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Turkish Army Surrounded by Syrian One in Ras al-Ain, Soon to Leave – Syrian Lawmaker

Sputnik – 21.10.2019

DAMASCUS – The Syrian Army has surrounded the Turkish one in the border town of Ras al-Ain in north Syria, where Ankara has launched a military operation, and the Turkish forces are soon to withdraw from that area, member of the Syrian parliament, Jansit Kazan, said on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, the Syrian state-run broadcaster said that the Turkish troops entered Ras al-Ain after the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had left it. Shortly after, the SDF and Ankara confirmed the report.

“The Turkish Army might possibly be inside Ras al-Ain, but it will not last for long, it [the army] will retreat … the Turkish Army is already surrounded by the Syrian one. So we are not afraid,” Kazan said when asked whether the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad had completely gone under the Turkish control.

The lawmaker stressed that even though the priority is now given to the diplomatic front of settling the conflict in Syria, Damascus will not tolerate any foreign occupation of the Syrian territory.

“There will be no Turks. Even if there are Kurds, they will be within the Syrian state and under the protection of the Syrian Army. Under no circumstance we accept occupation of any kind – neither by Turkey, nor by anybody else after nine years of war,” Kazan said.

She claimed that Syria’s north would be subject to “certain agreements in the interests of the Syrian government,” and added that Damascus highly appreciated the help of its allies, especially Moscow, in countering the terrorist threat.

On October 9, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the launch of Operation Peace Spring in north Syria. The offensive is part of Ankara’s goal to clear its Syria-facing border area of terrorists and Kurdish militia, which Ankara sees interchangeable, and create a safe zone where Turkey could relocate part of some 3.6 million Syrian refugees it currently hosts. Ras al-Ain was the town where the air component of the operation began.

Operation Peace Spring is currently on hold for 120 hours as per the agreement between Ankara and Washington.

Last Sunday, the administration of the Kurdish authority in north Syria announced striking a deal with the Syrian government under which the latter committed to send troops to the border with Turkey to help the Kurds repel Ankara’s offensive.

October 20, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | 1 Comment

Clarifying the Islamic Republic’s stance on Moscow-Tehran relations

By Aram Mirzaei | The Saker Blog | October 20, 2019

This article is partially written in response to The Saker’s analysis on the IRGC’s arrest of Russian journalist Iulia Iuzik. In his analysis, the Saker theorizes that the Ruasian journalist’s arrest could be due to one of two possible reasons:

– The Israeli visa stamp on her passport really infuriated somebody at the IRGC and that person acted impulsively

– This is the result of internal infighting in Iran

It would most likely be fair to say that it could be a combination of both. I know for a fact that Iranians view Russia very differently depending on who you’re asking. Even among the IRGC there are different factions that either view Moscow as a friendly country, who can help achieve Iran’s goals of kicking Washington out of West Asia, or they view Russia with suspicion and bitter memories of past grievances.

To understand these stances one must delve deep into the history of these countries and their relations over the past three centuries. Iran and Russia have a long history of animosity and differences, stretching back to the Caspian expeditions of the Rus. The most important conflicts were the ones between the Qajar dynasty and the Romanovs of Russia. Already during the southwards expansions of Pyotr I were Iran and Russia known to have sour relations. Pyotr’s forces quickly captured large parts of northern Iran and the entire Caucasus region as the crumbling Safavid Empire was quickly subdued. All the territory lost was later recaptured by Nader Shah, founder of the Afsharid Dynasty, one of the successor states to the fallen Safavid Empire. Following the advent of the Qajar dynasty, Western powers and Russia had begun a colonial race as the Qajar government was unable to confront these threats after the death of its founder Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar, who stabilized the nation and re-established Iranian suzerainty in the Caucasus. While the Portuguese, British, and Dutch competed for the south and southeast of Persia in the Persian Gulf, the Russian Empire largely was left unchallenged in the north as it plunged southward to establish dominance in Persia’s northern territories.

Iranians, even today bitterly remember the treaties of Gulistan and Turkmenchay. A weakened and bankrupted Qajar royal court, under Fath Ali Shah, was forced to sign the notorious Treaty of Gulistan in 1813 following the outcome of the Russo-Persian War (1804-1813), forcing Iran into ceding what is modern-day Dagestan, Georgia, and large parts of Azerbaijan. The Treaty of Turkmenchay (1828) was the outcome of the Russo-Persian War (1826-1828), which resulted in the loss of modern-day Armenia and the remainder of Azerbaijan, and granted Russia several highly beneficial capitulatory rights, after efforts and initial success by Abbas Mirza failed to ultimately secure Iran’s northern front. By these two treaties, Iran lost swaths of its integral territories that had made part of Iran for centuries. The area to the north of the Aras River, the land of fire, Azarpadegan, a land so closely connected to Iranian history was now forever lost.

Anti-Russian sentiment was so high in Iran during that time that uprisings in numerous cities were formed. With the Russian Empire advancing south in the course of two wars against Iran, and the subsequent signing of the aforementioned treaties, Iran lost its crucial foothold in central Asia and the Caucasus. By the end of the 19th century, the Russian Empire’s dominance became so obvious, that Tabriz, Qazvin, and a host of other cities were occupied by Russia, and the central government in Tehran was left with no power to even select its own ministers without the approval of the Anglo-Russian consulates. These, and a series of climaxing events such as the Russian shelling of Mashad’s Goharshad Mosque in 1911, and the shelling of the Iranian National Assembly by the Russian Colonel V. Liakhov, led to a surge in widespread anti-Russian sentiments across the nation.

By the time of the Russian revolution in 1917, with the formation of the Soviet Union, Russian involvement continued with the establishment of the short-lived Persian Socialist Soviet Republic in 1920, supported by Azeri and Caucasian Bolshevik leaders. After the fall of this republic, in late 1921, political and economic relations were renewed. During the 1920s, trade between the Soviet Union and Iran reached important levels. In 1921, Britain and the new Bolshevik government entered into an agreement that reversed the division of Iran made in 1907. The Bolsheviks returned all the territory back to Iran, and Iran once more had secured navigation rights on the Caspian Sea. This agreement to evacuate from Iran was made in the Russo-Persian Treaty of Friendship (1921), but the regaining of Iranian territory did not protect the Qajar Dynasty from a sudden coup d’état led by Colonel Reza Pahlavi.

The treaty of friendship wouldn’t last during Reza Shah Pahlavi as the Second World War started and the Soviet Union together with the United Kingdom launched an undeclared joint invasion of Iran, ignoring its plea of neutrality. After the end of the war, the Soviets supported two newly formed [entities] in Iran, the Azerbaijan People’s Government and the Republic of Mahabad, but both collapsed in the Iran crisis of 1946. This postwar confrontation brought the United States fully into Iran’s political arena and, with Cold War starting, the US quickly moved to convert Iran into an anti-communist ally.

After the fall of the monarchy, the Soviet Union was the first state to recognize the Islamic Republic of Iran, in February 1979. However, during the Iran–Iraq War, the Soviets supplied Saddam Hussein with large amounts of conventional arms. After the war, especially with the fall of the USSR, Tehran–Moscow relations experienced a sudden increase in diplomatic and commercial relations, and Iran soon even began purchasing weapons from Russia.

Yet despite the improved relations, Moscow partook in the UN sanctions on Iran with regards to Tehran’s Nuclear program. As late as 2010 Moscow voted for UNSC resolution 1929, Banned Iran from participating in any activities related to ballistic missiles, tightened the arms embargo, travel bans on individuals involved with the program, froze the funds and assets of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, and recommended that states inspect Iranian cargo, prohibit the servicing of Iranian vessels involved in prohibited activities, prevent the provision of financial services used for sensitive nuclear activities, closely watch Iranian individuals and entities when dealing with them, prohibit the opening of Iranian banks on their territory and prevent Iranian banks from entering into relationship with their banks if it might contribute to the nuclear program, and prevent financial institutions operating in their territory from opening offices and accounts in Iran.

This long history of animosity has only recently seen major improvements as Moscow and Tehran find themselves in similar situations in the face of Washington’s aggressive policies. After Moscow’s entry into the Syrian war, Tehran-Moscow relations deepened considerably as both countries coordinated and cooperated on the battlefield, with the shared goal of saving Syria.

Despite this, unfavorable views on Russia remain among some factions of the IRGC and the Iranian population on general. The faction among the IRGC mostly recognized as anti-Russian consists of mainly veterans from the war with Iraq. They have not forgotten the Soviet weapons used against them by Saddam’s forces.

This faction can be found among the Iranian Principalists (known as hardliners in the West), who stand in opposition to the Reformist Rouhani government. It was this faction that voiced protests against Moscow’s use of Iran’s Hamedan airbase, in 2017, as part of Moscow’s anti-ISIS operation in Syria. They argued that Moscow’s use of the airbase was in violation of Iran’s constitution which states that no foreign bases are allowed in Iran. The government countered with the argument that Moscow was only temporarily using the airbase, due to its shorter distance to Syria, but that control over the airbase remained in Iranian hands. It is believed that this faction among the IRGC is linked to Ahmadinejad’s political faction among the Principalist bloc. It would make sense since Ahmadinejad’s presidency coincided with a worsening in Tehran-Moscow relations as it was during his presidency that Iran was denied the purchase of the S-300 system by Moscow.

They believe that Russia cannot be trusted, and that Moscow is pursuing its own agenda in Syria. Moscow stands an Israeli ally who will side with the Zionists if and when the war with the Israeli regime breaks out. Moscow’s growing influence in the Syrian war is something that rather worries them instead of relieving them, as many of them believe that the Syrian war would eventually have been won without Russian interference, a view opposed by powerful figures such as Khamenei and the famous General Qassem Soleimani who favor a more pragmatic approach towards Moscow.

Due to the improved relations after 2015, Moscow and Tehran’s relations have expanded substantially to cover fields other than Syria. Moscow played an instrumental role in the negotiations of the JCPOA. Moscow has also stood by Iran on many occasions against US aggression. Moscow has grown especially popular among other IRGC factions, such as the Quds forces, led by General Qassem Soleimani. They have first-hand experience cooperating with Moscow in Syria. In general, many Iranians have also gained a favorable view of Russia. According to a December 2018 survey by IranPoll, 63.8% of Iranians have a favorable view of Russia, with 34.5% expressing an unfavorable view.

With regards to this, one can imagine that in the case of the Russian journalist, a sensitive thing such as an Israeli visa stamp on a passport can immediately give cause for suspicion of a Russian-Israeli plot among some circles in the IRGC. The Tehran-Moscow alliance is a fragile and a new one, and for the past few years, the nature of the relations between these two countries has only given us a glimpse of what the future of West Asia holds, only time will tell if the sceptics will be vindicated.

October 20, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Ms. Pumpkin Head for President: A Nightmare

By Edward Curtin | Behind the Curtain | October 20, 2019

A few weeks ago I had a terrifying nightmare, so gruesome was it that I awoke screaming and had to run to the bathroom to vomit in the toilet. In this dark horror show, I was carving a pumpkin for Halloween.  The cap came off easily and I disemboweled the slimy interior quickly, but as I did, I felt a strange sensation on my hand, as if a tongue were biting it. When I was finishing carving the face, however, the trouble really started. The pumpkin head came alive as the eyes and mouth moved and then it started speaking in a voice that was familiar but one I couldn’t place. Blond hair started sprouting from its head as it started shrieking and bouncing on the table in an hysterical manner. I jumped back in fear and trembling as it started cackling, “I running, I running.” Blood ran from between the carved teeth and the blue eyes pulsated with the mania of a serial killer in a horror movie.

I awoke with a scream when I realized it was Hillary Clinton.

So hideous was this night terror that I kept it to myself. But a week later when the next Democratic pseudo-debate was being promoted, I said to my wife that something told me that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee and the debates were a sideshow. She said she thought that would never happen and that Clinton was now hated and done for. I disagreed without recounting my nightmare because to describe it at that point would have induced more retching at the thought of the night monster.

Then this past week during the Democratic debate, the courageous Tulsi Gabbard put the lie to the murderous militarism of U.S. foreign policy and its regime change operations with its use of American supported terrorists in Syria and throughout the world. She calmly and eloquently denounced the militarist positions of the other candidates standing beside her, as they listened disquieted and disturbed to a patriotic American speaking truth that they dare not even think, so bought and sold are they.

She was a woman alone among a cast of sycophants denouncing the murderous policies carried out by presidents Democratic and Republican and foisted on the American people through a vast network of propaganda, appealing to their worst instincts. It was a stunning few minutes, for it is so rare, almost unheard of, for a politician to tell Americans the brutal truth about their government.

To many it was a sign of hope, but to the evil forces that run this country, Rep. Gabbard had gone too far and the knives came out in force, this time led by the pumpkin-headed Hillary Clinton and her accomplices at The New York Times and The Washington Post, who have consistently trashed Tulsi Gabbard in an effort to destroy her candidacy.

I felt my dream was prophetic when Clinton, in her slimy manner, attacked Tulsi Gabbard, without naming her, by saying,

I’m not making any predictions but I think they’ve [The Russians] got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.

Well, I ain’t making any prediction either; I’m leaving that up to my nightmare to do my talking.

It tells me that Hillary-O-Lantern, spitting blood, is running and gunning again.

She’s the favorite of the CIA and the military industrial complex and all those who profit from war and live off the deaths of victims everywhere. They have bunches of sites and bots and fake news conspirators and all sorts of ways of supporting her, which they have been doing for many years, straight through their constructed Russia-gate and Ukraine-gate conspiracies and her barbaric support for wars everywhere, including the destruction of Libya and her joyful response to the fiendish death of Muammar Gaddafi, among so may atrocities.

Tulsi, never cowered, said it straight and true in response:

Great, Thank you. You the Queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain. From the day I announced my candidacy, there has been a concerted campaign to destroy my reputation. We wondered who was behind it and why. Now we know — it was always you, through your proxies and concerted campaign to destroy my reputation. We wondered who was behind it and why. Now we know — it was always you, through your proxies and powerful allies in the corporate media and war machine, afraid of the threat I pose. It’s now clear that this primary is between you and me. Don’t cowardly hide behind your proxies. Join the race directly.

She later said, “I stand against everything she represents.”

Halloween is the time for masks and dissembling. Hillary Clinton is a figure straight out of a grotesque Halloween party, as are her clones in the Democratic party. Tulsi Gabbard was not invited to their party but came anyway, and came to tell the truth about the masquerade.

She has torn off Clinton’s mask and asks the American people to see the true face of Clinton and all her minions, who represent the triumph of war and death, and the sick play we have been living through, an endless war on terror justified by endless lies.

Norman O. Brown so well describes our stage set:

Ancestral voices prophesying war; ancestral spirits in the danse macabre or war dance; Valhalla, ghostly warriors who kill each other and are reborn to fight again. All warfare is ghostly, every army an exercitus feralis (army of ghosts), every soldier a living corpse.

Lying is the leading cause of living death in the United States.

Tulsi Gabbard has told the truth.

Like me, I am sure you don’t want your nightmares to become reality. Let’s live in the truth.

October 20, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 5 Comments

Paternalistic Non-interventionism

The examples of Venezuela and Hong Kong

By John V. Walsh | Dissident Voice | October 20, 2019

The summer of 2019 has seen a series of events in Hong Kong beginning with two massive demonstrations that called for the withdrawal of the Extradition Bill to Macao, Taiwan and Mainland China. The demonstrations were peaceful and the bill was quickly “suspended” and labeled “dead” by the Hong Kong government and then withdrawn by summer’s end, meeting the demand of the demonstrations.

But that was not the end of the matter. Over the summer and to this day smaller demonstrations, of hundreds or at most a few thousand, broke out, mainly taking the form of marauding with Molotov cocktails and attacks on police stations, subway stations, police themselves and even on bystanders. Another four demands were added to the original demand to bury the extradition bill. Some, not the majority, called for the secession of Hong Kong from China of which it is legally a part.

But these events did not simply evolve internally in Hong Kong and the rest of China. Although internal forces were at work, the US government had a hand in these events.1 Unfortunately, this readily accessible material has barely been mentioned, if mentioned at all, in the US mainstream media. The most recent and in some ways most blatant examples of interference in the internal affairs of Hong Kong takes the form of the bipartisan “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (HKHRD Act)” (H.R. 3289 and S. 1838, an identical bill in the Senate). On September 15 H.R. 3289 was passed in the House by a voice vote. By threat of sanctions and other economic and political measures, the HKHRD Act seeks to determine which laws the Chinese city of Hong Kong will legislate and which not. This is clearly interventionism on the part of the U.S. How would the US react to such threats from another country? How would the U.S. react if China informed us that it was going to put sanctions in place against the U.S. if we would did not change our laws that result in mass incarceration which is clearly racist in character?

Sadly, most peace activists in the US and the West have been silent on the US role in the Hong Kong riots. Or they have gone so far as to echo the narrative of events in Hong Kong put about by Pence, Pompeo, Pelosi and their ilk. For contrast, consider the situation in Venezuela where the US government, its proxies and the same chorus of politicians call for sanctions and other interventions. The peace community in general is clear on its opposition to US intervention of any sort in Venezuela whether from the machinations of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) or sanctions or attacks on Venezuela’s financial system or actual armed intervention. Why the difference between Venezuela and Hong Kong?

In both Hong Kong and Venezuela, the interventionists tell us that human rights are at stake and an alleged “tyranny,” the Maduro government in one case and the Carrie Lam/Xi Jinping governments in the other, must be fought. So that cannot be the difference in the attitude of progressives to the two cases. Wherein lies the difference?

Here is the difference. Hong Kong is a part of China which presents a real challenge to US global hegemony and a force in the world which may balance the unrestrained power of the US Empire. With the world’s largest economy in PPP-GDP terms since November 2014, now roughly 125% that of the US and growing 2-3 times faster even at its “slowed” rate, China will inevitably have great military and soft power since the latter grow out of economic power. China also serves as an economic anchor for the developing world, an anchor that provides a viable alternative to the economic and financial hegemony of the US Empire. China opens the possibility of a multipolar world where no single nation can dictate to the entire world.

In contrast Venezuela is no threat to US hegemony. It instills no fear in the imperial Elite; if Venezuela maintains its independence, the Empire can roll on pretty much as before. As a consequence, a stance against US intervention in Venezuela will not meet with intense opposition from the US imperial Elite and its minions. Non-intervention in the case of Venezuela is the proper course and should be supported and praised. But such opposition can fall within the ambit of a loyal imperial “opposition,” that is, a harmless opposition if it is not accompanied by nonintervention in cases like that of China’s city of Hong Kong.

“US Hands Off Venezuela” is principled if it is accompanied by “US Hands Off Hong Kong.” By itself “US Hands Off Venezuela” can be seen as a kind of token anti-Empire stance. Such tokenism treats Venezuela not as a part of a powerful worldwide struggle against US hegemony but as a harmless effort which the loyal imperial opposition deigns to help. In short it is Paternalistic Non-interventionism, and DemocracyNow! is one good example of Paternalistic Non-interventionism. The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity or the newsletter PopularResistance.org are good examples of principled non-interventionism.

One evidence of the difference between the two is that those who refuse to call for US Hands Off Hong Kong are also partisans for Russiagate, for US intervention in Syria and for US interference in Ukraine. (Or at the least they are silent on these issues.) Russia like China is a serious hindrance to the US drive for world hegemony and so the Paternalistic Non-interventionists cease to be non-interventionists when it comes to Syria, a state protected by Russia, or Ukraine, a country with which Russia must have good relations to live in peace.

Interventionism of the sort practiced by the NED in Hong Kong and the rest of China puts us on a road where antagonisms mount and ever sharper forms of conflict emerge with a major power rivaling the US. In short it puts us on a path to war since China is a full-fledged nuclear power now with a fully developed nuclear triad, that war could easily carry us to Armageddon.

At this moment “U.S. Hands Off Hong Kong” is the cutting edge of Principled Non-interventionism. Those who fail to take that stance, like the crew at DemocracyNow!, among many others, are at best Paternalistic Non-interventionists. They should make no claim to being antiwar or anti-Empire. They are not.

  1. And abundant evidence for that has been provided here, here, here, here, and here.

John V. Walsh can be reached at john.endwar@gmail.com. He writes about issues of war, peace and empire, and about health care, for Antiwar.com, Consortium News, Dissident Voice.org and other outlets. Now living in the East Bay, he was until recently Professor of Physiology and Cellular Neuroscience at a Massachusetts Medical School.

October 20, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | | 1 Comment

US forces transferring Daesh terrorists from Syria to Iraq: Report

Press TV – October 20, 2019

US military forces are transporting to safe sanctuaries hundreds of members of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group from the desert region of al-Jazirah in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah to neighboring Iraq, a report says.

Syria’s official news agency SANA, citing media and local sources, reported that American forces had recently transported the terrorists to an unknown location. The Daesh members were being kept at al-Hol refugee camp, which lies close to the Syria-Iraq border and is run by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The report said that less than a day before, 230 foreign terrorists from Daesh were transferred from al-Malikiyah prison to a detention center in al-Shaddadi town in southern Hasakah.

Since October 9, SANA said, US forces have transported hundreds of Daesh extremists and their relatives from Syrian territories to Iraq in six batches. The date is when Turkey and its allied militants launched a ground offensive against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria.

American forces have also turned their illegal base in Shaddadi into a place of accommodation for Daesh terrorists and their families, who are being brought from al-Hol camp and prisons across Syria to the base in order to be transported on board military helicopters to Iraq.

US forces have until recently been airlifting Daesh terrorists from one place in Syria to another, under the cover of darkness, in order to save them in the face of advancement and territorial gains by Syrian government forces, and prevent revelation of their alliance with the Takfiri extremists.

Syrians celebrate army deployment in border towns amid Turkish incursion

In Syria’s eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr, dozens of people gathered to express support for the deployment of government forces in the Kurdish-populated border towns in the wake of Turkey’s offensive.

On Sunday, the residents of the provincial capital city of Dayr al-Zawr gathered at al-Intisar roundabout to denounce the Turkish aggression, and demand the full withdrawal of US troops from Syrian territories, SANA reported.

The participants waved the national Syrian flag and lifted pictures of President Bashar al-Assad. They described the Turkish aggression on Syrian soil a criminal act, vowing that the sons of Syria will all confront the offensive, dubbed Peace Spring Operation.

They also called for the complete withdrawal of illegal foreign forces, whether Turkish or American, from Syrian soil.

“All Syrians reject the Turkish operation, because it constitutes an act of aggression against a sovereign state. This is contrary to international law and regulations. We are here today to tell (Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan, his American masters and their proxies that Syria is strong with its army, its people, its leader. History has shown that this land is insurmountable to aggressors,” said Mudhi al-Muhaimid, a member of the executive office of Dayr al-Zawr provincial council.

Director of Education in Dayr al-Zawr Khalil Haj Ubaid said, “Syria’s civilization, history and originality will remain impervious to the greediness of enemies. The Syrian government and the Syrian Arab Army are the only forces that can protect Syrian people. The entire world is now witnessing how President Assad has triumphed over all forces of injustice and tyranny.”

Turkish military forces and Ankara-backed militants launched the long-threatened cross-border invasion of northeast Syria in a declared attempt to push Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) away from border areas.

Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984. The YPG constitutes the backbone of the SDF.

The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria says the Turkish offensive has killed 218 civilians, including 18 children, since its outset. The fighting has also wounded more than 650 people.

Turkish authorities say 20 people have been killed in Turkey by bombardment from Syria, including eight people who were killed in a mortar attack on the town of Nusaybin by YPG militants on October 11.

SANA tours US base in al-Saidiyah area southwest of Manbij

In another development, SANA journalists entered the abandoned US base in the al-Saidiyah area southwest of Manbij, only a few days after American forces evacuated the site.

The heavily fortified base contains a big open field, service stations for the maintenance of vehicles, training fields, communication towers and a number of military posts. US forces burned documents, communication devices, laptops, computers, monitors and medical supplies just before their withdrawal from the base.

October 20, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments

The War on Truth: How Israel’s social media trolls conquered Facebook

By Ramzy Baroud | MEMO | October 20, 2019

On October 9, the social media platform, Facebook, deleted the page of the popular Palestinian news website, the Palestinian Information Center (PIC). This act, which was carried out without even contacting the page administrators, confirms that Facebook’s war on pro-Palestine voices is continuing unabated.

PIC had nearly five million followers on Facebook, a testament to its popularity and credibility among a large cross section of Palestinians and their supporters internationally. For Israel’s trolls on social media, PIC was simply too effective to be allowed to spread its message. As usual, Facebook obliged.

This oft-repeated scenario – where pro-Israeli social media trolls zoom in on a Palestinian media platform while working closely with Facebook management to censor content, bar individuals, or delete whole pages – is now the norm. Palestinian views on Facebook are simply unwanted, and the margin of what is allowed is rapidly shrinking.

Sue, a Facebook user, told me that she had been warned by the platform for alleged “hate speech/bullying” for claiming that “Israelis are militarized in their psychology”, and that the “perceived threat of and real hatred for the Palestinians (are) kept alive by the (Israeli) government.”

‘Sue’ is, of course, correct in her assessment, a claim that has been made numerous times even by the Israeli president himself. On October 14, 2014, President Reuven Rivlin, said that “the time has come to admit that Israel is a sick society, with an illness that demands treatment.” Moreover, the fact that Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been stoking the fire of fear, hatred and racism to win a few votes in the Israeli elections has made headlines around the world.

It is unclear where exactly ‘Sue’ had gone wrong, and what portion of her comment constituted “hate speech” and “bullying”.

I asked others to share their experiences with Facebook as a result of their pro-Palestinian speech. The responses I received indicated the unmistakable pattern that Facebook is indeed targeting, not hate speech, but criticism of Israeli war, siege, racism and apartheid.

For example, ‘José’ was censored for writing, in Spanish, that “there is nothing more cowardly than attacking or killing a child.”

“Damned coward army, assassins of Palestinian children, this is not a war, this is a genocide,” he commented.

Meanwhile, ‘Derek’ has been suspended from using Facebook for 30 days, “many times” in the past on “various charges.” He told me that “all it takes is a certain number of reports by trolls who have secret groups on who to target.”

The same pattern was repeated with ‘Anissa’, ‘Debbie’, Erika’, ‘Layla’, ‘Olivia’, ‘Rich’, ‘Eddy’ and countless others.

But who are these “trolls” and what are the roots of Facebook’s unrelenting targeting for Palestinians and their supporters?

The Trolls

According to a document obtained by the Electronic Intifada, the Israeli government has funded a “global influence campaign” with a massive budget with the sole aim of influencing foreign publics and combating the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

Writing in EI, Asa Winstanley, reported on a “troll army of thousands” that is “partly funded by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs”.

“To conceal its involvement, the ministry has admitted to working through front groups that ‘do not want to expose their connection with the state,’” Winstanley wrote.

One such troll group estimated to include 15,000 active members, is Act.IL.

Writing in Jacobin Magazine website, Michael Bueckert describes the main function of Act.IL app users:

“With the mobile application and online platform Act.IL, Israel aims to recruit a mob of slacktivists and trolls to join their war against the most insidious forms of violence: pro-Palestinian tweets and Facebook posts.”

Act.IL is only the tip of the iceberg of a massive, centralized effort led by the Israeli government and involving legions of supporters around the world. However, Israel would never have achieved its objectives were it not for the fact that Facebook has officially joined the Israeli government in its social media “war” on Palestinians.

In 2014, Sohaib Zahda was reportedly the first Palestinian to be arrested by the Israeli army for his social media post, in a new strategy of cracking down on what Israel sees as “incitement”. The arrest campaign since then has expanded to include hundreds of Palestinians – mostly young artists, poets, and student activists.

But Israel only started monitoring Facebook in earnest in 2015, according to the Intercept.

“The arrests of Palestinians for Facebook posts open(ed) a window into the practices of Israel’s surveillance state and reveal social media’s darker side,” Alex Kane wrote. “What was once seen as a weapon of the weak has turned into the perfect place to ferret out potential resistance.”

Israel quickly manufactured a legal basis for the arrests (155 cases were opened in 2015 alone), thus providing a legal cover that was used in its subsequent agreement with Facebook. The Israeli Penal Code of 1977, art. 144 D.2 was repeatedly unleashed to counter a social media phenomenon that was established much more recently, all in the name of cracking down on “incitement to violence and terror”.

The Israeli strategy began with a massive hasbara (propaganda) campaign aimed at creating public and media pressure on Facebook. The Israeli government activated its then-nascent troll army to build a global narrative centered on the purported notion that Facebook has become a platform for violent ideas, which Palestinians are utilising on the ground.

The Facebook-Israel Team

When, in September 2016, the Israeli government announced its willingness to work with Facebook to “tackle incitement”, the social media giant was ready to reach an understanding, even if that meant violating the very basic freedom of expression it has repeatedly vowed to respect.

During that period, the Israeli government and Facebook agreed to “determine how to tackle incitement on the social media network,” according to the Associated Press citing top Israeli officials.

The agreement was the outcome of two days of discussions involving the Israeli interior minister, Gilad Erdan, and justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, among others.

Erdan’s office said in a statement that, “they agreed with Facebook representatives to create teams that would figure out how best to monitor and remove inflammatory content.”

In essence, this meant that any content related to Palestine and Israel is now filtered, not only by Facebook’s own editors, but by Israeli officials as well.

For Palestinians, the outcome has been devastating as numerous pages, like that of PIC, have been deleted and countless users have been banned, temporarily or indefinitely.

Quite often, the process of targeting Palestinians and their supporters follows the same logic:

  • Pro-Israel trolls fan out, monitoring and commenting on Palestinian posts.
  • The trolls report allegedly offensive individuals and content to the Facebook/Israeli “team”.
  • Facebook carries out recommendations regarding accounts that have been flagged for censorship.
  • The accounts of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian pages and individuals are deleted or banned.

While PIC did not receive any warning before their popular account was axed, chances are the decision followed the same pattern as above.

When social media was first introduced, many saw in it an opportunity to present ideas and advocate causes that have been, for one reason or another, shunned by mainstream media.

Palestine suddenly found a new, welcoming media platform; one that is not influenced by wealthy owners and paid advertisers, but by ordinary individuals – millions of them.

Israel, however, may have found a way to circumvent the influence of Facebook on the discussions pertaining to Palestinian rights and the Israeli occupation.

When exposing apartheid, condemning child killers and discussing the fear-mentality pervading in Israel become “hate speech” and “bullying”, one should then ponder what has become of social media’s promise of freedom and popular democracy.

While Facebook has done much more to discredit itself in recent years, no other act is as sinister as censoring the voices of those who dare challenge state-sponsored violence, racism and apartheid, anywhere, with Palestine remaining the prime example thereof.

Romana Rubeo, an Italian writer and editor, contributed to this article.

Watch: Campaign launched to end Facebook’s attack on Palestinian content

October 20, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 3 Comments

The American Deep State Would Sooner Sacrifice the Republic Than Lose Again to Donald Trump

By Robert Bridge | Strategic Culture Foundation | October 20, 2019

You’d really think the American people would have caught on by now. No sooner did Russiagate fizzle out like a wet firecracker did the Democrats, completely indifferent to the dire consequences, toss another incendiary into the public square. Sooner or later something has got to blow, and maybe it already did.

As Americans experience the brutal whiplash of going from the Mueller probe to presidential impeachment in a matter of days, all pretensions of democratic procedure to guide the show trial have been tossed from the clown car. With the boot-licking media to back their every whim and fancy, the Democrats are dragging the Republic to the brink of destruction as they threaten to take down the 45th POTUS, and without a single witness in the dock.

Last month, Adam Schiff, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said the identity of the shady whistleblower who revealed second-hand details of a call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would be made public “very soon.” That claim looks set to be the fifth ‘Pinocchio’ awarded to Schiff in almost as many days.

On Sunday, the truth-impaired Senator said the whistleblower at the heart of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry might not testify in court over concerns about the individual’s safety. That pathetic excuse should incur the wrath of the mainstream media every bit as much as it has incurred the wrath of the Trump administration. Moreover, it cheapens the incalculable sacrifice that every whistleblower assumes when they attach their identities to explosive revelations; without their identity publicly known the claims do not carry the same weight. Unless the whistleblower is fully prepared to lose his career and risk jail time, much like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and numerous others, a cloud of doubt will forever hang over the claims, and even more so in the Ukrainegate affair since we are talking about nothing more than hearsay.

Schiff’s notorious shiftiness didn’t end there. He actually cited Trump’s candidness in releasing the full transcript of the conversation as another reason as to why the ‘courageous’ whistleblower should enjoy full anonymity. This almost makes Trump himself appear as the whistleblower.

“Given that we already have the call record, we don’t need the whistleblower who wasn’t on the call to tell us what took place during the call,” Schiff said in an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation. In other words, Trump was doomed to be damned if he released the transcript or he didn’t.

The Democrat’s determination to bring down Trump was confirmed earlier when Schiff was caught in yet another lie.

On September 16, the Democratic Senator told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he did not know the identity of the whistleblower. He repeated the same claim the next day when he told MSNBC’s Morning Joe that neither he nor his staff had “spoken directly with the whistleblower.” It is now known that his claims were bald-faced lies, and serious enough to bring the impeachment clown car to a screeching halt. Yet the rules of the game, as is proven time and time again, are always adjusted to suit the Democrats. In fact, the whistleblower may have committed a felony for failing to disclose in his or her official complaint that they had first brought the information to the attention of House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff.

Schiff has little to worry about, however, since the media does not react to Democratic transgressions with nearly the same amount of hysteria as it does with the Republicans, which explains why Trump is fighting a constant uphill battle.

This is where the push for impeachment is becoming a dangerous venture for the Democrats. The people are not stupid, and it does not require the shrewdest political tool to understand that the scales of justice are weighted heavily in favor of the Democrats. From Hillary Clinton escaping punishment for using her home computer to send classified government documents, to former Vice President Joe Biden bragging about arranging a billion-dollar quid pro quo with Kiev to sack Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who just happened to be investigating Biden’s son, Hunter, the Democrats rarely have anything to fear as far as justice is concerned. Yet this special status has certainly not gone unnoticed; with social media revolutionizing the ‘town square,’ the blatant hypocrisies and outright crimes are obvious to everyone.

Just as Russiagate was a conspicuous effort on the part of the Democrats and their lapdog media to deflect attention away from the contents of Clinton’s emails, not to mention the identity of the leaker (as opposed to the ‘Russian hackers,’ that is), Ukrainegate is a desperate attempt to focus attention on a harmless phone call between two state leaders so as to bury the news of corruption at the highest levels of the Obama administration, up to and including not only Joe Biden, but former Secretary of State John Kerry as well. In other words, we are talking about obstruction of justice on a mind-boggling scale, and which could only be pulled off with the full support of the mainstream media. A free-thinking, independent journalistic community would have called foul on such shenanigans long ago.

Lest anyone forget, the Democrats have been under investigation by Attorney General Bill Barr and federal prosecutor John Durham. These two are currently traveling the world in an effort to determine “the extent to which a number of countries, including Ukraine, played a role in the counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 election,” Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement on Sept. 25.

In fact, Barr and Durham’s ‘mission’ kicked off back in May, long before the smoke and mirrors of yet another Trump ‘transgression’ took front and center in living rooms across the country. Indeed, while every American has heard of the impeachment inquiry, few realize that the Democrats are under investigation for far greater crimes should they be found guilty, that is. Now, in the event that Barr and Durham attempt to present their findings to the public, the Democrats will scream in one persecuted voice that Trump is attempting to ‘obstruct justice,’ which will certainly be the greatest irony considering the source.

In other words, there are two vehicles – one filled with Democrats, the other Republicans – careening towards an intersection at a high rate of speed, and neither looks willing to yield to the other. This is the situation confronting America at the present time: a smashup of epic, deadly proportions, quite possibly on par with its first civil war. Such a seemingly inevitable event, however, would never have been remotely possible had the media been a fair and just provider of news and information as opposed to being an instigator and provocateur of the first order.

Now, should the Democrats get the impeachment they’ve been dreaming about ever since they lost the 2016 presidential election, at least 50 percent of the American public will understand full well that the scales of justice are tilted against them. That will be the moment when the United States is forced to confront its worst crisis in many years, simply because the Democrats have become so terrified of a longstanding political technology known as ‘free and fair elections.’

October 20, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | 1 Comment

Warren vs Facebook: Behind This Battle of US Democrats, There’s Desire to Limit Free Speech – Pundit

Sputnik – October 20, 2019

Just as Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrapped up his speech about the social media platform’s free speech policy, saying it must be protected, Democratic Party presidential candidates were quick to criticise it.

Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has lashed out Zuckerberg for the lack of fact-checking on political advertising accusing him of helping US President Donald Trump win the election.

“Facebook is actively helping Trump spread lies and misinformation. Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once. They might do it again—and profit off of it”, Warren said in a series of Twitter posts attacking Facebook’s co-founder.

Warren slammed Facebook’s decision to allow paid advertisements that may contain false or misleading information on its platform.

“Facebook had a policy that didn’t permit misinformation in any ads. Facebook built relationships with independent fact-checkers, so they weren’t the sole deciders of what was or wasn’t a lie. But Facebook undermined those relationships and excluded political ads from that policy”, she said.

Zuckerberg defended this policy in a Thursday speech at Georgetown University saying that while he worries “about the erosion of truth” he thinks that most people don’t “want to live in a world where you can only post things that tech companies judge to be 100% true”.

Last week, Warren’s campaign intentionally ran “false” ads on Facebook claiming Mark Zuckerberg endorses Donald Trump. But Facebook wasn’t going to do anything about it.

The tech giant’s spokesperson said in a statement that “If Senator Warren wants to say things she knows to be untrue, we believe Facebook should not be in the position of censoring that speech”.

Staying true to its policy, earlier this month, Facebook refused to remove an ad by Trump’s election campaign against another Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden that accused Biden and his family of corruption in Ukraine. Biden’s campaign insisted that the information was false, but Facebook said that the ad doesn’t violate the company’s policy.

Roberto Vivaldelli, an Italian political observer called the Facebook ad a very controversial story saying that while it’s Warren and other Democrats that have criticised the Silicon Valley giant for influencing the US elections they are the ones interested in “limiting free speech“:

“The senator accuses the platform of influencing the elections but be careful: behind this battle of the American Democrats, there is, in my opinion, the desire to limit free speech. In fact, Warren protested the video published by the Republicans which highlighted the connections between the Ukrainian vice president Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and Ukraine. According to Warren and the Democrats, it was a fake video but it is not”, Vivaldelli said.

Alan Bailey, a political commentator, based in the UK, called Zuckerberg’s defence of free speech just a “PR exercise for a very free speech orientated audience”.

“Actions speak louder than words and time and time again Facebook has been used as a tool to back US foreign policy and censor those who speak against it”, Bailey stressed.

The political commentator also pointed out that many of his fellow activists are regularly blocked or even banned from posting on the platform despite their posts containing zero hate speech.

“If Zuckerberg was honest, he would face the death knell of his product as the negative outpouring from all sides of the political spectrum would finally convince sizeable numbers of users to look elsewhere for a social platform. At the moment with Facebook’s near-monopoly (it also owns Instagram and WhatsApp) it is tough to be heard if you choose not to use Facebook products, but with enough negative PR this can change and some would say needs to change”, Bailey said.

The political commentator also noted that while he does agree that a commercial entity such as Facebook shouldn’t censor or edit political ads on the platform, as there will always be bias, it will never treat neutrally ads from China or Russia as it does those ads from the USA or UK.

“But are his [Zuckerberg’s] words empty and simply preaching to the converted? I think so sadly”, Bailey concluded.

October 20, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | Leave a comment

‘Russians will have a fight on their hands’: Alaska governor vows to thwart ‘independence referendum & annexation’ in prank call

RT | October 20, 2019

Governor Mike Dunleavy said he was aware of Moscow’s plan to stage an independence referendum to reclaim Alaska, and promised to arrange a gold nugget for the visiting Ukrainian leader, in a phone call with Russian pranksters.

The governor seemed honored to receive such a ‘high-profile’ call from none other than Ukrainian Prime Minister and the country’s ambassador to the US. Unsurprisingly, the key topic of the conversation was the omnipresent ‘Russian threat’.

The duo of pranksters informed Dunleavy of a sinister plan, masterminded by the Kremlin, to reclaim Alaska. They explained that Moscow believes it had only temporary rented Alaska to the US back in 1876, and now – especially since the state has a maritime border with Russia, while being separated from the rest of the American territory by Canada – wants its land back.

“I’ve heard about that. I’ve been reading up on it and I’m obviously keeping an eye on it, so is our president.”

The pranksters revealed that Moscow had already sent its ‘agents’ to the 49th US state to bribe the indigenous people in order to organize an ‘independence referendum’ and ‘annex’ Alaska under that pretext. Worried by the new details of the vile plan, the governor said that he would “certainly be talking to folks in DC about this information.”

The Russians “will have a fight on their hands” if they lay their claim to Alaska, the governor stated, vowing to defend his state.

“All I can say on behalf of Alaskans – we are Americans, and we have no desire to become part of Russia.”

On a less ‘serious’ subject, the prank-callers wondered if it would be possible to organize a trip to Klondike for the Ukrainian leader – and make sure that he finds a gold nugget there.

“I’m sure we can talk to some folks that can help arrange that,” Dunleavy promised, fully welcoming the idea of Petro Poroshenko’s visit to Alaska. The conversation apparently took place in early 2019 when Poroshenko was still Ukrainian President, but was only released online this Friday.

The two tricksters behind the prank, Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov, otherwise known as Lexus and Vovan, have made a name for themselves with a series of phone pranks on high-profile officials, previously getting over on French President Emmanuel Macron, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, as well as former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, then UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and hawkish US special envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams.

October 20, 2019 Posted by | Russophobia | , | 2 Comments