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Mueller claims evidence shared with Russian firm’s defense leaked to ‘discredit investigation’

RT | January 31, 2019

In an apparent bid to shield his case against alleged Russian trolls from legal challenge, special counsel Robert Mueller claimed some evidence previously provided was hacked and published to discredit his probe.

On Wednesday, Mueller filed a motion to oppose discovery in case against Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which he indicted last February on charges of running the Internet Research Agency, also known as the “St. Petersburg troll factory.”

“Sensitive” evidence in the case cannot be turned over to Concord’s lawyers, because that would make it accessible to their clients in Russia – and back in October, Mueller claimed, someone claimed to have hacked Concord’s computers and posted evidence previously handed over online “as part of a disinformation campaign aimed (apparently) at discrediting ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the US political system.”

It was that claim that got the attention of the media and the ‘Russiagate’ crowd.

What Mueller actually alleges is less headline-worthy and far more tenuous. Namely, on October 22 last year, a Twitter account @HackingRedstone claimed to have gained “access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC v. Mueller,” offering “all the files Mueller had about the IRA and Russian collusion.”

According to a footnote in the filing, Mueller’s team was informed of this by an unnamed reporter. However, the Twitter account referenced comes up as suspended, and aside from that notice there are no entries for it in the Internet Archive, making Mueller’s claim impossible to independently verify.

The webpage allegedly linked in the tweet is said to have contained “file folders with names and folder structures that are unique to the names and structures of materials… produced by the government in discovery.”

Of the 300,000 files on the site, “over 1,000” matched the hashtag values of documents provided by Mueller to Concord, the filing said. Mueller argued these must have been obtained from Concord, because the FBI “found no evidence” that US government servers fell victim to any hack involving the files. Somewhat confusingly, the filing argued that many other file names used a reference to the Relativity database, which the US government “has not used” to store materials related to this case.

Concord’s lawyers have informed the court that the company’s computers have not been hacked, but Mueller’s filing accused them of lying, saying that the webpage contained “actual discovery materials from this case.”

Because the webpage – which the FBI says was registered to an IP address in Russia – also contained “numerous irrelevant files,” whoever created the page wanted to make it appear as if the dump was the sum total of Mueller’s evidence on “Russian collusion,” and therefore amounted to “an apparent effort to discredit the investigation,” according to the filing.

To wit, Mueller is making an assertion based on a tweet and a webpage – that currently do not exist – to argue that it should not disclose further “sensitive” evidence to defendants in a Russiagate case.

The original indictment of Concord was seen as a major coup for Mueller – the first charges against actual Russians in his open-ended probe of the 2016 US election at that point – but it quickly turned into a headache, when the company’s US lawyers chose to contest the charges and file motions for discovery.

While the indictment against the Internet Research Agency is one of the few results of Mueller’s probe that actually involve Russia, the court prospects of the case were in doubt from the start. All the individuals accused under it are Russian citizens, and Russian Constitution does not allow extradition of its nationals, which means getting the suspects to actually stand trial would be difficult.

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

CNN Goes ‘Undercover’ To Manufacture Consent For Coup Attempt In Venezuela

By Kevin Gosztola | ShadowProof | January 29, 2019

A CNN “exclusive” report from inside Venezuela aired multiple times on the network on January 28. It is a prime example of how influential media outlets in the U.S. effectively create propaganda for the opposition, which now is receiving funds from President Donald Trump’s administration.

For the four-minute report, CNN correspondent Nick Paton Walsh went “undercover” amidst what the network described as the “deepening crisis in Venezuela” in order “to capture the desperation gripping the nation.”

The segment highlighted hyperinflation at grocery chains, Venezuelans lined up in queues for fuel and food, particularly in Caracas, and opposition demonstrations on January 23, when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself president of the country.

“This was the day when change was meant to come,” Walsh stated.

It suggested President Nicolas Maduro’s government has given “handouts” to Venezuelans for years to buy their loyalty, but now “handouts” are no longer enough. Opponents like to equate social programs to “handouts” because corporate elites favor de-nationalization and privatization of services.

Walsh interviewed a rank-and-file officer in the Venezuela military and granted him anonymity. The officer stated, “I would say 80 percent of soldiers are against the government. Some even go to demonstrations. But the big fishes, the senior officers, are the ones eating, getting rich while the bottom we have it hard.”

Video showed the opposition throwing stones at a military airfield in a standoff that apparently has lasted “for months.” One part of the barricade was on fire.

Sitting with his back against what appeared to be a concrete barricade, like he was part of the opposition hurling objects, Walsh declared, “They may be throwing stones here, but what they really need is the army to switch sides.”

Walsh offered no comment on what it would mean for democracy in Venezuela if the military played an instrumental role in helping Guaido and a U.S.-led group of countries oust Maduro.

Another part of the report featured street children in Caracas. A 14 year-old boy recounted how his brother was killed in July by a member of a gang. He said he has to go through the garbage for food and beg so he does not go hungry.

Walsh did not show a cause-and-effect relationship, yet the boy’s poverty was wryly attributed to a “socialist utopia that now leaves nearly every stomach empty.”

On the surface, the report may have seemed balanced and neutral because CNN spoke to citizens caught in the middle of the political crisis. Yet, there was no clips of the tens of thousands of Maduro supporters who marched through Caracas the same day that Guaido claimed he was the country’s interim president.

CNN also omitted the role of U.S. sanctions and other measures in making Venezuela’s economic recovery nearly impossible.

According to Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), sanctions did not create hyperinflation in the country. However, they have made it incredibly difficult for the government to restructure their debt for a recovery.

In 2017, weeks before the Trump administration imposed new sanctions, a former top State Department official predicted they would cause the government to “default on their bonds and a collapse of internal investment and oil production.” They would spur “civil unrest, refugee flows across their borders, and a cutoff of Venezuelan financial support to Cuba and Haiti that could lead to migration flows to the United States.” (Note: It was estimated in June 2018 that about 35,000 refugees were crossing from Venezuela to Colombia each day.)

The same day that CNN aired their report the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the country’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA). The company is a “primary source of Venezuela’s income and foreign currency,” including U.S. dollars and Euros, according to the Department.

National security adviser John Bolton said the sanctions would block $7 billion in assets and result in the loss of $11 billion in proceeds from exports over the next year.

Even after the Trump administration announced oil sanctions, CNN still largely ignored the potential effect of sanctions when it aired this “undercover” report another time.

Oil sanctions are likely to intensify the suffering for Venezuelans, not make their lives better. In the 1990s, Iraq faced sanctions from the United Nations on their oil exports as well as restrictions on other foreign trade. To many, it was “one of the decade’s great crimes” because the sanctions contributed to the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children.

In Iran, the poor bear the brunt of sanctions on oil that were re-imposed by the Trump administration. Financial Times reported in October on millions of Iranians, who were already stretched as “the value of the rial” had “plunged more than 70 per cent against the US dollar over the past year.”

“The sharp drop has pushed up import costs and stoked inflation, eroding purchasing power and leaving the most impoverished struggling to pay for basic goods such as meat, dairy products, and fruit,” FT noted.

As journalist Gregory Shupak previously highlighted for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), “When Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in November 2017 proposed a meeting with creditors to discuss a restructuring of the country’s public debt, the Trump administration warned U.S. bondholders that attending this meeting could put them in violation of U.S. economic sanctions against Venezuela, which can be punished with 30 years in jail and as much as $10 million dollars in fines for businesses.”

“That same month, the U.S. government added further sanctions that prevent Venezuela from doing what governments routinely do with much of their debt, which is ‘roll it over’ by borrowing again when a bond matures. The sanctions also made it difficult if not impossible for Venezuela to undertake debt restructuring, a process wherein interest and principal payments are postponed and creditors receive new bonds, which the sanctions explicitly prohibit.”

Additionally, Francisco Rodriguez noted for Foreign Policy in 2018, “Ninety-five percent of Venezuela’s export revenue comes from oil sold by the state-owned oil company. Cutting off the government’s access to dollars will leave the economy without the hard currency needed to pay for imports of food and medicine. Starving the Venezuelan economy of its foreign currency earnings risks turning the country’s current humanitarian crisis into a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe.”

This is not the first time that the opposition in Venezuela has destroyed the economy to help it win power. Back in 2002, the same year that President Hugo Chavez faced a coup backed by the U.S. government, his opponents “called for a massive strike in the country’s oil sector.”

“The strike brought oil production to a standstill and caused a double-digit recession in an attempt to get Chavez to resign,” Rodriguez recalled. “This event single-handedly convinced Venezuelans that they could not trust a political movement that was willing to destroy the economy in order to attain power. In a recall referendum held two years later, voters resoundingly backed Chavez.”

None of this history seems to matter to CNN anchors, who subscribe to the Washington bipartisan foreign policy consensus on Venezuela. Nor do they mention that it is not only Maduro’s security forces that commit violence. The opposition was involved in lynchings, burning people alive, and erecting barricades that cause deadly accidents in 2017. Some opposition leaders, including exiles like Lorent Saleh, have ties to neo-fascists.

When CNN anchor Jim Sciutto introduced the report, he mentioned Guaido had again urged the people of Venezuela to “hit the streets to demand new elections” in an effort to oust Maduro. It is easy to see how playing the report after this statement might help gin up sympathy for Guaido’s calls to action.

But apparently there is reason to believe the opposition may have the support of leaders from several Latin American and Western countries but still be struggling to win over the people.

Walsh noted the country is not seeing daily mass street protests. Guaido’s message may be resonating with some of the middle class, but it is not a message that inspires those in the slums, who have their own “poverty-based fight.”

In other words, it is likely that lower classes in Venezuela remain skeptical of the opposition because they fear it will mean inviting outside corporate interests to raid government assets and natural resources so they may enrich themselves. This would potentially lead to cuts or an end to social welfare programs that they utilize to help them survive.

This skepticism toward the opposition among Venezuelans is not something CNN wants to feature in its limited coverage of the attempted coup. But it should be viewed as a key reason to doubt the consensus around support for the opposition, which news networks are working to manufacture.

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Senate Approves Bill Opposing ‘Precipitous’ US Pullout From Afghanistan, Syria

Sputnik – 01.02.2019

WASHINGTON – The Senate has voted to advance legislation opposing any “precipitous withdrawal” of US forces from Syria and Afghanistan, following President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would be pulling all US troops out of the country.

The Senate voted 68-23 to limit debate on an amendment introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that calls on the United States to remain in Syria and Afghanistan until all terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Daesh are defeated there.

McConnell’s move was backed by almost all Republicans in the Senate, with only three of them — John Kennedy, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz — voting against the motion to advance the amendment.

Trump is reportedly considering plans to withdraw around 7,000 of the 14,000 US troops deployed to Afghanistan after ordering the Defense Department to pull out all 2,000 US soldiers stationed in Syria.

However, Senator Bernie Sanders criticized Trump’s move and supported congressional intervention to help create a more gradual troop withdrawal plan in a statement on Thursday.

“Congress must play a role, consistent with its Constitutional authority over war, in developing a troop withdrawal plan that is coordinated with our allies, that continues to provide humanitarian aid and that supports political settlements in these countries”, Sanders said.

The amendment will be introduced to a wide-ranging Senate bill on the Middle East, the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act”. The sweeping legislation must still go up for a vote in the Senate, along with the US House.

If passed, the legislation would impose new sanctions against Syria, boost defense spending in the region and punish activists who call for economic boycotts of Israel to protest its policies in Palestine, among other measures.

The move marks a rare break between Senate majority Republicans and President Donald Trump who has said he plans to pull US troops out of both countries. The 68 votes in favor of the motion mean it could be re-passed with two-thirds of the 100 senators overriding any presidential veto by Trump.

On December 19, President Trump announced that the US would be withdrawing its troops from Syria over a period of several months. According to Trump, the US coalition’s mission, the defeat of Daesh (ISIS), had been secured.

The US and NATO initially launched military operations in Afghanistan in 2001 after the 9/11 terror attack. While most of the US troops had left the country by the end of 2014, NATO launched a new mission in 2015, called Resolute Support, to provide training and assistance to Afghan security forces.

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

WHO: Injured Journalist Prevented from Receiving Healthcare

IMEMC News & Agencies – January 31, 2019

The World Health Organisation issued its monthly report entitled “Health Access Barriers for Patients in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”, in which the organisation highlighted the case of ALRAY Media Agency’s photographer, Attia Darwish, who was seriously injured a month ago.

WHO said, in its report, which comes in three parts, that a tear gas canister hit Darwish, a 31-year-old photojournalist, in his face, under his left eye, when he was covering demonstrations near the Gaza fence.

“I was taking photos when my phone rang, and I tried to take the call. Suddenly, I felt a blow to my face and fell down,” Attia said, according to Al Ray.

The ambulance picked him up within minutes and took him to a trauma stabilization point close to the fence. After initial assessment and first aid, Attia was rushed to Shifa hospital, in Gaza, for treatment. He had multiple facial fractures and severe bleeding at the back of his eye, putting his sight at risk, the report said.

WHO said that Darwish had surgery to remove shrapnel from the wound, fix his lower jaw and replace fragmented bones in his face with metal plates. He also received initial treatment for his eye injury, but needed review and specialist care outside of Gaza.

“As a photographer, I depend on my eyes to do my job. Now, I can hardly see with my left eye. Getting proper treatment is something critical for me,” Attia said. He subsequently received a medical referral, from the Palestinian Ministry of Health, to go for an appointment to St John’s Eye Hospital, in Jerusalem.

He applied to Israeli authorities for a permit to exit Gaza, for treatment, but, when the date of his hospital appointment came, his permit application was still under review. Attia despaired of getting a permit to exit Gaza, via Erez crossing with Israel, and asked the Services Purchasing Unit in the Ministry of Health to refer him, instead, for treatment in Egypt, WHO recounted.

On the day of his travel, however, Rafah crossing point to Egypt was closed for exit. “I cannot feel the left side of my face. I can only eat soft food and I’m suffering with the pain. The cold weather makes it even worse. When I was in hospital, one of the doctors said I either need a bone graft or an artificial implant. But, neither of those is available in Gaza,” he said, according to the report.

WHO said that when they spoke with Attia, he still had not received his permit to leave Gaza to Jerusalem, stressing that “his case is not an exception.”

The orgnisation pointed out that of 435 permit applications to Israeli authorities by those injured during the Great March of Return demonstrations, only 19% have been approved, where those unable to access the health care they need face a higher risk of complications and poorer health outcomes.

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment

Hamas won’t be part of any new puppet Palestinian government: Official

Deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, Mousa Abu Marzouk
Press TV – January 31, 2019

The deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, Mousa Abu Marzouk, says the resistance movement will not take part in any puppet Palestinian government in Ramallah, noting such a government will be “devoid of any national legacy and would strive to promote division” just like its predecessors.

Marzouk, in a post published on his official Twitter page on Wednesday, said officials from the Ramallah-based Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) would not invite Hamas to participate in such a Palestinian government in the first place, emphasizing that the movement would turn down such an offer even if it were made.

He asserted that a new government in Ramallah would work on realizing US President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century.”

The so-called deal, a back channel plan to allegedly reach a peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, was proposed by the US administration in September 2018. Although the plan has not been released, leaks signal it will consist of the same tried and failed ideas.

While little is known about the controversial deal, leaks have suggested that it regards East Jerusalem al-Quds as Israeli territory, whereas Palestinians view the eastern sector of the occupied city as the capital of their future state.

Palestinians also believe that the US-drafted plan calls for keeping borders and security under Israeli control, while it keeps Israeli settlements’ final borders to be discussed in later negotiations.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah officially submitted his resignation and that of his unity government to President Mahmoud Abbas on January 29, casting doubt on the prospects of reconciliation efforts with Hamas.

Abbas had been facing pressure from his ruling Fatah movement over the past few weeks to remove Hamdallah from power, and establish a new government comprised of representatives from PLO factions in addition to independent figures.

Hamdallah headed the Palestinian National Consensus Government, which was formed after Fatah and Hamas reached an agreement in 2014.

Fatah leaders said there was no point in keeping the government in power in the wake of the continued crisis between their faction and Hamas.

They also argue that since their faction is the largest group in the PLO, it should have a strong presence in any government.

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Syria Briefing from Peter Ford: US Withdrawal, Safe Zones, Sanctions, Idlib, ISIS & Israel

The following situational briefing update of January 24, 2019 has been provided by Peter Ford, Former British Ambassador to Syria:

US Withdrawal

Contrary to the expectations of many experts, President Trump has remained insistent on the withdrawal of approximately 2,000 US troops from North East Syria, although he has had to concede more time. The ‘conditioned’ withdrawal touted by his uber-hawkish National Security Adviser, John Bolton, appears to have shrunk just to ensuring that the Kurds in the YPG militia the US will be leaving behind are not slaughtered by the Turks. One of the other conditions, eradicating the final remnants of ISIS, appears to have been all but met by a final Coalition push, with ISIS down now to its last village, obviating the handing of the job to Turkey which was ludicrously proposed initially, while the other condition, ensuring that Iran does not benefit, appears to have been quietly forgotten.

‘Safe zone’

Quite how the Kurdish issue will be settled remains up in the air. Not for much longer, however, if we parse correctly the statements made by Putin and Erdogan after their meeting in Moscow on 23 January.

As is often the case when the great men speak, what they do not say is as important as what they do say. Erdogan did not say, as he had done previously, that Turkey was going to police the proposed ‘safe zone’, 20 miles deep, cleared of the YPG. Rather he said that Turkey and Russia were in agreement on the establishment of such a zone. And the next day his Foreign Minister said that Turkey was open to arrangements being made involving ‘the US, Russia or others’. Putin on his side made clear that these significant ‘others’ were the Syrian government, whom he encouraged to speak to the Kurds. The day before the Putin-Erdogan meeting a Kurdish delegation was in Moscow, following earlier discussions in Damascus.

The eventual outcome, a return of Syrian security forces to the North East, is, in the view of this analyst, nailed on. The only question is when and under which conditions. The Kurds, reckoning on the Turks’ lack of appetite for a contested incursion and US dithering, are attempting to squeeze the last concession out of Damascus in terms of incorporation of the YPG into the Syrian security forces and some measures of local self-government, as well as use of the Kurdish language. Damascus, however, appears to hold the whip hand, conscious that as time goes on Trump will look as powerless over withdrawal as he does over the Mexican Wall if he does not act ‘and will if necessary call the Kurds’ bluff.


It does indeed seem curtains for ISIS in Syria, at least as a territory-controlling caliphate. ISIS drew attention to themselves however with a suicide bomb attack in Manbij which left four Americans dead, prompting predictable cries from the foreign policy establishment in the US and Europe that it was folly to be leaving a ‘vacuum’ in Syria while there was still life in the twitching ISIS body. That experts deemed reputed could peddle this superficial analysis and be believed in the media is testimony to the blinkered thinking which dominates in the West. There will be no vacuum – the Syrian government has a good track record in the areas it has liberated of crushing ISIS, better in fact than the Americans for whom, as for their Kurdish allies, there are no-go areas of Arab villages in the areas they nominally control. These experts would do well to reflect on why ISIS are choosing this decisive moment to attack US forces, something they have curiously jailed to do for several months.

The hidden factor here is the incipient next phase in ISIS’s existence. It has gone underground, especially in Deir EzZor province which straddles the Euphrates. This is the equivalent of Iraq’s restless Anbar province which it borders. ISIS will not relish the prospect of Syrian Mukhabarat (security police) descending on Arab villages which have hitherto been no go areas to wake up ‘sleepers’. Expect more attacks on US forces.


Putin and Erdogan also discussed Idlib, although the way forward here is less clear. Even the Turks cannot deny that in what is, to all intents and purposes, a Turkish and Western protectorate, the extreme jihadist Al Qaida-linked Tahrir Ash Sham (HTS) has run amok and now controls virtually the entirety of the area. This is the opposite of what was supposed to happen under the terms of the Russo-Turkish Sochi agreement which brought the September crisis to an end. Under Sochi the Turks were supposed to bring HTS to heel. Putin seemed to hint that military preparations would now move ahead for the Syrian government with Russian support to advance on Idlib, with Turkish acquiescence. The seamlines are already hot.

Political negotiations

One thing is clear. The Idlib issue is not going to be resolved by any political negotiations between the warring parties. The Western powers who cling to the comforting fiction that there can only be a political end to the Syrian conflict have no answers where Idlib is concerned.

The new UN envoy for Syria, Gerd Pederson, appears to be feeling his way, slowly, as well he might. Currently the Geneva process is in baulk over US, French and British blocking of a slate of candidates for inclusion in the Constitutional Committee which is supposed to come up eventually with a new constitution which will pave the way for UN-supervised elections with the participation, as the Western powers and Turkey would have it, of millions of Assad-hating refugees.

This mirage might appear harmless. However it is constantly cited by the Western powers to justify their conduct of war on Syria by other means than the military methods which are now all but exhausted.


How have the EU and the US responded to the prospect of normalisation in Syria? With more sanctions of course.

The EU has slapped sanctions on Syrian businessmen participating in a flagship property development scheme in Damascus deemed tantamount to assisting the ‘regime’. This scheme is emblematic of the many private investment projects now popping up, many of them involving Arab investors. Obviously the EU could not tolerate such progress, it not being enough to hamstring economic recovery with the existing deeply harmful battery of sanctions. The stated reason is that the Syrian government is not facilitating political progress towards the above mentioned mirage of elections rigged to produce a government of Western stooges. If the masterminds of EU diplomacy sincerely believe that such sanctions will make Assad bow the knee after eight years of vicious conflict have failed to do so, then we must fear for their sanity.

The US House of Representatives, with White House support, has chimed in with a Syria sanctions bill aimed at punishing any person or business which participates in any government linked project. This could have extra-territorial effect, dampening the interest of outside investors in Syria recovery projects. Again this highlights the hypocrisy of Western legislators who profess humanitarian concern but who are careless of inflicting economic suffering on a population already on its uppers after eight years of conflict, fuelled by Western support for armed groups, as long as they can strike a virtue-signalling blow against the ‘regime’. This is what a diplomacy of vindictiveness looks like.

The practitioners of this diplomacy have had some success with US and UK diplomats scouring Arab countries to pressure them into delaying normalisation of relations with Syria until the mirage has been reached. It appears that a consensus on Syria’s readmission to the Arab League as early as March is not likely to be found. Damascus will shrug this off. It is only delaying the inevitable. Arab countries who feel threatened by both Iran and fundamentalism can see that they are going to have to learn to live with Syria and that using contacts with Damascus to dilute Iran’s influence and share intelligence are very much in their interest.


Perennial party pooper Israel has attempted to spoil Assad’s successes by relaunching after a pause airborne attacks, ostensibly against Iranian targets. This is odd in that even US intelligence, cited by Trump, apparently more attentive to intelligence briefings than his detractors would have you believe, has reported that Iran has been withdrawing forces. The most recent blatant day time raid elicited a rare reprisal from Damascus, a missile which was shot down over the Syrian occupied Golan (not even Israel itself). Cue massive display of shock by the media, which had signally ignored the literally thousands of Israeli bombs dropped on Syria over the last two years. Naturally Syria and Russia’s attempt to secure some expression of concern from the Security Council failed, unprovoked aggression by Israel apparently not being inconsistent with the ‘rules based system’ constantly enjoined by the West on others.

Israel should however beware of hubris. Syria’s new Russian supplied SAM 300 air defence system is scheduled to become operational in March.

Author Peter Ford is the former British Ambassador to Syria (2003-2006) and Bahrain (1999-2002).

This briefing was originally published at the Global Network for Syria\

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Turkey Slams US-Led Coalition Members for Supporting Militants in Syria’s Idlib

Sputnik – 31.01.2019

ANKARA – Certain members of the US-led coalition fighting against Daesh support militants from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group in the Syrian province of Idlib as they are aspiring to wreck the Russian-Turkish agreement on de-escalation zone, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday.

“Certain partners from the coalition support HTS… First, for the termination of the Idlib memorandum. Second, there are countries that are making great efforts to prevent the establishment of a constitutional committee just because we are doing it”, Cavusoglu told the Hurriyet newspaper.

He specified that some Western countries from the coalition were provoking HTS militants to violate the provisions of the Idlib memorandum by paying them money for it.

“Russians have a joint operation offer. They say we should remove them [HTS militants] from there”, Cavusoglu added, noting that the countries of origin of foreign fighters from HTS were unwilling to take them back. “There are many people leaving the HTS after we came to the field”.

Earlier in the day, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said that HTS militants were actively building up their forces along the contact line between the armed opposition and the government in Idlib’s de-escalation zone.

Last September, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, agreed to set up a demilitarized zone in Idlib along the contact line between armed opposition groups and Syrian government forces, while the Russian and Turkish defence ministers signed a memorandum on stabilising the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone. However, the agreements have not been fully implemented yet, and over 10 different militant groups are currently operating in Idlib.

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

A Rational Take On Why Daesh Is Targeting US Troops In Syria At This Specific Time

By Andrew KORYBKO – Oriental Review – 28/01/2019

Two Daesh suicide attacks recently took place in Syria over a period of just five days, suggesting that they’re part of a coordinated strategy being employed by the terrorists against the withdrawing American troops. The “qui bono” principle has led to many observers suspecting that the whole point is to either delay Trump’s promised draw-down or inflict political damage on him at home by shaping the narrative that he’s “retreating” in the face of what he’s previously described as “radical Islamic terrorism”. This puts the President on the horns of a classic dilemma because there’s no perfect approach to dealing with this problem, though a so-called “compromise solution” could be to gradually replace American troops with a combination of regional proxies and mercenaries per the “Lead From Behind” strategy of outsourcing geopolitical responsibilities to like-minded partners.

While one can speculate on whether the Kurds encouraged these attacks as a false flag excuse for their American patrons to continue protecting them from the Turks or whether Trump’s “deep state” foes had a hand in this in order to undermine his planned withdrawal, most responsible analyses would probably nevertheless conclude that Daesh likely has some so-called “sleeper cells” all throughout Syria and is waiting to operationalize them at opportune moments such as now in order to achieve political objectives like the two that were just described. Seeing as how it’s almost impossible to discover these plots until they’re already in motion, it’ll be difficult to prevent reoccurrences of what just happened and the priority should therefore be shifted to tactical responses that could be employed in the field.

The two latest “sleeper cell” attacks targeted joint US-Kurdish patrols in Northeastern Syria, and while these “hard” military targets might remain in the crosshairs, it can’t be ruled out that “soft” civilian ones won’t soon be victimized too. In the interests of the local population’s security, proactive measures might have to be undertaken during certain times to limit freedom of movement and access to certain sites, though a fine line must be drawn between implementing responsible policies and imposing a “national security state”. These new security concerns have yet to interfere with the US’ planned withdrawal because they don’t require American troops to enter into force, though it should be expected that any follow-up attacks of this nature will be exploited by Trump’s foes in a last-ditch infowar effort to keep “boots on the ground” in Syria.

The post presented is the partial transcript of the CONTEXT COUNTDOWN radio program on Sputnik News, aired on Friday Jan 25, 2019.

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

Maduro stays put, mediation can help

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | January 31, 2019

Russia is doing the right thing by switching tack from strident ‘anti-American’ rhetoric to focus on tamping down the tensions over Venezuela. China had counseled such an approach right from the outset when the crisis erupted last week.

On day one of a looming US-Venezuelan standoff on January 24, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson called upon “all relevant parties to stay rational and cool-headed and seek a political solution to the issue of Venezuela through peaceful dialogue within the framework of the Venezuelan Constitution.”

This was alongside Beijing’s vehement support for the efforts of the Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro “to uphold national sovereignty, independence and stability” as well as China’s unequivocal opposition to “foreign interference in Venezuela’s affairs.”

It stands to reason that Moscow too began toning down its rhetoric and harmonizing with the Chinese stance. The heart of the matter is that the Venezuelan crisis holds the danger of putting a dagger into the heart of the international system in an already unstable world order full of potential for chaos, which of course is not in the interest of any of the three big powers that are ‘stakeholders’ – the US, Russia and China.

Thus, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks to the media on Wednesday in Moscow offering mediation between the government and the opposition in Venezuela can be put in perspective. Lavrov acknowledged China and Russia’s role as Venezuela’s “leading partners” in the economic sphere. He then recalled the various ideas floated by different quarters – the European Union, the Caribbean Community, Uruguay and Mexico – to provide a platform for mediation. And Lavrov added, “The Non-Aligned Movement should probably have its say, all the more so that Venezuela chairs it now.” Lavrov regretted that so far all such initiatives to start a dialogue have been “bluntly rejected” by the opposition due to instigation by its “Western sponsors.”

Lavrov said Moscow is striving to “create conditions for the start of dialogue” and is discussing it with the Venezuelan government, China, Latin American countries and the EU. He underscored Russia’s readiness “to take part in the relevant international efforts in the formats that will suit the Venezuelan parties” – that is to say, “all mediation initiatives should be unbiased and their future format should be balanced”; mediation “should represent a broad range of international players that can influence the Government and the opposition”; and, “it is necessary to understand from the very start what goal is pursued by a potential mediation format.”

Significantly, Lavrov singled out Moscow’s ongoing contacts with Brussels in regard of the EU’s proposal to establish a contact group for mediation, notwithstanding the ultimatum given to Caracas “by some EU countries, including influential ones” (read UK, France, Spain and Germany). He said the picture will be clear soon as to “who is talking about what” (in Brussels), but the bottom line is that “such opportunities exist and I believe the said initiative can be rather useful if unbiased.”

Lavrov welcomed Maduro’s readiness to accept international mediation and he urged the opposition “to display a similar constructive approach, give up ultimatums and act independently, relying primarily on the interests of the Venezuelan people.”

Indeed, it is far from clear whether in the prevailing new Cold War conditions, such a denouement through mediation by an international contact group including Russia will suit Washington, which has just declared an economic war against Venezuela. From all appearances, the Trump administration is carrying out the agenda of Wall Street for a regime change in Venezuela and the project is fairly well advanced already. The intention is to cripple Venezuela’s state-owned oil company with sanctions and make Maduro submit to the US diktat. In the US estimation, Venezuela’s oil industry cannot recover without significant reinvestment, which can only come from the US or China.

On the other hand, one silver lining on the horizon is that there are no signs as yet of the Pentagon being on a war footing. In a situation such as this, typically, the US state department ought to have requested evacuation support from Pentagon by now, but no such thing has happened so far.

Suffice to say, a protracted diplomatic slugfest is beginning, involving the US and some of its allies on one side and Russia and China on the other. An ouster of Maduro, in these circumstances, seems a very remote possibility – and can even be ruled out – so long as he enjoys sufficient support among the Venezuelan military and the ruling party’s social and political base remains so very substantial as at the moment. The strong likelihood is that Maduro will weather the storm and the US-led diplomatic and economic pressure cannot dislodge him from power.

The transcript of Lavrov’s media comments is here.

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | 2 Comments

Peculiarities of US Imperialism in Latin America

By James Petras | Axis of Logic | January 30, 2019

Understanding imperialism as a general phenomenon loses sight of its modus operandi in any specific and meaningful context. While the exercise of imperialist power is a common strategy, its motives, instruments, objectives and engagement vary, depending on the nature of the imperial ruler and targeted country.

Venezuela, the current target of US, President Donald Trump, is a case illustrating the ‘peculiarities’ of imperialist politics. We will proceed to outline the background, techniques and impact of the imperial power grab.

Historical Background

The US has a long history of intervention in Venezuela primarily to gain control of its oil wealth. During the 1950’s Washington backed a military dictatorship –led by Perez Jimenez– until it was overthrown by a mass alliance of revolutionary socialist, nationalist and Social Democratic parties. Washington could not and did not intervene; instead it sided with the center-left Democratic Action (AD) and center-right COPEI parties which proceeded to declare war against the radical left. Over time US regained hegemony until the economy went into crises in the 1990’s leading to popular uprisings and state massacres.

The US did not intervene initially as it felt that it could co-opt Hugo Chavez because he was unaffiliated with the left. Moreover, the US was militarily committed to the Balkans (Yugoslavia) and the Middle East and preparing for wars against Iraq and other nationalist countries which opposed Israel and supported Palestine.

Using the pretext of a global terrorist threat Washington demanded subordination to its declaration of a world-wide ‘war against terrorism’.

President Chavez did not submit. He declared that “you do not fight terrorism with terrorism”. The US decided that Chavez’s declaration of independence was a threat to US hegemony in Latin America and beyond. Washington decided to overthrow elected President Chavez, even before he nationalized the US owned petroleum industry.

In April 2002, the US organized a military-business coup, which was defeated within forty-eight hours by a popular uprising backed by sectors of the military. A second attempt to overthrow President Chavez was set in motion by oil executives via a petroleum lock-out.  It was defeated by oil workers and overseas petrol exporters. Chavez national-populist revolution proceeded to nationalize oil corporations who supported the ‘lock-out’.

The failed coups led Washington to temporarily adopt an electoral strategy heavily financed via Washington controlled foundations and NGO. Repeated electoral defeats led Washington to shift to electoral boycotts and propaganda campaigns designed to illegitimatize the electoral success of President Chavez.

Washington’s failed efforts to restore imperialist power, boomeranged. Chavez increased his electoral support, expanded state control over oil and other resources and radicalized his popular base. Moreover, Chavez increasingly secured backing for his anti-imperialist policies among government and movements throughout Latin America and increased his influence and ties throughout the Caribbean by providing subsidized oil.

While commentators attributed President Chavez mass support and influence to his charisma, objective circumstances peculiar to Latin America were decisive. President Chavez’s defeat of imperialist intervention can be attributed to five objectives and conditions:

  1. The deep involvement of the US in multiple prolonged wars at the same time – including in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa distracted Washington. Moreover, US military commitments to Israel undermined US efforts to refocus on Venezuela.
  2. US sanctions policy took place during the commodity boom between 2003 – 2011, which provided Venezuela with the economic resources to finance domestic social programs and neutralize local boycotts by elite allies of the US.
  3. Venezuela benefited by the neo-liberal crises of the 1990’s-2001 which led to the rise of center-left national popular governments throughout the region. This was especially the case for Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Honduras. Moreover, ‘centrist’ regimes in Peru and Chile remained neutral. Furthermore Venezuela and its allies ensured that the US did not control regional organization.
  4. President Chavez as a former military officer secured the loyalty of the military, undercutting US plots to organize coups.
  5. The world financial crises of 2008-2009 forced the US to spend several trillion dollars in bailing out the banks. The economic crises and partial recovery strengthened the hand of Treasury and weakened the relative influence of the Pentagon.

In other words, while imperial policies and strategic goals remained, the capacity of the US to pursue conquests was limited by objective conditions.

Circumstances Favoring Imperial Interventions

The reverse circumstances favoring imperialism can be seen in more recent times. These include four conditions:

  1. The end of the commodity boom weakened the economies of Venezuela’s center-left allies and led to the rise of far-right US directed client regimes as well as heightening the coup activities of US  backed opponents of newly elected President Maduro.
  2. The failure to diversify exports, markets, financial and distributive systems during the expansive period led to a decline in consumption and production and allowed imperialism to attract voters, especially from middle and lower- middle class consumers, employees, shop keepers, professionals and business people.
  3. The Pentagon transferred its military focus from the Middle East to Latin America, identifying military and political clients among key regimes – namely Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru and Chile.
  4. Washington’s political intervention in Latin American electoral processes opened the door to economic exploitation of resources and the recruitment of military allies to isolate and encircle nationalist, populist Venezuela.

Objective external conditions favored Washington’s imperial quest for domination. Domestic oligarchic power configurations reinforced the dynamic for imperial intervention, political domination and control over the oil industry.

Venezuela’s decline of oil revenue, the elite mobilization of its electoral base and its systematic sabotage of production and distribution had a multiplier effect. The mass media and the self-proclaimed electoral-right embraced the US led far-right coup which manipulated democratic and humanitarian rhetoric.

Washington heightened economic sanctions to starve the low income Chavista supporters, and mobilized its European and Latin American clients to demand Venezuela’s surrender while planning a bloody military coup.

The final stage of the US-planned-and-organized military coup required three conditions:

  1. A division in the military to provide the Pentagon and coup planners a ‘beachhead’ and a pretext for a US ‘humanitarian ‘invasion
  2. A ‘compromising’ political leadership which pursues political dialogues with adversaries preparing for war.
  3. The freezing of all overseas accounts and closing of all loans and markets which Venezuela continues to depend upon.


Imperialism is a central aspect of US global capitalism. But it cannot accomplish its goals and means whenever and how it wishes. Global and regime shifts in the correlation of forces can thwart and delay imperial success.

Coups can be defeated and converted into radical reforms. Imperialist ambitions can be countered by successful economic policies and strategic alliance.

Latin America has been prone to imperial coups and military interventions. But it is also capable of building regional, class and international alliances.

Unlike other regions and imperial targets, Latin America is terrain for class and anti-imperialist struggles. Economic cycles accompany the rise and fall of classes and as a consequence imperial power advances and retreats.

The US intervention in Venezuela is the longest war of our century– (eighteen years) – exceeding the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The conflict also illustrates how the US relies on regional clients and overseas allies to provide cover for imperial power grabs.

While coups are frequent, their consequences are unstable – clients are weak and the regimes are subject to popular uprising.

US coups against popular regimes lead to bloody massacres which fail to secure long-term large-scale consolidation.

These are the ‘peculiarities’ of Latin America coups.

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment