Aletho News


Palestinian elected as Rapporteur of UNESCO Cultural Committee

MEMO | November 11, 2017

Palestine’s Ambassador to UNESCO, Mounir Anastas, has won the election for the post of Rapporteur for the organisation’s Cultural Committee, Quds Press has reported. The result was announced on Thursday.

An Italian official has been elected as President of the Committee, with representatives of Venezuela, Albania, the Philippines and Zambia taking positions as members.

During its meeting, the Committee agreed unanimously, without the need for a vote, on a resolution to maintain the cultural heritage of Jerusalem’s Old City. The resolution called for an interactive monitoring delegation to be sent to the Old City in order to evaluate the situation and carry out a work plan and prepare advice on the measures needed to be taken in cooperation with all interested parties.

Members of the committee expressed their concern about official procrastination over the implementation of UNESCO’s executive council decisions regarding Jerusalem’s Old City, which is still under Israeli occupation.

In October 2017, UNESCO’s largest donor, the US, confirmed that it would be withdrawing, explicitly citing the reason as UNESCO’s anti-Israel resolutions. It will instead establish an observer mission at the Paris-based organisation to replace its representation.

November 11, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Behind the mask of liberalism, security has priority over human rights in Jordan

By Inès Osman | MEMO | November 11, 2107

In the western world, Queen Rania of Jordan is viewed largely as one of the most progressive leaders in the Arab and Islamic region. Describing herself as “a mum and a wife with a really cool day job”, her social media accounts – which have approximately 27 million followers, almost three times her country’s population – feature both family portraits and pictures of her meeting women and children in refugee camps.

However, behind this glossy image lies a different reality for Jordanian citizens. For a start, anyone who dares to criticise either the Queen herself or her husband King Abdullah II faces between one to three years in prison under article 195 of the Penal Code. When, in January 2017, a former member of parliament published an article on Facebook denouncing corruption and asking whether the King was aware of the situation, he was arrested by the intelligence services and charged with “insulting the King” and “undermining the political regime”; the latter constitutes a terrorist offence in Jordan.

Alarmingly, this former MP is only one of many peaceful dissenting voices who have become victims of Jordan’s repressive apparatus made up of the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) and the State Security Court (SSC), both under tight control of the executive. The GID, known commonly as the mukhabarat with a director who is appointed directly by the King, is tasked with carrying out operations to “safeguard national security”. In practice, however, the intelligence services have been cracking down on dissent by means of arbitrary arrest and torture.

Although the GID is no law enforcement agency, it arrests and takes suspects to its headquarters, where they are detained with no access to the outside world, be it their lawyer or family. During this period, detainees are subjected to torture and forced to make self-incriminating statements, which are then used as the sole evidence against them at trial. In 2015, the United Nations (UN) Committee against Torture denounced the “widespread” use of this practice by the intelligence services, and called on Jordan to limit the powers of the GID.

It seems unlikely that the authorities will take measures to that end, given that the GID has so far responded to such criticism with denials. Indeed, on its website, the GID states that such reports are “exaggerated”, “politically motivated” and ultimately aimed at “harming Jordan’s good image and standing in the international community.”

However, the GID is not acting alone. Its judicial counterpart, the State Security Court, is another part of this repressive machinery. Not only is its General Prosecutor a military officer sitting at the GID headquarters, but the SSC judges – two from the military and one civilian – are nominated by the Prime Minister and can be replaced at any time by executive decision.

UN human rights bodies have raised concerns repeatedly over the lack of independence and impartiality of this exceptional jurisdiction. On 9 November, after reviewing the human rights situation in Jordan, the UN Human Rights Committee – a group of independent experts assessing the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) worldwide – published its concluding observations, in which it called for the abolition of Jordan’s SSC. The Committee had already made this recommendation twice before in 1994 and 2010, but the authorities have not taken any steps towards its effective implementation to date.

The SSC relies on a flawed legal framework to prosecute those who have exercised their right to freedom of expression. The victims face charges of terrorism, the definition of which has been broadened over the years to include acts of free speech.

It was in October 2001, following the 9/11 attacks, that the Penal Code was amended to criminalise acts of terrorism for the first time. Back then, article 149 was enacted, listing as a terrorist crime any act that would “encourage the contestation of the political system” or “aim at changing the fundamental structure of society”. Several years later, in 2006, the authorities promulgated the “Prevention of Terrorism Act” in response to the 2005 hotel bombings in Amman. In 2014, the law was broadened to include nonviolent acts aimed at “causing disorder to the public order” or “disturbing relations with a foreign country”, definitions which are flawed and leave room for interpretation.

While Jordanian officials claimed that this move was aimed at providing a better response to threats of spillover from the Syrian conflict, in practice, these amendments have allowed the authorities to silence more dissenting voices. In its November 2017 conclusions, the Human Rights Committee reiterated its 2010 call to amend the Anti-Terrorism Law to bring it into compliance with the ICCPR, despite the authorities’ claim that the law is “living up to Jordan’s international obligations”.

Following a wave of demonstrations in 2011 in the context of the Arab Spring, Jordan’s monarch called for “sky-high” freedoms. However, it was also in 2011 that article 149 of the Penal Code was used for the first time against teachers who were protesting near the Prime Minister’s offices for the establishment of a teachers’ syndicate.

Since then, dozens of critics, journalists, political opponents and peaceful demonstrators alike have been arrested and tortured by the GID, and then prosecuted before the State Security Court under terrorism charges for merely having expressed their opinion.

A telling example of the political nature of such judicial harassment is the case of the well-known TV and radio presenter Amjad Qourshah, who was arrested in June 2016 after criticising Jordan’s participation in the US-led international coalition against Daesh. Qourshah had published a video on YouTube in which he stated that Arab states were being forced to fight a war that was not theirs. The State Security Court Prosecutor charged him with “disturbing relations with a foreign state” under the Anti-Terrorism Law.

As a strong ally of western countries, Jordan seems to be succeeding in maintaining its liberal image. In January 2015, Queen Rania and King Abdullah were among the world leaders who marched to defend the right to freedom of expression in Paris following the terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo. Nevertheless, at the same time, the authorities have continued to clamp down on freedom of expression in the Hashemite Kingdom under the pretext of “national security”.

Such contradictions seem rooted in Jordanian politics. In March 2016, the authorities launched a ten-year Comprehensive National Plan for Human Rights, which set among its priorities the enhancement of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Six months later, the Media Commission prohibited news outlets from reporting any news about the King or other members of the royal family.

This gap between Jordan’s liberal public image and conservative domestic policy is largely going unnoticed within the international community. However, as the UN Human Rights Committee recalled recently, one of the Kingdom’s most pressing challenges remains the need to find a balance between security and human rights; behind the liberal mask, the former still has priority over the latter.

November 11, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

Saudi Arabia alleges citizen kidnapped in Lebanon

MEMO | November 11, 2017

Saudi Arabia said on Friday a Saudi citizen had been kidnapped in Lebanon, a country with which it is in a diplomatic crisis.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have advised their citizens against travelling to Lebanon and urged those already there to leave, as tensions rise in what is seen as a new front line in the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Top Lebanese government officials have said they believe Saudi Arabia is holding Saad al-Hariri who resigned as Lebanese prime minister from there last weekend. Riyadh says Hariri is a free man and he decided to resign because Iran-allied Hezbollah was calling the shots in his government.

The Saudi embassy in Beirut announced the kidnap of one of its citizens, but gave no details of the person’s identity of the circumstances of the abduction.

“The embassy is in contact with the highest ranking Lebanese security authorities about securing the unconditional release of a kidnapped Saudi citizen as soon as possible,” it said in a statement quoted by the Saudi state news agency SPA.

Lebanese Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said on the Lebanese state news agency the safety of Saudi residents and visitors was a priority for the Lebanese authorities.

He added that “security services are on high alert to prevent any attempt of exploiting the current political situation from anyone and for whatever reason.”

“Tampering with the security and stability of Lebanon is a red line.”

November 11, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

Propaganda for Regime Change in Syria

By Susan Dirgham | Dissident Voice | November 10, 2017

The book Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace was published in October 2017. It is purportedly written by a Syrian girl, Bana Alabed, with the help of her mother and an editor. The book is being prominently promoted in the US and UK and is anticipated to be a big seller this coming Holiday Season.


Bana Alabed is an 8-year-old Syrian girl who rose to fame in 2016 when a Twitter account was set up in her name and she started tweeting in fluent English from east Aleppo as it was under bombardment by Syrian and Russian forces trying to dislodge insurgents.

The first tweet in Bana’s name appeared on 24 September 2016. It simply read, ‘I need peace’. The Twitter account soon had tens of thousands of followers, among them J. K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter. It was later observed in a video that 7-year-old Bana knew very little English and was being prompted or told what to say.

Bana and Anne Frank?

The book begins with a quote from The Diary of Anne Frank, thus inferring that there are parallels between Bana and the famous Dutch Jewish girl who was forced to hide from the Nazis in the Second World War. If Bana is meant to represent Anne, then presumably the Syrian and Russian governments are meant to represent the Nazis. This is misleading. Several brave Dutch people hid the young Anne and her family from the Nazis. In Syria, Islamist militants, such as those in east Aleppo have targeted Syrians simply because they belonged to minorities. Australian anthropologist Dr. Fiona Hill described how her adoptive Syrian brother, a Sunni, risked his life to rescue three Alawi families from the Free Syrian Army and ‘inevitable summary murder’ at their hands.

Bana and Malala?

Dear World is published by Simon & Schuster, part of the CBS media empire. It was edited or perhaps ghost written by senior editor Christine Pride who sees Bana Alabed “as a heroine reminiscent of Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai”. This is misleading to the point of being bizarre. Before a Taliban gunman shot her, Malala wrote a blog detailing life under Taliban rule. Bana may be a brave and good child, but Dear World does not take a stand against extremist forces. On the contrary, Bana’s father was active with the extremist insurgents.

Jabhat al-Nusra, a group linked to both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, was the strongest of the militia groups in east Aleppo at the time Bana was sending her tweets. Former Australian soldier Mathew Stewart’s story points to these links. Soon after the start of the war in Afghanistan, Stewart joined the Taliban, and then in 2015 he worked ‘as a trainer with Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s proxy militia in Syria’.

Those who tweet and write in Bana Alabed’s name seem unconcerned about the enforcement of harsh punishments by Jabhat al-Nusra, such as the execution of women. Nor are they concerned about the group’s violence or terror tactics, which are detailed on the Australian National Security webpage.

Ironically, although peace is a word used liberally in Dear World, one tweet since deleted from Bana’s Twitter account read,

Dear world, it’s better to start 3rd world war instead of letting Russia & Assad commit #HolocaustAleppo

The book portrays the young narrator and her mother as courageous and compassionate. According to this narrative the only militants in east Aleppo were the FSA and they were good guys fighting against the evil Syrian government forces. This is public relations propaganda, very far from the reality which American journalists James Foley and Stephen Sotloff documented before being assassinated.

A Western, not Syrian Readership

Dear World is not directed at readers in Syria who are aware of the war’s complex nature and “rebel” reality. Most Syrians grieve the loss of loved ones in the war, want women to maintain freedoms and minorities to be able to worship without fear. Most Syrians do not want their country to be partitioned and made a haven for extremists. The book is written for a western audience, conditioned by the simplistic mainstream media narrative of ‘heroic revolutionaries’ fighting the ‘dictator Assad’.

In January 2017, Bana implored Donald Trump to stop the bombs in Syria and ‘save the children’. But in April 2017, Bana expressed support for Donald Trump’s airstrikes on a Syrian airfield after it was claimed the ‘regime’ had dropped a bomb containing sarin. There were no calls for a thorough impartial investigation, just a call to bomb. Four children were killed in the U.S. airstrikes. It seems clear there is political manipulation guiding the social media messages of a photogenic sweet girl.

Jesus, King, Ghandi … and the FSA?

Dear World champions Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr, and Gandhi, while extolling fighters in the ‘Free Syrian Army’. To the extent that it exists at all, the FSA is made up of armed groups that fly the ‘opposition flag’ rather than al-Qaeda or ISIS ones. This allows them to receive weapons and supplies from western governments even as they defect and turn over these weapons to Syria’s version of Al Queda, Jabhat al Nusra.

James Foley, the American journalist beheaded by ISIS, interviewed an FSA commander in east Aleppo who ‘promised Aleppo would burn.’ In this commander’s opinion, ‘the people of Aleppo were only concerned about their barbecues’ and deserved punishment for not supporting the armed ‘revolution’.

Dear World distorts the truth, abusing the trust of its readers. The book is a weapon in the covert and overt efforts of Syria’s enemies to effect ‘regime change’ by any means. Despite the narrator’s plea for peace, the book’s depiction of the ‘regime’ as the personification of evil could lead a generation of young readers in the West to uncritically support war against Syria and its people for years to come.

As a beautifully packaged children’s book that includes the endorsement of the author of Harry Potter, Dear World could conceivably encourage some impressionable readers to take up arms against a government. Some young readers may believe Syria is an uncivilized wasteland and a battlefield that even they could potentially enter one day, flying a flag, trying to be a hero, killing locals who don’t support the ‘revolution’. For an attractive looking children’s book, Dear World is a potentially dangerous package.

British PR Firm Created “Bana”: the Brand

Could there be any significance in the fact that the PR firm, The Blair Partnership, which handles J. K. Rowling’s publicity also handles Bana’s? The Blair Partnership has transformed ‘Bana’ from a little girl into a brand that represents opposition to the Syrian government and, in effect, support for British foreign policy.

Lies and Omissions in War

Though J .K. Rowling endorses Dear World, it can be assumed that Peter Ford, the former UK ambassador to Syria would not. According to him the British Foreign Office has lied about the war and “it was not the case” that the opposition was dominated “by so-called moderates”.

Apart from mentioning the kidnapping of two of Bana’s uncles, the book hardly refers to the well-documented violence of the Islamist factions operating in east Aleppo at the time Bana was supposedly there. Nor is there mention in Dear World of the civilians killed in west Aleppo when insurgents fired rockets into residential areas or detonated car bombs. In October 2016, the mother of 20-year-old Mireille Hindoyan recounted how a ‘rebel’ missile had killed Mireille and her 12-year-old brother. They had been standing in the street waiting for their mother to finish her shopping. Mireille’s body was dismembered. An online search indicates that the BBC, ABC and the American PBS did not present this story. They surely would have if this had happened in a western country: it was an act of terror, the victims were young and innocent, and Mireille was a local swimming star. Like most of the mainstream western media, those behind the Bana phenomenon seem to have no regard for the victims of ‘rebels’.

Likewise, the beheading of a young boy in July 2016 by an Islamist group in east Aleppo that received funding from the United States is not referred to in Dear World.

Investigating Claims

Dear World presents a long list of claims against the ‘regime’. They include the bombing of schools and hospitals, the random shooting of civilians from a helicopter, and the dropping of cluster bombs, phosphorous, and chlorine on people in east Aleppo.

However, these claims almost invariably originated from media outlets and ‘activists’ linked to the ‘rebels’. The unverified claims have been promoted by western media and some prominent Non-Governmental Organizations while refutations have been ignored. Detailed examinations in case after case have shown the accusations to be exaggerated if not false. It seems this book is actually written by an adult with a political motive.

Bana and Turkish President Erdogan

In December 2016, the extremists controlling east Aleppo were finally forced out of the city. Most surviving civilians rushed into the government controlled west Aleppo and described their “liberation” from the terrorists who had dominated east Aleppo since 2012. In an agreement with the Syrian government, remaining extremists and their families were taken from Aleppo to Idlib province while some others, including Bana and her family, went to Turkey.

Even US Vice President Biden admitted that Turkey supported violent extremists including Al Qaeda (al-Nusra) in Syria. Turkey’s pivotal role and complicity in the violence was confirmed in a video produced by American Lebanese journalist Serena Shim, who died for her work.

Thus it is ironic and a measure of the distortions that Bana told President Erdogan at a meeting in the presidential palace, “Thank you for supporting the children of Aleppo and helping us to get out from war. I love you.”

This is not to suggest that Bana Alabed does not deserve our sympathy. She does, especially since it appears that nefarious forces, which stretch from Syria to Turkey to Britain, are exploiting her. With consummate cynicism, they are using her cute face and demeanor to promote a vicious invasion and war.

Bana Alabed’s Dear World is a book that tugs on the heartstrings as it misleads readers. It is actually propaganda for “regime change” in a small sweet package.

Susan Dirgham is an English as a Second Language Teacher. Beginning in September 2003, she taught at the British Council in Damascus for two years and has subsequently visited Syria several times. With a team that includes Syrian women on humanitarian visas in Australia, she edits the magazine ‘Beloved Syria – Considering Syrian Perspectives’. She can be reached at Read other articles by Susan.

November 11, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

Manipulation: The US State Department’s New Program to Take On Hungarian Media

By Daniel McAdams | Ron Paul Institute | November 10, 2017

Hypocrisy may be the only consistent guiding principle of US foreign policy. Here’s a prime example of the “do as we say, not as we do” that is the core of how Washington does business overseas: In the same week that the the US Justice Department demanded that the Russian-backed RT America network register as a foreign propaganda entity or face arrest, the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DNL) has announced that it is launching a program to massively interfere in NATO-partner Hungary’s internal media.

So the US Justice Department is cracking down on RT America for what it says is manipulation of US domestic affairs while the US State Department announces a new program to manipulate Hungary’s domestic affairs.

The State Department’s new program would send three-quarters of a million dollars to Washington-selected Hungarian media outlets to “increase citizens’ access to objective information about domestic and global issues in Hungary.” On what authority does the United States pick winners and losers in Hungary’s diverse media environment? Since when does one government have the right to determine what news is “objective” in another country? Hungary is not a country to be “regime-changed” — it is a full democracy where the will of the people is regularly expressed at the ballot box and where the media competes freely in the marketplace of ideas.

Washington’s Hungarian media project is clearly meant to interfere in that country’s domestic political environment. Here are the stated objectives of the US government’s Hungary program:

The program should improve the quality of local traditional and online media and increase the public’s access to reliable and unbiased information.

Projects should aim to have impact that leads to democratic reforms, and should have the potential for sustainability beyond DRL resources. (emphasis added)

The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor identifies its mission in this call for grantees as “promoting democracy and protecting human rights globally.” So what is it doing in Hungary? Hungary has had nearly three decades of democracy since 1989 and hardly needs the United States to tell it what kind of media is allowed (subsidized) and which kind should be suppressed.

In reality this is a US government program to ensure that the Hungarian media follows Washington’s policy line. Hungarians are all too familiar with this kind of toxic interference from an outside superpower: it was called the Soviet Union. Does Washington really seek to take on that role?

Stab in the back

This US government intervention in Hungary’s internal affairs must feel like a stab in the back to Orban and his government. Orban was an early — and rare — supporter of candidate Donald Trump among his European colleagues. Indeed, where Brusssels saw Trump as a gauche loudmouth, Orban openly admired the soon-to-be-president’s position on immigration and particularly on the mass immigration of mostly Muslim “refugees” that has proven to be disastrous for so many European countries. Likewise, Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party has managed to retain a high level of popularity through two election cycles by embracing and promoting the kind of nationalism that characterized Trump’s successful campaign.

Orban’s early support for Trump appeared to have paid off. Where Fidesz had struggled to make any headway at all under GW Bush or Obama’s State Departments, both of which were openly hostile, one of President-elect Trump’s first moves was to invite Orban to the White House. Orban, for his part, hailed Trump on inauguration day, welcoming in an era where national interest takes precedent over multilateralism.

As recently as last month, President Trump praised Viktor Orban, saying that the “strong and brave” Hungarian Prime Minister is “on my guest list.”

Then Trump’s State Department launched a program to undermine Hungary’s national sovereignty by interfering in the Hungarian media market. It seems national sovereignty is a one-way street for Washington no matter who occupies the Oval Office.

Hypocrisy…or policy consistency?

But perhaps it’s inaccurate to accuse the US government of hypocrisy in this case. After all, pressuring RT America with the intent of silencing the news network and spending our tax dollars propping up US-friendly media outlets in the Hungarian countryside are actually two sides of the same coin: the US government will tell you what kind of media you are allowed to consume. If you are a media network in the United States that allows voices who oppose Washington’s neocon-dominated foreign policy they will shut you down. If you are a news outlet in the Hungarian countryside that spews the US party line, they will prop you up. Both cases are the same: your media will toe the US government official line or else.

Note to Washington: This is not 1950. Hungary has been a fully free and democratic country with plenty of free elections under its belt. It does not need you to come in and attempt to manipulate its newspapers and broadcast media. What would you do if China sent in a few million dollars to prop up US publications who agreed to push the Beijing line? What about if Tehran sent some money to publications pushing the Ayatollah party line? You cannot even tolerate RT America — which is largely staffed by Americans but dares to feature prominent Americans who challenge the neocon foreign policy line. Hands off Hungary!

Note to Viktor Orban: You risked arrest — and worse — in June, 1989 when you directly confronted the communists who were occupying your country. Now that Hungary’s freedom has been won — in no small way due to your efforts — do not allow Washington’s neocons to take it away from you! If you do not confront this violation of Hungarian sovereignty, the neocons will continue to increase the pressure. The neocons want you out! Just this week, neocon commentator Anne Applebaum wrote that you are a “neo-Bolshevik” who has “little to do with the right that has been part of Western politics since World War II, and…no connection to existing conservative parties.” Do a little research and you will notice that Applebaum is a member of the International Advisory Council of the Center for European Policy Analysis — the organization your own government funded for a big conference this summer! Neocon knives are out for you. You’d be smart to make a better assessment of who are your friends and enemies in the United States…before it’s too late.

November 11, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 1 Comment

Putin says claims of Russian intervention in US presidential election mere ‘fantasies’

Press TV – November 11, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin has once again strongly rejected claims that Moscow interfered in the 2016 US presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, saying these allegations are mere “fantasies.”

The Russian leader made the remarks at a news briefing on the sidelines of the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang on Saturday, less than a year after US intelligence agencies made the allegations against the Kremlin, which has since vehemently denied the charges.

“Everything about the so-called Russian dossier in the US is a manifestation of continuing domestic political struggle,” Putin told reporters at the Asia-Pacific summit in the Southeast Asian country, adding that he was well “aware” of the increasing probe regarding contacts between Trump’s team members and Russians, including a woman who has claimed to be Putin’s niece.

“Regarding some sort of connections of my relatives with members of the administration or some officials, I only found out about that yesterday from (spokesman Dmitry) Peskov,” the Russian president further said, asserting that he does not know anything about it. “I think these are some sort of fantasies,” Putin added.

Back in January, American intelligence agencies claimed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to try to help Trump, the current president of the United States, defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. They alleged at the time that Moscow’s interference included a campaign of hacking and releasing embarrassing emails, and disseminating propaganda via social media to discredit Clinton’s campaign.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, appointed by the US Justice Department, is tasked with investigating Russia’s alleged meddling in the election.

Trump, for his part, has long denied any collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives during last year’s White House race, which led to his rival Hillary Clinton’s loss.

On Saturday, after briefly meeting with Putin at the summit, Trump said that the Russian leader felt insulted by persisting allegations of Moscow’s meddling in the US vote.

“You can only ask so many times… he (Putin) said he absolutely did not meddle in our election,” the US president said, adding that Putin was “very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.”

As he was heading to the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, Trump also told reporters that President Putin had personally told him that “he didn’t meddle.”

“He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again,” Trump said.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Russian president vowed that Moscow would adopt “reciprocal” measures in response to US steps against RT America, which he called an “attack on freedom of speech.”

His comments came a day after the US Department of Justice ordered that by Monday, the company that provides all services for RT America in the US has to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), adding that in case of any disobedience, the news channel’s head may be held in police custody and its accounts could be frozen.

The so-called US legislation was passed in 1938 to counter Nazi propaganda on the American soil. More than 400 entities, but no media outlet, are currently registered under the act.

“I want to draw your attention to the fact that there wasn’t and could not be any confirmation of our media’s meddling in the [US] election campaign,” Putin said, adding that the latest probe in US Congress showed that the Russian ads amounted merely to “some tenths or hundredths of a percent” in comparison to those carried by the US media in the course of the 2016 election.

The annual APEC summit is one of the largest gatherings on the annual diplomatic calendar, bringing together scores of world leaders and more than 2,000 CEOs. APEC represents 21 Pacific Rim economies, the equivalent of 60 percent of global GDP and covering nearly three billion people, and has pushed for freer trade since its inception in 1989.

November 11, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 3 Comments

Saudi Arabia’s Desperate Gamble

By Alastair Crooke | Consortium News | November 10, 2107

It is always tempting. The Syrian war is coming to an end, and the losses to those who bet on the losing side – suddenly in the glare of the end-game – become an acute and public embarrassment. The temptation is to brush the losses aside and with a show of bravado make one last bet: the masculine “hero” risks his home and its contents on a last spin of the wheel. Those in attendance stand in awed silence, awaiting the wheel to slow, and to trickle the ball forward, slot by slot, and to observe where it comes to rest, be it on black, or on the blood-red of tragedy.

Not only in romances, but in life, too. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) has wagered all on black, with his “friends” – President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) and Trump himself daring MbS on. Trump, in his business life, once or twice has staked his future on the spin of the wheel. He too has gambled and admits to the exhilaration.

And in the shadows, at the back of the gaming room, stands Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. The idea of going to the casino was his, in the first place. If the hero lands on black, he will share in the joy, but if it is red … never mind: Bibi’s home is not forfeit.

Let us be clear, MbS is severing all the various fetters that hold the Saudi kingdom together and intact. Saudi Arabia is not just a family business: it is also a confederation of tribes. Their diverse interests were attended to, primordially, through the composition of the National Guard, and its patronage. The latter henceforth reflects, no longer, the kingdom’s diverse tribal affiliations, but the security interests of one man, who has seized it for himself.

Ditto for the various cadet branches of the al-Saud family: the carefully judged sharing out of spoils amongst the many family claimants is finished. One man is clearing the table of everybody’s smaller stakes. He has snapped the wires connecting the Court to the Saudi business élite – and is slowly slicing away the Wahhabi religious establishment, too. They have been effectively kicked out of the partnership, which they founded jointly with ibn Saud, the first monarch of Saudi Arabia who ruled during the first half of the last century, also known as King Abdul Aziz. In short, no one has a stake left in this enterprise, but MbS – and no one it seems, has rights, or redress.

Why? Because MbS sees the Saudi political and religious leadership of the Arab world slipping, like sand, through the king’s fingers, and he cannot bear the thought that Iran (and the despised Shi’a), could be the inheritor.

Transforming Saudi Arabia 

Saudi Arabia, therefore, has to be transformed from a sleepy, declining kingdom, into an instrument for blunting Iranian power. This, naturally resonates with an American President who seems, too, more and more preoccupied with reasserting U.S. prestige, deterrence and power in the world (rather than adhering to the non-interventionist narrative of the Campaign). At The American Conservative’s conference in Washington last week, editor Robert Merry, a staunch realist and prolific author, mourned that: “There is no realism and restraint in American foreign policy in the Trump era.”

All wars are costly, and money is needed (and is being seized accordingly through MbS’s arrest of his rivals on corruption charges). But Saudi Arabia traditionally (since the Eighteenth Century), has waged all its power struggles via one particular (and effective) tool: fired-up Wahhabi jihadism. And that, in the wake of the Syrian debacle, lies discredited, and no longer available.

So now, Saudi Arabia has to craft a new instrument, with which to confront Iran: and the Crown Prince’s choice is truly ironic: “moderate Islam” and Arab nationalism (to counter non-Arab Iran and Turkey).  Mohammad Abd-el Wahhab must be turning in his grave: “moderate” Islam in his rigorous doctrine, led only to idolatry (such as that practiced by the Ottomans), and which, in his view, should be punished by death (see here).

In fact, this is the riskier part of MbS’s gamble (though seizing Prince Walid bin Talal’s mammoth fortune has grabbed most attention). King Abdel Aziz faced armed rebellion, and another king was assassinated for departing from the Wahhabist principles on which the state was founded – and for embracing westernized modernity (viewed by pure Wahhabis as idolatry).

The gene of Wahhabist fervor cannot be exorcised from Saudi society by simply commanding it gone. (Abdul Aziz finally only overcame it, by machine gunning its adherents, dead).

But, embracing “moderate Islam” (i.e. secular Islam), and threatening to confront Iran, probably was done with one eye on wooing President Trump to support MbS’s ousting of his cousin, Prince Naif, as Crown Prince – and the other eye on the P.R. potential to portray Iran as “extremist” Islam to a White House whose world view of the Middle East has been shaped by Bibi Netanyahu whispering in the ear of Jared Kushner, and by the prejudices of a circle of advisers disposed to see Iran in terms of one singular understanding, rather than in its diverse aspects. Netanyahu must be congratulating himself on his clever ploy.

Netanyahu’s Coup

No doubt about it: it has been a coup for Netanyahu. The question though, is whether it will turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory, or not: whichever it is, it is highly dangerous to throw grenades into combustible material. This U.S.-Israeli-Saudi-UAE project is, at bottom, an attempt to overturn reality, no less – it is rooted in a denial of the setback suffered by these states by their multiple failures to shape a New Middle East in the Western mode. Now, in the wake of their failure in Syria – in which they went to the limits in search of victory – they seek another spin of the roulette wheel – in the hope of recouping all their earlier losses. It is, to say the least, a capricious hope.

On the one hand, Iran’s strength across the northern Middle East is not tentative. It is now well rooted. Iran’s “strategic space” includes Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen – and increasingly – Turkey. Iran has played a major role in defeating ISIS, together with Russia. It is a “strategic partner” of Russia, while Russia now enjoys broad sway across the region. In a word, the political heft lies with the north, rather than with the weakened, southern tier.

If there be some notion that Russia might be induced to “rein in” Iran and its allies across the region to mollify Israeli concerns, this smacks of wishful thinking. Even if Russia could (and it probably cannot), why should it? How then will Iran be rolled-back? By military action? This, too, seems a stretch.

Israel’s military and security echelon, in the wake of the 2006 war on Lebanon, is likely only to contemplate a war (with anyone other than Palestinians), that is short (six days or less); does not result in heavy Israeli civilian or military casualties; and can be won at a low cost. Ideally, Israel would also expect full American buy-in (unlike in 2006). The Pentagon has little appetite for putting boots on the ground again in the Middle East, and Israelis are aware of this. And Saudi Arabia alone, cannot threaten anyone militarily (as Yemen has amply demonstrated).

Can Saudi Arabia squeeze Lebanon economically and impose political pressure on any Lebanese government? Of course: but economic pressure likely will hurt the Sunni, middle and business classes, harder than the 44 percent of the Lebanese population who are Shi’a. Generally, the Lebanese have an aversion to external interference, and American sanctions and pressures will be more likely to unite Lebanon than divide it. (This is the old, old story of imposed sanctions.) And at a guess, the Europeans will neither willingly support the de-stabilization of Lebanon nor the abandonment of JCPOA, the 2015 agreement to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

So what may be the outcome? At a guess, Saudi Arabia, already a society with many repressed tensions, may simply implode under the new repression (or MbS might somehow be “removed” before the tensions combust). America and Israel will not emerge strengthened, but rather will be viewed as less relevant to the Middle East.

Robert Malley, the former Middle East adviser in the last administration, warns of the danger of a potential regional explosion: “Fear is the one thing preventing it—but could also precipitate it.”

Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum.

November 11, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘America First!’ AWOL from Beijing, War with North Korea Looms

By James George JATRAS | Strategic Culture Foundation | 11.11.2017

There’s no indication that President Donald Trump’s summit with China’s Xi Jinping achieved any breakthrough on North Korea. But why didn’t it? After all, Trump said that China could “fix” the North Korea problem “easily and quickly” and it was just a matter of Xi’s making up his mind to do so.

No less divorced from reality was Trump’s half-hearted pitch on the US trade imbalance with China. The problem, he said, was not the Chinese – whom he complimented on their cleverness in exploiting our stupidity – but on the flaccid policies of prior American administrations. Quite true! But what will he do differently? Not much it seems, except maybe give a big tax cut with no strings attached to fat corporations that are thrilled to keep moving their operations overseas. Global market über alles! And here we all thought Hillary Clinton lost the election . . .

All in all, Trump’s China visit was characterized by putting his “America First!” campaign principles on ice in favor of the globalist agenda of his economic advisers and subordination of trade to the geopolitical concerns of the military Junta that runs his administration for him. Sure, there might some tinkering here and there, like the recent hit against Chinese aluminum foil dumping. But plutocrats worried about a “trade war” with China can sleep easy.

On North Korea – the overwhelming US preoccupation at the Trump-Xi summit – Trump came up empty. For months observers have fretted over Trump’s oscillating rhetoric from fire and destruction one day to let’s-make-a-deal the next. He’s his own good cop, bad cop act.

In principle there’s nothing wrong with bluster and unpredictability. The art of the deal, you know. Despite the claims of Trump’s detractors, the President’s supposed irresponsibility and impulsiveness aren’t the problem. Trump’s personal style hasn’t yet resulted in war, and if war comes, that wouldn’t be the reason for it. Rather the real danger comes from the ostensible experts who set the parameters within which Trump operates, to whom he’s unwisely outsourced his foreign and security policies. The following articles of faith are baked into the cake:

  • First, It’s nice that there has evidently been a back channel for direct US talks with North Korea, but from Washington’s perspective there is nowhere for negotiations to go past demands for denuclearization. Any kind of concession to Pyongyang is out of the question, as it would mean “rewarding aggression” and “showing weakness.” There are no evident contours for a deal when only one side is expected to make concessions.
  • Second, because Washington has defined North Korea’s nukes as ipso facto a vital threat to the US, the minimum acceptable US goal is Pyongyang’s dumping its weapons.. (Regime change would be better, since it would also mean denuclearization.) The fact that Pyongyang is unlikely to give up its nukes under any circumstances means there can be no deal.
  • Third, in Washington’s collective mind the crisis is 100 percent the fault of North Korea, zero percent the result of our presence in Korea, of our threats against Pyongyang, or of our actions elsewhere. How can you blame us – we tried diplomacy for 20 years and all it did was lead to a bomb! Any suggestion that Kim Jong-un is responding to threats from George W. Bush’s 2002 Axis of Evil speech or to the disposal of Muammar Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein (who, unlike Kim, were foolish enough not to have WMDs) would be “blaming America!” Taking responsibility for past mistakes is not our forte. The prospect that the US mainland might in a few months be targetable by a nuclear-tipped North Korean ICBM has nothing at all to do with anything the US has said or done.
  • Fourth, we know China can solve this at will – easily and quickly, as the President said. As former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton says: “That’s why you say to China: ‘we’re gonna see reunification here. Do you want to do it the hard way or the easy way?” This means China can do the job for us, or we’ll do it. The notion that Beijing will not take an action fundamentally inconsistent to China’s national security because of American flattery or threats is almost inconceivable. But if they fail to do as we demand, what comes next will be their fault, not ours.
  • Fifth, the military option is still very much on the table. The Junta are not strategic thinkers but they are very, very certain of their technique. If worse comes to worst, and they are “forced to act” (from their point of view) they are supremely (and dangerously) confident that good execution can minimize the damage. Preparations for a preemptive strike continue apace. In Seoul Trump touted the prowess of the three US carrier groups off the peninsula. Maybe it’s all just a bluff to get the Chinese to act (as we know they can; see the preceding paragraph). But if worse comes to worst, and it turns out horribly for a lot of people: We had no choice in light of China’s inaction. Does this mean the planners are sitting around scheming to sacrifice Seoul so as not to look weak? No, but they are prepared to risk that outcome because they are boxed in by all the other elements of their approach. Worse, they are sure they call pull it off. After all, look at how well our other recent wars have gone!
  • Sixth, Trump has made it clear that his instincts are on hold and he’ll be guided by “the professionals.” (Compare Afghanistan, where his “new” same-old non-strategy was dictated by the Junta against what he admits were his own inclinations.) On Korea, the “experts” mainly refers to the Junta but also Nikki Haley (!!!!) and probably John Bolton. (There’s also a possibility that David Petraeus, the genius advocate of arming al-Qaeda in Syria, has a thumb in the pie as well.) Plus, keep in mind that Trump isn’t a neoconservative but he is an Andrew Jackson, or perhaps Teddy Roosevelt, nationalist. “Do not underestimate us,” Trump warned Kim. “And do not try us.” When the “experts” tell him that North Korea is “trying” us, what else can he do but act? After all, in April the “experts” told him that al-Assad gassed children in Syria – and boom! – he launched cruise missiles to the applause of both the Swamp critters and much of his populist base that has no idea where Syria is.
  • Seventh – and here’s the fun part – if it does all turn into a huge disaster involving hundreds of thousands of deaths, who will take the fall? Not McMaster or Haley. No, it will all be blamed on Trump and the “America First!” path he failed to follow. The establishment on both sides of the aisle, including many who prodded him toward a more aggressive policy, will rush to denounce him: See, we told you he’s nuts! The professionals gave him good advice but he messed everything up! In that case, they wouldn’t have to wait for impeachment, the 25th Amendment would be invoked. Talk about a “win-win” for the Deep State warmongers: getting rid of Kim and Trump!

November 11, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , | Leave a comment

‘Inappropriate Behaviour’ – Michael Fallon, Yemen, And The ‘Mainstream’ That Is Anything But

Media Lens | November 10, 2017

The truth of corporate journalism, and the great irony of its obsession with ‘fake news’, is that it is itself utterly fake. What could be more obviously fake than the idea that Truth can be sold by billionaire-owned media dependent on billionaire-owned advertisers for maximised profit?

The ‘mainstream’ worldview is anything but – it is extreme, weird, a product of corporate conformity and deference to power. As Norman Mailer observed:

‘There is an odour to any Press Headquarters that is unmistakeable… The unavoidable smell of flesh burning quietly and slowly in the service of a machine.’ (Mailer, ‘The Time Of Our Time’, Little Brown, 1998, p.457)

A prime example of ‘mainstream’ extremism is the way the UK’s illegal wars destroying whole countries are not an issue for corporate moralists. Physicians for Global Responsibility estimate that 1.3 million people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone. And yet it is simply understood that UK wars will not be a theme during general elections (See here and here). By contrast, other kinds of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ are subject to intense scrutiny.

Consider the recent resignation of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and his replacement by Prime Minister Theresa May’s Chief Whip, Gavin Williamson. Fallon resigned after it was revealed that he had ‘repeatedly touched the broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer’s knee at a dinner in 2002’.

Fallon was damaged further by revelations that he had lunged at journalist Jane Merrick:

‘This was not a farewell peck on the cheek, but a direct lunge at my lips.’

The Commons leader Andrea Leadsom also disclosed that she had complained about ‘lewd remarks’ Fallon had made to her.

Sexual harassment is a serious issue, despite the scoffing of some male commentators. In the Mail on Sunday, Peter Hitchens shamefully dismissed women’s complaints as mere ‘squawking’.

But it is strange indeed that, while harassment is rightly deemed a resigning offence, other ‘inappropriate behaviour’ leaves ‘mainstream’ commentators completely unmoved.

Fallon voted for both the 2003 war that destroyed Iraq and the 2011 war that wrecked Libya. He voted for war on Syria. He voted for replacing the Trident nuclear missile system. Earlier this year, he even declared that Britain would be willing to launch a nuclear first strike.

After he was made Secretary of Defence in July 2014, Fallon oversaw the supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia waging war on Yemen. Two years later, Campaign Against Arms Trade reported that UK sales to Saudi Arabia since the start of the war included £2.2 billion of aircraft, helicopters and drones, £1.1 billion of missiles, bombs and grenades, and nearly half a million pounds’ worth of tanks and other armoured vehicles. British sales of military equipment to the kingdom topped £1.1bn in the first half of this year alone.

In December 2016, Fallon admitted that internationally banned cluster munitions supplied by the UK had been used in Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign. Six months earlier, Amnesty International had reported that British-made cluster bombs were being used in attacks on civilians that had claimed the lives of children. For none of these horrors did Fallon resign.

So what kind of conflict are these weapons fuelling? The Guardian reports this week:

‘Yemen is in the grip of the world’s worst cholera outbreak and 7 million people are already on the brink of famine.’

In July, Reliefweb reported:

‘The scale of the food crisis in conflict-ridden Yemen is staggering with 17 million people – two thirds of the population – severely food insecure and seven million of these on the verge of famine.’

Director-General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, José Graziano da Silva, has described Yemen as the UN’s ‘largest humanitarian crisis today’, noting that conflict and violence have disrupted agriculture, with violence intensifying in areas most short of food. In December 2016, a study by UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, found that at least one child was dying in Yemen every 10 minutes. The agency found that, since 2014, there had been a 200 per cent increase in children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, with almost half a million affected. Nearly 2.2 million children were in need of urgent care.

This week, the Saudi-led coalition declared it would close Yemen’s borders to prevent an alleged flow of weapons from Iran, after it intercepted a missile attack by Houthi rebels near Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Johan Mooij, Yemen director of Care International, commented:

‘For the last two days, nothing has got in or out of the country. Fuel prices have gone up by 50% and there are queues at the gas stations. People fear no more fuel will come into Hodeidah port.’

He added:

‘People depend on the humanitarian aid and part of the cholera issue [is] that they do not eat and are not strong enough to deal with unclean water.’

There have been ‘daily airstrikes in Sana’a,’ Mooij said, adding: ‘People fear the situation is escalating.’

On Monday, the UN’s World Food Program said that, out of Yemen’s entire population of 28 million people, about 20 million, ‘do not know where they’re going to get their next meal’. These are Fallon’s millions, May’s millions, the ‘mainstream’s’ millions.

In the Independent, Mary Dejevsky made the only mention of Yemen in an article discussing Fallon’s resignation that we have seen in the national corporate press:

‘In the Middle East [on Fallon’s watch], the UK made great efforts to maintain its alliance with Saudi Arabia – and the arms sales that went with it – playing down the desperate plight of Yemen which was a by-product of this policy.’

Mass death, Iraq and Libya destroyed, millions of lives torn apart, profiteering in the billions from the torture of an impoverished, famine-stricken nation – none of this was deemed worthy even of mention in considering the record of Fallon and his ‘inappropriate behaviour’.

As for his replacement, the Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow tweeted a link to his blog piece titled: ’10 things you might not know about Gavin Williamson’. Vital facts included news that the new Defence Secretary ‘kept a pet tarantula called Cronus on his desk’, ‘likes hedgehogs’, ‘is only 41’, and ‘went to a comprehensive school’.

Sparrow was adhering to the journalistic convention that parliamentary politics should be depicted as a light-hearted, Wodehousian farce. It is all a bit of a laugh – everybody means well. Despite Williamson’s lethal new role, the word ‘war’ was not mentioned.

Preoccupied with spiders and hedgehogs, Sparrow found no space to mention that Williamson ‘almost always voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas’. He voted for war in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. He voted against the Yemen motion put before the House of Commons in October 2016 that merely called on the Government to suspend its support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces in Yemen until it had been determined whether they had been responsible for war crimes. The motion was defeated by 283 votes to 193, telling us everything we need to know about the ‘mainstream’s’ much-loved myth that British policy is motivated by a ‘responsibility to protect’.

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted a link to the BBC’s own comedy profile, which also discussed the tarantula and other nonsense, and made no mention of Williamson’s record on war. We asked Kuenssberg:

‘Will you be asking him if he has any regrets on voting against the Yemen motion to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, given the vast civilian crisis?’

We received no reply.

The extreme cognitive dissonance guiding ‘mainstream’ moral outrage was again highlighted by the Guardian columnist Gaby Hinsliff, who tweeted:

‘Can’t help thinking that now would be quite a good time for the first ever female defence secretary, really’

We asked:

‘What difference would it make to the civilians dying under our bombs in Yemen and Syria? Isn’t that the key issue on “defence”?’

Hinsliff did not reply. But the answer, of course, is that it would make no difference at all.

November 11, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment