Aletho News


US oil sanctions on Iran force India to look to Russia

By Shishir Upadhyaya | RT | February 9, 2020

Escalating US pressure on Iran, including sanctions targeting Iranian oil exports, may have had an unexpected consequence – pushing India to diversify its energy supplies by shifting from Tehran to Moscow as a major oil supplier.

State-owned oil refiner Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has just signed a contract with Russia’s Rosneft for the supply of up to 2 million tons of oil by the end of 2020. The meeting took place on the sidelines of India’s largest weapons fair, DefExpo, currently going on in Lucknow.

“This is just the beginning,” Indian Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told reporters after meeting with Rosneft chairman Igor Sechin in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The contract could be a precursor to an emerging energy security partnership between India and Russia, with more deals to come. India is the world’s third-biggest oil consumer and importer, shipping in more than 80 percent of its crude needs.

Security turmoil in the Middle East impacts energy trade

Iran was the third largest exporter of oil to India in 2018, right behind Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Between sanctions and spillover violence, the escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran have endangered all three of those sources.

US sanctions against Iran are intended to cripple Tehran’s economy and force it to give up any nuclear ambitions, ballistic missile development, and support for militants in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and elsewhere.

The conflict has spilled over to neighboring countries, however. The largest Saudi oil complex was hit by a drone strike in September. Yemen’s Houthis claimed responsibility, while the US blamed Iran. Meanwhile, Iraq has been dealing with shipping interruptions due to ongoing protests over economic conditions, which only got worse following the January 3 US drone strike in Baghdad that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Iranian retaliation by launching missiles against two US bases in Iraq appears to have driven India to take its oil business elsewhere.

Seeking diversification

India has already been seeking other sources for its energy needs away from the Middle East, in a bid to hedge geopolitical risks. Oil imports from the region shrank from 65 percent of India’s total in 2018 to 60 percent in 2019.

Another driver of this policy is the Indian government’s commitment to increase the use of cleaner fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) from six percent to 15 percent by 2030. As a result of security developments in the Gulf since January, India’s energy cooperation with Russia has now acquired a sense of urgency never seen before.

IOC’s historical reliance on Middle Eastern sources has been partly due to their proximity and the resulting difference in shipping costs. Most ports in the Persian Gulf lie within 2,500 kilometers of India, while Russian ports are located over 7,500 kilometers away. For that reason, Indian state refiners have previously preferred to buy Russian oil via the spot market rather than under contract.

Pivot to Russia

The IOC-Rosneft contract is just the latest development in what appears to be India’s energy pivot to Russia. Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Vladivostok in September 2019, Indian companies signed several long-term energy deals with Russian partners. India’s GAIL gas company inked a 20-year LNG contract with Gazprom, while Coal India made arrangements to buy coal from Russia’s FEMC mining company.

“We have had a major breakthrough in the energy sector,” Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said at the time. “This is a sector where we are looking to diversify our sources of supplies and we are increasingly finding it attractive to buy oil and gas from the Russian Federation.”

India’s strategic relationship with Russia can be traced back to the Soviet era, but the relationship between Moscow and New Delhi has evolved in recent years to encompass energy, defense, nuclear cooperation, and space. Russia and India are also committed to expanding bilateral trade, hoping to reach the mark of $30 billion in annual exchange by 2025, up from the current $11 billion.

On the whole, the actions of the Trump government in Iran and their wider impact on the Persian Gulf have elevated the Indo-Russia relationship, something that Washington may not have had in mind.

Shishir Upadhyaya is an internationally acknowledged defence and strategic affairs expert, former Indian naval intelligence officer and author of “India’s Maritime Strategy: Balancing Regional Ambitions and China.” Follow him on Twitter @Shishir6

February 8, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Manafort Ledger Evidence Central to Trump-Russia Collusion Claims Discredited as Total ‘Fabrication’

Sputnik – February 8, 2020

During the 2016 race, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was caught up in a scandal when his name appeared in a ‘leaked black ledger’ of alleged off-the-books payments from pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. The document became one of the core pieces of evidence used by the president’s opponents to accuse him of colluding with the Kremlin.

The ‘black ledger’ of alleged secret cash payments to lobbyist and political consultant Paul Manafort was completely made up and the FBI knows it, investigative journalist John Solomon has reported, citing sources.

Speaking to Solomon, Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner and cooperating witness in the FBI investigation on possible Russia-Trump collusion, said that the ledger “was a fabrication,” and adding that “this fact has since been proven true.”

The ledger, first publicized in the New York Times in the summer of 2016, was one of the two major pieces of evidence used by Donald Trump’s opponents in the media and state to try to link the real estate mogul to Moscow, with the other being the so-called Steele Dossier. The latter document, compiled at the behest of the Democratic Party by a British ex-spook, became the pretext for the FBI to start spying on the Trump campaign, but has since similarly been discredited as a complete fabrication.

In an April 2018 interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, Gates, who reached a plea deal to testify against Manafort in a criminal case relating to tax evasion and bank fraud, told investigators that the ledger was “completely made up.”

Commenting on the New York Times piece which made the ‘black ledger’ claims public in his testimony to the FBI, Gates insisted that the article was “completely false,” adding that “as you know there were no cash payments. The payments were wired. The ledger was completely made up… It was not how the PoR [Party of Regions – the party of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whose campaign Manafort advised] did their record keeping.”Gates further told the FBI that the ledger could not be real, because the party’s accounting records were destroyed in early 2014 in the midst of the US and EU-backed coup d’etat in Ukraine. “All the real records were burned when the party headquarters was set on fire when Yanukovych fled the country,” Gates recalled.

Ledger Never Used by FBI and Prosecutors

The FBI and prosecutors in Manafort’s criminal case appeared to have corroborated Gates’ conclusions by their actions, or more precisely inaction, failing to mention it in Manafort’s 2018 trial on charges of tax and bank fraud.Similarly, the ledger was not discussed at any length by Mueller in the special counsel’s exhaustive 488 page report searching for evidence of collusion between President Trump and Russia. Mueller released the long-awaited report in April 2019, exonerating the president and his staff, and concluding that the only alleged substantive Russian effort to meddle in the election was linked to an online trolling campaign which proved to have no impact whatsoever on the election results.

The FBI has yet to publicly comment on its conclusions regarding the black ledger.

According to Solomon, “if true, Gates’ account means the two key pieces of documentary evidence used by the media and FBI to drive the now-debunked Russia collusion narrative – the Steele dossier and the black ledger – were at best uncorroborated and at worst disinformation. His account also raises the possibility that someone fabricated the document in Ukraine in an effort to restart investigative efforts on Manafort’s consulting work or to meddle in the US presidential election.”Ukrainian Trace

Ukraine made no secret about its preference for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, expressing concerns about Trump’s campaign promises of trying to improve relations with Moscow, revoke anti-Russian sanctions or even recognize the status of Russia’s Crimea. In August 2016, Ukrainian officials openly revealed to the Financial Times the extent of their involvement in the US campaign, with Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau linked to the ‘leak’ of the ledger to US media.

In late 2018, a Ukrainian court ruled that Artem Sytnyk, former head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, and Serhiy Leshchenko, an ally of Ukraine’s post-coup President Petro Poroshenko, illegally interfered in the 2016 US election with the release of the black ledger. The ruling was overturned on a technicality, but Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko told The Hill in May 2019 that he had opened a fresh probe into the case following the election of Volodymyr Zelensky as Ukraine’s new president.

Ukraine ended up proving central to the drawn out Trump impeachment saga, with the Democrats accusing the president of illegally pressuring Zelensky to restart a frozen investigation into the possible pay-to-play corruption of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter in Ukraine between 2014 and 2019. Last week, Trump was acquitted of the charges against him following a senate trial.

February 8, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

NATO’s ‘hysteria’ over Russia stalking their satellites is only to get more money – MPs

RT | February 8, 2020

Claims that Russia is using its spacecraft to spy on NATO satellites have no real backing and are used to justify funding requests as the US and its allies are militarizing space, Russian MPs said.

Earlier this week, French General Andre Lanata, who is NATO’s supreme allied commander transformation, sounded the alarm over a recently-launched Russian satellite synchronizing its orbit with an American surveillance spacecraft.

“It is a threat to our allies,” Lanata told the Washington Examiner. “It’s a key question. We need to be sure that we give to our forces this space asset support.”

The commander went on, saying that space used to be considered “a safe haven,” but now, thanks to the actions of Russia and China, “it’s not the case anymore.”

Washington and NATO have been increasingly accusing Moscow and Beijing of developing technologies for space warfare in order to cripple the US military communications and GPS networks, but as often happens the claims were never backed by any convincing proof.

“We can imagine many different ways and many different kinds of aggression in space,” Lanata said.

A Russian satellite stalking his NATO counterpart really was a figment of the French general’s imagination, Aleksey Chepa, the deputy head of the foreign affairs committee in the Russian parliament, said, explaining that that the spacecraft in question was “a civilian satellite, which was carrying out activities needed for its own readjustment.”

The “hysteria” artificially raised by the NATO commanders is really directed at the parliaments of their countries in order to make them increase defense budgets, including military space programs, he added.

Anton Morozov, another foreign affairs committee member, reminded that Russia consistently supports the demilitarization of space and its use for solely peaceful purposes.

He noted that Russian satellites can record the elements of American military infrastructure in space and the words of the NATO general should be viewed as “a revelation of own malign intentions.”

“They prove that… they [the US and NATO] keep militarizing space, which can lead to very sad consequences,” Morozov said.

February 8, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Oslo Accords and the PA are a Hindrance to Palestinian Liberation

By Marion Kawas | Palestine Chronicle | February 8, 2020

On January 28, 2020, US President Donald Trump unveiled the details of his ‘Deal of the Century’ in Washington D.C. with Benjamin Netanyahu by his side.

Many of these details had been leaked before, but this press conference put it all together in one package, replete with maps. For many Palestinians, this exercise simply acknowledged what is already the reality on the ground.

But for those still clinging to the façade of “international order”, Trump’s apartheid plan is the final nail in the coffin of the much-touted “two-state” solution. The “two-state” solution that has dragged on for over 25 years, and only resulted in more theft of Palestinian land, more illegal Israeli settlements and more oppression for Palestinians.

It is time to realize that the “state-building” exercise, initiated by the Oslo accords, has failed and failed in a way that has crippled the Palestinian struggle for decades. It is also time to acknowledge that Trump’s Steal/Scam/Theft of the Century is regrettably the logical outcome of those same Oslo Accords.

In the 1970s, the Palestine Liberation Organization PLO was widely recognized as the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. One of the main planks in its platform was the creation of an independent, secular, democratic state in Palestine. Western governments of the day went out of their way to attempt to vilify and exclude the PLO from international forums and other events.

How did we possibly come from that to what we are witnessing today? How and when did the PLO change its focus and what were the repercussions on the Palestinian struggle? Why did the Palestine National Council PNC vote in 1998, under the guns of the occupier, to amend and nullify crucial articles in the PLO charter? A vote that ultimately neutered and marginalized both the PNC and the PLO as effective representative bodies for Palestinians, a vote that was boycotted at the time by many PNC members and leading visionary Palestinian intellectuals, such as Edward Said.

The Oslo Accords dramatically re-framed the parameters of the Palestinian movement and what was considered “acceptable”; but did they also succeed in laying the foundation and granting legitimacy for greater normalization with Israel?

If you want a favor from the U.S. government, it seems normalization with Israel is the road to take, as happened recently with Sudan’s leader al-Burhan. These are all important questions that need serious discussion in the entire Palestinian movement, including those in diaspora and in refugee camps. The fight for Palestinian liberation cannot move forward until the setbacks of the past are addressed, and the disgraced Palestinian Authority, and its job as a security contractor for Israel, held to account.

It’s immaterial now if the Oslo Accords could have worked if they had been honored and implemented as promised – they weren’t. In fact, it is now apparent that the whole intent of the Oslo Accords (or at least its backers) was to contain, control and censor the militant spirit and legacy of the Palestinian struggle. History has brought us to another pivotal moment for the Palestinian national collective. This moment can either be met with a recognition of these realities and give birth to bold ways for new leadership to move forward, or be squandered and add more unnecessary years to the arduous path for liberation.

Palestinians around the world demonstrated and protested in the last week to show their total rejection of this latest attempt on their national dignity and existence. And no, it’s not because they insist to “miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”! It’s because they refuse these “opportunities” to surrender, to commit national suicide, and to sell-out their and their children’s birthright.

As in the darkest periods that have come before, the Palestinian people will prevail and foil all conspiracies against their legitimate national and human rights. The right of return, the right to genuine self-determination, the right to live in dignity and freedom – the new generation of Palestinians are as committed as any before them that these rights are sacred and will NOT be sacrificed.

Marion Kawas is a member of the Canada Palestine Association and co-host of Voice of Palestine.

February 8, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment

Is Hollywood about to award an Oscar to ‘For Sama’ – a propagandumentary that pushes Al Qaeda’s narrative in Aleppo?

Screenshot from the trailer for For Sama (2019) PBS distribution
By Vanessa Beeley | RT | February 8, 2020

Oscar-nominated ‘For Sama’ is a gritty, well produced “documentary” claiming to present the reality of the five-year siege of the Syrian city of Aleppo. Just how deceptive is this portrayal?

The 90-minute video directed by UK Channel 4’s Waad Al-Kateab and English filmmaker Edward Watts has been unanimously praised in the mainstream media and tonight it might win this year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. But does the film present a truly  unbiased picture of the Syrian conflict or, rather, just the side of the story that fits the Western narrative about the war?

Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts, February 4, 2020 © REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

The armed-group occupation of East Aleppo portrayed as “freedom”

East Aleppo was the armed group hinterland of the city of Aleppo for five years. During this time the shape-shifting militant cadres mingled and confronted each other in mafia-style gang warfare over territory, status, financing and control over the civilians living through their occupation. Ultimately the dominant force was Al-Qaeda or Nusra Front in Syria.

Very few journalists could safely enter this barren and desolate zone reigned over by brutal, extremist groups. Channel 4 teamed up with Syrian “revolution” sympathiser and camera-woman, Waad Al-Kateab, and her alleged “doctor” husband who goes by the pseudonym of Hamza Al Kateab (real name Zahed Katurji) to produce “citizen journalist” reportage that would effectively choreograph the events in Aleppo for an unsuspecting public in the West.

Screenshot taken from Channel 4’s series of reports on Aleppo, provided by Wa’ad Al Kateab

Inside Aleppo consisted of a series of video reports produced by Waad, for Channel4, that claimed to record the daily life inside the extremist group-controlled districts of East Aleppo. Channel 4 accepted and republished these reports without any apparent independent verification or investigation.

Aleppo was Channel 4’s perceived “Guernica,” their reporting was consistently one-sided and partisan towards the “moderate rebels” who, according to the British TV network, were being “disproportionately” targeted by the “dictator Assad” and the Syrian Arab Army. The reality for journalists, like myself, who spent time in Syrian-government secured West Aleppo, sheltering 1.5 million civilians including an estimated 500,000 who had fled East Aleppo when it was invaded by armed militants in 2012, was diametrically different from the narrative being marketed by Channel 4 and the majority of state-aligned media in the West. Aleppo, according to residents, was opposed to the “revolution” from day one.

Channel 4 normalising terrorism and extremism

Channel 4’s reporting in Aleppo and Syria has almost invariably presented the child-beheading, ethnic-cleansing sectarian groups as “rebels with a cause.” In a 2016 report, ‘Aleppo: up close with the rebels’, Krishnan Guru Murthy follows none other than members of formerly US-funded Nour Al Din Zinki, responsible for the horrific public torture and decapitation of 12-year-old Palestinian child, Abdullah, in July 2016.

In the same report, Murthy appears to legitimize the armed group strategy of mass suicide bombing as an act of “defense” without mentioning that many of these suicide bombers were targeting civilian and residential areas. Channel 4 removed this report after their lack of recognition of the war crimes committed by its protagonists was exposed.

‘For Sama’ is little more than a compilation of the ‘Inside Aleppo’ reports, skilfully converted into a feature-length documentary that has already been awarded the Bafta for best documentary and is nominated for the Oscars this weekend.

Dedicated to Waad’s daughter, the documentary can only be described as a grotesque misrepresentation of life in East Aleppo under the tyranny of sectarian armed groups. Anyone watching this movie will assume that East Aleppo was the “free country” as described by Waad, besieged and preyed upon by the Syrian government. The film literally airbrushes Nusra Front  from the scenario. Groups like Nour al-Din al-Zenki are not referred to, their crimes go unmentioned.

The role of Hamza Al-Kateab affiliated with the armed groups in East Aleppo

Many journalists have pointed out the dangers of working in areas occupied by the militant factions. Waad and her husband have no apparent issues living side by side with groups renowned for their brutal violence against anyone who would challenge their rule. In fact, a number of videos and social media interactions demonstrate the close relationship that Hamza had with members of these groups – in particular with the aforementioned Nour al-Din al-Zenki.

While corporate media and ‘For Sama’ portray Hamza as a compassionate “doctor,” we must ask how deceptive that image is. Many interactions have been deleted from Hamza’s social media accounts but are still available as screenshots. In these interactions Hamza is involved in military strategy discussions with extremist groups. Hamza is clearly aware of the violence and abuse meted out against civilians by the occupying forces but he never condemned it to the media outlets who relied heavily upon his testimony to file their Aleppo reports.

When the terrorists were evacuated from the last district of East Aleppo, Al Sukare, where Al Quds hospital was located, they left behind a deadly trail of mines and booby traps designed to kill civilians returning to their homes. I was, myself, witness to one of these explosions, after a booby trap left in a washing machine was detonated – murdering and injuring civilians on Christmas Eve 2016.

According to social media conversations, Hamza was aware of this heinous practice. He and Waad evacuated at the same time as the armed groups. Therefore, it can be assumed that they knew about the dangers that awaited civilians, yet they apparently did nothing to warn them.

Much of ‘For Sama’ footage is located in the Al Quds hospital which was, itself, the center of controversy in East Aleppo when Doctors without Borders (MSF) declared it “destroyed” by a Russian airstrike in May 2016. Various independent researchers and journalists exposed this narrative as misleading and unsubstantiated.

Screenshot from movie ‘For Sama’ (2019) Dir: Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts, Channel 4/PBS Distribution

‘For Sama’ omits the reality that hospitals in East Aleppo were taken over by the armed groups, often converted into military headquarters. The vast complex of the Childrens and Eye hospital was transformed into a torture and detainment center for civilians who did not comply with the armed group ideology or those perceived to be Syrian government-loyalists. After liberation of East Aleppo, civilians testified that they did not receive medical treatment in the remaining hospitals which were effectively militant triage centers. I spoke with children and teenagers whose injured limbs had been amputated by the so-called medical staff who preferred such cruel expediency over long-term treatment. Why does ‘For Sama’ not cover any of these inconvenient truths?

The children I interviewed in East Aleppo who were forced to witness public executions and crucifixions, by the extremist groups, are ignored by Channel 4 and ‘For Sama’. Journalists like Theo Padnos and Matthew Schrier, who were imprisoned and tortured by the armed groups in the Eye Hospital compound  are not referred to.

The mortars fired daily into West Aleppo by the militants that Waad does not refer to were responsible for thousands of civilian deaths and the maiming of countless more who lost limbs in the rain of lethal “Hell-cannon” gas canister missiles or were sniped in the streets that bordered the Nusra Front-dominated enclaves.

The 2013 Queiq River narrative explained

The 2013 River Queiq massacre is portrayed, in the film, as a Syrian government crime, the gory scenes exploited to further criminalise the SAA. If Channel 4 had conducted any kind of investigation into this event, they might have fulfilled their duty to provide context and evidence that would have better informed their audiences in the West. Channel 4 must be considered grossly negligent in their distorted representation of the Syrian conflict.

Aleppo-based journalist, Khaled Iskef, did exactly this investigation over a period of years before Al Mayadeen channel published his findings based upon forensic DNA reports and witness testimony. ‘For Sama’ glosses over fact in favor of propaganda and denies justice for the victims of extremist violence & brutality. According to Iskef’s evidence, River Queiq was a convenient dumping ground for these armed groups to dispose of evidence, Waad and Channel 4 have apparently provided cover for the crimes they committed.

Screenshot from Khaled Iskef documentary on the 2013 River Queiq massacre, blamed on the Syrian government

Channel 4, media architects of war

It is no surprise that Channel 4 has been instrumental in the production of ‘For Sama’. I have extensively documented the channel’s role in the behind-the-scenes management of other such revisionist projects on Syria. The White Helmets, another terrorist-linked entity operating in East Aleppo, produced an award winning, Oscar nominated movie, ‘Last Men in Aleppo’, which also eradicated the presence of extremist fighters and terrorist groups from the conflict landscape – reducing the narrative down to “bad Assad” and “good rebels.”

Channel 4 were among the hidden architects of this production and were also at the forefront of support for the White Helmets Nobel Peace Prize nomination while this UK/US funded group stands accused of all manner of war crimes by the Syrian people who lived under militant-group-occupation across Syria.

‘For Sama’ is an exploitative and well packaged instrument of injustice. It is an attempt by governments and media in the West to rewrite history, to erase their shameful role in maintaining a nine-year conflict, in Syria, based on lies and obfuscation of fact.

If you were to speak to the Syrian people in Aleppo who lived through the period covered by ‘For Sama’, they would tell you that this film does not represent their suffering or abuse at the hands of the armed gangs. They would tell you that ‘For Sama’ effectively defends those who tortured, imprisoned and subjected them to all manner of horror and bloodshed. They would tell you that ‘For Sama’ is just another insult from the billionaire funded PR industry for war that has denied the real Syrian victims a voice for nine years while those who help perpetrate the crimes against them will, once again, be on Hollywood’s red carpet.

Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist and photographer who has worked extensively in the Middle East – on the ground in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Palestine, while also covering the conflict in Yemen since 2015. In 2017, Vanessa was a finalist for the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, which was won by the much-acclaimed Robert Parry that year. In 2018, Vanessa was named one of the 238 most respected journalists in the UK by the British National Council for the Training of Journalists. In 2019, Vanessa was among the recipients of the Serena Shim Award for uncompromised integrity in journalism. Follow Vanessa Beeley on and on Twitter @VanessaBeeley.

February 8, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Film Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

OPCW attack on whistleblowers only proves its own credibility is shot

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | February 8, 2020

Attempting to discredit the whistleblowers casting doubt on its report about a chemical attack in Syria, the OPCW has only confirmed the authenticity of the leaked documents, the expertise of individuals involved, and its own rot.

For months now, two whistleblowers – an individual only identified as “Alex” and former specialist Ian Henderson – have testified and presented documents indicating that the final report on the April 2018 incident in Douma was doctored to suggest Syrian government forces may have used chemical weapons, and therefore retroactively justify US, UK and French missile strikes against Syria, which had been carried out before the OPCW mission even got there to investigate.

On Thursday, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons tried to discredit them by arguing they were not actual whistleblowers, but disgruntled employees who breached confidentiality, and lacked expertise and access to all the evidence.

That was enough for the legion of mainstream propagandists (looking at you, Bellingcat ) to declare that they had been vindicated, the whistleblowers discredited, and the Douma report 100 percent correct.

They must have not bothered to read the OPCW’s little exercise in semantics, because what it actually did – perhaps inadvertently – was confirm that the leaked documents were authentic and that the whistleblowers did have access to the evidence they discussed.

For example, it says that one of the whistleblowers was “not a member” of the fact-finding mission in Douma – but then also says that he “accompanied” and “assisted” the FFM, and was later “assigned to conduct an inventory” of the sensitive evidence gathered.

The OPCW has only itself to blame for this predicament. After all, the organization certified back in 2013 that Syria had dismantled its chemical weapons laboratories and handed over the agents to the US and UK to destroy, having supervised the process and inspected the facilities. Yet it allowed itself to be used by Western powers, and the jihadist militants they’ve backed – in a campaign to effect “regime change” in Damascus anyway.

Way back in 2012, the Obama administration set chemical weapons use as a “red line” that would trigger a Libya-style “kinetic military action” in Syria. The Russian diplomatic initiative that saw Syria disarm had thwarted that plan, but didn’t stop “moderate rebels” such as the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra from staging incidents that could be blamed on President Bashar Assad’s government, all in the hope of provoking an outside intervention and winning the war for them.

The thing about these “chemical attacks” is that they always happen when the “rebels” are losing and the Syrian army is advancing with ease. This means that the Syrian government has absolutely no need to use chemical weapons for any reason, military or political – unlike the militants, who absolutely need such incidents to keep their cause alive.

By publishing a report on Douma filled with omissions and insinuations, the OPCW effectively sided with these terrorists – as well as countries that unilaterally launched attacks against Syria in open defiance of international law.

Then it chose to address criticism of its complicity in the biggest lie since the Iraqi WMDs, by attacking the whistleblowers. For an organization that’s supposed to safeguard the world from the proliferation of dangerous weapons, that’s not just a bad look – it’s a credibility killer.

Nebojsa Malic is a Serbian-American journalist, blogger and translator, who wrote a regular column for from 2000 to 2015, and is now senior writer at RT. Follow him on Twitter @NebojsaMalic

February 8, 2020 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | | 1 Comment

Douma Incident: Why Whistleblowers’ Accounts Hold More Credibility Than ‘Bald Assertions’ by OPCW

Sputnik – February 8, 2020

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) smear campaign against the whistleblowers who questioned the watchdog’s Douma report has failed to achieve the desired effect, British observers say, stressing that the OPCW has yet to dispel suspicions triggered by its apparently doctored dossier.

On 6 February, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) issued what it called findings of possible breaches of confidentiality with regard to two whistleblowers’ exposure of the watchdog’s manipulation of facts concerning the April 2018 Douma chemical incident.

Having denied that it sexed up its Douma report, the OPCW lambasted the whistleblowers behind the disclosure, referring to them as “Inspector A” and “Inspector B”, and proposed certain measures to prevent future leaks. Inspector A is believed to be a former member of OPCW team on Douma, Ian Henderson, and Inspector B is presumably an investigator described as “Alex” and quoted by WikiLeaks.

Previously, the two specialists expressed concerns about the apparently doctored OPCW dossier describing the chemical incident in Douma. According to Ian Henderson, the watchdog wiped out evidence indicating that chemical canisters allegedly containing chlorine were “manually placed” in Douma instead of being airdropped. Henderson’s statement upends the US’ claim that the Syrian government forces were behind the supposed attack.

Why OPCW Review Fails to Discredit Whistleblowers

According to Piers Robinson, co-director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies (OPS) and former professor at the University of Sheffield, the centerpiece of the OPCW’s investigation is an attempt to discredit “brave and highly experienced inspectors who have evidently been trying to tell the truth to the world”.

“In doing so the OPCW is evading the compelling scientific evidence now in the public domain which indicates both that the cylinders were placed by hand and that the victims were not killed by chlorine from gas canisters dropped by helicopter. The OPCW is covering up the scientific truth and preventing justice and truth for the victims. But the truth will continue to come out and the OPCW management inevitably faced with having to get its house in order or otherwise lose credibility”, the scholar emphasises.

​Peter Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria and an expert on Middle East affairs, echoes the non-profit’s co-director, by saying that “it is not the whistleblowers who lack credibility as claimed by the OPCW but the OPCW itself”.

Ford draws attention to the fact the OPCW “fail even to make any effort to answer the substance of the reservations expressed by the whistleblowers”.

“Any rebuttal of those reservations would have to explain away the signs of evidence tampering noted by inspectors (manual positioning of the chlorine canisters) and the inconsistency of the videoed symptoms of the alleged victims with the known effects of chlorine gas”, he elaborates.

According to him, “until these points are addressed the whistleblowers’ accounts will hold more credibility than bald assertions by the OPCW”. Additionally, one might ask to what extent any review can be ‘independent’ when it is commissioned and paid for by the OPCW itself, Ford adds.

OPCW’s Behaviour Prompts Further Suspicions

The former diplomat draws attention to the timing of the OPCW review release which coincided with the Syrian government forces advance on terrorist-held Idlib.

“It is ominous that the attempts by Western powers and the international organisation they control to restore some credibility to that organisation should be emerging just as Western corporate media attempts to whip up a frenzy of humanitarian concern about Idlib are reaching a climax and just as the Syrian and other forces attempting to remove Western-supported jihadis from Idlib are poised for victory”, Ford suggests.

According to him, the unfolding situation evokes strong memories of Douma, “where a fake chemical weapons attack was fabricated to enable the Western powers to make a last ditch attempt to save their proxies”.

“Are we about to see a new Oscar-winning production, as some alarming reports indicate?” the British diplomat asks rhetorically.

The Douma chemical incident took place on 7 April 2018 prompting an immediate backlash from the US and its British and French allies who initiated a series of strikes involving aircraft and ship-based missiles targeting multiple Syrian government sites on 14 April, before the inquiry into what happened in Douma was carried out.

In March 2019, the OPCW released a report describing the Douma incident and claiming that chlorine was “most likely” the chemical agent used in an alleged chemical attack. The dossier come under heavy criticism from the whistleblowers, while Russia’s OPCW Permanent Representative Alexander Shulgin told the United Nations Security Council gathering convened to discuss the OPCW report that Russian and Syrian military had been able to collect evidence on the ground indicating that the incident was nothing short of a provocation by jihadi militants to win international support.

February 8, 2020 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | Leave a comment

Erdogan’s biggest gamble yet

The Turkish president’s misguided dispatch of troops to Syria risks an unwinnable showdown with Russia

By Abdel Bari Atwan | Rai al-Youm | February 4, 2020

The Turkish-Syrian clash in Idlib province – resulting in the death of six Turkish soldiers when their convoy was shelled by the Syrian army near the town of Saraqeb – ultimately reflects Russia’s growing frustration with President Recep Tayyip Erodgan. Moscow has lost patience with the Turkish leader’s failure to evacuate terrorist-designated groups and factions from Idlib city under the terms of the 2017 de-escalation agreement.

The Syrian army’s advance in the Idlib countryside, retaking a succession of towns and villages from the Turkish-backed Hay’ at Tahrir ash-Sham (the former Nusra Front) and its allies, left Erdogan in a predicament. With the recapture of the strategic town of Maarat al-Numan and the imminent fall of Saraqeb, he faced the prospect of his allies being ejected from Idlib city too – which would, in turn, cause the flight of tens of thousands of its inhabitants across the Turkish border.

This prompted him to make his biggest gamble since he began his intervention in the Syrian conflict nine years ago. He sent a 350-vehicle military convoy to Saraqeb and fresh arms supplies to the opposition forces defending the town, effectively trashing his understandings with his Russian allies.

The official Russian account, given by Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, is that the Turks did not inform Moscow of their incursion, and their troops came under fire from Syrian forces targeting terrorists to the west of Saraqeb. Moscow also denied Erdogan’s claim that Turkey launched retaliatory airstrikes in which up to 35 Syrian troops were killed, as did Syria’s official news agency – basically accusing him of lying.

In short, when forced to choose between its Syrian and Turkish allies, Russia opted for the former, having grown weary of Erdogan’s foot-dragging and failure to live up to his commitment in the 2018 Sochi agreement to clear Idlib of terrorist groups.

Erdogan could not, or rather would not, curb Hay’ at Tahrir Ash-Sham and stop it from attacking the Syrian army in the Idlib an Aleppo countrysides. It even launched repeated drone strikes against the Russian airbase at Hmeimim near Latakia. This enraged the Russians and prompted then to launch a joint offensive with the Syrian army to capture Idlib, resorting to the military option after the political option failed.

It is hard to predict how events will unfold. But it is clear that if Turkey persists with its intervention it well end up clashing with the Russians as well as the Syrians – unless Erdogan backs down, as he has done in the past, and seeks a deal or truce with President Vladimir Putin. This would have to be based on a renewed commitment to implementing the Sochi agreement and abandoning the Nusra Front and its allies.

All the makings of a showdown are in place. The Russians and Syrians are not prepared to halt their campaign to retake Idlib, and Erdogan is not prepared to see his allies there defeated and bloodily decimated. Moscow, meanwhile, no longer feels bound by the Sochi agreement after it was broken by Ankara and its clients.

Erdogan is in escalation mode for now. His visit to Kyiv, where he denounced Russia’s annexation of Crimea, was a deliberate jibe, which Putin may not take lightly.

The death and injury of Turkish soldiers in Syria for the first time since the start of Ankara’s intervention in the crisis will also have domestic repercussions for Erdogan. The Turkish public is becoming increasingly hostile to Syrian migrants, and critical of the ruling AK Party in general. It will not easily put up with Turkish boys losing their lives in Syria. The risk of sustaining military casualties prompted a majority of Turks to oppose military intervention in Libya. How about a war of attrition in Syria, against both the Russians and the Syrians?

And what would it be for? Nine years of fighting sponsored by an array of world and regional powers – entailing the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars and the recruitment of 250,000 fighters – failed to bring down the Syrian regime. The despatch of a few thousand Turkish troops to Saraqeb cannot change that reality.

France’s exposure of Turkish arms shipments to Libya and its arrest of Jaish al-Islam spokesman Islam Alloush, and Russia’s bombing of the Nusra Front in al-Bab, serve as a message to Turkey. They signal that times have changed and that its adversaries are growing in number.

But will the message be received and acted upon? Or will Turkey continue walking into the traps set for it by the US – first in Syria, now in Libya, with Russia as a principal adversary in both cases – with eyes wide open?

February 8, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | 2 Comments