Aletho News


Green-smearing – from Nicaragua to Bolivia

By Stephen Sefton | September 11, 2019

A fundamental dimension of contemporary psychological warfare has been dual-purpose corporate co-option of non-governmental organizations. In that psy-warfare dimension, NGOs serve both as disinformation partners with Western news media and too as false interlocutors in international forums and institutions, where they attack governments challenging the US elites and their allies. They actively subvert governments inside countries challenging the West, for example, in Latin America, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia. But they also pervert due process in institutions like the UN, posing as civil society but in fact serving Western elite corporate imperatives, for example in international human rights and environmental mechanisms and forums.

Among these NGOs figure high profile human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights and Avaaz along with environmental organizations from and the World Resource Institute to Global Witness and Greenpeace. An increasing interrelationship has developed between corporate NGO funding and the exploitation of people’s general willingness to volunteer for and support apparently good causes. Symbolic of this is the way World Economic Forum attendees like Kumi Naidoo move readily between top management from one NGO to another, in Naidoo’s case from Greenpeace to Amnesty International. From Libya and Syria to Venezuela and Nicaragua, Amnesty International has played a key role using false reports to demonize governments resisting the US and its allies.

As Cory Morningstar has pointed out, Greenpeace is a key player in promoting the corporate driven New Deal for Nature aimed at financializing what remains of the natural world, especially its biodiversity, as a way of engineering a “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Western corporate greed underlies the identical patterns of news media and NGO misrepresentation and outright deceit supporting regime change offensives against Libya and Syria, or Venezuela and Nicaragua. Right now, that very same pattern of media and NGO manipulation is clearly at work preparing for an intervention to prevent Evo Morales being re-elected as President of Bolivia.

Bruno Sgarzini and Wyatt Reed have noted how Western media and NGOs have falsely attacked Evo Morales blaming him for not controlling the fires in Bolivia’s Amazon. This is exactly what happened in Nicaragua immediately prior to the coup attempt in 2018 when the Nicaraguan authorities were fighting a fire in the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve. That episode softened up Nicaraguan public opinion and set in motion social media networks involving thousands of youth activists trained for that purpose beforehand over several years with US and also European government funding. In mid-April 2018, barely a week after the Indio Maiz fire was extinguished, those networks launched a social media blitzkrieg of lies and inventions marking the start of the actual coup attempt. A practically identical process is well under way now in Bolivia, which holds presidential elections next October 20th.

The timing of the fires in Bolivia’s Amazon is extremely propitious from the perspective of the US authorities and their allies. It takes almost two months for the effects to wear off of the initial psy-warfare bitzkrieg of the kind waged against Nicaragua in 2018 and against Brazil’s Worker’s Party as part of Jair Bolsonaro’s successful 2018 election campaign that same year. Bolivia will almost certainly experience the same kind of psy-warfare assault via social media prior to the October elections. The campaign will be timed to optimize the effect of mass false accusations of government wrongdoing and corruption along with false media and NGO claims of security force repression. Opposition activists are likely to exploit peaceful demonstrations on indigenous peoples and environmental issues so as to commit murderous provocations, just as they did in Nicaragua and Venezuela.

All of these tactics are likely be deployed against Bolivia so as to destroy the current prestige and high levels of support for President Evo Morales. In Bolivia, as in Nicaragua and Venezuela, the governing progressive political movement enjoys around 35-40% core electoral support, the right wing opposition have around 25-30% with 30-40% of voters uncommitted. The Western elites know they need to motivate something over half of those uncommitted voters against Evo Morales so as to get the right wing government they so desperately need in Bolivia to try and make good the unmitigated debacle of Mauricio Macri’s right wing government in Argentina.

The intensity of any Western media and NGO campaign against Morales is likely to reach similar levels as their cynical campaigns of lies and defamation against Venezuela and Nicaragua. Should that offensive go ahead, as seems probable, the difference will be that this time Evo Morales and his team are alert and unlikely to be taken by surprise as the Nicaraguan authorities were by the vicious, sudden attack against them in April 2018. A likely variation in Bolivia’s case will be a higher profile of environmentalist NGOs working in tandem with their human rights counterparts feeding misrepresentations and downright lies into Western news media. For the US and European Union elites the regional geopolitical stakes are high enough to make an attack on Bolivia imperative.

(A longer version of this piece was published at Tortilla con Sal on September 4, 2019.)

September 13, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Chile, Dictatorship-Era Legacy of Impunity Is Still Endorsed by Governments

By Ramona Wadi | Strategic Culture Foundation | September 13, 2019

“It does not matter whether the government is right or left-wing; impunity is maintained. Even with the previous governments it was discovered that the Armed forces burnt the archives with information and no steps were taken.” Former Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) member and torture survivor Erika Hennings has experienced the trauma of state-enforced oblivion – she is still seeking the details about the extermination and disappearance of her husband, Alfonso Chanfreau.

Forty-six years since the US-backed military coup overthrew the democratically-elected, socialist government led by Salvador Allende, Chilean society remains fragmented and burdened with a legacy which all governments since the transition back to democracy have failed to challenge.

The neoliberal experiment unleashed upon Chile was violent – in 2011, the Chilean state recognised 40,018 people as victims of the Pinochet dictatorship, among them 3,065 who were killed and disappeared. The Chilean military’s pact of silence has hampered efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice, as well as forced Chileans to contend with gaps in their personal and collective memory.

Human rights lawyer and Communist Party deputy Carmen Hertz, whose husband Carlos Berger was one of the victims of the Calama Massacre in October 1973 – the last stop of the dictatorship operation known as the Caravan of Death, has also blamed the governments from the transition onwards for cultivating state impunity. Fragments of her husband’s remains were identified – together with the other Calama victims, Berger was mutilated, buried clandestinely and later exhumed for disposal into the ocean. The Chilean state, Hertz asserted, “has debt in truth, in justice, in reparation.”

The Chilean state, however, has no intention of facilitating the Chilean quest for justice and memory. Upholding impunity remains a prime concern for the government and the military. Oblivion, the act of forgetting which Pinochet insisted upon as the only means to move on from dictatorship crimes against humanity, is never far from Chileans’ consciousness. As a mechanism endorsed and implemented at state level, Chileans involved in memory and resistance activity are perpetually fighting against government efforts to erase remembrance.

Last Sunday, a march led by various human rights and memory group commemorating the victims of the Pinochet dictatorship in Santiago was violently disrupted by the Chilean police.

A recent cruel taunt by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro directed at former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, whose father was murdered by the dictatorship, was mildly reprimanded by Chilean President Sebastian Piñera who, while denouncing the comment as regards subject matter, downplayed its significance by describing Bolsonaro’s dictatorship admiration as “different opinions”.

Bachelet, herself a torture victim, failed to maintain her promise to close the luxury prison of Punta Peuco, where former dictatorship agents serving multiple sentences lead privileged lives in incarceration. During her presidential terms, Bachelet made use of the Pinochet-era anti-terror law to target Mapuche communities and individuals involved in resistance. Although by no means an exception in resorting to the legislation, its use was most widespread during her tenure.

As part of his electoral campaign, Piñera had vowed changes to make the legislation easier to implement against the Mapuche. In November 2018, Mapuche youth Camilo Catrillanca was murdered by the Comando Jungla – a special force trained by the US and Colombia. Evidence related to the killing was destroyed and the witness, a minor, was beaten by the police.

In August this year, it was revealed that the Chilean military was spying on the Chilean investigative journalist and author Mauricio Weibel in 2016.

In another bizarre case, a former DINA agent pressed criminal charges against Javier Rebolledo, a Chilean investigative writer. Rebolledo’s research revealed detailed accounts of torture and sexual abuse perpetrated by DINA agents, among them Raul Quintana Salazar, who sued the author for purported defamation.

State-endorsed oblivion in Chile has made a travesty out of justice. Yet it has also ensured a strengthening of memory. The latter, however, faces one main hurdle in the form of governments normalising dictatorship violence. If governments in Chile continue to uphold the dictatorship pacts of silence, Chile’s memory will, with time, remain tethered to narrations which do not make it beyond diluted versions of history.

September 13, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Canada sells Iran’s properties, gives money away to ‘terror victims’

Press TV – September 13, 2019

Canada has gifted some $30 million worth of Iranian assets to the victims of terrorist attacks in which Iran says has not been involved, Canadian media reported.

The victims have received their share of the money earned through the sale of two Iranian-owned buildings in Ottawa and Toronto, according to a document filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in August.

The valuable Ottawa property, sold for $26.5 million, was used as the Iranian Cultural Center, and the Toronto building, sold for $1.85 million, served as the Center for Iranian Studies, the Global News reported.

In addition to the $28 million earned from the sale of the two properties, the victims were also awarded a share of some $2.6 million seized from Iran’s bank accounts. Documents also list a Toyota Camry and Mazda MPV.

The recipients include several American families who have filed claims in the Ontario and Nova Scotia courts, seeking a share of Iran’s assets seized by the Canadian government.

In particular, they include the family of Marla Bennett, a US citizen killed in a 2002 bombing that rocked the Hebrew University in Jerusalem al-Quds.

The attacks are mostly blamed on Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements Hamas and Hezbollah. The families claimed that the Iranian government supported the two organizations and was therefore responsible for their actions.

The complaints were first filed in the US but the claimants turned to Canada after finding out that the Iranian government had more properties and bank accounts there.

In July 2017, a Canadian court required the Islamic Republic to pay around $1.7 billion in damages to “American victims of terrorism.”

Iran has denied any role in the attacks which the courts have based their cases on to appropriate the country’s frozen assets.

Tehran had argued that the victims had to prove Iran’s role in each attack instead of just repeating the US government’s baseless allegations.

The seizure and sale of Iranian assets in Canada come as the country has turned into a center of fraud and a safe haven for embezzlers who manage to escape justice in the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to Iran’s prosecutor general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri.

Mahmoud Reza Khavari, a former Iranian banker, fled to Canada after a $2.6 billion financial fraud came to light in 2011. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison and the Interpol issued a warrant for him in December 2017.

Marjan Sheikholeslami, accused of embezzling public funds in Iran in two separate cases, has also fled to Canada. In 2010, amid the international sanctions on Iran, she founded various companies in Iran and Turkey to help Iran bypass the sanctions and sell its petrochemical products, but has reportedly refused to pay back the government’s money.

September 13, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 2 Comments

Human Trafficking is Booming in Yemen as the War Enters its Fifth Year

By Ahmed Abdulkareem | MintPress | September 13, 2019

AMRAN, YEMEN — The offensive war on Yemen, the most impoverished nation in the Middle East, was launched in 2015 by a U.S.-backed coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia, the richest nation in the Middle East. It has plunged a nation already struggling to provide basic services to its citizens into chaos, a nation now ruled by a ragtag consortium of different groups all thirsting for power. The result? A complete absence of law and order that has given rise to a black Suq (market) of human trafficking on a scale never before seen in Yemen.

Thirty-five-year-old Tawfiq hails from Amran, a small city in west-central Yemen famous for its ancient mud-brick high-rises dating back two millennia to the Sabean kingdom. Tawfiq was among 17 Yemeni victims of human trafficking who agreed to speak to MintPress about their harrowing ordeals. In 2016, Tawfiq — desperate to bring money home to his family, as the then-fledgling war decimated the already shaky Yemeni economy — was told by a friend that he could earn as much as $7,000 for one of his kidneys. Days later Tawfiq was on a bus to Saudi Arabia, traveling through al-Wadeeah port on the Yemen-Saudi border.

Today, Tawfiq suffers from complications arising from his kidney extraction and is now unable to carry heavy objects. He told MintPress, “I thought that removing a kidney would be a simple arrangement, but now I live in a hell of pain and suffering.” Tawfiq’s operation was crude and involved no follow-up care.  

Ismail, the owner of a small electronics store in Taiz, told MintPress, as he pointed to the place where one of his kidneys use to reside, “I needed money to feed my children.” Ismail hesitated while he recounted his story, worried that the shame of what he had done would reach his family. Yet thousands of Yemeni civilians who are living in abject poverty as a result of the ongoing war are willing to allow a part of themselves to be cut out and sold in order to be able to sustain their families.

Ali al-Jailai, head of the Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking, told MintPress that the wave of famine that hit the country in 2015, when the Saudi-led war began, has augmented Yemen’s human trafficking network and left women and children the most vulnerable.

“A while back there was a case of a man who was traveling to Egypt to sell his kidney,” al-Jailai told MintPress. “We talked to him and tried to persuade him not to go, but he refused; he needed the money.” With an economy now decimated by more than four years of war, many working-class Yemenis have abandoned hopes of working a normal job and instead turn to one of the few options that remain: to sign up for the fight against Saudi Arabia and the UAE, or to sell their organs to survive.

Over 20 million Yemenis are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations. Salaries for teachers and other public-sector workers have not been paid regularly since the war began and Saudi Arabia seized control of Yemen’s Central Bank, leaving vulnerable populations at increased risk of falling victim to human trafficking.

The Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking, a Sana’a-based NGO, has documented over 10,000 cases of organ sales from the start of the war in March 2015 to 2017. According to the organization, actual figures could be much higher, as many cases go unreported owing to the illegality of the practice, religious concerns, and the associated stigma of the practice in Yemen’s conservative society.

Although he lost one of his kidneys, Tawfiq was lucky. Hundreds of Yemenis, including women and children, forced to “donate” their organs, lose their lives after their livers, kidneys, spleens, corneas, or even their hearts are removed. One Yemeni family recounted to MintPress, on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case, how they found their son after he went missing: “After his abduction we found his body thrown in the street, you could see there had been an operation on his body; we asked for an autopsy and were in shock after we found his heart was gone.”

Blockading a way out

In addition to poverty and the absence of law enforcement, there are other reasons why human trafficking flourishes in Yemen, perhaps the most prominent being the blockade levied against the country by the Saudi Coalition since 2015. Before the war, Yemenis would regularly leave the country to seek better health care, employment opportunities and safety abroad — including, somewhat ironically, in neighboring Saudi Arabia. Now — with seaports, airports, highways and especially the once-bustling Sana`a International Airport effectively shuttered by the Saudi Coalition — Yemenis are no longer able to flee the violence in their country or travel to neighboring wealthy Gulf countries for stints of work to earn some cash, leaving many with few options but to resort to selling their organs out of desperation to make ends meet.

The blockade has also left a large number of Yemenis stranded abroad, including some students and others who have managed to find a way out in hopes of receiving medical treatment. It is estimated, according to data provided by the Sana`a International Airport Media Center, that nearly 4 million Yemenis are currently stranded abroad. Many of the stranded are left in a state of legal limbo, unable to secure citizenship in neighboring countries and therefore unable to work, leaving them with no way to earn money short of begging on the street or agreeing to sell their organs

The Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking told MintPress that many Yemenis who fled when the war broke out are now stuck abroad and that the organization has recorded as many as 300 cases of Yemenis stranded abroad selling their kidneys out of desperation.

Officials work with brokers and smugglers

Maha, who wished to be identified only by her first name, and her friend, who asked to remain anonymous, recounted how a Yemeni broker had managed to secure passports for them by contacting staff members at the Yemeni Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, who then, together with a Saudi black-market organ dealer, created a formal medical report to make the sale of Maha and her friend’s kidneys look like a legitimate donor transplant. The Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking told MintPress that collusion by government officials is rampant in Egypt thanks to the large fees government employees charge for coordinating organ sales. “I used to travel to Egypt every month along with a group of girls where we would attend concerts at the Emirati Embassy; the trips were coordinated by high-level employees at the Yemeni Embassy,” Maha told MintPress.

Last year, Musa Al-Ezaki, the editor of Yemen’s widely-circulated Al-Hayat newspaper, made a very public offer to sell one of his kidneys to the highest bidder. Al-Ezaki coordinated with his brother, who was living in Egypt at the time, to place an ad in a Cario newspaper with the caption, “Under compelling circumstances I regret to announce the sale of my kidney to pay rent; if someone wants to buy a kidney, please call me.” It’s unknown if Al-Ezak ever found a buyer.

Yemen’s penal code calls for 10 years’ imprisonment for those engaged in human trafficking. However, not only are those laws not being implemented, government officials, especially those in the Aden-based government of Saudi-backed Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, are often directly involved in smuggling victims abroad and issuing permits to make the sale of organs appear as legitimate donations to recipients in countries that are supposed to require the approval of the Yemeni Embassy, especially Egypt.

“[In one case] we formally contacted embassy officials to coordinate with Egyptian authorities in order to return a human trafficking victim to Yemen, but they refused to respond,” al-Jailai told MintPress. “We have accurate information about the complicity of the Yemeni Embassy [staff] in Egypt and unfortunately, organized crime has been able to penetrate it.”

Owing to the collapse of an organized health care system in Yemen, organized criminal elements are smuggling victims to Egypt, the Saudi Arabia and China, according to the Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking. Yet, of the victims and brokers who spoke to MintPress, all indicated that Egypt is still one of the most favored destinations to which brokers and smugglers bring their victims.

MintPress interviewed three Yemeni brokers who said officials in Yemen were assisting them in obtaining travel documents for their victims and connecting them with brokers in Saudi Arabia and Egypt to arrange their travel, accommodation, and surgeries in direct coordination with staff in their countries’ embassies. “The government entities here [in Yemen] and in Saudi Arabia make bringing Yemenis abroad easy for us,” one of the brokers who asked to be identified as Abu Saiyad, which translates to The Hunter in English, told MintPress.

Organ brokers in Yemen do not work under the radar as their peers do in neighboring countries. They are known to most residents and wander through camps for the internally displaced and most major slums in large cities.

Harvesting prisoners of war

Owing to the increased demand for human organs, attributable in large part to the many troops who have sustained injuries while fighting in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have also become a sizable market for Yemeni victims of human trafficking. Even some Yemeni prisoners of war captured on Yemeni battlefields have awoken to find their kidneys removed; others have had their organs harvested and been left for dead.

A number of families of prisoners of war said their loved ones had become victims of human trafficking after being captured on the front lines. They say Saudi Arabia has thus far refused to hand over their bodies. One such family told MintPress that they had evidence that the Saudi army extracted their son Ibrahim’s spleen and cornea from him before he was killed, but MintPress was unable to independently verify the claim.

In June 2019  the United States added Saudi Arabia to a list of countries it says are not doing enough to combat human trafficking. Instead, the U.S. said, the Kingdom has often jailed, fined or deported human trafficking victims, accusing them of immigration violations or prostitution rather than providing them assistance.

Despite the blacklisting of its Saudi ally, the United States is very much complicit in the human trafficking that has come to plague Yemen, according to many Yemenis, who feel that if the United States did not offer such generous support to the Coalition, their country would not be suffering a famine and hence no one would be forced to sell their organs, or their honor, to feed their children.

While Yemen’s penal code calls for 10 years’ imprisonment for those engaged in buying or selling human beings, the U.S. State Department has done nothing to publicly reprimand its coalition allies for failing to tackle trafficking in Yemen — this despite the fact the U.S.’ own report lays much of the blame at the feet of the Coalition-backed government in Aden.

Yemen’s women and girls at risk

The trafficking of human beings involves not only human organs but also sexual exploitation, and Yemen is no exception. Trafficked Yemeni women are subjected to rape, violence, extreme cruelty, and many other forms of pressure and coercion. Female trafficking victims who spoke to MintPress reported being forced into prostitution networks in Saudi Arabia and the Emiratis.

One victim, who wished to be identified only as Samerah, told MintPress:

I traveled to Egypt in February 2018. I was taken to a party featuring the Saudi Ambassador and the head of the military police in Saudi Arabia by a Yemeni and Egyptian woman. That night I was forced into having sex and the next day I was given money and returned to the embassy.”

Another trafficking victim who was forced into sex work and who refused to be identified spoke to MintPress from a rehabilitation center run by the Houthis in Sana`a. She told MintPress that she is afraid to return to her home for fear of being killed for violating her family’s honor.

Wealthy Saudi and Emirati patrons often rely on professional brokers’ networks that send trafficked women and girls to hotels in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Egypt and Dubai in exchange for a commission, according to a number of testimonies given to MintPress by both trafficked victims and brokers.

Before the war, Saudi Arabia was already using Yemen as a hub for so-called “marriage tourism.”  Saudi soldiers, businessmen, and ordinary citizens would travel to Yemen to marry young girls from poor families. Many of these girls would travel back to Saudi Arabia only to be used temporarily for sex and then simply or abandoned on the streets or sold to traffickers.

Even those who voluntarily seek to sell their organs out of desperation fall victim to smugglers and brokers. Aisha, who agreed to sell her kidney to a wealthy Bahraini woman told MintPress that the woman buying her kidney told her that she had paid $30,000 for it. Aisha received only $5,000.

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

September 13, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , | 4 Comments

War is imposed on us by US, we can fight it for 100 years, Taliban tells RT after talks cut off

RT | September 13, 2019

Talks with the Taliban to put an end to the longest of America’s forever wars were killed off by the US last week. The Afghan militant movement is prepared to fight a hundred more years, its chief negotiator told RT.

The peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban were called off by President Donald Trump days ahead of a planned signing of a formal agreement. The draft has even been initialed by both parties and Qatar, which mediated in the talks, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who headed the Taliban’s delegation, told RT. As far as the Taliban is concerned, the US decision can be easily reversed and the agreement put into force as agreed, he said.

“We are still committed to the negotiations. Our stance is that there is no solution to the conflict except negotiations and except peace on the table. We hope that Mr. Trump rethinks his announcement and comes back to where we were,” the official said.

Trump cited an attack by the Taliban, which killed a US soldier stationed in Afghanistan, as the reason for the surprise cancellation of the talks. The militants say their attacks were well justified by attacks against them by the US and the Afghan security forces. They see the Americans as a foreign occupying force and themselves as freedom fighters and protectors of the Afghan civilians, who are injured and killed when the US attacks the Taliban, which regularly conducts terrorist attacks.

“The war was imposed on us. It is American soldiers who are in Afghanistan. It’s not our mujahedeen in Washington,” he said. He added that Trump’s justification for stopping talks clashed with statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who appeared on TV the following day and said the US killed “over 1,000 Taliban” over ten prior days, as negotiations were under way.

“Mr. Pompeo admitted that they have killed a thousand Taliban,” Stanikzai pointed out. “If they can kill a thousand of us, why can we not kill one or two of them? This is our right. We have to defend ourselves and defend our people.”

The Taliban representative said the Trump administration proved to be no different to that of Barack Obama, which also held peace talks with the Afghan militants before ending them at the last moment. He questioned Washington’s commitment to resolving the situation and ending what is now a 19-year-long anti-insurgency war that the US apparently cannot win through military force.

“If the American side is not willing to negotiate and they do not want peace on the table, we will be compelled to defend ourselves,” he said.

“We can do it for a hundred years.”

Stanikzai reiterated that only after a formal agreement is signed and US troops are pulled out of Afghanistan would the Taliban be able to settle its differences with other political forces in Afghanistan, including the US-backed government in Kabul.

“We need a practical thing. When it is signed, there will be [a] ceasefire between us and the American forces. We will give safe passage to the American forces,” he said. “When they go out, inter-Afghan talks can start and a comprehensive ceasefire and other domestic issues can be discussed.”

September 13, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | Leave a comment

The Pirates of Gibraltar

By Sasan Fayazmanesh | CounterPunch | September 13, 2019

When I hear the word “pirates” certain images conjure up: the silly, moldy, dusty “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride in Disneyland that I saw in my youth; the banal, boring, childish Hollywood movies by the same title that I could not watch for more than a few minutes; or the actual pirates, such as the modern day bandits who were actively raiding ships a few years ago off the coast of Somalia. But the image of British, American and Israeli politicians in three-piece suits or skirts as pirates never came to my mind until very recently. If you don’t know what I am talking about, read the script below which appears in chronological order.

On April 17, 2019, a tanker named Grace 1 left Iran for an unspecified destination with reportedly 2.1 million barrels of crude oil, worth some $130 million. According to a March 20 report in Reuters about how Iran tries to evade US sanctions, the Grace 1 was “Panamanian-flagged and managed by Singapore-based shipping services firm.” The Grace 1, TankerTrackers reported, was built in 1997 and, given its age and size, was not allowed to dock at many ports. It therefore had a history of handling ship-to-ship fuel oil transfers at sea. It would typically receive fuel oil from Iran, the source stated, and then deliver it to smaller vessels.

The tanker appeared to be heading to the Mediterranean Sea. But instead of taking the much shorter route of the Suez Canal, it circled around Africa. Why? Because, according to TankerTrackers, the ship was too heavy and, therefore, too submerged to pass through the shallow Suez Canal. Such heavy tankers can, using pipelines, offload some of their oil before entering the canal and receive them on other side of the canal. However, since Saudi Arabia is part owner of the pipeline, and is hostile to Iran, it would not allow Iran to use the facility.

On July 4, 2019, The New York Times reported that British marines and the port authorities in Gibraltar detained the Grace 1 as it “was carrying crude oil from Iran to Syria, a violation of European Union sanctions against Syria.” It further stated that according to Spain, the tanker had been detained at the request of the United States, and that British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had praised Gibraltar and the British marines “for this bold move to enforce Syria sanctions.” (The New York Times, of course, did not mention the fact that Gibraltar is a British colony with little or no say in international matters, and that carrying oil to Syria by the tanker is merely an allegation.) The report said that Iran had summoned the British ambassador over what it called “illegal” seizure, and the ambassador had been told that the British action “is very strange because these sanctions are not imposed by the Security Council and Iran rejects them.” In other words, these were merely EU imposed sanctions and Iran did not have to abide by them.

Subsequently, the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that “UK’s unlawful seizure of a tanker with Iranian oil on behalf of the B team is piracy, pure and simple” (Press TV, July 8). By the B team he meant US National Security Adviser John Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, individuals who were actively pushing for a war with Iran. Zarif reiterated that the British argument that the tanker was seized because it was in breach of the EU sanctions against Syria made no sense, since “Iran is neither a member of the EU nor subject to any European oil embargo.” In addition, he pointed out that since EU was against extraterritoriality, it made no sense to argue that Britain seized the tanker on behest of the US government, which amounts to imposition of US laws on other countries. Moreover, various sources reported that according to Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, the Grace 1 was not even going to Syria but was going “somewhere else.”

On July 11, UPI reported that the Royal Gibraltar Police had arrested the captain and chief officer of the Grace 1, who were Indian nationals, on “suspicion of shipping oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.” According to the report, the Grace 1 had been searched and documents and electronic devices had been seized and examined. The report also mentioned that Iranian gunboats in the Strait of Hormuz had attempted to detain the British Heritage tanker, but they had backed down following a warning from the British warship HMS Montrose.

On July 13, the Guardian reported that Hunt had told Zarif that Britain would facilitate the release of the detained Grace 1 oil tanker if there were guarantees it would not go to Syria and that Zarif had told him that Iran wanted to resolve the issue and did not want to escalate tensions. Nevertheless, the report went on to say, the UK was increasing its military presence in the Persian Gulf by sending a second warship to the region to protect British commercial oil tankers. The report further stated that Hunt and Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, had “agreed the importance of deescalating the current situation as quickly as possible while noting the importance of Gibraltar enforcing EU sanctions against Syria.”

Six days later Reuters reported that the Gibraltar government has announced that its “Supreme Court,” at the request of the “Attorney General,” has extended the period of detention of the Grace 1 for an additional 30 days and has set a new hearing for August15. It also reported that Fabian Picardo held a “constructive and positive” meeting with Iranian officials in London to discuss the tanker. On July 18 British Prime Minister Theresa May paid tribute to Gibraltar’s efforts in detaining the Grace 1 and thanked Gibraltar’s chief minister for detaining the oil tanker (The National).

On July 19, in the Strait of Hormuz, Iran seized a British tanker called Stena Impero which sailed under the UK flag and was registered in London. The seizure followed the same dramatic routine that had been followed by the British when they captured the Grace 1. In a video that Iran released shortly after the incident, Iranian commandos in black ski masks and fatigues rappelled from a helicopter onto the British tanker. Even though Iran’s Revolutionary Guards claimed that the Stena Impero was seized because it failed to follow international maritime regulations, it was clear that the act was simply a tit for tat and intended to put pressure on the British government to release the Grace 1. The Tasnim news agency reported that the Guards had also stopped another UK-operated tanker but released it afterward. The British raised a hue and cry. Jeremy Hunt stated: “I’m extremely concerned by the seizure of two naval vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz. . . I will shortly attend a COBR [Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms] meeting to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels” (CNBC, July 19). BBC also quoted Hunt as saying that the Iranian seizures were “completely unacceptable” and “freedom of navigation must be maintained.” (Note that when British imperial forces engage in an act of piracy, it is acceptable, but when Iranians try to copy them it is “completely unacceptable”!) Hunt warned Iran that “if this situation is not resolved quickly there will be serious consequences.”

In a detailed article on July 20 the Guardian unmasked the role that the US, and particularly John Bolton, had played in the seizure of the Grace 1. It wrote that when the Grace 1 was captured, Bolton tried to act as if he had no previous knowledge of the act by tweeting: “Excellent news: UK has detained the supertanker Grace I laden with Iranian oil bound for Syria in violation of EU sanctions.” But “Bolton’s national security team was directly involved in manufacturing the Gibraltar incident.” The Grace 1 had been under surveillance by US satellites since April, when it was anchored off Iran. Once it headed for the Mediterranean Sea the US informed Spain of its arrival and its passage through the Strait of Gibraltar. Spain, which does not recognize British rule over Gibraltar, took no action. But the British, who had also been told to seize the tanker, acted and stormed the tanker with 30 marines. The result, as the Guardian pointed out, was that “Britain has been plunged into the middle of an international crisis it is ill-prepared to deal with.” Iran’s retaliation in snatching the Stena Impero, the Guardian stated, has further exposed “Britain’s diplomatic isolation and its military and economic vulnerability,” and “Hunt’s appeal for international support for Britain has so far fallen on deaf ears.”

The British pirates and their dominions in Gibraltar, who had been duped by an American pirate, had to give up. On August 15 the British released the Grace 1 despite all efforts by Bolton and his gang to continue the detention of the tanker. Officials in Gibraltar issued a statement saying that that the US Department of Justice had “applied to seize the Grace 1 on a number of allegations,” but a judge in Gibraltar’s Supreme Court later ruled he had not received an “application” for the US seizure (USA Today). Moreover, all legal actions against the tanker’s crew and captain were dropped. The New York Times also reported that Fabian Picardo had issued a statement saying that he had “received written assurance” from Iran that “if released, the destination of Grace 1 would not be an entity that is subject to European Union sanctions” and in “light of the assurances we have received, there are no longer any reasonable grounds for the continued legal detention of the Grace 1.” When asked where the ship was headed, Picardo answered: “That is not an issue for the authorities in Gibraltar.” According to the report, an oil trader in Iran had said the tanker would sail to Greece and then to Italy.

As the Grace 1 prepared to leave Gibraltar, it changed its name and flag. It was now called Adrian Darya 1 and the flag of Panama was replaced with the Iranian flag (Darya means Sea in Persian). The reason for these changes was that Panama did not want the tanker to sail under its flag anymore. The Adrian Darya 1 then drifted into the Mediterranean Sea with no clear destination (Press TV, August 18). US pirates were on its tail and threatened every country that the tanker tried to get close to.

The first country that the tanker approached was Greece. But the US stated that it had conveyed its “strong position” to the Greek government not to let the tanker dock (Reuters, August 20). According to a US State Department official, “any efforts to assist the tanker could be construed as providing material support to a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, which has immigration and potential criminal consequences.” This position had “been communicated not only to Greece but other states and ports in the Mediterranean,” the official stated. Given the US threats, Greece’s government said that there had been no formal announcement that the Adrian Darya 1 will arrive at the Greek port Kalamata. The next day, Greece’s Deputy Foreign Minister stated that we have “sent a clear message that we would not want to facilitate the trafficking of this oil to Syria in any instance,” and that Greece did not even have a port capable of handling such a large oil tanker (CNBC, August 21).

The Adrian Darya 1 then headed for Cyprus. But a Cypriot diplomat stated that “Cyprus wouldn’t allow the Iranian tanker to enter its territory were the vessel to make such a request” (Bloomberg, August 22). The tanker then listed its destination as the port of Mersin in southern Turkey, estimating its arrival to be August 31 (Deutsche Welle, August 24). But given the “paralyzing sanctions” of the Obama Administration, followed by the “maximum pressure” of Trump’s gang, Turkey had stopped buying Iranian oil in May 2019 and would not want to have anything to do with the Iranian oil tanker, especially since it already had a tense relation with the US. On August 25, Bloomberg reported that the tanker had changed “signal sent from the ship’s satellite transponder to ‘For Order,’ a designation meaning the vessel isn’t disclosing any destination.”

On August 26 a sensational news appeared: “Iran sells oil tanker pursued by US” (The Independent). According to the news, in a press conference, an Iranian government spokesperson stated that the tanker had been sold by Iran and the new buyer would decide its ultimate destination. Iran declined to name the buyer and discuss the terms for the sale.

Even though Iran tried to wash its hands of the tanker, US pirates continued their chase. It was now completely unclear where the Adrian Darya 1 might go next and what would happen to it. “Confusion over Iranian tanker’s destination after weeks of ordeal,” was the title of an Aljazeera news item on August 30. After the rumors that the tanker is still heading for another port in Turkey, Turkish Foreign Minister stated: “This tanker is not heading actually to Iskenderun [in Turkey], this tanker is heading to Lebanon.” But Lebanon had already dismissed the scenario, “stressing that it never buys crude oil because it simply does not have refineries.”

On August 30, Press TV reported that the US has blacklisted the Adrian Darya 1 and sanctioned its captain. Indeed, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a statement saying that it is taking action against the Adrian Darya 1 which is “benefiting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF).” Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, stated: “Vessels like the Adrian Darya 1 enable the IRGC-QF to ship and transfer large volumes of oil, which they attempt to mask and sell illicitly to fund the regime’s malign activities and propagate terrorism.” (It should be noted that Sigal Pearl Mandelker’s place of birth and citizenship, whether Israel or the US, has been subject of much controversy. But setting that issue aside, like the previous heads of the OFAC, she has shown quite a bit of hostility toward Iran in Israeli affiliated circles, such as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and has been instrumental in passing one set of sanctions or another on Iran.)

With the bandits on its tail and having no place to go, the Adrian Darya 1 headed for Syria, precisely the place that the US had tried to prevent it from going in the first place. On August 31 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted “FM @JZarif guaranteed to the UK that the IRGC oil tanker #Grace1 / #AdrianDarya1 would not head to Syria. We have reliable information that the tanker is underway and headed to Tartus, Syria. I hope it changes course. It was a big mistake to trust Zarif” (The Times of Israel ).

On September 3 AP reported that the tanker “blacklisted and pursued by the U.S. turned off its tracking beacon off the coast of Syria,” leading to speculation that its oil will end up there. It was further speculated that there will a ship-to-ship transfer of its oil.

One day later, stunning news appeared: A report by The Financial Times revealed that four days before the US sanctioned the Adrian Darya 1, Akhilesh Kumar, the tanker’s Indian captain, received an email from Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran at the Department of State. Hook wrote to Kumar on August 26: “This is Brian Hook. I work for secretary of state Mike Pompeo and serve as the US Representative for Iran. I am writing with good news.” The good news was that that the Trump Administration would give Kumar “several million dollars” to take the tanker to “a country that would impound the vessel on behalf of the US.” To assure Kumar that the email was genuine, Hook included an official state department phone number. In a second email Hook wrote to Kumar: “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.” In the intervening two days, the report went on, the Adrian Darya 1 made “doughnut” shape maneuvers, suggesting that Kumar might have been trying to decide how to react. But ultimately, the captain failed to respond, and Brain Hook emailed him to say that the US Treasury had imposed sanctions on him. According to the report, “in an effort to scare mariners” into understanding that helping Iran evade sanctions comes at a heavy price, in recent months Hook had emailed or texted roughly a dozen captains. (Let me emphasize that the author of the above email(s) is not Don Vito Corleone or even Capitan Hook. It is Brain Hook, the US special representative for Iran at the Department of State. Capitan Hook is quite clever, he offers “a few million dollars” for a ship that is at least worth $130 million! Perhaps that is why Kumar did not respond to his offer!)

With Hook’s bribery and threat email(s) out in the open, and the Adrian Darya 1 close to the Syrian coast, the saga of the Iranian tanker was almost over. On September 5, it was reported that Iran would soon release some of the crew members of UK flagged tanker (The Independent). On the same day US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that he “currently had no plan on his desk to seize the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1” (Reuters ). On September 6, the Guardian reported that the tanker is photographed by satellite off the Syrian port of Tartus.

On September 8 Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi reported that the “Adrian Darya 1 oil tanker, despite acts of sabotage, finally docked on the Mediterranean coast and unloaded its cargo and its owner will make a decision for its future” (Press TV). The British Foreign Office issued an angry statement on September 10 saying it was “now clear that Iran has breached” its “assurances and that the oil has been transferred to Syria and Assad’s murderous regime” (Sky News). On the same day John Bolton was fired by Trump!

The saga of the Iranian tanker would make a great movie about modern day piracy. It could cast many great stars; Bolton, a pirate with a huge mustache fighting his boss while trying to steal an Iranian ship; Hunt, a bumbling pirate who is losing his job along with his boss Teresa May in tears; Pompeo, a large, big belly, jolly pirate, engaged in a Twitter war with Zarif; Capitan Hook, a man with a pirate smile issuing threats and dangling money in front of Indian captains; Sigal Pearl Mandelker, a venomous female pirate out to get Iran on behest of Bibi Netanyahu and Mark Dubowitz, the head of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, etc.

So, listen Hollywood! Instead of making another insipid movie about Pirates of the Caribbean, make a movie about Pirates of Gibraltar. It would be a lot more interesting and it would have a happy ending, not because the good guys win, but because the baddest of all bad dudes lose!

Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor Emeritus of Economics at California State University, Fresno, and is the author of Containing Iran: Obama’s Policy of “Tough Diplomacy.” He can be reached at:

September 13, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Bolton Gone: Improved Peace Prospects?

Strategic Culture Foundation | September 13, 2019

The departure of John Bolton as US National Security Adviser is a good step towards decreasing international tensions by the Trump administration. But a lot more is needed from President Donald Trump to indicate a serious pivot to normalizing relations with Russia, Iran and others.

When Trump gave Bolton his marching orders earlier this week, the president said he “strongly disagreed” with his erstwhile security adviser over a range of foreign policy issues. Trump had also expressed frustration with Bolton’s incorrigible militarist tendencies.

There is no doubt Bolton was an odious figure in the White House cabinet. One of our Strategic Culture Foundation authors, Martin Sieff, wrote this excoriating commentary on Bolton’s nefarious record of warmongering dating as far back as the launching of US wars in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, when the mustachioed maverick served then as a chief neocon ideologue in the GW Bush administration.

One wonders why Trump brought such a war hawk into his administration when he appointed Bolton as NSA in April 2018. Perhaps, as another of our writers, Robert Bridge, surmised in a separate commentary this week, Trump was using hardliner Bolton as a foil to deflect opponents from within the Washington establishment who have been trying to undermine the president as “soft on foreign enemies”. A ruse by Trump of keeping “your enemies close”, it is averred.

Bolton certainly did his best to hamper Trump’s seeming attempts at scaling back US foreign military interventions. He opposed the plan to withdraw American troops from Syria. The reckless Bolton also wound up a policy of aggression and regime change against Venezuela, which Trump has latterly seemed to grow wary of as a futile debacle.

In regard to Russia, Bolton carried heaps of Cold War baggage which made Trump’s declared intentions of normalizing relations with Moscow more difficult.

The shameless warmonger Bolton openly advocated for regime change in Iran, which seemed to contradict Trump’s oft-stated position of not seeking regime change in Tehran, despite the president’s own animosity towards Iran.

The former NSA also opposed any attempt by Trump to engage in detente with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Reportedly, it was Bolton who derailed the incipient efforts at opening up dialogue with Pyongyang.

It is also thought that Bolton used his influence to impede Trump’s recent bid to host Taliban leaders at Camp David earlier this month which was aimed at trust-building for a proposed peace deal to withdraw US troops from that country after nearly 18 years of disastrous war.

That said, however, President Trump has not shown himself to be exactly a dovish figure. He has overseen countless sanctions being imposed on Russia, the abandoning of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, and ongoing military support for the anti-Russia regime in Kiev.

Too, it was Trump who ordered the US collapse of the 2015 international nuclear accord with Iran in May 2018 and the re-imposition of harsh sanctions on Tehran. So, it would be misplaced to paint Bolton as the sole malign actor in the White House. Trump is personally responsible for aggravating tensions with Iran, as well as with Russia, Venezuela and others.

Nevertheless, it is to be welcomed that an inveterate war hawk like Bolton no longer has the president’s ear. Perhaps Trump can be freer to act on his instincts as a pragmatic deal-maker. One thing that the president deserves credit for is his unconventional style of engaging with nations and leaders who are designated as foes of America.

Russia this week gave a reserved response to the sacking of Bolton. The Kremlin said it would make assessments of a positive change in US policy based on actions, not mere announcements, such as the firing of Bolton. Time will tell.

It seems significant that immediately after Bolton was relieved of his post, Trump hinted to reporters that he was considering lifting sanctions off Iran if such a move persuaded Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to hold a face-to-face meeting with Trump at the United Nations general assembly in New York later this month.

Iran has repeatedly stated categorically that there will be no talks with Trump unless his administration revokes sanctions and returns to abiding by the nuclear accord. If there is a serious pivot to normal diplomacy by the White House, then what Trump does about sanctions on Iran will be a litmus test.

The same can be said about US sanctions on Russia. If Trump is earnest about a genuine reset in bilateral relations, then he must get rid of the raft of sanctions that Washington has piled on Moscow since the 2014 Ukraine crisis amid the many spurious allegations leveled against Russia.

Bolton banished is but a small step towards a more diplomatically engaged US administration. But it would be unwise to expect the departure of this one figure as being a portent for progress and a more peaceful policy emerging in Washington.

The Washington establishment, the deep state and the bipartisan War Party, with its entrenched Cold War ideology, seems to have an endemic sway over policy which may thwart Trump’s efforts to direct a less belligerent US.

To illustrate the twisted nature of the US establishment, one only had to read the way sections of the American corporate-controlled media lamented the departure of Bolton. The New York Times, which is a dutiful conduit for deep state intelligence and the foreign policy establishment, actually bemoaned the ouster of Bolton, calling him a “voice of restraint”.

The NY Times commented, with approval, on how Bolton “objected to attempts to pursue diplomatic avenues with players considered American enemies. And he angered Trump with a last-minute battle against a peace agreement with the Taliban… whether it was inviting the Taliban to Camp David or cooperating with Russia, he [Bolton] was the national security adviser who said no.”

In another piece this week, the NY Times commented, again approvingly of Bolton: “Mr Bolton strongly opposed detente with Iran, and his unceremonious ouster has reignited concerns among some Republicans [and Democrats] in Congress about the White House’s declining projection of American military power around the world.”

Can you believe it? The so-called US “newspaper of record” is somehow valorizing an out-and-out warmonger in the form of Bolton, and appears to be advocating “projection of American military power around the world”. The latter phrase being but an Orwellian euphemism for imperialism and war.

The sobering conclusion is that Bolton’s departure hardly heralds a new beginning of diplomacy and engagement by Trump, if we assume to give this president the benefit of doubt for good intentions. Bolton may be gone, but there are formidable political forces in the US establishment which will work to ensure Trump’s room for maneuver remains heavily compressed. The Cold War ideology is so ingrained in Washington, it is much bigger than just one man, whether that is the vile personage of Bolton or the more flexible Trump.

September 13, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | | 1 Comment

Saudi crown prince meets with Zionist Christian delegation in Jeddah

Press TV – September 13, 2019

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, otherwise known as MbS, has met with an influential pro-Israel delegation of American evangelical Christians in Jeddah.

Photos of the meeting, which was attended by leading American Christian Zionist leaders, including dual US-Israeli national Joel Rosenberg, were published by the Saudi government.

The nine-person delegation of the evangelical Christians also included the Rev. Johnnie Moore, a co-chairman of President Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Council; Larry Ross, a former longtime spokesman for one of America’s most well-known evangelicals Billy Graham; and Pastor Skip Heitzig, whose Calvary Albuquerque church in New Mexico has more than 15,000 congregants.

A statement later released by the delegation said its members were grateful to have deepening relationships in Saudi Arabia “to talk openly, if sometimes privately, about what we believe must change in the kingdom even as we celebrate the kingdom’s progress in so many other areas.”

The talks are particularly significant since Riyadh is trying to forge closer ties with an influential electoral base in the US that could be crucial to the 2020 US presidential elections.

The meeting marked the second such visit by American evangelicals, known for their deep-rooted Islamophobia, to the kingdom. The same delegation had met with bin Salman in Riyadh back in November 2018 in line with Saudi Arabia’s growing ties with Tel Aviv.

Many evangelicals in the US support Israel as a core part of their faith.

Bin Salman’s Tuesday meeting with the Zionist delegation was held on the eve of the anniversary of the 2011 attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people and caused about $10 billion worth of property and infrastructure damage.

US officials assert that the attacks were carried out by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Lebanon, but many experts have raised questions about the official account.

They believe that rogue elements within the US government, such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, orchestrated or at least encouraged the 9/11 attacks in order to accelerate the US war machine and advance the Zionist agenda.

On Thursday, US prosecutors announced that the US Justice Department will reveal the name of an individual believed to be connected to the Saudi government and accused of aiding two of the 9/11 hijackers, in response to a long-running lawsuit which seeks to link the Saudi Arabian government with the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The person’s identity will remain a closely guarded secret for now, though it will be shared with attorneys representing the families of victims of the attacks who have alleged the government of Saudi Arabia helped to coordinate the terrorists in a lawsuit, CNN reported.

The long-standing lawsuit also revealed sensational details, accusing special Counsel Robert Mueller of helping the Saudis cover up their role in the 9/11 attacks.

Mueller, who was appointed FBI director by former President George W. Bush two months prior to the attack, is accused of obstructing and putting road-blocks in front of his own officers investigating the Saudi connection during the critical few months following the attack.

September 13, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Israel Directing Policy Through US Treasury: Sanctioning Hezbollah’s Political Allies in Lebanon

By Patrick Henningsen | 21st Century Wire | September 12, 2019

Nearly three years into the Trump administration, one thing is clear: as it struggles to wage any new direct shooting or proxy wars, Washington has instead relied on economic warfare against its perceived enemies, and largely on behalf of the state of Israel.

Through the U.S. Treasury Department and its own openly pro-Israel agents of influence, namely Secretary Steve Mnuchin, along with his Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal P. Mandelker, Israel has been able to attack and undermine all of its own geopolitical enemies and region rivals. The chief mechanism for achieving this is by directing the US government to label any person, politician or state agency – as a “terrorist,” or as a terrorist entity, thus allowing the US government to apply sanctions against any person or entity which Israel designates as its enemy, or even potential enemy. As a result of this runaway policy, the list of sanctioned persons and organisations by the Trump administration is the most in history.

Firmly in its crosshairs is Lebanon’s well-established political and military wings of the Hezbollah organisation. There is a fundamental flaw in the West’s framing of Hezbollah though, starting with its origins. It is a fact of history that Hezbollah was born out of Israel’s illegal occupation of southern Lebanon. Had Israel not invaded and occupied this region, or prosecuted its long and violent military campaign during and after the Lebanese Civil War, then it’s possible the Hezbollah movement may never had formed. It was born out of Israel’s occupation. Indeed, Iran has been traditional supporter of the group – which has drawn the ire of Washington and Tel Aviv who view both Iran and Hezbollah as a joint obstacle to US-Israeli strategic security objectives in the Middle East. In order to elevate Hezbollah to ‘most targeted status,’ US officials have had to repeatedly fabricate claims that Hezbollah is acting as major global terrorist organisation. In the same breath, US officials, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will enthusiastically drift out the well-worn fable that ‘Iran is the world’s number state-sponsor of terror’.

Earlier this year, the US also announced that henceforth, Iran’s leading military divisions, the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Quds Force – would now be designated as a “terrorist organisation.” The cold irony of course, is that Hezbollah militias are presently fighting (and defeating) actual terrorist organisations like al-Qaeda and ISIS (both of who have been created, as well as armed and financed by numerous western and gulf states, including the United States) in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Since 2013, Hezbollah militia have played a pivotal role in ejecting al Qaeda and ISIS terrorists from their enclaves in Syria, thus thwarting the regime change objectives of US, UK, France, NATO member states, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and also Israel too. Likewise for IRGC and Quds special military advisors deployed in Iraq and Syria to help subdue the invading terrorist brigades. The same is true for Iranian-backed militias in Iraq like the Hash’d Shaabi (People’s Mobilization Units), predominantly Shia, who were pivotal in Iraq’s ultimate victory over ISIS in 2017. Veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn summed it up when he concluded that the greatest threat to building peace in Iraq was not ISIS, but rather, Donald Trump determined to pick a fight with Iran. Documentation on the number of casualties is still difficult to determine, but on the aggregate, between Hezbollah, Hash’d, Iranian forces, the losses sustained in the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda number in the tens of thousands – and likely far more than the combined US soldier death tolls in 18 year-long War on Terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond. Regardless of general western ignorance of what has actually transpired in Syria since 2011, and in Iraq since 2014, the people who actually live in the Middle East know the severity of this largely foreign-backed terrorist usurpation.

Regardless of the facts on the ground, neconservatives and war hawks in the Beltway are still happily pressing ahead with their policies. With Tel Aviv carefully leading from behind, Washington has successfully pressured many of its allies to obey its geopolitical dictates, with the UK, Argentina and Paraguay all falling into line this year by designating Hezbollah – both its political and military wings – as a terrorist organisation, as well as pressuring Brazil to follow suit.

Of deeper concern for Washington though, is that Hezbollah is defending Lebanon’s borders from what is undoubtedly the region’s most prolific aggressor – Israel. In just the last few weeks, Israel has attacked no less than 4 of its neighbours, including unprovoked military strikes against Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and of against Palestinians living under illegal Israeli occupation in Gaza. Hezbollah also poses another threat to Israeli hegemony in the region because of its unflagging support for Palestinian resistance against Israel’s violent occupation and ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinian people. Similarly, the Islamic Republic of Iran also supports the Palestinian resistance cause, which is also a predicate for Israel’s various and sundry fabricated claims about a ‘secret Iranian nuclear arsenal,’ and imagined conspiracy that ‘Iran is occupying Syria’ – all of which are designed to garner leverage in Washington whereby US officials can view Hezbollah an accomplice to “Iran’s threat world peace.” This is the sort of geopolitical gymnastics which Israel is attempting to perform on a daily basis in order to justify the longest-running, most brutal and inhumane apartheid regimes in modern history – being waged against Palestinians and Arabs in the Middle East.

Targeting Hezbollah’s Political Allies

Still, Washington insists on basing its international relations on these numerous fabricated claims about Iran and Hezbollah drafted by Israel’s J Street lobbyists and the Prime Minister’s office in Tel Aviv. Now the Trump administration is taking this method a step further by threatening to sanction any political allies of Hezbollah in Lebanon. With military options practically off the table, this is the only remaining option for Washington and Tel Aviv to try and undermine Hezbollah which is now a political force in Lebanese politics, forming a working majority in the Lebanese Parliament along with its allies, as well as holding key ministerial and cabinet positions. But will it work?

Future Sanctions Will ‘Absolutely’ Target Hezbollah Allies in Lebanon: US Envoy

Al-Manar – September 13, 2019

US envoy said on Thursday that future sanctions could target allies of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“In the future we will designate, because we have to, individuals in Lebanon who are aiding and assisting Hezbollah, regardless of their sect or religion,” the new US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, David Schenker, said in an interview with local LBCI television.

When asked by the interviewer if this means sanctions will target allies of Hezbollah, Schenker said “absolutely,” adding that the US is constantly reviewing its sanctions lists.

Earlier on Tuesday, US State Department announced it has issued sanctions against four alleged Hezbollah members, Ali Karakeh, Mohammad Haydar, Ibrahim Aqil and Fouad Shukr.

The administration of Presdient Donald Trump has ramped up sanctions on Hezbollah and other resistance groups since the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018.

Last month, the US Treasury slapped sanctions on the Lebanese Jammal Trust Bank, claiming the bank “brazenly enabling” Hezbollah’s financial activities. And in June, the Treasury took the unprecedented step of sanctioning two sitting Hezbollah MPs, Amin Sharri and Mohammad Raad, alongside security head Wafiq Safa.

September 13, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

UN slams US and allied forces for war crimes & civilian targeting in Syria

RT | September 13, 2019

The UN Commission of Inquiry slammed war crimes committed against civilians in Syria by US and allied forces, in a new report that describes how nine years of war has left some parts of the nation “near complete destruction.”

Civilians continue to “bear the brunt of hostilities” at the hands of all parties in the conflict, declares the report by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, published on Wednesday. However, it singles out the US-led international coalition for repeated and indiscriminate targeting of non-combatants.

“International coalition forces failed to employ the necessary precautions to discriminate adequately between military objectives and civilians,” the report states, warning that “launching indiscriminate attacks that result in death or injury to civilians amounts to a war crime in cases where such attacks are conducted recklessly.”

US and allied forces are blamed for “widespread destruction of towns and villages in [Deir ez-Zor] Governorate” and the resulting displacement of thousands, many of whom ended up in the notorious Al-Hol camp, where disease and abysmal conditions reign.

In addition to failing to take precautions to minimize harm to civilians, the report cites the “dire humanitarian conditions” suffered by populations caught between the “widespread corruption, extortion, lack of services and security, and abuse of power” by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the remnants of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist group, as well as other groups like the Levant Liberation Organization (also known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an Al-Qaeda affiliate), which it accuses of deliberately terrorizing populations living under Syrian government control.

While Syrian government forces are also criticized for their choice of targets, accused of attacking medical facilities and other protected civilian infrastructure in Idlib, and failing to respect a demilitarized zone drawn up with Russia and Turkey, the US remains an uninvited guest in Syria, adding insult to the injuries inflicted by its military.

Another UN body, the Human Rights Commission, released a report last week eviscerating the US, UK, and France for their part in the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where a Saudi Arabia-led coalition has been fighting local forces since 2015. The UN HRC declared that aiding and abetting a war crime – by selling weapons a nation knows will be used in the commission of atrocities – is also a war crime.

September 13, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments