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New checkpoint will cut off Palestinians from park built on their land

MEMO | February 19, 2018

Israeli authorities in Jerusalem have begun construction of a new checkpoint on the edge of Al-Walaja, in what has been described as “the final step in blocking the village’s access to a national park built on land confiscated from its residents”.

According to Israeli NGO Ir Amim, the Jerusalem municipality initiated the construction on 14 February, some weeks after Mayor Nir Barkat and Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin inaugurated the Emek Refaim National Park.

“The new checkpoint will replace the one now in operation between Al-Walaja and Gilo [settlement], bringing it directly to the edge of the village… in order to block resident’s access to 1,200 dunams of national park land between the village and the Green Line,” the NGO explains.

The park will thus “deepen the isolation of the village, already encircled by the Separation Barrier on its East Jerusalem side (half of the village lies beyond the municipal border, in the West Bank)”.

According to Ir Amim, these developments in Al-Walaja, “more than half of which is under threat of demolition, on its annexed side”, occur in “the context of a much larger campaign to consolidate the southern perimeter of East Jerusalem and fatally disrupt contiguity with the West Bank”.

To that end, Israel has “steadily promoted plans” in recent years including the expansion of Har Homa and Gilo settlements, and the approval of plans in Givat Hamatos, “which would supplant Har Homa as the newest settlement in East Jerusalem”.

The NGO also cites the “construction of the six-lane highway through residential Beit Safafa, which serves to further disrupt contiguity between East Jerusalem and the Bethlehem area while reinforcing the connection between settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem”.

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli taboos must be broken for honest and open discussion

View from the tower of the Church of Redeemer shows the Dome of the Rock mosque and the cross of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, [Saeed Qaq/Apaimages]
By Hossam Shaker | MEMO | February 19, 2018

Palestine was never really there. A thousand years is just a worthless length of time, and all you see on the ground is a layer waiting to be stripped away completely. This is not my imagination speaking; it is what dominates the mindset of too many Israelis and their supporters thanks to decades’ worth of sustained propaganda, which has fed the minds of generations with uncompromising convictions which accept neither discussion nor review.

One of the most sensitive taboos in this respect is the mere recognition of the existence of the Palestinian people in the past, or even in the present. The truth is at odds with the very roots of Zionism. Israelis used to talk crudely about “Arabs”, a convenient solution to the problem of saying “Palestinian”. The Arabs, they reason, are just people who came from the desert and can go back to it or can be expelled there. “This country won’t be enough for all of us together,” the Zionists argue. “They have 20 Arab countries, why won’t they go there?” Such naïve “logic” can be used both ways: You have a great friend in US President Donald Trump, so why didn’t you go and join him?

This Israeli mentality has provided the cultural pretext for the ethnic cleansing that Israel’s “New Historians” have described in detail, starting with Benny Morris up to the expanded works of Ilan Pappé. Hence, don’t exhaust yourself searching for references to “the Palestinian people” in anything issued by Israeli officials during the “peace process” for a quarter of a century, because you won’t find it. There are only “Palestinians”, but the people have a homeland, history, identity, roots and rights, and these are concepts that Israelis cannot imagine as part of a country which is not Palestine at all in their view. The forgotten fact today is that the founder of political Zionism himself, Theodor Herzl, and his colleagues in the early World Zionist Organisation had no choice but to call it Palestine, a name which was also included in all subsequent documents, including the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

In Israeli hands, archaeology and history are saturated with propaganda. Israeli excavations and museums are guided by an arrogance and ideology to reach specific conclusions. The Zionist narrative began in Europe in the late nineteenth century and not in Palestine. Archaeological propaganda must invent an imaginary country to match the Israeli myth. It does not recognise what happened during the past 2,000 or 3,000 years, and does not pay attention to what is beyond even that.

The Israelis face a dilemma, though: what do they do with a place that obviously has an indigenous culture and character; and is an Arab and Palestinian, Muslim and Christian environment, with evidence of this equally obvious? How should they deal with all these minarets, domes and church towers which survived demolition and destruction; the well-known Arab architecture; and even the olive trees and palm trees that have survived the uprooting and burning? The Israeli trick to overcome this very real dilemma is to escape from the reality by basing their state on a relatively very short period of ancient history, smothered with nationalist ideology. This is significant, because what we see of Israel today is superficial; peel this particular layer back and what you will find underneath actually belongs to the Palestinians. Nevertheless, the Zionist myths appeal to Trump and his predecessors in the White House, although only he has dared to declare that Jerusalem is there for Israelis alone.

The celebration of the Israeli narrative justifies the sweeping aside of vast periods of historical facts that are denied in order to create a scenario that corresponds to the imagined history based on Zionist ideology and mythology. In June 1967, for example, a few days after occupying the eastern part of Jerusalem (having occupied the western sector since 1948), Israeli bulldozers destroyed a historic neighbourhood in the heart of the Old City. This represented one of the most extensive campaigns of destruction in the 20th Century. The Moroccan Quarter included 135 historic buildings dating back centuries; it was destroyed completely in order to create an empty space in the heart of Jerusalem that is now a large square next to the Western (“Wailing”) Wall. Who is strong enough today to compare the images of this area before and after 1967? Who remembers the historic Moroccan Quarter, with all the features of the archaeological sites that precede the era of Saladin? Who asks where the rubble of the Quarter’s ancient stones and monuments which lasted for more than 1,000 years has gone?

What is striking about this, as with other incidents of mass destruction that discreetly and hastily followed the military occupation, is the fact that these events have not yet been discussed in any great depth amongst Israelis themselves, or even internationally. This sort of thing remains one of the major Israeli taboos. Everything related to occupied Palestine’s indigenous identity and history is a very serious no-no for discussion in Israeli circles.

Israeli propaganda has shackled its audience to an ideology, which provides them with naive perceptions of the land 2,000 or 3,000 years ago and, of course, not before or since. This propaganda begins with the words of the Zionist anthem, Hatikvah, which the Zionist Organisation later manipulated to include Jerusalem, though the city was not mentioned by the writer, Naftali Herz Imber, when he wrote the song in 1877. This is not only about the historical fabrications of the propaganda, but it is also about the manipulation of the words in the anthem, since some were taken from the Polish national anthem, and its melody was stolen from popular European folk songs in many versions.

The propaganda feeds politicians’ speeches so that they can fill Israeli minds with a specific concept: You were here yesterday, and you are back here today. The implication is that all who were here between “yesterday” and “today” are of no value. They were just wanderers with neither roots nor history of their own. Some enthusiasts who favour this logic may understand it as giving them the green light to destroy the “wanderers” and their property and expel them if necessary. It is the mentality of “transfer” and ethnic cleansing; it is the logic of the bulldozers that are crushing history in favour of an invented history creating “facts on the ground” in accordance with the mindset of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right party that is backed by the army, illegal settler gangs, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Antiquities Authority.

Danny Ayalon, a close associate of Netanyahu, served as Deputy Foreign Minister for years, and was a fierce advocate of illegal Israeli settlements built on the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Jerusalem. Ayalon appeared in a popular propaganda video about Jerusalem in which he appeared to sneak into tunnels under the Old City and started to imagine himself walking around 2,000 years ago. The video is full of historical naivety, as usual, but it includes a truly horrifying image: the destruction of the Dome of the Rock and its surrounding compound, as if the most prominent Jerusalem landmark is just a fast food takeaway or suchlike that can be destroyed and replaced by a garage.

Well-known for his social media activity, Ayalon has done in the virtual realm what the neo-fascist religious organisations have tried to do in the real world by carrying out attacks and incursions of the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa for decades. These far-right Jewish groups want to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock Mosque and other Islamic and Christian monuments. This started with an arson attack on Al-Aqsa in 1969, since when there have been numerous plots to bomb the sanctuaries. Jerusalem, for them, is just something to be eliminated, as suggested by Ayalon in the video clip.

The so-called “price tag” attacks by Jewish settlers include arson, vandalism and graffiti on mosques, churches, monasteries, houses and the graves of Muslims and Christians, with demands in Hebrew that they leave the country. The people responsible are the products of the Israeli education system. They were subjected to Zionist propaganda, which filled their minds with the notion that they are the masters of history and the masters of the land. The result has been an apparently endless stream of attacks since the beginning of this century, some of which resulted in burning families and children; the then 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh was burned alive along with his parents in a 2015 arson attack on their home; his four-year-old brother Ahmed survived, but with serious burns.

A whole raft of theatrical propaganda and props have been created to fuel the mentality of hate that produces the perpetrators of such acts. One of the most important institutions of the state that was founded on the ruins of Palestine is the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Members of the Knesset sit facing a large artificial stone wall, which is meant to provide a sense of historical depth to their country. Racist laws are drafted by these parliamentarians so that the state can impose a Jewish identity on the country while ignoring its real history and denying the existence of the Palestinian people. Such laws are increasing in number, along with restrictions on Israeli human rights organisations that oppose the official propaganda.

Among the Knesset members there are fanatical settlers who live in houses built on lands stolen from Palestinians in the West Bank by force of arms. They are convinced that God gave them this land thousands of years before the inauguration of Netanyahu’s government. Some of them give you the impression that God is there on the side of the armed thugs who use automatic rifles to intimidate Palestinians in their own homes, and burn their olive trees. Because they are the undisputed masters of history, their carefully fortified settlements are usually built in strategic locations on the hills, where they have a superior view over the Palestinian villages at their feet.

In the cities and towns on the Mediterranean coast, the most difficult questions that the resident of a house that has been stolen since 1948 might face are, “Who built this house, father? Who planted this tree, mother? Who made this road, grandfather?” Such questions cover very sensitive Israeli taboos; if peace is to be a genuine option, they must be broken and opened up to honest and open discussion.

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

US carrot-and-stick policy to Lebanon could push it into abyss

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson waits at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon February 15, 2018. © Mohamed Azakir / Reuters
By Martin Jay | RT | February 19, 2018

Rex Tillerson’s visit to Beirut didn’t resolve Lebanon’s persistent war threat from Israel, or Hezbollah’s perceived threat to Washington. The US has its own agenda for this country, which is spooking Lebanon’s president.

It might have been just a miscalculation, rather than a diplomatic faux pas, as Rex Tillerson did in fact arrive early for his meeting with Lebanese dignitaries, but he had to wait a few minutes before a door at Baabda Palace was opened and he was greeted by President Michel Aoun. It couldn’t have been an easy moment, shaking hands with Lebanon’s Hezbollah-supporting President, but Aoun and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil both viewed the visit by Trump’s own envoy with some suspicion. And they were right to.

The day before, in Jordan, Tillerson appeared to have gone off message while recognizing Hezbollah’s political role both in Lebanon and the region, but few in Lebanon held out any real hope that the 65-year-old Texan was going to either resolve Lebanon’s gas and oil dispute with Israel, or for that matter its border spat, following Israel’s land grabbing as it carries out construction of a wall. Tillerson said that Lebanon’s own security was compromised by Hezbollah, which he referred to more than once as a “terrorist” organization when he met Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The latter pointed out that Israel’s constant threats of attack and encroaching on Lebanon’s sovereignty were making a permanent ceasefire hard; earlier, Aoun had asked the US to “play an effective role” in resolving the tension.

But both Aoun and Hariri know that the US has plans for Hezbollah of its own, which will make a mockery of Tillerson’s endearing comments about wanting to help Lebanon “prosper.” There are two critical plans by Washington that are likely to cause chaos in Lebanon if enacted upon that may come into play at the backdrop of the US pouring money into supporting Lebanon’s army, which it believes is the key to redressing the power balance in Lebanon between the state and Hezbollah.

Lebanese banks cleaned up their act for Congress

One, is how far the US goes in targeting Hezbollah’s finances. In January, it ratcheted up its sanctions on the Shiite group’s key money people. This recent move follows Obama’s ‘Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act,’ which was expected to both destabilize the Lebanese banking sector and impact Hezbollah, which the US accuses of using Lebanese banks to launder money.

In fact, it did neither – and now the US is eager to find new ways of blocking the flow of Hezbollah’s money both inside and outside of Lebanon, as it has yet to find a way of preventing Iran’s $800 million dollars from circulating in the banking system. The US money laundering crackdown, aimed at Hezbollah and Shias in general, has actually resulted in Lebanese banks cleaning up their act, with some analysts even going as far to say that Hezbollah knows it can no longer even use the banks. And, given that the US has provided $1.5 billion USD to Lebanon since the beginning of the Syrian conflict (through the banking system), and Lebanese expatriates are sending less money back to make up the $8 billion USD annually that the central bank receives, Lebanon is more committed than ever to working with the US.

But now, with reports in January that Iran’s military budget is about to rise, Washington may be planning another ruse which could destabilize Lebanon and direct anger towards Hezbollah. While Aoun asked Tillerson to assist in the return of almost a million Syrian refugees, he also hinted that he knows Washington is always the ultimate threat to Hezbollah’s led government, which is to cut aid to both Syrian refugees and the Palestinians. Such a move could have seismic implications in Lebanon, as an ‘intifada’ against Israel and the West could easily be carried out in Lebanon itself with 175,000 Palestinians who live in camps that Lebanese security forces fear to enter.

The carrot and stick of Washington – increase military spending to Lebanon’s army, while at the same time causing widespread insecurity – seems like a nefarious tactic. But Washington is facing tough challenges when it comes to reigning in Hezbollah. Aoun wants help with repatriating Syrians and the US wants Hezbollah to reduce its regional intervention. Is there a deal there to be made?

Aoun knows that if the US cuts aid to Lebanon, it would be a catastrophe in terms of (local) crime rates, not to mention many turning to terrorism. The situation in the Palestinian camps is at breaking point and there have been a number of ugly incidents in recent months. Lebanon has a lot to lose as the terrorism in Tripoli, which was dealt with in 2014 with the number of key arrests, might return, as hardcore extremist groups already exist in the Palestinian camps. Or, if Palestinians want to fight Israel, they have Fatah and Hamas inside Lebanon who can organize and train them. This is Aoun’s worry about the US cutting aid to UNRWA, which he says so far only affects Palestinians in Gaza.

It’s a similar situation in the Syrian refugee camps, where this year has been dire, as a funding shortfall was the biggest yet. Most years, the UN falls short of its requests from member states, but this year it was at an unprecedented low, so refugees, in general, are suffering like never before. If a Palestinian-led insurgency got off the ground in Lebanon, many from Syrian camps might join it, as there was evidence in recent years that some from the camps have joined ISIS.

But Tillerson is not the deal maker for this. He is not respected by all the main players, so the Lebanese leaders know he is not the one to cut a deal. But, they also know that, even within Lebanon, Washington’s carrot-and-stick game is idiotic at best and dangerously ill-conceived at worst. The more the Americans interfere, the stronger Iran and Hezbollah get. Washington’s meddling in the Syria war has allowed the fatuous Tillerson and others to whine about Iran’s presence in Syria, rather like an old man complaining about how ungrateful the younger generation is these days. And Aoun and the political elite in Lebanon know only too well that, just as it was in Iran and Hezbollah, in Syria, which wiped out most of the Sunni extremist groups there, the same is the case along Lebanon’s border with Syria. Tillerson mentioning Hezbollah as a stoic political entity is what is important about this trip, as it is a coded message that the Americans are ready to talk, which is a milestone in itself. The US program to destabilize Hezbollah and the Lebanese banking system has simply backfired, as Congress under-estimated the resilience of the Lebanese and its formidable central bank governor. It seems Tillerson is going to have to get used to waiting.

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Much Ado about Nothing on Mueller’s Indictment

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | February 19, 2018

I confess deep amusement at the enormous reaction of the U.S mainstream press to the 37-page federal grand-jury indictment that special prosecutor (and former FBI Director) Robert Mueller has secured against 13 Russians and three companies or, as the mainstream media puts it, against “Russia.”

Why am I so amused?

One reason is how reporters and editorial boards of the mainstream press are treating the indictment — as solid evidence of guilt. From reading all of the mainstream reporting and commentaries on the indictment, you would think that “Russia” had just been convicted of the heinous crime of “meddling” in a U.S. presidential election.

At the risk of raining on the anti-Russia parade, that’s pure nonsense.

The reason it’s pure nonsense is that that under our form of government, that 37-page grand-jury indictment is evidence of nothing, absolutely nothing.

A grand-jury indictment is nothing more than an accusation. That’s all. It’s not even sworn to. There are no affidavits or other sworn testimony attached to it. It is nothing more than a prosecutor-drafted document that sets forth prosecutorial accusations that a federal grand jury almost always automatically rubber stamps.

Consider this excerpt from the Pattern Jury Charge that every federal judge in the land is required to read to every jury in every criminal case just before the jury adjourns to deliberate the guilt or innocence of the accused:

The indictment brought by the government against the defendant is only an accusation, nothing more. It is not proof of guilt or anything else.

Why do federal judges issue that admonition to every jury in every criminal case? Because the law recognizes that the average American citizen has the same incorrect mindset as the average mainstream reporter and commentator — that a criminal indictment is evidence of guilt. The purpose of the admonition is to correct this misconception before the members of the jury begin deliberating.

Another reason the anti-Russia brouhaha over Mueller’s indictment is so funny is that the mainstream journalists and editorial writers continue to allege that the indictment proves that “Russia” meddled in the presidential election.

Yet, a close reading of the indictment reflects no such thing. Instead, it alleges that 13 Russian individuals and 3 companies bought Facebook ads, participated in political events, and undertook similar nefarious political deeds with the aim of getting Donald Trump, who, unlike his opponent Hillary Clinton, favored establishing normal relations with Russia, elected.

Now, one thing is for sure: Mueller and his well-paid legal team know how to craft a criminal indictment. No one doubts that. Such being the case, the question has to be asked: Why didn’t Mueller craft the indictment in such a way as to allege that those individuals and companies were operating as agents of the Russian government or operating in a conspiracy with the Russian government or at least with some Russian officials?

Now, it might well be that competent and relevant evidence will later establish in a criminal trial that the accused actually did what they are accused of doing. And it might well also establish that the accused were acting as agents of the Russian government or in a conspiracy with the Russian government.

But as of right now, we have a situation where the U.S. special prosecutor and his special prosecutorial team have secured an indictment, which they themselves crafted, which omits any allegation that the accused were acting as agents of the Russian government or as part of a conspiracy with the Russian government.

Mueller and his team have been conducting their investigation for more than a year. If they have evidence that those 13 individuals and 3 companies were acting as agents for the Russian government or in a conspiracy with the Russian government, then why not say it as part of the indictment? It seems to me that the logical inference to be drawn from their leaving out such an accusation is that Mueller and his team have come up with no evidence that the Russian government was involved with those 13 individuals and 3 companies.

Oh, they might believe it. They might be 100 percent convinced of it. But believing it or being convinced of it is a far cry from having relevant and competent evidence of it. The fact that they didn’t allege it in the indictment that they themselves crafted implies that they don’t have any evidence of it.

That, of course, hasn’t stopped the mainstream media from declaring that Mueller’s grand-jury indictment proves that “Russia” was involved in election meddling. To the mainstream media, Russian citizens and Russian companies and the Russian government are all one and the same. If a Russian citizen or a Russian company does it, that means that “Russia” did it.

There is something else important that is worth noting: No courtroom is ever going to see any evidence to support Mueller’s grand-jury indictment anyway. Why? Because he and his team know what the mainstream press doesn’t know: that there is no reasonable possibility that this case will ever come to trial. That’s because there is no reasonable possibility that Russia will agree to extradite any of the people who are charged in the indictment. No trial means no evidence will be presented in a trial. That means that Mueller’s 37-page indictment is nothing more than a nothing-burger.

Another amusing aspect of the anti-Russia brouhaha is the moral condemnation of Russia for daring to interfere with America’s electoral process by buying some ads and participating in some protests.

Why is such moral condemnation amusing? Because interfering with foreign elections is precisely what the Pentagon and the CIA have done ever since the U.S. government was converted into a national-security state after World War II. In fact, intervention into the domestic affairs of other countries has been the core feature of the Pentagon and the CIA since their very beginning.

Don’t believe me? Just read these three articles and you’ll see what I mean:

Russia Isn’t the Only One Meddling in Elections. We Do It, Too
The U.S. Is No Stranger to Interfering in the Elections of Other Countries
The Long History of the U.S. Interfering with Elections Elsewhere

Thus, when the mainstream media talks about how horrible “the Russians” are for intervening in America’s political system, they are, at the same time, implicitly condemning those horrible Americans who have been doing — and who continue to do — the same thing to other countries.

In fact, it must be asked: Why no indictment for U.S. officials who have interfered with the electoral processes in foreign countries, including, say, in Ukraine, where U.S. officials succeeded in one of their storied regime-change operations against a democratically elected regime to enable them to place U.S. missiles on Russia’s border? If it’s criminal for Russians to intervene in America’s political system by buying some Facebook ads, why isn’t also illegal for U.S. officials to intervene in foreign political systems, especially through bribery, coups, invasions, and assassinations, which, it seems to me, are a bit worse than buying some Facebook ads? (The CIA’s anti-democratic coups in Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, and Chile in 1973 might also come to mind.)

By the way, check out this story on Telesur about how a group of Mexican senators publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, wore pro-Clinton t-shirts, and issued pro-Clinton sentiments on Twitter. Moreover, according to the story, “Several Mexican personalities who live in the U.S. and have influence with Latino communities have urged Latinos to participate in large numbers in the Nov. 8 election and to vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and reject Donald Trump, who has maintained racist rhetoric against Mexicans and immigrants since the beginning of his campaign.”

Now, I don’t wish to get anyone in trouble but the obvious question naturally arises: Why no indictment against them? Could it be because they aren’t Russkies (or communists)?

Robert Mueller’s indictment is just one more piece of pressure being brought against President Trump. As soon as he demonstrates that he has been fully absorbed into the Deep State by declaring, “I hate Russia” and then acting accordingly, the powers-that-be will finally leave him alone.

Unfortunately, Mueller’s indictment failed to estimate how many Americans, most of whom have been educated in U.S. public schools, were influenced by “the Russians” into voting for Donald Trump. (I’m proud to say that those crafty Russkies didn’t induce me to change my vote. Despite their best efforts to induce me to vote for their “Manchurian candidate,” I voted Libertarian anyway.)

One thing is for sure: In the entire anti-Russia brouhaha, U.S. officials should count themselves lucky that hypocrisy is not a criminal offense.

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Syria to Continue Fighting ‘Aggressors,’ Whether it’s Israel, US or Turkey

Sputnik – 19.02.2018

Syria should continue fighting the US, Turkish and Israeli “invaders” who attacked the country right after it got rid of terrorists, Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to the Syrian president, said Monday.

“We should go on fighting any foreign invaders on our land, whether it’s Israeli, American or Turkish,” Shaaban said at the Valdai Discussion Club’s Middle East Conference.

She noted that those countries launched an attack against Damascus right after it managed to free the country of terrorists.

“When we are able to liberate most of our land from terrorism, Israel, Turkey and the United States start to attack our land,” the adviser stressed.

According to Shaaban, Ankara does not implement the Astana agreements on the settlement of the Syrian crisis but uses it as an excuse “to invade the country.”

“Turkey facilitated the arrival of all these mercenaries and when it felt that these terrorist mercenaries were loosing the ground, it invaded the Syrian territory in full cooperation with terrorists. Turkey invaded our land in full violation of the international law and used Astana Agreement as a cover for invading the Syrian territory on an unexpected pretext,” Shaaban said at the Valdai Discussion Club’s Middle East Conference.

Ankara has been carrying out “Olive Branch” operation in Syrian northern district of Afrin since January 20, saying that its offensive was aimed at clearing the Turkish border with Syria from terrorist presence. Turkey considers the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the allied Democratic Union Party (PYD) to be linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Ankara.

Turkey has said that around 1,500 militants have been killed or captured as a result of the ongoing operation.

Damascus has expressed its opposition to the Turkish operation in Afrin, saying that such actions violated Syrian sovereignty.

On Russia’s Aide

Speaking further, the Shaaban noted that Russian army had no presence in Syria, while all the Russia’s support to Syria comes from the country’s air force.

“There is no Russian army in Syria. There is only air force. All other reports in the western media are just propaganda,” Shaaban told reporters.

Last December, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered to withdraw Russian forces from Syria, after completing their task to destroy Daesh.

Earlier in the day, Moscow began hosting a two-day conference covering a whole range of Middle Eastern issues, which is being attended by high-ranking officials, such as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , | 1 Comment

Nation-building in Syria – or nation-wrecking?

By Jim Jatras | RT | February 18, 2018

Over the past few days, a controversy has been in raging over what exactly happened near Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria.

To hear the US tell it, “pro-regime” forces launched an “unprovoked attack” on a “well-established” headquarters of the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), among whom were US personnel. (One denizen of the fever swamps assures us the attack was for the purpose of killing Americans and was approved personally by Russian President Vladimir Putin!) So, naturally, in “self-defense,” American planes and artillery struck the “advancing aggressor force,” killing dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Russian “mercenaries.”

To hear Russia and pro-Russian sources tell it, Syrian government and pro-government militia were fighting off an SDF and ISIS joint attack when they were hit by American air power, killing an unknown number of Syrians and perhaps five Russian private military contractors. Reports of higher numbers are “a classic example of disinformation,” according to Moscow, and were first peddled by sources close to anti-government jihadists, then picked up by Western media.

Whatever the real story is, one thing is clear: the US is hunkering down in Syria to stay.

The question is, why?

It isn’t to defeat ISIS, the destruction of which was the sole reason the US needed to be involved in Syria, then-candidate Donald Trump said during the 2016 campaign. Even that mission would not make the presence of American forces there legal, but at least it’s some kind of explanation.

But is President Trump even calling the shots? There’s reason to think not. As related in the Washington Post (that very ‘truthful’ mainstream outlet, so you know it’s not fake news), the following exchange took place between Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis:

Last summer, Trump was weighing plans to send more soldiers to Afghanistan and was contemplating the military’s request for more-aggressive measures to target Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) affiliates in North Africa. In a meeting with his top national security aides, the president grew frustrated.

“You guys want me to send troops everywhere,” Trump said, according to officials in the Situation Room meeting. “What’s the justification?”

“Sir, we’re doing it to prevent a bomb from going off in Times Square,” Mattis replied.

The response angered Trump, who insisted that Mattis could make the same argument about almost any country on the planet.

That was about Afghanistan, where Trump stifled what he admits was his own instinct to get out and instead allowed the “professionals” to talk him into doubling down on the same policy that has failed for the past 17 years.

It seems that Syria fits the same pattern. The permanence of the intended US presence in Syria was signaled recently by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Speaking at a meeting in Kuwait at a meeting of the global coalition fighting against ISIS – a coalition that includes neither Russia, nor Iran, nor Syria itself! – Tillerson pledged $200 million for aid in rebuilding Syria as well as aid for Iraq. “If communities in Iraq and Syria cannot return to normal life, we risk the return of conditions that allowed ISIS to take and control vast territory,” said Tillerson. (The State Department’s resident News Barbie tweeted recently: “The U.S. is the # 1 contributor to humanitarian aid in #Iraq, the # 1 contributor in stabilization assistance, and the # 1 contributor in military support.”)

Evidently, it’s only nation-building at home that isn’t a priority. Some America First!

There are a couple of catches to promises of all this largesse, though. First, Tillerson is promising only loan guarantees, not direct aid. Second and more importantly, there’s no indication that any aid would be available to areas liberated from ISIS and other, mainly Al-Qaeda linked jihadist groups, by the Syrian Army and its allies. Quite to the contrary, government-held areas are under crushing sanctions, which Tillerson gave no indication of relaxing. We mustn’t forget: Assad must go!

In Syria, as in Afghanistan, Trump has become a hostage to the very policies he denounced during the campaign. We can speculate as to why that is, but there’s no doubt that it is the case. For whatever reason, Trump is now the hostage to the globalists and generals with whom he has surrounded himself.

The looming big question is how bad it will get. The probable answer: a lot worse.

That’s even though Mattis recently admitted that the US has no evidence of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government. Does that mean there will be a US apology for the cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base in April 2017? Of course not.

But just a few days earlier, Mattis had warned of stern consequences against Damascus, telling the Syrians “they’d be ill-advised to go back to violating the chemical convention.” Did he only find out the Syrians maybe hadn’t used them after issuing his warning? Did he rescind his threat on making that discovery? Of course not.

Mattis went further, not only warning against use of chemical weapons but specifically against sarin:

Q: Can I ask a quick follow up, just a clarification on what you’d said earlier about Syria and sarin gas?… Just make sure I heard you correctly, you’re saying you think it’s likely they have used it and you’re looking for the evidence? Is that what you said?

SEC. MATTIS: That’s – we think that they did not carry out what they said they would do back when – in the previous administration, when they were caught using it. Obviously they didn’t, cause they used it again during our administration. [ . . . ]

Q: So there’s credible evidence out there that both sarin and chlorine…

SEC. MATTIS: No, I have not got the evidence, not specifically. I don’t have the evidence. What I’m saying is that other – that groups on the ground, NGOs, fighters on the ground have said that sarin has been used. So we are looking for evidence. I don’t have evidence, credible or uncredible.

Bottom line: Mattis admits he has no evidence – “credible or uncredible” – that the Syrians have in the past used sarin or any other chemical weapon but still insists “they were caught using it” during the previous administration – and threatens “they’d be ill-advised to go back” and do it again! (One is reminded of Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her stunning non-sequitur following a 1996 marketplace bombing in Sarajevo: “It’s very hard to believe any country would do this to their own people, and therefore, although we do not exactly know what the facts are, it would seem to us that the Serbs are the ones that probably have a great deal of responsibility.” Shortly thereafter, NATO bombed the Serbs.)

The only way Mattis’ contradictory comments can be read is as an open invitation for the jihadists fighting the Syrian government to stage yet another false flag chemical attack – and make sure this time it’s sarin, not mere chlorine. Washington has already decided where the blame will be placed.

How this fits into any rational policy, much less the one Trump ran on, it anyone’s guess. Some suggest the real goal is chaos itself. It’s easier to wreck a nation than to build one. Any fool can figure out how to turn an aquarium into fish soup. No one has yet figured out how to reverse the process.

Jim Jatras is a former US diplomat (with service in the Office of Soviet Union Affairs during the Reagan administration) and was for many years a senior foreign policy adviser to the US Senate Republican leadership.

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

How to Steele an Election

Christopher Steele’s Other Job: He Ran an Info Op Against the United States

By Peter Van Buren | We Meant Well | February 18, 2108

Christopher Steele did far more than simply provide an opposition research dossier to the Democratic National Committee, his Job One. As a skilled intelligence officer, Steele ran a full-spectrum information operation against the United States, aided either willingly or unwittingly by the FBI. His second job was the more important one: get his information into the most effective hands to influence the United States in the most significant way.

To understand how effective Steele has been in his op, we need to understand he had two jobs. The first was to create the dossier. The second job was to disseminate the dossier. Steele had to get the information into the most effective hands to influence the United States in the most significant way.

Job One: Create the Dossier

Job One was to create the opposition research. “Oppo” is not a neutral gathering of facts, but a search for negative information that can be used against an opponent. The standards — vetting — vary with the intended use. Some info might be published with documents and verification. Some leads discovered might be planted in hopes a journalist will uncover more “on her own,” creating credibility. Some likely near-falsehoods might be handed out to sleazy media in hopes more legit media will cross report — the New York Times might not initially run a story about a sexual dalliance itself, but it will run a story saying “Buzzfeed reports a sexual dalliance involving…”

Oppo research follows no rules; this is not peer-reviewed stuff that has to pass an ethics board. One goes out with bags of money shouting “Anyone got dirt on our opponent? We’re paying, but only for dirt!” You look for people who didn’t like a deal, people with an axe to grind, the jilted ex-wife, not the happy current one. So to say oppo research might be biased is to miss the point.

You’re not required to look too far under a rock that hides something naughty — stop when you’ve got what you came for. It all depends how the information will be deployed. The less sure you are about the veracity of the information you acquire the more you need that info to be inherently palatable; it has to feel right to the intended audience. The old political joke is you need to find a live boy in bed, or a dead girl, to really smear an opponent with a sex scandal. So if you’re going to run with info that supports what the public already sort of believes, the standards are lower.

What Does the Dossier Say?

Turning to Christopher Steele’s dossier, it looks like he read the same espionage textbook as everyone else. So while it would have been a game-changer had Steele found unambiguous evidence of financial transactions between Trump and the Russian government, that would have required real evidence. Steele’s sources claim money changed hands, but never provide him with proof. On dossier (page 20) one source goes as far as to say no documentary evidence exists.

That means instead of the complex financing scams you might expect out of Trump, the big takeaway from the dossier is the pee tape, sources claiming the Russians have video to blackmail Trump at any moment. The thing reaches almost the level of parody, because not only does the dossier claim Trump likes fetish sex, the fetish sex occurred in the context of an anti-Obama act (Trump supposedly for his pleasure employed prostitutes to urinate on a bed Obama once slept in.) As for other sex parties Trump supposedly participated in, the dossier notes all direct witnesses were “silenced.” You couldn’t do better if you made it all up.

In fact, the thing reads very much like what lay people imagine spies come up with. In real intelligence work, documents showing transactions from cash to commercial paper to gold run through a Cayman Islands’ bank are much more effective than dirty video; the latter can be denied, and may or may not even matter to a public already bored by boasts of pussy grabbing and rawdog sex with porn stars. The former will show up in court as part of a racketeering and tax evasion charge that dead solid perfect sends people to jail. Intelligence officers who pay out sources maintain meticulous receipts; you think their own agencies trust them with bags of cash? And in the dark world, prostitutes don’t need to be “silenced.” They have no credibility in most people’s’ minds to begin with, and a trail of bodies just attracts attention. And unlike Steele’s product, real intel reporting is full of qualifiers, maybes, liklies and so forth, not a laundry list of certainties, because you know your own sources have an agenda. The dossier is also short of the kind of verifiable details of specific dates and places you’d expect. It is a collection of unverifiable assertions by second-hand sources, not evidence. Steele is a smart man, an experienced intelligence officer, who knew exactly what he was writing — a dossier that will read true to the rubes.

So it is not surprising to date there has been no public corroboration of anything in the dossier. If significant parts of the dossier could be proven, there would be grounds for impeachment with no further work needed. At least one fact has been disproven –Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, produced his passport to rebut the dossier’s claim that he had secret meetings in Prague with a Russian official.

Job Two: Run the Info Op, Place the Dossier

Steele excelled at turning his dossier into a full-spectrum information operation, what some might call information warfare. This is what separates his work creating the dossier (which a decent journalist with friends in Russia could have done) from his work infiltrating the dossier into the highest reaches of American government and political society. For that, you need a real pro, an intelligence officer with decades of experience running just that kind of op. You want foreign interference in the 2016 election? Let’s take a closer look at Christopher Steele.

Steele’s skill is revealed by the Nunes and Grassley memos, which show he used the same set of information in the dossier to create a collaboration loop, every intelligence officer’s dream — his own planted information used to surreptitiously confirm itself, right up to the point where the target country’s own intelligence service re-purposed it as evidence in the FISA court.

Steele admits he briefed journalists off-the-record starting in summer and autumn 2016. His most significant hit came when journalist Michael Isikoff broke the story of Trump associate Carter Page’s alleged connections to Russia. Isikoff did not cite the dossier or Steele as sources, and in fact denied they were when questioned.

Isikoff’s story didn’t just push negative information about Trump into the public consciousness. It claimed U.S. intel officials were probing ties between a Trump adviser and the Kremlin, adding credibility; the feds themselves felt the info was worthwhile! Better yet for Steele, Isikoff claimed the information came from a “well-placed Western intelligence source,” suggesting it originated from a third-party and was picked up by Western spies instead of being written by one. Steele also placed articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker, Mother Jones, and others.

At the same time, Steele’s info reached influential people like John McCain, who could then pick up a newspaper and believe he was seeing the “secret” info from Steele confirmed independently by an experienced journalist. And how did McCain first learn about Steele’s work? At a conference in Canada, via Andrew Wood, former British Ambassador in Moscow. Where was Wood working at the time? Orbis, Christopher Steele’s research firm.

A copy of the dossier even found its way to the State Department, an organization which normally should have been far removed from U.S. election politics. A contact within State passed information from Clinton associates Sidney Blumenthal and Cody Shearer (both men played also active roles behind in the scenes feeding Clinton dubious information on Libya) to and from Steele. The Grassley memo suggests there was a second Steele document, in addition to the dossier, already shared with State and the FBI but not made public.

The Gold Medal: Become the Source of Someone Else’s Investigation

While seeding his dossier in the media and around Washington, Steele was also meeting in secret with the FBI (he claims he did not inform Fusion GPS, his employer), via an FBI counterintelligence handler in Rome. Steele began feeding the FBI in July 2016 with updates into the fall, apparently in the odd guise of simply a deeply concerned, loyal British subject. “This is something of huge significance, way above party politics,” Steele commented as to his motives.

The FBI, in the process of working Steele, would have likely characterized him as a “source,” technically a “extra-territorial confidential human source.” That meant the dossier’s claims appeared to come from the ex-MI6 officer with the good reputation, not second-hand from who knows who in Russia (the FBI emphasized Steele’s reputation when presenting the dossier to the FISC.) Think of it as a kind of money laundering which, like that process, helped muddy the real source of the goods.

The FBI used the Steele dossier to apply for a FISA court surveillance warrant against Carter Page. The FBI also submitted Isikoff’s story as corroborating evidence, without explaining the article and the dossier were effectively one in the same. In intelligence work, this is known as cross-contamination, an amateur error. The FBI however, according to the Nunes memo, did not tell the FISA court the Steele dossier was funded by the Democratic National Committee as commissioned opposition research, nor did they tell the court the Isikoff article presented as collaborating evidence was in fact based on the same dossier.

Steele reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him $50,000 to continue his “research,” though the deal is believed to have fallen through after the dossier became public (though an intelligence community source tells The American Conservative Steele did in fact operate as a fully paid FBI asset.) Along the way the FBI also informed Steele of their separate investigation into Trump staffer George Papadopoulos, a violation of security and a possible tainting of Steele’s research going forward.

Gold Medal Plus: Collaborate Your Own Information

The Nunes memo also showed then-associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr back-channeled additional material from Steele into the DOJ while working with Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and her replacement, Rod Rosenstein. Ohr’s wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS, the firm that commissioned the dossier, on Steele’s project. Ohr’s wife would be especially valuable in that she would be able to clandestinely supply info to corraborate what Steele told the FBI and, via her husband, know to tailor what she passed to the questions DOJ had. The FBI did not disclose the role of Ohr’s wife, who speaks Russian and has previously done contract work for the CIA, to the FISA court.

Ohr’s wife only began work for Fusion GPS in September/October 2016, as the FBI sought the warrant against Page based on the Steele dossier. Ohr’s wife taking a new job with Fusion GPS at that critical juncture screams of the efforts of an experienced intelligence officer looking to create yet another pipeline inside, essentially his own asset.

Steele’s Success, With a Little Help From His Friends

All talk of Russia aside, it is difficult to find evidence of a foreigner who played a more significant role in the election than Christopher Steele. Steele took a dossier paid for by one party and drove it deep into the United States. Steele’s work formed in part the justification for a FISA warrant to spy on a Trump associate, the end game of which has not yet been written.

Steele maneuvered himself from paid opposition researcher to clandestine source for the FBI. Steele then may have planted the spouse of a senior DOJ employee as a second clandestine source to move more information into DOJ. In the intelligence world, that is as good as it gets; via two seemingly independent channels you are controlling the opponent’s information cycle.

Steele further manipulated the American media to have his information amplified and given credibility. By working simultaneously as both an anonymous and a cited source, he got his same info out as if it was coming from multiple places.

There is informed speculation Steele was more than a source for the FBI, and actually may have been tasked and paid to search for specific information, essentially working as a double agent for the FBI and the DNC. Others have raised questions about Steele’s status as “retired” from British intelligence, as the lines among working for MI6, working at MI6, and working with MI6 are often times largely a matter of semantics. Unless Steele wanted to burn all of his contacts within British intelligence, it is highly unlikely he would insert himself into an American presidential campaign without at least informing his old workmates, if not seeking tacit permission (for the record, Steele’s old boss at MI6 calls the dossier credible; an intelligence community source tells The American Conservative Steele shared all of his information with MI6.) It is unclear if the abrupt January 2017 resignation of Robert Hannigan, the head of Britain’s NSA-like Government Communications Headquarters, is related in any way to Steele’s work becoming public.

As for the performance of the DOJ/FBI, we do not have enough information to judge whether they were incompetent, or simply willing partners to what Steele was up to, using him as a handy pretext to open legal surveillance on someone inside the Trump circle (surveillance on Page may have also monitored Steve Bannon.)

How to Steele an Election

The Washington Post characterized Steele as “struggling to navigate dual obligations — to his private clients, who were paying him to help Clinton win, and to a sense of public duty born of his previous life.” The Washington Post has no idea how intelligence officers work. Their job is to befriend and engage the target to carry out the goals of their employer. When they do it right, the public summation is a line like the Post offered; you never even knew you were being used. In the macho world of intelligence, the process is actually described more crudely, having to do with using enough lubrication so the target didn’t even feel a rough thing pushed up a very sensitive place.

Steele played the FBI while the FBI thought they were playing him. Or the other way around, because everyone was looking the other way. Steele ran a classic info op against the United States, getting himself inside the cycle as a clean source. Robert Mueller should be ashamed of himself if he uses any of Steele’s dossier, or any information obtained via that dossier. That’s where our democracy stands at the moment.

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments

By Binoy Kampmark | Dissident Voice | February 19, 2018

Tagged to the Trump presidency like an insistent limpet, the investigation into Russian interference in the US elections of 2016 provides constant fodder for the unimaginative political animals in the United States. But any diet that remains unvaried is bound to induce illness or nutritional deficiency. Variety is strength.

US politics, and its political culture, distinctly lacks nutritional health. Estranged, polarised, and paranoid, it has ceased being a green house of hope and governance. Little wonder, then, that its politicians see external forces of such character and effect, agents of influence that can alter the destiny of the imperium. Scant regard is paid to a system so putrescent it had to produce a Trump or conjured up the demonic properties of a Steve Bannon. Foreign interference remains, not merely a red herring but a fairly insignificant one.

On Friday, thirteen Russians and three Russian entities were charged by special counsel Robert Mueller for conspiring in interfering with “US political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.” While there was tooting and trumpeting on the media circuit, the more astute were less impressed. Various intelligence professionals preferred to see the indictments as reflecting “a different level of certainty, confidence and evidence.”

The charges, interestingly enough, omit the issue of hacked Democrat emails (Podesta and the DNC) and computer systems connected with the election itself. They focus, rather, on such housekeeping matters as fraud and identity theft.

The first count, for instance, alleges a conspiracy by the 16 defendants to defraud the United States with the purpose of “impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful governmental functions of the United States by dishonest means to enable the Defendants to interfere with US political and electoral processes, including the 2016 US presidential election.”

The defendants supposedly interfered with the administration of the Federal Election Campaign Act by the Federal Election Commission touching on political spending by foreign nationals during elections, the Justice Department’s overseeing of the Foreign Agent Registration Act regarding registering foreign agents working within the US on political matters, and the State Department’s visa program for foreign individuals entering the United States.

Then come charges of wire and bank fraud centred on Richard Pinedo, who operated “Auction Essistance”, an online business ostensibly formed to frustrate standard security safeguards of online payment companies. This, in turn, became the vehicle for purchasing rallies and political ads.

For Andrew Prokop, these “don’t add much to what was already publicly known about exactly how Russians tried to interference with the campaign – and they don’t contain any new allegations about anyone in Trump’s orbit.”

One entity stands out in what must be regarded as the huffing effort of an information war: the kremlobots of the Internet Research Agency, supposedly behind the various rallies, online advertisements and social media agitation. The St. Petersburg based Agency was allegedly charged with a strategy favouring Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. Hillary Clinton and Republican contenders such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, were subjects of denigration.

Such a strategy, however, would not be etched in stone. The theme of chaos was central. Trump may well have been favoured, but that hardly prevented the staging of both pro-Trump and anti-Trump rallies in various parts of the country, including New York City. Dysfunction and disorientation, in other words, was exploited.

The genius of the Agency lies in the art of the masquerade, turning the Internet into a medium of dancing stories, narratives and fictions. Fake US personas were supposedly created; identities were stolen to open PayPal and bank accounts. This was politics as theatre.

What is easier to ignore in this fuss is that material, to generate any momentum, must have some pre-existing inspiration. The US political classes are continuing that now established tradition of treating those who vote them in as mugs, fools easily swayed by the next hoax or the next marketable story. This hardly charitable attitude means that changes can be avoided and electoral dissatisfaction ignored. Thank god for the Kremlin.

The nature of the indictment will be exactly what Democrats, in particular, want to hear. Trump is partly right in claiming this to be a “phony excuse for losing the election”, though detractors will naturally remove the first word of that observation. Mueller is certainly convinced that he can make these charges stick.

In of itself, these actions, including the social media campaigns and advertising, were matters of minor significance, even if they did simulate the idea of grand chaos. To suggest that they somehow tipped the balance is self-comfortingly delusional.  What these indictments may well inadvertently show is that such Russian operations were a form of revenge for US meddling, notably in Ukraine in 2014. The target of that meddling was the pro-Russian leader, Viktor Yanukovych.

Then comes the actual effect of such indictments, which even hard-nosed analysts admit will be minimal. As the staff at Lawfare (February 16) concede, “None of the defendants indicted Friday for their alleged influence operation against the US political system is likely to ever see the inside of an American courtroom. None is in custody.  None is likely to surrender to US authorities. And Vladimir Putin will probably not race to extradite them.” The illusion of busy fury can be all powerful.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at:

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Here’s how Mueller’s latest indictment further discredits the Trump Dossier

By Alexander Mercouris | The Duran | February 19, 2018

As the days since Mueller’s latest indictment have passed, the failure of his investigation to make any claim of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia has begun to sink in, even amongst some of Donald Trump’s most bitter enemies.

Even the Guardian – arguably the most fervid of Donald Trump’s British media critics, and the most vocal supporter of the Russiagate conspiracy theory – has grudgingly admitted that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has “once again failed to nail Donald Trump”:

There will be understandable disappointment in many quarters that the latest indictments delivered by Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, once again failed to nail Donald Trump. Although the charges levelled against 13 Russians and three Russian entities are extraordinarily serious, they do not directly support the central claim that Trump and senior campaign aides colluded with Moscow to rig the vote.

The Times of London meanwhile has admitted that the latest indictment contains “no smoking gun”:

The Department of Justice, however, offered no confirmation to those still smarting from the election in Nov­em­ber 2016, who believe that, in the absence of Russian interference, Hillary Clinton would be in the White House today. Friday’s allegations offered no evidence that the outcome had been affected. Sir John Sawers, former head of MI6, said yesterday that Donald Trump’s victories in the key swing states were his own.

There was further comfort for Mr Trump, which he was quick to celebrate with a tweet. The investigation uncovered no evidence “that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity”. That includes, so far, anybody involved in the Trump campaign. If there is a smoking gun it has yet to emerge, though Robert Mueller’s investigation will grind on. Presi­dent Vladimir Putin is a malign and dangerous mischief maker. It has not been proved that he is an evil genius with the ability to swing a US election.

In fact the latest indictment when considered properly is a further huge nail in the coffin of the Russiagate conspiracy theory and in the already disintegrating credibility of the Trump Dossier, which is the foundation document for that theory.

Notwithstanding claims to the contrary, the Russiagate conspiracy theory is laid out in its most classic form in the Trump Dossier, and it is the Trump Dossier which remains the primary and indeed so far the only ‘evidence’ for it

This theory holds that Donald Trump was compromised by the Russians in 2013 when he was filmed by Russian intelligence performing an orgy in a hotel room in Moscow, and he and his associates Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Michael Cohen subsequently engaged in a massive criminal conspiracy with Russian intelligence to steal the election from Hillary Clinton by having John Podesta’s and the DNC’s emails stolen by Russian intelligence and passed on by them for publication by Wikileaks.

Belief in this conspiracy dies hard, and an interesting article in the Financial Times by Edward Luce provides a fascinating example of the dogged determination of some people to believe in it.  Writing about Mueller’s latest indictment Luce has this to say:

… Mr Mueller’s report hints at more dramatic possibilities by corroborating contents of the “Steele dossier”, which was compiled in mid-2016 by the former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele — long before the US intelligence agencies warned of Russian interference. Mr Steele, who is in hiding, alleged that the Russians were using “active measures” to support the campaigns of Mr Trump, Bernie Sanders, the Democratic runner-up to Hillary Clinton, and Jill Stein, the Green party nominee. Mr Mueller’s indictment confirms that account.

Likewise, Mr Mueller’s indictment confirms the Steele dossier’s claim that Russia wished to “sow discord” in the US election by backing leftwing as well as rightwing groups. Among the entities run by the IRA were groups with names such as “Secured Borders”, “Blacktivists”, “United Muslims of America” and “Army of Jesus”.

What is fascinating about these words is that none of them are true.

Christopher Steele is not in hiding.

The actual Trump Dossier does not allege “that the Russians were using “active measures” to support the campaigns of Mr Trump, Bernie Sanders, the Democratic runner-up to Hillary Clinton, and Jill Stein, the Green party nominee”.

Bernie Sanders is mentioned by the Trump Dossier only in passing. By the time the Trump Dossier’s first entries were written Bernie Sanders’s campaign was all but over and it was already clear that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic Party’s candidate for the Presidency.

Jill Stein is mentioned – again in passing – only once, in a brief mention which refers to her now infamous visit to Russia where she attended the same dinner with President Putin as Michael Flynn.

Nor does the Trump Dossier anywhere claim that “Russia wished to “sow discord” in the US election by backing leftwing as well as rightwing groups”.

On the contrary the Trump Dossier is focused – exclusively and obsessively – on documenting at fantastic length the alleged conspiracy between the Russian government and the campaign of the supposedly compromised Donald Trump to get him elected US President.

Supporters of the Russiagate conspiracy theory need to start facing up to the hard truth about the Trump Dossier.

At the time the Trump Dossier was published in January 2017 little was known publicly about the contacts which actually took place between members of Donald Trump’s campaign and transition teams and the Russians during and after the election.

Today – a full year later and after months of exhaustive investigation – we know far more about those contacts.

What Is striking about those contacts is how ignorant the supposedly high level Russian sources of the Trump Dossier were about them.

Thus the Trump Dossier never mentions Jeff Sessions’ two meetings with Russian ambassador Kislyak, or the various conversations Michael Flynn is known to have had with Russian ambassador Kislyak, some of which apparently took place before Donald Trump won the election.

The Trump Dossier never mentions Jared Kushner’s four conversations with Russian ambassador Kislyak, including the famous meeting between Kislyak and Kushner in Trump Tower on 1st December 2016 (which Michael Flynn also attended) over the course of which the setting up of a backchannel to discuss the crisis in Syria is supposed to have been discussed (Kushner denies that it was).

The last entry of the Trump Dossier is dated 13th December 2016 ie. twelve days after this meeting took place, and given its high level a genuinely well-informed Russian source familiar with the private ongoing discussions in the Kremlin might have been expected to know about it.

Nor does the Trump Dossier mention the now famous meeting in Trump Tower between the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Junior – which Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner also attended – which took place on 9th June 2016.

This despite the fact that the Trump Dossier’s first entry is dated 20th June 2016 i.e. eleven days later, so that if this meeting really was intended to set the stage for collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia – as believers in the Russiagate conspiracy theory insist – a well informed Russian source with access to information from the Kremlin would be expected to know about it.

Nor does the Trump Dossier have anything to say about George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign aide who had the most extensive contacts with the Russians, and whose drunken bragging in a London bar is now claimed by the FBI to have been its reason for starting the Russiagate inquiry.

In fact George Papadopoulos is not mentioned in the Trump Dossier at all.

This despite the fact that members of Russia’s high powered Valdai Discussion Club were Papadopoulos’s main interlocutors in his discussions with the Russians, and Igor Ivanov – Russia’s former foreign minister, and a senior albeit retired official genuinely known to Putin – was informed about the discussions also, making it at least possible that high level people in the Russian Foreign Ministry and conceivably in the Russian government and in the Kremlin were kept informed about the discussions with Papadopoulos, so that a genuinely well-informed Russian source might be expected to know about them.

By contrast none of the secret meetings between Carter Page and Michael Cohen and the Russians discussed at such extraordinary length in the Trump Dossier have ever been proved to have taken place.

Now Special Counsel Mueller has provided further details in his latest indictment of actual albeit unknowing contacts between members of the Trump campaign and various Russian employees of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Internet Research Agency, LLC, apparently both in person and online.

The Trump Dossier has however nothing to say about these contacts either, just as it has nothing to say about the Internet Research Agency, LLC, Yevgeny Prigozhin, or the entire social media campaign set out in such painstaking detail by Special Counsel Mueller in his indictment.

The only conclusion possible is that if the Trump Dossier’s Russian sources actually exist (about which I am starting to have doubts) then they were extraordinarily ignorant of what was actually going on.

That of course is consistent with the fact – recently revealed in the heavily redacted memorandum sent to the Justice Department by Senators Grassley and Lindsey Graham – that many of the sources of the Trump Dossier were not actually Russian but were American.

John Helmer – the most experienced journalist covering Russia, and a person who has a genuine and profound knowledge of the country – made that very point – that many of the Trump Dossier’s sources were American rather than Russian – in an article he published on 18th January 2017, ie. just days after the Trump Dossier was published.

In that same article Helmer also made this very valid point about the Trump Dossier’s compiler Christopher Steele:

Steele’s career in Russian intelligence at MI6 had hit the rocks in 2006, and never recovered. That was the year in which the Russian Security Service (FSB) publicly exposed an MI6 operation in Moscow. Russian informants recruited by the British were passed messages and money, and dropped their information in containers fabricated to look like fake rocks in a public park. Steele was on the MI6 desk in London when the operation was blown. Although the FSB announcement was denied in London at the time, the British prime ministry confirmed its veracity in 2012. Read more on Steele’s fake rock operation here, and the attempt by the Financial Times to cover it up by blaming Putin for fabricating the story.

Given that Steele was outed by Russian intelligence in 2006, with his intelligence operation in Russia dismantled by the FSB that year, it beggars belief that ten years later in 2016 he still had access to high level secrets in the Kremlin.

What we now know in fact proves that he did not.

I only remembered Helmer’s 18th January 2017 article about the Trump Dossier after I wrote my article about Senator Grassley’s and Senator Lindsey Graham’s memorandum to the Justice Department on 6th February 2018.

This is most unfortunate, not only because Grassley’s and Lindsey Graham’s memorandum resoundingly vindicates Helmer’s reporting, but because it shows that a genuine expert about Russia like Helmer was able to spot immediately the holes in the Trump Dossier, which only now – a whole year and months of exhaustive investigations later – are starting to be officially admitted.

For my part I owe Helmer an apology for not referencing his 18th January 2017 article in my article of 6th February 2018.  I should have done so and I am very sorry that I didn’t.

I have spent some time discussing the Trump Dossier because despite denials it remains the lynchpin of the whole Russiagate scandal and of the claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Heroic efforts to elevate Papadopoulos’s case and the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya into ‘evidence’ of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia which exists supposedly independently of the Trump Dossier fail because as I have discussed extensively elsewhere (see here and here) they in fact do no such thing.

Despite Edward Luce’s desperate efforts to argue otherwise, Mueller’s latest indictment far from corroborating the Trump Dossier, has done the opposite.

With the Trump Dossier – the lynchpin of the whole collusion case – not just unverified and discredited but proved repeatedly to have been completely uninformed about events which were actually going on, why do some people persist in pretending that there is still a collusion case to investigate?

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

Nunes: FBI and DOJ Perps Could Be Put on Trial

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | February 19, 2018

Throwing down the gauntlet on alleged abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by the Department of Justice and the FBI, House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) stated that there could be legal consequences for officials who may have misled the FISA court. “If they need to be put on trial, we will put them on trial,” he said. “The reason Congress exists is to oversee these agencies that we created.”

Devin Nunes interview with Sharyl Attkisson

Nunes took this highly unusual, no-holds-barred stance during an interview with Emmy-award winning investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson, which aired on Sunday.

Attkisson said she had invited both Nunes and House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) but that only Nunes agreed. She asked him about Schiff’s charge that Nunes’ goal was “to put the FBI and DOJ on trial.” What followed was very atypical bluntness — candor normally considered quite unacceptable in polite circles of the Washington Establishment.

Rather than play the diplomat and disavow what Schiff contended was Nunes’ goal, Nunes said, in effect, let the chips fall where they may. He unapologetically averred that, yes, a criminal trial might well be the outcome. “DOJ and FBI are not above the law,” he stated emphatically. “If they are committing abuse before a secret court getting warrants on American citizens, you’re darn right that we’re going to put them on trial.”

Die Is Cast

The stakes are very high. Current and former senior officials — and not only from DOJ and FBI, but from other agencies like the CIA and NSA, whom documents and testimony show were involved in providing faulty information to justify a FISA warrant to monitor former Trump campaign official Carter Page — may suddenly find themselves in considerable legal jeopardy. Like, felony territory.

This was not supposed to happen. Mrs. Clinton was a shoo-in, remember? Back when the FISA surveillance warrant of Page was obtained, just weeks before the November 2016 election, there seemed to be no need to hide tracks, because, even if these extracurricular activities were discovered, the perps would have looked forward to award certificates rather than legal problems under a Trump presidency.

Thus, the knives will be coming out. Mostly because the mainstream media will make a major effort – together with Schiff-mates in the Democratic Party – to marginalize Nunes, those who find themselves in jeopardy can be expected to push back strongly.

If past is precedent, they will be confident that, with their powerful allies within the FBI/DOJ/CIA “Deep State” they will be able to counter Nunes and show him and the other congressional investigation committee chairs, where the power lies. The conventional wisdom is that Nunes and the others have bit off far more than they can chew. And the odds do not favor folks, including oversight committee chairs, who buck the system.

Staying Power

On the other hand, the presumptive perps have not run into a chairman like Nunes in four decades, since Congressmen Lucien Nedzi (D-Mich.), Otis Pike (D-NY), and Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) ran tough, explosive hearings on the abuses of a previous generation deep state, including massive domestic spying revealed by quintessential investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in December 1974. (Actually, this is largely why the congressional intelligence oversight committees were later established, and why the FISA law was passed in 1978.)

At this point, one is tempted to say plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – or the more things change, the more they stay the same – but that would be only half correct in this context. Yes, scoundrels will always take liberties with the law to spy on others. But the huge difference today is that mainstream media have no room for those who uncover government crimes and abuse. And this will be a major impediment to efforts by Nunes and other committee chairs to inform the public.

One glaring sign of the media’s unwillingness to displease corporate masters and Official Washington is the harsh reality that Hersh’s most recent explosive investigations, using his large array of government sources to explore front-burner issues, have not been able to find a home in any English-speaking newspaper or journal. In a sense, this provides what might be called a “confidence-building” factor, giving some assurance to deep-state perps that they will be able to ride this out, and that congressional committee chairs will once again learn to know their (subservient) place.

Much will depend on whether top DOJ and FBI officials can bring themselves to reverse course and give priority to the oath they took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. This should not be too much to hope for, but it will require uncommon courage in facing up honestly to the major misdeeds appear to have occurred — and letting the chips fall where they may. Besides, it would be the right thing to do.

Nunes is projecting calm confidence that once he and Trey Gowdey (R-Tenn.), chair of the House Oversight Committee, release documentary evidence showing what their investigations have turned up, it will be hard for DOJ and FBI officials to dissimulate.

In Other News …

In the interview with Attkisson, Nunes covered a number of other significant issues:

  • The committee is closing down its investigation into possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign; no evidence of collusion was found.
  • The apparently widespread practice of “unmasking” the identities of Americans under surveillance. On this point, Nunes said, “In the last administration they were unmasking hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of Americans’ names. They were unmasking for what I would say, for lack of a better definition, were for political purposes.”
  • Asked about Schiff’s criticism that Nunes behaved improperly on what he called the “midnight run to the White House,” Nunes responded that the stories were untrue. “Well, most of the time I ignore political nonsense in this town,” he said. “What I will say is that all of those stories were totally fake from the beginning.”

Not since Watergate has there been so high a degree of political tension here in Washington but the stakes for our Republic are even higher this time. Assuming abuse of FISA court procedures is documented and those responsible for playing fast and loose with the required justification for legal warrants are not held to account, the division of powers enshrined in the Constitution will be in peril.

A denouement of some kind can be expected in the coming months. Stay tuned.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Savior in inner-city Washington.  He was a CIA analyst for 27 years and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘US only gets away with meddling because of its UN veto’

RT | February 19, 2018

The US is not allowed to interfere in other countries’ affairs but gets away with it, a former CIA officer told RT. Philip Giraldi added that intelligence agencies’ resources shouldn’t be expended unless there’s a security threat.

Former CIA director James Woolsey admitted the US interfered in other countries’ elections and domestic affairs when it was “for a very good cause in the interests of democracy.”

When asked by Laura Ingraham on her Fox News show on Friday night whether the US interfered in other countries’ elections, he said “Probably, but it was for the good of the system in order to avoid communists taking over.”

His comments followed Friday’s revelation that a US Federal Grand Jury had indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for allegedly interfering with the US 2016 election.

Giraldi told RT that he doesn’t think that CIA or any intelligence agency should have the authority to intervene on the ground that “it is a good cause.”

“Intelligence agencies exist legally because they are there to defend the country against a threat — and a threat could be any kind of threat — but in this case, messing around or doing good things or good works is not necessarily what you have an intelligence agency for. I think that this kind of argument is a false argument; that you should not use this kind of resource unless there is something that is threatening you,” he continued.

According to Giraldi, the US is not allowed to interfere in other countries’ affairs, “it just gets away with it.”

Giraldi explained that the only organization that really could sanction the US in terms of what it does internationally is the UN and the US has a veto.

“The US can stop any kind of action being taken against it when it chooses to act internationally as it has done recently in Syria, as it did in Iraq, as it has done in Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen — there are many examples of what the US has done. And basically it is able to get away with these things because it is able to exercise its veto,” he added.

Giraldi also said that the US has been interfering in other counties’ elections, in the Caribbean and Latin America, since the 1930s.

“When I was in CIA in the 70s and 80s in Europe, I would say that the CIA and the US government basically were interfering in elections — almost every election that was taking place in Europe. There were legitimate concerns about communists getting in government in places like Italy and France, in Spain and Portugal. But other than that, this was just routine that the US wanted a friendly government of a certain type, and was willing to do certain things to enable that to happen,” he noted.

Giraldi pointed out that the US is “basically quite as willing as anybody else to support a dictator, if the dictator is doing what we want him to do.”

“And that is basically what all countries do. Countries use their intelligence and military resources to back up national interests,” he claimed.

Giraldi said he is “still somewhat perplexed about the allegations of these 13 Russians and 3 Russian companies,” as he suspects that this will be “less than it seems in terms of actual interference.”

“If this was a real government intelligence agency effort, it would have been better organized, it would have had better security and it would have had a much bigger budget with more people working on it. And I think in this case we are seeing something that might well be explicable in other terms than trying to destroy our democracy. It could be much ado about nothing,” he said.

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment