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‘No Evidence’ Russia Threatens Undersea Cables Despite UK Defense Chief’s Claims

Sputnik | December 15, 2017

The chief of the UK defense staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, has said NATO needs to protect its undersea cables from attack by Russia. Sputnik spoke to Steffan Watkins, a Canadian-based open-source intelligence analyst who monitors military naval movements, who said there was no evidence Russia planned any hostile action.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach said the UK economy would be “immediately and potentially catastrophically” hit if one of the many undersea cables linking Britain to the rest of the world were disrupted.

The cables, which lie on the ocean floor, ensure communications flow freely to and from the UK.

Sir Stuart pointed the finger directly at Moscow, claiming they were probably plotting to damage the undersea cables.

​Steffan Watkins, a Canadian-based open-source intelligence analyst who monitors military naval movements, said undersea cables were the backbone of the worldwide telecom infrastructure and there were also unmarked military communications cables.

“Sabotage of the world’s undersea telecom infrastructure is not a threat specific to Russia, yet it is being treated as such in the Western media, due to statements leaked by anonymous Pentagon officials in 2015. There has been no evidence provided by any government or non-government agency that shows Russia is planning on cutting any cables, other than anonymous Pentagon officials leaking those accusations to the media, conveniently right before requesting more money, from the Senate Armed Services Committee,” Mr. Watkins told Sputnik.

Russian Ship Which Surveys Seabed

Russia launched the oceanographic vessel, Yantar, in 2015 and it has been surveying large areas of the world’s seas.

“I have reviewed the majority of Yantar’s path at sea since she was commissioned, and it seems like the Russian Navy is surveying the bottom of the ocean, along shipping lanes, and other locations that are important to them, and their allies. They have stopped over areas believed to have Syrian telecom cables, and after they were done, emergency repairs were needed by the Syrian authorities. Did the Yantar expose a tap that had been placed on Syrian telecom cables by another state?” Mr. Watkins told Sputnik.

​”Yantar also positioned itself in the Persian Gulf near Iran, near the location of a cable thought to have an outage before they got there.  Did they show up to repair it, or assess the damage to the cable?  Was the cable damaged as part of another nations’ covert operations? The Yantar’s operations are secret but their movements frequently are not and can be tracked using commercial AIS transponder methods; without evidence from The Pentagon showing some proof of tapping/cutting plans, it’s just more conjecture and fake news,” he told Sputnik.

‘Russian Economy Relies on These Cables’

“It is the job of the military to anticipate all threats, no matter how minor, before a conflict occurs, and hopefully avoid that conflict. Maybe someone figured out this was a potential threat, and explored how much of a threat it could be. The US Navy has good reason to think the Russian Navy could destroy the world’s cable infrastructure, because it could. However, there is a difference between what is possible, and probable. Russia, and every country in the world participating in our global economy, rely on these cables. The US military, or any military, could destroy telecom cables too. I’m much more concerned with terrorism, and cable landing sites are extremely vulnerable to terrorist attack, since such an attack could happen today or tomorrow. The threat of a Russian military operation cutting the worlds’ communication lines is not something that keeps me up at night,” Mr. Watkins told Sputnik.

​”In the initial leak by the Pentagon in 2015 they mentioned the Russians were looking for military secret cable networks. Those networks would be fair military targets in a time of conflict, and would disrupt American military operations globally, not the internet. I believe it is much more likely that the Pentagon wants to get the world worried about the Russians cutting their internet, because it’s easier to explain than their own vulnerable networks,” he told Sputnik.

“It’s much more likely the Russian Navy in a conflict would want all the cables mapped out so they knew which cables to cut to cripple American military communications networks. I believe the Pentagon is much more concerned with their own mesh of secret and uncharted cables that criss-cross the oceans of the world. Public commercial cable networks are already mapped and that information is readily available in the industry; the Russians don’t need to survey them, they can just read a nautical chart,” Mr. Watkins told Sputnik.

‘Crippling Blow’ to UK

In a report for center-right UK think tank Policy Exchange, Conservative MP Rishi Sunak said an attack on the UK’s undersea communications cables could deal a “crippling blow” to Britain’s security and economy.

​”It is not satellites in the sky, but pipes on the ocean floor that form the backbone of the world’s economy,” said Admiral James Stavridis, a former US Navy officer and NATO supreme allied commander, who wrote the foreword to the report.

Adm. Stavridis claimed China, Iran and Russia all posed a threat to the cables.

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | 1 Comment

Protecting the Shaky Russia-gate Narrative

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the third presidential debate in 2016, during which Clinton called Trump Vladimir Putin’s “puppet.”
By Robert Parry | Consortium News | December 15, 2017

If Russia-gate is the massive scandal that we are told it is by so many Important People — across the U.S. mainstream media and the political world — why do its proponents have to resort to lies and exaggerations to maintain the pillars supporting the narrative?

A new example on Thursday was The New York Times’ statement that a Russian agency “spent $100,000 on [Facebook’s] platform to influence the United States presidential election last year” – when the Times knows that statement is not true.

According to Facebook, only 44 percent of that amount appeared before the U.S. presidential election in 2016 (i.e., $44,000) and few of those ads addressed the actual election. And, we know that the Times is aware of the truth because it was acknowledged in a Times article in early October.

As part of that article, Times correspondents Mike Isaac and Scott Shane reported that the ads also covered a wide range of other topics: “There was even a Facebook group for animal lovers with memes of adorable puppies that spread across the site with the help of paid ads.”

As nefarious as the Times may think it is for Russians to promote a Facebook page about “adorable puppies,” the absurdity of that concern – and the dishonesty of the Times then “forgetting” what it itself reported just two months ago about the timing and contents of these “Russian-linked ads” – tells you a great deal about Russia-gate.

On Thursday, the Times chose to distort what it already knew to be true presumably because it didn’t want to make the $100,000 ad buy (which is not a particularly large sum) look even smaller and less significant by acknowledging the pre-election total was less than half that modest amount – and even that total had little to do with the election.

Why would the Times lie? Because to tell the truth would undercut the narrative of evil Russians defeating Hillary Clinton and putting Donald Trump in the White House – the core narrative of Russia-gate.

Another relevant fact is that Facebook failed to find any “Russian-linked” ads during its first two searches and only detected the $100,000 after a personal visit from Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a leading legislator on Internet regulation.

In other words, Facebook’s corporate executives dredged up something to appease Warner. That way, Warner and the Democrats could blame Russia for the Trump presidency, sparing further criticism of Clinton’s dreadful campaign (in which she labeled half of Trump’s voters “deplorables”) and her neo-liberal economic policies (and neo-conservative foreign policies) that have alienated much of America’s working class as well as many progressives.

Leaving Out Context

The Times also might have put the $100,000 in “Russian-linked” ads over a two-year period in the context of Facebook’s $27 billion in annual revenue, but the Times didn’t do that – apparently because it would make even the full $100,000 look like a pittance.

Trimming the total down to $44,000 and admitting that only a few of those ads actually dealt with Clinton and Trump would be even worse for the Russia-gate narrative.

Ironically, the Times’ latest false depiction of the $100,000 in ads as designed “to influence” the 2016 election appeared in an article about Facebook determining that other Russian-linked ads, which supposedly had a powerful effect on Great Britain’s Brexit vote, totaled just three ads at the cost of 97 cents. (That is not a misprint.)

According to Facebook, the three ads, which focused on immigration, were viewed some 200 times by Britons over four days in May 2016. Of course, the response from British parliamentarians who wanted to blame the Brexit vote on Moscow was to assert that Facebook must have missed something. It couldn’t be that many Britons had lost faith in the promise of the European Union for their own reasons.

We have seen a similar pattern with allegations about Russian interference in German and French elections, with the initial accusations being widely touted but not so much the later conclusions by serious investigations knocking down the claims. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’sGerman Intel Clears Russia on Interference.”]

The only acceptable conclusion, it seems, is “Russia Guilty!”

These days in Official Washington, it has become almost forbidden to ask for actual evidence that would prove the original claim that Russia “hacked” Democratic emails, even though the accusation came from what President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged were “hand-picked” analysts from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency.

These “hand-picked” analysts produced the evidence-lite Jan. 6 “assessment” about Russia “hacking” the emails and slipping them to WikiLeaks – a scenario denied by both WikiLeaks and Russia.

When that “assessment” was released almost a year ago, even the Times’ Scott Shane noticed the lack of proof, writing: “What is missing from the [the Jan. 6] public report is what many Americans most eagerly anticipated: hard evidence to back up the agencies’ claims that the Russian government engineered the election attack. … Instead, the message from the agencies essentially amounts to ‘trust us.’”

But the Times soon “forgot” what Shane had inconveniently noted and began reporting the Russian “hacking” as accepted wisdom.

The 17-Agencies Canard

Whenever scattered expressions of skepticism arose from a few analysts or non-mainstream media, the doubts were beaten back by the claim that “all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” concurred in the conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the hacking to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. And what kind of nut would doubt the collective judgment of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies!

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper talks with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, John Brennan and other national security aides present. (Photo credit: Office of Director of National Intelligence)

Though the 17-agency canard was never true, it served an important purpose in establishing the Russia-gate groupthink. Wielding the “all 17 intelligence agencies” club, the U.S. mainstream media pounded politicians and policymakers into line, making any remaining skeptics seem more out of step and crazy.

So, in May 2017, when Clapper (along with former CIA Director John Brennan) admitted in congressional testimony that it wasn’t true that all 17 agencies concurred in the Russian hacking conclusion, those statements received very little attention in the mainstream media.

The New York Times among other major news outlets just continued asserting the 17-agency falsehood until the Times was finally pressured to correct its lie in late June, but that only led to the Times shifting to slightly different but still misleading wording, citing a “consensus” among the intelligence agencies without mentioning a number or by simply stating the unproven hacking claim as flat fact.

Even efforts to test the Russian-hack claims through science were ignored or ridiculed. When former NSA technical director William Binney conducted experiments that showed that the known download speed of one batch of DNC emails could not have occurred over the Internet but matched what was possible for a USB-connected thumb drive — an indication that a Democratic insider likely downloaded the emails and thus that there was no “hack” — Binney was mocked as a “conspiracy theorist.”

Even with the new disclosures about deep-seated anti-Trump bias in text messages exchanged between two senior FBI officials who played important early roles in the Russia-gate investigation, there is no indication that Official Washington is willing to go back to the beginning and see how the Russia-gate story might have been deceptively spun.

In a recently released Aug. 15, 2016 text message from Peter Strzok, a senior FBI counterintelligence official, to his reputed lover, senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page, Strzok referenced an apparent plan to keep Trump from getting elected before suggesting the need for “an insurance policy” just in case he did. A serious investigation into Russia-gate might want to know what these senior FBI officials had in mind.

But the Times and other big promoters of Russia-gate continue to dismiss doubters as delusional or as covering up for Russia and/or Trump. By this point – more than a year into this investigation – too many Important People have bought into the Russia-gate narrative to consider the possibility that there may be little or nothing there, or even worse, that it is the “insurance policy” that Strzok envisioned.

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

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

4 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in clashes over Trump decision on Jerusalem

Ma’an – December 15, 2017

BETHLEHEM – Four Palestinians have been declared dead by the Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank and Gaza, after a day of violent clashes with Israeli forces on Friday across the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and besieged Gaza Strip.

The ministry reported that 18-year-old Muhammad Amin Aqel al-Adam succumbed to his wounds on Friday evening after he was shot multiple times by Israeli forces in the central West Bank town of al-Bireh, after an alleged stabbing attempt against soldiers.

Al-Adam was a resident of the town of Beit Ula in the western Hebron district of the southern West Bank

In the Jerusalem area town of Anata, in the central West Bank, 29-year-old Bassel Mustafa Muhammad Ibrahim succumbed to his wounds shortly after being shot in the chest by Israeli forces during clashes in the town.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces killed two Palestinians and injured hundreds others during clashes that broke out along the border between the besieged coastal enclave and Israel.

Yassir Sokhar, 31, a resident of the al-Shujaiyya neighborhood of eastern Gaza City was shot during clashes and declared dead by the ministry of health in Gaza.

The fourth slain Palestinian was identified by the ministry as Ibrahim Abu Thurayya, 29, who was shot in the head during clashes.

Ibrahim Abu Thurayya

Tributes to Abu Thurayya — who was wheelchair-ridden after losing both his legs during Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip in 2008 — popped up across social media, as Palestinians widely circulated a video of him calling on Palestinians to protest against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Hundreds of Palestinians across the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza had been injured with live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets on Friday during clashes with Israeli forces in protest of Trump’s decision last week.

Friday’s events brought the death toll over the past week to 10 — six Palestinians had previously been killed by Israeli forces over the past week, four in airstrikes and two in clashes.

Palestinians have vowed to continue protesting Trump’s unprecedented decision, which Palestinian and Arab leaders warned would cause instability and unrest in the region.

Trump’s announcement was the first step to a drastic abdication of longstanding US policy that has largely adhered to international standards on Israel-Palestine, which maintains that East Jerusalem is an intricate part of occupied Palestinian territory and the capital of any future Palestinian state, despite Israel’s annexation of the territory.

The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the “Judaization” of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass demolitions of Palestinian homes.

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

Witness Report, Video: Israeli War Crimes Against Palestinian Youth in Hebron

International Solidarity Movement | December 15, 2017 

al-Khalil, Occupied Palestine – Witness accounts and video footage confirm that the Israeli army has been and is committing war crimes in dealing with the current wave of protests against the occupation, colonization, and ethnic cleansing in Palestine.

On Friday, December 8, 2017 around 4:30 PM, ISM activists clearly witnessed and filmed a unit of of around 40 Israeli soldiers and commanders in the H1 area of Hebron – which, according to the 1997 Hebron agreement, should be fully controlled by the Palestinian Authority – intentionally injuring the backs, shoulders, and heads of two randomly arrested teens. Much of this occurred after they had been handcuffed, blindfolded, and were held in custody. … Full article

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Deconstructing the Almighty Russian Hackers Myth

By Patrick ARMSTRONG | Strategic Culture Foundation | 15.12.2017

Sometimes things can be made more complicated than they really are. And such is the case with the story that the Russian government hacked the Democratic National Committee so as to help Trump become president.

In July 2016 Wikileaks released a number of documents showing that the nomination of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for president had been rigged. A month earlier the DNC had announced it had been “hacked” and the cybersecurity company it hired announced that the Russians had done it – one of the reasons they gave was that the hackers had helpfully left the name of the Polish founder of the Soviet security forces as a clue.

Since then, this story has been broadly accepted and it has spun on and on for eighteen months. But it doesn’t really make any sense.

Let us pretend that Moscow wanted Trump to win. Let us further pretend that Moscow thought that there was a chance that he could win despite the fact that almost all news outlets, pollsters and pundits were completely confident that he could not. And let us pretend that Moscow thought that, with its thumb on the scale, Trump could make it. And, the fourth if, let us pretend that Moscow decided to put its thumb on the scale.

How to do it? Let us pretend (number five) that the strategy was to try and discredit Clinton. Let us further assume (this assumption is the one that’s probably true) that Moscow has very good electronic intelligence capacities. So, we imagine the scene in headquarters as they look for an approach; they quickly find one that is very good, a second that is pretty good and a third area that is worth digging around in.

The Russians would know all about the Uranium One matter where, as even the Clinton-friendly NYT admitted, “a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation“. It would be very easy for them to package this as a case of Secretary of State Clinton selling US policy for personal profit. Russian intelligence organisations would have a great deal of true information and would find it easy to manufacture material to fill in any gaps in the story. Presented as a case of corruption and near treason, the story could have done a great deal of damage to her. And, given that it had happened six years earlier, all the details would have been known and ready to be used. It would have been a very powerful attack that even the complaint media would have had difficulty ignoring.

We know, and it’s very likely that the Russians did too, that she ran a private e-mail server on which there were thousands and thousands of official communications. The server was very insecure and we can assume that Russia’s signals intelligence (and everyone else’s, for that matter) had penetrated it. Think of all the real material from that source that could be revealed or twisted to make a scandal. That would make quite a campaign. Further, it is a reasonable assumption that Russian intelligence would have some of the thousands of e-mails that were “bleached”. There would be enough material for a months-long campaign of leaks.

Finally, Hillary Clinton has been in public life for many years and there would have been ample opportunities, and, many would say, ample material in her scandal-plagued career, for the construction of many campaigns to weaken her appeal.

So, a preliminary look would suggest that there were several angles of attack of which Uranium One would be the easiest and most effective. But, failing that, or as a supplement to that, there was plenty of embarrassing and incriminating material in her illicit private server. Now we have to pretend (number six), contrary to the universal practice of security organs in all times and places, that the (always assumed in the story to be implacably hostile) Russians would decide to forgo the chance of compromising a future POTUS in favour of a harebrained scheme to get another elected.

But we’re supposed to believe that they did. The Russians, the story goes, with all this potential material, with a solid hit with Uranium One, decide instead to expose the finagling inside the Democratic Party structure. And to expose it too late to make any difference. As I said at the beginning, sometimes things are easier to understand when you, as it were, turn them upside down.

In the middle of June 2016 the DNC admits that its documents have been obtained – a “hack” they insist – and almost immediately, “Guccifer 2.0” pops up to claim responsibility and the DNC’s experts (Crowdstrike) claim Russia was behind it. A month passes before Wikileaks releases the first batch of DNC documents showing the extent of the manipulation of the process by Clinton – who had, according to most counts – already secured the nomination about two weeks before. A couple of days before the release, Trump gets the Republican nomination and a couple of days after that Clinton easily wins the Democratic nomination by a thousand-vote majority.

So, the first thing that should have occurred to the observer (but didn’t) was, if the Russians had had this incriminating evidence that the Democratic Party nomination had been fixed in Clinton’s favour, wouldn’t it have been more useful to put it out at a time when Sanders who was, after all, the swindled one, might have been able to do something about it? Instead those supposedly clever Russian state hackers dropped the news out at a time when it made very little difference. No difference in fact: Clinton got the nomination and there was no comeback from Sanders’ people.

So, the “Russian hackers” made their arrow, shot it, hit the target and… no one cared. The people who devoutly believe in the Russian hacking story now have to explain (but don’t) why the Russian state, apparently so determined to bring Clinton down, didn’t immediately hit her with the Uranium One documents and anything else they had that could feed the flames of scandal.

But, as we all know, they didn’t. While long rumoured, and even briefly reported on, we only learned of Uranium One in a big way in October 2017 and the fact that her server contained Special Access material (the very highest classified secrets) was confirmed authoritatively only in November 2017. If the Russians had really had this sort of information and the hostility to Clinton that we’re incessantly told that they had, two years earlier would have been the time.

So, on the one hand we are supposed to believe that the Russian government is so clever that it can hack anything, has innumerable social media trolls that influence elections and referendums around the world (“control the American mind“), drives a “fake news” campaign at a fraction of the cost but with far greater effectiveness than the massed legions of the Western media, is a threat to practically everything we hold sacred… but is too stupid to get it right. Possessing great and powerful secrets and a stunningly powerful machine to spread them, it chooses to fire a damp squib too late to make any difference and passes up the chance to have a compromised US president for it to control.

In other words, it’s nonsense: we don’t really need the forensics of VIPS; we don’t need to argue with people who say it’s fake news about Seth Rich, or that Assange is a Putinbot, or carefully ignore Murray. Those efforts are useful enough but they’re not necessary. In any case, the Russia story is a Gish gallop and a whole academy of wise men and women couldn’t keep up with the latest. (Robert Parry bravely attempts to list the most prominent ones from the Vermont power facility, through all 17 agencies to 14th not 4th.)

Just common sense will do it: if the Russians had wanted to bring Hillary Clinton down, they had far more powerful charges which they could have detonated much earlier. It is not plausible that all they had was the [DNC] rigging evidence and that they then deployed it too late to have an effect.

Or, maybe they’re not so all-competent in which case all the other stuff we’ve had shoved down our throats for months about “Russian information warfare” is even bigger nonsense.

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Moscow senses Trump’s travails could be ending

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | December 15, 2017

The ongoing investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller over Russia’s alleged interference in the US election is sputtering. The role of the FBI and the Justice Department in boosting Hillary Clinton’s election prospects last November can no longer be shoved under the carpet.

The email correspondence between top FBI agent Peter Strzok and a bureau lawyer Lisa Page, who were working on the 2016 election (besides having an extramarital affair), suggests that they were fired up with messianic zeal to ensure that somehow Hillary won – and, importantly, that Trump lost. And they probably had ‘in-house’ meetings with then-No. 2 in the FBI Andrew McCabe, presently acting director, who subsequently handpicked Mueller as special counsel.

The same folks appear to have used the alibi of the infamous anti-Trump “dossier” compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele (which was commissioned by the Clinton campaign) to obtain a warrant in mid-2016 from a secret federal court to conduct surveillance of a Trump-campaign official – although the FBI dismissed Steele’s work as “salacious and unverified” in congressional testimony.

The Clinton campaign research project (Steel’s ‘dossier’) involved a Russia analyst who’s the wife of the Obama Justice Department’s associate deputy attorney general. Serious questions arise regarding the role of the Obama FBI and Obama Justice Department – gross misuse of official machinery to boost Hillary’s campaign. Yet, Mueller seems unperturbed that this unsavory aspect is inextricably linked to the alleged Russian interference.

Then, there is the sideshow about Hillary’s emails investigation. The grand jury was denied access to material evidence; Justice Department collaborated with Hillary’s defense lawyers to rein in the FBI from examining digital evidence (and providing immunity grants to suspects) and violated established legal and ethical rules. And the FBI statement exonerated Hillary well before the investigation was complete and key witnesses were yet to be interviewed.

Above all, there was the famous tarmac meeting between Obama attorney general Loretta Lynch and Hillary’s husband Bill Clinton just days before his wife sat for a perfunctory FBI interview, after which the agency’s director announced the decision not to charge her.

Breathtaking climax approaching

This is truly a Kafkaesque situation. The President’s opponent who lost the 2016 election apparently wields more influence to leverage the Washington establishment. Isn’t Trump paying a heavy price for winning the election? A breathtaking climax is approaching. Trump is unlikely to dismiss Mueller for being a partisan and the latter should have recused himself.

It would not be easy to find an attorney of standing in America whom Bill Clinton wouldn’t have known or palled with during his extraordinary political career, to conduct a thorough investigation into his wife’s activities. But if the prospect of a full investigation into Hillary sails into view, the formula for a truce will emerge.

The international community has high stakes in the outcome. The time between now and March will be most thrilling. If a ceasefire in the American civil war is declared by March, when President Vladimir Putin is certain to obtain a renewed six-year mandate in the Russian presidential election, a new beginning may still be possible in Russian-American relations and world politics may change course.

Any old observer of Kremlin politics would have sensed it in his bones that the friendly remarks about Trump by the Russian leadership in recent days wouldn’t have been mere indulgence in politeness. In a nationally televised interview two weeks ago, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made flattering remarks about Trump: “To speak about the outward impression, he (Trump) is a well-wishing political figure who wants to establish full-fledged contacts and perceives absolutely everything adequately.” Yet, Medvedev’s own characterization a few days earlier was that present Russia-US tensions are comparable to the 1980s.

Notably, Putin openly complimented Trump by commending the US’s economic performance – also during a nationally televised news conference on Thursday. This is when anti-US feelings are running high in Russia. Putin, in particular, could have easily tapped into ‘anti-Americanism’ to boost his re-election bid. But he’s doing the exact opposite.

Both Medvedev and Putin may have signaled (with an eye on Washington) to the Russian people that there is new thinking in the Kremlin regarding the future trajectory of relations with the US.

Indeed, Trump promptly took note of Putin’s flattering remarks and called him on the phone immediately to deliver a personal word of thanks. And this is despite the Trump National Security Advisor HR McMaster’s characterization of Putin’s Russia last weekend as an incorrigible revisionist power that is hell-bent on upending the international order.

Most important, the Kremlin has moderated its stance on Jerusalem by distancing itself from the Turkish position – although the Russian Foreign Ministry statement on December 7 was equally critical of Trump’s decision. On Thursday, the Kremlin spokesman spoke cryptically and refused to elaborate.

Back channels seem to be at work between Moscow and Tel Aviv on the one hand and Tel Aviv and Washington on the other. The Kremlin’s calculus on Israel is highly complex. Many elements are at work – Jewish lobby among Russian elites, powerful oligarchs, ethnic Russians’ role in Israeli politics, Moscow’s perception of Israel as a driver of US policies in the Trump administration, etc.

Indeed, Russian self-interest invariably comes first and last in any given situation, and the Kremlin has reason to hope that Israel can swing a course correction in US policies toward Russia. No doubt, Trump’s friendly phone call to Putin last night was an extraordinary gesture on the eve of his unveiling of the new US national security strategy.

Suffice to say, Muller’s investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election can phenomenally change the climate of US-Russia relations.

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Al-Houthi Hits back at US Claims on Iran Missile Supply

Head of Yemen’s Revolutionary Council, Mohammad Ali Al-Houthi
Al-Manar | December 15, 2017

Head of Yemen’s revolutionary Committee, Mohammad Ali Al-Houthi hit back at US claims that Iran had been supplying Yemeni revolutionaries with missiles.

“Had we imported Iranian missiles, then we would have boosted our air-defense system,” Al-Houthi said on his Twitter account.

“What’s ironic is that the US is the side who is supplying the Saudi-led aggression with banned weapons that have been killing the Yemeni people,” Al-Houthi said, stressing that the US has failed in Yemen.

Yemen has been since March 2015 under a brutal aggression by Saudi-led coalition, in a bid to restore power to fugitive former president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis have been injured and martyred in Saudi-led strikes, with the vast majority of them are civilians.

However, the allied forces of the Yemeni army and popular committees established by Ansarullah revolutionaries have been heroically confronting the aggression with all means, inflicting huge losses upon Saudi-led forces.

The Saudi-led coalition – which also includes UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan and Kuwait – has been also imposing a blockade on the impoverished country’s ports and airports as a part of the aggression.

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

US House passes bill scrutinizing Iran plane sales

Press TV – December 15, 2017

US lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill that will bring the sales of American planes to Iran under the close scrutiny of the Congress.

The bill passed 252-167 — all but four Republicans supported it, and they were joined by 23 Democrats.

It would require the Treasury Department to report to Congress on Iranian purchases of US aircraft and how those sales would be financed.

The key company that would be the primary target of the bill would be US aviation giant Boeing. In December 2016, Boeing sealed deals with Iran’s flag-carrier airliner Iran Air over sales of 80 jets valued at $16.6 billion. They include 50 narrow-body Boeing 737 passenger jets and 30 wide-body 777 aircraft.

US media reported that the new Congress bill had once again brought into the spotlight the question whether undermining plane sales to Iran would break US commitments under the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Republicans argued that the legislation would not bar any aircraft sales to Iran. Instead, it would require the Treasury Department to notify Congress about the activities of the Iranian company that purchases the planes, as well as the financing used for the deal, according to a report by the Washington Examiner.

House Democrats maintained that the bill might provoke Iran to abandon the nuclear agreement, however, by interfering with their ability to work with US corporations as promised under the pact.

“[This bill] would impose a new condition,” Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said on the House floor. “A new condition which would require certification by [the executive branch] and all of the process which would ensue. It is not a stretch, in fact it is fairly clear, that if [this bill] were to pass, the Iranians and others could credibly claim that we have violated our obligations under the JCPOA,” Himes was quoted as saying by the Washington Examiner.

Iran sealed the JCPOA in 2015 with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Britain, France, Russia, and China – plus Germany.

Based on it, Iran would restrict certain aspects of its nuclear energy activities. In return, the parties that signed the JCPOA with Iran – the P5+1 – would act to lift the economic sanctions imposed against the country – generally described as the toughest in modern history.

Iran has previously announced that the US was falling short of its commitments toward the JCPOA by failing to remove the sanctions against the country and even by moving to impose new sanctions against it.

This is while the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – which reports Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA – has for multiple times emphasized that the country is fully implementing its commitments toward the nuclear deal.

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | 2 Comments

Food and medicine can’t get past the Saudi blockade on Yemen, but Nikki Haley thinks missiles can

Nikki Haley once again pushing for war against Iran–this time making an argument that is not only flawed but nonsensical

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | December 15, 2017

Nikki Haley, Donald Trump’s Ambassador to the United Nations, has given an extraordinary “press conference”, even by her habitually outrageous standards.

First all, it was hardly a “press conference” as Haley did not answer any of the questions posed to her. Instead, she merely assured journalists that she has evidence to back her up position, although it is not clear what this evidence might look like.

Haley’s position is that since the outbreak of the current crisis in Yemen, beginning in March of 2015, Iran has been supplying Yemen’s Ansar Allah Movement, more commonly known [in western media] as the Houthis, with the missiles they have sporadically used to target Saudi Arabia and allegedly the UAE.

There is a fatal flaw in this line of thinking however. Saudi Arabia has, since the beginning of the conflict, controlled all air and sea traffic coming into Yemen, while monitoring the region with the latest US made technology.

Yemen has subsequently been surrounded by a Saudi Naval blockade, Saudi borders through which nothing can pass and Omani borders through which there is no evidence of anything passing and which in any case, border areas which do not belong to Ansar Allah fighters, but instead have fluctuated between the Hadi government based in Aden, al-Qaeda terrorists and ISIS terrorists.

Not only has the Saudi blockade caused a man made famine which itself has resulted in a mass outbreak of the disease Cholera, but even the UN has found it difficult to convince the Saudis to allow basic medicine, bottled water and dried foods into the always poor and now starving nation.

But for Nikki Haley, who gave her press conference standing in front of what appeared to be a rusty missile casing–it all makes perfect sense. In Haley’s parallel universe, an aid ship with UN flags cannot bring bottles of water and jars of medical pills to Yemenis, but somehow Iranian ships bearing humongous missiles have easily passed through the Saudi blockade undetected.

There is simply no logic to the argument, no matter how it is interpreted.

Even a journalist at Haley’s “press conference” asked how the US can verify the provenance of the missiles and in particular when they were sent to Yemen. She had no answer apart from effectively saying ‘trust us–we know’.

The fact, as the Ansar Allah themselves have always maintained, is that the missiles which they occasionally launch are taken from Yemeni military bases which Ansar Allah have controlled for approximately two years. Video footage of the missile strikes is consistent with these statements.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has Tweeted the following photo, comparing Haley’s accusations against Iran to Colin Powell’s infamous accusations against Iraq, saying that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which he did not possess.

In reality, Haley’s statement is even more ludicrous as there is physically no way for Iran to transport missiles or anything else for that matter, to Yemen without being seen and almost certainly stopped by the Saudi blockade, a blockade which started in March of 2015, nearly four months before the JCPOA even came into effect.

This last point is crucial as Haley’s allegations rest on the fact that in delivering missiles to the Ansar Allah, Iran is in violation of the terms of the JCPOA, a longstanding US allegation that has been rejected by the EU as a whole, as well as individual parties to the agreement: Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the United Nations.

Haley of course repeated what for most American neo-cons is a standard line that Iran sponsors terrorism and is “behaving badly” in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. If fighting groups like ISIS(Daesh) and al-Qaeda is bad behaviour, the mind simply boggles. The closest Iran is to terrorism is fighting terrorism on the field of battle and advising Iraqi and Syrian partners on how better to do such.

Nikki Haley has proved once again that her aptitude is low, her ethics are non existent and her intelligence is a void.

The fact that she is an Ambassador to the UN but acts increasingly like a hybrid of a Secretary of State combined with a Defense Secretary, is a deeply worrying prospect for all those concerned with global peace and stability.

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 3 Comments

Saudi Arabia & ‘their Western handlers’ behind Syria peace talks failure – Damascus envoy

RT | December 15, 2017

The ultimatum that President Bashar Assad must go if there is to be peace in Syria, drawn up by the anti-Assad opposition backed by Saudi Arabia and the West, derailed the latest peace talks in Geneva, Damascus’s envoy to the negotiations has said.

The eighth round of Syria peace negotiations in Geneva has ended in failure, after Damascus officials refused to engage in direct talks with the opposition, which continues to demand the removal of President Bashar Assad as a precondition for ending the six-year conflict.

“The Riyadh 2 Communique is a blackmail of the Geneva process,” Syrian government negotiator Bashar Ja’afari told the media, referring to a document adopted during a Syrian opposition summit in the Saudi capital last month. As a result of the conference, attended by 140 participants and backers in the conflict, a communique was adopted insisting that the Syrian president must leave at the start of any transition period following the cessation of hostilities. The conflict has taken more than 400,000 lives.

“Those who drew up the Riyadh 2 statement were the ones who sabotaged this round. I mean by that the other side. I mean the Saudis and the Saudi handlers themselves who are the Western countries. They do not want the Geneva process to succeed.”

Ja’afari insisted that the proposal contradicted previous UN resolutions, and said that outside forces wanted to turn Syria into “another Libya or Iraq.”

The Syrian negotiator also criticized the long-time mediator of the talks, Staffan de Mistura, who on Wednesday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to put pressure on Assad to accept constitutional reforms and fresh elections.

Ja’afari called de Mistura’s words an “error” that could “derail his mandate as a facilitator of the talks, which will have an impact on the Geneva process altogether.”

In turn, de Mistura said that Damascus’s refusal to engage with the opposition delegation, whom it has branded both unrepresentative and envoys of “terrorists,” as “regrettable.”

“Despite a lot of effort by my whole team, day and night with all sorts of creative formula, we did not have real negotiations,” said de Mistura, who earlier suggested that Syria was on the verge of permanent fragmentation. “It is a big missed opportunity, a golden opportunity missed at the end of this year.”

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , | Leave a comment