Aletho News


EU’s Russian interference trail goes cold

By Anna Belkina | RT | May 22, 2019

Last-ditch efforts by the European intelligence community, politicians and the mainstream media to find the “Russian trail” ahead of the EU parliamentary elections lead to nowhere.

They tried. They really tried.

For years the European establishment has been sounding the alarm about a seemingly ever-imminent Russian interference campaign in European politics. Accusations against Russian media and, specifically RT, often took center stage. Now, hundreds of conferences, articles and speeches later, and with just a couple of days to go until the European Parliamentary elections; shock horror there is no evidence of interference. Even the final efforts to pre-emptively find a scapegoat for any unsatisfactory result have come up with nothing.

However, it hasn’t stopped attempts to push that narrative.

The most earnest attempt has come from France’s Mediapart, which published an extensive investigation entitled: “The Élysée is worried about Russian interference in the European elections.” The article admits that the President of France is “obsessed with a possible Russian interference.”

This should not come as a surprise. Mr. Macron’s 2017 campaign at times looked like it was running not against its political opponents but against RT, which it repeatedly accused of spreading “fake news” about the then-presidential candidate, despite having failed to produce a single example to date.

Today, the Élysée takes issue with our coverage of the Yellow Vests protests, which have been going on for more than half a year throughout France. It seems protests are only newsworthy when they take place in Russia – then they are covered obsessively by the MSM.

The Mediapart investigation also sees a problem with any person or organization “broadcasting pro-Russian speech.” It is not made clear what makes voicing or hearing such an opinion a subversive act that undermines the EU, unless all European democracy hinges on the unmitigated collective hatred of Russia. A solid platform, no doubt.

BBC’s rude awakening

But the real coup de grace of the “Russian interference” narrative came courtesy of the BBC in its piece entitled: “Is Russia trying to sway the European elections?” I will spoil it for you right away, because the definitive answer to the BBC’s quest is inconspicuously buried in the middle of the report:

“Officials admit that there is currently little evidence of large-scale attempts to spread disinformation directly related to this week’s vote.”

Well, there you have it.

Still, the article is worth looking at in detail, as it – probably inadvertently – carries a comprehensive collection of all the misguided tropes and efforts in the “Russian interference” narrative. For example:

“Officials in Brussels have been taking action against perceived Russian disinformation since at least 2015, when the East Stratcom Task Force was created.”

So, in essence, the EU has a taskforce to assuage their own paranoia – if there have been no attempts – just what have they been doing?

Let’s take another example from the article:

“Attempts have been made […] to denigrate particular politicians, or to misrepresent certain policies.”

This is essentially an admission that some politicians cry “Russian fake news” when they don’t like coverage about them or their policies. That’s the nature of contemporary political life, it seems.

One last example:

“[…] the 2017 elections for the German Parliament, […] right-wing nationalists were allegedly endorsed by Russia. And during French presidential elections in the same year, Kremlin-funded media outlets were accused of “spreading falsehoods” throughout the electoral campaign.”

So, this accusation is simply being “alleged,” aren’t endorsements meant to be cut and dried? Ultimately, it’s an example of the same unquestioning parroting of the Macron campaign, with neither it, nor the BBC producing a single example of the “falsehoods” in question.

Speaking of the 2017 German elections and alleged Russian interference, this September ’17 Washington Post headline speaks for itself: “As Germans prepare to vote, a mystery grows: Where are the Russians?” 

Taking the taskforce to task

The aforementioned EU disinformation taskforce deserves a closer look in and of itself.

It is mentioned by the BBC in passing: “Although the [East Stratcom] task force now focuses solely on Russian media outlets with links to the Kremlin, it came under fire in 2018 for listing articles published by Dutch media outlets as examples of disinformation.”

The taskforce and its flagship project “EU vs Disinfo” did not simply “come under fire.” It was outright sued by the three Dutch outlets in question, with support of the Dutch government. What did they publish, to earn the “fake news” label from the EU’s taskforce? Three separate, factually accurate stories that portrayed Ukrainian politics in a negative light.

Did EU vs Disinfo have a “come to Jesus” moment that caused them to see the value in such factual reporting even when it doesn’t fit their pre-determined narrative? Would they have removed the original “offenders,” had they come from a Russian news outlet, from RT? It is obvious that the answer to both of those questions is a resounding “of course not.”

By redefining its mission to only focus on Russian media after the Dutch fiasco, East Stratcom de facto admits that despite its project’s name, it is not fighting disinformation, it is fighting Russia. It is not about facts, but about politics.

It begs the question: Why reporting the same facts, the same stories is considered journalism for some countries, but labeled “disinformation” for others? This double standard exposes the intellectual and ethical bankruptcy of this project in particular, and the general, self-destructing European establishment trend to label any inconvenient, uncomfortable reporting as “Russian disinformation.” Reality be damned.

BREAKING: News outlet covers news!

The concluding passages of the BBC piece concede that very point and expose just how weak and desperate are the attempts to blame the Russian media and RT for any EU discontent:

“The elections have featured prominently in media outlets funded by the Kremlin, including broadcaster RT and the Sputnik news agency.”

It’s almost like we are an international news outlet, or something, covering an internationally-important story!

The BBC continues: “In their search for signs of Russian disinformation campaigns, experts have spotted evidence of similar attempts to deceive – emerging not from Kremlin-linked outlets, but from partisan groups based inside the EU”. And, “It might be that Russia is tapping into this kind of Eurosceptic agenda and they have been doing that for a very long time.”

In other words, 1) the call is coming from inside the house and 2) RT simply covers the stories that already exist in Europe, but that others ignore. Which is what we have been saying all along, and what we repeated, again, for the BBC:

“It is beyond naive to think that if RT didn’t exist that the issues we cover wouldn’t exist. It is an insult to millions of the EU citizens to broadly paint them as fringe and dismiss their concerns. Overlooking disagreeing voices is what has long undermined the media-political establishment, not RT.”

Remarkably, it seems that the Beeb is finally, begrudgingly waking up to this very reality. Deflated, the piece concludes with the following:

“By focusing on [Russian disinformation], the European Commission is shifting the focus from the more pressing underlying political issues and that’s dangerous,” says Julia Rone, a researcher at Cambridge’s Department of Politics and International Studies. “There are people who are legitimately worried about economic inequality, about youth unemployment, and especially about immigration,” she says. “There’s a lot of mobilisation from the far-right all across Europe and it cannot be attributed simply to foreign agents.”

Can we finally hope for a lesson learned?

May 22, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

The Money in the Trump-Kushner Peace Plan

Dean Baker | Beat the Press | May 20, 2019

The New York Times had an article on the Middle East peace plan being developed by Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner. The piece tells readers:

“The idea is to secure financial commitments from wealthy Persian Gulf states as well as donors in Europe and Asia to induce the Palestinians and their allies to make political concessions to resolve the decades-old conflict with Israel. The White House has indicated that it is seeking tens of billions of dollars but would not identify a precise figure; diplomats and lawmakers have been told the goal is about $68 billion for the Palestinians, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.”

This is obviously quite vague, but it might be helpful to readers to put this $68 billion figure in context. First, it is a bit more than half of the estimated fortune of Jeff Bezos.

More importantly, if we take the total population of the four groups listed, it comes to roughly 120 million. This means that the sum that Trump and Kushner hope to raise to induce a commitment to their peace plan comes to $560 per person. This seems to be a one-time figure rather than any ongoing commitment of aid.

Dean Baker is the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. 

May 22, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment

UK told to give back Chagos Islands in overwhelming UN vote

RT | May 22, 2019

The United Nations has ordered Britain to give up sovereignty over a series of tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, home to a key military base. The decision was approved by a supermajority of member states.

Wednesday’s resolution called on the UK to cede control of the Chagos Islands, which it said were unlawfully annexed from the Republic of Mauritius, then a British colony, in 1965. The General Assembly gave Britain six months to leave.

An extended legal battle over the territory culminated in a ruling last February in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the top UN body for inter-state disputes. The court ordered Britain to leave Chagos “as rapidly as possible,” but the decision was ignored, prompting Mauritius to turn to the General Assembly for another vote.

The latest resolution was adopted with the overwhelming support of 116 countries, with just four nations joining Britain and the United States in opposition. Seventy-one states either abstained or didn’t cast a vote.

Britain granted Mauritius independence in 1968, but held onto the Chagos archipelago. Between 1967 and 1973, the UK expelled the majority of the Chagos population to make way for a massive military complex on the atoll of Diego Garcia, which is today leased out to the United States.

American and British officials were not pleased with the decision.

“The United Kingdom is disappointed by the results in the General Assembly today,” British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce said in a statement, arguing that the number of abstentions “underscores the fact that states have concerns about the precedent that this resolution is setting.”

Pierce’s American colleague Jonathan Cohen responded in much the same way, saying the island’s “status as a UK territory is essential to … our shared security interests.”

However, Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth said he was ready to offer the US and UK unhindered access to Diego Garcia, meaning that the two powers are unlikely to give up the base.

UK Chagos Support, an advocacy group, was somewhat critical of the move, insisting that “no decisions over the future of the islands should be taken without input from the Chagossian [people] themselves.”

May 22, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | 2 Comments

Israel government admits journalists beaten by soldiers were not ‘rioters’

MEMO | May 22, 2019

The Israeli government has retracted its claim that two journalists “led a riot” in Nabi Saleh in 2015, “and that their beating by soldiers was therefore justified”, reported Haaretz.

According to the article, “this is the gist of a compromise reached between the Jerusalem district attorney and the two photographers, Abbas Mumani and Haim Schwarczenberg”, who had sued the Israeli military over the assault.

While the plaintiffs have been awarded a fraction of the damages initially sought, “the significance of the compromise”, Haaretz reported, “lies in the state’s admission that its version of events, throughout the proceedings, was incorrect”.

The incident occurred on 24 April 2015, as Israeli occupation forces violently suppressed a Palestinian demonstration in Nabi Saleh, a village in the West Bank.

Soldiers approached Schwarczenberg and Mumani and told them to leave, before kicking, shoving, beating, and verbally abusing the pair. One soldier even “threw a rock at Schwarczenberg, and ran at him and knocked him down”.

That same day, the Israeli army spokesperson claimed that soldiers had used “reasonable force” against the journalists. However, after viewing footage of the assault, the army described the forces’ conduct as “very serious” and “not in keeping with the commanders’ instructions”.

Subsequently, a deputy company commander “was sentenced in a disciplinary hearing to 14 days in military prison”, while the platoon commander was “confined to base for 30 days”.

However, in response to the lawsuit filed by the journalists in February 2016, the state attorney had alleged that “the plaintiffs acted in concert with the Palestinian rioters”, and were “an inseparable part of the serious rioting…and absolutely were not solely engaged in documenting the event”.

May 22, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 1 Comment

Daily Mail apologises to MEMO director, pays damages and costs

MEMO Director, Dr. Daud Abdullah speaks at MEMO's 'Present Absentees' conference in London on April 27, 2019 [Middle East Monitor]

MEMO Director, Dr. Daud Abdullah
MEMO | May 22, 2019

British Newspaper the Daily Mail has settled a libel claim brought by Director of Middle East Monitor (MEMO) Dr Daud Abdullah, after it wrongly accused him of advocating suicide bombings in support of the Palestinian cause.

In a retraction published today, the Daily Mail admitted that “[its] article on 17 January wrongly stated that Dr Daud Abdullah had told the BBC that he was ‘prepared to blow himself up in a suicide attack’ in support of the Palestinian cause. We are happy to clarify that Dr Abdullah did not say this and that he does not hold this view. We apologise for the error.”

The newspaper also agreed to pay Abdullah damages and cover his legal costs as part of the settlement, which was fought by London-based Carter-Ruck Solicitors. Upon news of apology and settlement, Abdullah said he “deeply appreciated” the efforts of his legal team to secure the retraction.

He continued:

This travesty was avoidable; but when people are driven by prejudice, they very often choose to ignore the facts. Sadly, this will not be last in the campaign to besmirch those who support the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. Others will be similarly maligned.

In its original article – written by British journalist Ross Clark – the Daily Mail claimed to chart Jeremy Corbyn’s, “long and shameful history of meetings with men of violence and opponents of democracy”. The newspaper has long been critical of Corbyn and has repeatedly attacked the Labour leader for his support of the Palestinian cause and criticism of Israel.

May 22, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Israel’s influence on US foreign policy leads to increased tensions with Iran

By Sarah Abed | InfoRos | May 22, 2019

In order to understand the role that Israel plays in the increased tensions between Washington and Tehran, I reached out to Press TV Correspondent, Ali Musawi.

Sarah Abed: What role, if any, does Israel play in the increased tensions between the United States and Iran?

Ali Musawi: We don’t need to go far to see Israeli fingerprints over a US war in the region. Leading up to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Israel and more specifically its current Prime Minister Netanyahu led the choir about Iraq’s WMD and threat to peace and security.

Now, if we look at Netanyahu’s antics concerning Iran, we will see a similar pattern, whether  it was the bomb sketch at the UN General Assembly, his almost regular videos about the Iranian threat and the push by Netanyahu to end the “bad deal” between P5+1 and Iran over its nuclear program. Israel doesn’t play a role; Israel clearly orchestrates US war policies.

Sarah: To your knowledge has Israeli intelligence provided any information to the United States that supports the idea of an increased “Iranian threat”?

Ali: As of this moment, no one knows what this sudden “threat” posed by Iran is. We can speculate about anything, from increased Iranian war drills in the Persian Gulf to its military commanders’ typical aggressive tone when addressing the US and allies’ behavior towards the Islamic Republic. And I think before we even try to address any kind of “Iranian threat” we should acknowledge the boy who cried wolf. Is the US administration being truthful? We need evidence, where is Washington’s proof? We should always remember the non-existent WMD used to rally the world against Iraq.

Sarah: Is Israel advocating for a military response by the United States against Iran?

Ali: It is in Israel’s best interest that the US engages in a direct war with Iran. Israel has been threatening attacks against Iran for years simply because Tehran’s support for resistance movements in Palestine and elsewhere threatens the Zionists’ plan to control the region. Israel with all their access to weapons and blank cheques provided by the US and allies, is simply not a match to Iran. By using the US and the excessively armed Gulf countries, Israel is hoping that, at best, a war will weaken Iran, or at worst, a buffer of countries who will sever Iranian support for the resistance movements.

Sarah: What impact would a war between United States and Iran have on Israel?

Ali: Such a war will impact, not only the countries in the region, but the rest of the world. But from a military prospective, if there is a war between the US and Iran, those resistance movements, from Iraq to Palestine, through Yemen and Syria will respond. They will either attack US and allies’ bases in the region or directly attack Israel. We can say that having such resistance movements has been the real deterrent against what can only be a hugely destructive conflict, probably the worst in our lives.

Sarah: Is a full-fledged military confrontation between Israel and Iran likely?

Ali: This is a definite no. While Israel still plays the role of a superpower in the region, it has not been so in over a decade. The 2006 defeat against Hezbollah in Lebanon and the bravery we see from the Palestinians in Gaza, whenever Israel launches wars on the besieged strip, have destroyed its invincibility myth and shown that Israel and its supposed advanced weaponry are only so on paper.

Sarah: How would that scenario play out and what do you suppose would be the outcome?

Ali: Only if the US is directly involved against Iran, will there be a war.

Sarah: What impact could a war between Israel and Iran have on the neighboring countries, primarily Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq?

Ali: If the US is involved of course. All these three countries have been directly impacted by US/Israeli wars over the past few decades. So, the people as well as politicians are aware of the devastation of such conflicts. This is why they will back Iran and even fight alongside Iran simply because the majority of people in these countries oppose US hegemony. The Middle East is divided. There are countries who are controlled by the US/Israel and there are those who are not. No one will sit idly by if a war breaks out. Everyone has something to lose and gain. Such wars don’t usually have winners and will be very expensive to all sides. This is why we are seeing the US backtracking on some of its threats and will continue to do so because the US has become a bully who is afraid of being hurt.

Sarah: Ali, makes some great points that should put the wheels in motion in everyone’s mind, and in particular those who live in the United States. I will pose one more question to our readers, are we willing to go to war with Iran to benefit Israel?

May 22, 2019 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Alleged Chemical Weapons Use in Syria Needs to be Investigated – Moscow

Sputnik – May 22, 2019

MOSCOW – Russia stands for investigating all reported cases of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Wednesday, adding that this investigation should aim to find the truth rather than bring new accusations against Damascus.

“We have the information that provocations using chemical substances are constantly being prepared by militants and terrorists. Our US colleagues and their allies remain unresponsive to this information. In the OPCW [the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons], a so-called attributive mechanism has been created in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which now has to act, apparently, taking into account the principles that are politically formulated by Western countries in this field. We advocate the investigation of all cases with the use of poisonous weapons, but this must be an investigation and not just the pinning of labels,” Ryabkov told reporters.

He noted that the investigation should entail visits to the scene of the incident, interviews with witnesses and collection of uncontaminated evidence.

Previous such incidents only resulted in accusations against Damascus and no probes of this kind, the diplomat stressed.

“As a result, trust in the OPCW, once the most effective, successful international organization, which is universal in this area, has been undermined”, Ryabkov added.

US Department of State spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on Tuesday that Washington was collecting information regarding an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria over the weekend and warned the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad that it would quickly respond if Damascus’ involvement was confirmed.The Russian Defence Ministry said earlier in May that militants of al-Nusra Front terror group were preparing to stage a false-flag provocation in Syria’s Idlib province to frame the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian army for allegedly attacking civilians with chemical weapons.

Last year, the United States, United Kingdom and France used claims of chemical attacks in Syria’s Khan Sheikhoun, Duma and Eastern Ghouta to justify missile strikes on Syria, without waiting for the results of an independent investigation. The Syrian government has denied any role in the attacks.

May 22, 2019 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism | , , | 1 Comment

US trying to entrap Iranian scientists: Minister

Press TV – May 22, 2019

Iran’s minister of science, research, and technology says the United States has set a trap for Iranian scientists, enabling their entry into the country before arresting them.

Speaking to ISNA, Mansour Gholami, said the US has identified a number of Iranian professors, who have conducted research in certain areas, published relevant scientific articles, and ordered and bought laboratory equipment, the agency reported on Wednesday.

“They issue visas for Iranian professors and arrest them upon their arrival in the US,” he said, noting. “This is a type of game they play to lure Iranian professors there.”

He also ruled out the possibility that those targeted in the scheme might have been in violation of Washington’s sanctions. “If it had to do with the sanctions, they (the Americans) would announce it in advance,” Gholami said.

“Drawing the professors into the country and arresting them in such a fashion shows that the Americans have laid a trap for us,” the minister specified.

Massoud Soleimani, a 49-year-old Iranian scientist left Iran on sabbatical last year, but was arrested upon arrival in Chicago and transferred to prison in Atlanta, Georgia for unspecified reasons.

His brother has said in interviews that the only accusation facing him is that two of his students were arrested while departing the United States three years ago because they were carrying five vials of growth hormone. This is while such material is readily available on the market and not subject to sanctions, he explained.

The two students were charged in a court and released after posting bail because they held US citizenship.

Soleimani was “definitely” being held hostage by the US administration, his brother said. “How can a researcher and a physician, who does not have any criminal record and boasts numerous articles published in international circles, be placed in detention?” he asked.

He also revealed that the professor had been pressed to confess that the purchase of the growth hormones had been made with an intent to “circumvent the American sanctions” against Iran.

US authorities said such a confession would pave the way for a plea bargain, his brother said, adding, however, that “Soleimani refused to accept the offer.”

May 22, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , | 3 Comments

Erdogan must honor his promise to return occupied Syrian territory

Turkish army pullout will bring peace to Northern Syria

By Firas Samuri | Aletho News | May 22, 2019

In mid-January 2018, the Turkish General Staff announced the beginning of Olive Branch Operation. The goal was to oust the Kurds from the outskirts of Afrin, as well as to create a buffer zone along the Syrian-Turkish border.

These steps were sharply criticized by the world community, but Ankara hastened to declare that the presence of its troops in Syria was temporary. Erdogan promised to return these territories to Syrians. Indeed, the fighting stopped on March 20 2018, after capturing Afrin when several hundred Kurds were killed and wounded. However, now it looks like Turkey is not going to leave the occupied territory.

Kurdistan 24 TV channel recently published information that Ankara is building a concrete wall around the city of Afrin to isolate it from its surroundings. “Sources on the ground in Afrin see this as another step of Turkey’s annexation of Afrin into its borders,” said Mutlu Çiviroğlu, a Syria and Kurdish affairs analyst. Though several locals support Turkish activity, it doesn’t bring peace and stability to the region. Just remember the events of the last year.

First of all, let’s notice the terrorist attacks in Afrin that have been carried out against the Turkish Forces and Free Syrian Army (FSA) units. Among the biggest attacks, the car bomb explosion in front of Ahrar al-Sharqiya headquarters is often mentioned. An investigation was initiated, but the responsible parties were never found. That demonstrates the support of the residents for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

Moreover, since the beginning of the Turkish occupation, the humanitarian situation in northern Syria has deteriorated significantly. The main reason is the closure of medical and educational facilities whose activities, for some reason, didn’t suit the local pro-Turkish administration. On demand of the Turks, some of them were converted to the military headquarters.

Return of the northern regions under the control of the Syrian government undoubtedly will lead to the reopening of the health centers, hospitals, and schools. Consequently, more Syrian children will be able to obtain an education, and older people will receive appropriate medical treatment.

The districts of Damascus that have been completely liberated from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants and now are being speedily reconstructed by the Syrian government serve as a good example. Thus, in February 2019, the provincial departments of education reported on the restoration of 57 schools, another eight are still being reconstructed. The same situation takes place in other parts of Syria.

The reopening of the Police stations and reactivation of other security services will help reduce arms and drug trafficking, as well as limit the supply of weapons to terrorists in the neighbouring province of Idlib. Such actions will lead to a de-escalation of tensions in the region.

Currently, the key reason for hostilities in the region is the ongoing extremist provocations. Ankara ignores such incidents as these radicals are fighting against Kurds. The militants are opposed to President Assad, but after the withdrawal of the Turkish troops, Damascus will be able to establish a dialogue with FSA, as has happened in southern Syria. There the Syrian government managed to persuade the militants to lay down weapons and then amnestied them.

At the same time, we should not forget about the fate of Kurds. If the north of Syria remains under Turkish control, thousands of locals will become refugees and won’t get back to their homes, fearing constant repression by the Turkish authorities. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 100,000 people have already left the region before the Turkish invasion.

Therefore, the return of the areas occupied by the Turkish Army to the control of the Syrian government is an essential step towards restoring sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. It contributes a lot to the strengthening of peace and stability, both in the north of the country and in the region as a whole.

May 22, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | Leave a comment