Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Spoiling for a Wider War in Syria

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | June 20, 2017

The U.S. mainstream media’s near universal demonization of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin – along with similar hatred directed toward Iran and Hezbollah – has put the world on a path toward World War III.

Ironically, the best hope for averting a dangerous escalation into a global conflict is to rely on Assad, Putin, Iran and Hezbollah to show restraint in the face of illegal military attacks by the United States and its Mideast allies inside Syria.

In other words, after the U.S. military has bombed Syrian government forces on their own territory and shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday – and after Israel has launched its own strikes inside Syria and after Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have financed and armed jihadists to overthrow Assad – it is now up to the Syrian government and its allies to turn the other cheek.

Of course, there is also a danger that comes from such self-control, in that it may encourage the aggressors to test the limits even further, seeing restraint as an acceptance of their impunity and a reason to ignore whatever warnings are issued and red lines drawn.

Indeed, if you follow The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and other big U.S. news outlets, perhaps the most striking groupthink that they all share is that the U.S. government and its allies have the right to intervene militarily anywhere in the world. Their slogan could be summed up as: “International law – that’s for the other guy!”

In this upside-down world of American hegemony, Assad becomes the “aggressor” when he seeks to regain control of Syrian territory against armed insurgents, dominated by Al Qaeda and Islamic State (ISIS), or when he protests the invasion of Syrian territory by foreign forces.

When Assad legally seeks help from Russia and Iran to defeat these foreign-armed and foreign-backed jihadists, the U.S. mainstream media and politicians treat his alliances as improper and troublemaking. Yet, the uninvited interventions into Syria by the United States and its various allies, including Turkey and Israel, are treated as normal and expected.

Demanding Escalation

The preponderance of U.S. media criticism about U.S. policy in Syria comes from neoconservatives and liberal interventionists who have favored a much more ambitious and vigorous “regime change” war, albeit cloaked in prettier phrases such as “safe zones” and “no-fly zones.”

So, you have Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal editorial, which praises Sunday’s U.S. shoot-down of a Syrian military plane because it allegedly was dropping bombs “near” one of the U.S.-backed rebel groups – though the Syrians say they were targeting an Islamic State position.

Although it was the U.S. that shot down the Syrian plane over Syria, the Journal’s editorial portrays the Russians and Syrians as the hotheads for denouncing the U.S. attack as a provocation and warning that similar air strikes will not be tolerated.

In response, the Journal’s neocon editors called for more U.S. military might hurled against Syria and Russia:

“The risk of escalation is real, but this isn’t a skirmish the U.S. can easily avoid. Mr. Assad and his allies in Moscow and Tehran know that ISIS’s days are numbered. They want to assert control over as much territory as possible in the interim, and that means crushing the SDF [the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces].

“The Russian threat on Monday to target with anti-aircraft missiles any U.S. aircraft flying west of the Euphrates River in Syria is part of the same intimidation strategy. Russia also suspended a hotline between the two armed forces designed to reduce the risk of a military mistake. Iran, which arms and assists Mr. Assad on the ground, vowed further Syrian regime attacks against SDF, all but daring U.S. planes to respond amid the Russian threat.

“The White House and Pentagon reacted with restraint on Monday, calling for a de-escalation and open lines of communication. But if Syria and its allies are determined to escalate, the U.S. will either have to back down or prepare a more concerted effort to protect its allies and now U.S. aircraft.

“This is a predicament President Obama put the U.S. in when his Syrian abdication created an opening for Vladimir Putin to intervene. Had the U.S. established a no-fly or other safe zone to protect refugees, the Kremlin might have been more cautious.”

As senior U.S. commanders have explained, however, the notion of a sweet-sounding “no-fly or other safe zone” would require a massive U.S. military campaign inside Syria that would devastate government forces and result in thousands of civilian deaths because many air defenses are located in urban areas. It also could lead to a victory for Al Qaeda and/or its spinoff, Islamic State, a grisly fate for most Syrians.

Propaganda Value

But the “safe zone” illusion has great propaganda value, essentially a new packaging for another “regime change” war, which the neocons lusted for in Syria as the follow-on to the Iraq invasion in 2003 but couldn’t achieve immediately because the Iraq War turned into a bloody disaster.

Instead, the neocons had to settle for a proxy war on Syria, funded and armed by the U.S. government and its regional allies, relying on violent jihadists to carry out the brunt of the fighting and killing. When Assad’s government reacted clumsily to this challenge, the U.S. mainstream media depicted Assad as the villain and the “rebels” as the heroes.

In 2012, the Defense Intelligence Agency, then under the direction of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, warned that the U.S. strategy would give rise to “a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria.”

Flynn went further in a 2015 interview when he said the intelligence was “very clear” that the Obama administration made a “willful decision” to back these jihadists in league with Middle East allies. (Flynn briefly served as President Trump’s national security adviser but was ousted amid the growing Russia-gate “scandal.”)

Only in 2014, when Islamic State militants began decapitating American hostages and capturing cities in Iraq, did the Obama administration reverse course and begin attacking ISIS while continuing to turn a blind-eye to the havoc caused by other rebel groups allied with Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, including many outfits deemed “moderate” in the U.S. lexicon.

But the problem is that almost none of this history exists within the U.S. mainstream narrative, which – as the Journal’s neocon editors did on Tuesday – simply depicts Obama as weak and then baits President Trump to show more military muscle.

What U.S. National Interests?

The Journal editorial criticized Trump for having no strategy beyond eradicating ISIS and adding: “Now is the time for thinking through such a strategy because Syria, Russia and Iran know what they want. Mr. Assad wants to reassert control over all of Syria, not a country divided into Alawite, Sunni and Kurdish parts. Iran wants a Shiite arc of influence from Tehran to Beirut. Mr. Putin will settle for a Mediterranean port and a demonstration that Russia can be trusted to stand by its allies, while America is unreliable. None of this is in the U.S. national interests.”

But why isn’t this in U.S. national interests? What’s wrong with a unified secular Syria that can begin to rebuild its shattered infrastructure and repatriate refugees who have fled into Europe, destabilizing the Continent?

What’s the big problem with “a Shiite arc of influence”? The Shiites aren’t a threat to the United States or the West. The principal terror groups – Al Qaeda and ISIS – spring from the extremist Saudi version of Sunni Islam, known as Wahhabism. I realize that Israel and Saudi Arabia took aim at Syria in part to shatter “the Shiite arc,” but we have seen the horrific consequences of that strategy. How has the chaos that the Syrian war has unleashed benefited U.S. national interests?

And so what that Russia has a naval base on the Mediterranean Sea? That is no threat to the United States, either.

But what is the alternative prescription from the Journal’s neocon editors? The editorial concludes: “The alternative would be to demonstrate that Mr. Assad, Iran and Russia will pay a higher price for their ambitions. This means refusing to back down from defending U.S. allies on the ground and responding if Russia aircraft or missiles attempt to take down U.S. planes. Our guess is that Russia doesn’t want a military engagement with the U.S. any more than the U.S. wants one with Russia, but Russia will keep pressing for advantage unless President Trump shows more firmness than his predecessor.”

So, rather than allow the Syrian government to restore some form of order across Syria, the neocons want the Trump administration to continue violating international law, which forbids military invasions of sovereign countries, and keep the bloodshed flowing. Beyond that, the neocons want the U.S. military to play chicken with the other nuclear-armed superpower on the assumption that Russia will back down.

As usual, the neocon armchair warriors don’t reflect much on what could happen if U.S. warplanes attacking inside Syria are shot down. One supposes that would require President Trump to authorize a powerful counterstrike against Russian targets with the possibility of these escalations spinning out of control. But such craziness is where a steady diet of neocon/liberal-hawk propaganda has taken America.

We are ready to risk nuclear war and end all life on the planet, so Israel and Saudi Arabia can shatter a “Shiite arc of influence” and so American politicians don’t have to feel the rhetorical lash of the neocons and their liberal-hawk sidekicks.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

June 20, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On World Refugee Day, estimates show 66% of Palestinians became refugees in 1948

Ma’an – June 20, 2017

BETHLEHEM – On the anniversary of World Refugee Day, and one month after the 69th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, or “catastrophe,” it is estimated that 66 percent of Palestinians who were living in British-Mandate Palestine in 1948 were expelled from historic Palestine and displaced, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).

“The human plight and tragedy that has befallen on the Palestinian people” resulted in approximately 957,000 Palestinian refugees — 66 percent of the total population of Palestinian who were living in historic Palestine on the eve of the war in 1948, PCBS said in a statement Tuesday.

Today, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the UN agency responsible for providing services to millions of Palestinian refugees, estimates that the number of registered Palestinian refugees in 2016 amounted to about 5.9 million, PCBS noted, highlighting that this figure was representative of a minimum number.

Palestinian legal NGO BADIL has previously estimated the number to be around 7.2 million.

As of 2016, Palestinian refugees in the West Bank registered with UNRWA accounted for 17 percent of the total refugees registered with the organization, while refugees in Gaza accounted for 24.5 percent.

According to UNRWA, 42 percent of the total population of the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip are internally displaced refugees from historic Palestine, with data indicated that Palestinian refugees living in the occupied territory and Gaza have an overall unemployment rate of 33.3 percent in 2016, compared to 22.3 percent among non-refugees.

Meanwhile, Gaza, which has often been compared to an “open air prison” for its 1.9 million inhabitants crowded into 365 square kilometers, has suffered from a decade of isolation and deprivation, made all the worse by three devastating Israeli military operations, and persistent intra-Palestinian political strife.

Touting one of the world’s highest unemployment rates at 44 percent, an estimated 80 percent of Gaza’s population is dependent on humanitarian assistance.

Across the diaspora, the percentage of Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA in Jordan amounted to 39.1 percent of the total refugees registered, while the percentage of Palestinian refugees registered in Lebanon and Syria numbered at 8.8 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively.

According to UNRWA, while Palestinian refugees in Lebanon represent an estimated 10 percent of the population of Lebanon, they lack many basic rights, as they are not formally citizens of another state and are unable to claim the same rights as other foreigners living in Lebanon. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, for example, are prevented from working in up to 20 highly-skilled professions.

As a result, “among the five UNRWA fields, Lebanon has the highest percentage of Palestine refugees living in abject poverty,” the group said, adding that around 53 percent of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in 12 recognized refugee camps, “all of which suffer from serious problems, including poverty, overcrowding, unemployment, poor housing conditions and lack of infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, the ongoing conflict in Syria has forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees from the country, including men, women and children, to flee to surrounding countries and other areas in Syria in search of safety.

The Hamas movement’s Office for Refugees’ Affairs in Lebanon released a statement Tuesday, saying that the “Right to Return is a basic human right issue stated by international resolutions and guaranteed by heavenly laws.”

The office lauded UNRWA for its work with Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, but highlighted the dire and deteriorating humanitarian conditions of Palestinian refugees grows as UNRWA cannot adequately service nearly all 5.9 million registered refugees.

In the statement, the group called upon the international community to “uphold its responsibilities towards the refugees’ cause” and called upon the hosting Arab countries, especially Lebanon, “to provide decent living to Palestinian refugees by giving them their civil, social and humanitarian rights without connecting those to localization.”

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the dismantlement of UNRWA, saying “UNRWA, to a large degree, by its very existence, perpetuates — and does not solve — the Palestinian refugee problem.”

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi condemned Netanyahu, saying his statements were “the epitome of arrogance, particularly since Israel itself is responsible for creating the Palestinian refugee problem.”

“Israel should not be allowed to dictate how to change the legal system and to persist with its unlawful unilateralism,” Ashrawi said, adding that the Israeli government “bears a moral and legal responsibility for Palestinian refugees and the serious injustices of the past.”

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness responded to Netanyahu’s comments at the time, saying that the issue of Palestinian refugees could only be resolved through a negotiated end to the Israeli-Palestinian refugee conflict, instead of shuttering an aid agency catering to their humanitarian needs.

While UNRWA has been the target of Palestinian criticism on a number of occasions, Palestinian refugees, notably in the occupied Palestinian territory, see the preservation of their status as refugees as maintaining their claim to their right of return to the villages in historic Palestine from which their ancestors fled during the creation of the state of Israel.

June 20, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

US police arrest anti-nuclear weapons activists at UN

Press TV – June 20, 2017

A number of anti-nuclear weapons activists have been arrested in New York during a protest against Washington’s decision to boycott negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

The arrests were made after the activists chanting slogans such as “US join the talks, ban the bomb,” blocked the entrances to the US mission to the United Nations.

The protesters sat in front of the doors before the police moved in. police said they warned the demonstrators that they would be arrested if they did not leave the place.

In March, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced that the United States, Britain and France had decided not to join talks on a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

The United Nations is currently holding a second round of negotiations about the issue.

The world body adopted a resolution in December to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading toward their total elimination and encouraged all member states to participate.

A total of 113 nations voted in favor of the resolution but 35 countries, including the United States, Britain and France, voted against it. Thirteen countries abstained.

According to the US military’s recent declaration, the United States has 806 deployed ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missile), SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missile), and heavy bombers as well as 1,722 deployed nuclear warheads.

The Pentagon is also equipped with a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV), a highly advanced version of the intercontinental nuclear missile carrying several independent warheads.

June 20, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 1 Comment

Israel’s Dirty Little Secret

How it drives US policies exploiting a spineless Congress and White House

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • June 20, 2017

At a recent panel discussion in Washington, screenwriter, film director and producer Oliver Stone briefly addressed the issue of alleged Russian interference in the recent national election, observing that “Israel interfered in the U.S. election far more than Russia and nobody is investigating them.” A few days later, in an interview with Stephen Colbert on the Late Show, Stone returned to the theme, responding to an aggressive claim that Russia had interfered in the election by challenging Colbert with “Israel had far more involvement in the U.S. election than Russia. Why don’t you ask me about that?”

Don’t look for the exchange with Colbert on YouTube. CBS deleted it from its broadcast and website, demonstrating once again that the “I” word cannot be disparaged on national television. Stone was, of course, referring to the fact that the Israel Lobby, most notably acting through its American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), is undeniably a foreign lobby, no less so than anyone representing the presumed interests of Russia or China. It operates with complete impunity on Capitol Hill and also at state and local levels and no one dares to require it to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, which would permit scrutiny of its finances and also end its tax-exempt “educational” status. Nor does Congress or the media see fit to inquire into AIPAC’s empowerment of candidates based on their fidelity to Israel, not to mention the direct interference in the American electoral process which surfaced most visibly in its support of candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

The last president that sought to compel the predecessor organization of AIPAC to register was John F. Kennedy, who also was about to take steps to rein in Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program when he was assassinated, which was a lucky break for Israel, particularly as Kennedy was replaced by the passionate Zionist Lyndon Baines Johnson. Funny how things sometimes work out. The Warren Commission looked deeply into a possible Cuban connection in the shooting and came up with nothing but one has to wonder if they also investigated the possible roles of other countries. Likewise, the 9/11 Commission Report failed to examine the possible involvement of Israel in the terrorist attack in spite of a considerable body of evidence suggesting that there were a number of Israeli-sourced covert operations running in the U.S. at that time.

Looking back from the perspective of his more than 40 years of military service, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas Moorer described the consequences of Jewish power vis-à-vis U.S. policy towards Israel, stating that “I’ve never seen a president – I don’t care who he is – stand up to them [the Israelis]. It just boggles your mind. They always get what they want. The Israelis know what is going on all the time. I got to the point where I wasn’t writing anything down. If the American people understood what a grip those people have got on our government, they would rise up in arms. Our citizens don’t have any idea what goes on.”

He also addressed the 1967 Israeli assault on the USS Liberty, saying “Israel attempted to prevent the Liberty’s radio operators from sending a call for help by jamming American emergency radio channels. [And that] Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned lifeboats at close range that had been lowered to rescue the most-seriously wounded.” He concluded with “our government put Israel’s interests ahead of our own? If so, Why? Does our government continue to subordinate American interests to Israeli interests?”

It is a question that might well be asked today, as the subservience to Israeli interests is, if anything, more pervasive in 2017 Washington than it was in 2002 when Moorer spoke up. And, as in Moorer’s day, much of the partiality towards Israel makes its way through congress with little or no media coverage lest anyone begin to wonder whose tail is wagging which dog. To put it succinctly, there is an Israeli hand in much of what the United States does internationally, and the involvement is not intended to do anything good for the American people.

During the past several weeks alone there has been a flurry of legislation backed by Israel and its Lobby. One bill might actually have been written by AIPAC. It is called Senate 722, Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017. The bill has 63 co-sponsors, most of whom are the usual suspects, but it also included an astonishingly large number of Democrats who describe themselves as progressive, including Corey Booker and Kamila Harris, both of whom are apparently terrified lest they say “no” to Israel. With 63 co-sponsors out of 100 senators the bill was certain to pass overwhelmingly, and it was indeed approved 98 to 2, with only Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders voting “no.”

And there’s more to S.722 than Iran – it’s subtitle is “An act to provide congressional review and to counter Iranian and Russian governments’ aggression.” Much of it is designed to increase sanctions on both Iran and Russia while also limiting the White House’s ability to relieve any sanctions without approval by congress. Regarding Iran, the bill mandates that “Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 2 years thereafter, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Director of National Intelligence shall jointly develop and submit to the appropriate congressional committees a strategy for deterring conventional and asymmetric Iranian activities and threats that directly threaten the United States and key allies in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond.”

The premise is of course nonsensical as Iran’s ability to threaten anyone, least of all the United States, is limited. It is far outgunned by its neighbors and even more so by the U.S., but it has become the enemy of choice for congress as well as for the former generals who serve as White House advisers. The animus against Iran comes directly from Israel and from the Saudi Arabians, who have managed to sell their version of developments in their part of the world through a completely acquiescent and heavily Jewish influenced western media.

And there’s more. A bill has surfaced in the House of Representatives that will require the United States to “consult” with Israel regarding any prospective arms sales to Arab countries in the Middle East. In other words, Israel will have a say, backed up undoubtedly by Congress and the media, over what the United States does in terms of its weapons sales abroad. The sponsors of the bill, one Brad Schneider of Illinois, and Claudia Tenney of New York, want “closer scrutiny of future military arms sales” to maintain the “qualitative military edge” that Israel currently enjoys.

Schneider is, of course, Jewish and a life member of AIPAC, so it is hardly as if he is a disinterested party. Tenny runs for office in New York State, so it is hardly as if she is disinterested either, but the net result of all this is that American jobs and U.S. international security arrangements through weapons sales will be at least in part subject to Israeli veto. And you know that is precisely what will happen as Israel could give a damn what happens to the struggling American entity that it so successfully feeds off of.

And there’s still more. Bill HR 672 Combating European Anti-Semitism Act of 2017 was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives on June 14th. Yes, I said “unanimously.” The bill requires the State Department of monitor what European nations and their police forces are doing about anti-Semitism and encourages them to adopt “a uniform definition of anti-Semitism.” That means that criticism of Israel must be considered anti-Semitism and will therefore be a hate crime and prosecutable, a status that is already de facto true in Britain and France. If the Europeans don’t play ball, there is the possibility of repercussions in trade negotiations. The bill was co-sponsored by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida and Nita Lowey of New York, both of whom are Jewish.

There is also a Senate companion bill on offer in the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act of 2017. The bill will make the Anti-Semitism Envoy a full American Ambassador and will empower him or her with a full staff and a budget permitting meddling worldwide. The bill is sponsored by Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Marco Rubio of Florida. Gillibrand is unlikely to miss co-sponsoring anything relating to Israel due to her own self-interest and Rubio wants to be president real bad so he is following the money.

And finally, the U.S. Senate has also approved a resolution celebrating the 50th anniversary of Israel’s conquest of East Jerusalem. Again, the vote was unanimous. The resolution was co-sponsored by Senators Charles Schumer and Mitch McConnell, two reptiles who give snakes a bad name and about whom the less said the better. Schumer is Jewish and has described himself as the “shomer” or guardian of Israel in the Senate. That the resolution opposes long established U.S. government policy that the occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank by Israel is in contravention of international law and is an impediment to any peace process with the Palestinians apparently bothered not even one Senator.

I might note in passing that there has been no Senate resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of the bravery exhibited by the officers and crew of the USS Liberty as they were being slaughtered by the Israelis at the same time as Jerusalem was being “liberated.” There is probably even more to say, to include secret agreements with the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, but I will stop at this point with one final observation. President Donald Trump traveled to the Middle East claiming to be desirous of starting serious negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, but it was all a sham. Benjamin Netanyahu took him aside and came out with the usual Israeli bullshit about the Palestinians “inciting” violence and hatred of Jews and Trump bought into it. He then went to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and shouted at him for being a liar and opposed to peace based on what Netanyahu had told him. That is what passes for even-handed in the U.S. government, no matter who is president. A few days later the Israelis announced the building of the largest bloc of illegal new settlements on the West Bank since 1992, an action that they claim is being coordinated with Washington.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once boasted about owning the United States. I guess he was right.

June 20, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | 3 Comments

Russia’s Calm, But Firm, Response to the US Shooting Down a Syrian Fighter Jet

By Gary Leupp | CounterPunch | June 20, 2017

Former State Department official Nicholas Burns told CNN Monday morning he’s surprised at Russia’s “calm” response to the shooting down of a Syrian government warplane (a Russian built SU 22 jet) in Syrian skies by a US F-18 Super Hornet. Moscow initially merely protested.

The Syrian government says its plane was bombing ISIL forces. (This could be perceived as an unequivocally good act, ISIL being what it is.) But the U.S. says the plane was bombing its proxies, who are themselves battling ISIL around Raqqa with embedded U.S. advisors. These proxies are mainly Kurds who want independence and other forces allied to the U.S. and its Arab allies in a common effort to ultimately topple the Assad regime. And everyone paying attention knows these proxies include forces closely aligned with what used to be called al-Nusra. Forces the U.S. considers friends are considered by Damascus terrorists.

There are differences of opinion on this matter between the government of the aggressor imperialist country and the government of the country being assaulted by a host of foreign forces, and in the cross-hairs of this—what did Martin Luther King call it, so rudely, in 1967?—“greatest purveyor of violence in the world”?

In any case, Assad’s is an internationally recognized regime, as legitimate as the Trump regime, and the U.S. and its allies are plainly violating Syrian sovereignty by their presence. The Russian position is that the Syrian Arab Army (the national army) is the guarantor of Syrian unity and sovereignty, and the alternative is an Islamist regime that would destroy Palmyra, blow up the churches of Damascus, behead children etc.  (This is a rational position.)

The U.S. position has been that the Assad regime, to which army is loyal, is the main problem to be solved. This position requires the curious argument that the Assad regime is what has produced ISIL and al-Qaeda (al-Nusra, Fateh al-Sham), by producing opposition to itself, thus generating Islamist radicalism. (This is an irrational position.)

ISIL (ISIS, the Islamic State) exists because a Jordanian Bedouin guy named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi organized an international jihadi group around Herat, Afghanistan circa 2000. Called Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Organization of Monotheism and Jihad), it was a rival of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, whose camps were located on the other side of Afghanistan. After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Zarqawi relocated to Iraq. The U.S. invasion of Iraq (which recall was based entirely on lies, and produced horrible ongoing destruction and suffering) provided optimal opportunities for jihadis like him. In 2004 he pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and established, as its Iraqi franchise, Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (commonly rendered al-Qaeda in Iraq).

That morphed into ISIL. It spread from Iraq to Syria, and back to Iraq, even as al-Qaeda continues to challenge it for influence and territory. It is a hideous product of U.S. imperialist interventions. In Syria it challenges a government that, however oppressive and corrupt,  would surely be seen as the better alternative by most rational people. But the dominant view in the State Department has been that Assad needs to go. The debate has been over how to effect his ouster, through overt or covert means, and the main practical problem the lack of reliable allies willing to work with U.S. trainers and not defect to the other side after their training.

So on the one hand the U.S. pursues openly an anti-ISIL campaign in Syria (and Iraq), claiming plausibly that the sheer evil of ISIL justifies the drive to destroy it. Who could complain? (The Syrian government points out that any uninvited military presence is a violation of international law.) On the other hand the ultimate intent, which seems unchanged under the new administration, is regime change.

Thus the State Department shapes the cable news coverage to insure that the Assad regime is routinely vilified, assumed to be an evil. The Syrian army is presented, not as the most respected institution in the country, but as the enemy of its people, barrel-bombing them. So if it’s reported that a Syrian warplane was shot down by a U.S. warplane over Syria, what’s the problem?

Expert analysts are explaining that the U.S. was acting in self-defense in shooting down the Syrian plane in Syria. They appear to sincerely believe what they say, and perhaps persuade their audience—even after so many lies have been exposed and you’d think public skepticism at its height.

***

As I write there is more “breaking” news. It appears the Russians, while still “calm,” are also getting firm. The U.S. has gone too far, shooting down the plane of a Russian-allied force in a Russia-allied country. The Russians have consistently appealed to the U.S. to coordinate anti-ISIL, anti-al-Nusra efforts in Syria; a “memorandum on air safety”  intended to prevent mid-air collisions has been in effect since last October, although the U.S. has violated it by bombing a Syrian army position. Now Russia is pulling out and announcing that it will treat U.S. jets in Syrian airspace as “targets.” (Barbara Starr—who you’ve noticed represents the Pentagon on CNN—however says the line’s still open, and there are apparently communications between Russian forces in Latakia and U.S. forces in Qatar.)

The Russian Defense Ministry’s calm statement reads: “All kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets.” This is a clear warning to the Trump administration to back off from attacks on state forces in Syria.

Moscow is surely puzzled by conflicting signals from Washington regarding Syria and U.S. foreign policy in general. If there had been some optimism about a joint effort against terrorists in Syria, this incident may destroy it.

Let’s say a S-300 Grumble missile shoots down one of those Super Hornets today. A Super Hornet whose presence is rejected by the Russian-allied Syrian government. A U.S. pilot killed. Massive immediate outrage in this country—about a Russian attack on one of us, wicked just by definition. And it’s official truth that Russia hacked the election. Russia we are told is an adversary. Trump cannot be viewed as a Putin stooge. Retaliation needed, immediately, in a country becoming a free-for-all for Arab, Turkish, Iranian, Russian and U.S. and European intervention.

I think the calm temporary. Iranian missiles are hitting Raqqa in a retaliatory strike on ISIL, which has struck in Iran. Turkey is bombing U.S. Kurdish allies in Syria. The mix of forces that will take (and likely destroy) Raqqa are not clear. A young crazed Kim Jung-un type is in charge of Saudi Arabia throwing money at jihadis in Syria. Hizbollah Lebanese forces and Iraqi Shiite militia forces are fighting the ISIL and al-Qaeda forces with the government. It is a hellish situation that could become much more so.

The people should demand that the U.S. just back off. How can those who generated ISIL kill it?

Trump as I recall suggested during his campaign that the U.S. leave the defeat of ISIL to Russia, or at least to work with Russia against ISIL. He was of course vague, inconsistent, and using a sixth grade vocabulary, but he seemed to want to avoid something like this provocation. One has to ask, who does want it?

June 20, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

All of Saudi Arabia’s moves benefit Israel: Iran’s parliament speaker

Press TV – June 20, 2017

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has slammed Saudi Arabia for working covertly with Israel, saying all Riyadh’s actions in the region serve the Tel Aviv regime’s interests and are to the detriment of Muslim nations.

Larijani made the remarks in a meeting with ambassadors of Muslim countries to Tehran on Monday.

“We have tried hard to make the Saudis understand that their measures are to the detriment of the Muslim Ummah, but they only make harsher remarks every day and engage Muslim countries,” he said.

Larijani further pointed to Saudi Arabia’s “very unpleasant” policies in dealing with regional countries, saying the Saudis exert force in Syria, attack Yemen to make it their own backyard, fuel tensions in Bahrain, and have now targeted Qatar.

“Eventually, all Saudi moves are in favor of Israel,” said Larijani, adding that they want to keep terrorists on their feet and even provide support to some terror groups such as al-Nusra Front.

The top Iranian parliamentarian further warned Muslims “not to be trapped in a bigger plot.”

Iran had obtained documents showing that the Saudis provided Israel with intelligence during the 33-day war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006, he added.

“The dependence of some Muslim countries on Israel is catastrophic and a stain of shame, while the Muslim Ummah should be sensitive to the fate of Palestine,” Larijani said.

As a result, he said, International Quds Day is of great importance, expressing hope that Muslims would demonstrate their unity on this day.

The late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini, named the last Friday of the lunar fasting month of Ramadan as the International Quds Day, which falls on June 23 this year.

The day is commemorated each year by worldwide rallies, with participants voicing their support for the Palestinian nation and calling for an end to the Tel Aviv regime’s atrocities and its occupation of Palestinian lands.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian parliament speaker stressed that the Islamic Republic pursues the policy of creating consensus and unity.

He further thanked the Muslim ambassadors for expressing sympathy over the twin terrorist attacks in the Iranian capital, which killed 17 people and injured over 50 others.

On June 7, gunmen mounted almost simultaneous assaults on Iran’s Parliament and the Mausoleum of Imam Khomeini. The Daesh Takfiri terrorist group claimed responsibility for the assaults.

Additionally, Larijani said that the Islamic Republic has been grappling with terrorism for years and in recent years the scourge has affected the Muslim world.

June 20, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US backs down as Russia targets US aircraft in Syria

By Alexander Mercouris | The Duran | June 20, 2017

Back in April, in the immediate aftermath of the US cruise missile attack on Syria’s Al-Shayrat air base, Russia retaliated by switching off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline between the US and Russian militaries in Syria, which enables these militaries to avoid accidental clashes with each other.

The immediate response to this Russian switching off of the ‘de-confliction’ hotline was a dramatic reduction in US air operations in Syria, as the US air force was forced to scale down its air operations rather than risk a confrontation with the powerful air defence system the Russians have established in Syria.

That this was the case was confirmed by an article in The New York Times dated 8th April 2017, which said the following

The American-led task force that is battling the Islamic State has sharply reduced airstrikes against the militants in Syria as commanders assess whether Syrian government forces or their Russian allies plan to respond to the United States’ cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield this past week, American officials said.

So far, the Russian military does not appear to have taken any threatening actions, such as directing its battlefield radar or air defense systems to confront the Americans, or carrying out aggressive actions in the skies, United States officials said.

But officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning said the commanders needed time to determine whether the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the Russian military would treat the American cruise missile strike as a one-time operation that they would not respond to militarily. As a precaution, the Pentagon is flying patrols in Syrian skies with F-22 jets, the Air Force’s most advanced air-to-air fighter……

Some American and other Western counterterrorism officials have said the missile strike could……… make the fight against the Islamic State in Syria more difficult.

“It seems clear that the strikes will complicate our efforts to pursue our counter-ISIS campaign in Syria,” said Matthew Olsen, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. “In particular, the ability to carry out U.S. airstrikes in Syria in support of the coalition against ISIS requires some degree of cooperation with Russia, which is now in serious jeopardy.”

Other security experts said that much depended on the Trump administration’s next steps, and how the Assad government and its Russian patrons responded.

“U.S. aircraft operating over Al-Tabqah are already ostensibly in range of the Russian S-400 system at the Humaymin Air Base, and we might see Russia deploy more air defense assets to Syria,” Jeremy Binnie, the Middle East editor of Jane’s Defense Weekly, said in an email. “But if the U.S. makes no moves to threaten Assad’s position, then they may well accept the punishment and move on.”

William McCants, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of “The ISIS Apocalypse,” offered a similar assessment. (bold italics added)

The words I have highlighted in this article from 8th April 2017 make clear the difference with the situation today.

After weeks of frantic diplomatic activity the US finally managed to persuade the Russians a few weeks ago to switch the ‘de-confliction’ hotline back on.  In response to yesterday’s US shooting down of the SU-22 the Russians have however now once again switched it off.

However this time the Russians have not only once more switched off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline.  They have also done what they did not do in April by saying that this time they will take “threatening action by directing their battlefield radar or air defense systems to confront the Americans”.

That this is so is explicitly confirmed in the statement made public yesterday by the Russian Defence Ministry

As of June 19 this year, the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation has ended its interaction with the US side under a memorandum for preventing incidents and providing for safe flights during operations in Syria and demands that the US command carry out a careful investigation and report about its results and the measures taken.

The shooting down of a Syrian Air Force jet in Syria’s airspace is a cynical violation of Syria’s sovereignty. The US’ repeated combat operations under the guise of ‘combating terrorism’ against the legitimate armed forces of a UN member-state are a flagrant violation of international law, in addition to being actual military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic,” the ministry said.

Russia will regard any flights within the area of its air force group’s operation in Syria as legitimate targets, the ministry stressed.

Any aircraft, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected in the operation areas west of the Euphrates River by the Russian air forces will be followed by Russian ground-based air defense and air defense aircraft as air targets.

……. the coalition command did not use the existing communication line between the air commands of Al Udeid Air Base (Qatar) and Khmeimim Air Base to prevent incidents in Syria’s airspace.  We consider the actions of the US command as a deliberate default on their obligations under the memorandum on on preventing incidents and providing for safe flights during operations in Syria signed on October 20, 2015. (bold italics added)

In other words, the Russian response to the shooting down of the Syrian SU-22 fighter near Taqbah has been much stronger than was the Russian response to the US cruise missile attack on Syria’s Al-Shayrat air base.

This is so even though the attack on Al-Shayrat air base attracted massive international media attention, whilst the US shooting down of the SU-22 has attracted very little.

This time however the Russians have announced that they will do precisely the thing which they did not do in April following the US attack on Al-Shayrat air base – and which the New York Times says is very threatening – which is track US aircraft, treating them as targets if they fly west of the Euphrates.

Why have the Russians taken this extraordinary step?

The US claims yesterday justifying the shooting down of the SU-22 aircraft have unravelled.  Even the strongly anti-Assad British based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights has confirmed that the SU-22 was not bombing Kurdish forces as the US claims but was bombing ISIS fighters as the Syrians say.

A regime warplane was targeted and dropped in the skies of the al-Resafa area […] the warplane was shot down over Al-Resafa area of which the regime forces have reached to its frontiers today, and sources suggested to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that warplanes of the International Coalition targeted it during its flight in close proximity to the airspace of the International Coalition’s warplanes, which caused its debris to fall over Resafa city amid an unknown fate of its pilot, the sources confirmed that the warplane did not target the Syria Democratic Forces in their controlled areas located at the contact line with regime forces’ controlled areas in the western countryside of Al-Tabaqa to the road of Al-Raqqah – Resafa.

(bold italics added)

Another thing that may have provoked the Russians is that the US has tried to pass off the downing of the SU-22 as caused by Syrian encroachment of an agreed ‘de-confliction area’.

Ja’Din sits approximately two kilometers north of an established East-West SDF-Syrian Regime de-confliction area.

This uses a term – ‘de-confliction area’ – used to describe certain regions of Syria covered by an international agreement reached by Russia, Iran and Turkey in May.

The area where the SU-22 was shot down is not within any of these regions.  Al-Jazeera has provided details of where these four ‘de-confliction areas’, and none of them is close to the territory where the SU-22 was shot down

Zone 1 : Idlib province, as well as northeastern areas of Latakia province, western areas of Aleppo province and northern areas of Hama province. There are more than one million civilians in this zone and its rebel factions are dominated by an al-Qaeda -linked alliance.

Zone 2: The Rastan and Talbiseh enclave in northern Homs province. There are approximately 180,000 civilians in this zone and its network of rebel groups includes al-Qaeda-linked fighters.

Zone 3 : Eastern Ghouta in the northern Damascus countryside. Controlled by Jaish al-Islam, a powerful rebel faction that is participating in the Astana talks. It is home to about 690,000 civilians. This zone does not include the adjacent, government-besieged area of Qaboun.

Zone 4 : The rebel-controlled south along the border with Jordan that includes parts of Deraa and Quneitra provinces. Up to 800,000 civilians live there.Wh

Whilst it is possible that the term “established East-West SDF-Syrian Regime de-confliction area” refers to a term used in some informal agreement between the US and Russia, it seems more likely that the US is trying to unilaterally establish ‘no-go’ areas for the Syrian army, and is using the term ‘de-escalation areas’ to conceal the fact.

If so the Russians will want to put a stop to this practice and this may partly explain the strength of the Russian reaction.

However the single most important reason for the strong Russian reaction is what caused the US to shoot down the SU-22 down in the first place.

As the report from the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights shows, the real reason the SU-22 was shot down was because it was supporting a Syrian army offensive to capture the strategically important town of Rusafa from ISIS.

Rusafa lies south east of Tabqah – the main base of the US backed Kurdish militia in this area – and within striking distance of the main highway between Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, the eastern desert city currently besieged by ISIS.

By capturing Rusafa the Syrian army is now in a position to intercept columns of ISIS fighters who might try to flee Raqqa for Deir Ezzor.

The Syrians and the Russians have in recent weeks complained that the US and the Kurds have been doing nothing to prevent ISIS fighters fleeing Raqqa for Deir Ezzor, and in recent days there have even been reports of movements by Kurdish militia to try to block the Syrian army’s offensive to relieve Deir Ezzor.

The shooting down of the Syrian SU-22 fighter appears to have been intended as a warning to stop the Syrian army from capturing Rusafa, so as to block the Syrian army’s attempt to relieve the pressure on Deir Ezzor.

The Russian warning to the US looks in turn to have been intended to make clear to the US that this sort of interference in the Syrian army’s operations to relieve Deir Ezzor is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

The US has heeded the Russian warning. The various statements made by the US and by various US officials today, though full of the usual bluster about the US defending itself and its allies anywhere and everywhere, in fact clearly signal that the US is backing off.

The key words – as my colleague Adam Garrie has said – are those of Colonel Ryan Dillon, chief U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

As a result of recent encounters involving pro-Syrian regime and Russian forces, we have taken prudent measures to reposition aircraft over Syria so as to continue targeting ISIS forces while ensuring the safety of our aircrews given known threats in the battle space. (bold italics added)

“Prudent measures to reposition aircraft over Syria to ensure the safety of aircrews given known threats in the battle space” is code for withdrawal of aircraft from air space where they are at risk of being shot down.

That is what is taking place. Note that Colonel Dillon is careful not to say where the “known threats in the battle space” that are forcing the redeployment of the aircraft are coming from.

The US has no choice. If the Russian decision to switch off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline in April was enough to force the US to reduce sharply its air activity in Syria, the Russian decision to switch off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline and to threaten to treat as aerial targets US aircraft flying west of the Euphrates is a threat the US cannot afford to disregard.

Not surprisingly, shortly before the Russian warning was made public, but probably after it was communicated to the US, the Syrian army captured Rusafa with no further hindrance from the US. Latest reports speak of Syrian army reinforcements flooding into the area.

In the meantime the US is frantically signalling to the Russians its urgent wish to de-escalate the situation. Note for example the markedly conciliatory language of White House spokesman Sean Spicer, and how he repeatedly passed up opportunities to utter words of defiance against Russia or to threaten the Russians with counter-measures during the latest White House press briefing

Q    Thanks, Sean.  How are you responding to this Russian threat to shoot down American planes over Syria?

MR. SPICER:  Well, obviously, we’re going to do what we can to protect our interests. And this is something that we’re going to continue to work with — keep the lines of communication open. And ISIS represents a threat to all nations, and so we’ve got to do what we can to work with partners. And we’re going to continue to keep an open mind of communication with the Russians.

Q    So will the U.S. change its flight patterns or behavior in Syria?

MR. SPICER:  I’m going to refer — I mean, I think this is a question more for DOD to answer. But I think, obviously, it’s important and crucial that we keep lines of communication open to de-conflict potential issues.

Zeke.

Q    Thanks, Sean.  Following up on that — and a second one for you, as well — what would the U.S. government’s response be? Is the White House going to issue a warning to the Russian government if they were to follow through on this threat? It seems that your statement — would that be a provocation or something worse, potentially?

MR. SPICER:  I mean, I think that the escalation of hostilities among the many factions that are operating in this region doesn’t help anybody. And the Syrian regime and others in the regime need to understand that we will retain the right of self-defense, of coalition forces aligned against ISIS.

Ultimately the situation in Syria is the same as it has been since the US-Russian confrontation in October.

The fact that the Russians have installed a powerful air defence system in Syria incorporating advanced S-400 and S-300VM Antey 2500 missiles means that the US is unable to confront the Russians directly unless it is prepared to risk possibly very serious casualties.

That is an option neither the US military nor the civilian officials of the Obama and Trump administrations are prepared to face. This is because they know the extraordinary dangers such a clash with the armed forces of a nuclear superpower would risk. They also know US public opinion is strongly opposed to the US becoming drawn into such a clash.

What that means is that though the Russians must act carefully so as not to provoke the US into an unnecessary confrontation which would serve no-one’s interests, ultimately it is the Russians who in Syria have the whip hand.

The chess game in Syria is far from over. The game of move and counter-move continues. With the capture of Rusafa the Syrians and the Russians have however just won another important piece.  In the meantime Russia’s warning limits the range of US moves across the Syrian chessboard.

The net result of all these recent moves is that end of the Syrian war may have drawn a little closer.

June 20, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Assad, allies to prevail in Syria, drive US out: Ex-US envoy

Press TV – June 20, 2017

A former American ambassador to Syria says the Syrian government and its allies, including Iran, will ultimately frustrate attempts by the United States to influence Syrian matters and will drive the US out of the Arab country.

Robert Ford, who served as the US’s envoy to Syria under former US president Barack Obama, made the remarks in an interview with the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday.

He said the US was, first of all, mistaken in giving support to the opposition in Syria back in 2011 and demanding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster. Ford said he knew that that expression of support would encourage certain elements of the opposition to take up arms and expect a US invasion against Damascus, which he said would not be forthcoming.

Ford also said that the US would not defend the Kurdish forces it has been supporting so far in case the Kurds engaged in clashes with the Syrian forces.

“[The US] will not defend the Kurds against Assad’s forces,” the former US envoy said. “What we’re doing with the Kurds is not only politically stupid, but immoral.”

“Syrian Kurds are making their biggest mistake in trusting the Americans,” he added.

The US has been backing a mainly Kurdish alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Ford also said that, given the strong support being offered by Iran and Russia to the Syrian government, the “game was finished” for US plans to overthrow Assad or compete with what he said would be Iran’s success in the country.

“The Iranian position will advance,” Ford said.

“Assad won, I mean he’s the victor, or he thinks so,” he added. “Maybe in 10 years, he will retake the entire country.”

Syria has been gripped by unrest since 2011, when militancy first began in the country. Foreign states opposed to President Assad have since then been funding and providing weapons to anti-Assad militants, among them thousands of paid foreign terrorists dispatched to help force Assad out of power.

The Syrian government, however, has been fighting that militancy back, aided in that battle by advisory military support from Iran and Russia. Moscow has also been conducting an aerial campaign against terrorist positions in the Arab country on a request by Damascus.

June 20, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments