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US tells Greece any help to Iranian tanker may be ‘terrorism support’

RT | August 19, 2019

The US State Department has informed the Greek government of its ‘strong position’ regarding foreign states providing any assistance to Iranian oil tanker that was recently released by Gibraltar despite all Washington’s pressure.

Any attempts to assist the vessel, which was renamed from ‘Grace 1’ to ‘Adrian Darya 1’ and is now reportedly heading towards Greece, could be considered as “providing material support to a US-designated foreign terrorist organization,” a State Department official told Reuters.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, criticized Gibraltar’s ‘unfortunate’ decision to ignore US pressure. After it became clear last week there were no reasons to hold the vessel any longer, the US issued own warrant for its seizure, claiming the ship was involved in money laundering and financing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the Washington had designated as a terrorist organization.

The British territory explained it was not bound by US laws, pointing out that EU sanctions against Iran are far less sweeping than Washington’s own “maximum pressure” sanctions regime and that the vessel is complying with EU laws.

The Royal Marines seized the Iranian supertanker last month as it passed Gibraltar, accusing the vessel of illegally attempting to transport oil to Syria. Tehran emphatically denied the claim, calling the seizure an act of “piracy” undertaken at Washington’s direction. The Iranian navy has warned it is “ready to escort our tanker” should the US attempt to retake the Adrian Darya.

August 19, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 4 Comments

Twitter bans ‘state media’ from advertising… and guess who decides how they are defined

RT | August 19, 2019

As mainstream media outlets accused Twitter of allowing a Chinese news agency to advertise its reporting on the Hong Kong protests, the platform announced it would ban all “state-controlled” media advertising within a month.

“Going forward, we will not accept advertising from state-controlled news media entities,” Twitter announced on Monday afternoon.

What exactly amounts to a “state controlled” media will be “informed by established academic and civil society leaders in this space,” Twitter said.

The devil, as usual, is in the details. The policy will not apply to “taxpayer-funded entities, including independent public broadcasters,” the company said, in language that seems tailor-made for outlets such as the BBC or Voice of America (VOA), and seems both broad and flexible at the same time, to the point of being arbitrary.

The authorities Twitter intends to rely on in defining “state media” were listed as Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the UK-based Economist magazine’s Intelligence Unit, the Dutch-based European Journalism Centre, UNESCO, and the US government-funded NGO Freedom House.

Determination will depend on criteria such as “control of editorial content, financial ownership, influence or interference over broadcasters, editors, and journalists, direct and indirect exertion of political pressure, and/or control over the production and distribution process,” Twitter said.

The announcement comes on the same day as a number of reports in mainstream media outlets that accused Twitter of accepting advertising buys from the Chinese news agency Xinhua, which was critical of protesters in Hong Kong.

Also on Monday, Twitter announced it had “proactively” shut down a number of Chinese accounts critical of the Hong Kong protests.

The unrest in Hong Kong began at the end of March, over the proposed bill to allow extradition of criminals from the autonomous city to the mainland, and continued after the bill was suspended, with protesters waving US and British flags while demanding “freedom, human rights and democracy.”

August 19, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | | 1 Comment

Palestinian Authority warns of Israel’s plan for spatial division of Al-Aqsa Mosque

MEMO | August 19, 2019

Palestinian Authority (PA) yesterday warned of Israeli attempts to impose spatial divisions at Al-Aqsa Mosque as part of the electoral campaigns of right-wing parties led by current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Assabeel newspaper reported.

In a statement, the PA’s Foreign Ministry said that the ruling Israeli right-wing, headed by Netanyahu, “has been carrying out hundreds of judaisation projects” aiming to “change the status quo in Jerusalem, its holy sites and the surrounding neighbourhoods.”

“This judaisation campaign has been escalating in the light of the unprecedented and unlimited American support.”

“Israel believes it is almost completing its mission regarding the future of Jerusalem, so that it is taking punitive measures and putting pressure on Jerusalemites in order to push them out of the city,” the statement continued.

It is also working to impose temporal divisions at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound “ahead of reaching a point to completely demolish it.”

This, it said, was Israel’s “open war” against Al-Aqsa, Jerusalem and Jerusalemites.

August 19, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 1 Comment

US tests cruise missile BANNED by expired INF treaty

RT | August 19, 2019

The US military has tested a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of over 500km, the Pentagon confirmed. Such weapons were banned under the INF arms control treaty, which the US exited this month.

The flight test of a “conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile” was conducted on August 18 at a range on San Nicolas Island, California, the US Department of Defense said Monday. After a successful launch, the missile struck its target more than 500km (310 miles) away.

Weapons with a range of between 500km and 5,000km were banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, a key arms control mechanism that helped de-escalate Cold War nuclear tensions when it was signed in 1987.

In February this year, the US announced it was quitting the treaty, accusing Russia of having a non-compliant missile system. Moscow denied the accusations and invited inspections of the system, but no one took it up on the offer. The treaty expired on August 1.

The Trump administration had previously signaled it was determined to exit the INF back in October 2018, when National Security Advisor John Bolton described it as a “relic of the Cold War” during his visit to Moscow.

“There’s a new strategic reality out there,” Bolton told reporters at the time, describing the INF as a “bilateral treaty in a multipolar ballistic missile world,” that applied only to the US and Russia in Europe and did not do anything to constrain the actions of China, Iran or North Korea.

The INF was the second major Cold War arms control treaty the US led the way in dismantling, following the demise of the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty in 2001. The sole remaining arms control treaty, New START, is due to expire in February 2021.

August 19, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | | 1 Comment

The Deeper Meaning in a Lost War

By Alastair Crooke | Strategic Culture Foundation | August 19, 2019

It’s pretty clear. Saudi Arabia has lost, and, notes Bruce Riedel, “the Houthis and Iran are the strategic winners”. Saudi proxies in Aden – the seat of Riyadh’s Yemeni proto-‘government’ – have been turfed out by secular, former Marxist, southern secessionists. What can Saudi Arabia do? It cannot go forward. Even tougher would be retreat. Saudi will have to contend with an Houthi war being waged inside the kingdom’s south; and a second – quite different – war in Yemen’s south. MbS is stuck. The Houthi military leadership are on a roll, and disinterested – for now – in a political settlement. They wish to accumulate more ‘cards’. The UAE, which armed and trained the southern secessionists has opted out. MbS is alone, ‘carrying the can’. It will be messy.

So, what is the meaning in this? It is that MbS cannot ‘deliver’ what Trump and Kushner needed, and demanded from him: He cannot any more deliver the Gulf ‘world’ for their grand projects – let alone garner together the collective Sunni ‘world’ to enlist in a confrontation with Iran, or for hustling the Palestinians into abject subordination, posing as ‘solution’.

What happened? It seems that MbZ must have bought into the Mossad ‘line’ that Iran was a ‘doddle’. Under pressure of global sanctions, Iran would quickly crumble, and would beg for negotiations with Trump. And that the resultant, punishing treaty would see the dismantling of all of Iran’s troublesome allies around the region. The Gulf thus would be free to continue shaping a Middle East free from democracy, reformers and (those detested) Islamists.

What made the UAE – eulogised in the US as tough ‘little Sparta’ – back off? It was not just that the Emirs saw that the Yemen war was unwinnable. That was so; but more significantly, it dawned on them that Iran was going to be no ‘doddle’. But rather, the US attempt to strangulate the Iranian economy risked escalating beyond sanctions war, into military confrontation. And in that eventuality, the UAE would be devastated. Iran warned explicitly that a drone or two landed into the ‘glass houses’ of their financial districts, or onto oil and gas facilities, would set them back twenty years. They believed it.

But there was another factor in the mix. “As the world teeters on the edge of another financial crisis”, Esfandyar Batmanghelidj has noted, “few places are being gripped by anxiety like Dubai. Every week a new headline portends the coming crisis in the city of skyscrapers. Dubai villa prices are at their lowest level in a decade, down 24 percent in just one year. A slump in tourism has seen Dubai hotels hit their lowest occupancy rate since the 2008 financial crisis – even as the country gears up to host Expo 2020 next year. As Bloomberg’s Zainab Fattah reported in November of last year, Dubai has begun to “lose its shine,” its role as a center for global commerce “undermined by a global tariff war—and in particular by the US drive to shut down commerce with nearby Iran””.

An extraneous Houthi drone landing in Dubai’s financial zone would be the ‘final nail in the coffin’ (the expatriates would be out in a flash) – a prospect far more serious than the crisis of 2009, when Dubai’s real estate market collapsed, threatening insolvency for several banks and major development companies, some of them state-linked – and necessitating a $20 billion bailout.

In short, the Gulf realised MbS’ confrontation project with Iran was far too risky, especially with the global financial mood darkening so rapidly. Emirati leaders faced off with MbZ, the confrontation ideologue – and the UAE came out of Yemen formally (though leaving in situ its proxies), and initiated outreach to Iran, to take it out of that war, too.

It is now no longer conceivable that MbS can deliver what Trump and Netanyahu desired. Does this then mean that the US confrontation with Iran, and Jared Kushner’s Deal of the Century, are over? No. Trump has two key US constituencies: AIPAC and the Christian Evangelical ‘Zionists’ to ‘stroke’ electorally in the lead up to the 2020 elections. More ‘gifts’ to Netanyahu in the lead into the latter’s own election campaign are very likely also, as a part of that massaging of domestic constituencies (and donors).

In terms of the US confrontation with Iran, it seems that Trump is turning-down the volume on belligerence toward Iran, hoping that economic sanctions will work their ‘magic’ of bringing the Islamic Republic to its knees. There is no sign of that however – and no sign of any realistic US plan ‘B’. (The Lindsay Graham initiative is not one).

Where does that leave MbS in terms of US and Israeli interests? Well, to be brutal, and despite the family friendships … ’expendable’, perhaps? The scent of an eventual US disengagement from the region is again hanging in the air.

The deeper meaning in the ‘lost Yemen war’, ultimately, is an end to Gulf hopes that ‘magician’ Trump would undo the earlier Gulf panic that the West would normalise with Iran (through the JCPOA), thus leaving Iran as the paramount regional power. The advent of Trump, with all his affinity towards Saudi Arabia, seemed to Gulf States to promise the opportunity again to ‘lock in’ the US security umbrella over Gulf monarchies, protecting these states from significant change, as well as leaving Iran ‘shackled’, and unable to assume regional primacy.

A secondary meaning to Yemen is that Trump and Netanyahu’s heavy investment in MbS and MbZ has proved to be chimeric. These two, it turned out were ‘naked’ all along. And now the world knows it. They can’t deliver. They have been bested by a ragtag army of tough Houthi tribesmen.

The region now observes that ‘war’ isn’t happening (although only by the merest hair’s breadth): Trump is not – of his own volition – going to bomb Iran back to the 1980s. And Gulf States now see that if he did, it is they – the Gulf States – who would pay the highest price. Paradoxically, it has fallen to the UAE, the prime agitator in Washington against Iran, to lead the outreach toward Iran. It represents a salutary lesson in realpolitik for certain Gulf States (and Israel). And now that it has been learned, it is hard to see it being reversed quite so easily.

The strategic shift toward a different security architecture is already underway, with Russia and China proposing an international conference on security in the Persian Gulf: Russia and Iran already have agreed joint naval exercises in in the Indian Ocean and Hormuz, and China is mulling sending its warships there too, to protect its tankers and commercial shipping. Plainly, there will be some competition here, but Iran has the upper hand still in Hormuz. It is a powerful deterrent (though one best threatened, but not used).

Of course, nothing is assured in these changing times. The US President is fickle, and prone to flip-flop. And there are yet powerful interests in the US who do want see Iran comprehensively bombed. But others in DC – more significantly, on the (nationalist) Right – are much more outspoken in challenging the Iran ‘hawks’. Maybe the latter have missed their moment? The fact is, Trump drew back (but not for the stated reasons) from military action. America is now entering election season – and it is fixated on its navel. Foreign policy is already a forgotten, non-issue in the fraught partisan atmospherics of today’s America.

Trump likely will still ‘throw Israel a few bones’, but will that change anything? Probably, not much. That is cold comfort – but it might have been a lot worse for the Palestinians. And Greater Israel? A distant, Promethean hope.

August 19, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Turkey fuming after Syrian airstrike on convoy in Islamist-held Idlib province

RT | August 19, 2019

The Turkish Defense Ministry has condemned Syria for attacking its convoy in the Syrian province of Idlib. Damascus said the vehicles were transporting weapons and ammo to “terrorist forces.”

Ankara said three people were killed and 12 others injured on Monday after the Syrian airstrike, which targeted a Turkish military convoy travelling between two observation points in northern Syria. The statement said all victims were civilians, without explaining how they were involved in a military operation.

Ankara said the attack violated the agreement between Russia, Turkey and Iran, which paved the way to a relative de-escalation in the protracted war in Syria, the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported.

Idlib province is the last major part of Syria largely controlled by various armed groups, some of them hardcore jihadists. On request from Russia, the Syrian government agreed not to use force to retake the region to avoid casualties among civilians, who have blood ties with Turkey.

Ankara is supposed to prevent hostilities from reigniting, with a series of observation posts spread along the provincial border to monitor the situation. The plan however never fully worked, with regular flare-ups happening between various armed groups and the Syrian Arab Army.

The nature of the attacked convoy is perceived differently by the Syrian side, however. The Syrian news agency SANA said it was carrying weapons and ammunition to “terrorist forces” in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. It’s located in the southern part of Idlib province on a highway connecting the cities of Aleppo and Hama.

Lately there has been heavy fighting near Khan Sheikhoun between Damascus forces and the group controlling the city, predominantly the Islamist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTC), formerly known as Nusra Front.

August 19, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment