Aletho News


Bulgarian journalist reveals how US-purchased arms end up with ISIS in Yemen

‘It’s a tip of an iceberg’

RT | September 5, 2019

Mortar shells shown in an Islamic State propaganda video have put a Bulgarian journalist on the scent of an alleged US-run arms shipping network supplying militants in the Middle East, she told RT in an exclusive interview.

This story began back in June, when Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists in Yemen demonstrated several Serbian-made 82mm mortar shells in their propaganda video. Independent investigative journalist, Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, believes that the deadly munitions ended up with the jihadists after going through US hands.

Tracing origins

Clearly visible on one of the shells is a mark that reads ’82 mm M74HE mortar shells KV lot 04/18.’ The letters KV stand for the Serbian state arms manufacturer Krusik, located in the town of Valjevo, while the digits 04/18 refer to lot 04 produced in 2018. One should not jump to any conclusions, however, as it is not the Serbs who were responsible for the shells suddenly appearing in the hands of terrorists, according to Gaytandzhieva.

A trove of “explosive” leaked documents she said she received from an “anonymous source” shows that the lot in question was part of a deal between the Serbian arms factory and a Pentagon contractor, Alliant Techsystems LLC. It was part of a purchase of more than 100,000 such shells “for the needs of the US government.”

“In the shipping documentation and on the labels on the mortar shells’ containers, there is a name of… the importer… that purchases the weapons on behalf of the US government,” the journalist told RT, citing the documents.

“There are indications and information about a US federal contract, under which these weapons were purchased, and this is absolutely verifiable in the case of Alliant Techsystems LLC, the company, which purchased the mortar shells and this particular lot of weapons pictured in the ISIS video in Yemen.”

Some leaked documents published by Gaytandzhieva do indeed mention a contract between Alliant Techsystems LLC and the Pentagon, which was allegedly aimed at supplying the Afghan National Army. “This lot was purchased under a $50 million contract between Alliant Techsystems and the US DoD for the delivery of non-standard US weapons to Afghanistan,” the journalist said.

Gaytandzhieva believes, however, that this case is just the tip of the iceberg. It could be a part of a far-reaching arms supply scheme involving up to “three million pieces of weapons – rockets and mortar shells – that have been diverted either to Syria or to Yemen.”

‘Corporate international weapons shipment network’

The leaked documents, which include emails, internal memos, photos and correspondence between the American arms dealers and the Serbian arms factory Krusik, have helped Gaytandzhieva to “expose the existence of a secret US special command unit code-named “Task Force Smoking Gun.” That unit has allegedly operated an arms depo since at least 2017, which is used in shady arms shipping operations by the US and its allies.

“I found that four private American companies were US government contractors and they were commissioned by the Pentagon to deliver non-US standard weapons to different destinations. According to the other leaked documents, I found that one of these destinations was Syria.

“This is a whole international weapons shipment network,” the journalist explained to RT, adding that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also using it for its operations alongside the US. “The scheme is using different routes and diplomatic flights diverting weapons via a third party to their final destination, which appears to be Syria or Yemen.”

Gaytandzhieva said that she investigated at least “350 diplomatic flights carrying weapons for the last three years” by the same Azeri state-run company that delivered the mortar shells to Afghanistan in 2018. “They made technical landings with stays varying from a few hours to up to a day in intermediary locations without any logical reasons such as needing to refuel the planes,” she wrote in a separate report investigating this particular issue.

“That means that this international weapons shipment network has never [ceased to exist] and continues [it operations] to this date.”

RT has managed to independently verify parts of Gaytandzhieva’s report by finding the contracts between Alliant Techsystems LLC and the Pentagon that she mentions in the US Federal Procurement Data System. It has also been established that the company has regularly worked for the US Department of Defense since at least 2016.

Also on

Al Qaeda team plays on the same side as the US in Yemen

Weapons ending up with terrorists is OK, as long as Obama did it: The world according to CNN

September 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , , , | 2 Comments

US in talks with Yemeni rebels to end war – official

RT | September 5, 2019

Washington is in talks with the Houthi rebels in a bid to end Yemen’s war a top US official said on Thursday. “We are narrowly focused on trying to end the war in Yemen,” Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker said during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

“We are also having talks to the extent possible with the Houthis to try and find a mutually accepted negotiated solution to the conflict,” AFP quoted the officials as saying.

The development marks the first contact between the administration of President Donald Trump and the Houthis in over four years.

Under the administration of former president Barack Obama, US officials held brief talks with Houthi leaders in June 2015, three months after the Saudi-led intervention began, to convince them to attend UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva to resolve the crisis.

September 5, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Euro-Med urges Switzerland not to yield to Israeli pressure

Palestine Information Center – September 5, 2019

GENEVA – The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor called on the Swiss federal parliament not to bow to Israeli pressure to suspend Swiss criminal legislation authorizing the country’s courts to prosecute Israeli politicians and military figures involved in war crimes against Palestinians.

The Euro-Med said in a statement that it views the visit with a great concern the Israeli delegation’s visit to Switzerland, headed by Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz and accompanied by a legal team to pressure the authorities to suspend a criminal legislation allowing bringing lawsuits against Israeli commanders and soldiers involved in violations of human rights in the Palestinian territories.

According to the Monitor, Switzerland was one of the first countries to include in its domestic legislation legal provisions allowing for the prosecution of perpetrators of major crimes if they were not tried by the International Criminal Court.

The law, passed by the Swiss National Council in 2009, aims to strengthen the exercise of universal jurisdiction in the country by making the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court a national law. The step, by then, aimed to strengthen the fight against impunity of perpetrators of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

The Swiss law is based on the principle of universal jurisdiction, which is the most flexible of judicial principles, since it does not require the existence of a close link between the suspect and the state in order to initiate the investigation. If a person violates the legal rules of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, they will prosecuted.

The Swiss domestic law allows the arrest of any suspect once entering the Swiss territory even if this person is not a resident or does not own property there.

Mohammed Imad, a legal researcher at the Euro-Med Monitor, said the visit of the Israeli delegation aims to face the rising human voices within a number of European countries calling for including in their countries’ legislation legal provisions that allow domestic courts to prosecute leaders and soldiers of the Israeli army involved in violations that may amount to war crimes, which were committed during attacks in the Palestinian Territories.

Imad urged the Swiss authorities to uphold their humanitarian legal stance against the Israeli violations targeting Palestinians and to reject any pressure that would affect the principle of criminal prosecution applied in the country.

Euro-Med pointed to several examples initiated by the Swiss judiciary, on the basis of its law that is based on universal jurisdiction. For instance, several human rights organizations concerned with the rights of Palestinians in Switzerland filed a lawsuit against former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert for war crimes during the 2008-2009 Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip.

As a result, Olmert canceled his trip to Switzerland, which was scheduled in July after warnings received from the Israeli attorney general that he might be arrested because of lawsuits against him.

In another example, a federal criminal court decided to detain the former Gambian interior minister, Osman Sonko, who sought refuge in Switzerland in 2017. He was believed to have personally supervised the torture of citizens during his tenure as interior minister between 2006 and 2016. He was arrested on the pretext of a report by an international organization accusing him of forming a torture group in Gambia.

Sonko is still being held to this moment in the Swiss prisons after rejecting claims that he had no links to torture in the Gambia.

Euro-Med called on the Swiss authorities to uphold their position regarding the prosecution of Israeli war criminals and urged the legislative authorities in the country to not bow to Israeli pressure.

The Euro-Med called on all European countries to follow the footsteps of Switzerland and include in their domestic legislation provisions that allow the prosecution of those involved in violations in conflict areas in contravention of international law and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

September 5, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment

Israel, Swiss officials discuss alternative to UNRWA

MEMO | September 5, 2019

Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz announced yesterday that Israel and Switzerland will work on finding an alternative to UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the Jerusalem Post reported.

These remarks, according to the Jerusalem Post, came following a meeting with the Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis in Bern.

During the meeting, Katz accused UNRWA officials in Gaza of cooperating with the Palestinian resistance in carrying out alleged attacks on Israel.

The Israeli newspaper claimed that Katz used quotes from previous remarks made by Cassis himself dating back to May this year when he claimed that the Palestine refugee agency is “part of the problem and not the solution”.

Cassis claimed then that the UNRWA fuelled “unrealistic” hope among Palestinians of a “right to return” to Israel from refugee camps in the Middle East.

Katz claimed yesterday that the existence of UNRWA sustains the status of Palestine refugees, prolongs the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and retains the demand of the Palestinian refugees to return home.

The Israeli foreign minister has recently directed his ministry to lay down a document proposing an alternative to the UNRWA which he discussed with his Swiss counterpart.

Switzerland suspended payments to UNRWA in July after reports about misconduct among its officials.

September 5, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hizbullah Reminds Israel of Its Power

By Helena Cobban | Lobe Log | September 5, 2019

On September 1, Hizbullah fighters on Lebanon’s border with Israel fired two precision-guided missiles over the border, apparently hitting an Israeli “Wolf” armored personnel carrier (APC) and inflicting casualties of unknown severity on its occupants (see below). The strike came a day after Hizbullah head Hassan Nasrallah warned that the organization would retaliate for Israel’s killing, a few days earlier, of two Hizbullah fighters in Syria and Israel’s deployment of explosive drones against Hizbullah-related targets in eastern Lebanon and the capital, Beirut.

The Israelis responded to the attack on the Wolf by firing a number of rockets and artillery shells, seemingly at random, into uninhabited parts of southern Lebanon, with no casualties reported.

On September 2, Hizbullah released a video of the attack on the Wolf, which took place in broad daylight. The video shows Hizbullah operatives launching two guided missiles against a military vehicle, each of which causes a large explosion. Hours later, Nasrallah told his supporters that this cross-border action—the first since the extremely destructive Hizbullah-Israel war of 2006—represented a new stage in the struggle against Israel. He warned, too, that his fighters would henceforth feel free to bring down any of the scores of military drones that Israel deploys in Lebanese airspace each month.

Taken together, the events of late August through September 1 underscored that the situation of reciprocal (if highly asymmetrical) deterrence that has existed between Israel and Hizbullah since the end of the 2006 fighting remains in place.

This situation has significant impact not only for the peoples of Lebanon and Israel but also in the broader regional arena, in which the Israel-Hizbullah balance plays a key role. For though Hizbullah has always, since its emergence in 1985, been an authentic, indigenous Lebanese movement, it is also a key ally of the Islamic Republic of Iran. So if Israel, some parts of the U.S. government, and other regional actors such as Saudi Arabia are considering launching any significant military attack against Iran, then Hizbullah’s ability and willingness to join the battle by counter-striking against high-value targets inside Israel is a factor that anti-Tehran war planners have to take into account.

Iran does have, as I wrote here recently, a broader network of regional allies, of which Lebanon’s Hizbullah is only one part. But Hizbullah is unique by virtue of the special role its conflict with Israel plays in affecting strategic thinking and decision-making in Israel and elsewhere. Hizbullah, as everyone in the Middle East is aware, is the only body, governmental or non-governmental, that has been able to inflict significant military defeat on Israel—and not just once, but twice.

The first defeat became clear in May-June of 2000, when the Israeli military that had been occupying a strip of Southern Lebanon since 1978 simply pulled up its stakes and withdrew. The decisive earlier battle against Hizbullah that led PM Ehud Barak to take that decision had actually happened four years earlier. In 1996, Israel launched a scorched-earth attack against Lebanon that failed to either destroy Hizbullah or turn the Lebanese population against it. When Barak became PM, he judged, quite sensibly, that the casualties that Israel’s occupation force had continued to take in Lebanon since 1996 were all for naught.

In 2006, another Israeli PM, Ehud Olmert—who had far less military experience and military savvy than Barak—thought he would try his hand at diminishing the considerable amount of military and political power that Hizbullah had continued to accrue in Lebanon. With huge support from President George W. Bush and most European governments, Olmert launched another scorched-earth attack against Lebanon, once again aimed at either destroying Hizbullah or turning the Lebanese public against it. In the two years prior to 2006, there had been quite a lot of (Saudi-supported) anti-Hizbullah agitation in Lebanon, so perhaps Olmert hoped to gain advantage from that. If so, he failed miserably. Lebanese from all political and religious persuasions rallied strongly around Hizbullah.

That was not the only thing that went wrong with the war from Olmert’s point of view. Some three weeks into the conflict, it became clear that even the Israeli air force’s destruction of critical Lebanese infrastructure (gruesomely celebrated in Israel thereafter as the “Dahiyeh Doctrine”) could not force Hizbullah to cry “uncle.” Olmert and his advisors decided to send in Israeli ground forces. But the ground units all proved woefully ill-prepared for their task. It soon became clear that neither they nor the air force could stop Hizbullah’s well-trained rocketeers from continuing to fire missiles deep into Israel’s interior.

Thirty-three days into the campaign, both leaderships agreed it was time to stop. They negotiated a ceasefire through the mediation of the Lebanese government and the United Nations. The ceasefire’s basic structure was a return to the status-quo ante. All the Israeli troops recently deployed into Lebanon had to immediately withdraw. All hostilities and cross-border military actions had to cease. The United Nations beefed up its southern Lebanon peacekeeping force, which since 1978 had been a fairly ineffective presence along the border.

For Israel, the 2006 war was a crushing defeat—and for its ground forces, in particular, a humiliation. (One explanation for the three vicious assaults Israel launched against Gaza in 2008, 2012, and 2014 was that the country’s military leaders sought to regain from Israel’s citizens the high esteem they had always previously enjoyed—esteem that had been very badly dented in 2006.)

For Hizbullah, the 33-Day War of 2006 was unquestionably a victory, though one bought at a high price in the human and material losses suffered by all the Lebanese people.

The essential victory that Hizbullah won in 2006, as in 1996, was that it faced down Israel’s extremely hi-tech military and survived with its core military and political networks and its ability to inflict significant destruction inside Israel all intact—and without having made any political concessions. This is, of course, why Israel and its acolytes and supporters in the West all hate it so deeply.

In the limited military exchange that Hizbullah and Israel engaged in on September 1, the underlying facts about the reciprocal deterrence that has existed between them since 2000 were on full display.

For some years now, the Israeli military has been taking advantage of the chaotic situation in Syria to mount sporadic attacks against various targets there, including some that they claim are connected to Hizbullah or the Iranian military. At periodic meetings that Israeli officials have conducted with their counterparts in Russia, which has long been allied with the Syrian government, the two sides have sketched out rudimentary “rules of engagement” for such raids. In July, the Israelis extended their campaign to interrupt Iran’s export of weapons and advisors yet further, sending F-35s to attack two locations in Iraq that were allegedly being used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In July, and again in late August, it struck at Hizbullah operatives inside Syria, killing at least two of them.

Of all the targets thus attacked, only Hizbullah retaliated directly against Israel. It did so in a measured and limited way that nonetheless served to remind Israelis of their continuing vulnerability to Hizbullah’s military muscle and military/political smarts.

Israel’s reaction to the announcement Nasrallah made on August 31, that Hizbullah “would retaliate” for Israel’s killing of its operatives in Syria, was intriguing. As was widely reported in the (always military-censored) Israeli media, the Israeli military ostentatiously announced that it would pull troops back from front-line positions facing Lebanon, in what seemed like a deliberate move to de-escalate tensions.

Israel’s responses to the Wolf attack, which happened the very next day, were also intriguing. Firstly, in the military sphere, its retaliation against Hizbullah/Lebanon was notably restrained, a fact that could perhaps be attributed to PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s reluctance to get Israel into yet another complex imbroglio in Lebanon with his country’s next general election coming up September 17—except that, in the context of, say, Gaza, Israeli leaders have often seemed to judge that launching an attack could be a valuable part of an election strategy.

Secondly, in the informational sphere, Netanyahu went out of his way to deny that the attack on the military vehicle had caused any casualties. The video that Hizbullah made and distributed of the incident seemed clearly to show that the vehicle was an APC, and that the two missiles that struck it caused massive explosions. Other news footage from inside Israel showed injured soldiers being carried out and evacuated to a nearby military hospital. But Israeli spokesmen, faithfully parroted by reporters from the local and foreign media—all of whom are subject to Israeli military censorship– described the vehicle as merely a military “jeep” and said the footage showing apparent medevac operations had been faked by the military, using dummies.

This strange claim seemed aimed either at reassuring Hizbullah that its operation had already “succeeded” enough that it need not launch any follow-on attacks—or, perhaps more plausibly, at damping down any desire Israelis might have had for a large-scale retaliation.

But throughout this whole episode, Israel’s leaders were still clearly signaling that they agree that “You don’t mess with Hizbullah.”

This has wider implications for the regional balance between Israel and Iran. One essential fact in that balance is that the alliance between Hizbullah and Iranian leadership goes far deeper than any mere coalition of convenience and is, in practice, unbreakable at this point. Another is that Hizbullah’s home turf and principal area of operations directly abuts Israel—and it cannot be defeated there. Remember, after all, that Hizbullah first emerged in the mid-1980s under the difficult circumstances of a harsh Israeli occupation of one third of Lebanon—and that it showed first, that it could successfully organize to throw off that occupation and, then, that it could repel the next big attempt Israel made, in 2006, to destroy it.

Much about the regional balance has changed since 2006. The biggest change has been the heartbreakingly protracted civil war in Syria, a conflict that weakened the Syrian government which had long been a key part of the Iran-led coalition and considerably weakened Damascus’s ability to protect the Syrian homeland from incursion by all manner of hostile foreign forces, including those of Israel, the United States, and Turkey. (Syria’s civil war has, however, provided Hizbullah and the IRGC with valuable opportunities to act and train in complex urban-conflict environments.) Another change has been a considerable weakening of U.S. military-political power in Iraq, with the diffusion of some U.S. military capabilities into Syria. All these changes—along with others that have taken place in the Arabian Peninsula and elsewhere in the region—undoubtedly affect the balance of power between Israel and Iran. But the inescapable facts, that Hizbullah can cause wide damage within Israel’s heartland and withstand the strongest counter-attacks that Israel can launch against it, still remain.

Veteran Middle East analyst and author Helena Cobban is a Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy and the CEO of both Just World Books and the nonprofit Just World Educational. JWE’s website makes freely available to the public a variety of resources on war, peace, justice, and the Middle East.

September 5, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top designer of Trump’s Middle East peace plan Jason Greenblatt resigning

RT | September 5, 2019

A chief author of US President Donald Trump’s still under-wraps Middle East peace plan, Jason Greenblatt, will leave his post in government after the contentious deal is unveiled – though it’s unclear why.

The president announced Greenblatt’s resignation by tweet on Thursday afternoon, stating his top negotiator and longtime legal adviser would soon leave “to pursue work in the private sector” after nearly three years in his administration, but did not elaborate on his reason for leaving.

The future of the “deal of the century” Greenblatt has been working on for just shy of two years remains uncertain, as Palestinians have ruled out accepting American mediation, believing any agreement they can come up with will favor Israel. They have reasons to expect that, too – from Trump’s scandalous decision to recognize the contested city of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, to his repeated proclamations of loyalty to the state of Israel.

Even in his send-off tweets for Greenblatt, the president thanked him for “His dedication to Israel” separately from “seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” apparently seeing nothing untoward in declaring his favor for one side of a highly contentious dispute the US is supposedly trying to arbitrate.

Greenblatt will not leave until the administration’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan is finally unveiled, senior officials told Reuters.

The release of Trump’s peace plan has seen several delays over the summer. While the economic component of the plan – including a $50 billion aid package for the Palestinians – was unveiled at an international conference in Bahrain in June, the Trump administration has withheld the deal’s political aspect, and now says it will wait until after Israel’s September 17 election to publish those details.

Greenblatt, formerly a top legal adviser to the Trump Organization, is among 4 officials who know the full details of the plan, the others being the US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, the president’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, as well as Avi Berkowitz, a Kushner aide.

Berkowitz will reportedly fill Greenblatt’s post as representative for international negotiations, while Iran envoy Brian Hook will also take on a larger role in crafting the peace deal, according to NBC.

September 5, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Swedish TV Raises Eyebrows by Discussing Cannibalism for the Sake of Climate

Sputnik – September 5, 2019

According to marketing professor Magnus Söderlund, the consumption of human flesh is an important issue when it comes to climate and sustainability.

Swedish channel TV4 has taken its viewers aback by seriously discussing the idea of eating other people “to save the climate”.

The feature about the Stockholm fair Gastro Nord, touted as “Europe’s most important gastronomic platform”, where behaviour researcher Magnus Söderlund, a professor of marketing and head of the centre for consumer marketing (CCM) at the Stockholm School of Economics, held seminars on the possibility of eating human flesh.

Addressing the host’s question about what makes us react instinctively with disgust to the idea of consuming fellow humans, Söderlund, an expert in consumer behaviour, calmly said: “First of all, it’s that this person about to be eaten must be dead”.

Söderlund stressed that there are many difficult taboos among the general public in the Western world, which makes it difficult for actors who want to enter the human meat industry. He has come to the conclusion that people in general have a hard time handling dead people, which he finds strange as “people have been killing each other in vast numbers over time”.

Furthermore, the researcher stressed that there are many taboos about desecrating a dead body. The third factor that makes it difficult for players to establish themselves in this industry is that the public tends to stick to what has worked well in the past.

“People in the general public are a bit conservative when it comes to eating things they are not used to”, Söderlund said.

In conclusion, the researcher stressed the importance of raising this issue for the sake of the climate.

“If we are about to leave no stone unturned when it comes to climate and sustainability questions, it is important to raise the issue”, Söderlund concluded.

While known for being passionate about the environment, ordinary Swedes, however, thought that this was a step too far.

“Stupid conservative backward people who refuse to eat each other to save the climate!” journalist Mattias Albinsson tweeted sarcastically. … Full article

September 5, 2019 Posted by | Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 3 Comments

Sanders wants to fund abortions in ‘poor countries’ to fight climate change

RT | September 5, 2019

US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said he would support using taxpayer money to fund abortions in foreign countries as a means of population control in the face of climate change.

Sanders merged the hot-button issues of climate change and abortion rights, at the same time singling out developing nations as the culprits overpopulating Earth, during a six-and-a-half-hour CNN townhall on climate change on Wednesday. While his supporters appeared galvanized, the proposal invoked the wrath of his detractors online.

Sanders described the Mexico City agreement, which prevents American foreign aid from being used to fund organizations associated with abortions or birth control abroad, as “totally absurd,” while espousing the need to advocate and fund reproductive rights across the world, but especially in developing countries.

“So I think especially in poor countries around the world, where women do not necessarily want to have large numbers of babies and where they can have the opportunity through birth control to control the number of kids they have [is] something I very, very strongly support,” Sanders stated emphatically in response to an audience member.
Also on 2020 Democrats double down on diversity – or do they?

While all major Democratic candidates have pledged support for reproductive rights, Sanders is the first to tie the issue to both global population control and climate change, much to the chagrin of conservative pundits and commenters online, who described the proposal as “unbelievable,” “monstrous” and “absolutely horrific.”

Meanwhile, even those who might typically agree with many of Sanders’ positions felt his stated approach was missing the mark, saying over-consumption, not overpopulation was the real issue.

September 5, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 3 Comments

US Tried To Bribe And Threaten Iranian Ship’s Captain

teleSUR | September 5, 2019

Emails obtained by The Financial Times (FT) have revealed that U.S. government officials were contacting the captain of an Iranian tanker, offering millions of dollars if the captain steered the ship towards an allied country that would impound on behalf of the United States, but threatening sanctions if the captain refused. It was the same ship that was seized by the U.K. in Gibraltar, and subsequently released after it was clear there were no legal grounds for the seizure.

The email was published by the FT, intended for Iranian ship captain Akhilesh Kumar and a number of other captains. It offered personal payments if the captain sabotaged the ships course, but threatened sanctions on those who don’t. It reads, “This is Brian Hook… I work for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and serve as the U.S. representative for Iran…… I am writing with good news.”

“With this money you can have any life you wish and be well-off in old age … “If you choose not to take this easy path, life will be much harder for you.”

The official’s State Department phone number was included on the email so as to reassure the captain of its authenticity.

Iran’s Foreign Minister responded saying, “Having failed at piracy, the U.S. resorts to outright blackmail—deliver us Iran’s oil and receive several million dollars or be sanctioned yourself. Sounds very similar to the Oval Office invitation I received a few weeks back. It is becoming a pattern. #BTeamGangsters”

The U.S. has attempted to isolate Iran through sanctions, as a means of punishing the country for its nuclear programme, and opposition to U.S. foreign policy in the region. However, Iran has managed to resist to some degree, it was recently announced that China has stepped up investments and oil imports from Iran, in defiance of U.S. unilateral measures.

September 5, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Wars for Israel | , , | 2 Comments

Now It’s Official: US Visa Can Be Denied If You (Or Even Your Friends) Are Critical of American Policies

By Philip Giraldi | Strategic Culture Foundation | September 5, 2019

There have been several interesting developments in the United States government’s war on free speech and privacy. First of all, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP), which is responsible for actual entry of travelers into the country, has now declared that it can legally access phones and computers at ports of entry to determine if there is any subversive content which might impact on national security. “Subversive content” is, of course, subjective, but those seeking entry can be turned back based on how a border control agent perceives what he is perusing on electronic media.

Unfortunately, the intrusive nature of the procedure is completely legal, particularly as it applies to foreign visitors, and is not likely to be overturned in court in spite of the Fourth Amendment’s constitutional guarantee that individuals should “… be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Someone at a port of entry is not legally inside the United States until he or she has been officially admitted. And if that someone is a foreigner, he or she has no right by virtue of citizenship even to enter the country until entry has been permitted by an authorized US Customs and Border Protection official. And that official can demand to see anything that might contribute to the decision whether or not to let the person enter.

And there’s more to it than just that. Following the Israeli model for blocking entry of anyone who can even be broadly construed as supporting a boycott, the United States now also believes it should deny admittance to anyone who is critical of US government policy, which is a reversal of previous policy that considered political opinions to be off-limits for visa denial. DHS, acting in response to pressure from the White House, now believes it can adequately determine hostile intent from the totality of what appears on one’s phone or laptop, even if the material in question was clearly not put on the device by the owner. In other words, if a traveler has an email sent to him or her by someone else that complains about behavior by the United States government, he or she is responsible for that content.

One interesting aspect of the new policy is that it undercuts the traditional authority of US Embassies and Consulates overseas to issue visas to foreigners. The State Department visa process is rigorous and can include employment and real property verification, criminal record checks, social media reviews and Google-type searches. If there is any doubt about the visa applicant, entry into the US is denied. With the new DHS measures in place, this thoroughly vetted system is now sometimes being overruled by a subjective judgment made by someone who is not necessarily familiar with the traveler’s country or even regarding the threat level that being a citizen of that country actually represents.

Given the new rules regarding entering the United States, it comes as no surprise that the story of an incoming Harvard freshman who was denied entry into the United States after his laptop and cellphone were searched at Boston’s Logan Airport has been making headlines. Ismail Ajjawi, a 17-year-old Palestinian resident of Lebanon, was due to begin classes as a freshman, but he had his student visa issued in by the US Embassy in Beirut rejected before being flown back to Lebanon several hours later.

Ajjawi was questioned by one immigration officer who asked him repeatedly about his religion before requiring him to turn over his laptop and cell phone. Some hours later, the questioning continued about Ajjawi’s friends and associates, particularly those on social media. At no point was Ajjawi accused of having himself written anything that was critical of the United States and the interrogation rather centered on the views expressed by his friends.

The decision to ban Ajjawi produced such an uproar worldwide that it was reversed a week later, apparently as a result of extreme pressure exerted by Harvard University. Nevertheless, the decisions to deny entry are often arbitrary or even based on bad information, but the traveler normally has no practical recourse to reverse the process. And the number of such searches is going up dramatically, numbering more than 30,000 in 2017, some of which have been directed against US residents. Even though permanent resident green card holders and citizens have a legal right to enter the United States, there are reports that they too are having their electronic media searched. That activity is the subject of an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security that is currently working its way through the courts. The ACLU is representing 10 American citizens and a legal permanent resident who had their media searched without a warrant as required by the Fourth Amendment.

It is believed that many of the arbitrary “enforcements” by the CBP are carried out by the little-known Tactical Response Team (TRT) that targets certain travelers that fit a profile. DHS officials confirmed in September 2017 that 1,400 visa holders had been denied entry due to TRT follow-up inspections. And there are also reports of harassment of American citizens by possible TRT officials. A friend of mine was returning from Portugal to a New York Area airport when he was literally pulled from the queue as he was departing the plane. A Customs agent at the jetway was repeatedly calling out his birth date and then also added his name. He was removed from the line and taken to an interrogation room where he was asked to identify himself and then queried regarding his pilot’s license. He was then allowed to proceed with no other questions, suggesting that it was all harassment of a citizen base on profiling pure and simple.

My friend is a native-born American who has a Master’s degree and an MBA, is an army veteran and has no criminal record, not even a parking ticket. He worked for an American bank in the Middle East more than thirty years ago, which, together with the pilot’s license, might be the issue these days with a completely paranoid federal government constantly on the lookout for more prey “to keep us safe.” Unfortunately, keeping us safe has also meant that freedom of speech and association as well as respect for individual privacy have all been sacrificed. As America’s Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once reportedly observed, “Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety will wind up with neither.”

September 5, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Islamophobia | , | 1 Comment

New U.N. Report Highlights Human Rights Violations and Abuses in Yemen since 2014

By Sarah Abed | September 5, 2019

The second largest sovereign state in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen, has been ravaged by war, deliberate starvation, and cholera for over four years. A 274 page U.N. report released on Tuesday, highlights the human rights situation including violations and abuses since September 2014.

According to the report, which took two years to complete, the United States, France, and Britain may be complicit in war crimes for their involvement in the war in Yemen by not only supplying the weapons being used by the Saudi and United Arab Emirate coalitions, but also providing them with intelligence and logistics support.

The report details the findings of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen. It was submitted as a supplement to A/HR/42/17. U.N. investigators are recommending that all states impose a ban on arms transfers to the warring parties in order to prevent them from being used to commit serious violations and war crimes.

“It is clear that the continued supply of weapons to parties to the conflict is perpetuating the conflict and prolonging the suffering of the Yemeni people,” Melissa Parke, an expert on the independent U.N. panel, told a news conference. Parke continued, “That is why we are urging member states to no longer supply weapons to parties to the conflict.”

The report states, “The Group of Experts reiterates that steps required to address the human rights and international law violations in Yemen have been continually discussed, and there can no longer be any excuses made for failure to take meaningful steps to address them. The best way to protect the Yemeni population is to stop the fighting by reaching a political settlement which includes measures for accountability.”

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are two of the largest purchasers of U.S. British and French weapons. These weapons are being used to fight against the homegrown Houthi movement which controls Yemen’s capital. The report states, “The legality of arms transfers by France, the United Kingdom, the United States and other States remains questionable, and is the subject of various domestic court proceedings.”

According to the U.N. report, Saudi and UAE coalitions are killing civilians in air strikes, and deliberately denying them food. The report put blame on all sides of the conflict, saying that no one has clean hands.

Kamel Jendoubi, chairperson of the Group of Experts on Yemen a creation of the U.N. Human Rights Council stated, “Five years into the conflict, violations against Yemeni civilians continue unabated, with total disregard for the plight of the people and a lack of international action to hold parties to the conflict accountable.” He also stated “This endemic impunity—for violations and abuses by all parties to the conflict—cannot be tolerated anymore.” Jendoubi concluded, “Impartial and independent inquiries must be empowered to hold accountable those who disrespect the rights of the Yemeni people. The international community must stop turning a blind eye to these violations and the intolerable humanitarian situation.”

Allegations of torture, rape, and murder of suspected political opponents detained in secret facilities by Emirati and affiliated forces have been received by the U.N. panel.

A secret list was sent by an independent panel to U.N. human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, identifying “individuals who may be responsible for international crimes” the U.N. report states.

In the appendix, was a separate list identifying more than 160 “main actors” among Saudi, Emirati and Yemeni government and Houthi officials.

Concerns have been raised as to the impartiality and legitimacy of a Joint Incidents Assessment Team set up by Saudi Arabia to review alleged coalition violations, after it failed to hold anyone accountable for air strikes that killed civilians.

The U.N. report comes just a few days after a recent airstrike by the Saudi-led military coalition on a detention center in Yemen on Sunday, killed more than 100 people. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the attack may have amounted to a war crime. The coalition said it was targeting a drones and missiles facility but instead they leveled a building being used as a prison, in the city of Dhamar.

“The location that was hit has been visited by ICRC before,” Franz Rauchenstein, its head of delegation for Yemen, told AFP from Dhamar. “It’s a college building that has been empty and has been used as a detention facility for a while.” Rauchenstein continued, “What is most disturbing is that (the attack was) on a prison. To hit such a building is shocking and saddening – prisoners are protected by international law.” The remaining forty survivors are being treated in hospitals in the city south of the capital Sanaa for their injuries.

Last Thursday, airstrikes hit Yemeni government forces heading to Aden a southern port city, to fight UAE backed separatists. At least 30 troops were killed according to a government commander. The UAE has been known to arm and train separatist militias in southern Yemen. For weeks now, a rift between Saudi and UAE proxies has further complicated matters and civilians are paying the price.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers launched a new effort to end the U.S. government’s involvement in the Saudi-led assault on Yemen, shortly after the latest attacks. Lawmakers are also calling on the Senate to not remove an amendment to the annual defense policy legislation which would prohibit the U.S. from cooperating with Saudi airstrikes. Sanders stated, “We must use Congress’s power of the purse to block every nickel of taxpayer money from going to assist the Saudi dictatorship as it bombs and starves civilians in Yemen.”

Unfortunately, even with the release of this new U.N. report, the likelihood that nations perpetrating war crimes against innocent Yemeni civilians will be held accountable is highly unlikely.

Sarah Abed is an independent journalist and analyst.

September 5, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

JCPOA Negotiations are a test of the EU’s geo-political credibility

By Padraig McGrath | September 5, 2019

On September 4th, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran would give the EU a further 60 days to come back into compliance with its economic commitments under the JCPOA before Iran would initiate a third phase of withdrawal from its own obligations under the deal. On September 29th, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran has been enriching uranium to a purity of 4.35%, which marginally exceeds the limit of 3.67% stipulated under the terms of the JCPOA.

Furthermore, Iran has at this point exceeded the stockpile of 300 kilograms of nuclear fuel which was agreed upon in 2015. These measures are quickly reversible, but likewise, Iran also has the technical capacity to very quickly implement any decision to further suspend its commitments. The Iranian government has said that it has the technical capacity to resume production of 20% enriched uranium within 48 hours, were it to take such a decision.

The stumbling-block in the negotiations is that, with the United States having withdrawn from the JCPOA and re-imposed sanctions on Iran following Donald Trump’s assuming office as US president in 2017, the EU finds compliance with its own JCPOA-obligations extremely difficult, as European banks fear being hit by sanctions themselves if they un-freeze Iranian assets or facilitate transactions relating to Iranian oil-exports. US federal law states that, ultimately, all dollar-denominated banking-transactions worldwide ultimately have to pass through the US banking-system. Therefore, the strategic advantage conferred on the US by dollar-hegemony is not simply that it artificially inflates the value of the dollar, but also that it brings all dollar-denominated transactions worldwide under US legal jurisdiction.

In an attempt to find a workaround, French president Emanuel Macron has proposed that the EU should extend a $15 billion letter of credit to Iran, which would be guaranteed by Iranian oil-exports, thereby compensating Iran for losses of revenue owing to US sanctions. The Iranians have already rejected the first version of this offer, wherein this $15 billion package was classified as a loan rather than as a letter of credit. The distinction is crucial, as classifying the $15 billion package as a letter of credit would prevent the western powers from trapping Iran in a vice-grip composed simultaneously of an oil-embargo in addition to the obligation to service debt. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi has explained that such a letter of credit would in effect be a pre-sale of oil.

However, the crucial weakness in this solution is that it will still require a waiver from the US government, which seems improbable considering Trump’s intransigence and US National Security Advisor John Bolton’s opposition to the plan.

Although, in the interests of fairness, we should extend some credit to President Macron for his diplomatic initiatives in an effort to find a way out of the impasse, the situation which exists still amounts to a very serious test of the EU’s credibility as a distinct negotiating-entity. The principal EU negotiator in the talks which led to the 2015 JCPOA-deal, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, has shown extreme weakness and passivity since the American withdrawal in 2017. Having worked hard to hammer out the terms of a deal, she has subsequently done absolutely nothing to defend it.

The net result is that the EU is currently in violation of its JCPOA-obligations because it has folded in the face of US economic bullying. What exactly is the point of bothering to negotiate with the EU if it is incapable of maintaining an independent policy on foreign relations, finance or security?

Another question thrown up by this diplomatic shambles is, considering that the number of countries worldwide being targeted by unilateral US economic sanctions is ever-increasing, when do we hit a tipping-point wherein this increasingly trigger-happy US policy, hitting the sanctions-button on reflex, has an accelerating effect in de-dollarization as a global process?

Banking-systems are dependent on a certain minimal level of systemic trust. How can the US hope to maintain its financial role in the world economy if everybody else is continuously reminded that their dollar-denominated assets worldwide can arbitrarily be frozen or seized at any time?

Already, the four largest banks in the world are Chinese. The only factor which has so far delayed China’s assumption of the role of the world’s banker is that the Chinese government has not yet decided to make the Yuan a more easily tradable currency. Further preparation is still required before the Chinese decide to flick that switch. Once they eventually do, it’s game over for the Dollar.

It is understandable that the Chinese have not yet decided to make the Yuan as tradable as other reserve-currencies, but their principal concern is not fears of vulnerability to speculators and raids. The capitalization of China’s state-owned financial institutions is such that, together, they could easily mobilize enough volume to defend the Yuan’s value against raids, or for that matter to suppress its value, any time they needed to.

I believe that the preparation which the Chinese government most centrally has in mind prior to any decision to make the Yuan fully tradable is the completion of the fibre-optic component of the Belt and Road Initiative. The strategic importance of these fibre-optic pipelines is the most under-emphasized aspect of Belt and Road. Once this physical infrastructure is in place, it will be possible to entirely circumvent American efforts toward virtual piracy in the form of unilateral sanctions. That will have a transformative effect on the world economy. The erosion of dollar-hegemony has been very gradual over the past 15 years, but if we are to see a sudden acceleration, a tipping-point, then that will be it.

It is quite probable that, in anticipation of this, odes to the Petro-Yuan are already being written in Farsi.

Padraig McGrath is a political analyst with InfoBRICS

September 5, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment