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US ‘losing its cards’ in Syria: Highlights of RT’s interview with Bashar Assad

RT | May 31, 2018

Washington and its “puppets” tried, and failed, to destroy Syria – and the US military will eventually be forced out of the country: These are a few of the highlights from RT’s exclusive interview with President Bashar Assad.

Speaking with RT’s Murad Gazdiev in Damascus, Assad commented on a range of topics, from the threat of direct conflict between the US and Russia, to why he doesn’t fear Israeli assassination threats.

On Victory: ‘It’s self-evident’ that Syria is ‘moving closer to the end of the conflict’

Assad noted that the “majority” of Syria is now under government control, but said that continued provocations and escalations by the United States and its allies have needlessly prolonged the seven-year conflict. With each Syrian military victory or successful reconciliation effort, the US and its partners have attempted to counteract these gains by “supporting more terrorism, bringing more terrorists to Syria, or by hindering the political process,” Assad said.

However, he stated that it was “self-evident” that “we are moving closer to the end of the conflict,” adding that “without external interference it won’t take more than a year to settle the situation in Syria.”

The Syrian leader said that whenever possible, his government has chosen negotiations and reconciliation over use of force.

“War is the worst choice but sometimes you only have this choice,” Assad told RT. “Factions like Al-Qaeda, like ISIS, like Al-Nusra, and the like-minded groups, they’re not ready for any dialogue… So, the only option to deal with those factions is force.”

He defended the government’s use of ceasefires and allowing extremists to withdraw to Idlib province, describing the agreements as strategically advantageous for the Syrian army. “If you have two or three frontiers, that’s better than having 10, maybe more than 100 at the time.”

On the US: Washington ‘losing its cards’ in Syria

Although the US forces continue to operate illegally in Syria, they will eventually be forced out of the country, Assad told RT.

“The United States is losing its cards. The main card was Al-Nusra, that was called ‘moderate,’ but when scandals started leaking that they’re not moderate, that they’re Al-Qaeda, which is supposed to be fought by the United States, they started looking for another card. This card is the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] now,” he said, referring to the US-backed militia group. According to Assad, once Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and Al-Nusra are exterminated, the Syrian military will turn its attention on the SDF.

“We’re going to use two methods to deal with the SDF: The first one, we started opening doors for negotiations – because the majority of them are Syrians. And supposedly they like their country, they don’t like being puppets to any foreigners – that’s what we suppose.” Assad said that these commonly-shared values could allow reconciliation with the government. “We all don’t trust the Americans, [so] the one option is to live with each other as Syrians.” However, if negotiations fail, the Syrian army will be forced to liberate areas occupied by the SDF, with the Americans, or without the Americans.”

On this point Assad was adamant: “This is our land, it’s our right, it’s our duty. To liberate [these areas], and the Americans should leave. Somehow, they’re going to leave. They came to Iraq with no legal basis. And look what happened to them. They have to learn their lesson.”

On Russia: Moscow’s leadership prevented ‘direct conflict’ with US military

Syria’s president heaped praise on Moscow, claiming that Russian “wisdom” had prevented a direct conflict between Russian and American forces in Syria. “We were close to having direct conflict between the Russian forces and the American forces, and fortunately, it has been avoided, not by the wisdom of the American leadership, but by the wisdom of the Russian leadership.”

While Assad reiterated that the United States military was not welcome in Syria, he said that avoiding escalation was the key to restoring Syria’s territorial integrity. “We need the Russian support, but we need, at the same time to avoid the American foolishness in order to be able to stabilize our country.”

He emphasized that Russia has shown restraint – not weakness – in Syria, noting how Russian warnings had likely dissuaded Trump from launching a full-scale attack against Damascus.

“The Russians announced publicly that they are going to destroy the bases that are going to be used to launch missiles, and our information – we don’t have evidence, we only have information, and that information is credible information – that they were thinking about a comprehensive attack all over Syria, and that’s why the threat pushed the West to make it on a much smaller scale,” the Syrian president said.

On Israel: No longer phased by ‘threat of Israeli aggression,’ Tel Aviv in ‘panic’

Assad shrugged off Israeli threats against his own life, telling Gazdiev that “my generation – and most of the generations in Syria now – has lived under the threat of Israeli aggression. This is something in our unconscious feeling. So to say that you are afraid while living with the same threat for decades – this is nonsense.” He said that the fact that Tel Aviv has resorted to threats suggests that the Israelis are panicking.

“The Israelis have been assassinating, killing, occupying for decades now, for around seven decades, in this region, but usually they do all this without threatening. Now, why do they threaten in this way? This is panic, this is a kind of hysterical feeling because they are losing the ‘dear ones,’ the dear ones Al-Nusra and ISIS, that’s why Israel is panicking recently, and we understand their feeling.”

He said reports that Syria was helpless to stop Israeli airstrikes were inaccurate. “Our air defense is much stronger than before, thanks to the Russian support and the recent attacks by the Israelis and by the Americans and British and French proved that we are in a better situation” than at the start of the conflict seven years ago, he said. However, Assad noted that when foreign-backed fighters first poured into Syria, the first thing they did was target air defense systems – suggesting a “direct link” between the terrorists groups and Israel.

On chemical attacks: ‘Is it in our interest? Why? And why now?’

Syria’s president described the string of alleged chemical attacks as provocations that have ultimately failed to persuade the international community to give the US and its allies a military mandate in Syria.

Washington and its allies blamed the last such attack, in April, on Damascus, but Assad insisted that the Western narrative makes no sense.

“The timing of this alleged strike was after the victory of the Syrian troops in Ghouta. Let alone the fact that we don’t have chemical weapons anyway,” he told RT. Pointing to multiple reports of civilians and medical workers in the area having no knowledge of a chemical attack – with some even appearing in the Western press – Assad concluded that the alleged incident was a last-ditch Western attempt to sway international opinion – one that failed.

“They told a story, they told a lie, and the public opinion around the world and in the West didn’t buy their story, but they couldn’t withdraw. So, they had to do something, even on a smaller scale,” Assad said, referring to the joint airstrikes against purported Syrian chemical weapons facilities, carried out on April 14 by the US, UK, and France.

However, Assad acknowledged that nothing was stopping Washington from attempting similar provocations in the future. The US has “trampled on international law,” and “there’s no guarantee that it won’t happen [again].”

Assad asked: “What was the legal basis of [the April missile] attack? [Or] the so-called anti-terrorist alliance, which supports the terrorists, actually? What is the legal basis of their attack on Yemen, Afghanistan? There’s no legal basis.”

On Trump: ‘What you say is what you are’

Asked if he had a nickname for US President Donald Trump, who had previously called Assad an “animal,” Syria’s leader admitted that he wasn’t in the business of name-calling.

“This is not my language, so, I cannot use similar language. This is his language. It represents him,” he said. “I think there is a very well known principle, that what you say is what you are. So, he wanted to represent what he is, and that’s normal,” Assad added.

“The only thing that moves you is what people that you trust, people who are level-headed, people who are thoughtful, people who are moral, ethical, that’s what should move anything inside you, whether positive or negative. Somebody like Trump will move nothing for me,” he said.

On the myth of Syria’s ‘civil’ war: It was foreign-backed regime change

Assad disputed claims that the seven-year conflict has been a “civil war,” pointing out that there is no sectarian or ethnic conflicts in the areas currently controlled by the government. “Now in Damascus, in Aleppo, in Homs, in every area under Syrian government control, you will see [the whole] spectrum of Syrian society. With no exceptions.”

He noted that the term ‘civil war’ had been used widely since the beginning of the conflict in Syria – but it does not correctly characterize the conflict.

“A Syrian civil war means there are lines based either on ethnicities or sects or religion. Or maybe political opinion. In reality, in the areas in direct control by the government, which is now the majority of Syria, you have all this diversity,” Assad said. “So the word civil war is not correct. What we have actually, from the very beginning – mercenaries, Syrians and foreigners being paid by the West in order to topple the government. This is the mere reality. Everything else is just a mask to cover the real intentions.”

May 31, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Video | , , , , | Leave a comment

Kiev’s fake Babchenko murder erodes media & information credibility – Intl Journalist Federation

RT | May 31, 2018

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned the Ukrainian intelligence stunt with staging the murder of journalist Arkady Babchenko, stating it damaged credibility of Kiev and harmed international journalism.

“The profession’s aim is to seek the truth and … any manipulation of information can dramatically damage media credibility as well as journalism as a whole,” the IFJ said in a statement on Thursday. The staged murder of Babchenko by Ukrainian authorities, who was “killed” on May 29 only to reappear a day later during the secret service’s press conference, reinforced “the idea of journalists and politicians conspiring together,” the organizations’ president Philippe Leruth said.

“By spreading false evidence about his murder, Ukrainian authorities have seriously eroded the credibility of information, and their communication runs the risk of being considered a propaganda operation. Was it really necessary to stage his death in order to stop an alleged attack?” Leruth wondered.

The stunt was also inappropriate due to the fact that “killers and their backers” of journalists who were indeed assassinated, such as Pavel Sheremet, have never been identified by Ukraine’s authorities. While IJF condemns the killings and “fights against impunity, which benefits journalists’ murderers,” it also advocates transparency of information, Leruth stressed.

Moreover, the whole affair was “a complete circus orchestrated by military figures and a journalist,” and it was not “simple journalistic case anymore,” IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger argued. The stunt misled journalists worldwide and “millions of citizens that were rightly moved by this so-called murder,” he added.

Ukrainian authorities rushed to defend the stunt, with Interior Minister Arsen Avakov stating he was surprised with “pseudo-moral” criticism from abroad and that the secret services achieved with the operation “enough … to be satisfied.”

The “murder” and “resurrection” of Babchenko have, however, caused a massive outcry among journalists and media freedom organizations worldwide. While elated with his reappearance, many condemned the deliberate spread of false information.

“Relieved that Arkady Babchenko is alive!” OSCE’s representative on media freedom Harlem Desir tweeted. “I deplore the decision to spread false information on the life of a journalist. It is the duty of the state to provide correct information to the public.” Similar statements came from Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

May 31, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | | Leave a comment

Euroskeptic coalition in Italy agrees on new government bid

RT | May 31, 2018

Italian anti-establishment parties that won the latest general election have reached an agreement for a new bid to form a coalition government, averting the possibility of new snap election.

Former International Monetary Fund official Carlo Cottarelli, who was appointed by President Mattarella as interim head of the government until a potential to new election, formally gave up his mandate after the success of the talks was announced.

“All the conditions have been fulfilled for a political, 5-Star and League government,” 5-Star chief Luigi Di Maio and League leader Matteo Salvini said in a joint statement on Thursday. The two parties, which lie on the opposite sides of the left-right political spectrum, negotiated the revival of their coalition for several hours.

The new bid for the cabinet keeps Giuseppe Conte, a law professor close to 5-Star, as the proposed prime minister. Paolo Savona, whose candidacy for the position of the economy minister was vetoed by President Sergio Mattarella earlier this week, is no longer proposed for the job. He was replaced in the proposed government by Giovanni Tria, an economy professor at Rome’s Tor Vergata University, according to Reuters. Tria is a Eurosceptic, but he didn’t argue for a possible withdrawal of Italy from the euro zone, which was the reason for Savona getting blocked.

According to the parties, the League’s Salvini will lead interior ministry in the would-be cabinet while Di Maio of the 5-Star will take portfolios of labor and industry under a newly-created ministerial position.

Enzo Moavero, a former EU affairs minister under Prime Minister Mario Monti, is slated ty become foreign minister in the Conte government. Savona was proposed for the consolation prize, the position of EU affairs minister.

“Maybe finally we have made it, after so many obstacles, attacks, threats and lies,” Salvini said on Facebook shortly after the deal was announced.

May 31, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

‘Summary executions & unacceptable brutality’: The Gaza flotilla massacre 8 years on

RT | May 31, 2018

On May 31, 2010, Israeli forces ambushed an aid flotilla heading to Gaza, killing 10 activists in a siege that drew international condemnation and sparked damning investigations, despite Israel’s efforts to control the narrative.

Six ships – three carrying international aid – were on their way to Gaza to break the blockade imposed by Israel in 2007 when Israeli forces raided the vessels in international waters, about 64 nautical miles from the blockade zone.

The flotilla was organized by the Free Gaza Movement umbrella organization and the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Aid (IHH). Nine Turkish people were killed during the ambush, while a 10th died in 2014, after spending four years in a coma as a result of his injuries.

A UN Human Rights Council report said at least six of the killings were “consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution.” At least 50 other people were injured and Israel arrested more than 600, including 60 journalists, politicians and other passengers.

‘No satisfactory explanation for deaths’

On May 30, the flotilla gathered off the coast of Cyprus to make its way to Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces and Navy told the ships to go to the Israeli port of Ashdod, which the flotilla ignored and Israel claimed the move was a “provocation.” At 4am, Israel signal-jammed communications, and half an hour later, launched its attack.

When Israeli forces attempted to board the largest boat, Mavi Marmara, they were met with resistance. Passengers sprayed water hoses and threw things, including chairs. The first of three helicopters arrived and stun grenades were thrown at the boat, while at the same time, forces took over the other, smaller boats in the flotilla.

The Turkish-owned boat experienced the harshest response in the raid. Nine men were killed on board after being shot some 30 times between them, with five receiving gunshots to the head, Turkey’s autopsies revealed. A 19 year old, who also had US citizenship, was shot five times at close range.

According to Israel’s account, a number of the Mavi Marmara passengers were “hardcore” and bore bars and knives. Activists, however, claim the soldiers began shooting as soon as they entered. “After 20 minutes, maybe 15 minutes, there were three dead bodies,” Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi recounted.

A 2011 Report of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry found Israel gave “no satisfactory explanation” for any of the deaths. It also said that “such substantial force at a great distance from the blockade zone and with no final warning immediately prior to the boarding was excessive and unreasonable.”

While there were no fatalities on the other boats, those on board say they too suffered violence from the raiding Israeli forces. “They treated all of the boats on the flotilla with violence, they didn’t treat any of us peacefully and when they say that, it’s an absolute lie,” Alex Harrison, who was on board another of the vessels, told a Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting in June, 2010. “Two of the women were hooded, Guantanamo-style.”

Suppressing footage

The flotilla raid drew international outrage, despite Israel getting ahead of the story whilst the activists were detained. Protests over the incident erupted around the world and tensions between Israel and Turkey deteriorated. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the raid was to “prevent the infiltration of thousands of rockets, missiles and other arms that could hit our cities, communities or people.”

Israel sought to play down the events of the raid, releasing radio recordings it claimed showed the boat’s passengers were anti-Semitic and threatening but which it later had to admit had been edited and couldn’t be confirmed as from the Mavi Marmara, as originally claimed.

Officials also released select footage, allegedly showing the activists being violent. This included clips from the footage they had seized, which was condemned by the Foreign Press Association and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Efforts were also made to frame the IHH as a terrorist organization and some of the passengers as members of Al-Qaeda.

A UN Human Rights Council panel accused Israel of suppressing footage of the raid. The IDF attempted to confiscate images and footage, taking phones and laptops from them, including those belonging to journalists on board. Despite this, an hour of footage from Mari Marmara was released by filmmaker Iara Lee, who was on board.

Israel’s inquiry into the events found its actions were legal under international law and noted the “regrettable consequences of the loss of human life.” The UN General Assembly’s 2010 fact-finding mission found Israeli forces were guilty of a series of violations of international law, and its disproportionate response “betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality.” Israel said this was biased.

In November 2017, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said it would not prosecute Israel, but that there is “reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed by some members of the Israel Defence Forces.”

Eight years on from the flotilla deaths, Gaza remains under blockade and with two wars waged on Gaza since then, the situation on the ground is more bleak than before. A new flotilla is currently making its way to Gaza, due to arrive in July.

May 31, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , | 1 Comment

What if Babchenko had decided to stay “dead”?

By Catte | OffGuardian | May 31, 2018

There’s a good deal of discussion, both in mainstream and in alt media, of how/why the Arkady Babchenko event unfolded in the ludicrous way it has.

The Ukrainian government narrative is (currently) claiming the SBU faked AB’s death in order to entrap some real (Russian) assassins who really wanted him dead, and it was all part of a cunning plan. They’re light on detail about exactly how taking pics of Bab pretending to be dead helped with the general effort, but maybe they’ll fill in all those blanks soon.

Others, including RFE, are telling us the very bad fake death pic was released on a Facebook page with ties to Washington.

But beyond the Byzantine imbroglio, I think there’s another question no one is asking. –

What if Arkady hadn’t turned up, looking sheepish at that presser?

What if he hadn’t turned up ever? What if he’d decided he couldn’t face the humiliation, or what if his SBU handlers decided it might be better if he just continued to be dead and skipped off the map somewhere with a few hundred grand and nice new ID.

What then?

We need to never forget that while Arkady was busy hiding in his closet (or whatever he did for the hours he was supposed to be dead), his demise was the reality for all of us. Sold to us, not just with narrative consistency, but with apparent hard evidence and circumstantial confirmation.

There was the blood-soaked “corpse” photo:

There was the sketch of the perp:

There was the Twitter parade of blue-tick public mourners.

A very very familiar roll-out we have all seen many times was taking shape. There were predictable articles, by predictable people, saying predictable things. By next month Luke Harding would have had a new book out called something like “Death in Broad Daylight: how the Kremlin silenced Arkady Babchenko.” Its cover would feature Babchenko’s completely fake murder pic with a target superimposed and a semi-opaque red halftone background of Putin’s face. It would be on the NYT bestseller list for the next two years and make Luke another little fortune.

There would soon be an “Arkady Babchenko” street in Washington. A “posthumous” Pulitzer would have been his within a year or two. Arkady Babchenko memorial plaques would spawn like tribbles. Navalny and his twenty-seven supporters would carry those tragically misty and sepia pics of our boy (which miraculously appeared within hours of his “death”) on all their “rallies”. By 2019 Katherine Bigelow would have made the movie (based on Luke’s book), and it would be a dead cert at the 2020 Oscars.

But it would have been no more true that it is now, would it? It would simply be an undiscovered lie. A mesh of words, woven thick by repetition, giving shape to an absence – of evidence, of investigation, of everything.

If he hadn’t turned up alive, Arkady dead would have become the thing most people called “truth.” Like “United 93”, and similar collective myths, the legend of his martyrdom would have taken on all the trappings of solid reality. No one – none of us – would think to question it. And anyone who did would be dismissed as a lunatic.

The most important and abiding point about the non-death of Arkady Babchenko, beyond all the spin and damage control and narrative-boosting we are inevitably going to see over the next days and weeks, is that, at its deepest level, consensual reality is a fragile thing that can very easily have nothing to do with truth or fact or actual reality. The point is that the people who are paid to fact check official narratives didn’t do it, and would never have done it. They were simply sold a line and bought it, uninterrogated, uninvestigated, unwrapped.

And this is what they do every day. With every item of “news” they lay before us.

Look at the illusion of depth and veracity they gave this lie, simply by reporting it. See how easily they were fooled and went on to fool us. See how little it occurred to any of us, even those who make a habit of interrogating narratives, to ask whether or not it really happened.

Think about how easily that basic question was trampled and crushed into oblivion. How effortlessly a few public statements and a very very questionable pic became the collective “truth” for all of us. Look at how the debate was already being positioned. How the issue was going to be “who did it?” not “was it even done?”

The real problem this highlights is not just that the derogation of journalistic duty to fact-check and second-source is now the norm. We already know this. It’s been too apparent for too long.

The real problem is that this derogation helps to create the reality we all live in. Even those of us who deplore it. If for whatever reason Arkady had sloped off to Hawaii in a bad wig, today we would all be debating who may have killed him. Unwittingly hostage to a flimsy lie.

This is an uncomfortable truth we need to recognise. Because it’s often the questions that seem most unnecessary, absurd, offensive, even insane that actually most need to be asked.

We are already being dissuaded from learning this most valuable lesson. The journos who were so recently burned are already backstopping against it. They aren’t focusing on why the lie happened, they are focusing on how “the enemy” (the Russians, the alt-media, the whole evil circus of “other”) are “exploiting” it. How they will now have an “excuse” to suggest any future such deaths might also be fake.

The drive is to make it ridiculous to learn from experience or to cite precedence. We are already being persuaded only idiots would think future deaths might be fake based on the fact past deaths were fake.

No matter how much data there might be for fakery we must never accept it as a legitimate possibility. No matter how many Doumas may happen, no matter how many Babchenkos come back from the dead, no matter how many incidents of fakery are outed, or “explained” in unsatisfactory terms, we must never learn from experience. We can discuss why the victims of the latest atrocity died, but not the possibility they might not have died at all?

Is this really good enough? I don’t think so.

Next time we are flooded with the apparently shocking narrative of violent death, how many of us will be brave or crazy enough to dare to ask – “did this death even happen?”?

May 31, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Remote controlled killing: Drone warfare reduces horrors of conflict for those who can afford it

By Tomasz Pierscionek | RT | May 31, 2018

Technology gives us the opportunity to wage war from afar at a greatly reduced risk to our armed forces. But is removing the horror of war a slippery slope to reducing the threshold for conflict?

Going to war usually boosts a politician’s approval ratings and can be a useful distraction from domestic problems. Yet public opinion typically turns sour when a steady stream of soldiers start returning in body bags and candid reportage from the war zone reveals unpleasant truths. The public’s distaste at seeing ‘our boys and girls’ returning in coffins or missing limbs somewhat hampers the abilities of warmongers to fulfill their wish-list. In the 1860s Confederate General Robert E Lee remarked: “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it”.

21st century technology is giving wealthier countries the opportunity to wage war from afar, in an asymmetrical manner, where their own forces can be spared the risk of death and injury. There has been an exponential increase in the production and proliferation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), more commonly known as drones, over the past 15 years. Drones can be used for surveillance, reconnaissance or assassination. After the US first used a UAV in 2001 to assassinate a high ranking al-Qaeda militant in Afghanistan, a growing number of countries began manufacturing or using armed drones. In the early days of drone warfare both the US Air Force and Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) operated drones flying over Afghanistan from Creech Air Force Base in the Nevada desert, 7000 miles away. The UK began operating its drone fleet from home soil at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire in 2013.

Drones have allowed the US to silently observe or kill individuals across several countries at virtually no risk to their armed forces. In 2011 the UK’s Ministry of Defence published a document in which is stated: “It is essential that, before unmanned systems become ubiquitous (if it is not already too late) that we consider this issue and ensure that, by removing some of the horror, or at least keeping it at a distance, that we do not risk losing our controlling humanity and make war more likely”.

In 2012 I co-authored a report on behalf of UK charity Medact – ‘Drones: the physical and psychological implications of a global theatre of war’ – in which we examined the impact of this new form of warfare upon civilians and considered the moral, legal and geopolitical implications of a globalised theatre of war where a nation could remotely eliminate its enemies anywhere across the globe, including outside designated conflict zones.

For example, the US has performed hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan against the Taliban and other militants even though the US and Pakistan are not at war. These drone strikes have caused numerous civilian deaths. There have even been reports of good samaritans and medical personnel being attacked in a follow up drone strike whilst coming to the assistance of people injured in an earlier drone attack.

The London based Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that between 424-969 civilians have been killed out of a total of 2,515-4,026 dead from at least 430 drone strikes conducted by the US in Pakistan alone since 2004.

Only three countries had used armed drones at the time of our report’s publication: the US in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen; the UK in Afghanistan; Israel in Gaza. The report warned that “Drones may become a routine weapon of war, in order to avoid anti-war sentiment and to reduce the political cost of initiating a military intervention. It is hard to imagine that the US could have undertaken military action in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya in one year (2011) without drones. Drones could lead to a world of globalised warfare, in which people may find themselves within a theatre of war literally anywhere on the planet”.

America’s drone war greatly expanded during the Presidency of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama when the CIA and other US intelligence agencies would add the names of alleged terrorists earmarked for elimination by drone onto what became informally known as the ‘kill list’ . The President then had final say over who will be killed. This included individuals in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, who had not been formally charged or tried in a court of law.

Another aspect of drone killings involves ‘signature strikes’ whereby a drone operator identifies individuals whose behaviour is deemed suspect and who might then be eliminated, if the order is given from above. In 2012, 26 members of Congress signed a letter asking for the legal basis and due process behind the Obama administration’s sanctioning of signature strikes and expressed caution over the lack of transparency, accountability or oversight pertaining to America’s drone war.

By 2018 the armed drone club had grown to 12 members (China, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Nigeria in addition to the original three), who had either manufactured their own armed UAVs or purchased them from other nations. A number of non-state actors (ISIS, PKK, Hezbollah, Hamas, Houthi militants) have also reportedly used drones in combat, albeit cruder versions than those used by the aforementioned states such as small drones outfitted with explosives that are made to crash into a target in a Kamikaze-like manner. Russia and India are among several other countries believed to be developing armed drones. Russia has however already developed its own unmanned submarine, or autonomous underwater vehicle, capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

While the USA and Israel are globally recognised drone exporters they may soon face competition from China, which has recently begun exporting armed drones. Chinese models are believed to be variants of US made Predator and Reaper drones that sell at a fraction of the price. Pressure from the US drone lobby led to the US easing restrictions on exporting armed UAVs in April 2018.

Drones are presently still under the direct control of a human operator, albeit one who may be thousands of miles away. The next stage in the evolution of drone warfare is predicted to be a move from unmanned to increasingly autonomous drones that can select their own targets and ultimately operate without human oversight. Such technology is being tested and developed and “influential people like [the late] Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak have already urged a ban on warfare using autonomous weapons or artificial intelligence,” according to NATO Review magazine.

Proponents of drone warfare argue that using UAVs is preferable to risking soldiers’ lives. Saving lives is laudable but removing the horror of war, at least for the side possessing drones, is the start of a slippery slope where the threshold of going to war decreases. Rather than finding ways to make war easier, policy makers ought to spend time, effort and money on trying to prevent conflict. War may at times be necessary but few would argue that the conflicts where drones have been used, such as the Western led interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, were unavoidable let alone beneficial for those countries and their people. A future where a globalised battlefield becomes the norm and individuals deemed a threat to the US, or any other power with the means, can be eliminated without due process or trial is a dark one indeed.

The possibility of increasingly autonomous warfare systems would allow decision makers to further wash their hands from the horrors of war. Who would be held responsible if a fully autonomous drone chose the ‘wrong’ target or caused civilian casualties? Furthermore there is always the possibility that any robotic system can be hacked or commandeered by other countries or non-state actors.

Legally binding international conventions controlling the manufacture, use and sale of armed drones ought to have been ratified before the technology became available. As drone use is now too extensive to easily control, there should at least be a move to channel the technology in a direction that benefits humanity as a whole. Although the profit margins may be much smaller than in war, drones can be used to deliver supplies and medicines to remote areas, take part in search and rescue missions in disaster zones, or monitor large wildlife reserves for poachers. We can decide how this new technology shapes our future. A challenge for humanity is that technology is developing faster than the legal, ethical and moral codes governing its use.

Tomasz Pierscionek is a doctor specialising in psychiatry. He was previously on the board of the charity Medact.

May 31, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Israel, Myanmar sign agreement to teach about the Holocaust

MEMO | May 31, 2018

Israel and Myanmar have signed a cooperation agreement on educational programmes including curricula on teaching about the Holocaust, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Twitter on Tuesday.

“We continue to cooperate with our friends around the world,” Hotovely wrote, referring to Myanmar whose army has been accused by the UN of committing ethnic cleansing against the Muslim Rohingya minority and where hundreds of thousands of survivors have been displaced as refugees.

“The two countries will work to develop two official curricula for schools in both countries to teach about the Holocaust and its lessons as well as the negative consequences of intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia,” Haaretz newspaper reported Wednesday.

Israel has continued to supply Myanmar with arms despite allegations of genocide. The armaments sold to Myanmar include over 100 tanks, weapons and boats that have been used to police the country’s border and perpetrate numerous acts of violence against the Rohingya, such that the UN suspects the army is committing ethnic cleansing.

May 31, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | 1 Comment

Palestinian Youth injured by Israeli gunfire in blockaded Gaza

Palestine Information Center – May 31, 2018

GAZA – A Palestinian youth was shot and injured by the Israeli military east of the Bureij refugee camp, in central Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening.

A PIC news correspondent said a bullet fire by Israeli soldiers penetrated a 15-year-old child’s back. He was rushed to the Shuhadaa al-Aqsa Hospital, in Deir Balah, so as to be treated for his wounds, reported critical.

According to the Gaza-based Palestinian Health Ministry, 118 Palestinians were killed and 13,300 others injured by Israeli gunfire unleashed toward Palestinian protesters as they joined the Great March of Return, launched on March 30.

May 31, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

CIA Undermines North Korea Summit By Leaking Report To Media Asset

By Kenneth Whittle | Disobedient Media | May 30, 2018

Just as it was reported that the summit between the United States and North Korea was back on and that Kim Young Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea was on his way to New York to meet with officials in preparation for the June 12 summit, the CIA leaked an intelligence assessment concluding that “North Korea does not intend to give up its nuclear weapons any time soon.” The timing of this leak is striking, as it seems to be an effort to undermine negotiations between the two nations and comes just days after ranking members of the Democratic Party and Republican hardliners attacked President Donald Trump over his efforts to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The identity of the reporter who helped break the story also raises serious questions about whether or not a faction within the CIA deliberately attempted to undermine diplomatic efforts to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula. According to NBC News, the report was leaked to none other than NBC national security reporter Ken Dilanian, known as “The CIA’s Mop-Up Man.”

In 2014, The Intercept reported on Ken Dilanian’s correspondence and relationship with the CIA while Dilanian was a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

According to The Intercept, “Email exchanges between CIA public affairs officers and Ken Dilanian, now an Associated Press intelligence reporter who previously covered the CIA for the Times, show that Dilanian enjoyed a close collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA’s reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in the Times.”

According to the Huffington Post, while writing for the Los Angeles Times, Dilanian also reported a CIA claim as fact by stating that “there was no collateral murder in a 2012 drone strike on Al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi.” Dilanian’s article was directly disputed in an Amnesty International report.

In the aftermath of the revelations about Dilanian’s ties to the CIA, he was disavowed by the Los Angeles Times. The disclosure of Dilanian’s collaboration with the CIA also led his former employer, David Lauter of the Tribune Washington bureau to believe Dilanian could have violated Tribune news policy. Lauter acknowledged that Tribune policy dictates that reporters “not share copies of stories outside the newsroom.” Lauter further stated that he was “disappointed that the emails indicate that Ken may have violated that rule.”

Dilanian has not shied away from pushing articles written by former CIA officials who continue to perpetuate the “Trump-Russia” collusion narrative without any regard to facts, such as Steven Hall’s Washington Post article titled: “I was in the CIA. We wouldn’t trust a country whose leader did what Trump did.”

Wikileaks has also pointed out Dilanian’s agency connection and his pushing of the “Trump-Russia” collusion narrative, tweeting: “CIA’s ‘mop up man’ Ken Dilanian is the NBC ‘reporter’ used to channel claim about president Putin + US election.”

In the aftermath of recent revelations concerning the CIA’s collaboration with foreign intelligence agencies to spy on Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 US Presidential Election the fresh leaks continue to show a pattern of rebellion that has long run rampant in the US intelligence community. While the CIA’s apparent violations of ethical considerations concerning surveillance of candidates running for public office was serious enough, their interference drags the reputation of the agency to a new (and in the case of Korean peace negotiations, more dangerous) low amid their conflict with the sitting President of the United States.

However, despite these attacks, preparations between the two countries have continued for the upcoming June 12 summit. President Trump announced earlier today via Twitter that: “We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea. Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!”

May 31, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

Iran rejects US report on religious freedom as ‘politically motivated’

Press TV – May 31, 2018

Tehran has dismissed the allegations put forth in a recent US report on religious freedom in Iran as “baseless” and “politically motivated,” saying the document offers a “distorted picture” of the realities in Iran and other countries.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qassemi, was reacting to the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2017, which was released on May 29.

The Iran section of the report claimed that “non-Shia Muslims and those affiliated with a religion other than Islam” residing in the Islamic Republic faced “societal discrimination and harassment.”

Besides Iran, the report also targets Washington’s other foes, including Russia, China and North Korea.

Qassemi said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran views this report as unrealistic, baseless and biased, which has been compiled merely with the aim of serving certain political goals.”

The US, he added, has “no accurate and realistic evaluation” of the situation inside other countries, stressing that this report, which presents yet another distorted picture of religious freedoms in Iran and levels untrue allegations against the Islamic Republic, is “undoubtedly unacceptable and rejected.”

The official said history shows that the great people of Iran, from all faiths and ethnicities, have peacefully coexisted for millennia.

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, “followers of all religions have performed their religious traditions in various religious centers across Iran based on the articles of the Constitution and within the framework of law,” Qassemi said, adding that Iranian law “protects all such freedoms.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman also called on the United States to avoid politicizing the issue of religion, warning that offering “delusional, self-made and unfounded readings of different religions” could only lead to more interfaith clashes in the world.

The official religion of Iran is Shia Islam under the Constitution. The Islamic Republic recognizes Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian religious minorities, among others.

The Constitution states that “the investigation of individuals’ beliefs is forbidden,” and that “no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.”

May 31, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News | , | 3 Comments

UAE activist Mansoor given 10-year jail term for anti-government posts

Press TV – May 31, 2018

The United Arabs Emirates (UAE) has handed down a 10-year prison sentence to prominent rights activist Ahmed Mansoor on charges of using his social media accounts to criticize the ruling system.

Mansoor, who had no access to lawyers during his trial, was found guilty and sentenced to jail by an appeals court in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, local media reported.

The pro-democracy activist was also fined one million dirhams, about $272,000, and given three years post-release probation.

The court, however, cleared the campaigner of terrorist-related allegations.

Mansoor, an electrical engineer and poet was arrested on March 20 last year after authorities accused him of using social media platforms Twitter and Facebook to “publish false information and rumors, spread tendentious ideas that would sow sedition, sectarianism and hatred and harm national unity and social peace, as well as harming the state’s reputation and inciting disobedience.”

The activist, who was awarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2015, remained in solitary confinement for more than a year.

Since 2006, the blogger has campaigned for freedom of expression, civil and political rights in the UAE.

In 2011, he was convicted of “insulting officials” and sentenced to three years in jail, but he was released after serving eight months, but was stripped of his passport and not allowed to leave the country.

In 2016, it was also revealed that UAE authorities paid $1 million for Israeli software allowing them to hack Mansoor’s cellphone.

Rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, condemned the sentencing, saying it lays bare the UAE’s inability “to tolerate the mildest of criticisms from a genuine reformer.”

May 31, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | | 1 Comment

A Conspiracy Contradiction at the Washington Times

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | May 30, 2018

I wonder if noted conservative writer R. Emmett Tyrell Jr. realizes that he has just contradicted himself in an op-ed in the Washington Times entitled, “Re-examining the RFK Assassination.” Based on a new book by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Tyrell is calling for a new investigation into the assassination of Bobby Kennedy to determine if he was killed as part of a … conspiracy.

But according to the two opening paragraphs of Tyrell’s article, he has “never believed in conspiracy theories” because, he feels, it would be impossible for conspirators to keep the conspiracy secret.

But if that’s the case, then why is Tyrell calling for a new investigation into the Bobby Kennedy assassination? If there really was a conspiracy in that assassination, the conspirators, according to Tyrell’s opening paragraphs, would have talked. Since no such talk has ever emerged, that would mean, under Tyrell’s reasoning, that there could be no conspiracy and, therefore, no need to have a new investigation.

But the fact is that Tyrell is wrong. There are conspiracies, especially those involving assassination (i.e., murder), in which the conspirators don’t talk. After all, let’s not forget that a criminal conviction for murder can involve the death penalty or life in prison without parole. Oftentimes that is enough incentive to keep murder conspirators, especially professional ones, silent about what they have done.

Consider Johnny Roselli, a member of the Mafia who was murdered in 1976, just before he was scheduled to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence, which was exploring the possibility of a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy. Roselli was the liaison between the Mafia and the CIA when those two entities entered into an assassination partnership in the early 1960s. It’s a fairly good assumption that Roselli did not commit “suicide,” as some of the people surrounding the JFK assassination appeared to have done. That’s because his body parts were found floating in a drum in Miami Harbor. Given the gruesome nature of that discovery, it is also a virtual certainty that more than one person was responsible for Roselli’s murder, which would make it a conspiracy. Yet, no one has ever talked and the murder has never been solved.

The same holds true for Mafia figure Jimmy Hoffa. It is pretty well assumed that he was murdered as part of a Mafia conspiracy. Yet, no one has ever talked.

Consider the U.S. conspiracy to murder American citizens Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi during the Chilean coup in 1973. None of those conspirators have ever talked, at least not publicly, but that doesn’t negate the fact that U.S. intelligence officials conspired to murder them. We know that from a long-secret State Department investigative report that concluded that U.S. intelligence played a role in their murder. But to this day, we don’t know anything more than that, both because the conspirators have kept their lips sealed and also because someone squelched the recommendation in that report for further investigation.

In 1953, the CIA published an in-house manual on assassination, which the CIA was successful in keep secret for more than 40 years. The manual reflects that, early on, the CIA was specializing not only in the art of political assassination but, equally important, also in the art of covering up CIA involvement in the assassination.

As previously stated, in the early 1960s, the CIA and the Mafia entered into a top-secret assassination partnership. Thus, here you had two entities, both of whom specialized in murder and cover-up, getting together to jointly perform a political assassination.

Therefore, why shouldn’t people raise their eyebrows at least a little bit with respect to the political assassinations that took place in the 1960s, especially those in which the victims were sworn enemies of the Mafia or the CIA or both, such as President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, and especially where the facts in the case are bit too pat?

Maybe it’s a good sign that Tyrell, notwithstanding his obvious reluctance to be labeled a “conspiracy theorist,” is willing to take a closer look into the assassination of Bobby Kennedy and that the Washington Times is willing to publish his op-ed about it.

For more information, read:

The Kennedy Autopsy by Jacob Hornberger

JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne

Regime Change: The JFK Assassination by Jacob Hornberger

The CIA, Terrorism, and the Cold War: The Evil of the National Security State by Jacob Hornberger

CIA & JFK: The Secret Assassination Files by Jefferson Morley

The National Security State and JFK,” a FFF conference featuring Oliver Stone and ten other speakers

Altered History: Exposing Deceit and Deception in the JFK Assassination Medical Evidence,” a five-part video by Douglas P. Horne

May 31, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment