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SNC Lavalin scandal blowback from corrupt Canadian foreign policy

By Yves Engler · March 2, 2019

Canada’s corrupt foreign policy practices have come home to roost on Parliament Hill.

Justin Trudeau’s government is engulfed in a major political scandal that lays bare corporate power in Ottawa. But, SNC Lavalin’s important role in Canadian foreign policy has largely been ignored in discussion of the controversy.

The Prime Minister’s Office has been accused of interfering in the federal court case against the giant Canadian engineering and construction firm for bribing officials in Libya. Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould claims she was repeatedly pressured to defer prosecution of the company and instead negotiate a fine.

Facing a 10-year ban on receiving federal government contracts if convicted of bribing Libyan government officials, SNC began to lobby the Trudeau government to change the criminal code three years ago. The company wanted the government to introduce deferred prosecution agreements in which a sentencing agreement would allow the company to continue receiving government contracts. At SNC’s request the government changed the criminal code but Wilson-Raybould resisted pressure from the PMO to negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement with the company headquartered in Montréal.

Incredibly, before Trudeau went to bat for SNC the firm had either been found guilty or was alleged to have greased palms in Libya, Bangladesh, Algeria, India, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Angola, Nigeria, Mozambique, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda, Cambodia and Zambia (as well as Québec). A 2013 CBC/Globe and Mail investigation of a small Oakville, Ontario, based division of SNC uncovered suspicious payments to government officials in connection with 13 international development projects. In each case between five and 10 per cent of costs were recorded as “‘project consultancy cost,’ sometimes ‘project commercial cost,’ but [the] real fact is the intention is [a] bribe,” a former SNC engineer, Mohammad Ismail, told the CBC.

While the media has covered the company’s corruption and lobbying for a deferred prosecution agreement, they have barely mentioned SNC’s global importance or influence over Canadian foreign policy. Canada’s preeminent “disaster capitalist” corporation, SNC has worked on projects in most countries around the world. From constructing Canada’s Embassy in Haiti to Chinese nuclear centres, to military camps in Afghanistan and pharmaceutical factories in Belgium, the sun never sets on SNC.

Its work has often been quite controversial. SNC constructed and managed Canada’s main military base in Kandahar during the war there; SNC Technologies Inc provided bullets to US occupation forces in Iraq; SNC has billions of dollars in contracts with the monarchy in Saudi Arabia.

Across the globe SNC promotes neoliberal reforms. The company greatly benefits from governments shifting to public-private partnerships. SNC is also a member or sponsor of the Canadian Council on Africa, Canadian Council for the Americas, Canada-ASEAN business council, Conseil des Relations Internationales de Montréal and other foreign policy lobby/discussion groups.

SNC has been one of the largest corporate recipients of Canadian “aid.” The company has had entire departments dedicated to applying for Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), UN and World Bank funded projects. SNC’s first international contract, in 1963 in India, was financed by Canadian aid and led to further work in that country. In the late 1960s the firm was hired to manage CIDA offices in African countries where Canada had no diplomatic representation. In the late 1980s CIDA contracted SNC to produce a feasibility study for the Three Gorges Dam, which displaced more than a million Chinese. During the occupation of Afghanistan CIDA contracted SNC to carry out its $50 million “signature project” to repair the Dahla dam on the Arghandab River in Kandahar province ($10 million was spent on private security for the dam).

In 2006 SNC was bailed out by the Canadian aid agency after it didn’t follow proper procedure for a contract to renovate and modernize the Pallivasal, Sengulam and Panniyar hydroelectric projects in the southern Indian state of Kerala. A new state government demanded a hospital in compensation for the irregularities and SNC got CIDA to put up $1.8 million for the project. (SNC-Lavalin initially said they would put $20 million into the hospital, but they only invested between $2 and $4.4 million.)

Company officials have been fairly explicit about the role Canadian diplomacy plays in their business. Long-time president Jacques Lamarre described how “the official support of our governments, whether through commercial missions or more private conversations, has a beneficial and convincing impact on our international clients.”

Even SNC’s use of bribery has a made-in-Ottawa tint. For years Canada lagged behind the rest of the G7 countries in criminalizing foreign bribery. For example, into the early 1990s, Canadian companies were at liberty to deduct bribes paid to foreign officials from their taxes, affording them an “advantage over the Americans”, according to Bernard Lamarre former head of Lavalin (now SNC Lavalin). In 1991, Bernard, the older brother to SNC Lavalin’s subsequent head Jacques Lamarre, told Maclean’s that he always demanded a receipt when paying international bribes. “I make sure we get a signed invoice,” he said. “And payment is always in the form of a cheque, not cash, so we can claim it on our income tax!”

In 1977, the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act outlawed bribes to foreign officials. Ottawa failed to follow suit until the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) launched its anti-bribery convention in 1997. The OECD convention obliged signatories to pass laws against bribing public officials abroad and two years later Canada complied, passing the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA). Still, for the next decade Canadian officials did little to enforce the law. The RCMP waited until 2008 to create an International Anti-Corruption Unit and didn’t secure a significant conviction under the CFPOA until 2011.

As the recent scandal demonstrates — and the Financial Post noted years ago — SNC has “considerable lobbying power in Ottawa.” Placing its CEO among the 50 “Top People Influencing Canadian Foreign Policy”,  Embassy magazine described SNC as “one of the country’s most active companies internationally”, which “works closely with the government.” The now-defunct weekly concluded, “whoever is heading it is a major player” in shaping Canadian foreign policy.

And, as it turns out, in shaping the way things are now done at home in Ottawa.

March 2, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

US-Led Coalition Used White Phosphorus in Attacks on Syria’s Baghouz – Reports

© Photo: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson/U.S. Army
Sputnik – 02.03.2019

DAMASCUS – The US-led coalition has used shells with white phosphorus in its bombing attacks on the southwestern Syrian town of Baghouz, which remains the last stronghold of the Daesh terror group in the country, local media reported on Saturday, citing sources.

This came soon after the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that it had resumed operations against Daesh militants in Baghouz, following a break for citizens evacuation. According to SDF claims, only Daesh militants currently remain in the town.

However, the battle for Baghuz is currently going slowly in order to protect hostages held by the Daesh terrorists, according to co-chair of the US mission of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), Bassam Ishak.

Over the recent months, the Kurdish-led SDF has been carrying out operations against Daesh militants in Syria, with support from the US-led coalition.

Numerous reports have been emerging in Syrian media about civilian casualties and use of white phosphorus, which is prohibited under international conventions.

The Syrian authorities, in particular, have repeatedly urged the United Nations to take measures targeting the perpetrators of the attacks and put an end to the coalition’s unauthorized presence in Syria.

The United States, in the meantime, denies using white phosphorus in its airstrikes.

The US-led coalition, which consists of over 70 countries, is conducting military operations against the Daesh in Syria and Iraq. The coalition’s operations in Syria are not authorized by the Syrian government or the UN Security Council.

March 2, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | | 1 Comment

Lavrov to Pompeo: We can talk Venezuela, but US must stop threatening its legitimate government

RT | March 2, 2019

The US attempts to threaten Venezuela and meddle in the country’s affairs under the guise of supplying humanitarian aid have nothing to do with democracy, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov told his American counterpart, Mike Pompeo.

The top diplomats talked on the phone on Saturday on the initiative of Washington, the Russia Foreign Ministry said.

During the conversation, Lavrov blasted the American threats against the government of Nicolas Maduro, calling them “blatant interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and a flagrant violation of international law.”

He also grilled the US Secretary of State over Washington’s attempts to influence the situation in Venezuela under the “hypocritical guise” of providing humanitarian aid to the crisis-hit country. Such actions “have nothing to do with democratic process,” Lavrov said.

Earlier this week, Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, has labeled the US aid to the country “a Trojan horse.” He said that nails and barbed wire to build barricades were seized from the supply trucks on the border with Colombia and provided photos to back his words.

As for Washington’s proposal to hold consultations on Venezuela, Lavrov said that Moscow was ready for such talks. However, he reminded Pompeo that “the principles of the UN Charter must be followed strictly as only the people of Venezuela have the right to decide the future of their country.”

The situation in Venezuela escalated after opposition leader, Juan Guaido, declared himself interim president of the country in late January. He was swiftly backed by the US, which never made a secret out of its desire to see socialist president Maduro removed from power.

However, all the American backing and increased sanction pressure on Caracas have so far been insufficient to cement Guaido’s claim to power as the man fled to neighboring Colombia to lead the coup from there, while promising to return.

March 2, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 4 Comments

Kushner’s new ideas are Netanyahu’s old ones

By Oraib Al-Rantawi | MEMO | March 2, 2019

Kushner’s new ideas are not different from Netanyahu’s old ones. The inexperienced US president’s son-in-law, with poor charisma, who, as a result of family connections, jumped to the top of the American leadership hierarchy and took over a handful of the most complex foreign policy files (the Palestinian issue and US-Saudi relations) has moved a step ahead in the “deal of the century”, according to his interview with Sky News Arabia in which he said he was getting closer to revealing its details.

The four main components of the deal are: freedom, respect, dignity and security, but for Kushner, freedom does not mean getting liberated from the occupation and exercising the right to self-determination and national independence. To Kushner, freedom only means freedom of movement, goods and worship. He keeps referring to the uniqueness and creativity that characterise his plan, but his plan has not come up with anything new, they are ideas and initiatives that have been discussed in the circles of the Israeli right-wing as final status solutions for the Palestinian issue. They are all ideas that reflect American positions adopted by previous Republican and Democratic administrations.

The most recent and dangerous statement made by Kushner was when he talked about setting the borders. He did not mention the two-state solution and he did not refer to the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and the establishment of an independent, viable and sovereign state. He considered the long-term goal of setting the borders would mean getting rid of them, which can only be interpreted as an offer to establish a Palestinian entity, less than a state and more than self-rule. This is the same term long used by Netanyahu and Israeli right-wing leaders in their definition of a two-state solution and their vision for a future Palestinian state.

We are now closer to understanding Trump’s position on the Palestinian state project. Kushner’s recent clarifications confirmed our worst fears: The United States is finishing off the national project with its three pillars: refugee return, self-determination and independent statehood, and Jerusalem as the capital of this state.

Washington has taken Jerusalem out of the negotiations by recognising the city as the capital of Israel and moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The US targeted the refugee file through two parallel tracks: dismantling UNRWA and redefining who a refugee is. It has given a green light to settlement expansion in all areas of Jerusalem and the West Bank. It adopted the economic peace theory launched by Netanyahu in the 1990s which was later adopted by Tony Blair and General Dayton and became the core of what Friedman called “Fayyadism” in reference to former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad.

Today, Kushner comes up with the theory of setting the borders without linking them to an end of the occupation or the establishment of a Palestinian state, as if the man is trying to define the borders of a local self-rule which will soon disappear. To him, such borders are not international borders and should not be regarded as such.

Kushner is touring rich capitals in the region, and has put Turkey on the list for his current tour. The man is looking for funds for a plan he refuses to reveal; it’s like asking buyers to pay for goods they don’t know anything about. This is a clear disregard to all leaders in the region he is meeting. The man is asking Arab and Islamic countries to fund a deal that calls for keeping Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and Islamic and Christian sanctities under Israeli control and sovereignty, resting assured that the ghost of the Iranian threat will enable him to pass the most serious deal that has ever been presented to Palestinians and Arabs.

But the good news amid this rubble of bad news is that no one out of all those who met with Kushner or those yet to meet him would dare to stand in front of the cameras to announce that they will support a deal that is filled with all these political and ideological concessions. The young envoy will also not find one Palestinian who can accept his offer or go along with it, or show an understanding of it.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 28 February 2019

March 2, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 3 Comments

Can Netanyahu Risk A “Battle Of Missiles” With Syria?

By Elijah J. Magnier | American Herald Tribune | March 2, 2019

It was the eleventh and the most important meeting between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli visitor heard clearly from his host that Moscow has no leverage to ask Iran to leave or to stop the flow of weapons to Damascus and that Iran will remain in Syria and that Russia has no say over the Syrian-Iranian relationship. Moscow informed Tel Aviv about “Damascus’s determination to respond to any future bombing and that Russia doesn’t see itself concerned”.

According to well-informed sources in Damascus, “the few hours of the visit of President Bashar al-Assad to Tehran were enough to send messages in all directions. The first message was the fact that the visit took place just before Netanyahu’s scheduled meeting with Putin. The second message was to display the robust cemented relationship between Iran and Syria, immune from any outside interference from the US or Russia and that Syria has the sovereign right to choose its strategic partners. The secretive nature of the visit – not even Russia was informed in advance – speaks volumes about the Syrian-Iranian relationship”.

“Russia exerted pressure on President Obama to prevent the US from bombing Damascus on the false flag pretext of chemical weapons and set up its military apparatus in Syria in 2015. Russia helped Syria to victory, imposed a political dialogue, and protected Syria in the international arena, speeding up the return of refugees (the US wanted to use the refugees in a failed attempt to gain concessions that it could not obtain by war). Moreover, Russia is putting pressure on many countries to contribute to the reconstruction of Syria and to resume diplomatic relations with Damascus. Russia is a strategic ally but exerts no power of control over the central government”, said the source.

The strategic relationship between Tehran and Damascus started – under the “Axis of the Resistance” – long before the war. In 2011, Iran rushed to support the central government to prevent the US-EU-Arab “regime-change” plan. It thwarted the transformation of Syria into Islamic Emirates ruled by Takfiri jihadists. Tehran offered oil, financial and military support to Syria throughout its seven years of war and rejected any proposition, even by Russia, to change President Assad for any other Syrian personality, as repeatedly proposed by the US.

Russia enjoys an excellent relationship with Israel and intends to maintain that relationship. Iran, on the other hand, is ready to wage war against Israel if Netanyahu ever decides to bomb significant strategic objectives in Syria. The head of Iran’s National Security Council, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, said Iran will respond by hitting Israeli targets if Israel bombs Syria. The same warning was delivered by Syria’s Ambassador to the UN, who recently warned that his country will retaliate if Damascus is bombed.

Since these last warnings, Israel has refrained from violating Syria sovereignty (except for one insignificant artillery bombing against an empty position in south Syria). Iranian officials in Syria had a curt response to their Russian counterparts who asked to have details on the locations of their military deployment in Syria. Iranians told the Russian military to inform Israel that the Iranian positions have been integrated with those of the Syrian army all over Syrian territory, and that any bombing of the Syrian army will hit Iranian advisors.

Iran in effect asked Russia to inform Israel that any future Israeli attack will trigger a retaliatory response, since the presence of Iranian advisors in the Levant is at the official request of the Syrian government. It is legitimate for all allied forces, if under attack, to respond with the similar firepower against any future aggression.

Netanyahu seems willing to bomb Syria. Nevertheless, if Iran and Syria stand by their promised response, he will not be able to stop the precision missiles ready to be launched against Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister is not aiming to dislodge Iran from Syria, an objective he knows to be impossible. Neither can he aspire to destroy Syria’s military capacity because Russia continues to supply Damascus with highly sophisticated weapons. His only  plausible objective is an electoral one, with the goal of escaping imminent indictment for bribery charges related to corruption. A second term may postpone his indictment and prolong his immunity.

However, if the Israeli Prime Minister decides to bomb Syria, his decision will have a boomerang effect, especially if Syrian missiles hit deadly targets in the heart of Israel. Will Netanyahu take the risk and bomb his political future? It is his decision.

March 2, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Russia and China offer the SCO platform for India-Pak de-escalation

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 2, 2019

Saudi Arabia is pushing forward as mediator between India and Pakistan with a messianic zeal that patently enjoys US backing. The Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir is arriving in Delhi tomorrow. He was to have visited Islamabad on Friday but rescheduled his plan so that he can touch base with Modi first and thereafter meet the Pakistani leaders, including army chief Gen. Qamar Bajwa.

Modi and Bajwa will be Adel’s key interlocutors. How far the Saudi waltz will advance remains to be seen. How Modi handles the piquant situation will bear watch.

Certainly, the Saudi mediation makes India look rather immature and that becomes willy-nilly a reflection of Modi’s foreign policy legacy. The point is, no matter what Modi may boast about “new India”, the geopolitical reality is that India’s stature diminishes when it needs a small country like Saudi Arabia under an autocratic ruler to help out with what is arguably one of the most critical templates of its diplomacy.

Saudi Arabia has no track record as a peacemaker. On the contrary, it has a notorious reputation the world over as a promoter of terrorist groups.

Meanwhile, India does not have to be beholden to the Saudis to ease its tensions with Pakistan. The indications are that Russia and China are jointly sponsoring an initiative in this regard. China is deputing a special envoy to visit India and Pakistan to discuss the crisis situation. The Pakistani FM Shah Mehmood Qureshi disclosed this in Islamabad.

To be sure, Russia and China, which actively coordinate on the foreign policy front, are in consultation each other on the India-Pakistan tensions. We may also factor in that the foreign ministers of Russia and China had an opportunity last Wednesday to meet EAM Sushma Swaraj at the RIC ministerial.

Following that, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi also briefed Qureshi in a phone conversation where the latter had expressed the hope that “the Chinese side will continue to play a constructive role in easing the current tension.”

Equally, at the height of the India-Pakistan crisis, on February 27, Russian Foreign Ministry also had issued a statement expressing “grave concern over the escalating situation along the Line of Control and the surge in  tensions” between India and Pakistan “which are Russia’s friends.” It took a neutral stance and called on both sides “to show restraint and redouble efforts to resolve existing problems by political and diplomatic means.”

It is entirely conceivable that the Chinese special envoy’s visit is a related development signifying a coordinated effort by Beijing and Moscow and in consultation with Islamabad and New Delhi. This is of course a major shift in the tectonic plates of Eurasian politics and it has an added significance insofar as it is taking place in the New Cold War conditions.

Indeed, it does not need much ingenuity to figure out that a US-sponsored Saudi mediation between India and Pakistan must be a worrisome development for both Russia and China, from the geopolitical perspective.

At any rate, on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin telephoned Modi. According to the Kremlin readout, they discussed the “crisis in relations between India and Pakistan” and the Russian leader “expressed hope for a prompt settlement.” The careful wording hinted that Putin offered to lend a helping hand, jointly with China, to ease the tension.

Curiously, the very next day, the Russian Foreign Minster telephoned Qureshi in Islamabad — presumably to follow up on the Putin-Modi conversation — and offered help to “de-escalate” the tensions. The Russian Foreign Ministry readout, cited by state news agency TASS, says: “Moscow expressed its readiness to contribute to de-escalating tensions and that there is no alternative to settling all differences between Islamabad and New Delhi by political and diplomatic means.”

Importantly, Lavrov also outlined to Qureshi how the de-escalation process can be achieved — via the mechanism of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

A Xinhua report since highlighted this aspect — that Lavrov told Qureshi about the “possibility of using the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s Regional Anti-terrorist Structure for this purpose.”

Alongside, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova outlined in an important statement on Thursday Moscow’s broad approach. Zakharova said:

“We are worried about the escalation of tension in relations between India and Pakistan and dangerous manoeuvres of both states’ armed forces along the Line of Control that are fraught with a direct military clash.”

“We are urging the sides to display maximum restraint. We continue to assume that contentious matters should be resolved by political-diplomatic methods on a bilateral basis in line with the provisions of the 1972 Simla Agreement and the 1999 Lahore Declaration.”

“We reaffirm our readiness to provide all-out support to the Indian and Pakistani efforts in countering terrorism.”

From the Indian perspective, this adds up to an extremely positive outcome of EAM’s consultations in Zhejiang with her Russian and Chinese counterparts. This must be EAM Swaraj’s finest hour in international diplomacy, as the curtain begins descending shortly on her scintillating stint as India’s foreign minister.

No doubt, the urgency of “de-escalation” of the tensions with Pakistan is self-evident. The “de-escalation” is far from over with the return of the Indian pilot. In fact, the tensions on the Line of Control can spiral out of control anytime in the present supercharged atmosphere.

Without doubt, the international community — read the US and NATO allies — is closely watching. The Afghan endgame is at a most sensitive stage and any eruption of tensions between India and Pakistan will negatively impact the peace process.

India should wholeheartedly welcome the Sino-Russian proposal, cast within an SCO framework as far more preferable to the dalliance with the Saudis and the Emiratis — or, for that matter, any UN intervention.

The fact of the matter is that both Russia and China are stakeholders in India-Pakistan normalisation and neither has any hidden agenda in this regard. Of course, Russia and China are like-minded partners for India in the fight against terrorism. On the other hand, unlike in the Cold War era, Pakistan is keen on Eurasian integration, too.

March 2, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Do not barter away India’s national security interests

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 1, 2019

There has been an avalanche of reports in the international media quoting western diplomats and security officials to the effect that India’s “intelligence-led… non-military preemptive strike” on a big terrorist camp in Pakistan on February 26 was all baloney. Apparently, these reports say, there was so such terrorist camp in existence in Balakot.

Incredibly enough, no one in the government cares to set the record straight. The Foreign Secretary had claimed earlier that the strike killed “a very large number of Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists, trainers, senior commanders, and groups of jihadis who were being trained for Fidayeen action were eliminated.”

But surprisingly, the day after the FS spoke, Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor said it was “premature” to provide details about casualties. He would only say that the Indian armed forces had “fairly credible evidence” of the damage inflicted on the camp by the air strikes.

It is important for the government to clarify, because what happened was a defining moment in India-Pakistan relations and in India’s fight against terrorism. The nation has a right to know. No doubt, crossing another country’s borders and attacking its territory is a major escalation. What is the rationale behind such escalation?

Prime Minister Modi says he’s given a “free hand” to the armed forces. Are we to assume that the IAF suo moto acted on February 26? That is inconceivable.

This calls for deep introspection: What is it that the government achieved through the 60-odd hours between the early hours of Tuesday and the evening of Thursday? There is no shred of evidence that Pakistani side is cowed down in fear.

On the contrary, Pakistan insists that it will retaliate against any act of Indian aggression. Prime Minister Imran Khan disclosed in the National Assembly in Islamabad yesterday that in the night of Wednesday-Thursday, the Pakistani military was in a state of readiness to fire missiles into India.

Some of our self styled experts say we’ve “sent a message” to Pakistan that we’ll hit them hard if terrorism continued. How can they be so sure? The Pakistani retaliation with an attack on India the very next day — an act of war by targeting our military installations — discredits their thesis.

The most unfortunate part is that after precipitating the crisis situation on Tuesday, the government ducked and took help from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to “de-escalate” the situation.

Make no mistake, this fateful move has grave implications. The whole world knows that these two petrodollar states are the principal sponsors of terrorist groups who destroyed Syria.

Importantly, how can we possibly overlook that Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and other terrorist organisations in Pakistan have received direct support from these Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia? There is plentiful evidence of it.

An action request cable archived by Wikileaks, documenting the illicit finance activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, stated that “it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.” The cable continues, “Still, donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” It describes Saudi Arabia as “a critical financial support base” for Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other terrorist groups.”

By the estimation of the US state department, LeT and JeM are all but synonymous! As far back as in 1993, the LeT became part of the United Jihad Council, an umbrella group for militant Islamists operating in J&K, and in doing so, it formed a direct alliance with the JeM (which claimed credit for the Pulwama attack recently.)

In fact, another Wikileaks cable confirmed that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been funnelling money not just to LeT but to JeM directly. It says:

“Locals believed that charitable activities being carried out by Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith organizations, including Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Al-Khidmat Foundation, and Jaish-e-Mohammed were further strengthening reliance on extremist groups and minimizing the importance of traditionally moderate Sufi religious leaders in these communities. Government and non-governmental sources claimed that financial support estimated at nearly 100 million USD annually was making its way to Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith clerics in the region from ‘missionary’ and ‘Islamic charitable’ organizations in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ostensibly with the direct support of those governments.”

Saudi Arabia has quite openly held out assurances to Pakistan that it need not go after JeM directly.

Indeed, the most dangerous part of the gambit by the Modi government to let in Saudi Arabia and the UAE into its matrix over Pakistan and Kashmir is that this policy shift is completely of sync with the wider geopolitical struggle unfolding in the region.

Quite obviously, Saudi Arabia wants to win Pakistan over in a tug-of-war game with Iran and is doling out to Islamabad generous financial help and a $10 billion investment plan to to build an oil refinery in the Gwadar port project (which actually puts a major Saudi project on Iran’s border.) The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) recent visit to Pakistan has essentially cemented Pakistan’s inclusion in anti-Iran Arab NATO.

Against this backdrop, how could the Indian policymakers blithely overlook the far-reaching, dangerous implications of consorting with Saudi Arabia and the UAE as partners in its fight against terrorism in J&K fomented by Pakistan?

The most intriguing part is the newfound bonhomie between the Indian elite  and the sheikhs. Put differently, you don’t take help from the wolf to guard the sheep, right? What explains the Faustian deal to allow them to enter the sanctum sanctorum of India’s foreign policy — Kashmir and the matrix of India-Pakistan relations?

Beware of the lure of green money. The Saudis and Emiratis are great operators in Washington, DC. Their fierce lobbying and charm offensives are legion. If they could manipulate the American political class so brilliantly, our oligarchy must be chicken feed.

March 2, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Chlorine ‘likely’ used in alleged Douma chemical attack, no nerve agent – OPCW‘s final report

RT | March 1, 2019

Chlorine was likely used in a chemical attack in Syria’s Douma last April, the OPCW said. The chemical arms watchdog refrained from identifying the party responsible for the incident, despite earlier being granted such powers.

There are “reasonable grounds” to believe that “the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon [took] place on 7 April 2018,” the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.

“This toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine. The toxic chemical was likely molecular chlorine,” according to the report.

The FMM also stated that it “did not observe any major key precursors for the synthesis of chemical weapons agents, particularly for nerve agents such as sarin, or vesicants such as sulphur or nitrogen mustard.”

The OPCW experts came to these conclusions after on-site visits to collect environmental samples, interviews with the witnesses, and analysis of other data.

The chemical incident in Douma just over a year ago was reported by the infamous Western-backed group, the White Helmets, which had been caught red-handed cooperating with terrorists on numerous occasions.

The activists blamed the Syrian government for the attack on its own people, as videos emerged online allegedly showing doctors trying to rescue those affected by toxic substances. Moscow had for weeks issued repeated warnings that the militants were preparing provocations with chemical weapons in the area.

The unverified claims were swiftly picked up by the mainstream media. The US, UK, and France used the alleged attack as a pretext to launch a large-scale missile attack on Syrian government targets, which they said were involved in the production of toxic agents.

They opted to act days before the OPCW was due to arrive in Douma for a fact-finding mission, just one week after the alleged chemical incident.

Chlorine containers from Germany that belonged to militants were later found by the Russian military in the liberated parts of Douma. This was followed by the discovery of a laboratory operated by terrorists, which contained all the equipment needed to produce deadly chemicals.

March 2, 2019 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism | , , , , | Leave a comment