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Why are Democrats Driving Regime Change in Venezuela?

By William Walter Kay | Ron Paul Institute | February 6, 2019

Many see President Trump conspiring with oilmen to capture Venezuelan petroleum reserves. Trump’s earlier blunt talk about seizing oilfields buttresses this thesis. As well, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Chevron appreciate better than anyone the astronomic value of Venezuela’s heavy oil. There are, however, flaws in the petro-conquistador thesis. Foremost, it does not explain why oil-resistant Democrats and Europeans play lead roles in this regime change travesty.

On December 18, 2014 a Democrat-led Senate passed the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act. This legislation, sponsored by Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, imposed sanctions on Venezuela while promising support for Venezuelan “civil society.” The Act also sought to meet “the information needs of the Venezuelan people” through publications and broadcasts; and through “distribution of circumvention technology.” Obama signed immediately.

On March 9, 2015 Obama declared:

… a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States presented by the situation in Venezuela.

His accompanying Executive Order 13692 extended sanctions while undertaking to: “support greater political expression in Venezuela.”

At this time the US deep state conducted an orchestra of American and European agencies and foundations disbursing $50 million a year to Venezuelan “civil society” (opposition politicians, student activists and journalists). Key agencies were USAID and National Endowment for Democracy. Participating foundations included: (Jimmy) Carter Centre; (Soros’s) Open Society; (Democratic Party-affiliated) National Democratic Institute for International Affairs; plus several Spanish and German concerns.

On January 16, 2017, four days before Trump’s inauguration, Obama renewed his declaration designating Venezuela a national security threat. Venezuela’s Foreign Minister called the move “new aggression by Barack Obama” extending Obama’s “legacy of hate and serious violation of international law.”

On January 4, 2019 a Democrat-led House of Representatives swore in.

On January 10 House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Eliot Engel (Democrat-NY) said he would waste no time holding “Mr. Maduro” accountable. Simultaneously, former DNC Chair and Hillary Clinton fixer, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz unveiled her Venezuelan-Russian Threat Mitigation Act. She was flanked by former Clinton cabinet member and Clinton Foundation boss, Democratic Congresswoman Donna Shalala who announced her Venezuelan Arms Restriction Act to prevent weapons sales, including non-lethal police gear, to Venezuela. Next up was Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, sponsor of the Venezuelan Humanitarian Assistance Act aimed at allowing US operatives to bypass Venezuelan authorities and distribute “aid” directly to Venezuelans.

On January 24, less than 24 hours after Juan Guaido declared himself Venezuelan President, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff (House Intelligence Committee Chair) blamed Maduro’s “dictatorial” rule for devastating Venezuela’s economy, then recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s “rightful leader.” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (Democrat-IL) piped in calling Venezuela’s 2018 election a sham before endorsing Guaido’s presidency.

Of 280 Democratic Senators and Representatives 3 dissented. This troika did not include Bernie Sanders. On January 24 Bernie boarded the war-train with a battle-whoop beginning:

The Maduro government in Venezuela has been waging a violent crackdown on Venezuelan civil society, violated the constitution by dissolving the National Assembly and was re-elected last year in an election that many observers said was fraudulent. Further the economy is a disaster and millions are migrating.

Bernie goes on to warn of the perils of regime change while leaving wide open the door to punitive sanctions. His statement is silent on America’s economic war on Venezuela. His support for “civil society” is willfully naïve about such groups’ involvement in political meddling up to and including regime change. (Bernie supported starvation sanctions against Iraq, and the bombing of Serbia. He calls Hugo Chavez a “dead communist dictator.”)

Regarding Venezuela the Democrats march in lockstep with: the Liberal Party of Canada under PM Trudeau; Merkel’s ruling coalition in Germany; French President Macron; and the governments of Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Spain.

These governments are committed to phasing petroleum out of their economies. All champion the Paris Climate Accord. None can be quickly dismissed as Exxon’s goons. None take orders from Trump. Thus, the petro-conquistador thesis appears ill-equipped to explain their behaviour.

No doubt Washington DC hosts cabals of oilmen and politicos coveting unfettered access to the Orinoco Belt. Here, however, it seems fantastical that President Maduro might be removed by anything short of civil war; or that the Orinoco Belt might be exploitable amidst the Vietnam-style conflagration surely to ensue. Then, arises the enigmatic spectacle of a dozen “liberal-leftist-environmentalist” Western parties and governments frantically tilting at the same windmill. Pourquoi?

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , | 3 Comments

Are UN envoys allowed to monitor Israeli violations or just Hezbollah’s?

Israeli forces hold down a Palestinian man in Ramallah, West Bank on 28 August 2018 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli forces hold down a Palestinian man in Ramallah, West Bank on 28 August 2018 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]
By Motasem A Dalloul | MEMO | February 6, 2019

It is very nice to see the delegation of the UN ambassadors touring the Israeli-Lebanese borders early week to follow up closely on Israeli efforts to fight the alleged Hezbollah tunnels. It is a fantastic moment when you see the international diplomats, who live and work far from the field of the Israeli operations, having firsthand information about the issues that they will or might make decisions about on an international level.

Therefore, it was a very clever move when the Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon lobbied the UN ambassadors and organised a trip for them to tour the alleged tunnels. While the Israeli military machine was working, Danon could feed the Israeli propaganda to the international diplomats. “We say clearly that Hezbollah has established its own state in south Lebanon, a state that advances terror operations against Israel. On the day we move to defend ourselves and the UN will want to condemn us, the ambassadors standing here will understand the reality,” Ynet News reported Danon saying.

This way, Danon could evoke the sympathy of the ambassadors, who completely accepted his narrative. All the officials saw was a hole in the ground and heavy machinery to inject concrete inside it; Danon described it as an “attack tunnel”.

Anyone who lives and works far away does not recognise all of these hostile activities, the South Sudan Ambassador Akuei Bona Malwal said, according to Ynet News : “For those of us who work in New York and hear all sorts of things, the best way is to come and see and feel exactly what is happening. We came to Israel to see the challenges and how they are being handled.” While the Ambassador for Panama Meliton Arrocha Ruiz said: “We will pass on what we saw.”

But the conflict in the region is not taking place on the Israeli-Lebanese border, but in every inch of occupied Palestine. Can the UN ambassadors carry out tours to see the daily violations against Palestinians and the suffering inflicting on them?

Can the UN ambassadors visit the historical Palestinian city of Tiberias in Israel and see how the Israeli occupation has been preventing the Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel from performing prayers at Al-Bahr Mosque since 1948? Can they visit the mosque and see what is happening there and report what they see to the UN? Can they visit dozens of mosques which have been turned into bars, nightclubs or museums in a complete disrespect to their religious status?

I am asking the UN ambassadors, who described Israel as “thriving, open and democratic”, if its government is ready to let them tour the Palestinian farms which were torn into pieces by the Israeli Separation Wall in the occupied West Bank, the illegal Israeli settlements and the daily Israeli detention of Palestinians and demolition of their homes and lands?

Are these diplomats able to visit the Gaza Strip, which has been suffering under a 12-year-old Israeli siege, and meet the 8,515 cancer patients who are facing slow death due to the Israeli restrictions on the entry of their medicines or the queues of patients who urgently need to have surgery but are unable because of the shortage of medical supplies? Can they visit Gaza and see how many thousands of homes Israel has demolished, visit empty homes whose owners were killed by Israel and see how many schools, hospitals, mosques and water and sewage infrastructure were destroyed?

If the UN ambassadors even considered visiting the occupied Palestinian territories, they would have been prevented from doing so by the “thriving, open and democratic” state. Just a couple of month ago, the Israeli occupation government prevented a delegation of MEPs visiting the occupied territories in order to monitor the humanitarian situation caused by the Israeli blockade, assess the destruction in the area following the armed conflicts, evaluate reconstruction efforts and to visit a number of development projects funded by the European Union. The official news website of the European parliament said: “The MEPs were prevented from entering the poverty-stricken Gaza Strip by the Israeli authorities. Israel has repeatedly denied the delegation access to visit the Strip since 2011.” How would these UN ambassadors describe the select manner through which the “thriving, open and democratic” state operates?

What is the benefit of the UN ambassadors’ tour? Israel does not respect the international body or any of its branches. In the wake of the Israeli offensive on Gaza in 2008-09, the UN sent a fact-finding mission to examine possible Israeli and Palestinian war crimes, but Israel did not cooperate with it. In a statement, the Israeli foreign ministry accused the mission of being bias.

However, the mission found that the Israeli offensive on Gaza was “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.” What has the UN done to ensure that justice was achieved?

Finally I ask why did the UN envoys not stand up Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he addressed them and said the UN resolutions against his occupation state were “absurd”? Their silence is proof that they are tools of Israel’s propaganda.

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 3 Comments

Palestinian Professors’ Unions Urge Pitzer College to Uphold Faculty Vote to Suspend Study Abroad with Complicit Israeli Institutions

Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE), February 5, 2019

The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) supports the faculty at Pitzer College calling to suspend a complicit study abroad program in Israel over its discriminatory practices.

PFUUPE, which represents more than 6,000 Palestinian university staff at 13 higher education institutions in the occupied Palestinian territory, commends our colleagues at Pitzer College for overwhelmingly supporting this principled stand for Palestinian human rights and for equality.

Most importantly, we thank you for listening to us and acting upon the call from the vast majority of Palestinians, including academics and students, to refrain from business-as-usual academic relations with Israeli institutions while we are forced to live under oppression.

We hold dear the universal right to academic freedom, on principle and because Palestinians are obliged to fight for it every day, along with our right to education.

Our faculty members have, for decades, faced the policy of restricting movement and travel imposed by the Israeli occupation. This severely hampers our academic freedom, namely to reach our campuses, to teach our students, to conduct research, to collaborate with other academics or institutions and to participate in conferences, whether within the occupied Palestinian territory or abroad.

Israel also obstructs importation of academic material and scientific equipment for Palestinian universities, effectively imposing a boycott on our institutions of higher education.

Israel’s discriminatory policies further prevent international academics and students, in particular those of Palestinian/Arab origins or those supporting Palestinian rights, from teaching, studying and attending conferences at our universities. The past two years have seen an uptick in racially- or opinion- based denial of entry to Israel and refusal of visas and visa renewals, a repressive and deeply discriminatory Israeli policy that has long been customary.

Israel has repeatedly bombed Palestinian schools and universities in Gaza, and its illegal and brutal siege has denied the two million Palestinians there, including hundreds of thousands of students, their basic right to freedom of movement. Israel’s decade-old siege of Gaza is making it uninhabitable, according to the UN.

Palestinian students and faculty in the Israeli-occupied West Bank also face campus raids with Israeli soldiers firing live munitions and tear gas.

Palestinian citizens of Israel are subjected to Israel’s institutionalized racism, while Palestinian students face repressive restrictions on political activities and Palestinian educational facilities are underfunded.

We ask the Pitzer College community to try to imagine what it is like studying, teaching or performing research under these dire conditions of racism, repression and violent oppression.

As long as Israel continues to deny Palestinian human rights and academic freedom and impose discriminatory policies based on origins and political opinion, students, educators and academic institutions have a moral obligation and an ethical responsibility to ensure their campus is not contributing in any way to denying Palestinians our right to education and life.

We urge the Pitzer College Council to uphold the principled stand taken by an overwhelming majority of its faculty not to be complicit in Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights and its blatantly racist and anti-democratic discriminatory policies.

Doing so will send a strong signal to the Israeli government and its deeply complicit universities that principled academic institutions will no longer stand by. They will instead use their power of moral persuasion to hold Israel to account and effect a change in the stagnant status quo of oppression, as was the case during the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa.

Please, uphold the vote in support of our struggle for freedom, justice and equality. Keep our hope in freedom, justice and equality alive.

Sincerely,

The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE)

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

Israel’s Military Bombed His Family to Death. Now He’s Taking the Bastards to Court

By Stuart Littlewood | American Herald Tribune | February 6, 2019

At long last someone is making a move to bring two of the most wanted Israeli war criminals to book. Will you help?

The Ziada family from Gaza was all but wiped out by Israel’s murderous bombardment during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge when a bomb buried them under three storeys of rubble. Among the dead lay Ismail Ziada’s mother, three brothers, his sister-in-law, a 12-year-old nephew and a visiting friend. Ismail himself happens to be a Dutch citizen resident in the Netherlands, so he wasn’t in Gaza at the time.

And fortunately the Netherlands, unlike the spineless UK, still upholds a system of universal jurisdiction in civil proceedings for its citizens who are unable to gain access to justice elsewhere.

According to an informed source [1], Ziada hired a lawyer specializing in support for victims of war crimes and human rights violations, and papers were served on the Israeli military’s Chief of General Staff at the time of the bombing, Benny Gantz, and the Commander of the Israeli Air Force, Amir Eshel. It was assumed that neither would respond and court proceedings would be conducted in absentia. Surprisingly Gantz and Eshel both submitted a response claiming immunity and alleging that the Dutch court had no jurisdiction. They argue that Ziada can access justice in Israel. But the recent Israeli court ruling against Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, who filed for compensation against the Israeli state over the killing of three of his daughters in IDF shelling in 2009, nails that lie.

The Ziada writ focuses on the fact that the bombing of the family home was illegal and a war crime under international law. Next month, we’re told, there will be a court hearing – the first of its kind. If it works out well for Ziada it is anticipated that Gantz and Eshel will push the matter up to the Dutch Supreme Court, which could take years and incur significant expense.

So far Ziada has used his own funds and contributions from friends and supporters to pursue the case on behalf of all the victims of Israeli war crimes. But to achieve justice he’ll need wider moral and financial support. The target is 50,000 euros.

The good news is that the circumstances are such that this case has the potential to blow a hole in the Zionist regime’s arrogant belief that it is exceptional and above the law. Pressed home with enough determination and cash it could be the game-changer that creates the legal precedent decent folk around the world have prayed for. The word is that any compensation received will go into a fund for Palestinian war crime victims in general and children in particular. If you wish to contribute, go to GoFundMe. Roger Waters will match you.

Gantz and Eshel are military thugs of a particularly loathsome kind. Both waged war on Lebanon and played leading parts in the series of genocidal assaults on Gaza, the worst being Operation Protective Edge which, according to Israel’s B’Tselem, killed over 2,200 Palestinians, including 547 infants and children.

Gantz is a wannabee political leader challenging Netanyahu in the coming Israeli elections. Heading his new Israel Resilience Party he pledges to strengthen illegal Israeli settlement blocs and says that Israel will never leave the Golan Heights stolen from Syria. How nice is that?

February 6, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments

Against Intervention in Venezuela: The Case of the Caribbean Community

By Maximilian Forte | Zero Anthropology | February 6, 2019

As discussed in the previous article, the membership of the Organization of American States is in fact not at all united around support for foreign intervention and recognition of an alternative second “president” (Juán Guaidó). Standing opposed to the denial of recognition of Maduro’s legitimacy as the elected leader are not just Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and for now Mexico and Uruguay, but also Caribbean states such as Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname. Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and Belize abstained from the OAS resolution—which, it turns out, does not mean the same as indifference. The action by the OAS implicitly threatened all governments in the region, which has already significantly damaged the organization’s integrity, as discussed below.

CARICOM Heads of Government

CARICOM

Caribbean states, including those that abstained from voting on the OAS resolution, stood firmly on anti-interventionist principles that respected Venezuela’s sovereignty. Leaders of the member states of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) held an emergency meeting to discuss Venezuela on January 24. The heads of government of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Foreign Ministers of Grenada and Suriname, participated in the meeting. Guyana, which has a long standing territorial dispute with Venezuela, nonetheless endorsed the CARICOM position the next day. The resulting statement “reaffirmed” the members’ “principles of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of states, respect for sovereignty, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for human rights and democracy”. In addition, they insisted that the crisis should only be “resolved peacefully through meaningful dialogue and diplomacy”. Without naming the US and the Trump administration, CARICOM heads explicitly rejected foreign intervention in Venezuela’s affairs, and threats of violence against the country:

“Reaffirming their commitment to the tenets of Article 2 (4) of the United Nations Charter which calls for Members States to refrain from the threat or the use of force and Article 21 of the Charter of the Organization of American States which refers to territorial inviolability, the Heads of Government emphasized the importance of the Caribbean remaining a Zone of Peace”.

Taking aim again at US policy, CARICOM,

“called on external forces to refrain from doing anything to destabilize the situation and…called on all actors, internal and external, to avoid actions which would escalate an already explosive situation to the detriment of the people of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and which could have far-reaching negative consequences for the wider region”.

Trinidad & Tobago and CARICOM vs. the OAS

Within CARICOM, the case of Trinidad & Tobago deserves special mention. First, Trinidad, mere miles from Venezuela with which it has long historical and demographic ties, is now home to a growing number of Venezuelan refugees. Recent events have triggered fears of an even larger refugee crisis in the making. The media make it clear that many locals neither like nor trust the Venezuelans entering their country, and resent their presence. In addition, Venezuelans protesting in the capital, Port of Spain, against Maduro and demanding that the government of Prime Minister Keith Rowley recognize Guaidó instead, faced a mixed reaction at best. Aside from being denounced by Trinidadian commenters, the protesters drew a sharp rebuke from the leader of one of the parties in parliament, David Abdulah:

“Citizens of Venezuela can appeal to the Government of Venezuela and the parties in Venezuela but Venezuelans here in Trinidad and Tobago cannot determine what the foreign policy of Trinidad and Tobago ought to be. It is the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago ultimately and the governments of Caricom and the citizens of Caricom who must determine the foreign policy of Trinidad and Tobago and of Caricom”.

Abdulah also took exception with the protesters claim that Guaidó had popular support, while Maduro was isolated as a dictator. Abdulah said Maduro got significant support at the February 2nd  demonstration in Venezuela, which was much bigger than Guaidó’s rally:

“So it is not as if President Maduro is clinging on to power by himself and so on and the vast majority of the Venezuelans are against him. That is not the case”.

Moreover, Abdulah condemned the opposition:

Dr. Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago

“Very regrettably, but not surprising, Guaido has taken the consistent right-wing line of the opposition rejecting any talks, rejecting any mediation and simply wanting for [sic] resolve the thing by force backed, of course, by the United States and some other coun­tries”.

Squaring off against his domestic opposition, Prime Minister Keith Rowley took direct aim at the United National Congress in parliament, which is pro-US and pro-interventionist. Rowley openly called them “traitors” for trying to undermine CARICOM’s mission of mediation.

Luís Almagro, Secretary-General of the OAS

Prime Minister Rowley has also clashed with the leadership of the OAS, precisely on the question of Venezuela, well before this latest crisis erupted. Back in 2017, Rowley called for the dismissal of OAS secretary-general Luís Almagro. Prime Minister Rowley’s point, which was correct, is that the OAS was compromised by taking an interventionist stance towards Venezuela, and delegitimizing its duly elected leader. Rowley further accused the OAS leadership saying that the result was that, “the OAS has now removed itself from any meaningful participation and has deteriorated now into partisan attacks”.

The conflict between CARICOM, and Trinidad & Tobago in particular, and the head of the OAS was reignited with the latest crisis. CARICOM, and Trinidad’s Minister of National Security, expressed shock that Almagro would dare to speak for all OAS members in personally denouncing Maduro. In a January 31 letter to the OAS’ Almagro, CARICOM’s leadership instructed Almagro that the OAS does not speak for CARICOM members on this issue. The letter from CARICOM’s chairman, Prime Minister Timothy Harris of St Kitts and Nevis, stated:

“The Heads of Government consider it imperative that you publicly clarify that you did not speak on behalf of all the member states of the Organisation of American States….We are aware that this is not the only occasion on which you have made public utterances in the name of the organisation without authority”.

CARICOM described Almagro’s actions as a “clear departure of from normal practice and cause for great concern”. Almagro has gone as far as advocating a foreign military invasion of Venezuela. Journalists noted that, “the OAS website lists media and press releases for the month of January and there is nothing about the OAS’s support for Guaido”. Trinidad & Tobago joined a CARICOM team to meet in Uruguay on February 7, as part of a mediation effort led by Mexico and Uruguay. Calls for dialogue continue to be flatly rejected by Guaidó, echoing the same line taken by Trump and his team.

Meeting in Montevideo

The meeting of 15 Caribbean nations plus Mexico, Uruguay, and parties in Venezuela, taking place in Montevideo tomorrow, represents the formation of a bloc that can act as a significant counterweight to the so-called “Lima Group” of US dependents in Latin America and neocolonial states such as Canada. Unlike the Lima Group, no foreign media have been banned in advance— the Canadian government blocked Russian and Venezuelan media from covering the Lima Group meeting in Ottawa on February 4, an act of suppression of press freedoms that occasioned no outcry at all in Canada.

The largely right wing “Lima Group” that opposed Maduro itself consisted of a range of shady and extreme characters tarred by their involvement in corruption scandals and with ties to death squads, along with Canada with its liberal authoritarian tradition and its penchant for necolonial violence. Once again, none of the “decolonial” crowd, fashionable as they are in academia, has drawn any of the logical and historical connections between Canada’s internal colonialism and its external neocolonialism, which are united by the same principles and interests, even the very same parties and actors. This failure of intellect is not an accident either, but is a subject best explored at another time.

In the meantime, I strongly recommend that you listen carefully to the full interview of RT with Nicolás Maduro:

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘America First’ means nuclear superiority

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | February 6, 2019

The US president’s annual State of the Union address traditionally focuses on domestic issues but it also throws some light on the foreign policy priorities. President Trump’s speech on Tuesday adhered to the pattern and if anything, the portions on foreign policy received scant attention, restricted to his “agenda to protect America’s National Security.” Trump’s re-election bid for a second term in 2020 provided the backdrop.

Trump boasted about the US’ military build-up and flagged the mammoth budget allocation of $716 billion to “fully rebuild” the US military. As part of it, he said, the US is “developing a state-of-the-art Missile Defence System.” He saw no reason to be apologetic about “advancing America’s interests” and cast his decision to withdraw the US from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in that light.

Trump made a pro forma offer to consider negotiating a “different (INF) agreement, adding China and others (read India and Iran)” but himself sounded sceptical, and went on to assert that the US “will outspend and out-innovate all others by far” in an arms race. He all but sought the US’ nuclear superiority.    

Clearly, the global strategic balance is going to come under enormous stress in the period ahead. It is inconceivable that Russia will allow the global strategic balance to be shifted. In conventional forces, Russia is at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the West and that gives added impetus to maintain the overall strategic parity with the US.

Notably, Russia test-fired an RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile today following Trump’s speech and within hours of an earlier similar American test-firing of a Minuteman ICBM  in California. The RS-24 Yars is a vastly improved version of the famous SS-29 ICBM that the Soviet Union deployed. It is presently the mainstay of the ground-based component of Russian nuclear triad.

This thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missile has a range of 12 000 km, which brings the entire territory of the United States within its reach. Yars is equipped with multiple independent re-entry vehicle (MIRV) and is designed to evade missile defense systems (which Trump boasted about.) It maneuvers during the flight and carries both active and passive decoys and has at least 60-65% chance to penetrate defenses.

Significantly, during Tuesday’s address before the Congress, Trump made no references to arms control negotiations with Russia, leave alone to comment on the fate of the New START nuclear arms reduction agreement (2010), which is due to expire in 2021.

Indeed, the ‘breaking news’ in Trump’s speech was the announcement of his second summit meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on February 27-28 in Vietnam. Trump sounded upbeat about his “bold new diplomacy” with North Korea and claimed credit (justifiably so) for avoiding a catastrophic war on the Korean Peninsula. He acknowledged that there is much unfinished business, but placed trust in his “relationship” with Kim.

The only other foreign-policy topics that Trump touched in the speech were the US’ standoff Venezuela, the Middle Eastern conflicts (Syria and Afghanistan) and of course Iran. While he was rhetorical about the “brutality” and the “socialist policies” of the Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro, Trump steered clear of any threats to intervene in that country. Trump merely said that the US stands with the Venezuelan people “in their noble quest for freedom.” On the other hand, Trump gently moved away from Venezuela to attack the “new calls to adopt socialism” in the US too and stated his resolve that “America will never be a socialist country.”

As regards the Middle East, Trump said his approach is based on “principled realism”. He recalled that his approach has been consistent: “Great nations do not fight endless wars.” Trump said it is time the troops came home from Syria, having defeated the Islamic State.

Curiously, in comparison with Syria, Trump made a somewhat nuanced reference to the Afghan war. Without elaborating, Trump hinted that the Taliban is not the US’ sole interlocutor for holding negotiations to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan. But the surprising part was when he said,

“As we make progress in the negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counter-terrorism. We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement.”

The carefully-worded formulation steered clear of making a commitment of a total US withdrawal from Afghanistan. In fact, Trump pointedly spoke of a reduced troop presence in Afghanistan while also underscoring the need to continue with counter-terrorist operations.

From Trump’s remarks, it appears that the US has somewhat pulled back from the reported progress at the recent 6-day talks in Qatar with the Taliban representatives. Whether this ambivalence is due to pressure from the US military and the Ashraf Ghani government against a withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan or is merely a tactical posturing to pressure the Taliban to make concessions remains to be seen.

Ghani’s preferred strategy (which US military commanders also advocate) is to reconcile the Taliban on the terms in which he had earlier reconciled Gulbuddin Hekmatyar two years ago — which is to say, by offering the insurgents an opportunity to join his government. The Pentagon has been doggedly opposed also to giving up the American bases in Afghanistan, which it considers to be of vital importance for the US’ long term global strategies.

Ghani had telephoned the US Vice-President Mike Pence in the weekend before Trump’s speech on Tuesday. Yet, Trump plainly ignored the Ghani government.

Trump made harsh references to Iran as “sponsor of terror” and the government in Tehran as a “radical regime” and “corrupt dictatorship”, but, strangely, he stopped well short of adopting any confrontational overtone, leave alone threaten Iran. Trump merely said, “We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants death to American and threatens genocide against the Jewish people.”

In overall terms, the impression will be that Trump projected a foreign-policy outlook where the US will eschew military interventions in foreign countries that are in the nature of protracted entanglements through the remaining period of his term in office and concentrate instead on his domestic agenda, which he intends to make the centre piece of his campaign for re-election. A mood of retrenchment is evident all through and left to himself, Trump would like to avoid foreign-policy entanglements that do not directly impact American interests or his own campaign to win a second term as president.

Having said that, make no mistake, fundamentally and in a longer term perspective, Trump is actually pitching for “America First”. He believes in a strong America, whose military superiority will be unchallenged and whose capacity to force its will on the world community is never in doubt. Implicit in the strategy is a resumption of the US’ elusive chase for nuclear superiority — through an extremely expensive arms race in which Trump thinks Russia lacks the financial resources to compete with the US and China can be overwhelmed in military technology. 

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Integrity Initiative – The HSBC Connection

Real Media | February 3, 2019

“2 Degrees of separation” – a theory whistleblower Nicholas Wilson has, that wherever in the world a financial scandal occurs HSBC is to be found nearby.

Nicholas has been campaigning for 13 years after blowing the whistle on a High Street fraud of excessive bank charges applied to store cards administered by HSBC. He has recently been vindicated by a Financial Conduct Authority ruling and HSBC have had to begin paying back some of the money defrauded from customers. He was dubbed “Mr. Ethical” by his boss at the time for refusing to defraud debtors.

In this first of several interviews for Real Media, he connects Government funding and the security services to the recently revealed psyops outfit, Institute for Statecraft and its ‘integrity initiative’.

He asks whether there might be a connection with the suspicious death of auditor Sergei Magnitsky, who was working for the Hermitage Fund there. HSBC bankrolled and jointly managed the Hermitage Fund with Bill Browder, who appears in Institute of Statecraft’s documents.

Browder, convicted of tax fraud in Russia connected with the Magnitsky affair, has spent years pointing the finger at the Russians over both the killing and the disappearance of nearly quarter of a billion pounds, but a film by Andrei Nekrasov casts suspicion on Browder and HSBC. If the film is to be believed, it would make sense that Browder is involved with a shadowy group set up to counter Russian “disinformation”.

Nicholas Wilson reveals the close associations between HSBC and the UK security forces, and asks whether the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should be giving public funding to the Institute of Statecraft.

More HSBC revelations at nicholaswilson.com

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Video | , | 1 Comment

“How I Lost by Hillary Clinton,” a Book Review

By Ann Garrison | Black Agenda Report | February 6, 2019

Rich and manipulative people like Hillary Clinton and her DNC cohorts were defeated by their own emails.

“How I Lost By Hillary Clinton” is a collection of the DNC and Podesta emails published by Wikileaks in 2016, introduced and annotated by Consortium News Editor Joe Lauria, with a foreword by political prisoner Julian Assange. Believe it or not, you don’t have to buy it from Amazon unless you want to toss a few more dollars into the bursting coffers of Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, who says his only business option now is to search for new markets in outer space.

Instead you can order a paperback, e-book, or both from OR Books and dive back into the election year that just won’t die. On January 28, CNN reported that “Hillary Clinton tells friends she’s leaving 2020 door open.” A day earlier the New York Daily News had reported less charitably that “Hillary Clinton hasn’t learned her lesson yet.”

Back in November, upper-tier Clinton operatives Mark Penn and Andrew Stein penned “Hillary Will Run Again,” a bullish Wall Street Journal op-ed opening thus:

“Get ready for Hillary Clinton 4.0. More than 30 years in the making, this new version of Mrs. Clinton, when she runs for president in 2020, will come full circle—back to the universal-health-care-promoting progressive firebrand of 1994. True to her name, Mrs. Clinton will fight this out until the last dog dies. She won’t let a little thing like two stunning defeats stand in the way of her claim to the White House.”

I read “Hillary Will Run Again” three times to make sure it wasn’t just a little joke, or maybe even a more sophisticated attempt at satire. Then I read it again, and I still don’t think so, much as I wish it were. I’ll be gladly embarrassed if anyone can convince me I’m wrong.

But what about Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillebrand, and whoever announces next? No worries, write Penn and Stein: “You can expect her to run for president once again. Maybe not at first, when the legions of Senate Democrats make their announcements, but definitely by the time the primaries are in full swing.”

Anyone remember “Night of the Living Dead” (1968), “Dawn of the Dead” (1978), “Day of the Dead” (1985), and “Land of the Dead” (2005)? Still watching “The Walking Dead” (2010-) or its spinoff “Fear the Walking Dead” (2015-)? Another grisly sequel or series could be coming soon. “How I Lost by Hillary Clinton” might fortify your psychic battlements before it begins.

We’ve all heard of the Wall Street speeches, finally published as a subset of the Podesta emails, but on the first page of this book, Lauria explains that they were just some of Hillary’s more high-profile influence peddling:

“Clinton spoke to just about anyone who would pay, including a scrap metal and recycling conference in Las Vegas, the automobile dealers association in New Orleans, and the National Association of Convenience Stores in Atlanta. Clinton said that fees from speeches at universities went to the Clinton Foundation and not directly into her pocket.”

Sounds like a tax dodge to me, and it “didn’t stop students at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas protesting her $225,000 haul as the university was hiking tuition.” Between April 2013 and March 2015, Hillary Clinton gave 91 paid speeches averaging $235,304.35 apiece, for a total of $21,648,000.

But she’d rather we didn’t dwell on it

When Joe Lauria was last in the Bay Area, I asked him how he got away with the title “How I Lost by Hillary Clinton.” He said that he, OR Books, and Julian Assange were all of the opinion that the Clinton camp wouldn’t want to attract attention to the book by pestering or suing them, and they haven’t yet. It’s an apt title anyway because so much of the book’s contents are DNC and Podesta emails, mostly penned by Hillary staff if not by Hillary herself.

Clinton the Elitist

The body of the book comes in two sections, the first being “Clinton the Elitist.” Here we read about how Hillary climbed from the upper middle class to the uber-rich via elite schools, specifically Wellesley and Yale Law School, then on to her and her husband’s political careers and all the wealth generated by post-presidential, post-cabinet speeches, book contracts, corporate board appointments, the Clinton Foundation, and other forms of bribery and influence peddling.

Despite the Wellesley and Yale Law School degrees, she sounds incoherent because of her mutually exclusive promises to protect both the financial elite and the rest of us. At Goldman Sachs’s 10/24/2013 AIMS Alternative Investments Symposium in New York City, she said that she had bravely faced Americans still bitter about the 2008 financial crisis that cost millions their homes followed by the bank bailout that transferred enormous wealth to the very Wall Street elites who engineered the crisis. “Too Big to Fail” hadn’t gone down well in the hinterland, but she had taken the flak:

“That was one of the reasons that I started traveling in February of ’09, so people could, you know, literally yell at me for the United States and our banking system causing this everywhere. Now, that’s an oversimplification we know, but it was the conventional wisdom. And I think that there’s a lot that could have been avoided in terms of both misunderstanding and really politicizing what happened with greater transparency, with greater openness on all sides, you know, what happened, how did it happen, how do we prevent it from happening? You guys help us figure it out and let’s make sure that we do it right this time. And I think that everybody was desperately trying to fend off the worst effects institutionally, governmentally, and there just wasn’t that opportunity to try to sort this out, and that came later.”

In other words, “You owe me. I’m one of you. That’s why I say ‘we.’” And Wall Street agreed. The financial services industry and associated PACs contributed $115.5 million to Clinton’s second presidential run, close to 10% of the $1.2 billion raised. They contributed to both the Democratic and Republican Parties, and their presidential candidates, as major corporations and business sectors always do to make sure they own a piece of whoever wins. However, Wall Street gave Trump a measly $7.9 million, most likely because of the widespread certainty that Clinton would win.

Hillary the Hawk

Most of those likely to read “How I Lost by Hillary Clinton” will know Hillary the Hawk, but the book is full of grim elaboration, much of it in her own words. Here’s one choice quote:

“And there is still an argument that goes on inside the administration and inside our friends at NATO and the Europeans. How do you intervene—my view was you intervene as covertly as is possible for Americans to intervene. We used to be much better at this than we are now.”

Here’s another:

“To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk—you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians. So all of a sudden this intervention that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take a lot of civilians.“

Civilians aside, Clinton pushed for a no-fly zone in Syria right up and into her final debate with Donald Trump, despite his “America First” crusade against foreign military quagmires. Simultaneously, Obama’s UN Ambassador Samantha Power shrieked at Russia and China for vetoing her demand for a no-fly zone at the UN Security Council. Clinton brushed off fears that bombing Syria risked conflict with nuclear-armed Russia, even after it entered the Syrian theater of war at Syria’s request in October 2015.

I had a hard time putting “How I Lost By Hillary Clinton” down until I was done. Like most Wikileaks releases, it drew me into the minds of those who decide who will live, who will die, who will be impoverished, and who enriched. Not only Hillary Clinton’s mind, but also those of the macabre power elites surrounding her. Who matters and who is collateral damage? Most of us, here and abroad, are in the latter category, and she lost because too many of us knew that.

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Book Review, Corruption, Deception, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Democrats are the McCarthyites

By Margaret Kimberley | Black Agenda Report | February 6, 2019

The unceasing torrent of Russiagate lies turns Democrats into war hawks and causes liberals to spout nonsense that was once consigned to the fringe right wing. It’s worse than the old McCarthyism.

A recent poll indicated that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to hold pro-war views. That revelation is hardly surprising considering the degree to which their party has promoted the trope of Donald Trump as a Russian government asset. This strategy is a focal point for them and a weapon to be used against the Republicans instead of the political opposition their voters need.

The ongoing investigation popularly known as Russiagate is a cynical hoax perpetrated by the Democratic Party leadership and their friends in corporate media. Russiagate distracts the public from taking a hard look at the Democratic Party corruption and resulting missteps that put Donald Trump in the White House. It also serves the interests of the bi-partisan surveillance state, which feared that Trump pronouncements indicated fundamental changes in foreign policy which they could not abide.

These allegations have Trump on the ropes, but mostly because of the relentless repetition of lies about the investigation. The litany of indictments paraded by the media involve crimes like tax fraud and payments to porn stars. None of the indictments point to collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Because no such connections have been made the media continue whipping up hysteria in an effort to keep the tale alive. The campaign is more shrill than ever because the hollowness of the case is clear to anyone who is really paying attention.

Comparisons have been made with McCarthyite “Red Scare” of the 1950s. But it can be argued that Russiagate is even worse. Bizarre assertions that were once consigned to the fringe right wing are now repeated on a daily basis by influential corporate media personalities and nearly all Democratic Party politicians.

The most prolific Russiagate practitioner is Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. She has ridden that horse so successfully that she now has the highest rated program on cable news. But she may have reached a moment which prompted the famous question asked at the army/McCarthy hearings. “At long last have you no sense of decency?”

Her assertion that Russia might be able to hack into the power grid and freeze Americans to death is quite dangerous . “What would you do if you lost heat indefinitely as the act of a foreign power on the same day that the temperature in your front yard matched the temperature in Antarctica? I mean, what would you and your family do?” It doesn’t matter that experts declared that the claim was highly improbable if not impossible. There is now no depth that cannot be reached in the effort to bamboozle Democrats and keep them stupid and needlessly fearful.

Prestigious newspapers like the New York Times are equally guilty of passing off lies as the truth. The Times reported that Trump and his associates had more than 100 interactions with Russians before inauguration day in 2017. But the story falls apart on even cursory inspection. The Times includes unproven claims of contacts with Wikileaks when it isn’t even a Russian organization. Roger Stone is the latest to be indicted because of his own stupidity, having claimed contacts with Wikileaks that never even took place.

But even as the case for collusion falls apart, the McCarthyite media find new ways to keep the narrative running. Russian press coverage of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign is called a “campaign of support” for her candidacy. NBC called Russian reporting the “propaganda machine.” The real issue is that Gabbard dares to question U.S. foreign policy dictates. She met with Syrian president Assad and opposes the coup attempt against Venezuela. But stopping such heretical acts from taking place is a central feature of the Russiagate scare.

So insane is the conspiracy mongering that clear damage to Russian government aspirations are called “wins for Putin.” The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the 30-year old INF missile treaty is not something that Vladimir Putin would ever want. The decades long effort to limit nuclear proliferation gives both countries security knowing that the other is restricted in the number and placements of nuclear weapons. Yet this very obvious reality is now turned on its head, and truth is twisted and disappeared.

The worst possible outcome of Russiagate is that it increases the likelihood of armed conflict between the United States and Russia. The same people who see MSNBC, CNN and national newspapers as divine oracles can be led to support any government act, no matter how dangerous it may be. Liberals who might once have opposed a hot war would now be the first to support it.

The Russiagate pimps are stoking fear and hatred. They spread outright lies and ignorance and they are doing so because of base motives. The Democratic Party rank and file ought to be demanding answers about the 2016 defeat and the previous loss of 900 legislative seats around the country. But they have been so badly misled that they don’t know that they should be asking anything at all. Even people who call themselves progressives are worshipping prosecutorial excess from the Robert Mueller investigation team and applauding surveillance state killers bloviating on cable news programs.

McCarthyism is back and it is being led by liberals. The entire world is endangered because of their leaders’ lies and cover ups and their determination to follow blindly. The outcome will be continued political defeat at home and an increased likelihood of what was once unimaginable, war between two nuclear powers.

Margaret Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia | , , , , | 1 Comment

Yemen: Hodeida Truce in New Hands as UN Replaces Biased and Ineffective Monitor

By Ahmed Abdulkareem – MintPress News – February 5, 2019

SANA’A, YEMEN — The newly-appointed head of the United Nations mission to monitor Yemen’s truce agreement between the Houthis and the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition, Danish Lt. Gen. Michael Anker Lollesgaard, arrived in Yemen’s capital Sana’a on Tuesday, along with a five-member team, to assume his duty in the country’s Red Sea port city of Hodeida. Lollesgaard succeeds retired Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert.

The development comes after MintPress News revealed on January 24 that the United Nations promised to replace Cammaert, who was leading a UN joint committee tasked with overseeing the truce in Hodeida, a conduit for the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid. The replacement of the joint committee’s head was promised in order to save the fragile truce after the Houthis accused Cammaert of pursuing an agenda favoring the Saudi-led coalition, according to a high-ranking Houthi official.

Prior to his replacement, the Houthis boycotted a meeting chaired by Cammaert in Hodeida, accusing him of pushing the Saudi coalition’s agenda after he requested that Houthi forces withdraw eight kilometers outside of Hodeida while asking Saudi coalition forces to withdraw only half a kilometer — giving the coalition an opportunity to quickly occupy Hodeida unopposed, according to a source in the negotiating committee.

In an attempt not to portray the change as a victory for the Houthis, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who announced Lollesgaard’s appointment on January 31, said Cammaert was on a temporary one-month contract and did not resign. However, the decision to appoint a new monitoring chief in Yemen’s key port may give UN envoy Martin Griffiths a chance to succeed, according to observers who spoke to MintPress.

Monday on a UN-hired ship off Hodeida, Cammaert held his final meeting between the Houthis and coalition representatives in an effort to end a month-long stalemate over the implementation of a mutual troop withdrawal from the port city.

Yemenis still see the agreements reached in Sweden as the best chance yet of ending the Saudi war against the poorest country the Middle East, a war that has killed thousands of people since it began in 2015 and pushed 14 million to the brink of famine, according to the United Nations.

In the view of Yemeni analysts who spoke to MintPress, if Saudi Arabia persists in its behavior, no UN envoy or monitor will be able to help reach a peace agreement in Yemen; and, without pressure on the Kingdom, the UN will go on playing a feeble role. Accordingly, the replacement of the head of the UN monitoring mission is regarded as effectively meaningless by many Yemenis.

The Saudi-led coalition appears willing to commit to war as a solution and further fighting will give rise to more disease, famine, and lack of access to humanitarian aid and food commodities. The repercussions will be fast and conspicuous across Yemen.

“Hanging in the balance”

Representatives of the Saudi coalition and the Houthis met in Jordan on Tuesday for a new round of UN-brokered talks on a troubled prisoner-swap deal that was initially agreed on in Stockholm last December. UN envoy Griffiths said the new talks aim to finalize the lists of prisoners and detainees to be released or exchanged.

A source on the negotiation committee told MintPress that the Houthis proposed releasing 400 prisoners from both sides as an initiative to get the talks going. There was no comment from Saudi Arabia on the proposal.

Last week, representatives from the coalition and the Houthis had held a round of UN-brokered negotiations in the Jordanian capital city of Amman to hammer out details of the prisoner exchange. The two sides met separately with the mediators and submitted lists of prisoners they wanted to be released.

Both sides have said repeatedly they remain committed to the agreement, which could see thousands of prisoners released by each side, including hundreds of al-Qaeda and ISIS members who were fighting on behalf of the coalition. So far, however, no breakthrough has been made.

Fears linger that failure of the prisoner exchange would have a knock-on effect on the next round of peace talks, owing to the nature of the list of prisoners made by both sides. Each side presented a list of up to 8,000 detainees to be freed, but many of those detainees on the list are not able to be accounted for, according to a senior official from the International Committee of the Red Cross. The prisoner swap would, therefore, involve a significantly lower number of prisoners, an outcome likely to draw the ire of both sides.

A senior International Committee of the Red Cross official, which will oversee the deal’s implementation, said on Monday that the prisoner exchange was “hanging in the balance,” with trust among the parties “insufficient.” He also indicated that “there is a lot of disappointment on both sides,” adding: “What we now see on both sides is that they don’t have them all [i.e., the listed prisoners] because a lot of them, they probably died during the conflict.”

There are positive signs, however. In a move that could boost ongoing UN-led efforts to save the deal, the Houthis released an ailing Saudi prisoner, Musa al-Awaji, on humanitarian grounds at the end of January. The Saudi coalition also released seven Houthi prisoners who were not part of the negotiated exchange.

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Lebanon to rely on Russian strategy for return of Syrian refugees: Minister

Press TV – February 6, 2019

Lebanon’s minister of state for displaced affairs says his country will stick primarily to the Russian strategy for the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland.

“The Russian strategy will be adopted as a basis for our approach towards the return of Syrian refugees to Syria,” Saleh Gharib told China’s official Xinhua news agency on Wednesday.

He also did not deny the possibility of visiting Syria, or conducting a direct dialogue with high-ranking government officials in Damascus to secure the return of Syrian refugees.

“Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is very much aware of the sensitivity of this issue, and all necessary steps will be taken in this regard,” Gharib pointed out.

The strategy to help Syrian refugees go back to their homes was drawn up following a meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital city of Helsinki on July 16, 2018.

It specifies around 76 residential neighborhoods in Syria’s central provinces of Homs and Hama, the northwestern province of Idlib as well as Damascus to enable the return of 360,000 Syrian refugees as a first step.

The strategy also entails the rehabilitation of houses in the mentioned areas, which would allow the return of 500,000 more Syrian refugees within two years.

Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported on December 24 last year that more than 1,000 Syrian refugees had returned to their homeland from various areas in the neighboring country.

The return of refugees took place in the southern Lebanese cites and districts of Tripoli, Arsal, Tyre and Nabatieh, and under the supervision of Lebanon’s General Security in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Refugees returned home using buses sent by Syrian authorities and arrived at al-Zamrani, Jdeidat Yabous, al-Dabbousiya border crossings from Lebanese territories.

The refugees underwent medical checks and polio vaccines were administered to children. They were then transferred to Syria’s northern and central provinces of Idlib and Homs in addition to other areas in the crisis-stricken Arab country.

More than 1,000 Syrian refugees returned to their homeland from different areas in Lebanon, including Nabatieh, Bekaa, Tripoli and Shabaa on December 16, 2018.

Arabic-language Elnashra online independent newspaper reported that the return of refugees took place under the supervision of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate in cooperation with the Lebanese army.

More than one million Syrian refugees are registered with the UNHCR in Lebanon.

The Beirut government estimates that the true number of Syrians in Lebanon stands at 1.5 million.

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Trump announces 2nd meeting with Kim, takes credit for avoiding ‘major war’ with North Korea

RT | February 6, 2019

Donald Trump plans to hold a second meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam on February 27-28, the US president announced during his State of the Union address, claiming full credit for avoiding a devastating war.

“My relationship with Kim Jong-un is a good one…. Our hostages have come home. Nuclear testing has stopped. And there has not been a missile launch in more than 15 months,” Trump stated in his speech, claiming full credit for the progress of the peace process on the Korean peninsula.

If I had not been elected the president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea

Trump and Kim held a historic meeting in Singapore last June, at which North Korea agreed to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions that have crippled its economy. Despite the breakthrough, the process has somewhat stalled since, after Washington refused to lift any restrictions before Pyongyang fulfills its part of the deal.

In the meantime, the North stayed true to its pledge and hasn’t tested a missile since 2017. Pyongyang also dismantled one of its test sites and made a significant effort to improve its relations with South Korea, despite the continued presence of 30,000 US troops there.

Ahead of the much-anticipated US-North Korean rendezvous, Kim traveled to China to discuss denuclearization of the Peninsula with President Xi Jinping. Following the meeting, Beijing expressed hope that Pyongyang and Washington can meet each other “halfway” to reach an agreement that will bring a long-lasting peace and stability to the region.

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment