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Amazon Pulls Hezbollah Deputy Leader’s Book After Israeli Media Outcry

Deputy leader of Hezbollah Gen. Naim Qassem, via Reuters.
By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 05/23/2019

This week Amazon pulled a controversial book being sold through its website after Israeli media led an outcry against it, charging the US retail giant with hosting Hezbollah propaganda containing incitement to violence against Israelis written by the group’s second in command.

“Hezbollah: The Story from Within” was published in 2010 by Naim Qassem, the deputy head of Hezbollah, who is a designated international terrorist by the United States. The rare “insider account” of Iran-backed Hezbollah has been translated into several languages and had reportedly long been available in English through Amazon.com.

According to the Israeli national Hebrew-language daily newspaper Maariv, “a reporter found that the English edition of the book was being offered for sale on the Amazon site,” and was alarmed at “a clear instance of breaking sanctions and helping to finance terrorism” on the part of Amazon.

“A Maariv reporter contacted Amazon with findings in the book and Amazon subsequently decided to immediately remove the book from its sales sites in the United States and around the world,” a rough English translation of the Maariv story said. The Hebrew-language report said the book was filled with anti-Semitic statements and questioned Israel’s right to exit.

Though it had apparently been offered by Amazon for years, the book was spotlighted this week after controversy erupted between Israel and a United Nations official, after the official called it “necessary reading”.

On Tuesday Israel slammed the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis for holding a high level meeting with Qassem after which the UN official publicly praised the senior Hezbollah official.

Kubis had confirmed on Twitter that he not only met with Qassem, but received a copy of his most well-known book, which he also praised.

The Times of Israel reported of the statement:

Kubis was likely referring to “Hizbullah (Hezbollah): The Story from Within,” a 464-page tome first published in English a decade ago. The book, published by the London-based Saqi Books, is available on Amazon.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman went so far as to denounce the meeting via Twitter, saying “You know what else is ‘necessary reading’? U.N. Resolution 1701” — in reference to a resolution intended to resolve the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.

Within two days following the incident, the initial link through which the book had been sold on Amazon led to an error page, in apparent confirmation that Amazon banned the book at the request of the Israeli reporter.

On Thursday, Middle East and Iran analyst Matthew Levitt confirmed that the “Hezbollah deputy Secretary General’s book [is] no longer available on Amazon after journalist points out its anti-Israel incitement to violence & sanctions implications of selling it.”

The fresh controversy comes following new efforts by Israel to convince the UN to officially recognize Hezbollah as a terror group — an effort which has reportedly failed to gain traction.

The Trump administration has also of late taken more aggressive sanctions measures on Hezbollah leadership amid the ongoing heightened tensions with Iran. Hezbollah has long been seen as an arm of the Ayatollahs in Lebanon and Syria.

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Book Review, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 6 Comments

Hungary’s Foreign Minister Calls Western Europe ‘Hypocrites’ for China Criticism

teleSUR | May 23, 2019

Hungary’s foreign minister Thursday accused major Western European nations of “hypocrisy” and “hysteria” for criticizing central European countries’ business dealings with China, and defended Hungary’s use of Huawei 5G mobile phone technology.

Sixteen central and eastern European countries, including 11 European Union members, held a summit with China in April during which it pledged to increase trade and provide more support for big cross-border infrastructure projects.

The area is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to link China by sea and land with Southeast and Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

France and Germany oppose such independent moves, which they fear might make Europe appear disunited at a time when the EU is trying to forge a more defensive strategy towards China.

On Tuesday, speaking to reporters in Paris, France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire criticized “negotiations of 16 states from the east with China in parallel to negotiations that the EU is leading with China”.

But Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, who is serving in the government of far-right Prime Minister Victor Orban, rejected such criticism, saying Germany and France do far more business with China than the central European states, and often negotiate directly with Beijing.

“There is such a bad hypocrisy in the European Union when it comes to China,” Szijjarto told Reuters on the sidelines of an OECD meeting in Paris. “The 11 central and eastern European member states … represent 9.9 percent of EU trade with China.”

“When the German chancellor and French president meet China’s leadership nobody thinks that’s a problem,” he said. “Nobody raises a question about how it is possible that they sell 300 aircraft to China, which is a bigger deal than the (entire) trade represented by the 11 central European countries.”

He said it was also unfair for Western European states to criticize Hungary for using technology from Chinese firm Huawei in its 5G mobile phone networks, when those networks were being built under license by German and British companies, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone.

Hungary’s government has been at odds with Brussels for the erosion of media and judicial independence, attacks on civil organizations, treatment of migrants, laws against poverty, and the ousting of educational institutions like the progressive Central European University.

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | Leave a comment

Was that the Next Palestinian President You Just Banned, Mr Trump?

Hanan Ashrawi, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Member (UN Photo/Evan Schneider)
By Stuart Littlewood | Dissident Voice | May 23, 2019

Grandma Ashrawi is more than a match for Israel’s stooges in the White House and whatever ‘deal of the century’ they have cooked up for the Holy Land.

So the Trump administration will no longer allow Hanan Ashrawi into the US even though she’s a top diplomat, has family there and visits regularly. Why?

A US State Department spokesperson told Haaretz that “visa records are confidential under US law; therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases”, adding that the law “does not authorize the refusal of visas based solely on political statements or views if those statements or views would be lawful in the United States.”

Ashrawi is reported as saying, in her forthright way, that refusal to let her in was a political act and full of “pettiness and vindictiveness.”

Ashrawi, a Palestinian Christian, is something of a hot potato. She was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council representing Jerusalem in 1996 and again in 2006. She has been a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) for 20 years, becoming the first woman to hold a seat in the highest executive body in Palestine. It is recognised as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by the 137 states with which it has diplomatic relations. Ashrawi’s father, a physician, was a founder of the PLO.

She has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Literature from the Department of English at the American University of Beirut and completed her education with a PhD in Medieval and Comparative Literature from the University of Virginia. She is also an Honorary Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford.

Ashrawi has been an official spokes of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace process starting with the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991. In 1996, she was appointed as the Palestinian Authority Minister of Higher Education and Research. Before that she was Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Birzeit University.

In 2003 Ashrawi received the Sydney Peace Prize, an award praised by, among others, Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State. Albright called Ashrawi “a brilliant spokeswoman for her cause”.

Ashrawi, now 72, is a grandmother, and several of her grandchildren live in the United States. So why is America hostile towards her?

Israeli occupation “a most pervasive form of oppression, dispossession and denial”

In a recent article in Al Jazeera, Marwan Bishara reminds us that for the past year and a half Trump and his administration have been showering Benjamin Netanyahu and his apartheid regime with anti-Palestinian ‘gifts’…. like recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv, ending US assistance to UNRWA (the agency that supports millions of Palestinian refugees), quitting the UN Human Rights Council and shutting down the PLO’s office in Washington.

As if that wasn’t enough the Trump administration has stopped describing the West Bank and East Jerusalem (which are Palestinian) as “occupied” and instead calls them “Israeli-controlled”. This gives Netanyahu all the encouragement he needs for expanding Israel’s illegal settlements and pledging to annex them. To cap it all Trump then delivered Netanyahu a splendid election present in recognising Israel’s illegal annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights. Of course, whatever Trump says that territory is still Syria’s.

Western media, when providing ‘balance’ to news on the Israel/Palestine conflict, usually wheel in a Palestinian spokesperson who is unintelligible. Israeli spokespeople on the other hand are media trained and sound very British/American, giving them a huge advantage. Ashrawi has perfect English and is a highly articulate and persuasive woman – an unrivaled expert in Middle East affairs — and capable of reducing Trump and his entourage to mincemeat in any broadcast encounter. Therefore she poses a clear and present danger to their hopes of putting across and maintaining the false narrative that sustains Israel’s rogue dominance in the Middle East.

Haaretz reproduces some of Hanan Ashrawi’s recent tweets. In one she says:

I despise hypocrisy, misogyny, absolutist fundamentalism, populism, racism of all kinds, exclusivity, arrogance & condescension, power politics & militarism, cruelty in any form, & any sense of entitlement & exceptionalism…

In another:

Most of all, I have no tolerance for the Israeli occupation in all its manifestations as a most pervasive form of oppression, dispossession & denial; I have no respect for the enablers of this inhuman condition nor for its apologists…

She tells it straight. And in her tweets she adds:

I’ve met (and even negotiated with) every Sec. of State since Shultz, and every President since George H. W. Bush (present administration excluded); I’ve been a vocal critic of this administration and its underlings; I believe in freedom of speech.

This is one formidable lady! I have her down as the next Palestinian president, head and shoulders above any male candidates. But will the good people of Palestine have a say in the matter? The presidency of Mahmoud Abbas, the quisling loser, should have ended in 2009. But the corrupt system he presides over has allowed him to cling to power indefinitely, to his people’s great detriment.

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 1 Comment

Microsoft’s ElectionGuard a Trojan Horse for a Military-Industrial Takeover of US Elections

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | May 24, 2019

Earlier this month, tech giant Microsoft announced its solution to “protect” American elections from interference, which it has named “ElectionGuard.” The election technology is already set to be adopted by half of voting machine manufacturers and some state governments for the 2020 general election. Though it has been heavily promoted by the mainstream media in recent weeks, none of those reports have disclosed that ElectionGuard has several glaring conflicts of interest that greatly undermine its claim aimed at protecting U.S. democracy.

In this investigation, MintPress will reveal how ElectionGuard was developed by companies with deep ties to the U.S. defense and intelligence communities and Israeli military intelligence, as well as the fact that it is far from clear that the technology would prevent foreign or domestic interference with, or the manipulation of, vote totals or other aspects of American election systems.

Election forensics analyst and author Jonathan Simon as well as investigative journalist Yasha Levine, who has written extensively on how the military has long sought to weaponize public technologies including the internet, were consulted for their views on ElectionGuard, its connections to the military-industrial complex and the implication of those connections for American democracy as part of this investigation. 

In January, MintPress published an exposé that later went viral on a news-rating company known as Newsguard. Officially aimed at fighting “fake news,” the company’s many connections to U.S. intelligence, a top neoconservative think tank, and self-admitted government propagandists revealed its real intention was to promote corporate media over independent alternatives.

Newsguard was among the first initiatives that comprise Microsoft’s “Defending Democracy” program, a program that the tech giant created under the auspices of protecting American “democratic processes from cyber-enabled interference [which] have become a critical concern.” Through its partnership with Microsoft, Newsguard has been installed in public libraries and universities throughout the country, even while private-sector companies have continued to avoid adopting the problematic browser plug-in.

Now, Microsoft is promoting a new “Defending Democracy” initiative — one equally ridden with glaring conflicts of interest — that threatens American democracy in ways Newsguard never could. ElectionGuard is touted by Microsoft as a system that aims to “make voting secure, more accessible, and more efficient anywhere it’s used in the United States or in democratic nations around the world.” It has since been heavily promoted by mainstream and U.S. government-funded media outlets in preparation for its use in the 2020 general election.

However, according to Jonathan Simon, election forensic analyst and author of CODE RED: Computerized Elections and the War on American Democracy, this public relations campaign is likely just cover for more insider control over U.S. elections. “It’s encouraging that after close to two decades of ignoring the security issues with computerized voting, there’s suddenly a scramble to protect our next election that suggests those issues are finally being taken seriously,” Simon told MintPress. “Unfortunately the proposed solution is just more computerization and complexity — which translates to more control by experts and insiders, though of course that is not part of the PR campaign.”

As to the likely identity of those insiders, the fact that Microsoft’s ElectionGuard was developed in tandem with a private military and intelligence contractor whose only investor is the U.S. Department of Defense offers a troubling clue. As a consequence, ElectionGuard’s promise to “secure” elections is dubious, especially given that Microsoft itself is a U.S. military contractor. Furthermore, amid the unfolding scandal of Israeli meddling in foreign elections, Microsoft’s growing ties to Israeli military intelligence and private Israeli cybersecurity firms raise even more concerns about whether ElectionGuard’s real purpose is to “secure” American elections for candidates friendly to the establishment, especially the military-industrial complex.

Explaining ElectionGuard

According to an announcement made in early May by Tom Burt, Microsoft’s Vice President for Customer Security and Trust, ElectionGuard is “a free open-source software development kit (SDK)” that “will make voting secure, more accessible, and more efficient anywhere it’s used.” Burt’s statement further claims that the ElectionGuard system “will enable end-to-end verification of elections, open results to third-party organizations for secure validation, and allow individual voters to confirm their votes were correctly counted.” While ElectionGuard may appear to concern itself only with electronic ballots, the announcement states that the system “is designed to work with systems that use paper ballots” through the use of an optical scanner.

Notably, Microsoft chose to announce ElectionGuard only after it had already partnered “with major election technology suppliers who are exploring the integration of ElectionGuard into their voting systems.” Burt further noted that Microsoft now has “partnerships with election technology suppliers responsible for more than half of the voting machines sold in the U.S.” ElectionGuard partner companies include Democracy Live, Election Systems & Software, Hart InterCivic, BPro, MicroVote, and VotingWorks.

Another interesting, and deeply troubling, admission in the Microsoft announcement is that Microsoft’s ElectionGuard development partner, the Portland-based cybersecurity firm Galois, “recently received $10 million in funding from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to build a demonstration voting system to help evaluate secure hardware DARPA researchers are developing as part of a separate DARPA program.”

Microsoft’s announcement then notes that “the agency views ensuring the integrity and security of the election process as a critical national security concern and plans to implement the ElectionGuard SDK as part of their effort to enable an end-to-end verifiable component in future versions of their demonstration voting system.”

As deeply troubling as DARPA’s $10 million indirect investment in ElectionGuard may seem, it is merely scratching the surface, as Galois itself is essentially an extension of DARPA in the private cybersecurity industry.

The “private” company whose only investor is the Pentagon

Founded in 1999 by John Launchbury, Galois quickly became close to numerous government agencies that now – according to the Galois website – form the vast majority of its clientele. In fact, Galois currently only lists the following U.S. government agencies in its “clients” section: DARPA, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Homeland Security, “Intelligence Community” (i.e., CIA, NSA, etc.) and NASA. However, other clients of Galois include top U.S. weapons manufacturer General Dynamics. Galois’ stated focus as a company is research and development in advanced computer science, with an emphasis on securing critical systems and cybersecurity. It also dabbles in artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, and machine learning.

Though it describes itself as “a privately held U.S.-owned and -operated company,” public records indicate that Galois’ only investors are DARPA and the Office of Naval Research (ONR), both of which are divisions of the Department of Defense. In other words, while “officially” a private company, its only investor is the U.S. government, more specifically the Pentagon.

However, the company’s connections to DARPA go even further. The company’s founder and chief scientist John Launchbury, left Galois in 2014 to become program manager and subsequently the director of DARPA’s Information Innovation Office, which deals with “nation-scale investments in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.” In 2017, he left DARPA and went back to work at Galois as the company’s chief scientist. DARPA’s Information Innovation Office’s official purpose is to develop advanced technology for issues of national security interest, but it also focuses on enhancing “human/machine partnership.”

A Galois spin-off company called Free & Fair, which develops election technology, partnered with Microsoft to produce ElectionGuard. Free & Fair’s website lists its partners as DARPA, Microsoft, voting machine manufacturer VotingWorks, vote tallying software developer Verificatum, the state government of Colorado, and the OSET (Open Source Election Technology) Institute. VotingWorks is a “non-profit” voting machine manufacturer founded by a former Mozilla director of engineering and closely affiliated with the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). In addition to Colorado, other states like Minnesota have partnered with Microsoft’s “Defending Democracy” program, but it is unclear if they have adopted or plan to adopt ElectionGuard as a consequence of that partnership.

According to the CDT’s announcement of VotingWorks’ launch:

CDT will serve as a home for VotingWorks until it becomes its own non-profit entity. This partnership means VotingWorks is working closely with the CDT’s experienced team to rapidly ramp up operations and begin in earnest the development of affordable, secure, open-source voting machines for use in US public elections.”

The president and CEO of CDT is Nuala O’Connor, who was Amazon’s Vice President for Compliance and Customer Trust before becoming CDT president. O’Connor was also formerly chief privacy officer of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and has also worked at General Electric and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

CDT’s board includes former Deputy Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator for the White House under Obama and current Principal Counsel at Apple Philippa Scarlett; Microsoft’s corporate vice president, Julie Brill; and Mozilla’s vice president of global policy, Alan Davidson. More troubling, however, is its advisory council, which includes representatives of RAND Corporation, Walmart, Verizon, the Charles Koch Institute, Facebook and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). MintPress readers are likely familiar with AEI, one of the country’s most notorious neoconservative think tanks, known for employing John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz, among others. One of Newsguard’s co-founders, Louis Gordon Crovitz, is also affiliated with the AEI.

Another partner of Galois’ Free & Fair is the Open Source Election Technology Institute (OSET Institute, or OSETI), whose flagship initiative is called “TrustTheVote.” One of OSETI’s co-founders and its current CTO is E. John Sebes, who has previously done work for DARPA and DHS. OSETI’s strategic board of advisors includes Chris Barr of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which is a top investor in Newsguard; former Oregon Secretary of State Phil Keisling; former Deputy Director of the NSA William Cromwell; former head of DHS’ Cybersecurity Directorate and former DARPA project manager Doug Maughan; and Norm Ornstein of the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute and co-director of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project.

Aside from the numerous links to major corporations, government agencies and neoconservative think tanks, of particular concern to Free & Fair’s mission to develop “secure” election technology are its connections to DHS. This is because, before, during and after the 2016 election, DHS was caught attempting to hack into state electoral systems in at least three states — Georgia, Indiana and Idaho — with similar accusations also being made in Kentucky and West Virginia. In Indiana’s case, the DHS’ attempted hacks occurred nearly 15,000 times over a 46 day period. In an official answer to Georgia’s claim the DHS had tried to penetrate its electoral system’s firewall, DHS which initially denied being behind the attempted hack, later responded that the attempted breach was “legitimate business” aimed at “verifying a professional license administered by the state.” Some of the states targeted by DHS had turned down the department’s offer to “shore up” election systems prior to the 2016 election.

Compare this to the alleged Russian hacking into state electoral systems, which – to date – includes only the claim from the FBI that hackers alleged to be affiliated with Russian military intelligence penetrated voter registration data in two counties in Florida. That alleged hack, the details of which remain classified and for which no evidence of it even happening has been made publicly available, did not result in any alterations to data or other manipulation of those systems, per FBI officials. The DHS, in contrast, attempted to hack into the systems, not of individual counties, but entire states and acknowledged that it did so, even though they chose not to use the work “hack” and defended their activity. While focusing on foreign — and especially Russian — interference may make for a more patriotic story, the dangers posed by domestic actors with at least as great a stake in U.S. election outcomes appear to have been grossly underestimated and virtually ignored by the media.

Free & Fair’s partnerships with groups tied to DHS seem to further undermine its stated mission of providing secure and trustworthy election technology, in addition to its parent company’s deep ties to the Department of Defense, especially DARPA.

Russian-American investigative journalist, and author of Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet, Yasha Levine explained to MintPress why DARPA is likely interested in U.S. election system software like ElectionGuard and why the agency’s interest is dangerous for American democracy:

Election systems are now being increasingly seen as a theater for warfare between competing nation states. So, if you are DARPAand your reason for existence is to create hi-tech weapons for the future, then you are going to be looking at electronic voting systems as a theater of war where the country could be attacked by a foreign adversary. That explains why DARPA is involved.

But DARPA and some of these companies involved can also be seen as foes of Americans’ popular will… We can hypothesize about what’s really going on and what their intentions are, but clearly the Pentagon R&D Lab for war should not be anywhere near America’s electoral system because it represents a huge and powerful and unaccountable force in the American political system whose interests often run counter to democracy.

The fact that we are handing over the keys of American democracy to the military-industrial complex — it’s like giving the keys to the henhouse to a fox and saying, ‘here come in and take whatever you want.’ It’s obviously dangerous.”

From mind control to vote control?

It’s worth briefly describing why DARPA’s role at Galois is of concern. This stems mainly from the fact that DARPA is currently developing Orwellian and nightmarish “Terminator” technologies — including efforts to implant chips into soldiers’ brains, replace most human soldiers with robot soldiers, and create killer “Terminator” robots — and autonomous artificial-intelligence targeting systems that will use social media to identify potential targets.

In 2015, Michael Goldblatt — then-director of the DARPA subdivision Defense Sciences Office (DSO), which oversees the “super soldier” program — told journalist Annie Jacobsen that he saw no difference between “having a chip in your brain that could help control your thoughts” and “a cochlear implant that helps the deaf hear.” When pressed about the unintended consequences of such technology, Goldblatt stated that “there are unintended consequences for everything.”

It goes without saying that the fact that an institution currently developing what essentially amounts to mind-control technology, and that also sees nothing wrong with such technology, has suddenly become so interested in creating and funding with millions of dollars a “free, fair and secure” election system to protect American democracy from interference, is beyond odd and suggests an ulterior motive.

Similarly, Microsoft’s claim that it “will not charge for using ElectionGuard and will not profit from partnering with election technology suppliers that incorporate it into their products” should also raise eyebrows. Considering that Microsoft has a long history of predatory practices, including price gouging for its OneCare security software, its offering of ElectionGuard software free of charge is tellingly out of step for the tech giant and suggests an ulterior motive behind Microsoft’s recent philanthropic interest in “defending democracy.”

In addition, Microsoft’s dual role as a major technology company and a contractor for both the U.S. military and the U.S. intelligence community should also raise red flags. Indeed, Microsoft has made it abundantly clear that it plans to forge ever closer ties with the U.S. government, especially after Microsoft President Brad Smith announced last December that Microsoft is “going to provide the US military with access to the best technology … all the technology we create. Full stop.” A month prior to that statement, Microsoft secured a $480 million contract with the Pentagon to provide the U.S. military with its HoloLens technology.

This close relationship that Microsoft is building with the Pentagon may explain the company’s ulterior motive in creating and promoting ElectionGuard, as promoting the largely DARPA-funded election technology could help improve Microsoft’s chances in its current bid for a $10 billion cloud services contract with the Pentagon.

Furthermore, given the numerous corporate connections as well as the connections to the AEI, it could be argued that Microsoft and Galois’ intimate involvement in this system could be to help “guard” elections from candidates who threaten to regulate or rein in their industries, particularly the military-industrial complex. Of course, the claim that ElectionGuard is “open source” is meant to mitigate such speculation, as the open-source nature of the technology ostensibly means that no discrete code is hidden that could be used to manipulate results. However, as will be shown shortly, the fact that a technology is open-source does not necessarily mean that the data that passes through that technology is not open to manipulation from a third party.

ElectionGuard isn’t immune to manipulation

Microsoft’s press release announcing ElectionGuard highlights its claim that its system would make elections more verifiable, secure, and auditable; be open source-based; and improve the voting experience. While all of these things sound nice enough, there is reason to believe — based on the description given by Microsoft — that some of these claims are dubious and misleading. Unfortunately, for now, analysis of ElectionGuard is restricted to Microsoft’s description of the software as it is not yet available for public examination. The ElectionGuard software kit is expected to be released later this year on the GitHub platform.

The first aspect of the “verifiable” claim relates to a voter tracking system, where each voter is given a unique tracking ID which allows them “to follow an encrypted version of the vote through the entire election process via a web portal provided by election authorities.” Voters can choose the option of confirming “that their trackers and encrypted votes accurately reflect their selections.”

Yet Microsoft notes that “once a vote is cast, neither the tracker nor any data provided through the web portal can be used to reveal the contents of the vote,” meaning that while a person can track whether their vote was counted, they cannot verify whether the content of the vote (i.e., who they voted for) is counted correctly or not. Microsoft goes on to note that only “after the election is complete” will the tracker page allow the content of the vote to be seen.

The second “verifiability” component of ElectionGuard “is an open specification – or a road map – which allows anyone to write an election verifier.” Microsoft then notes that this open specification would mean that “voters, candidates, news media and any observers can run verifiers of their own or downloaded from sources of their choosing to confirm tabulations are as reported.”

Microsoft describes these two features as constituting “end-to-end verifiability” (E2E-V), which Free & Fair describes as “cryptographic technology that enables voters to vote in a normal fashion in a polling place and have evidence that the election is trustworthy.”

Another focus of ElectionGuard is security, for which the system employs “homomorphic encryption, which enables mathematical procedures – like counting – to be done with fully encrypted data” and this allows individually encrypted votes to be “combined to form an encrypted tabulation of all votes which can then be decrypted to produce an election tally that protects voter privacy.”  Notably, homomorphic encryption is the only ElectionGuard security measure named in the press release.

Election forensics analyst Jonathan Simon, author of CODE RED: Computerized Elections and the War on American Democracy, was not fully persuaded by the E2E-V claim. “Pardon my skepticism,” Simon told MintPress, “but I’ve read Microsoft’s ‘good news’ ElectionGuard flyer and it reminds me very much of the flyers and PR material long served up by the vendors and programmers of the current voting equipment — the very computers that IT experts discovered could be hacked by outsiders and programmed to add, delete, and shift votes by insiders.”

Simon continued:

Right now, for example, they’re hawking expensive and completely unnecessary ballot-marking devices (BMDs) that turn your votes into a barcode, a code that no voter can read or verify. Very slick but yet another level of non-transparency, another step away from public, observable vote-counting, and another vector for fraud.

I’ve spent the last 17 years examining vote-count patterns and drawing attention to a parade of egregious red flags indicative of computerized vote-count manipulation. It has been a system designed for concealment and about as non-transparent as a process can be. It would be great if more advanced technology would bring transparency at last, as Microsoft seems to promise.

But what I see so far is even more complexity — encryption that, whether open source or not, requires the most rarefied experts to penetrate or understand. And just a short step to full-on internet voting — even more convenient and about as secure as, say, Facebook.

Pending a demonstration showing with perfect layperson-accessible clarity how a third-party entity can verify aggregate vote-counts without having to take on faith some step in the pipeline (individual verification that ‘your’ vote was ‘counted’ is a useless bell-and-whistle), it still feels like the same old ‘trust us’ game. I’m willing to be persuaded but the historical context here is very cautionary.”

Simon’s concerns reflect some controversial aspects of the ElectionGuard approach. While encryption would ostensibly protect votes from tampering and thus elections results, it is important to point out that homomorphic encryption is a malleable form of encryption.

According to Brilliant.org:

A malleable crypto-system is one in which anyone can intercept a cipher text, transform it into another cipher text, and then decrypt that into a plain text that makes sense. Malleability is generally considered undesirable in a crypto-system. Imagine you’re trying to send the message ‘I love you’ to your friend using encryption. You encrypt it and send it off. But, it is intercepted by a hacker on the way. All they see is some cipher text, but they can change that cipher text to something that will decrypt to ‘I hate you’ when your friend tries to decrypt it. That is why malleability is not usually wanted.”

If that’s the case, then what stops a “hacker” or another third party — say a U.S. government agency like the NSA or a political operative with access to the electoral cyber-pipeline — from changing a person’s vote from Democrat to Republican or vice versa, or altering the encrypted tabulation of all votes?

While homomorphic encryption seems a reasonable choice in one sense, for allowing votes to be tallied without decrypting, there is an added layer of concern given Microsoft’s past, particularly Microsoft’s history of actually working with U.S. government agencies to bypass encryption.

Indeed, documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that Microsoft actually helped the National Security Agency bypass its own encryption so the agency could decrypt messages sent via certain Microsoft platforms including Outlook.com Web chat, Hotmail email service, and Skype. In addition, in 2009, a senior NSA official testified before Congress that Microsoft and the NSA worked together to create its Windows 7 operating system, leading some to worry that Microsoft had built a “backdoor” into the operating system to aid government surveillance activities. Now that Microsoft’s ties to the U.S. military and intelligence community are deeper than ever, it begs the question whether Microsoft’s covert cooperation with government agencies to the detriment of consumers is also a factor guiding its role in creating and promoting ElectionGuard.

Furthermore, with Microsoft’s president having vowed to hand over all its technologies to the U.S. military, one wonders if this type of encryption and methodology was not chosen on purpose, especially given the fact that the NSA is quite accomplished at breaking much more secure types of encryption even without help from Microsoft.

Another of Microsoft’s talking points used to promote ElectionGuard is the fact that it will be open source, meaning the program’s code will be publicly available, a move apparently aimed at assuaging concerns that ElectionGuard’s code could contain hidden manipulations or vulnerabilities.

However, investigative journalist Yasha Levine likened Microsoft’s promotion of ElectionGuard’s still unreleased open source code to a “PR move.” Levine told MintPress:

Open source inevitably has bugs and vulnerabilities that are there accidentally because all code has vulnerabilities. This is true for open source and closed source systems. Open source just means that people can look at it, but then that code has to be run through a compiler that actually runs an executable program. So there you already have a degree of abstraction and separation from the open source code. But even if the executable code and the source code are the same, there are bugs which can be exploited.

So, what open source does is give a veneer of openness that leads one to think that thousands of people have probably vetted the code and flagged any bugs in it. But, actually very few people have the time and the ability to look at this code. So this idea that open source code is more transparent isn’t really true because few people are looking at it.”

Levine went on to note that there are many examples of open source systems — including widely used open source systems — having major vulnerabilities that go undetected for years. One of the best examples, in Levine’s opinion, is the “Heartbleed” bug, which was a security vulnerability in the open source OpenSSL software, a system that allows for the basic encryption of web traffic by encrypting “http” connections. The Heartbleed allowed hackers access to the memory of data servers for an estimated half a million websites and went undetected for years, despite the fact that OpenSSL is an open source system.

Levine also underscored the fact that both American and foreign intelligence agencies “more than any other person or group” are involved in seeking out such vulnerabilities and exploits, which they keep hidden from the public in order to give themselves an advantage in cyberwarfare. Some of the CIA’s lists of such exploits or vulnerabilities were revealed in the WikiLeaks Vault 7 release.

Microsoft’s ties to Israeli military intelligence

ElectionGuard is currently being promoted as a key step towards preventing the “interference” of a foreign government or state actor in U.S. elections in the future. Yet, there is no guarantee that ElectionGuard itself is free from foreign influence, given that Microsoft has deep ties to the military intelligence community of a foreign nation: Israel.

Microsoft’s links to the Israeli military intelligence unit known as Unit 8200, which will be discussed momentarily, are troubling for more than a few reasons. The first is the fact that the main developer of a new election software system aimed at protecting U.S. elections from “foreign interference” has close ties to a foreign military intelligence agency. It goes without saying that if the main developer of ElectionGuard had such ties with another foreign military intelligence agency, such as Russian military intelligence, the software would not stand a chance of adoption in the U.S. and it would likely be a national scandal. The fact that Microsoft’s ties to Israeli military intelligence have not troubled proponents of ElectionGuard suggests that the problem is not foreign interference or influence as long as the foreign nation involved is an ally, not an adversary.

Arguably yet a graver concern in terms of the Microsoft-Unit 8200 relationship and Electionguard, is the recent slew of scandals surrounding Israeli interference in foreign elections all around the world. The most recent of those scandals involved the Israeli company the Archimedes Group and its social-media influence disinformation campaigns to target the elections in several African and Asian nations. According to the Times of Israel, the CEO of the Archimedes Group, Elinadav Heymann, is a former senior intelligence agent for the Israeli military. The group spent an estimated $800,000 on misleading Facebook ads as part of its disinformation campaign, a sum much larger than the $100,000 alleged to have been spent by a Russian company on a similar disinformation campaign in the 2016 election.

Prior to this latest scandal, several private Israeli companies were accused of seeking to collude with the Trump campaign in 2016, namely the now-shuttered PSY-Group — which was run by former Israeli intelligence operatives — and Wikistrat, which also has close ties to Israeli intelligence. The fact that private Israeli firms with ties to Israeli intelligence and Israeli military intelligence have been caught in recent election meddling scandals, including in the U.S., should be a major red flag when examining the many conflicts of interests that enshroud ElectionGuard’s developers and how those conflicts may inform the program’s functionality.

Microsoft has long had a presence in Israel, which dates back to 1989. However, in recent years, they have invested in and acquired in several companies with deep ties to the IDF’s Unit 8200.

In 2015, Microsoft acquired Israeli cloud security company Adallom for $320 million, which would go on to serve as a new foundation for Microsoft’s Research and Development (R&D) Center in Israel, which has been active since 1989. Adallom’s product was subsequently rebranded as Microsoft Cloud App Security. Adallom’s CEO and co-founder is Assaf Rappaport, who now heads Microsoft’s R&D Center in Tel Aviv. Rappaport, among other things, is a graduate of the elite IDF “Talpiot” program and also served in the Israeli military intelligence unit known as Unit 8200.

Unit 8200 is an elite unit of the Israeli Intelligence corps that is part of the IDF’s Directorate of Military Intelligence and is involved mainly in signal intelligence (i.e., surveillance), cyberwarfare and code decryption. It is often described as the Israeli equivalent of the NSA and Peter Roberts, senior research fellow at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, characterized the unit in an interview with the Financial Times as “probably the foremost technical intelligence agency in the world and stand[ing] on a par with the NSA in everything except scale.”

Notably, the NSA and Unit 8200 have collaborated on projects such as the infamous Stuxnet virus as well as the Duqu malware, a sophisticated strain of which was used to spy on countries engaged in negotiating the nuclear deal with Iran. In addition, the NSA is known to work with veterans of Unit 8200 in the private sector, such as when the NSA hired two Israeli companies, whose executives are linked to Unit 8200, to create backdoors to all the major U.S. telecommunications and major tech companies including Facebook, Microsoft and Google. The unit is also known for spying on civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories for “coercion purposes” — i.e., gathering info for blackmail — and also for spying on Palestinian-Americans via an intelligence sharing agreement with the NSA.

However, Microsoft’s connections to Unit 8200 go far beyond Adallom. Another example is Microsoft’s considerable investment in Illusive Networks, an Israeli cybersecurity firm created by Team8, in which Microsoft has also invested heavily. Team8’s CEO and co-founder is Nadav Zafrir, who used to lead Unit 8200, and two of the company’s three other co-founders are also veterans of Unit 8200. Former CEO of Google (now Alphabet), Eric Schmidt, is a major backer of Team8.

Team8 has cozied up to former NSA directors, with Zafrir giving presentations alongside former NSA director Keith Alexander, for example. Those efforts eventually culminated in Team8 hiring retired Admiral Mike Rogers, former director of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, as a “senior adviser.” “I’ve worked with the highly talented resources of Unit 8200 in the past and so when I had the opportunity to join Team8, I knew this was a rare and valued opportunity,” Rogers said of his hire. Team8 described the decision to hire Rogers as being “instrumental in helping strategize” Team8’s expansion in the United States.

Rogers’ hire by a firm headed by the former boss of a foreign military intelligence agency drew sharp criticism from veterans of the NSA. One of those ex-NSA employees — Jake Williams, a veteran of NSA’s Tailored Access Operations hacking unit — told CyberScoop that “Rogers is not being brought into this role because of his technical experience …It’s purely because of his knowledge of classified operations and his ability to influence many in the U.S. government and private-sector contractors.”

In addition to Microsoft’s ties to Unit 8200 through its connections to Adallom, Illusive Networks and Team8, Microsoft is also developing direct ties with Israel’s military, with the IDF having adopted the company’s HoloLens technology. The IDF’s C2 Systems Department has been using a pair of HoloLens devices to adapt the technology for use in war for the past three years, a precursor to what is sure to be a lucrative military contract for Microsoft, considering that their HoloLens contract with the U.S. military was nearly half a billion dollars.

ElectionGuard a bloodless coup for the military-industrial complex

Following the 2016 election and the heavily promoted concerns about “Russian hackers” infiltrating election systems, federal agencies like the NSA have used that threat to lobby for greater control over American democracy. For instance, during a 2017 hearing then-NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers stated:

If we define election infrastructure as critical to the nation and we are directed by the president or the secretary, I can apply our capabilities in partnership with others – because we won’t be the only ones, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI – I can apply those capabilities proactively with some of the owners of those systems.”

With Rogers — who is now employed by the Microsoft-funded and Israeli military intelligence-connected company Team8 — having lobbied for the direct involvement of U.S. government agencies, including the NSA and DHS, in supervising elections, it seems likely that ElectionGuard will help enable those agencies to surveill U.S. elections with particular ease, especially given Microsoft’s past of behind-the-scenes collaboration with the NSA.

Given that ElectionGuard’s system as currently described is neither as “secure” nor as “verifiable” as Microsoft is claiming, it seems clear that the conflicts of interests of its developers, particularly their connections to the U.S. and Israeli militaries, are a recipe for disaster and tantamount to a takeover of the American election system by the military-industrial complex.

“The great irony, and tragedy, here,” according to election forensics analyst Jonathan Simon, “is that we could so easily go the opposite direction and quickly solve all the problems of election security if we got the computers out of the voting process and were willing to collectively invest the modicum of effort needed for humans to count votes observably in public as they once did. If democracy is not worth that effort, perhaps we don’t deserve it.”

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , | Leave a comment

West-backed think tanks threaten new Ukrainian president with disturbing list of ‘RED LINES’

By Danielle Ryan | RT | May, 2019

When President Volodymyr Zelensky won a landslide victory in the free and undisputed April elections, most accepted that he was given a fairly strong mandate to lead Ukraine. But it seems not everyone is so democratically-minded.

Particularly unmoved by the democratic process are a collection of Ukrainian ‘civil society’ groups, who have just issued a lengthy list of “red lines not to be crossed” by the new president, lest he risk provoking a new wave of political instability – that they would presumably instigate.

Issuing their catalog of demands on Thursday, the groups claim to be “politically neutral” but “deeply concerned” about the first actions taken by the comedian-turned-politician Zelensky, including his decision to appoint members of former President Viktor Yanukovych’s government to positions within his own government.

A scan of the undersigned reveals that many of these “civil society groups” are anything but politically neutral. In fact, quite a few of them are partly funded by the US government, various EU governments (including the UK), the European Commission itself – and, of course, the omnipresent liberal billionaire George Soros.

The list includes the notorious Euromaidan Press, Stop Fake and Ukrainian Crisis Media Center, to name just a few. In their heyday, many of these groups acted as propaganda tools of the Western-backed government of Petro Poroshenko, rather than the watchdogs they claim to be. They now confirm that a pesky election isn’t going to stand in the way of their agenda, reaffirming that their own “principles and positions” on issues remain unchanged and warning:

Should [Zelensky] cross these red lines, such actions will inevitably lead to political instability in our country…

This statement, which precedes the wide-ranging list of red lines, reads like a threat: Do what we say, or there will be trouble. Isn’t that a strange, almost dictatorial approach for groups purporting to be interested in “democracy,” “freedom,” and “dignity”? Did we all miss the part where a group of think tanks were collectively elected president of Ukraine?

Of course, these groups do indeed represent various factions of Ukrainian society and many of them no doubt have worthy aims, and they should continue their work unimpeded. But they do not represent all of Ukrainian society and they certainly do not have the authority to set the political agenda and lay down the law to the incoming government – and that, quite literally, is what they are trying to do.

It’s such a gobsmackingly odd list of demands that even Western journalists who had a broadly friendly relationship with the Poroshenko government are aghast at their audacity. The list is broken down into issues of security, foreign policy, economy, national identity (language, education and culture), media and government functioning.

On security, the groups want to forbid Zelensky from “achieving compromise” with Russia in any manner that would be “to the detriment” of the national interest, presumably as defined by themselves. Inhibiting the implementation of security and defense policies outlined in a 2016 decree signed by Poroshenko is also forbidden, they say.

In the foreign policy realm, these audacious activists warn that democratically-elected Zelensky may not initiate any actions that could lead to the “reduction or lifting” of sanctions on Russia by Western powers. He may not take any action “delaying, sabotaging, or rejecting” the course for EU and NATO membership for Ukraine. Where the economy is concerned, he may not implement any policy that goes against existing agreements with “the IMF and other foreign partners.”

It’s on the national identity front that things get really sketchy, though. The groups would like to forbid any attempt whatsoever to even “review” multiple controversial laws signed by Poroshenko, including an anti-Russia language law (which effectively alienates the 30 percent of Ukrainians who speak Russian as their native tongue) and laws on contentious “de-communization” which banned Soviet symbols in the country.

Ironically, this push for de-communization coincided with a renewed glorification of Nazism that went almost unnoticed by Western media and officials, who have supported Poroshenko’s virulently anti-Russian government as it implemented laws better suited to George Orwell’s 1984 than a modern democracy. The “NGOs” insist that Zelensky may not implement any action to support the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, another ‘red line’ among their national identity demands.

Remember when Russian television channels and social networks like VKontakte were banned in Ukraine simply for the crime of being Russian? Well, Zelensky will also be in big trouble if he tries to restore them, the “civil society groups” say.

The most vague red line of all comes near the end of the list, when the new president is warned against “ignoring dialogue with civil society” – a command so vague that “almost anything” Zelensky does going forward could be interpreted as ignoring their wishes, France 24 correspondent Gulliver Cragg wrote on Twitter.

BBC correspondent Jonah Fisher tweeted that the groups themselves may have crossed a red line –  the red line of “what civil society groups can legitimately demand of a freshly elected government.”

Zelensky was elected to office with 73 percent of the vote – and let’s not forget, he won that election having campaigned against many of the policies these ‘civil society’ groups are aggressively demanding be kept in place.

He has been in office only a matter of days, and these Western-backed groups are threatening to instigate political unrest should he take any action that they don’t find acceptable to their political agenda. So who, exactly, poses the real threat to democracy?

Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Canada’s meddling in Venezuela: the case of Ben Rowswell

Ben Rowswell in Afghanistan with Auditor General Sheila Fraser
By Yves Engler · May 24, 2019

Why does the dominant media pay so much attention to Russian “meddling” in other countries, but little to Canada’s longstanding interference in the political affairs of nations thousands of kilometres from our borders?

The case of Ben Rowswell illustrates the double standard well.

The current Canadian International Council President has been the leading non-governmental advocate of Ottawa’s quest to overthrow Venezuela’s government. In dozens of interviews, op-eds, tweets and ongoing speaking tour the former ambassador has put a liberal gloss on four months of naked imperialism. But, Rowswell has been involved in efforts to oust Nicolas Maduro since 2014 despite repeatedly claiming the president’s violation of the constitution two years ago provoked Ottawa’s recent campaign.

A March 2014 Venezuela Analysis story suggested the early adopter of digital communications was dispatched to Caracas in the hopes of boosting opposition to a government weakened by an economic downturn, the death of its leader and violent protests. Titled “New Ambassador Modernizes Canada’s Hidden Agenda in Venezuela”, the story pointed out that Rowswell immediately set up a new embassy Twitter account, soon followed by another titled SeHablaDDHH (Let’s Talk Human Rights), to rally “the angry middle classes on Twitter.” The article noted that “Rowswell is the best man to encourage such a ‘democratic’ counterrevolution, given his pedigree” in digital and hotspot diplomacy. According to a March 2014 Embassy story titled “Canada dispatches digital diplomacy devotee to Caracas”, just before the Venezuela assignment “Ottawa’s top digital diplomat … helped to establish a communications platform for Iranians and Iranian emigrants to communicate with each other, and occasionally the Canadian government, beyond the reach of that country’s censors.” Previously, Rowswell was chargé d’affaires in Iraq after the 2003 US invasion and headed the NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar during the war there. An international strategy advisor in the Privy Council Office during Stephen Harper and Jean Chrétien’s tenure, Rowswell created Global Affairs Canada’ Democracy Unit. Rowswell also worked with the Washington based Center for Strategic and International Studies, whose board of trustees includes Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the National Democratic Institute, which is part of the US National Endowment for Democracy that performs work the CIA previously did covertly.

Believing he was sent to conspire with the opposition, Caracas refused to confirm Rowswell’s appointment as ambassador. Former vice president and foreign minister José Vicente Rangel twice accused Rowswell of seeking to overthrow the government. On a July 2014 episode of his weekly television program José Vicente Hoy Rangel said, “the Embassy of Canada appears more and more involved in weird activities against the Venezuelan constitutional government.” The former Vice President claimed Canada’s diplomatic mission helped more than two dozen individuals of an “important intelligence organization” enter the country. Three months later Rangel accused Canadian officials of trying to destabilize the country by making unfounded claims Maduro supported drug trafficking and gave passports to terrorists.

In early 2015 then president of the National Assembly (not to be confused with Venezuela’s president) Diosdado Cabello accused the Canadian embassy of complicity in a failed coup. According to Cabello, an RCMP official attached to the embassy, Nancy Birbeck, visited an airport in Valencia with a member of the UK diplomatic corps to investigate its capabilities as part of the plot.

The president of the National Assembly also criticized Rowswell for presenting a human rights award to anti-government groups. Cabello said the ambassador “offered these distinctions to people of proven conspiratorial activity and who violate the fundamental rights to life of all Venezuelans.” At the embassy during the award ceremony were the lawyers and wife (Lilian Tintori) of Leopoldo López who endorsed the military’s 2002 coup against President Hugo Chavez and was convicted of inciting violence during the 2014 “guarimbas” protests that sought to oust Maduro. Forty-three Venezuelans died, hundreds were hurt and a great deal of property was damaged during the “guarimbas” protests. Lopez was a key organizer of the recent plan to anoint Juan Guaidó interim president and Tintori met Donald Trump and other international officials, including the prime minister and many others in Ottawa, to build international support for the recent coup efforts.

Rowswell appears to have had significant contact with López and Guaidó’s Voluntad Popular party. He was photographed with Voluntad Popular’s leader in Yaracuy state, Gabriel Gallo, at the embassy’s 2017 human rights award ceremony. Gallo was a coordinator of NGO Foro Penal, which was runner-up for the embassy’s 2015 Human Rights Award. (The runner-up for the 2012 award, Tamara Adrián represents Voluntad Popular in the national assembly.)

The embassy’s “Human Rights Prize” is co-sponsored with the Centro para la Paz y los Derechos Humanos. The director of that organization, Raúl Herrera, repeatedly denounced the Venezuelan government, saying, “the Venezuelan state systematically and repeatedly violates the Human Rights of Venezuelans.”

The “Human Rights Prize” is designed to amplify and bestow legitimacy on anti-government voices. The winner gets a “tour of several cities in Venezuela to share his or her experiences with other organizations promoting of human rights” and a trip to Canada to meet with “human rights authorities and organizations.” They generally present to Canadian Parliamentary Committees and garner media attention. The Venezuelan NGOs most quoted in the Canadian media in recent months criticizing the country’s human rights situation — Provea, Foro Penal, CODEVIDA, Observatorio Venezolano de la Conflictividad, Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones, etc. — have been formally recognized by the Canadian embassy.

During Rowswell’s tenure at the embassy Canada financed NGOs with the expressed objective of embarrassing the government internationally. According to the government’s response to a July 2017 Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade report on Venezuela, “CFLI [Canadian Funding to Local Initiatives] programming includes support for a local NGO documenting the risks to journalists and freedom of expression in Venezuela, in order to provide important statistical evidence to the national and international community on the worsening condition of basic freedoms in the country.” Another CFLI initiative funded during Rowswell’s tenure in Caracas “enabled Venezuelan citizens to anonymously register and denounce corruption abuses by government officials and police through a mobile phone application.”

Just after resigning as ambassador, Rowswell told the Ottawa Citizen: “We established quite a significant internet presence inside Venezuela, so that we could then engage tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens in a conversation on human rights. We became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.”

Can you imagine the hue and cry if a Venezuelan ambassador said something similar about Canada? In recent months there have been a number of parliamentary committee and intelligence reports about Russian interference in Canada based on far less. Last month Justin Trudeau claimed, “countries like Russia are behind a lot of the divisive campaigns … that have turned our politics even more divisive and more anger-filled than they have been in the past.” That statement is 100 times more relevant to Canada/Rowswell’s interference in Venezuela than Russia’s role here.

Recently Rowswell has been speaking across the country on “How Democracy Dies: Lessons from Venezuela and the U.S.”

I wonder if the talk includes any discussion of Canadian diplomats deployed to interfere in other country’s political affairs?

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , , | Leave a comment

Trump directs AG Barr to declassify data on what prompted Russiagate probe

RT | May 24, 2019

US President Donald Trump has allowed his attorney general to declassify information about what prompted the Russiagate investigation – and ordered the heads of the intelligence agencies to cooperate with the reveal.

Attorney General William Barr has been allowed to begin declassifying information related to the counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election as he reviews the circumstances that led the FBI to open the probe. The order also directs the “intelligence community” to “quickly and fully cooperate,” providing whatever materials Barr requests.

Trump announced the declassification on Twitter, promising that it would “ensure that all Americans learn the truth” about the probe that has cast a shadow over the first two years of his presidency and “restore confidence in our public institutions.”

By giving Barr the authority to declassify documents, Trump is going over the heads of the intelligence agency chiefs, many of whom have made no secret of their disagreements with the president. Barr began his investigation last month, focusing on the FBI’s use of confidential informants as well as its grounds for using FISA to surveil the Trump campaign.

Last week, Trump tweeted that his campaign had been “conclusively” spied upon, and called for “long jail sentences” for those responsible for this “treason,” but did not elaborate further.

Barr has said he believes “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign, though former agency director James Comey has complained “the FBI doesn’t spy, the FBI investigates.” Even current FBI director Christopher Wray seems to be uncomfortable with “spying,” telling a Senate panel it is “not the term I would use” – he prefers “surveillance activity.”

Trump has repeatedly and vociferously denounced the Russiagate investigation as a “witch hunt.” The nearly-three-year-long investigation – beginning with the FBI surveillance in 2016 and ending with special counsel Robert Mueller’s submission of his report in April this year – failed to turn up conclusive evidence of wrongdoing by the president, though that hasn’t stopped his political opponents from calling for his impeachment anyway.

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , | Leave a comment

EU Establishment Set for Popular Rebuke in Elections

Strategic Culture Foundation | May 24, 2019

Over this weekend 28 member states of the European Union go to the polls in an impressive exercise of democracy. Polling takes place over four days, ending on Sunday. The full results won’t be finalized until next week. But already it is widely anticipated that so-called populist parties across the bloc will make significant gains in winning seats in the 751-member chamber of the European Parliament.

One glaring anomaly is that Britain is participating in these elections, even though, in theory, it was supposed to have departed the EU in March. The Brexit wrangling has persisted without a clear result, meaning that the United Kingdom is obliged to hold EU parliamentary elections like the other 27 member states. European parliamentarians elected in Britain may not actually take their seats in Brussels or Strasburg because the Brexit process when complete – whenever that happens – will make their seats redundant.

Another anomaly is that the 2019 elections have been overshadowed with political and media claims in the run-up to the polls that Russia would launch an “interference campaign” to sway voters to vote for political parties opposed to the EU status quo.

Yet on the eve of the ballots being cast, Western news media and various EU security pundits have had to admit that there has been no evidence of the anticipated “Kremlin influence campaign”. Such an alleged Russian meddling campaign in the EU is an echo of the long-running, baseless narrative applied to the US presidential elections in 2016. No evidence has ever been produced to substantiate either scenario.

Russia has consistently and vehemently denied any such notion of “peddling influence” over Western voters. But the great anomaly is that Western media and European security agencies are having to admit that there is no indication that Russia has targeted the EU elections with a campaign of media interference.

The rise of nationalist, anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic, anti-austerity, anti-war, anti-capitalist political movements across Europe is simply due to this: a surge in anti-establishment parties. The surge of protests among European citizens against a neoliberal establishment has nothing to do with alleged “Russian interference” and everything to do with an inherent democratic deficit in the 28-member bloc.

By trying to blame Russia for “malignly influencing” EU citizens and funding “anti-EU parties”, as the government scandal in Austria sought to do this week, is an act of desperate denial politics by the EU establishment as to its own dire political and economic failings. Such official denial and scapegoating of Moscow is only fueling even more popular protest and instability within the EU.

French President Emmanuel Macron this week typically blamed “collusion between nationalist parties and foreign interests for threatening the existence of Europe”. Macron’s elitist views are symptomatic of the establishment malaise which is actually at the core of the problem in the EU’s crumbling cohesion and authority.

Britain’s Brexit referendum held in 2016 was a forewarning of the popular dissent across the EU towards an establishment in Brussels perceived as anti-democratic, beholden to big finance and Neo-liberal capitalist austerity, as well as kowtowing to a Washington-led consensus for illegal overseas wars and NATO expansionism.

The EU status quo has led to massive problems of immigration from pandering to America’s illegal warmongering in the Middle East and North Africa. European citizens have become awake to those problems and are opposed to the degeneration of Europe as an adjunct of Washington’s imperialism. That dissent is also manifest in many European citizens being opposed to the EU’s compliance with US-led sanctions and hostility towards Russia. The fact of that does not mean that Russia is somehow influencing opposition movements. It is simply a fact that European citizens are in revolt against an anti-democratic status quo that is all too often servile to a transatlantic axis that is not in their fundamental democratic interests, like so many other policies that the EU status quo slavishly adheres to.

Emmanuel Macron and other EU establishment figures may push the fantasy that the bloc is under threat from “far-right nationalist parties in cahoots with the Kremlin”.

The fact is that the EU is simply perceived by a growing number of its 512 million citizens as a monolith that is unresponsive to democratic needs. That’s why they are rebelling against the status quo by voting for a range of anti-establishment parties. If the EU can’t recognize the democratic impulse from within its own bloc then its future is destined for further disruption as the Brexit movement portends. Blaming “external enemies” like Russia for its own inherent political problems is being proven for the desperate denial that it is.

The people are speaking this weekend. The EU establishment better listen.

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

What Could Be More “Fun” than Covering the Pentagon and All Its “Toys”? Asks the New York Times

By Mark Crispin Miller | MintPress News | May 22, 2019

Every day, on page A2, the New York Times runs an excruciating feature called “Inside the Times,” wherein one of its reporters tells us (as the feature ought to be entitled) “What It’s Like to Be Me at the New York Times.” Such narcissistic burbling is so empty, and so much less enlightening than the news we should be getting from that skimpy propaganda rag, that this feature cannot possibly have been concocted in response to readership demand (unless those readers are the Times’ reporters’ mothers). What it’s really meant to do is take up space, along with all the other fluff used to fill out those first two pages of the Times : e.g., “Of Interest” (“noteworthy facts from today’s paper”), “The Conversation” (“four of the most read, shared and discussed posts from across the NYT” ), and “The Mini Crossword,” among other trifles.

But this is not to say that we learn nothing from the me-me-me blathering in that feature. Check out what the feature told us last month in “From Refugee to Pentagon Correspondent, Helene Cooper on Covering ‘the Best Beat in Washington,’” an interview with Times employee Cooper.

First, there’s this bit of background:

“I arrived in the United States from Liberia as a refugee at the age of 14. There had been a military coup in Liberia, and members of my family were attacked and shot. I hadn’t seen it coming, too consumed by my adolescent life to pay attention to what was going on around me.

Once we got to the United States, I became obsessed with the news. I devoured the local newspaper and read back copies of The New York Times. I watched ABC’s “World News Tonight” every day, wanting any glimmer of information on what was happening in Liberia and elsewhere around the world. This was in part because I never wanted to be surprised by something again, and in part because I felt isolated in Knoxville, Tenn., where we lived. I used the news as an escape.

Then I read “All the President’s Men” and was hooked. It was for A.P. American History in 11th grade. That was when I decided I wanted to be a reporter.”

Thus we learn that Helene Cooper is a woman of color (lest we miss that point, there’s a drawing of her face above the title) andas well, an immigrant to these United States (so take that, Donald Trump!) and, to boot, an immigrant of color who was forced to spend her teen years feeling “isolated” out among the nativist deplorables in Tennessee, where she “used the news as an escape,” hungrily absorbing what she could from “back copies of The New York Times” and “ABC’s ‘World News Tonight,’” until she “read ‘All the President’s Men’ and was hooked,” deciding she would go to work as “a reporter.”

Helene Cooper waxes poetic about the Pentagon’s latest ‘toys’

Checking out all the toys

Now read how this reporter feels about her daily beat:

“What do you enjoy most about being a Pentagon correspondent? What is most challenging about it?

The cool hardware! I love checking out all the toys the American military has. I’ve flown for hours in the co-pilot seat of a B-1 bomber, including during midair refuels. I’ve done the catapult takeoff and abrupt landing on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. I’ve been in Apache, Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters over Baghdad, Kabul and the DMZ, on the border of North and South Korea. I’ve been on an American naval destroyer in the South China Sea while it was being shadowed by the Chinese. That part of the job is just pure fun.

But covering the military also allows me to keep my hand in national security policy, about which I love writing. I think the Pentagon is the best beat in Washington.

The challenging part is the language. The military lives and dies by acronyms. Sometimes sources sound as if they don’t even want to speak English. I’m always stopping people mid-sentence to make them explain what they’re saying.”

Where to begin? As to the orgasmic thrill that this “reporter” gets from riding in those homicidal “toys,” one wonders how that would go down if Helene were H. Lane Cooper, a fat white guy with a buzz-cut, born in Knoxville as opposed to having fled there from Liberia. The fact is that such naked gushing over all that lethal hardware is perfectly okay from someone with her racial/gender/national profile, even as that hardware is now being inescapably deployed in 36 code-named military operations all over her home continent, and wherever else “our troops” are on the job (for a different take on the “pure fun” of riding high in an Apache helicopter, see “Collateral Murder”).

And now for some real challenges

And while it can’t be easy mastering all those acronyms, if that’s what Helene Cooper finds “most challenging” about her beat, she needs to check out what’s been written on the Pentagon, and/or its works, by journalists who haven’t had the time, desire or opportunity to go joy-riding in a B-1 bomber.

For example, Helene Cooper would find it “most challenging” to press her sources on the $21 trillion that the Pentagon could not account for when finally audited late last year. If Cooper were to look into that mind-boggling disappearance, and the Pentagon’s decades of stonewalling as to where their money (that is, our money) goes, it could be the “most challenging” investigation of her whole career, since the Times and all the rest of “our free press” have carefully refrained from such investigation, even as the Pentagon has, year after year, asked for still more funding by Congress (which gladly hands it over), as Dave Lindorff — who broke the news of that failed audit in The Nation — noted in an interview with FAIR:

“…[W]hat we’re learning is that one of the main reasons for these plugs in the budget is to allow the Pentagon to come into Congress and say, “Look, we spent all the money you gave us last year, and we need more.” When, in fact, they probably are not spending all the money they get each year, and then the money that doesn’t get spent, which by law is supposed to be returned to the Treasury, gets — they have a term for it — it gets “nippered” away from the category it was in, and moved to five-year money in other parts of the budget, where it gets hidden away, and becomes a slush fund that the Pentagon can use for black projects and other things that it wants to use it for without any observation.”

Or, now that the Pentagon has warned of China’s plans to “build a string of military bases” around the world (as The Guardian has dutifully reported), adding some unspecified number to the one that China operates today (in Djibouti), Cooper also might accept the “challenge” of pressing her sources to help determine just how many military bases the U.S. runs worldwide, since, as Nick Turse noted in Asia Times in 2011, “no American knows [that number]. Not the president. Not the Pentagon. Not the experts. No one.” [emphasis added]

In fact, there are more than a thousand U.S. military bases dotting the globe. To be specific, the most accurate count is 1,077. Unless it’s 1,088. Or, if you count differently, 1,169. Or even 1,180. Actually, the number might even be higher. Nobody knows for sure.

If even the Pentagon does not know (or claims not to know) how many military bases the U.S. runs worldwide, it is because some number of “our” bases — drone bases, for example — are maintained by the CIA (see below). Couldn’t Cooper team up with some other challenge-seeking Times reporter(s) to find out that number? They could, but only if they’d want to (and if their editors would let them).

As noted parenthetically above, the Pentagon is now running 36 code-named operations in Africa. “The code-named operations cover a variety of different military missions, ranging from psychological operations to counterterrorism,” Nick Turse and Sean D. Naylor reported on Yahoo News on May 1. The countries where U.S. special operations forces saw combat — according to Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, who served at U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) from 2013 to 2105 — are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan and Tunisia. “[Bolduc] added that U.S. troops have been killed or wounded in action in at least six of them: Kenya, Libya, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan and Tunisia.”

How is this not big news? Although Turse and Naylor mention no such operation in Liberia, Cooper might find it “challenging” to ask her sources at the Pentagon to shed more light on those three dozen U.S. wars on her home continent.

It also would be very “challenging” for Cooper to investigate the scandal, noted very quietly by a few outlets since 2010, of the roughly 1,700 Pentagon employees — and an unknown number of defense contractors, some with high-level security clearances — seeking out and downloading child pornography on government computers.

The discovery of this apparent criminal network inside the Department of Defense arose from Operation Flicker, “a wider investigation conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” according to Voice of America. Since this scandal is unknown to most Americans, Cooper could perform a crucial public service by doing an in-depth report on it for the New York Times, if her editor would let her. In keeping with the Times’ obsessive #MeToo coverage — and its peculiar lack of interest in the scourge of pedophilia outside the Catholic Church — Cooper has reported on Sen. Martha McSally’s (R-AZ) claim that she was raped by her superior officer in the Air Force.

The Pentagon’s school system educates 47,000 students in this country on military bases in seven states, and 24,000 students on foreign bases in 11 countries. Sexual abuse among children there is common, if not epidemic, and the military tends to let it slide, according to an AP exposé published in March of 2018:

“A decade after the Pentagon began confronting rape in the ranks, the U.S. military frequently fails to protect or provide justice to the children of service members when they are sexually assaulted by other children on base, an Associated Press investigation has found.”

In between her jaunts on Black Hawks and Chinooks, Cooper might find it “most challenging” to follow up on that AP report, which seems to have run almost nowhere in the corporate press. (PBS NewsHour, to its credit, did a piece about it.) That the story made no splash makes it quite likely that the Pentagon has not done much, if anything, to make those children safe, so there’s probably a lot for Cooper to investigate. 

Diversity as propaganda’s passport

Thus Helene Cooper’s record on “the best beat in Washington” — like that of Eric Schmitt, her predecessor in that role — makes quite clear (as if it hadn’t been quite clear for decades) that the New York Times is wholly at the service of the U.S. war machine, no less so than Stars and Stripes; although that newspaper is explicitly a propaganda outlet for the Pentagon, while the Times pretends to serve the interests of the public, or at least its (Trump-bumped) readership of urban liberals.

Back before it shrank into a full-blown propaganda rag, the Times was highly critical of the Pentagon’s grotesquely bloated budgets. In pieces like “C-5A  Jet Repairs to Cost $1.5 Billion,” “Pentagon Discloses $2-Million Increase in Price of an F-14” (both 1975), and “How Pentagon Spending Is Wrecking the Economy” (1986), the Times offered tough reporting on the military industrial complex which is unthinkable today.

This is the same Times that just six weeks ago featured an opinion piece on “Why America Needs a Stronger Defense Industry” and that has Helene Cooper never questioning the U.S. military budget, or its ruinous effects on all the rest of us, but instead selling those obscenely costly “toys,” by pitching the “pure fun” of riding in them, blithely unaware of their atrocious impact down below.

That there has been no protest of that psychopathic rhapsody — no comment anywhere throughout the U.S. press throughout the weeks since that interview appeared — could mean one of two things. The more hopeful possibility is that nobody reads “Inside the Times” (or anything else on those two pages of the paper), and so nobody protested Cooper’s paean to the Pentagon’s “cool hardware” because nobody read it.

If, however, people did read Cooper’s interview, it may be her identity that’s keeping everybody mute. Just as Obama’s color (and Hillary Clinton’s gender) had liberals sitting quiet in the face of an unprecedented surge of U.S. wars, which would have been a harder sell from white-male-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bush (even with the background hue supplied by Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice), so Helene Cooper’s categorical identity — her status as a (female) refugee (of color) — has clearly let her get away with what some may call whoring for the U.S. war machine as eagerly as if she’d posed, all smiles, in full-page ads for Rockwell, Boeing, Sikorsky, Northrop Grumman or Raytheon.

Cooper’s propaganda function would explain the Times’ avid emphasis on her identity, rather than her expertise in military policy or practices. That campaign began on Jan. 31, 2017 with “A Washington Correspondent’s Own Refugee Experience,” Cooper’s harrowing account of what her family went through in post-coup Liberia, “where enlisted soldiers took over the government and launched an orgy of retribution against the old guard:

“My father was shot. My cousin was executed on the beach by firing squad. My mother was gang-raped by soldiers in the basement of our house after she volunteered to submit to them on the condition that they leave my sisters and me, ages 8 to 16, alone.”

Cooper then recounts her family’s flight from that anarchic nightmare to the United States: “The plane was a DC-10 … it was like we were already in America, with carpets and air conditioning and air freshener.” And then proclaims her stand against Trump’s xenohphic immigration policy:

“This country took me and my family in when we were at one of the lowest points of our lives and returned to me a feeling I had lost: that of being safe. I was so proud when I eventually took the oath of citizenship and posed for photos, waving anAmerican flag, in front of the courthouse where I was sworn in.”

The piece ends with good news about the gradual recovery of Liberia — that “it elected a female president — the first African country to do so” — and a reprise of the exhilarating moment when that DC-10 took off from Monrovia.

“I hadn’t seen my mom cry in the whole month after the coup. Not even the night she was raped. But when the plane’s engines revved and it accelerated down the runway [as] we left for the United States, her chest heaved with big racking sobs.”

So poignant is this story of deliverance (and diversity) that it could seem a little churlish to deplore the author’s hearty appetite for military rides — or to point out that the “military coup” that rocked Liberia in 1980 causing so much misery for Cooper’s family and forcing them to flee to the United States, had been covertly run by the United States.

During the presidency of William Tolbert (who was murdered in the coup), “both the CIA and the Pentagon were … prospecting for leadership change in Liberia,” according to the final report of that nation’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, founded in 2005 (the report has since disappeared online). That Cooper now reports so gently on the Pentagon responsible for her own family’s agony seems rather strange, to say the least.

The social justice war dance

But what all of this may tell us about Helene Cooper, and her beautiful career, matters far less than what it says about the U.S. war machine’s grand strategy — so far, a winning strategy — of using the clichés of “social justice” to sell war and coups — all over and forever.

This strategy explains Barack Obama’s rise from nowhere to front for an unprecedented seven wars at once (and maybe more), along with an unprecedented war on whistleblowers and total blackout on state operations — a record that is sure to be maintained, if not surpassed, by whichever  female, black, Hispanic and/or gay exemplar of “diversity” may be anointed, and “elected,” to deliver us from Trump (right now Pete Buttigieg appears to be that person).

And that ostensible deliverance will have millions of us dancing in the streets, as other millions of us weep, and gnash their teeth — and still the U.S. war machine will just keep rolling along, killing further millions (mostly brown), and driving us still deeper into inequality and poverty.

And so it will go on and on, until the United States of America collapses, or the planet burns, unless we all wake up — and work as one to put a stop to it at last.

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

North Korea warns no more talks until US backs off ‘impossible demands’

RT | May 24, 2019

Negotiations between the United States and North Korea over the latter’s nuclear program will not resume until the US administration backs off from what Pyongyang has characterized as a unilateral demand that it disarm.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un held summits in Singapore in June 2018 and in Hanoi in February of this year, but talks broke off after the two sides were unable to bridge an impasse between their respective positions.

On Friday, North Korea’s state-run Central News Agency published comments by an unnamed Foreign Ministry official who said that the talks have broke down due to “impossible” US demands.

“The underlying cause of setback of the DPRK-US summit talks in Hanoi is the arbitrary and dishonest position taken by the United States, insisting on a method which is totally impossible to get through,” the statement read, accusing the US of having “deliberately pushed the talks to a rupture by merely claiming the unilateral disarmament.”

If it sticks to its current demands, “the United States would not be able to move us even an inch,” the Korean official stressed, barring any future more flexible approaches from US officials, “the prospect for resolving the nuclear issue will be much gloomy.”

The North Korean remarks contrast with statements by Trump, who framed the dissolution of talks between the two nations as resulting from unreasonable Korean demands for significant sanctions reduction, in exchange for only a partial nuclear disarmament on its part.

In April, the North Korean leader gave Trump a deadline until the end of the 2019 calendar year to formulate a deal which would be acceptable to both sides.

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

India’s Ambassador To The US Strongly Hinted At An Anti-Russian Military Pivot

By Andrew Korybko | EurasiaFuture | 2019-05-24

India’s much-touted and over-hyped policy of “multi-alignment” is seeming more and more like a cover for unconvincingly disguising the country’s strategic alliance the US, especially after its Ambassador to America strongly hinted that Modi will undertake an anti-Russian military pivot during his second term in office.

There’s little doubt that India will ditch Russia like it just recently did Iran after its Ambassador to America strongly hinted as much in an exclusive interview that he gave to CNBC. The South Asian state’s top diplomatic representative to the US told the outlet the following in an article provocatively headlined India, facing sanctions for Russian arms deals, says it wants to pivot spending to the US:

“There has been a tradition of dependence on defense equipment from Russia. But if you go by SIPRI figures, in the block year 2008 to 2013 we imported 76% of our defense items from Russia. In the next five-year block, from 2013 to 2018, this came down 58% and in the same period our imports from the United States increased by 569%. So that itself tells you that, when we have a choice… we are obviously diversifying our purchases.”

This is the clearest signal yet that Modi’s second term in office will be dedicated to prioritizing his country’s strategic alliance with the US, especially in the military sphere and most likely to both Russia and China’s detriment. About the first, India might go back on its deal to purchase the S-400s in order to avoid sanctions and replace them with THAADs, while for the second, its “Indo-Pacific” policy clearly aims to “contain” China.

India’s era of “multi-alignment” appears to be over, though it’s keeping this discredited slogan alive as a cover for unconvincingly disguising its strategic alliance with the US. This game-changing development will certainly complicate the regional geopolitical situation, but it also nevertheless provides the impetus for Russia to strengthen its ties with the global pivot state of Pakistan as the main component of its “Return to South Asia.”

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Zarif’s Visits To India & Pakistan Couldn’t Have Been More Different

By Andrew Korybko | EurasiaFuture | 2019-05-24

Iran is becoming increasingly desperate after the US intensified the economic component of its Hybrid War on the country, and while Indian Prime Minister Modi snubbed the Islamic Republic’s top diplomat during his visit to the country earlier this month and humiliatingly sent him back to his homeland empty-handed, his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan warmly embraced Zarif and offered to mediate between Iran and the US.

Iran knows that it’s in trouble after the US rescinded its sanctions waiver for the country’s main oil partners in order to intensify the economic component of its Hybrid War on the Islamic Republic, with the intent being to deprive its rival of valuable budgetary revenue so as to compel it into undertaking painful austerity measures that could exacerbate the already-high risk of a Color Revolution. It was with this increasing strategic desperation in mind that the country dispatched its top diplomat to India earlier this month to plead for it to defy the US like it famously promised it would do last year and not submit to its unilateral sanctions regime.

Foreign Minister Zarif must have been sorely disappointed when he was unsurprisingly snubbed by Indian Prime Minister Modi who refused to meet with him so as to avoid sending any inadvertent signals to his American ally that India would even dare to consider going against Washington’s will, which is why Iran’s top diplomat was humiliatingly sent back to his homeland empty-handed after only having a brief chat with his Indian counterpart. To add insult to injury and ensure that Iran got the message that it was trying to convey, India shortly thereafter tested a surface-to-air missile that it jointly produced with “Israel“, putting to rest any hopes that New Delhi still endeavors to practice its over-hyped and now-outdated policy of “multi-alignment”.

Zarif’s dishonorable treatment by his Indian hosts was completely contrasted by the warm reception that he was just given by his Pakistani ones during his latest visit, where he met with Prime Minister Khan and was even told by his Foreign Ministry counterpart that Islamabad is willing to mediate between Iran and the US in pursuit of a peaceful solution to their latest tensions. This is very important because Pakistan already has decades’ worth of very solid ties with the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”), which have most recently been put to use to promote the revived peace process in Afghanistan.

Perhaps sensing that Pakistani mediation could eventually be just as much of a game-changer in Iranian-American relations as it has been for American-Taliban ones, the Indian Ambassador to the US announced on the same day as Zarif’s arrival in the global pivot state that his country officially terminated its import of Iranian oil in response to Washington’s sanctions demands. The timing of this statement was very symbolic because it highlights just how different both South Asian states’ stances towards Iran are. India is playing partisan political games by unashamedly supporting the US’ policies, while Pakistan is trying to “balance” (or rather, in Indian political parlance, “multi-align”) between all Great Powers.

India wants to prove its loyalty to the US and remind America that its compliance with the unilateral sanctions regime against Iran is greatly contributing to the worsening economic crisis in the Islamic Republic, whereas Pakistan is flaunting its strategic independence by showing the world that it feels confident enough with its increasingly important geopolitical position to proactively play a leading diplomatic role in reducing tensions between those two countries. Just as significantly, Pakistan proved that it will continue to respect its partners’ state representatives instead of humiliating them like India just did to Zarif.

The main takeaway from Zarif’s totally different experiences visiting those two South Asian states is that Iran should seriously consider recalibrating its regional partnerships. India is no longer a reliable partner after it disrespected Iran’s top diplomat in such a shameful manner and then strongly signaled the strength of its new alliances with the US and “Israel” right after humiliating him. Pakistan, meanwhile, has shown itself to be totally dependable and genuinely interested in proactively playing a constructive role in supporting a peaceful solution to the latest Iranian-American tensions. As such, it would be wise for Iran to prioritize is relations with Pakistan in order to replace India as its regional strategic partner.

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment