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US Congress Passes $716Bln Defense Spending Bill for 2019

Sputnik – 01.08.2018

WASHINGTON – The US Senate on Wednesday passed the $716 billion National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2019. The measure passed with an 87-10 vote and now heads to US President Donald Trump’s office to be signed into law.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the measure in a 359-54 vote. The measure also funds the Trump administration’s request for Ukraine, which included $250 million for lethal defensive items.

In addition, the bill adds $150 million to accelerate US efforts to field a conventional prompt strike capability before fiscal year 2022, in response to the critical advances Russia and China have made in developing their prompt strike hypersonic weapons.

The bill also funds the Trump administration’s request for $6.3 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) to further increase the number of US troops in Europe and deter what it calls “Russian aggression.” The bill, in addition, prohibits military-to-military cooperation with Russia.

The bill obligates US Defense Secretary James Mattis to submit a plan to Congress to ban Turkey from acquiring the F-35 aircraft to punish it for purchasing Russian S-400 air defense systems and for detaining US Pastor Andrew Brunson.

The bill will also include Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) waivers for India, Vietnam and Indonesia.

The United States and NATO have significantly increased their presence in Eastern Europe since the eruption of the Ukrainian crisis in 2014. Moscow has repeatedly voiced its protest over the military buildup, saying that it will undermine regional stability and result in a new arms race.

August 1, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Israel deports Freedom Flotilla activists

Ma’an – August 1, 2018

BETHLEHEM – Gaza’s National Committee for Breaking the Siege announced on Wednesday that the Israeli authorities began deporting several of the international solidarity activists, who were aboard the Al Awda ship of the Freedom Flotilla.

Gaza’s National Committee confirmed that the activists deportation back to their countries, comes two days after being detained following an attack by Israeli naval forces on the ship in international waters.

Zaher Birawi, head of the committee, said in a statement that a number of international activists have already been deported on Tuesday, including a Malaysian professor, Dr. Mohd Afandi Salleh, and on Wednesday the rest would also be deported.

Birawi stressed that many of the activists rejected to be voluntarily deported, preferring to delay it for more than 72 hours, the legal deadline for accepting voluntary deportation from the country.

Birawi continued that the activists are attempting to delay their deportation, in order to appear before an Israeli court to expose the unjust practices of Israeli naval forces who attacked the humanitarian ship in international waters, and to later prosecute Israel for its actions.

The committee quoted the testimonies of some of the activists as being exposed to “beatings and violence” including the ship’s captain, his assistant, and other solidarity activists.

Swedish human rights activist, Divina Levrini, who was among international detainees, said in a statement that she declares a hunger strike, as a form of protest against the treatment she received by Israeli forces and against the harsh conditions she is going through while being detained in the Israeli Givon prison.

Levrini had conducted an interview with Ma’an in July, while aboard the Freedom Flotilla ship, in which she discussed the Flotilla’s intention on raising awareness about the Israel-Gaza conflict and on breaking the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza.

In addition, two days prior, Israeli authorities already released two Israeli activists on bail. One of the released activists, Zuhr Chamberlain Regev, confirmed that several activists were beaten by Israeli forces before being dragged out of the ship to be detained. She continued by saying that “people on board were tasered and hit by masked Israeli soldiers. We did not get our passports or belongings before we got off the boat. Do not believe reports of peaceful interception.

August 1, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 2 Comments

Trump Duped by Saudis on Iran Oil Sanctions – Tehran Official

Sputnik – 01.08.2018

President Trump’s offer of “no preconditions” talks with Iran’s comes as a surprise break from months of escalating rhetoric in the wake of his walkout from the landmark Iran nuclear deal.

US President Donald Trump has apparently been hoodwinked by Saudi Arabia into believing that the kingdom will be able to make up for a projected drop in Iranian oil exports after the US sanctions take effect in November, Iran’s Press TV reported citing the head of the country’s OPEC governor.

“It seems President Trump has been taken hostage by Saudi Arabia and a few producers when they claimed they can replace 2.5 million barrels per day of Iranian exports, encouraging him to take action against Iran,” Hossein Kazempour Ardebili said.

US Back and Forth on Iran Oil Trade

The White House said last month that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman had promised Trump to raise oil production and that the kingdom had two million barrels per day of spare capacity to boost output to offset a decline Iranian oil supplies.

Iran insists that President Trump’s hope that certain oil producers can fill the gap created as a result of cutting off Iranian oil supplies is based on a “miscalculation.”

Late last month, a senior US State Department official said that countries buying Iranian oil should bring their Iranian crude imports down to zero by the time Washington re-imposes sanctions against the Islamic Republic’s banking and petroleum sectors.

Washington later backed off a bit with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying in July that the United States might grant waivers to countries seeking relief from sanctions the US has threatened to impose.

Trump’s U-Turn on Iran

On Monday, President Trump said he would be willing to meet his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani without preconditions to discuss how to improve ties, but Tehran flatly turned down Trump’s offer dismissing it as worthless and “a humiliation” after he acted to re-impose sanctions on Tehran following the withdrawal from the 2015 landmark nuclear deal.

“Sanctions and pressures are the exact opposite of dialogue,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Tuesday.

Trump’s overture towards Iran came a week after he threatened the country with “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before,” in an all caps tweet.

On May 8, President Donald Trump said he was withdrawing the US from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran and promised to impose the “highest level” of sanctions on the country’s energy, petrochemical and financial sectors despite objections from Europe as well as Russia and China — the other parties to the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

August 1, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , | 2 Comments

UNICEF Says Drinking Water Systems in Yemen under Repeated Attacks

Al-Manar | August 1, 2018

UNICEF, on Wednesday, called for immediate halt to attacks on water facilities and civilian infrastructure in Yemen.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Holsman Fore, said that attacks against civilian facilities and services “are unacceptable, inhumane and in breach of the basic laws of war.

“Ongoing violence and repeated attacks on lifesaving civilian infrastructure in Hodeida are a direct threat to the survival of hundreds of thousands of children and their families,” the official said.

“Yet the past few days have seen an escalation in the targeting of systems and facilities that are essential to sustaining the lives of children and families.”

Fore said UNICEF had received, in the past two days, reports that a UNICEF-supported warehouse containing humanitarian provisions, including hygiene and water-related supplies, was hit by two airstrikes.

“Yemen is already facing a severe shortage of drinking water, which is directly linked to outbreaks of cholera and acute watery diarrhea. Attacks on water infrastructure jeopardize efforts to prevent another outbreak of cholera and acute watery diarrhea in Yemen,” she warned, calling “on all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.”

“The war in Yemen has no winners. It is robbing Yemeni children of their futures.”

August 1, 2018 Posted by | War Crimes | , | 2 Comments

VIPS to Trump: Intel on Iran Could be CATASTROPHIC

As drums beat again for war — this time on Iran—-the VIPS’ warning is again being disregarded as it was before the Iraq debacle and this time VIPS fear the consequences will be all-caps CATASTROPHIC.

August 1, 2018

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Intelligence on Iran Fails the Smell Test

Mr. President:

As the George W. Bush administration revved up to attack Iraq 15 years ago, we could see no compelling reason for war. We decided, though, to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt on the chance he had been sandbagged by Vice President Dick Cheney and others. We chose to allow for the possibility that he actually believed the “intelligence” that Colin Powell presented to the UN as providing “irrefutable and undeniable” proof of WMD in Iraq and a “sinister nexus” between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

To us in VIPS it was clear, however, that the “intelligence” Powell adduced was bogus. Thus, that same afternoon (Feb. 5, 2003) we prepared and sent to President Bush a Memorandum like this one, urging him to seek counsel beyond the “circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

We take no satisfaction at having been correct — though disregarded — in predicting the political and humanitarian disaster in Iraq. Most Americans have been told the intelligence was “mistaken.” It was not; it was out-and-out fraud, in which, sadly, some of our former colleagues took part.

Five years after Powell’s speech, the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee minced few words in announcing the main bipartisan finding of a five-year investigation. He said: “In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent. As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed.”

Iran Now in Gunsight

As drums beat again for a military attack — this time on Iran, we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and other experienced, objective analysts are, by all appearances, being disregarded again. And, this time, we fear the consequences will be all-caps CATASTROPHIC — in comparison with the catastrophe of Iraq.

In memoranda to you over the past year and a half we have pointed out that (1) Iran’s current support for international terrorism is far short of what it was decades ago; and (2) that you are being played by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims about Iran’ they are based on intelligence exposed as fraudulent several years ago. Tellingly, Netanyahu waited for your new national security adviser to be in place for three weeks before performing his April 30 slide show alleging that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program. On the chance that our analysis of Netanyahu’s show-and-tell failed to reach you, please know that the Israeli prime minister was recycling information from proven forgeries, which we reported in a Memorandum to you early last spring.

If our Memorandum of May 7 fell through some cracks in the West Wing, here are its main findings:

The evidence displayed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 30 in what he called his “Iranian atomic archive” showed blatant signs of fabrication. That evidence is linked to documents presented by the Bush Administration more than a decade earlier as “proof” of a covert Iran nuclear weapons program. Those documents were clearly fabricated, as well.

In our May 7, 2018 Memorandum we also asserted: “We can prove that the actual documents originally came not from Iran but from Israel. Moreover, the documents were never authenticated by the CIA or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”

Iran: Almost Targeted in 2008

There was a close brush with war with Iran a decade ago.  Bush and Cheney, in close consultation with Israel, were planning to attack Iran in 2008, their last year in office.  Fortunately, an honest National Intelligence Estimate of November 2007 concluded that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003, and that key judgment was made public.  Abruptly, that NIE stuck an iron rod into the wheels of the juggernaut then speeding downhill to war.

The key judgment that Iran had stopped work on a nuclear weapon was the result of the painstakingly deliberative process that was customarily used, back in the day, to produce an NIE. After that process — which took a full year —  the Nov. 2007 NIE was approved unanimously by all U.S. intelligence agencies.

(In other words, it was decidedly NOT a rump “assessment” like the one cobbled together in a couple of weeks by “handpicked” analysts from three selected, agenda-laden agencies regarding Russian meddling. We refer, of course, to the evidence-impoverished and deceptively labeled “Intelligence Community Assessment” that the directors of the FBI, CIA, and NSA gave you on January 6, 2017. The Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department intelligence bureau were among the other 13 agencies excluded from that “Intelligence Community Assessment.”)

As for the Bush/Cheney plans for attacking Iran in 2008, President George W. Bush, in his autobiography, Decision Points, recorded his chagrin at what he called the NIE’s “eye-popping” intelligence finding debunking the conventional wisdom that Iran was on the verge of getting a nuclear weapon.  Bush added plaintively, “How could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?”

Mr. President, we do not know whether a fresh National Intelligence Estimate has been produced on Iran and nuclear weapons — or, if one has been produced, whether it is as honest as the NIE of Nov. 2007, which helped prevent the launch of another unnecessary war the following year. We stand on our record. In sum, if you believe that there is credible evidence that Iran has an active secret nuclear weapons program, we believe you have been misled. And if you base decisions on misleading “intelligence” on Iran, the inevitable result will be a great deal worse than the Bush/Cheney debacle in Iraq.

For the Steering Group

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

William Binney, former NSA Technical Director for World Geopolitical & Military Analysis; Co-founder of NSA’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center (ret.)

Sen. Richard H. Black, 13th District of Virginia; Colonel US Army (ret.); former Chief, Criminal Law Division, Office of the Judge Advocate General, Pentagon (associate VIPS)

Kathleen Christison, Senior Analyst on Middle East, CIA (ret.)

Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Larry C. Johnson, former CIA and State Department Counter-terrorism officer

Michael S. Kearns, Captain, Wing Commander, RAAF (ret.); Intelligence Officer & ex-Master SERE Instructor

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

David MacMichael, Capt., USMC (ret.); former Senior Estimates Officer, National Intelligence Council

Ray McGovern, former US Army Infantry/Intelligence Officer & CIA analyst; CIA Presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council & CIA political analyst (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Gareth Porter, author/journalist (associate VIPS)

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)

Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)

Ann Wright, Colonel, US Army (ret.); Foreign Service Officer (resigned in opposition to the war on Iraq)

August 1, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 2 Comments

Netanyahu Got it Wrong Again: No Nuclear Arms in Iran and No Yazdi Cake in Alaadin!

By Heba Morad | American Herald Tribune | July 31, 2018

In the latest English-language video, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asks the world to help Iran’s imaginary character Fatemeh in her struggle with the claimed hardships in her country, Iran.

Israeli media outlets circulated a video that Netanyahu had released on Sunday night; an English-language video on social media calling on the world to allegedly help Iranians improve their lives, claiming that the government is oppressing the people. In the video, Netanyahu addresses the camera and tells the story of an imaginary 15-year-old girl called Fatemeh.

Fatemeh, Netanyahu claims, has different hardships to deal with. Netanyahu tries to describe in detail his imaginary friend in Tehran, and concludes by saying that although Fatemeh is fictitious, this is the true story of “millions of Iranians”.

However, when he arrives to a point where he says that “She stops at her favorite bakery in the Aladdin mall to eat cake yazdi but there’s a nation-wide strike,” he makes a big mistake, and makes a fool out of himself.

It seems that Netanyahu’s Mossad and Hasbara teams have failed once again in providing him with the required information to carry out his psychological warfare against Iran; a country that has chosen to have an independent identity and beliefs. They failed to tell him that the Alaadin Mall does not have ANY CONFECTIONARY shop, and that it is a mall, or what they call in Iran “a passage” that sells mobile phones.

Netanyahu failed to know a small detail that can be easily figured out; the Alaadin passage is the most famous of phone malls in Iran, how can the Prime Minister miss out on that point? And if this is the case with Alaadin, this triggers questions on the precision and accuracy of the information related to other stories cooked up by the Israelis on Iran, more precisely Iran’s nuclear deal. Is it that all information Israel and the US have been providing on Iran’s nuclear activity is only as accurate as those on Fatemeh’s cake-craving?

Israel and the US have been claiming that Iran has been seeking a nuclear weapon for years, imposed sanctions on the country, threatened to attack Iran multiple times at the time they are the two regimes that own the largest number of nuclear warheads. Iran has never attacked any other country or state actor. Even Iran’s support to the Assad government in Syria was upon an official invitation from the Syrian government to help curb the Daesh or ISIS terrorists that have committed heinous crimes of inhumanity against the innocent Syrian people. Now if we want to dive into the details we will need an elaborate explanation on bloopers or confessions that were made live on air through different media outlets by US and Israeli generals and officials, like that of General Flynn who acknowledged that the US has been supporting terrorist groups in Syria.

Iran had over and again assured that it seeks no nuclear arms and that all its activity was for peaceful purposes. Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has also issued a religious verdict stating that it is forbidden in Islam to seek nuclear weapons, which was acknowledged by the Obama government at a certain point. So, today after Netanyahu’s silly mistake some Iranian activists through social media platforms reassured that young and old know that Alaadin passage sells nothing but mobile phones and accessories. Are they also accused of lying just like the Iranian government has been accused of being untruthful about its nuclear program?

One cannot but say the truth. Yes, Iran does have some issues, just like any other country across the globe. But the Iranian government is, also like other governments trying to carry out reforms and resolve issues. There is no Utopia on this planet, is there one? The US and the Israeli apartheid regime have been putting their utmost efforts to hammer the government and put pressure on Iran and its people. Nevertheless, they should have tried a bit harder maybe or been more careful about the source of their information. At the end of the day, Iran does not seek nuclear weapons just like there is no confectionary shop in the mobile phones passage!

August 1, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

Taliban claims victory over ISIS fighters in NW Afghanistan

RT | August 1, 2018

More than 150 Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) fighters surrendered to Afghan security forces in the northwestern province of Jawzjan after they were defeated and driven out by the Taliban, government officials and Taliban said on Wednesday.

The defeat represents a major setback for the group. IS first appeared in eastern Afghanistan around four years ago and gained a foothold in southern Jawzjan, where it fought for control of smuggling routes into neighboring Turkmenistan, Reuters reports.

“The evil phenomenon of [IS] has completely been eliminated and people have been freed from its tortures in Jawzjan province of Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

The Taliban launched an offensive several weeks ago in Jawzjan against the group, which they oppose as much as they do the Western-backed government in Kabul.

August 1, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | 1 Comment