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The OAS lied to the public about the Bolivian election and coup

Facts show nothing suspicious about the re-election of Evo Morales

By Mark Weisbrot | MarketWatch | November 19, 2019

What is the difference between an outright lie — stating something as a fact while knowing that it is false — and a deliberate material representation that accomplishes the same end? Here is an example that really pushes the boundary between the two, to the point where the distinction practically vanishes.

And the consequences are quite serious; this misrepresentation (or lie) has already played a major role in a military coup in Bolivia last week. This military coup overthrew the government of President Evo Morales before his current term was finished — a term to which nobody disputes that he was democratically elected in 2014.

More violent repression and even a civil war could follow.

OAS mission

The Organization of American States (OAS) sent an Electoral Observation Mission to Bolivia, entrusted with monitoring the Oct. 20 national election there. The day after the election, before all the votes were even counted, the mission put out a press release announcing its “deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results…”

Here is what the OAS was referring to: there is an unofficial “quick count” of the voting results that involves contractors who upload results at intervals, as the tally sheets are available. At 7:40 p.m. on election day, they had reported about 84% of the votes and then stopped reporting for 23 hours (more on that below).

When they resumed reporting results at 95% of votes counted, Morales’s lead had increased from 7.9% before the interruption to just over 10%.

This margin was important because in order to win without a second-round runoff, a candidate needs either an absolute majority, or at least 40% and a 10-point margin over the second-place finisher. This margin — which grew to 10.6% when all the votes were counted in the official count — re-elected Morales without a second round.

Morales’s lead grew steadily

Now, if you had any experience with elections or maybe even arithmetic, what is the first thing you would want to know about the votes that came in after the interruption? You might ask, were people in those areas any different from people in the average precinct in the first 84%?

And was the change in Morales’s margin sudden, or was it a gradual trend that continued as more vote tally sheets were reported?

You might even want to ask these questions before expressing “deep concern and surprise” about what happened, especially in a politically very polarized situation that was already turning violent. … continue

November 21, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , | 1 Comment

UAE studies Russia proposals to de-escalate tension in Gulf

MEMO | November 21, 2019

The UAE has said it is interested in de-escalating the tension in the Gulf region and is studying Russian proposals in this regard, TASS reported.

In an interview the Russian Ambassador to the UAE Sergei Kuznetsov said: “Our Emirati friends are interested with us in easing the tensions in the Persian Gulf.”

He added: “They are carefully studying the corresponding Russian proposals as part of our strategy aimed at establishing a framework to launch equal dialogue between countries in order to ensure stability and security in this region of strategic importance.”

Kuznetsov stated that the main point is that Russia’s partners in the UAE “understand the dangers of artificially instigating tensions in the Persian Gulf fraught with unpredictable ramifications.”

Last month it was reported that the US was planning to send “thousands” of additional troops to bolster its military presence in Saudi in the wake of the Aramco attacks, which Washington and Riyadh blamed on Iran despite Yemen’s Houthi movement claiming responsibility.

November 21, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Destroy, return, get rid of S-400’? Nope, Turkey says we’ll activate Russian missiles instead

RT | November 21, 2019

Washington officials are reportedly demanding that Turkey “destroy or return” its Russian-made S-400 air defense systems to get back in the good books and rejoin the F-35 fighter program – but Ankara has no intention of complying.

After a meeting between President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House last week, Erdogan noted that Trump’s attitude to resolving the F-35 standoff was “positive,” but offered no specifics. An unnamed State Department official, however, told Reuters on Thursday that ditching the S-400 is a precondition for rejoining the F-35 program.

“There is room for Turkey to come back to the table,” the official said at a briefing. “They know that to make this work they need to either destroy or return or somehow get rid of the S-400.”

However, far from scrapping the Russian missiles, Turkey is pressing ahead and activating them as planned, the country’s defense minister, Hulusi Akar, told lawmakers in parliament on Thursday. Akar said that the relevant personnel are still undergoing training, after which “we will conduct our planned activities” with the new missiles.

Akar’s comment’s build on Erdogan’s promise last week not to ditch the S-400, and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s earlier statement that “we didn’t buy these systems as a prop.”

Though itself a NATO country, Turkey’s purchase earlier this year of the Russian-made S-400 air defense system made it the black sheep of the alliance. After taking delivery of the missile launchers, Turkey was swiftly booted from the F-35 jet fighter program – a big deal considering Ankara was both a buyer and a producer of the fifth-generation warplane.

Washington maintains that by operating the S-400 alongside the F-35, Turkey will give Russia a chance to learn the stealthy jet’s secrets. This strategic worry means that the US is unlikely to give in and sell the planes to Ankara any time soon. Erdogan has meanwhile teased the possibility of buying Russian-made Sukhoi jet fighters if the F-35 deal cannot be revived, a move that would likely further inflame tension between the NATO allies.

November 21, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 2 Comments

Who stands to gain from unrest in Iran?

People rallied in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz to denounce the violent unrest in the country, Nov 19, 2019
By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | November 21, 2019

I once had an animated conversation with the Middle East correspondent of a leading Indian newspaper regarding the resilience of the Iranian political system. The year was 2001. The conversation took place in the backdrop of mass protests and clashes between hard-liners and reformists on the the 22nd anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran. My friend forecast that the Iranian regime was in meltdown under the combined weight of US sanctions and a dysfunctional repressive regime. He point blank rejected my dissent that the stability of the Iranian system was not in doubt.

When it comes to Iran, everything depends on what prism you are holding. If you live in Dubai or visit Israel too often, you get one vision; if you live in Turkey, you get a vastly different view.

The recent days’ happenings fell into that familiar pattern. The protests were played up by the western media and American think tanks in apocalyptic terms, but when counter-demonstrations began appearing, supportive of the government, they have fallen silent. Life is returning to normal in Iran.

Two striking features must be noted. One, anti-government protests are possible to be staged in Iran; two, the regime enjoys a substantial social base. Unsurprisingly, when protests appear in Iran, democratic Turkey takes a balanced view while the repressive Saudi regime gleefully joins the western camp of ‘liberal democracies’ to pelt stones at the Iranian regime.

Isn’t there social and political discontent in Iran and Turkey? Indeed, there is. But representative rule provides safety valves and the political leaderships in Tehran or Ankara are receptive to popular opinion. Who would dispute that Hassan Rouhani and Recep Erdogan secured their mandates in hotly contested elections?

Can it be a coincidence that when the Iranian protests were raging in the past week, the US and Israel tested the waters, so to speak? The US aircraft carrier strike group Abraham Lincoln sailed through the strategic Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday. And Israel hit “dozens of targets” in Syria — in and around Damascus in Kiswa, Saasaa, Mezzeh military airport, Jdaidat Artouz, Qudsaya and Sahnaya — which it claimed were aimed at thwarting what Tel Aviv called Iran’s “military entrenchment” there and to block shipments of Iranian weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.

Conceivably, these military operations would have needed some advance planning, especially the freedom of navigation exercised by the US aircraft carrier strike group through the narrow straits where Iran controls many of the shipping lanes. Yet, it happened just when the Iranian regime was preoccupied with the domestic unrest!

Again, President Trump notified the US Congress of his intention to step up military deployments in Saudi Arabia in the middle of the unrest in Iran. In the normal course, Tehran’s reaction would have been robust but, again, the US got away with it — for the time being, at least — as the Iranian regime and leadership has its hands full with internal developments. (Russia has warned that Washington’s plan for additional deployments of thousands of US troops to Saudi Arabia will only add to already simmering tensions in the Middle East region.)

The western narrative is that the unrest in Iran stemmed from economic factors at work triggered by the US sanctions. But, interestingly, the leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz has commented that “In the case of Iran, the headline figures about economic distress are misleading in critical ways. Iran is not quite the oil economy that, say, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates are. Petroleum hasn’t accounted for more than a fifth of GDP and half of exports in the past, and it doesn’t employ a lot of people. So, while oil sanctions can inflict a lot of pain when they are first imposed, they don’t bring economic activity to a standstill.”

Haaretz points out, “Ironically, the non-oil sanctions may be giving the Iranian economy a small boost. Apart from oil, pistachios and carpets, Iran is not a globally competitive economy, but it does have a manufacturing and agricultural base… Iranian industry has the local market and is expanding output. As a result, manufacturing has been growing as has employment while the rial has stabilised… Media reports say there are plenty of ‘Made in Iran’ consumer goods on store shelves. The “resistance economy” may not be quite the miracle Tehran leaders tout, but it could be enough to stabilise the situation after the initial shock over oil sanctions have passed.

“Forecasts for the Iran going forward point in that direction. The World Bank, for instance, agrees with the IMF that Iranian GDP will contract sharply in 2019-2020 but afterwards start growing again.”

This analysis contradicts the western narrative that the Iranian people are up in revolt. Suffice to say, there is merit in the allegation by Iran’s top security officials that the protests have been actively orchestrated from abroad.

While addressing a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday, President Rouhani was explicit. The Iranian foreign ministry made a demarche with the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which represents Washington’s Interest Section, regarding US interference in the country’s internal affairs.

November 21, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Trump Accepts Israeli ‘Realities on Ground’ – Realities Funded by His Administration

By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | November 21, 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week announced yet another radical shift in Washington’s policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by way of saying that the United States “was accepting realities on the ground”.

What the mendacious and cynical Pompeo omits to add is that the Trump administration has been dramatically fueling the change in “realities” – specifically the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory and the demolition of Palestinian homes.

This week the top US diplomat declared that Washington would no longer adopt the international consensus position, backed by several UN resolutions, that Israeli settlement-building and occupation of Palestinian territory was a violation of international law. Washington is henceforth recognizing Israeli settlements as legitimate.

The move overturns more than four decades of official US policy which adhered to the UN-backed position of condemning Israeli occupation in the Palestinian West Bank and in East Jerusalem as illegal and a violation of the Geneva Convention.

Since the 1967 Six War, successive Israeli governments have overseen a relentless process of annexing Palestinian territory. Over that period, Palestinian lands have diminished and become increasingly fragmented with little contiguity that would be normal for a future state. There are estimated to be around 200 Israeli new-build settlements of towns and villages with a population of 600,000 Jewish settlers who have usurped Palestinian land and properties. The UN has repeatedly condemned the annexation and occupation as illegal, to no avail.

The latest move by the Trump administration is a flagrant repudiation of UN resolutions and international law. It follows previous declarations by President Trump recognizing Israeli claims to Jerusalem as its capital, as well as Israel’s annexation of Syrian territory in the Golan Heights.

“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” said Pompeo on Monday. “The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace.”

That is an astounding dereliction of international law by the American government. The “hard truth” that Pompeo ignores is that US administrations have constantly undermined “judicial resolution of the conflict” because they have, to varying degrees, over the decades pandered to Israeli criminal occupation of Palestinian lands.

What the Trump administration is doing is not entirely unprecedented. Successive American presidents have merely paid lip service to a supposed peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, declaring their support for a “two-state solution” and presenting Washington as some kind of “honest broker”. The reality is that Washington has consistently undermined Palestinian national rights by its systematic bias towards Israel, indulging the latter’s criminal policies of occupation and military aggression towards Palestinian population.

However, Trump and his coterie of Middle East aides have taken the American bias and complicity with Israel to naked levels. Part of that is no doubt payback for the multi-million-dollar funding of Trump’s 2016 election campaign by Jewish-American billionaire and arch-Zionist Sheldon Adelson.

Israeli peace groups have recorded a surge in Israeli expansion of settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the past three years of the Trump administration. Demolition of Palestinian homes by Israeli bulldozers are at a record high.

There is an imperative business reason for this. President Donald Trump has personally invested in Israeli settlements, as have his ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and the White House’s special envoy to the region, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.

One of those settlements is at Beit El which is described as “one of the most aggressive” in terms of expansionist scope. It overlooks the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the West Bank which is supposed to be the administrative seat of the Palestinian Authority.

Trump, Friedman and the Kushner family have in the past funneled millions of dollars into Beit El and other Israeli settlements. In return, Israeli financial companies have made huge investments in Jared Kushner’s family real-estate business back in the US. For example, Menora Mivtachim, a pension and insurance firm, invested $30 million in apartments in Maryland owned by the Kushner family.

Jared Kushner officially stepped away from his family’s property conglomerate when he was appointed by his father-in-law as special envoy on the Middle East “peace process”. But few would believe his future wealth will not benefit from investments in and from Israel. He is still a beneficiary of trusts that have holdings in Kushner properties, notes Haaretz newspaper.

It seems incredible given this blatant conflict of interest that Kushner has been tasked with producing a “peace plan” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Trump had previously boasted about as being the “deal of the century”. That plan has since wilted to non-existence. The media don’t even talk about its expected publication, so far off the radar is it.

The latest move by the Trump administration to effectively reward and accelerate further Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory has American self-interest and profit written all over it. It mirrors Trump’s declaration in March this year recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, where there is irrefutable evidence that Trump and the Zionist clique in the White House have major business interests in oil exploration and production in that contested region.

Russia warned this week that Washington’s policy is inflaming further conflict amid an intensification of air strikes by Israel on Gaza where more than 30 people have been killed over the past week, including one Palestinian family of three adults and five children. The bloodshed makes Pompeo’s announcement all the more repulsive.

The Arab League and the European Union have also condemned the unilateral rejection of international law by the US. Jordan, Egypt and other Arab states said the United States has forfeited its right to act as a peace broker in the region.

The “reality on the ground” – to use a talking point favored by Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and now Mike Pompeo – is that the US is an accomplice in Israel’s illegal occupation and war crimes. Even more heinous, the US policy is being driven by Trump’s family business profits.

November 21, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 2 Comments

The Civilian Government Doesn’t Owe Deference to Military Officers

By Ryan McMaken – Mises Institute – 11/20/2019

On Tuesday, Congressional impeachment hearings exposed an interesting facet of the current battle between Donald Trump and the so-called deep state: namely, that many government bureaucrats now fancy themselves as superior to the elected civilian government.

In an exchange between Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Alexander Vindman, a US Army Lt. Colonel, Vindman insisted that Nunes address him by his rank.

After being addressed as “Mr. Vindman,” Vindman retorted “Ranking Member, it’s Lt. Col. Vindman, please.”

Throughout social media, anti-Trump forces, who have apparently now become pro-military partisans, sang Vindman’s praises, applauding him for putting Nunes in his place.

In a properly functioning government — with a proper view of military power — however, no one would tolerate a military officer lecturing a civilian on how to address him “correctly.”

It is not even clear that Nunes was trying to “dis” Vindman, given that junior officers have historically been referred to as “Mister” in a wide variety of times and place. It is true that higher-ranking officers like Vindman are rarely referred to as “Mister,” but even if Nunes was trying to insult Vindman, the question remains: so what?

Military modes of address are for the use of military personnel, and no one else. Indeed, Vindman was forced to retreat on this point when later asked by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) if he always insists on civilians calling him by his rank. Vindman blubbered that since he was wearing his uniform (for no good reason, mind you) he figured civilians ought to refer to him by his rank.

Of course, my position on this should not be construed as a demand that people give greater respect to members of Congress. If a private citizen wants to go before Congress and refer to Nunes or any other member as “hey you,” that’s perfectly fine with me. But the important issue here is we’re talking about private citizens — i.e., the people who pay the bills — and not military officers who must be held as subordinate to the civilian government at all times.

After all, there’s a reason that the framers of the US Constitution went to great pains to ensure the military powers remained subject to the will of the civilian government. Eighteenth and nineteenth century Americans regarded a standing army as a threat to their freedoms. Federal military personnel were treated accordingly.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution states that Congress shall have the power “to raise and support Armies …” and “to provide and maintain a Navy.” Article II, Section 2 states, “The President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States when called into the actual Service of the United States.” The authors of the constitution were careful to divide up civilian power of the military, and one thing was clear: the military was to have no autonomy in policymaking. Unfortunately, early Americans did not anticipate the rise of America’s secret police in the form of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and other “intelligence” agencies. Had they, it is likely the anti-federalists would have written more into the Bill of Rights to prevent organizations like the NSA from shredding the fourth amendment, as has been the case.

The inversion of the civilian-military relationship that is increasingly on display in Washington is just another symptom of the growing power of often-secret and unaccountable branches of military agencies and intelligence agencies that exercise so much power both in Washington and around the world.

November 21, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism, Russophobia | , , , | 3 Comments

Rethinking National Security: CIA and FBI Are Corrupt, but What About Congress?

By Philip Giraldi | Strategic Culture Foundation | November 21, 2019

The developing story about how the US intelligence and national security agencies may have conspired to influence and possibly even reverse the results of the 2016 presidential election is compelling, even if one is disinclined to believe that such a plot would be possible to execute. Not surprisingly perhaps there has been considerable introspection among former and current officials who have worked in those and related government positions, many of whom would agree that there is an urgent need for considerable restructuring and reining in of the 17 government agencies that have some intelligence or law enforcement function. Most would also agree that much of the real damage that has been done has been the result of the unending global war on terror launched by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, which has showered the agencies with resources and money while also politicizing their leadership and freeing them from restraints on their behavior.

If the tens of billions of dollars lavished on the intelligence community together with a “gloves off” approach towards oversight that allowed them to run wild had produced good results, it might be possible to argue that it was all worth it. But the fact is that intelligence gathering has always been a bad investment even if it is demonstrably worse at the present. One might argue that the CIA’s notorious Soviet Estimate prolonged the Cold War and that the failure to connect dots and pay attention to what junior officers were observing allowed 9/11 to happen. And then there was the empowerment of al-Qaeda during the Soviet-Afghan war followed by failure to penetrate the group once it began to carry out operations.

More recently there have been Guantanamo, torture in black prisons, renditions of terror suspects to be tortured elsewhere, killing of US citizens by drone, turning Libya into a failed state and terrorist haven, arming militants in Syria, and, of course, the Iraqi alleged WMDs, the biggest foreign policy disaster in American history. And the bad stuff happened in bipartisan fashion, under Democrats and Republicans, with both neocons and liberal interventionists all playing leading roles. The only one punished for the war crimes was former CIA officer and whistleblower John Kiriakou, who exposed some of what was going on.

Colonel Pat Lang, a colleague and friend who directed the Defense Intelligence Agency HUMINT (human intelligence) program after years spent on the ground in special ops and foreign liaison, thinks that strong medicine is needed and has initiated a discussion based on the premise that the FBI and CIA are dysfunctional relics that should be dismantled, as he puts it “burned to the ground,” so that the federal government can start over again and come up with something better.

Lang cites numerous examples of “incompetence and malfeasance in the leadership of the 17 agencies of the Intelligence Community and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” to include the examples cited above plus the failure to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union. On the domestic front, he cites his personal observation of efforts by the Department of Justice and the FBI to corruptly “frame” people tried in federal courts on national security issues as well as the intelligence/law enforcement community conspiracy to “get Trump.”

Colonel Lang asks “Tell me, pilgrims, why should we put up with such nonsense? Why should we pay the leaders of these agencies for the privilege of having them abuse us? We are free men and women. Let us send these swine to their just deserts in a world where they have to work hard for whatever money they earn.” He then recommends stripping CIA of its responsibility for being the lead agency in spying as well as in covert action, which is a legacy of the Cold War and the area in which it has demonstrated a particular incompetence. As for the FBI, it was created by J. Edgar Hoover to maintain dossiers on politicians and it is time that it be replaced by a body that operates in a fashion “more reflective of our collective nation[al] values.”

Others in the intelligence community understandably have different views. Many believe that the FBI and CIA have grown too large and have been asked to do too many things unrelated to national security, so there should be a major reduction-in-force (RIF) followed by the compulsory retirement of senior officers who have become too cozy with and obligated to politicians. The new-CIA should collect information, period, what it was founded to do in 1947, and not meddle in foreign elections or engage in regime change. The FBI should provide only police services that are national in nature and that are not covered by the state and local jurisdictions. And it should operate in as transparent a fashion as possible, not as a national secret police force.

But the fundamental problem may not be with the police and intelligence services themselves. There are a lot of idiots running around loose in Washington. Witness for example the impeachment hearings ludicrous fact free opening statement by House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (with my emphasis) “In 2014, Russia invaded a United States ally, Ukraine, to reverse that nation’s embrace of the West, and to fulfill Vladimir Putin’s desire to rebuild a Russian empire.”

And the press is no better, note the following excerpt from The New York Times lead editorial on the hearings, including remarks of the two State Department officers who testified, on the following day: “They came across not as angry Democrats or Deep State conspirators, but as men who have devoted their lives to serving their country, and for whom defending Ukraine against Russian aggression is more important to the national interest than any partisan jockeying…

“At another point, Mr. Taylor said he had been critical of the Obama administration’s reluctance to supply Ukraine with anti-tank missiles and other lethal defensive weapons in its fight with Russia, and that he was pleased when the Trump administration agreed to do so

“What clearly concerned both witnesses wasn’t simply the abuse of power by the president, but the harm it inflicted on Ukraine, a critical ally under constant assault by Russian forces. ‘Even as we sit here today, the Russians are attacking Ukrainian soldiers in their own country and have been for the last four years…’ Mr. Taylor said.”

Schiff and the Times should get their facts straight. And so should the two American foreign service officers who were clearly seeing the situation only from the Ukrainian perspective, a malady prevalent among US diplomats often described as “going native.” They were pushing a particular agenda, i.e. possible war with Russia on behalf of Ukraine, in furtherance of a US national interest that they fail to define. One of them, George Kent, eulogized the Ukrainian militiamen fighting the Russians as the modern day equivalent of the Massachusetts Minutemen in 1776, not exactly a neutral assessment, and also euphemized Washington-provided lethal offensive weapons as “security assistance.”

Another former intelligence community friend Ray McGovern has constructed a time line of developments in Ukraine which demolishes the establishment view on display in Congress relating to the alleged Russian threat. First of all, Ukraine was no American ally in 2014 and is no “critical ally” today. Also, the Russian reaction to western supported rioting in Kiev, a vital interest, only came about after the United States spent $5 billion destabilizing and then replacing the pro-Kremlin government. Since that time Moscow has resumed control of the Crimea, which is historically part of Russia, and is active in the Donbas region which has a largely Russian population.

It should really be quite simple. The national security state should actually be engaged in national security. Its size and budget should be commensurate with what it actually does, nothing more. It should not be roaming the world looking for trouble and should instead only respond to actual threats. And it should operate with oversight. If Congress is afraid to do it, set up a separate body that is non-partisan and actually has the teeth to do the job. If the United States of America comes out of the process as something like a normal nation the entire world will be a much happier place.

November 21, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , | 4 Comments

White Helmets involved in organ trafficking in Syria: Study

White Helmets members with the body of a person in al-Malajah village, south of Syria’s Idlib Province, November 17, 2019. (Photo by AFP)
Press TV – November 21, 2019

A survey by a Russian institution reveals that the White Helmets, which operates under the guise of an aid group in Syria, has been involved in the forcible removal of organs from civilians living in areas controlled by militants.

The survey, dubbed “White Helmets: terrorist abettors and sources of disinformation,” was conducted by the Foundation for the Study of Democracy.

Presenting the study’s findings on Thursday, Maxim Grigoryev, director of the organization, said the White Helmets evacuated people with the promise of medical assistance, but later handed their bodies — with some vital organs missing — to their relatives.

He added that the organ removals came to light after the bodies were examined.

“They [White Helmets] were a key element in this illegal scheme of organ removal. We learned about those incidents from the people whom we interviewed. This information came as an unpleasant surprise to us,” Grigoryev said.

He further noted that the survey was based on interviews with White Helmets members, former militants and residents of Syrian areas where White Helmets were most active, including Aleppo, Damascus, Douma, Dayr al-Zawr and Saqba.

Grigoryev also pointed out that the illegal extraction and trade of human organs was practiced in late 1990s, when White Helmets co-founder James Le Mesurier was in Yugoslavia. Le Mesurier, a former British army officer, was found dead in Istanbul earlier this month.

“The scheme of illegal extraction of organs from residents of Serbia was carried out on the territory where he [Le Mesurier] was staying, and exactly the same system was recreated in Syria. This is exactly what White Helmets are doing,” he said.

The White Helmets claims to be a humanitarian NGO, but it has been accused of working with anti-Damascus terrorists and staging false-flag chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Syria views the White Helmets as “a branch of al-Qaeda and al-Nusra” militant outfits and a “PR stunt” by the US, the UK and France.

November 21, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Leaked Memo Shows The U.S. Still Does Not Understand Turkey’s Syria Operation

By Paul Antonopoulos | November 21, 2019

An ‘internal memo’ that was intentionally leaked has blasted U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision for the U.S. military to withdraw from Syria, or more accurately, relocate from northern Syria to the oilfields in the east, as well as his complacency as Turkey commits “war crimes and ethnic cleansing” against the Kurdish minority.

The author of the memo, diplomat and former ambassador to Bahrain, William V. Roebuck, took every opportunity to lambast Trump as he faces impeachment 12 months before the next U.S. presidential elections. Roebuck questioned whether the U.S. could have prevented the Turkish military operation in northern Syria by increasing military patrols, sanctions and threats, but conceded that “the answer is probably not,” citing Turkey’s membership in NATO and its large army against the small American presence in the region. “But we won’t know because we didn’t try,” Roebuck added.

The New York Times claims that Roebuck’s memo was delivered to the State Department’s special envoy on Syria, James F. Jeffrey, and to dozens of officials focusing on Syria in the State Department, White House and Pentagon. However, the entirety of the 3,200-word memo failed to mention Ankara’s motivation in conducting this operation.

The Syrian perspective is that this is part of a project for a Greater Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu emphasized in an October interview that Turkey is not interested in territorial expansionism, stating “Russia is concerned about some sensitive issues, such as territorial integrity and the unity of the country [Syria]. We are also worried. If we look at all the joint statements of Turkey, Russia and Iran, we emphasize it.”

Although it may sound conspiratorial, this statement would have done little to alleviate this fear as Turkey has controlled large swathes of northern Syria since 2016 without any process to negotiate the return of these regions to Syrian government administration. In conjunction, Damascus would also remember the 1939 Turkish annexation of its Hatay province, Turkey’s invasion of neighboring Cyprus in 1974, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan invoking an early 20th-century irredentist document that claims northern Syria, northern Iraq, most of Armenia, the entirety of Cyprus, much of Bulgaria and Greece’s northern and eastern Aegean islands as under Turkish sovereignty.

Although territorial expansionism may be a motivating factor for many in the Turkish political and military leadership, it would be a secondary motivating factor. What Roebuck’s memo failed to mention is that Turkey’s Syria policy today is motivated by security concerns.

In an academic article titled “Turkey’s interests in the Syrian war: from neo-Ottomanism to counterinsurgency,” I first made the argument that Turkey’s initial interests in Syria was to expand its influence, and perhaps territory. What was not envisioned by the Turkish leadership was the re-emergence of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Syria, recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, Syria and the U.S., but not by Russia. The PKK in Syria fight under the banner of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), who comprise the majority of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Washington confusingly recognizes the PKK as a terrorist organization, but has directly funded, armed and supported the YPG in Syria. Ankara makes no distinction between the PKK and the YPG, and this has been a primary source of recent hostilities between Turkey and the U.S. Although Syria once supported the PKK against Turkey, it has recognized the group as a terrorist organization since 1998, initially easing the tense relations between Damascus and Ankara, with Erdoğan even describing his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad as his “brother.”

Former Turkish Foreign Minister (2009–2014), Ahmet Davutoglu, adopted a “zero problems with neighbors” policy that saw his country strengthen economic and political ties with the Islamic World by lifting visa restrictions and taking a larger active role in critical Islamic issues like the fallout between the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah groups, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Syria and Israel. However, this new doctrine was taken to the test when the Syrian war began in 2011, with Ankara immediately contradicting the “zero problems with the neighbours” policy by supporting terrorist organizations and getting itself into disputes and hostilities with not only Syria, but also Iraq, Greece, Cyprus and Armenia.

The Arab Spring changed the status quo in the Middle East and provided an opportunity for Turkey to engage in power projections within a new regional order where Ankara would be the center of power. However, what Ankara had not calculated is that by abandoning the “zero problems with neighbors” policy and flooding Syria with tens thousands of terrorists, it was creating the very conditions for the PKK to return to Syria after a more than 20-year hiatus under the guise of protecting Syria’s Kurds.

Essentially, the project for a Greater Turkey has become secondary in the case of Syria, with Ankara’s current focus on what it calls a counterterrorist operation against the PKK/YPG, after they created the very conditions for them to return to Syria. Although Trump has whole teams dedicated to Syria, it appears that Washington refuses to acknowledge Turkey’s security concerns, just as Roebuck’s memo demonstrates.

The rise of the YPG brought questions of Kurdish independence or autonomy in northern Syria, which can also find justification for an autonomous or independent Kurdish state in eastern Turkey as the PKK, militarily and politically, has struggled for decades to achieve this. A Kurdish push for independence or autonomy in northern Syria not only threatens Turkey’s desire to illegally annex this region, but destabilizes Turkey as the Kurds can make a greater push for independence or autonomy in eastern Anatolia.

As Turkey strengthens its relations with Russia, the question remains whether the country will formally leave NATO or not. It is unlikely that the U.S. will push for Turkey’s expulsion from NATO as it has the second largest military in the alliance and occupies one of the most strategic spots on the planet.

Although the U.S. has turned to Greece as its Plan B to contain Russia in the Black Sea in any hypothetical war, Washington would know there is a great possibility that the next general election in Turkey could see Erdoğan out of power and replaced by a more Washington-friendly leader. Not only is Erdoğan’s popularity diminishing because of the economic crisis and his unpopular Syria policy, but the highly popular ex-economy minister Ali Babacan and ex-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu have both recently left Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) to establish their own respective political parties, which will only further weaken AKP who have lost over 840,000 members in one year alone.

The U.S. would be hoping that by continuing to apply military, diplomatic and economic pressure against Turkey, the tense situation in Turkey will see Erdoğan’s popularity diminish, and the return of a  pro-U.S. leader. The difficult economic situation, the millions of refugees and the increased terror attacks in Turkey can all be directly attributed to Erdoğan’s Syria policy, and the U.S. will continue to use these means to pressure Turkey until it conforms to Washington’s desires and reverse its strengthened ties with Russia.

Many within Washington are unsatisfied with Trump’s Turkey policy and feel that they are not utilizing their advantages to pressure Erdoğan. Roebuck’s memo however appears to be a potential gamechanger as it has critically expressed opposition to Trump’s policy at a formal, and now public, level.

Roebuck publicly revealed that Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria is “spearheaded by armed Islamist groups on its payroll” who are committing what can “only be described as war crimes and ethnic cleansing.” The same jihadist forces utilized by Turkey are no different to the ones the U.S. supported against Assad, who not only ethnically cleansed Kurds, but also Shi’ites, Alawites, Antiochian Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians.

Roebuck also suggested that the U.S. must maintain relations with Turkey. As Turkey is at a crossroads with its political leadership, Washington knows there is a strong possibility that Erdoğan might not be around by the time the next general election is scheduled in 2023, although it appears likely that these elections will take place years earlier. With Roebuck’s ‘leak,’ it is likely that Trump will start receiving stronger domestic political pressure to deal with Turkey in a much tougher way and continue to make every destabilizing effort to remove Erdoğan and have him replaced with a pro-U.S. leader.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

November 21, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment