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The Syria Deception, Part 1: Al-Qaeda Goes to Hollywood

Grayzone Project | September 15, 2018

This exclusive Grayzone investigative mini-doc by Dan Cohen exposes the cynical deceptions and faux humanitarianism behind the campaign to sell the dirty war on Syria. It will demonstrate the lengths that the US and its allies have gone to develop new ploys to tug at Western heartstrings and convince even liberal minded skeptics of war that a US intervention was necessary — even if it meant empowering Al Qaeda’s largest franchise since 9/11 and its theocratic allies among the insurgency. Big lies and little children have formed the heart of what is perhaps the most expensive, sophisticated, and shameless propaganda blitz ever conducted. Welcome to the Syria Deception.

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September 16, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

US War Strategists: Military Defeats and Political Success

By James Petras • Unz Review • September 15, 2018

Introduction

In a previous article (US: The Century of Lost Wars) I recorded the repeated US military defeats over the past two decades. In this discussion I will describe the role of military strategists who bear responsibility for the US defeats, but also for Israeli political successes.

The key to this apparent contradiction is to uncover how and why the destruction of Israeli adversaries prolonged costly US military invasions.

The two outcomes are inter-related. The same US military strategists whose policies lead to failed US wars in the Middle East facilitated and augmented the power of Israel.

US war strategists’ operations reflect ‘dual loyalties’. On the one-hand they receive their elite education and high positions in the US, while their political loyalties to Tel Aviv express their Israel First strategic decisions.

Our hypothesis is that dual loyalist strategists have fabricated threats, identified adversaries and committed hundreds of thousands of US soldiers to losing wars based on calculations that effectively increase Israeli power and influence in the Middle East.

We will proceed by identifying the war strategists and their policies and conclude by proposing an alternative framework for re-thinking the relationship between dual citizens and military strategy.

The ‘Best and the Brightest’: The Blind Ally of Military Defeats

There is an apparent contradiction between the high academic achievements of elite military strategists and their abominable record in pursuing military conflicts.

Most, if not all, policy makers who led the US in prolonged wars against Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Syria were Israel-firsters, either Zionists or Israeli ‘fellow travelers’.

In each of these wars, the Israel firster war strategists, (1) identified the enemy, (2) exaggerated the threat to the US and (3) grossly inflated the military capacity of the targeted country. They started with Iraq and Afghanistan and then proceeded to the other nations, all opponents of Israel.

By ‘coincidence’ all countries supported the Palestinians’ rights of self-determination and opposed Israeli annexation and colonization of Arab lands.

Driven by their loyalty to Israel’s ‘expansionist goals’, the military strategists ignored the ‘real world’ political and economic costs to the US people and state. Professional and academic credentials, nepotism and tribal loyalties, each contributed to the Israel firsters advance to securing strategic decision-making positions and elite advisory posts in the Pentagon, State Department, Treasury and White House.

Their policies led to an unending trillion-dollar war in Afghanistan; losing wars in Libya, Iraq and Syria; and costly economic sanctions against Iran.

The main beneficiary was Israel which confronted less political and military opposition; zero cost in lives and money; and substantial gains in territory.

Why did the Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Chicago, Johns Hopkins’ cum laude graduates repeatedly produce the worst possible military outcomes?

In part because the US acted as an instrument of another power (Israel). Moreover, the Israel firsters never were obliged to reflect in self-criticism nor to admit their failures and rectify their disastrous strategies..

Their refusal to assume their responsibilities resulted from several causes. Their criteria for success was based on whether their policies advanced Israeli goals, not US interests.

Moreover, while their decisions were objectionable to US citizens they were supported by the 52 Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organization including the powerful Zionist lobby, AIPAC, which dictated Middle East policy to both political parties and the US Congress.

Ordinarily, military strategists whose policies lead to repeated political disasters are denounced, fired or even investigated for treason. In our experience nothing of the sort happened.

The best and the brightest rotated between six-digit jobs in Washington to seven-digit positions on Wall Street, or secured positions in lucrative law firms in Washington and New York (many with offices in Israel) or were appointed to prestigious academic posts in Ivy League universities.

What Should be Done?

There are countervailing measures which can lessen the impact of the strategic policies of the Israel Firsters. Academic Israel firsters should be encouraged to remain in Academia; rather than serve Israel in the State.

If they remain in the Ivory Tower they will inflict less destructive policies on American citizens and the state.

Secondly, since the vast-majority of Israel firsters are more likely to be arm chair war monger, who have not risked their lives in any of the wars that they promote, obligatory recruitment into combat zones would dampen their ardor for wars.

Thirdly, as matters stand, since many more Israel firsters choose to serve in the so-called Israeli Defense (sic) Force (IDF) they should reimburse US taxpayers for their free ride to education, health and welfare .

Fourthly, since most Israel firsters who volunteer to join the IDF prefer shooting unarmed Palestinian protesters, medics, journalists and kite flying kids they should be drafted into the US Army to serve in Afghanistan and face armed Taliban fighters surrounding Kabul, an experience which might knock a bit of realism in their dreams of converting the Middle East into an Israeli fiefdom.

Many national loyalties are forged by shared lives with families and friends of US soldiers who endure endless wars. Israel firsters dispatched to the war front would receive existential experiences that the Harvard, Princeton and Yale military strategists who make wars for Israel failed to understand.

Obligatory courses on the genocide of millions of Palestinian, Iraqi, Syrian, and Libyan people would enrich Israel firsters understanding of “holocausts’ in diverse ethno-religious settings.

Face to face encounters in life threatening military situations, where superior arms do not prevail, would deflate the hubris, arrogance and superiority complexes which fuel the tribal loyalties of Israel firsters.

In conclusion we offer modest suggestions for educated and cultured scientists, doctors, artists and entrepreneurs:

1/ Convert your skills to raising a new generation which will defend democratic values and social solidarity and eschew wars, persecution and phony claims of anti-semitism against critics of an ethnically exclusionary state.

2/ Forsake exclusive control of the mass media which glorifies Israeli war crimes and denigrates critics as ‘anti’ Semites for speaking truth to power.

Let’s join together to liberate America from military entanglements that privilege Israel while thirty million Us workers lack health coverage and forty percent of upstate New York children live in poverty.

Yes, there is an honorable place for everyone who joins in solidarity with the victims of Israeli First war strategists.

September 16, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UN Special Coordinator: ‘Israel’s demolition of Khan al-Ahmar contrary to international law’

Ma’an – September 16, 2018

BETHLEHEM – The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov, expressed his concern on Sunday at the intention of Israeli authorities to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem.

Mladenov said in a statement “I am concerned at the intention of the Israeli authorities to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar, a community of 181 people, over half of which are children.”

He also called on the Israeli authorities not to proceed with the demolition and to “cease efforts to relocate Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank.”

Mladenov concluded “Such actions are contrary to international law and could undermine the chances for the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.”

Mladenov’s statement comes after the Israeli High Court had rejected an appeal against the demolition of the village and approved its demolition and evacuation of its residents.

Since July, Khan al-Ahmar has been under threat of demolition by Israeli forces. The residents of the village have been since then subjected to threats, assaults, closures, and other forms of Israeli attempts to displace its residents.

The demolition would leave more than 35 Palestinian families displaced.

Israel has been constantly trying to uproot Palestinian Bedouins from the east of Jerusalem area to allow settlement expansion in the area, which would later turn the entire eastern part of the West Bank into a settlement zone.

September 16, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 1 Comment

Israeli minister urges assassination of Palestinian leaders

Palestine Information Center – September 16, 2018

Israel’s Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan called for assassinating Hamas leaders in the besieged Gaza Strip to quell anti-occupation protests at the eastern borders.

Israel’s Channel 7 quoted Erdan as stating that Israel might increase secret assassinations in case Hamas continues to fuel anti-occupation protests on borderlands with Gaza.

Erdan vowed that the Israeli army will step up aggressions against Hamas no matter the cost.

Sometime earlier, Israeli lawmaker Haim Jelin called for launching attacks against Hamas resistance fighters so as to force the group to yield into a long-term ceasefire in response to an alleged incendiary balloon dropped at his home in Kibbutz settler community, near Gaza’s border area.

September 16, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Stakes Rise in Browder-Gate – EU Threatens Cyprus with Article 7

By Tom Luango | September 15, 2018

It’s been quite a week for Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty. First Hungary and now Cyprus. And all because of some guy named Bill Browder?

Despite numerous warnings and obstacles, Cyprus continues to assist Russia in investigating the finances of Bill Browder. This has resulted in letters of warning to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades as well as lawsuits by Browder citing the investigation violates his human rights.

Like everything else in this world, just ask Browder.

Last fall Browder and 17 MEP’s launched a two-pronged assault on Cyprus to end their assisting Russia’s investigation into Browder. Browder with the lawsuit. The MEP’s with a letter of warning.

The lawsuit has failed, however. The Nicosia District Court handed down a ruling recently which allowed for Browder to sue for damages to his reputation but not putting an injunction on the investigation.

More than a month ago the Nicosia District Court said that the cooperation with Russia in its politically motivated probe would violate the human rights of Bill Browder and his associate Ivan Cherkasov and the two would have good prospects in claiming damages from the government. Still, the court rejected Browder’s application for an order preventing Cypriot authorities from cooperating with Russia in its proceedings against him on the grounds that any damage would not be irreparable.

And this is where this gets interesting.

Because now in light of this ruling the stakes have been raised. Four of those original 17 MEP’s, many of whom are on the infamous “Soros List” as being in the pay of Open Society Foundation, sent a more serious letter of warning to Anastasaides threatening Cyprus with censure via Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty for not upholding the European Union’s standards on human rights.

Now this is a dangerous escalation in service of an investigation into someone who, agree or not, Russia has a legitimate interest in pursuing. Dismissing all of Russia’s concerns about Browder as ‘politically motivated’ is pure grandstanding. It carries no weight of law and stinks of a far deeper and more serious corruption.

Because if Browder was as pure as the driven snow as he presents himself to the world then he would have no issue whatsoever in Cyprus opening up his books to Russia and put his question of guilt to rest once and for all.

The ruling from the court stated that Cypriot officials are not barred from helping Russia get to the bottom of Browder’s web of offshore accounts, all of which, according to Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya, run through Cyprus.

From RT last year:

“He [Browder] is afraid of the Russian probe that has conclusive evidence of his financial crimes and proof that his theory of Magnitsky’s death is an absolute fake. That’s why Browder is ready to stage any provocation,” Veselnitskaya said. She went on to say that the investor’s decision to intervene was particularly “influenced by the fact that the entire network of offshore companies that make up his organized criminal group is located on the territory of Cyprus.”

The incident that Veselnitskaya was referring to took place in late October 2017. At that time, 17 members of the European Parliament appealed to Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades in an open letter, in which they called on him to stop assisting Russia in its investigation against Browder.

Remember, Veselnitskaya was the woman who met with Donald Trump Jr. during the 2016 campaign. She was adamant she had information that was pertinent to them.  The Mueller probe and the media tried to spin that meeting as her giving Trump access to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

But what she was really trying to give them was the low-down on Browder, the Magnitsky Act and the whole rotten, sordid history of him, Edmund Safra of Republic National Bank and the raping of Russia by them and others in the 1990’s.

And to show Trump that the Magnitsky Act was built on a lie and the sanctions against Russia should be lifted because of this.

Some of this I covered in an earlier article.

The Real Browder Story

And this is the whole point.  Browder’s story is fiction.

Magnitsky was his accountant and not his lawyer, who knew all about his dealings and could convict Browder of a raft of crimes far greater than the ones Russia already has in absentia.

Putin had no interest in having Magnitsky executed or beaten to death in prison. If anyone had an incentive to keep Magnitsky alive it was Vladimir Putin. If anyone had incentive to have Magnitsky die in prison it was Browder. And so, the whole story that Browder has woven, the myth around himself is so insane that it bears repeating over and over.

Browder’s story is fiction.

Because when you stop and put all the pieces together you realize a number of things and none of them are good.

First, Browder was deeply enmeshed in the plot to frame Yeltsin for stealing $7 billion in IMF money which created the conditions for bringing Putin to power.

Second, he, Mihail Khordokovsky and others have systematically lobbied Congress and the European Parliament to peddle this false story of the brave freedom fighter Magnitsky against the evil Putin to get revenge, in Khordokovsky’s case, on Putin for deposing him from power in Russia and stealing back the wealth Khordokovsky stole during the Yelstin years, namely Yukos.

And for Browder it was the culmination of years of work to destroy Russia from within and stay one step ahead of the hangman’s noose. His 2015 book Red Notice is a work of near fiction as outlined by Alex Krainer in his book The Grand Deception: The Truth About Bill Browder, The Magnitsky Act and Anti-Russia Sanctions.

And the Magnitsky Act was the way everyone interested who can prove this could be silenced through sanctions.

But, it’s bigger than that.

This was policy.

The Magnitsky Act is a lynchpin of American and European foreign policy to destroy Russia and subjugate the world.

It was enacted alongside other legislation to take back control of the political narrative of the world; rein in free speech on the internet by tying any activity not approved of by The Davos Crowd to be subject to sanctions on the nebulous basis of ‘human rights violations.’

The Magnitsky Act has weaponized virtue-signaling and, in my mind it was intentionally done to open up another path to protect the most vile and venal people in the world to arrogate power to themselves without consequence.

Today we stand on the brink of an open hot war between the U.S. and Russia because of the lies which have been stacked on top of each other in service of this monstrous piece of legislation.

With each day it and its follow-up, last year’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), are used as immense hammers to bring untold misery to millions around the world.

People like Browder are nothing by petty thieves. It is obvious to me he started out as a willing pawn because he was young, hungry and vaguely psychopathic. The deeper he got in it the more erratic his behavior became.

Browder is being protected by powerful people in the U.S. and EU not because he’s so important but because exposing him exposes them.

This is why another country is being threatened with the stripping of what few rights sovereign nations have within the EU, Cyprus, over his books.

Poland stood up for Hungary the other day over ideological reasons. No one seems ready to stand up to the conspiracy surrounding Browder, Khordokovsky and the Magnitsky Act.

But, if someone in power finally does, it could change everything we think we know about geopolitics.

September 16, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Twitter blocks real Iranians’ accounts, overlooks US ‘regime change’ propaganda: Zarif

Press TV – September 16, 2018

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Twitter has blocked the accounts of “real Iranians” but overlooks the “regime change” propaganda spewing out of Washington.

Zarif made the remarks in a post on his official Twitter page on Sunday addressing Jack Patrick Dorsey, the co-founder and CEO of Twitter.

He said the accounts of real Iranians, including TV presenters and students, have been shuttered for allegedly being part of an “influence operation.”

“How about looking at actual bots in Tirana used to prop up ‘regime change’ propaganda spewed out of DC?” the top Iranian diplomat asked, alluding to the anti-Iran terrorist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), whose members are currently based in Albanian capital city.

Back in August, Google removed 39 YouTube channels linked to the Iranian state broadcaster. Google terminated those accounts, along with six blogs on its Blogger service and 13 Google+ accounts linked with Iran. The move came after Twitter and Facebook also blocked hundreds of accounts on suspicion of possible ties with Iran.

The MKO has a dark history of assassinations and bombings against the Iranian government and nation. It notoriously sided with former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, in his eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s.

The group has been behind most of the terrorist attacks, which have claimed the lives of nearly 17,000 Iranians since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979.

Initially designated as a terrorist organization by Europe and the US, the group has established close links with Western political parties.

In recent years, several media reports have emerged about top political figures in the US and Europe receiving money from the MKO to speak favorably of the terrorist group.

In September 2016, the last remaining members of the terrorist group were relocated from Camp Liberty (Hurriya), a former US military base near the Iraqi capital Baghdad, to Albania.

Iraq had long urged MKO remnants to leave the country, but a complete eviction of the terrorists had been hampered as a result of the US and European countries’ support for the group.

September 16, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 1 Comment

When Social Networks Care About National Security

By Harry Bentham | OffGuardian | September 16, 2018

Controversies surrounding online fake news, having alarmed political activists in Britain and the US, are prompting social media companies to be more active in combating the alleged threat. For many people in opposition to the policies of US President Donald Trump and Britain’s exit from the EU, the internet is to blame for the situation because it illicitly influenced voters. As a result, increased policing of social networks to root out foreign spies and domestic dissidents seems necessary to them. One of the latest examples is Twitter’s permanent suspension of American conspiracy theorist entertainer Alex Jones.

The responsibility to police the social networks seems to have largely been placed, by pushy and concerned politicians, on the management of tech companies themselves. British MPs and US senators did this by summoning them to hearings and campaigning openly against the internet’s permissiveness on political content, making demands they should shut down dissident and foreign outlets because they have gone too far.

Although the most vocal of them are not actually in the incumbent government and therefore not responsible for national security responses, they are still lawmakers representing constituents and can threaten legislation to compel social media companies to change. Preferring instead to make the policing of social media posts look voluntary, they seem to have capably persuaded the management of the tech companies to enforce their views on national security.

Therefore, now, we are at an awkward point where transnational social networks must care about so-called national security – specifically the US’s national security, based on that country’s strange and self-obsessed drivel about being exceptional and better than others. What next?

Recently, we have seen police-like enforcement action against dissident users and outlets present on a variety of social media platforms and applications used by a probable majority of people in the UK and the US. This removal of controversial figures from online platforms is presented as not being censorship, but rather the enforcement of decent community guidelines by companies that have every right to withhold services. However, this argument is not very convincing. The political pressure has been immense. The results have not been targeted at bad social media behavior like spam and harassment, but against alternate political views on both the left and the right. If we look at the actions of the tech companies, they are not only encouraged by elements of the state but have made themselves into state-like actors by describing themselves as stopping foreign threats and extremism.

Brexit was the mistake of a misled public, perhaps. We are told so by influential media personalities – almost all of them – and the same narrative is presented when it comes to the election of Trump. We are encouraged to lean towards the same common solution to both of these mishaps, and it consists of mostly a crackdown online – especially on Twitter. We will be shutting down online accounts and channels belonging to the supporters of such causes as Trump and Brexit, after quickly and conveniently finding them guilty of being bots or possibly foreign. No attention is given to bad behavior as a whole.

For example, no enforcement action is used against pro-EU accounts or anti-Trump accounts, many of which self-identify as foreign or completely automated. Some even blatantly violate Twitter’s rules on inflated hashtag campaigns, doing things like using the hashtag #FBPE to get followers and retweets from pro-EU bots. Their own determination to trick users and violate the community guidelines is openly celebrated by them, so oblivious are these kinds of activists to their own hypocrisy.

So, in fact, what seems at first a principled argument against bad behavior is really a cliché so we can pretend there was some civilized reason for thuggishly silencing other points of view.

Much of the commentary by the Democratic Party, as with opponents of Brexit in the UK, focuses on national security and the need to silence or eliminate bad people and Russians. It is presented as war, using the language of military propaganda. Being in opposition, these democracy-loving people in the Democratic Party and other groups now presume it is the job of civil society – news networks like CNN and tech companies like Apple mainly – to not only take charge of national security themselves but also engage directly in censorship.

But censorship, the shutting down of opposing views and channels on grounds that they are treasonous, is not an exertion of soft power but hard power. It is a state-like activity, and the sole responsibility of states in all previous cases. By taking part in censorship without being part of the elected leadership of the state and the command structure it possesses to deal with national security threats, unelected elements in civil society are allowed to commit what would be a crime if they had been elected to do it. They engage in a coup-like activity, since, not being part of an elected government, they are nonetheless engaged in state-like activity and are trying to invasively police matters that only a heavily expanded state or dictatorship is ever expected to police.

What is presented above makes it justifiable to consider whether traditional models of state censorship would be more consistent with the rule of law and the importance of a democratic mandate than the current capricious enforcement by private companies. A party whose candidate failed to win power over the whole state, such as the Democrats, is not able to implement a program of state censorship at the moment they most want to. The reason this is the case is because of their very loss in the 2016 US election, which makes them not responsible for matters of national security and not tasked with securing the information space against threats, and yet they try. For them to seek routes around this failure, going to non-elected entities such as the tech companies in an attempt to dictate terms of censorship and actual national security policies via them, can be compared with a coup or a form of separatism. This is the creation of a second state, the seizure of infrastructure to interdict citizens. It is completely outside the bounds of normal political processes, which focus solely on democratic and valid elections as the only means of changing power.

Each point made in relation to the US Democrats here is equally true of influencers and leaders who seek to invalidate the results of the UK’s Brexit referendum, in large part because these are the same kind of civil society actors. In their attempts to portray the activity of the national government itself as treasonous and wrest control of the management of national security from the British government, entities with no democratic mandate are hopelessly creating a second state – one without elections – to take control over national security.

It is not political opposition but a second state because, for the first time ever, it wants not just persuasive soft power but hard power in the capability to suppress targets or eliminate their influence on command. Not only would this realization make these parties and their tech industry collaborators a state-like entity, but it could make such actors as the Democratic Party traitors at war with the electorate.

While this article doesn’t make such a claim, it is one Trump and his supporters have come close to making when the President accused unrelenting elements of the press of being “enemies of the people”, and could eventually create a national security crisis. The reason it would be a crisis is because both Trump and his critics will have a point. It is the role of activists and media to be adversarial, but if they are too aggressive and specifically driven to remove an elected head of state from power, their actions may be seen as the de facto overthrow of the republic to install themselves as political arbiters and impose a moral aristocracy.

Many leaders and followers in the political opposition in the US and UK are supportive of censorship, slithering around constitutional safeguards against state censorship. Whether in public hearings or behind closed doors, they have been going directly to tech companies and other parts of civil society to physically disrupt or silence speech they dislike. If they are such supporters of national security and censorship, and are really so concerned about traitors, they should not conspire. Rather, these people should approach the elected government with their concerns, to avoid being deemed traitors themselves.

They can achieve censorship by working to convince the elected government to change the law in relation to such practices and introduce programs of lawful censorship, as well as bodies to reliably and authoritatively identify traitors. This means national security can be pursued in a way at least consistent with electoral democracy, even if it erodes human rights further. Otherwise, we will continue to see electorally defeated parties and elements of civil society acting like terrorist hijackers determined to take power. They will be gaining state-like powers, harassing citizens who did not vote for them, carrying out targeted censorship, and enforcing their values over the corpse of the democratic state.

It should be concluded that none of the above is a desirable conversation to take part in and it is regrettable that it would need to be published. Ideally, neither state censorship nor corporate censorship should be tolerated. The internet should continue to be home to an anarchic culture at all costs, not a state-like one. However, as rhetoric becomes more warlike and paranoid and positions become irreconcilable, all spaces could become politically aligned and everyone’s freedom to communicate could catastrophically reduce. With constant political censorship, critical thinking will rewind a hundred years and the internet will talk like propaganda from 1914 when you try to search for the truth.


Harry Bentham is an independent author. His writing has been featured at Beliefnet, Press TV, the Center for a Stateless Society, h+ Magazine and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Having authored several titles available on Amazon, Harry wrote and independently published the technology and politics book Catalyst: A Techno-Liberation Thesis in 2013 and is a listed member of think tanks including the futurist Lifeboat Foundation. Keep track of Harry’s ideas via Twitter @hjbentham and @catalystthesis

September 16, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Azov Sea Flashpoint: Russia, Ukraine Teetering on the Brink of War

By Peter KORZUN | Strategic Culture Foundation | 16.09.2018

Ukraine has increased its military presence in the Azov Sea region. Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council met on Sept. 7 and agreed to take a variety of steps to boost the country’s combat capabilities in the area, including the creation of a missile-equipped naval infantry group to counter potential amphibious attacks and naval shore bombardments. Ukraine’s Gurza-M-class armored artillery boats have been brought in to boost the naval component of the forces deployed in the region.

Russia and Ukraine enjoy free use of the Sea of Azov under the 2003 “Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Ukraine on cooperation in the use of the sea of Azov and the strait of Kerch.” The document is in place but it does not specify any precise border. The parties agree that the Sea of Azov and the Strait of Kerch are the internal waters of both Ukraine and Russia.

Talks have dragged on for a long time but have failed to produce a solution. Ukraine does not want to recognize Russia’s rights, which are based on the fact that Crimea has joined the Russian Federation. Moreover, Ukrainian authorities insist on their right to detain any ship traveling to or from Crimea without Kiev’s permission.

Ukraine is calling for the imposition of international sanctions against Russian Black Sea ports, due to what it calls the “blockade” of the Sea of Azov. It has already imposed punitive measures unilaterally. Tensions have heightened since March, when ships were detained and searched.  On March 24, Ukrainian border guards stopped the Russian-flagged, Crimean-registered Nord fishing vessel in the Sea of Azov. The ship was hijacked. The crew members reported being interrogated and abused by Ukrainian authorities who held them accountable under domestic laws, not recognizing the crew as Russian citizens. The detained sailors were finally set free to return to Crimea without passports. Ukraine violated a number of international agreements and this marked the beginning of a campaign of provocative actions that has been waged ever since. Last month, the Russian Mekhanik Pogodin tanker was detained in the Ukrainian port of Kherson. Russia compared the move to the activities of Somali pirates.

The US is taking sides in order to ratchet up the tensions.  The State Department has taken a deliberately provocative stance, urging Ukraine toward confrontation. Without bothering to study the details, it simply puts the blame on Russia as usual for anything that goes wrong. Washington is goading Ukraine into seeking a military solution, including such unrealistic but dangerous ideas as using the warships of NATO’s standing force to protect its shipping lanes, mining the Azov Sea, or  using fast-moving attack vessels to encircle a large Russian naval asset from all directions like a wolf pack. This tactic was invented by German Admiral Karl Dönitz during WWII, when “wolf packs” of U-boats were used to attack capital ships.  The very fact that such ideas have been generated and are floating around shows how unwise it is to abet Ukraine by throwing unconditional support behind it.

Stephen Blank of the American Foreign Policy Council, a leading US expert on Russia, believes that the US administration “should send anti-ship missiles available from or through the US-AGM-84 Harpoon Block II, AGM-158C LRASM A, and the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile” as well as “a viable launch platform and a targeting system, particularly a radar.” The author thinks this should be done right now, without delay. His article was published on Sept. 7 by the Atlantic Council, the prestigious think tank that advises the State Department and enjoys great influence among those who shape US foreign policy.  In another article, Mr. Blanc calls for supplying Ukraine with platforms — older ships that have been decommissioned or are about to retire.  Last month, Mykola Bielieskov, the Deputy Executive Director at the Institute of World Policy, called for fast-track shipments to Ukraine of the Harpoon Block II ER+ anti-ship missile, enabling it to attack Russian vessels. The idea of providing Ukraine with Island-class coast guard ships is under consideration by the US government. On Sept. 1, Kurt Volker, US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, stated that the US administration “is ready to expand arms supplies to Ukraine in order to build up the country’s naval and air defense forces.”

The powers that be have failed to keep their promises and improve the lives of ordinary people in Ukraine. The presidential election will be held in March 2019. A threatening Russian bogeyman is needed to explain away the failures. The country’s economy and finances are in the doldrums and corruption is staggering.   None of the problems have been solved and the West is getting tired of Ukraine. The fairy tale about Moscow’s “aggressive foreign policy” comes in handy right when the Ukrainian rulers need a scapegoat.

Nobody needs an armed conflict in the Azov Sea region. A number of countries are interested in protecting the right of free passage, enabling vessels to arrive at their destination ports  without risk or delay. The region does not have to be a flashpoint. Russia and Ukraine could sit down at a round table to discuss controversial issues, as the 2003 agreement stipulates the parties should do in order to settle their disputes, should they have any, but that’s not what the State Department is calling for. The only option the US administration is considering is that of providing Ukraine with arms to fight Russia and then egging Kiev on to escalate the tensions. And those are already dangerously running high. A spark can ignite a big fire at any time if the problem is not addressed in a positive way without saber rattling. It’s a pity the US is playing such a destructive role. The time is right for Russian and Ukrainian experts and officials to set their differences aside and start talking to find a peaceful solution to this urgent problem.

September 16, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment