Trump supporters. He announced that he would bring his own security teams and integrate them with the Presidential Secret Service during his administration.

Although Clinton-Obama had the major mass media and a sector of the financial elite who supported the coup, Trump countered by appointing several key Wall Street and corporate billionaires into his cabinet who had their own allied business associations.

One propaganda line for the coup, which relied on certain Zionist organizations and leaders (ADL, George Soros et al), was the bizarre claim that Trump and his supporters were ‘anti-Semites’. This was countered by Trump’s appointment of powerful Wall Street Zionists like Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary and Gary Cohn (both of Goldman Sachs) to head the National Economic Council. Faced with the Obama-CIA plot to paint Trump as a Russian agent for Vladimir Putin, the President-Elect named security hardliners including past and present military leaders and FBI officials, to key security and intelligence positions.

The Coup: Can it succeed?

In early December, President Obama issued an order for the CIA to ‘complete its investigation’ on the Russian plot and manipulation of the US Presidential election in six weeks – right up to the very day of Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017! A concoction of pre-cooked ‘findings’ is already oozing out of secret clandestine CIA archives with the President’s approval. Obama’s last-ditch effort will not change the outcome of the election. Clearly this is designed to poison the diplomatic well and present Trump’s incoming administration as dangerous. Trump’s promise to improve relations with Russia will face enormous resistance in this frothy, breathless hysteria of Russophobia.

Ultimately, President Obama is desperate to secure his legacy, which has consisted of disastrous and criminal imperial wars and military confrontations. He wants to force a continuation of his grotesque policies onto the incoming Trump Administration. Will Trump succumb? The legitimacy of his election and his freedom to make policy will depend on overcoming the Clinton-Obama-neo-con-leftist coup with his own bloc of US military and the powerful Wall Street allies, as well as his mass support among the ‘angry’ American electorate. Trump’s success at thwarting the current ‘Russian ploy’ requires his forming counter alliances with Washington plutocrats, many of whom will oppose any diplomatic agreement with Putin. Trump’s appointment of hardline economic plutocrats who are deeply committed to shredding social programs (public education, Medicare, Social Security) could ignite the anger of his mass supporters by savaging their jobs, health care, pensions and their children’s future.

If Trump defeats the avalanching media, CIA and elite-instigated coup (which interestingly lacks support from the military and judiciary), he will have to thank, not only his generals and billionaire-buddies, but also his downwardly mobile mass supporters (Hillary Clinton’s detested ‘basket of deplorables’). He embarked on a major series of ‘victory tours’ around the country to thank his supporters among the military, workers, women and small business people and call on them to defend his election to the presidency. He will have to fulfill some of his promises to the masses or face ‘the real fire’, not from Clintonite shills and war-mongers, but from the very people who voted for him.

December 28, 2016 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Demolition orders for Palestinian homes surge”

Press TV – December 27, 2016

December 28, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Video | , , , , | 1 Comment

US-Qatar Deal Threatens Russia: Reading News Between the Lines

By Alex GORKA | Strategic Culture Foundation | 28.12.2016

Washington boasts strong military presence in the Persian Gulf. Iran and Yemen are the only countries of the region that don’t host US military facilities. The American armed forces use large air installations in Qatar and expand operations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman. Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. The US has encouraged the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states to purchase and install the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) advanced missile defense systems.

The US and the GCC countries underscored a commitment to build the defense system at a summit in May 2015. Formally, the «Iranian threat» was used as a pretext. A joint statement following the summit said that the GCC states were committed to developing a ballistic missile defense capability, including an early warning system, with US technical support. The development of a robust integrated BMD network across the region is a primary goal for the US military. It guarantees that the GCC security will depend on the United States.

On December 10, Secretary Ashton Carter told an audience at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) regional security conference in Manama, Bahrain, that an agreement had been reached to allow Qatar to purchase a long range early warning radar (EWR) from Raytheon. «We reached an agreement for Qatar to purchase a 5,000 km [range] early warning radar to enhance its missile defenses», the official announced.

In July 2013, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Qatar of A/N FPS-132 Block 5 Early Warning Radar (EWR) and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $1.1 billion.

According to Raytheon, the AN/FPS-132 system is designed to detect missile launches that take place thousands of miles away to provide advanced warning time to alert command and control centers and cue fire control systems. ‘This highly reliable radar requires very low manning, yet will operate 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, providing up to 360 degrees of coverage out to 5,000km,’ said Steve Sparagna, chief engineer for the AN/FPS-132 EWR. ‘It is the ideal sensor to deter and detect hostile missile launches.’

According to Michael Elleman, a senior fellow for missile defence with the IISS, the system in future can provide not only Qatar but a unified GCC ballistic missile defence system an early warning capability against any Iranian ballistic missile launches.

The AN/FPS-132 to be based in Qatar is a very special case. It is designed to be used as an early warning system against strategic offensive assets – something Iran does not possess. For instance, the radars of this type are located in Beale Air Force Base, California, RAF Fylingdales, the United Kingdom, and Thule Air Base, Greenland to operate in the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) BMD system (BMDS). Following formal Missile Defense Agency (MDA) ground test events in FY17/18, Clear and Cape Cod upgraded EWRs (UEWR) are scheduled to be BMDS certified in FY18/19, respectively.

The announced range of 5,000km (3,100mi) by far exceeds the requirement to counter a missile threat coming from Iran. There are radars with shorter range to support the PAC-3 and THAAD systems deployed by GCC countries. In theory, the truck-mounted AN/TPY-2 is the right system for the mission. It can spot a missile launch from hundreds of miles away. If it is effective enough to be stationed in South Korea to counter Pyongyang and monitor parts of China, why is it different in the case of Persian Gulf?

The deployment of AN/FPS-132 to Qatar is not needed to support NATO assets stationed in Europe against Iran. A high powered early warning X band radar is stationed in Malatya, Turkey to carry out the mission. It is operational since January 2012. There is no answer why exactly the AN/FPS-132 – the UEWR with such an impressive detection range – should be used to counter Iran from the Gulf. The distance from Qatar to Iran is just 821 kilometers (510mi). It takes roughly 1,700 km (1,056mi) to reach Turkmenistan from Qatar across the territory of Iran. The AN/TPY-2 covers the whole country. The radar’s estimated range is from 1,500km (932mi) to 3,000km (1,864mi). The maximum instrumented range is 2,000km (1242mi). Obviously, one does not need a radar with an operational range of 5,000km to counter a threat coming from Iran. There is no other reasonable explanation for the choice, except the fact that the AN/FPS-132 can monitor large chunks of Russian territory.

Janes, perhaps unwittingly, confirms the fact. It says, «Raytheon was awarded a USD2.4 billion contract in December 2014 to build Qatar an Air and Missile Defence Operations Centre (ADOC) that it said will «integrate US air defence systems – including Patriot, the Early Warning Radar, and THAAD – with European air defence systems and radars, and Qatar’s Air Operation Centre». It proves that the Qatar-based AN/FPS-132 UEWR is an element of the emerging US global BMDS created to counter Russian nuclear strategic forces.

The announcement of the US-Qatar deal is a demonstration of US adamant resolve to surround the Russian Federation with BMD sites and neutralize its capability to deliver a retaliatory strike if attacked. This is a very disturbing fact. Russia will not sit idle watching the developments. The US has just taken another provocative step to undermine Russia’s security and complicate the bilateral relations.

December 28, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Leave a comment

Who is Supporting ISIS-Daesh in Syria? Erdogan or Obama? NATO Military Alliance in Crisis

By Michel Chossudovsky | Global Research | December 28, 2016

In an unusual turn of events, Washington accuses Ankara of supporting the ISIS-Daesh.

And Turkey’s president Erdogan responds by accusing Washington of supporting ISIS-Daesh. “Now they give support to terrorist groups including Daesh, YPG, PYD. It’s very clear. We have confirmed evidence, with pictures, photos and videos.” said Erdogan.

And Washington responds “”he [Erdogan] continues to supply arms [into Syria] as well, with his ultimate aim [being] to go after the Kurds, and ISIS is secondary.”

While Washington has strongly denied Erdogan’s latest allegations, the structure of political and military alliances is in crisis.

Who is supporting the ISIS?  

The fact of the matter is that both the US and Turkey provide covert support to the terrorists including ISIS-Daesh and Jabhat Al Nusra.

Both Turkey and the US have collaborated in supporting the ISIS-Daesh in Northern Syria.

From the very outset, the Islamic State has been supported  (unofficially of course) by the broader US-NATO coalition which includes several NATO member countries (including the US, France, Britain as well as Turkey) and their Middle East allies including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel.

What is of concern to Erdogan is that the US is ALSO supporting  the Kurdish separatists YPG forces which have been combating the ISIS. And until recently Turkey has used the ISIS rebels to combat YPG forces, which are also supported by the US.

From the outset in 2011, the recruitment of jihadist mercenaries to be deployed in Syria was coordinated by NATO and the Turkish High Command. In this regard, Turkey has played a central role in relation to logistics, weapons supplies, recruitment and training, in close liaison with Washington and Brussels.

The Ankara government has also played a strategic role in protecting the movement of jihadist rebels and supplies across its border into Northern Syria

What is now occurring is a rift in the structure of military alliances, through the emergence of “cross-cutting coalitions”.

Turkey as a NATO member state is an ally of the US. But the US is now supporting the YPG which is fighting both the ISIS and Turkey.

In turn, Turkey, which is a staunch ally of the US is negotiating with Russia and Iran.

Already in May 2016, Erdogan accused US-NATO of supporting YPG forces:

“The support they give [US, NATO] to… the YPG (militia)… I condemn it,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday during an airport ceremony in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. “Those who are our friends, who are with us in NATO… cannot, must not send their soldiers to Syria wearing YPG insignia.” (Ara News Network, May 28, 2016)

What is the underlying cause of this clash between the US and Turkey, which strikes at the very heart of the Atlantic Alliance?

Washington is firmly opposed to Erdogan’s territorial ambitions in Northern Syria. The US-NATO objective is to fragment both Syria and Iraq. Washington’s strategy in Northern Syria consists in supporting and controlling the Kurdish YPG separatists.

Mark Toner, the US State department spokesperson confirmed that Washington would continue to support the YPG “despite the Turkish government opposition towards Kurdish-US cooperation”. (See Ara New Network, December 27, 2016):

“… there are disagreements among members of the coalition as to how we proceed and with whom we’re cooperating on the ground? I’m not going to say that there aren’t. And obviously, Turkey’s made very clear their feelings about the YPG. We have also been equally clear, while we understand Turkey’s concerns, that we’re going to continue to work with the YPG as a part of the overarching Syrian Democratic Forces. So the YPG is not the sole group that we’re working with on the ground. We’re working with Syrian Arabs, Syrian Turkmen, and other groups that are fighting Daesh,”

Officially the US is fighting the ISIS, unofficially it is supporting it.

And now in an about turn, the ISIS which is integrated (covertly and unofficially) by Western special forces (often on contract to private mercenary companies) has turned against Turkey, a NATO member state. This action is largely on behalf of  YPG forces, which are also fighting Turkish forces:

 ISIS claims it has killed 70 Turkish soldiers during the conflict and just a few days ago the warped death cult released a video of two Turkish men being burned alive.

Turkey has rushed tanks and heavy weapons to its border and blamed the US-led coalition for inadequate air support after Erdogan’s forces which encountered deadly resistance from ISIS militants – 14 Turkish troops were killed. (Daily Express, December 27, 2016)

Cross-Cutting alliances

While Ankara accuses Washington, Moscow is playing at the diplomatic level a skillful “double game”: Foreign Minister Lavrov is talking to John Kerry on the one hand as well as negotiating with Ankara on the other hand.

On December 21, the Foreign Ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey (See image below) met in Moscow “to draft a joint statement aimed at resolving the long term conflict in Syria.” (RT, December 22, 2016)

Moscow also intimated that other countries including Saudi Arabia would be invited to join this initiative. The underlying objective would be to weaken the allegiance of Saudi Arabia to the US.

It is “very important” that the statement by Moscow, Tehran and Ankara “contained an invitation to other countries that have influence ‘on the ground’ to join such efforts,” (RT, December 22, 2016)

Foreign ministers, Sergei Lavrov (C) of Russia, Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) of Turkey and Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, attend a news conference in Moscow, Russia, December 20, 2016. © Ilya Pitalev

According to media reports, Turkey has Moscow’s support in the siege of the Northern Syrian city of Al-Bab which has been under the clutch of the ISIS since 2013. Fierce fighting is ongoing. Ankara reported on December 26 that “the anti-ISIS coalition was making progress in al-Bab”.

December 28, 2016 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Obama Defeatedly Uses the ‘Sanctions Muscle’ Against Russia

By Salman Rafi Sheikh – New Eastern Outlook – 28.12.2016

It seems hardly a coincidence that the US out-going president announced fresh sanctions on Russia just when the later was busy discussing a deal on Syria with Turkey and Iran in Moscow. Far from being just a sort of coincidence, the act is an apt reflection of the increasing American anger over its failure in Syria against Russia. According to Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration added on Tuesday, December 20, 2016, to its sanctions list Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian restaurateur who, according to Washington, has links to Russia’s Vladimir Putin and is the financial backer of ‘pro-Russian propaganda’ machinery. Obama’s sanctions prohibit Prigozhin from entering the US and conducting business with any American individuals or organizations. This act has come alongside new US Treasury sanctions imposed upon a number of other Russian individuals with connections to a bank US officials have said has ‘ties’ to Mr. Putin’s inner circle. Clearly, the Obama administration is busy casting Mr. Putin as a die-hard villain in its version of political and military history.

Besides the fact that it is an expression of frustration, it is also a fact that Washington has run out of ways to hit at Putin and time is running out for the lame duck president – almost three weeks left before Obama retires.

Without doubt, the Obama administration feels humiliated that Russia, Turkey and Iran have formed a platform to discuss a Syrian settlement, which excludes the US. Even if it is not a defeating humiliation, the situation developing within and outside Syria regarding a US-exclusive peace settlement is politically deeply damaging for the US both domestically and internationally.

Nothing perhaps could explain the damage the Obama administration has done to the US due to its dual policies with regard to Syria and the larger issue of terrorism than Senator John McCain’s recent statement in which he said that what is unfolding is “the predictable consequence of President Obama’s reckless policy of disengagement from the Middle East. And it is ironic that after touting the power of diplomacy for years, President Obama’s refusal to back diplomacy with strength has left the United States without even a seat at the diplomatic table.”

While McCain’s view represents the view of a hawkish club that exists within the US, it is far from true that the Obama administration did not support diplomacy with strength. Neither was the US disengaged from the Middle East during all these years nor was the Obama administration oblivious to the importance of bringing havoc to Syria, in the name of democracy, through proxy groups, some of which continue to receive support.

Yet, the situation now emerging out of the trilateral settlement among Russia, Iran and Turkey marks a direct opposite of what the US and its allies have been seeking in Syria for last five years or so. While the joint statement of the trilateral meeting has formalized a growing convergence between Moscow, Ankara and Tehran, the bottom line and what angers the US the most is their unequivocal support for a Syria that is not only sovereign, independent and united with its territorial integrity intact, but also is “multi-ethnic, multi-religious, non-sectarian, democratic and secular.”

At the core is all parties’ willingness to facilitate an intra-Syria dialogue and to be the guarantors of a prospective agreement between the Syrian government and the opposition. Following the Moscow meeting, at a joint press conference with his Turkish and Iranian colleagues, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made it clear that the new trilateral format will be the “most effective” charioteer henceforth in the intra-Syrian peace talks.

He said Russia, Turkey and Iran are “probably better prepared than others to contribute to the settlement of the Syrian crisis with real actions, not just words”.

The three countries have as such tactfully got rid of the US mentorship in Geneva by agreeing to hold the talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. Hence, the brewing domestic anger over the Obama administration and the consequent sanctions.

While Obama may just be able to pacify its supporters through these sanctions, he cannot certainly turn blind to the danger Europe is facing. This widening of American sanctions against Russia at a time when the bloody attacks in Ankara and Berlin should bring reasonable people together to fight the terrorist threat shows that Washington has completely lost its grip on reality and deliberately decided to turn blind to it. Yet the threat exists and continues to pose a major challenge to Europe’s security situation. The Obama administration’s stubbornness with regard to indiscriminately fighting terrorism and its undue insistence on Assad’s exit are directly contributing to the persistence of this threat and even its territorial expansion into other continents. To an extent, the US’ dualism has even cost it its erstwhile allies.

The US is losing its traditional grip over the Middle East and the Arab world. This is evident from the way Turkey, despite being a NATO member, has weaned itself away from the US-led block and adopted an alternative course of action. The Moscow meeting has clearly shown that Turkey has decided to bury its past Syria policies and expressed its willingness to chalk out a scheme that caters to the interests of all the actors involved. In the joint statement with Russia and Iran, Turkey implicitly accepts, notwithstanding the bargain that might have taken place among all the parties involved, that the toppling of the Assad regime is no longer the agenda in Syria.

While such an outcome and changed position of Turkey vis-à-vis Syria and Assad can be attributed to what it is likely to gain in terms of an assurance from Russia, Iran and Syria against the creation of an independent Kurdistan, it can equally be attributed to the failure of efforts, spanning over 5 years, to topple Assad.

While Turkey has finally come to terms, the US and its European and Arab allies continue to cling to the old agenda. In their calculations, they seem to continue to ignore the fact that Assad does enjoy significant local support. Had it not been for this support, he might have been toppled long before Russia entered the scene.

The Syrian minorities have backed him and fought for him out of sheer self-preservation. Having seen what happened to the Yazidis in Iraq when they were captured by brutal IS fighters, they know they are fighting for their lives, their homes and their wives and daughters. This is an element in Assad’s support that, thus far, has gone unrecognised in the West.

With Assad strong enough to claim its office, with Russia and Iran standing in Syria and with Turkey sliding over to Russia and Iran, the US’ credibility as a reliable security partner has been damaged to a great extent. Fresh sanctions on Russia are just yet another indication of the fact that the US is too weak to achieve its objectives through other means—something that is causing Arab states to re-think their traditional reliance on the US for their national security.

As against the Arab states’ current standing, Russian influence in the region is increasing and a number of other countries, such as Egypt and Israel, have shown their willingness to extend co-operation with Russia against terrorism. Importantly, this co-operation against terrorism is not mere co-operation’; it also signifies a potential rejection of the US version of terrorism according to which a terror group becomes ‘terrorist’ only when it starts hurting interests of the US and those of its allies.

December 28, 2016 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment