Aletho News


US ready for direct talks with sanctions-bashed N. Korea

RT | February 12, 2018

Washington is no longer opposed to the idea of talks with Pyongyang without preconditions, but still favors ramping up sanctions pressure against North Korea until it agrees to relinquish its nuclear arsenal, Mike Pence said.

The US vice president disclosed this subtle change in US Korean policy to Washington Post correspondent Josh Rogin while flying back from South Korea after a state visit. Apparently, Pence was convinced that actually talking to North Korea may be a good idea. Previously, senior US officials – starting with President Donald Trump – have insisted that talking to the North Korean government was of no use to America.

“The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization,” Pence said as cited by the newspaper. “So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”

So the US still wants to hurt North Korea as much as possible without starting an actual shooting war, but now it looks like it is willing to eventually hear Pyongyang’s plea for mercy. Which is admittedly a step in the right direction compared to obstructing any talks.

Washington previously signaled it was willing for direct talks with Pyongyang in December, when State Secretary Rex Tillerson said as much – only to be disavowed by his own department a day later. Trump at one point called talking to North Korea a waste of time and tweeted that he had told his top diplomat to “save your energy.”

Tillerson gave a lukewarm comment to Pence’s suggestion, saying it was “too early to judge” if such talks would be possible.

“We’ll have to have some discussions that precede any form of negotiations to determine whether the parties are in fact ready to engage in something that is meaningful,” he said.

Apparently Washington is at least willing to give a nod to a Kim-Moon meeting, allowing the current truce between the leaders of the two Koreas to extend beyond the Olympics. But it is unlikely to let Pyongyang score any political points, for example, by extending the pause in joint US-South Korean military exercises, which North Korea considers a major threat to its national security. Pyongyang may feel a need to counter such a show of force with more tests, which would further undermine whatever diplomatic effort comes after the end of the games.

There is a lot of mistrust between the US and North Korea, including over the failed diplomatic agreements of the past. For instance, the 1994 Agreed Framework was to see North Korea freeze its nuclear weapons program in exchange for aid and help in developing civilian nuclear industry. Pyongyang did dismantle its 5 MWe pilot nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, but somehow the US Congress went against the deal, obstructing the lifting of sanctions and funding the construction of light-water nuclear reactors North Korea was promised. The deal finally collapsed when George W. Bush labeled Pyongyang part of the “Axis of Evil.”

The story is somewhat reminiscent of what is currently happening with the Iranian nuclear deal – negotiated by a Democrat president and currently being undermined by a Republican one. So the North Korean government may require a very good incentive to relinquish its nuclear arsenal, which it considers a better guarantee of its survival than any promises given by the US.

February 12, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Israel gets bloody nose in Syria. What next?

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | February 12, 2018

On Saturday, when Israeli jets undertook yet another bombing raid – this time an audacious attack on a drone base at the T4 airbase in Homs province deep inside Central Syria – a nasty surprise awaited them. They were confronted by the Russian-made S-200 air defence system. One Israeli F-16 jet was shot down; a second jet was hit but managed to make it home; and, two pilots parachuted – one heavily injured and in serious condition.

The last time an Israeli jet was shot down was in 1986 in Lebanon. The incident on Saturday is a humiliating experience for Israel. But, more importantly, it contains a stark message – namely, that Israeli air attacks from now onward on Syria may come only at an unacceptable cost.

The Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani summed up the message to Israel this way: “There is an important point in the recent events and in targeting an Israeli fighter jet: the Syrian army showed to the Zionists that the era of hit-and-run has ended.” In political terms, Tehran has justified the retaliation by the Syrian forces. The influential senior advisor on foreign policy to Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Akbar Velayati said today, “If the Zionist regime wants to make aggression against Syria or any other state’s airspace, the regional countries are entitled to use their space and the Syrian government and nation was entitled to respond to the Zionist regime’s aggression to make them regret.”

The same sentiments are echoed in the remark by the Deputy Secretary-General of Lebanon’s Hezbollah Resistance Movement Sheikh Naim Qassem lauded the Syrian army and said “Shooting down the Israeli fighter jet means that the era of unanswered attacks has ended.” He warned that henceforth, Israeli aggression will be met with counter-attacks.

The impression becomes unavoidable that the rules of engagement in the Syrian conflict have changed and Israel has been duly notified of the change. It is inconceivable that the Syrian air defence system would have opened up without the knowledge of the Russian forces in Syria. Russia controls the Syrian air space. On the other hand, neither Moscow nor Tehran has hyped up the incident on Saturday. In effect, they are letting the message to Israel to sink in.

The reset of the rules of engagement has become inevitable now that the Syrian government and its allied forces are registering more successes in the conflict. Israel has been so far acting with impunity, having conducted air attacks on Syrian territory more than a hundred times during the conflict. Interestingly, Israel can only expect verbal support from the US, since American presence is very thin on the ground in Syria and the Trump administration has its hands full at the moment what with the cascading tensions with Turkey that may lead to a nasty confrontation.

The pro-Israeli US media, which is heavily under the influence of the Jewish lobby, is conjuring up the spectre of a massive Israeli retaliation against Iran. But the fact of the matter is that the Israelis are hardcore realists. They’d have no difficulty to grasp the message that their plans to insert themselves into the Syrian endgame to extract concessions in terms of legitimizing their illegal occupation of Golan Heights as part of any settlement might as well be abandoned now.

Equally, the Israeli game plan to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran is simply not working. It comes as no surprise that amidst all this, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has chosen to defend Iran’s ballistic missile program. The Russian news agency Sputnik quoted Lavrov as saying in an interview with Russian TV, “There are other countries in the (Middle East) region with such programs. We must look at it as a whole. It is hardly justified to mix nuclear affairs with human rights and put the issue on the agenda that Iran should stop taking certain steps in the region… to my mind, a frankly discriminatory, biased and unjustifiably captious approach can be seen behind these US actions.”

All in all, as the veteran Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri says, “What happened (on Saturday) is larger than a battle and a little less than a war. It will create new balances and rules of engagement in the region. This event is the first of its kind in tens of years. However, no escalation is expected. Things will end here; they will not develop into an all-out war.” If Berri says so, they must be words of wisdom. The shrewd politician after all has been holding the post of parliament speaker in Beirut continuously since 1992.

February 12, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Russian Hacking”, a dangerous delusion

The author is Yale professor. Yes, seriously.
By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | February 12, 2108

The Guardian published this short opinion piece today, its headline reads:

America lost a cyberwar to Russia in 2016. When will we have truth?

Refuting the stale claims repeated in the headline, and expanded upon in the prose, is but the work of a moment. Hitchens’ razor states that any claim made without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence. A Yale professor should know that. Therefore the refutation of the claim “Russia hacked the election” can be made in three simple words: No, they didn’t.

Job done. I consider the article dealt with. But now we have to deal with the undertone. Now we have deal with why this article is scary.

The scary part of this article isn’t the war-like talk about Russia.

The scary part isn’t that this seemingly delusional man is apparently a professor at one of the most auspicious institutes of learning in the Western world (although, that is cause for some concern).

The scary part isn’t an elitist “academic” sweepingly dismissing the electoral process of his own country, and ignoring the majority will of his countrymen.

No, the scary part is that he really, really means it. This isn’t propaganda, in the old sense of that word. This isn’t misinformation to spread an agenda. This is full-blown delusion. He genuinely believes the Russians are at “cyber war” with America.

To be crystal clear about this – there is literally ZERO evidence to support this. The Mueller investigation is limping along, revealing absolutely nothing (except that the FBI wanted Hillary to win). The Steele dossier is revealed to have been paid for by the DNC.

There is no evidence. And yet he believes.

Russia has become the great, Orwellian “enemy”. The unseen force behind all our ills. Russian trolls are to blame for Brexit (even though they’re not), and Catalonia (again, untrue) and Donald Trump. Russian trolls were even blamed for hacking the winter Olympics.

This is scary. Scary because it demonstrates that the liberal elite of the USA, and its vassal states, have totally lost their minds. They live in a fantasy world, an un-reality. And they will believe anything that is convenient, anything that supports their un-reality, even if it puts them on a path to real war.

That should terrify everybody.

February 12, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

US To Build New Military Base in Northern Argentina

teleSUR | February 11, 2017

Argentine President Mauricio Macri is also letting in more DEA, FBI, and U.S. military forces to control narcotrafficking and terrorism within the country.

Argentina is allowing the U.S. to build a new military base at its northern border with Brazil and Paraguay. Officials of the South American country also announced that it will work with Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) at the triple border “to analyze where drugs are coming from.”

Argentina’s Minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich announced in Washington that the Mauricio Macri administration is going to allow the U.S. to build a military base in Posadas, Misiones, bordering Brazil and Paraguay.

Bullrich says her government is creating “an analysis center with Paraguay and Brazil (and the U.S.) to figure out where, how and with whom narco traffickers operate” at the triple border region.

This “task force,” as its being called, will operate in conjunction with the DEA, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the U.S. Southern Command, which watches over U.S. operations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

This will be the second task force against drug trafficking in Argentina. The first one was installed in Salta province located near the borders with Bolivia and Chile during the Barack Obama administration.

Bullrich told the press that the DEA initially wanted Argentine officials to send drug samples to the U.S. so the agency could analyze them for their origin. She said this would be against Argentine law and that officials within the country would analyze the drugs.

The U.S. and Argentine functionaries also discussed the suspected presence of Lebanese Hezbollah, an organization the U.S. government considers a terrorist group, at the border shared by Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

“It’s important for our government to collaborate (with the U.S.) and that they collaborate with us. We’re going to work together at the triple border regarding terrorism. We think we’ll have DEA and other agencies there to better understand what’s happening in the region,” Bullrich assured the press.

The minister of security also met with Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials in Washington to discuss their training of Argentine Federal Police.

After leaving Washington Bullrich flew to Miami to meet with the chief of U.S. Southern Command, Admiral Kurt W. Tidd and the Defense Minister of Argentina, Oscar Aguad.

Admiral Tidd was recently in Colombia meeting with its military forces.

Human rights organizations are protesting the increased U.S. military presence in Latin American and the Caribbean.

The former Argentine ambassador to Venezuela and the United Kingdom, Alicia Castro, tweeted of Bullrich’s proposed policies, “Do you want to see how the U.S. … ‘combats terrorism’? Look at the Middle East devastated. And ‘combating narcotrafficking’? Look at the cartels and assassinations in Colombia y Mexico, the places where the DEA intervenes.”

February 12, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 3 Comments

Campaign against Pashtuns undermines rule of law

By Rahim Nasar | Asia Times | February 11, 2018

For the last six decades, Pakistan’s Pashtuns have been oppressed by the establishment. Marking opponents with the black stamp of treason has been the establishment’s most effective tool for silencing the ethnic group’s leaders when they dare to criticize state policy-makers.

The promotion of Pashtun cultural stereotypes – the portrayal of the Pashtuns as a violent and extremist ethnic group – has led to them being internally exiled as  the war against militancy is waged in the  FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas a semi-autonomous tribal region in the country’s  northwest). Young Pashtuns are targeted by the security forces and many have been killed extrajuducially, which has had a radicalizing effect.

Since 2001, the indigenous Pashtuns living in the FATA, a safe haven for Afghan mujahedeen, have been enduring the dreadful consequences of the so-called war against terror. Grievances have been fuelled by ethnic predjudice and unjust treatment at the hands of law enforcement agencies.

On January 12, the extrajudicial killing of 27-year-old shopkeeper Naqeeb Mehsood by Karachi counterterrorism police sparked outrage in the Pashtun community. The Sindh provincial government and police allegedly tried to cover up the incident, but Pashtun youths took to social media to raise awareness of the more than 443 young Pashtuns that they say have been killed extrajudicially in Karachi.

The ongoing policy of using extrajudicial killings to counter militancy  highlights the violent nature of Karachi’s police. To end the extrajudicial killings and bring about change in the FATA, thousands of Pashtuns led by Manzoor Pashteen marched 400km from Dera Ismail Khan District in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to Islamabad, the capital, earlier this month to tell the government that enough is enough.

They staged a sit-in until January 10 in front of the National Press Club in a peaceful manner, challenging the notion that they are  unruly and violent. However, Pakistan’s media ignored the protest, providing no coverage. Only the international media covered the sit-in and publicized the protesters’ five key demands. Their list of demands is as follows:

The return of missing Pashtuns

Since the war against militants in the FATA and other Pashtun areas, tens of hundreds of Pashtuns have been arrested by law enforcement agencies. The protesters demand that they be released or be given an open trial.

The mysterious disappearance of young Pashtuns is an unacceptable violation of international law. Pakistan is a country that has a constitution, courts, and set penalties for those who commit crimes. The arrest and torture of young people on mere suspicion is wrong and undermines and discredits the justice system.

An end to discrimination against Pashtuns

Whether one accepts it or not, ethnic discrimination is on the rise in Pakistan, where being Pashtun means being viewed with suspicion. Pashtun cultural stereotyping; the arbitrary imposition of curfews, the disrespectful behavior of army personnel when interacting with youths, women and tribal elders; unnecessary check posts; security checks targeting indigenous Pashtuns in their home area;  and surprise raids on homes are among the grievances forming the basis for the second demand. The government of Pakistan has never taken this issue of cultural discrimination into account and this must change if ethnic harmony is ever going to become a reality.

Clearing landmines

There are deadly landmines  all over the FATA. In 2017 alone, more than 73 children became landmine victims, and the number of disabled people in the region is increasing at an alarming rate. Providing a safe environment for citizens is the most important duty of the state, and it must do much more to address the problem, say the protesters.

A judicial commission on extrajudicial killings

Since the 1951 assassination of the statesman Liaqat Ali Khan and the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007, judicial commissions have been demanded to investigate the killings of key figures in Pakistan, but nothing has been done yet.

The passiveness of judicial commissions has resulted in culprits escaping justice. A judicial commission under the supervision of the chief justice to investigate extrajudicial killings of Pashtuns is another demand of the protestors. Extrajudicial killing is an open and direct challenge to rule of law. The failure of rule of law amounts to the failure of the state.

Police officer must be brought to justice

The final and most popular demand of the Pashtun long march participants is the immediate arrest and execution of Rao Anwar, a former ssenior superintendent in the Karachi police’s counterterrorism department. The fugitive rogue policeman has the backing of former president Asif Ali Zardri (co-chairman Pakistan People’s Party). Despite having a salary of just 70,000 rupees (US$635) per month, Rao is believed to have assets, including property and luxury vehicles, worth 4.5 billion rupees.

Since 2011, Rao has allegedly extraudicially killed more than 443 innocent young Pashtuns and Urdu speakers in Karachi alone. The fact that he remains at large is unacceptable. Everyone should be equal before the law. Flouting the rule of law and backing killers will lead to anarchy and ultimately a failed state.

February 12, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , | Leave a comment

Israel to boycott film festival in France

MEMO | February 12, 2018

The Israeli government is to boycott the Paris Film Festival over the organiser’s decision to air a movie that is said to “hurt the reputation of Israel’s military”.

Culture Minister, Miri Regev, is said to be on a mission to stop the film “Foxtrot” gaining wide recognition. The Israeli movie has a controversial scene in which the Israeli military covers up the deaths of a carload of Palestinian teenagers.

The movie focuses on the life of a family: two parents and their daughter who all reside in Tel Aviv, while their son – who is a soldier – serves far away from them. The movie won the Silver Lion award at the Venice Film Festival and was shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.

Regev has not only denounced the movie for “defaming the IDF and its values” she is also putting pressure on the foreign ministry to withdraw its support from the Israeli Film Festival in Paris later in the year.

It seems Regev was unaware that “Foxtrot” was going to open the festival until she visited Paris recently and met with Israeli Ambassador to France Aliza Ben-Nun and her team to discuss a project promoting cultural connections between Israel and France. During the conversation, Haaretz reported that Regev became aware that “Foxtrot” was going to be shown, which according to Regev “contradicts earlier agreements”.

Regev told Haaretz that Israel should not “support a festival that showcases films that slander us throughout the world and contains false content about IDF soldiers and its citizens.” According to Regev, she instructed her ministry’s director general to “make clear to the Foreign Ministry, which is allocating money to the festival, that it is inconceivable for the Foreign Ministry to conduct a policy independent from the government’s policy.”

Regev also complained that the movie was used by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) to highlight the Israeli military in a poor light.

The Israeli Film Festival in Paris is run by the French film association Kolnoah (the Hebrew word for “cinema”). In addition to a stipend from the Israeli foreign ministry, it receives backing from the Israeli Film Fund, the Israeli Film Council and a handful of French-Jewish organisations.

Read also: 

Israeli Culture Minister wants to fine Nakba Film Festival venue

February 12, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Film Review, Full Spectrum Dominance | 4 Comments

New War in the Middle East? – Washington Is Dancing To the Tune Being Played by Israel

By Philip Giraldi | American Herald Tribune | February 12, 2018

How many Americans are aware that every two years the United States military engages in large scale exercises with the Israeli Defense Forces that simulate wars against Israel’s neighbors? Three thousand American soldiers are in Israel right now involved in maneuvers that are focused on countering a missile attack from Lebanon. When the exercise, known as Juniper Cobra, was run in 2016 the U.S. commander Lt. Gen. Timothy Ray, who appeared to confuse American national security with that of a small Middle Eastern state, described it as the European Command’s “highest priority” drill that year. He then added that “this exercise increases our military readiness, but just as importantly it also signals our resolve to support Israel.”

Ironically, Lebanon has an army of its own that is in part financially and logistically supported by Washington, though not at the level that the U.S. supports Israel, which means that the U.S. is participating in war games that pit one friendly country and military aid recipient against another. Israel has warned that in any future conflict it will target the Lebanese Army equally with Hezbollah as both are “enemies.”

The truly most interesting aspects of the current exercises in Israel is that the United States has never had any formal alliance with Israel and has absolutely no national interest in becoming involved in Israel’s wars at all. The assumption that the U.S. might be called upon to help defend Israel is not based on any strategic reality, which is not to say it might not happen if Congress and the White House have their way, but it would likely be a double war of aggression, with Israel attacking the militarily much weaker Lebanese followed by the United States weighing in to finish the job after Hezbollah tries to fight back with its batteries of rockets.

That Washington is the Israeli poodle in the current situation is made clear by the recent opening of the first U.S. military base in Israel. It is described as a base within a base as it is completely contained by an Israeli air force installation and operates “under Israeli military directives.” It has no function in support of U.S. regional interests but is instead a shell headquarters with limited support facilities that can be ramped up considerably if Israel goes to war and calls for American assistance. Together with billions of dollars-worth of U.S. military equipment that is pre-positioned in Israel and can be used by the Israelis as needed, it is all about supporting Israeli war-making and has nothing to do with American security or defense interests.

Maneuvers are supposed to simulate possible future military actions, bloodless battles that provide lessons learned for future engagements, suggesting that some genius in the Pentagon who initiated these biennial exercises under George W. Bush, expects American soldiers to assist in the Israeli mission to remake the Middle East in their favor. Pentagon number two Paul Wolfowitz, who had an unseemly close relationship with Israeli military visitors, comes to mind as a possible candidate.

Israel has actually been planning to invade Lebanon. Last September it held its largest military exercise in over twenty years around the theme of a ground invasion of Lebanon. Israeli soldiers even dressed as Hezbollah militiamen as part of the training. There have been repeated warnings by Israeli government officials that there are several red lines that will bring about an Israeli attack, to include evidence that Iran is aiding the development of sophisticated “missile plants” in either Lebanon or Syria. The evidence for such plants is otherwise reported to be apocryphal or perhaps even fabricated, known only to Israeli intelligence, but they should perhaps be seen as a pretext for war and not necessarily based on fact.

Apart from having no compelling interest to get involved in the latest round of bloodletting, the U.S. would be well advised to keep its distance from Benjamin Netanyahu’s schemes to destroy Hezbollah’s power as crushing Lebanon would produce the same kind of regional catastrophe as did the U.S. led Iraq invasion of 2003. Israel’s Minister of Transportation Ysrael Katz recently warned that Lebanon will be “razed to the ground” and “returned to the stone age” if Hezbollah proves able and willing to fire any missiles at Israel.

Israel is itching for a fight and working hard to get Washington involved, not a difficult task given the belligerent proclivities of those who gather to discuss national security strategy in the White House. Viewing Israel’s recent actions relating to Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, it is clear that Netanyahu’s government is the aggressor and is both willing and able to destabilize the entire region without any regard for what happens next. It has already warned that its expected conflict with Lebanon will also involve Syria and that the ultimate target is to eliminate Iranian influence in the area.

Bombings of neighboring Syria by Israeli aircraft have also intensified, leading to the shooting down of an Israeli jet by Syrian air defense forces. The U.S. media covered the story but largely ignored the fact that Netanyahu has launched hundreds of airstrikes against a country with which it is not at war, again using the false claim that Israel is acting defensively and it is Iran that is doing the “interfering.” Of course, the United States in Syria has done much the same thing, lying about developments before setting up an ambush last week that killed 100 Syrian soldiers.

That Washington is dancing to the tune being played by Israel to dismember the Middle East makes the American government an accomplice when the war actually does break out. And it will undoubtedly also have to do much of the fighting. That the United States appears to be committed to defend Israel, even if Israel starts the war, is deplorable and is particularly so as there is no reciprocity. Israel has never fought side-by-side with the United States and if Washington actually finds itself in a situation where it needs Israeli military assistance or support don’t count on it.

*(Juniper Cobra 2016. Image credit: Israel Defense Forces/ flickr)

February 12, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 6 Comments