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Are DNC insiders weaponizing ‘election security’ to seize control of 2020 primaries?

By Helen Buyniski | RT | February 12, 2020

Google and a dodgy “election security” nonprofit are reaching out to Democratic campaigns with free security tools, even offering to activate them. After the Iowa debacle, campaigns should be wary of DNC insiders bearing gifts.

Election security nonprofit Defending Digital Campaigns (DDC) has partnered with Google to offer free Titan security keys to Democratic presidential campaigns. Not only will these benevolent guardians of the democratic process let the candidates have the keys, part of Google’s Advanced Protection security program, free of charge – they’ll even install and activate the new security systems themselves! What could go wrong?

Candidates would be wise to think twice about accepting the seemingly-generous offer, or any other “free election security” bait, especially after the disaster of the Iowa caucuses. That vote collapsed not because of a foreign hack, but because Shadow Inc., an organization staffed almost entirely by former Hillary Clinton operatives, sold Iowa Democrats a difficult-to-use app that mangled vote counts. While Shadow was supposedly “vetted for cybersecurity and technical considerations” by “third-party experts,” many of the security “experts” peddling their services to the Democrats are veterans of the same Clinton and Obama campaigns as Shadow’s staff. And of course the 2020 Democratic National Committee, which insisted Iowa use an app to report results instead of calling them in by phone for security reasons, is positively bristling with insiders left over from 2016.

Defending Digital Democracy, the “security experts” Iowa Democrats were already paying to train volunteers in electoral “worst case scenarios,” is – unsurprisingly, given the name – run by the same Clinton and Romney staffers who sit on Defending Digital Campaigns’ board, Robby Mook and Matt Rhoades. Founded by former Obama Pentagon Chief of Staff Eric Rosenbach and advised by top Clinton lawyer Marc Elias, DDD has been “protecting” elections with the help of CrowdStrike founder (and Russiagate Patient Zero) Dmitri Alperovich since 2017. The Fear of Russian Meddling industry appears to be one big happy family, none of whom, it seems, have ever heard of paper ballots – one sure-fire way to avoid outside interference in an election.

The links between the various groups are extensive and complex enough to fill several articles, but looking at their financial backers is instructive. Shadow and DDC were both bankrolled by LinkedIn co-founders – Reid Hoffman provided the startup capital for Shadow’s parent corporation Acronym, while DDC’s treasurer and largest donor is Allen Blue. Hoffman also provided the financing for “disinformation experts” New Knowledge’s phony Russian bot operation in Alabama in 2017, which – if its own numbers are to be believed – handed the traditionally-red state’s open Senate seat to Democrat Doug Jones by weaponizing fear of Russian meddling.

There’s no stronger proof that all this “election security” talk is mere pageantry than in the DNC’s appointment of former Clinton campaign director John Podesta to the 2020 convention’s Rules Committee. Podesta has no business being anywhere near election security – it was his inability to recognize “phishing” that led to the Clinton campaign’s emails being spread all over the internet by Wikileaks in the runup to the 2016 election. Podesta, like Mook, has been aggressively pushing the threat of Russian election interference ever since, absent a shred of proof that the dreaded “meddling” is coming from anywhere but inside the country.

Some naive individuals might question whether party insiders would really try to steal another primary after the catastrophe of 2016 handed Trump his victory. But those responsible for that trainwreck were never punished, defending themselves in court with the rationale that party bylaws allowed them to pick candidates in smoke-filled rooms should they so desire. Moreover, nothing has come of the revelation former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign paid $40,000 to Shadow before the company’s app nearly handed him victory in Iowa, or that parent company Acronym’s CEO is happily married to a Buttigieg staffer. Worse, last week it emerged that Buttigieg staffer Emily Goldman has signed on to the Nevada Democratic Party as “voter protection director” – a full-time position – now that Nevada has dropped the Shadow app for its own caucus.

Yet calls for DNC chair Tom Perez to resign, motivated by all these scandals and more, have fallen on deaf ears. Knowledge of the metastasizing conflicts of interest within the party has merely circulated on social media to the point where few in its progressive wing believe a fair election is possible. Inviting Google – which was 100 percent in the bag for Clinton in 2016, according to whistleblowers and researchers alike – and yet another Russia-obsessed, insider-heavy “election security” group to install free “protection” in one’s campaign infrastructure is inviting the local foxes to install security for one’s shiny new henhouse. Unless a candidate is secure in being the establishment’s pick, they would be wise to leave this Trojan horse outside the gates.

February 12, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , | Leave a comment

UK Will Make Facebook Responsible for Harmful Content as Ofcom is Set to Have More Powers – Report

Sputnik – February 12, 2020

Facebook and some other social media companies have recently come under fire for failing to remove allegedly misleading and harmful content from their platforms. Now, British regulatory authority Ofcom is reportedly set to be given a role in policing social media companies.

Britain’s media watchdog Ofcom will have more power in regulating social media companies in the UK, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Snapchat, and will make them accountable for harmful content, the BBC reported citing Digital Secretary Baroness Nicky Morgan.

Social media companies have long defended their rights to control unacceptable content on their platforms related to violence, terrorism or child abuse, but according to reports, this is now going to change in the UK.

“There are many platforms who ideally would not have wanted regulation, but I think that’s changing”, Nicky Morgan, Baroness Morgan of Cotes, was quoted as saying. “I think they understand now that actually regulation is coming”.

The information has not been confirmed by the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport but it was reported that on Wednesday the government will present a draft of the new legislation related to online harm and will announce Ofcom’s new powers. So far, the authority has only been entitled to regulate British media, not social media platforms or internet safety. The news could cause some concerns among the public about potential censorship over online content.

Facebook has long been criticised for failing to take responsibility for content on its platform, including its refusal to remove political ads that may contain misinformation, citing its monitoring, rather than regulatory role.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, has maintained that the company was still accountable for removing harmful content related to child exploitation, terrorism, or violence from the its platform. However, in relation to political ads, he cited the policy of free speech and insisted that social media users were still able to make up their own minds about the political agenda.

February 12, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Facebook Removes 3 Account Networks From Russia, Iran, Myanmar Over Policy Violations

Sputnik – 12.02.2020

Facebook has removed three account networks originating from Russia, Iran, and Myanmar and Vietnam, for violating its policy that bans government interference, and coordinated, inauthentic behaviour, the company said on Wednesday.

“Today, we removed three unconnected networks of accounts, Pages and Groups for engaging in foreign or government interference — which is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a government or foreign actor — on Facebook and Instagram. The first operation originated in Russia and primarily targeted Ukraine and its neighboring countries. The second originated in Iran and focused mainly on the US. The third network originated in Myanmar and Vietnam and targeted audiences in Myanmar. Each of them created networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” Facebook said in a statement.

In October, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told NBC News in an interview that the company had thwarted new interference campaigns from Russia, China and Iran that could have allegedly become the groundwork for meddling efforts during the 2020 presidential election in the United States.

Russian officials have repeatedly denied meddling in the US election, saying the allegations were invented to excuse election losses as well as deflect public attention from actual instances of electoral fraud and corruption.

February 12, 2020 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | | Leave a comment

Trudeau is buddies with murderous African dictator

By Yves Engler · February 12, 2020

Justin Trudeau wants us to know he’s buddies with Africa’s most ruthless dictator.

At the recent African Union Summit in Ethiopia Trudeau met Paul Kagame. The Prime Minister’s press people released a photo of him laughing with the Rwandan President and announced that the two discussed the upcoming Commonwealth summit Trudeau is set to attend in Kigali.

On at least five occasions since 2018 Trudeau has been photographed with Kagame during one-on-one meetings on the sidelines of different international summits. At one of those meetings the PM “affirmed the importance of strong and growing bilateral relations” between Canada and Rwanda.

Canadian-based Rwandan dissident David Himbara has criticized the PM’s embrace of Kagame. In April 2018 he wrote, “the romance between Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Rwanda’s strongman Paul Kagame is difficult to fathom. For the past several months, the romance between the two and among their respective ministers has blossomed beyond belief.”

After amending the constitution to be able to run indefinitely Paul Kagame won 98.63 per cent of votes in Rwanda’s August 2017 presidential election. In response, Canada’s High Commissioner Sara Hradecky tweeted, “congratulations to Rwandans for voting in peaceful presidential election” and “Canada congratulates Paul Kagame on his inauguration today as President of Rwanda.” The latter tweet was picked up by the state propaganda organ New Times in a story titled “Heads of State, diplomats laud Kagame’s ‘visionary leadership’.”

If garnering 99 per cent of the vote wasn’t a clue that Kagame is a dictator, the High Commissioner could have taken a look at Canada’s ‘paper of record,’ whose Africa bureau chief had recently shined a critical light on Rwanda. At the start of 2016 the Globe and Mail reported on two new books describing the totalitarian nature of the regime.

“Village informers,” wrote South Africa-based Geoffrey York. “Re-education camps. Networks of spies on the streets. Routine surveillance of the entire population. The crushing of the independent media and all political opposition. A ruler who changes the constitution to extend his power after ruling for two decades. It sounds like North Korea, or the totalitarian days of China under Mao. But this is the African nation of Rwanda — a long-time favourite of Western governments and a major beneficiary of millions of dollars in Canadian government support.”

In 2014 York wrote an investigation headlined “Inside the plots to kill Rwanda’s dissidents,” which provided compelling evidence that the regime had extended its assassination program outside of east Africa, killing (or attempting to) a number of its former top officials who were living in South Africa. After the initial investigation York reported on Rwandan dissidents who had to flee Belgium for their safety while the Toronto Star revealed five individuals in Canada who were fearful of the regime’s killers.

On top of international assassinations and domestic repression, Kagame unleashed mayhem in the Congo. In 1996 Rwandan forces marched 1,500 km to topple the regime in Kinshasa and then re-invaded after the Congolese government it installed expelled Rwandan troops. This led to an eight-country war between 1998 and 2003, which left millions dead. Rwandan proxies repeatedly re-invaded the mineral rich eastern Congo. In 2012 the Globe and Mail described how “Rwandan sponsored” M23 rebels “hold power by terror and violence” there.

Despite the regime’s violence, Governor General Julie Payette traveled to Kigali to meet Kagame in August. She lauded “the long-standing partnership between Canada and Rwanda.”

In November 2017 Rwanda’s Environment Minister visited Ottawa to meet her Canadian counterpart, Catherine McKenna, who lauded “our close friendship.” Later that year defence minister Harjit Sajjan hosted his Rwandan counterpart General James Kabarebe.

In 2015 Kabarebe was arrested in London under a Spanish indictment for war crimes committed between 1990 and 2002 in Rwanda, including the murder of two Quebec priests. Previously, Kabarebe had been the subject of an arrest warrant by a French judge for his role in shooting down President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane, which unleashed the genocidal violence in Spring 1994. A 2012 UN report claimed Kabarebe organized and armed deadly M23 rebels in eastern Congo, labeling Kabarebe “a central player in recruiting on behalf of M23” and noted that “he has often been in direct contact with M23 members on the ground to coordinate military activities.” After former Rwandan spy chief, turned Kagame critic Patrick Karegeya, was strangled to death in a South African hotel in January 2014 Kabarebe said, “when you choose to be a dog, you die like a dog, and the cleaners will wipe away the trash.”

The Rwandan government’s domestic repression, international assassinations and violence in the Congo are well documented. Yet I couldn’t find any criticism of Kagame by the Trudeau government. Instead, Ottawa provides about $25 million annually in assistance to Rwanda.

February 12, 2020 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Leave a comment

Democrats Ignore Trump’s Real Violations

By Ron Paul | February 10, 2020

This week the latest Democratic Party attempt to remove President Trump from office – impeachment over Trump allegedly holding up an arms deal to Ukraine – flopped. Just like “Russiagate” and the Mueller investigation, and a number of other attempts to overturn the 2016 election.

We’ve had three years of accusations and investigations with untold millions of dollars spent in a never-ending Democratic Party effort to remove President Trump from office.

Why do the Democrats keep swinging and missing at Trump? They can’t make a good case for abuse of power because they don’t really oppose Trump’s most egregious abuses of power. Congress, with a few exceptions, strongly supports the President flouting the Constitution when it comes to overseas aggression and shoveling more money into the military-industrial complex.

In April, 2018, President Trump fired 100 Tomahawk missiles into Syria allegedly as punishment for a Syrian government chemical attack in Douma. Though the US was not under imminent threat of attack from Syria, Trump didn’t wait for a Congressional declaration of war on Syria or even an authorization for a missile strike. In fact, he didn’t even wait for an investigation of the event to find out what actually happened! He just decided to send a hundred missiles – at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars – into Syria.

We are now finding out from whistleblowers on the UN team that investigated the alleged attack that the report blaming the Syrian government was falsified and that the whole “attack” was nothing but a false flag operation.

Is such unauthorized aggression against a country with which we are not at war not worth investigating as a potential “high crime” or “misdemeanor”?

Last month, President Trump authorized the assassination of a top Iranian General, Qassim Soleimani, and a top Iraqi military officer inside Iraqi territory while Soleimani was on a diplomatic mission. Trump and his Administration tried to claim that the attack was essential because of an “imminent threat” of a Soleimani attack on US troops in the region.

We found out shortly afterward that they lied about the “imminent threat.” The assassination was not “urgent” – it was planned back in June. Trump then claimed it didn’t matter whether there was an imminent threat: Soleimani was a bad guy so he deserved to be assassinated.

But the attack was an act of war on Iran without Congressional declaration or authorization for war. Is that not perhaps a “high crime” or “misdemeanor”?

We are finding out that, contrary to Trump claims, Soleimani was not even behind the December attack on US troops in Iraq. New evidence suggests it was actually an ISIS operation attempting to goad the US into moving against Iraq’s Shia militias.

Fantasies about Trump being an agent of Putin or trying to get Ukraine to help him win the election are presented as urgent reasons Trump must be removed from office. Real-life violations of the Constitution and reckless militarism that may get us embroiled in another Middle East war are shrugged off as “business as usual” by both Democrats and Republicans in Washington.

Democrats won’t move against Trump for what may be real “high crimes” and “misdemeanors” because they support his overseas aggression. They just wish they were the ones pulling the trigger.

Copyright © 2020 by RonPaul Institute.

February 12, 2020 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , | 3 Comments

Scuffle Between Syrian Civilians and US Soldiers Reflects Increasing Hostility to US Troops

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | February 12, 2020

As resistance to U.S. troop presence in both Iraq and Syria gains steam, a rare scuffle between Syrian civilians and U.S. forces broke out on Wednesday resulting in the death of one Syrian, believed to be a civilian, and the wounding of another. A U.S. soldier was also reportedly injured in the scuffle. The event is likely to escalate tensions, particularly in the Northeastern region where the incident took place, as Syria, Iraq and Iran have pushed for an end to the U.S. troop presence in the region following the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

The clash between U.S. forces and Syrian locals took place near the town of Qamishli where the U.S. forces were conducting a patrol that, for reasons that are still unclear, entered into territory controlled by the Syrian government instead of territory occupied by the U.S. and its regional proxy, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). At a Syrian military checkpoint, the U.S. patrol was met by Syrian civilians of a nearby village who gathered at the checkpoint and began throwing rocks at the U.S. convoy. Then, one Syrian took a U.S. flag off of one of the military vehicles.

Reports from activists on the ground and Syrian media then claim that U.S. troops opened fire using live ammunition and fired smoke bombs at the angry residents, killing one and wounding another. A U.S. soldier was said to have received a superficial wound, though the nature of the wound was not specified. After the scuffle, the protests grew larger, preventing more U.S. troops from arriving at the scene. In one video of the protests, a local was seen ripping a U.S. flag as he approached an American soldier.

The obstruction of the road prevented the U.S. patrol from advancing and two military vehicles had to be towed after becoming stuck in the grass after an apparent attempt to circumvent the roadblock created by the Syrian military checkpoint and supportive Syrian civilians.

A U.S. military spokesman claimed that the convoy encountered “small-arms fire” from “unknown individuals” and further asserted that “In self-defense, coalition troops returned fire… The situation was de-escalated and is under investigation.” However, critics have pointed out that the U.S. military occupation of Syria is illegal under international law and thus does not afford the U.S. military the ability to act in “self-defense” due to its status as an occupier.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated in its report on the incident that the situation was de-escalated following the appearance of a Russian military convoy and asserted that the “small-arms fire” was from pro-government militia members who fired into the air near the convoy. The incident also resulted in a few reports of U.S. coalition airstrikes on the village that occurred after the scuffle. However, both Syrian military sources and the U.S. military have denied that airstrikes took place in the area.

Fallout from Soleimani assassination grows

Though the incident in Qamishli is a rare occurrence, as nearly all media reports have pointed out, it is likely a harbinger of the region-wide push that has seen countries like Syria and Iraq take a firmer posture towards the presence American forces in their countries following the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in January.

At the time of his death, Soleimani, serving in a diplomatic capacity, had traveled to Baghdad in a civilian aircraft and was due to meet Iraq’s Prime Minister to discuss efforts to de-escalate regional tensions and promote Iraqi sovereignty at the time of his death. A well-known Iraqi militia leader, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, who many Iraqis credit with defeating Daesh (ISIS) in Iraq was also killed in the strike. Following the controversial killing of Soleimani by the United States, Iran vowed that it would seek to expel U.S. troops from the region, particularly Syria and Iraq, in retribution, among other measures.

Since Soleimani was killed, the presence of U.S. troops in both Syria and Iraq has been under increasing pressure from locals, particularly in Iraq, where millions of Iraqis recently marched in support of a full U.S. withdrawal from the country.

In Syria, where U.S. troops are occupying territory and specifically oil fields in violation of international law, local tensions with U.S. forces have also been exacerbated by recent events, as Wednesday’s incident in Qamishli clearly shows.

In Iraq, the push to expel U.S. troops has recently spurred reports that have claimed that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from several military installations in Iraq has already begun, according to the chair of Iraq’s parliamentary defense committee, Badr Al-Ziyadi. However, the Pentagon has disputed these reports and has claimed that the U.S. is still actively working with Iraq’s military to fight Daesh. In Syria, both domestic and international law considers the U.S.’ military presence in the country to be that of an illegal occupier.

Notably, both the reports of the U.S. quietly leaving Iraq and the recent incident in Qamishli, Syria follow comments from Iran’s chief foreign policy advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati, that the U.S.’ military presence in both Syria and Iraq would end very soon and specifically cited Soleimani’s assassination as the impetus for their allegedly imminent departure.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

February 12, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Breaking with Washington: Arabs and Muslims Must Take a Stance for Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | February 12, 2020

A negotiated solution to the ‘Palestinian-Israeli conflict’, at least the way envisaged by successive US administrations, has failed. Now, Palestinians and their allies would have to explore a whole new path of liberation that does not go through Washington.

It is easy to place all the blame on the current US administration, setting apart dodgy characters such as the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as the man who has single-handedly diminished any real chances for a just peace in Palestine and Israel.

The truth, however, greatly differs from conveniently molded assumptions. The US-championed ‘peace process’ has been in a hiatus since the last negotiations in 2014. For years prior to the announcement of Donald Trump’s ‘Middle East Plan’ on January 28, Israel did everything in its power to ensure Palestinians can never have a state of their own. Not only did Israeli officials openly speak of their desire to illegally annex much of the occupied territories, but the Israeli government has taken numerous steps to ensure the constant expansion of illegal Jewish settlements.

One would have to be politically naive and morally blind to assume that the Israeli government, at any point in the past, had an iota of interest in a just peace that would guarantee the Palestinian people a minimum amount of dignity, freedom and justice.

Yet, everyone has played along: Israel complained that it has no peace partner while simultaneously entrenching its military occupation and expanding its colonial regime; the Palestinian Authority (PA) of President Mahmoud Abbas ceaselessly waved empty threats, which ultimately amounted to nothing; the Americans urged both parties to return to ‘unconditional negotiations’, all the while funding, to the amount of $3.8 billion [annually], the Israeli military and economy; the United Nations and the European Union followed a predictable political script that was seen as more ‘moderate’ than that of Washington, yet failed to take a single meaningful action to discourage Israel from further violations of international law.

Meanwhile, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), who are arguably Palestine’s more solid and consistent allies, remained marginal and, by far, the least relevant of all parties. Their occasional statements in support of Palestinians and condemnation of the Israeli occupation became so predictable and ineffectual. Aside from Abbas and his Authority, ordinary Palestinians saw no value in verbal support that hardly ever translated into tangible action.

Somehow, this skewed paradigm sustained itself for many years, partly because it suited everyone except the Palestinian people, of course, whose subjugation and humiliation by Israel carried on unhindered.

Presently, there are two different currents fighting to define the situation in Palestine in the post-‘Deal of the Century’ era.

First, Israel and the United States, who are keen to translate the ‘Middle East plan’ into rapid and irreversible action. They are eager to annex the illegal settlements of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley (approximately 30% of the total size of the West Bank). Moreover, Washington would like to see its diligent, clandestine efforts aimed at normalization between Arabs and Israel translate into actual agreements and, eventually, full diplomatic ties.

Second, the Palestinian Authority, the EU, the UN, the Arab League and the OIC, want the ‘Deal of the Century’ defeated, but they have no alternative path to follow. They insist on respect for international law and remain die-hard supporters of the unfeasible two-state paradigm, but they have no actual strategy, let alone an enforcement mechanism to make that happen.

The pro-PA camp reeks with contradictions, that are no less obvious than that of Abbas’ Authority, which speaks of ‘popular resistance’ while, jointly with Israel, is suppressing any attempt aimed at challenging the Israeli occupation.

A perfect example of the contradictions in this camp is that only two days after the Arab League issued its statement rejecting the ‘Deal of the Century’, the head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, met with right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in Uganda. Burhan is hoping to swap normalization with Israel for Washington’s favors.

Another example is reflected in the behavior of Abbas himself, who, on February 1, declared that he would sever all contacts with Israel, including the so-called security coordination, a main pillar in the Oslo agreement, which practically employs PA security forces in the service of the Israeli occupation.

This is not the first time that Abbas has resorted to this lifeline, but he has never gone through with his promises. We have no reason to believe that this time is any different.

There is little hope that the pro-PA camp, as exemplified in the current political structure, can truly defeat the ‘Deal of the Century’.

The final statements resulting from the Arab League summit in Cairo and the OIC summit in Jeddah on February 1 and 3 respectively, is a repeat of numerous past conferences, where promises were made and condemnations were leveled, with no follow-up nor any action.

If Arabs and Muslims are, indeed, sincere in their desire to confront US-Israeli plotting, they ought to go beyond this stifling pattern of impractical politics. It is not enough to reject Washington’s stratagem and to denounce Israeli action. They ought to muster enough courage to turn their statements into an actual, unified strategy, and their strategy into action, using all means at their disposal.

Arab countries enjoy massive economic and political leverage in Washington and throughout the world. What’s the value of all of this leverage if not used in defense of Palestine and her people?

Washington and Tel Aviv are counting on the fact that anger at the ‘Deal of the Century’ among Arabs and Muslims will eventually peter out, exactly as happened after Trump recognized all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving his country’s embassy there in May 2018.

If Arabs and Muslims fail Palestine again, then, once more, the Palestinian people will find themselves alone in this desperate fight, which they have no other alternative but to undergo. And when Palestinians rise, as they surely will, their uprising will challenge not just Israel but the entire regional and international apparatus that allowed the Israeli occupation to go unchallenged for so many years.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU).

February 12, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Zionist War without End

By Jeremy Salt | Palestine Chronicle | February 12, 2020

A reiteration of the war on Palestine, on the Arab world, on the Muslim world, on international law and human rights. There is no other way to describe the Trump-Kushner-Netanyahu ‘deal.’

Media comment centers on the last opportunity for the Palestinians. Will they take the scraps they are offered, or will they miss yet another opportunity to have something taken away from them?

This was the line used over decades by the glib Irish-born Zionist ‘foreign minister,’ Aubrey (Abba) Eban. The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, he said many times. 

In fact, if anyone has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity it is the Zionists. They could have chosen to live with the Palestinians instead. They could have accepted their return after 1948. They could have handed back the land they seized in 1967. They could have honestly engaged with the so-called ‘peace process.’ They could have ended the blockade of Gaza. They could have stopped seizing and settling the land of another people. They could have agreed to share Al Quds. They could have stopped their murders and assassination.

What they could have done they never did. Instead, they headed in the opposite direction,  financed, armed, protected and encouraged by the most powerful nation in the world. 

A vulgarian property developer who once made ads for Pizza Hut has now told his zionist settler sidekick that he can have Palestine with the lot. Nothing is missed out,  not Jerusalem, not the Jordan Valley and not the illegal settlements – the ‘outposts’ –  as well as the legal ones, so says Netanyahu. All are completely illegal, of course,  as is the presence of every settler on occupied land.

This demented agreement was put together by the plastic-faced Jared Kushner, who said, seriously apparently,  that he read all of 25 books to get a handle on the situation. By comparison, Trump is unlikely to have read one so no wonder that he thinks his son-in-law is a genius.

This ‘deal’ – a deal without wheels –  is being taken seriously in the mainstream media. In a way, of course, it has to be taken seriously as the Zionists have the weaponry to do whatever they want, no matter how mad, rapacious or destructive of their own interests in the long term.

And this is something the media seems to have missed. For whom, really, is this plan the last opportunity? The assumption is that it is the Palestinians but have Trump and Kushner noticed that while the Palestinians do not have the weapons, they have the numbers, that already the Muslim-Christian population of Palestine between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river is already greater than the Jewish population.

Silly to ask, but have either of these two taken into account the Muslim hinterland, the Muslim population of the Middle East and North Africa (close to 600 million) and the world Muslim population (about 1.8 billion)? 

By comparison, the Jewish population of occupied Palestine is less than seven million. Far from trying to settle into the Muslim world, over more than seven decades it has done nothing but antagonize it. Like a spoilt child, it then complains that no one likes it, that the real reason for Muslim loathing of the Zionist state is anti-semitism, and not its racist, murderous and thieving behavior.

This is the game played endlessly by the Zionist lobby around the world. It hides behind the symbols of the religion it has hijacked. The Star of David flies from the pennants of the tanks that shell apartment buildings in Gaza and is inscribed on the wings of the planes that destroy entire families with missiles.

It is scrawled triumphantly on the walls of the West Bank. This is the Israel that the lobbyists and the rabbis defended behind their accusations against Jeremy Corbyn. It is he who wanted to end these horrors and they, behind their lies and false accusations of antisemitism against Corbyn and the entire Labor Party wanted to leave the Zionist state free to continue them. It is they who are the racists and anti-Arab Semites, not Jeremy Corbyn.

Palestine remains part of Arab and Islamic history and identity and remains an Arab and Muslim cause whatever the exasperation felt at Arab governments and the bungled and/or collaborationist policies of the Palestinian leadership. 

By themselves, the Palestinians had no hope of resisting the Zionist takeover of their land. Zionism was an imperial project and the Zionist state was sequentially backed by the two mightiest empires on the planet, first Britain and then the United States. No small group of people anywhere would have been able to resist their power.

The greater danger to Israel always lay in the surrounding Arab and Muslim world.  George Habash, the founder of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) was writing in the 1950s that the road to the liberation of Palestine ran through the Arab world and this remains as true today as it was then, although the statement has to be qualified by adding “and the Muslim world.”

Israel understood this just as well as George Habash and knew that if it were to survive in the long term, the Arab world had to be fragmented, subverted,  dominated and kept off balance permanently. This was the sine qua non of Israel’s existence. The ties that bound states together, that bound the region together and connected it with the wider Islamic world had to be broken.

It was not just armies and states that had to be broken but the Arab national idea and the Arab world as a presence in history and a place on the map. It would have to be what Israel and the US wanted it to be. It would have to be remade. 

Towards this end, the zionists were looking for weak links in the chain of Arab states even in the 1930s. They thought they had found the weakest in Lebanon, where they hoped to set up a puppet Christian government. Not only did this not work but since the rise of Hezb0llah, the weakest link in the chain has turned into one of the strongest.

The Yinon Plan of the 1980s set out the strategy in full. All Middle Eastern states were to be subjected to ethnoreligious or tribal division. This broad script was fine-tuned by Netanyahu and the Zionists inside the US administration in the 1990s. 

Iraq was the first of seven states targeted for destruction. The destruction through two wars and a decade of sanctions was enormous but the political strategy failed. The Kurdish state-in-being, planned by the US and Israel as a new center for strategic operations in the Middle East, has collapsed. The Shia-dominated government in Baghdad maintains good relations with Iran and following the assassination of Qasim Soleimani the Iraqi parliament demanded the complete withdrawal of US forces. Millions of people marched through the streets of Iraq’s cities as they did in Iran to mourn the murder of this outstanding military commander. Anti-American feeling in Iraq is at an all-time high.

The war in Syria was designed to bring down the axis of resistance (Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah) at its central arch but that has failed, too. Syria, its people, and its military have resisted the most determined attempt ever made to destroy an Arab government. 

Always popular, Bashar al Assad is now more popular than ever, as the army, backed by Russian airpower, drives the takfiri terrorists from their last redoubt in Idlib province. Syrian cities have been shattered, perhaps half a million people have been killed but the US-Israeli political strategy in Syria has failed too.

For anyone who has been watching closely enough, the wheel of history, once turning in Israel’s favor, has been slowly turning against it for decades. Israel came close to defeat in the first week of the 1973 war. It drove the PLO out of Lebanon only to awaken a far more powerful enemy, Hezbollah. In every war it has fought or operation it has launched, the remorseless use of airpower has been critical. Nevertheless, even with air cover its foot soldiers were driven out of southern Lebanon in 2000 and, outfought by Hezbollah’s part-time soldiers, humiliated again when they returned in 2006.

Hezbollah and Iran have been working for decades on how to neutralize Israel’s air power. If – or once – they succeed in doing this, Israel is going to be in deep trouble on the battlefield. 

Threatened repeatedly with destruction by the US and Israel, Iran has had to develop a new range of missiles capable of causing devastation to US bases, aircraft and warships in the region. The retaliation which followed the murder of Qasim Soleimani was an example. The Americans failed to stop even one of the Iranian missiles directed against two of its bases in Iraq. 

Aircraft were destroyed in their hangars and while no soldiers were killed – so the US government says – dozens suffered severe brain injuries, apparently from concussion, with a number being flown to Germany for emergency treatment. Iran says the casualties were far greater than the US is prepared to admit.

Hezbollah has its own stocks of missiles, far greater in number and sophistication than in 2006, and has its targets already worked out for when the next war comes. As Israel’s military commanders are making clear, the next war is a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if.’ They are warning the civilian population to be prepared for the unprecedented scale of the casualties they are going to suffer.

So, for whom is the bell really tolling now, the Palestinians or the Zionists? Gideon Levy writes that the Kushner-Trump deal is likely to trigger a third nakba. This is incorrect, as there has only been one nakba, continuing now for more than seven decades.

David Hearst, writing in Middle East Eye, thinks all the Palestinians have to sit tight, because, between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, they are going to win the war of numbers, if they haven’t won it already. By implication, once the war of numbers is won, the war itself is won. The Zionist state will see reason and turn itself into the secular democratic state the Palestinians always wanted, with equal rights for all. Given that they would be the majority, they would have to be the dominant element in any freely-elected government. The Zionist dream-nightmare would be over.

This is not likely to happen. Zionism is an extreme ideology and the politicians running the Zionist state now are the most extreme since its foundation. They are not going to surrender because of demographics. They will simply try harder to overcome the problem. They still want all the Palestinians out of Palestine or at the very least reduced to an inconsequential ethnic remnant. Between the apartheid state and the democratic state, this is their preferred solution.

What they need is another war enabling them to strike down their external enemies and simultaneously solve the ‘Palestine problem’ once and for all. If (or rather when) such a war does break out, Hezbollah will swamp the Zionist state with missiles in such numbers as to overwhelm its defense systems. 

The Palestinians will be determined to stay put but in the fog of war, while the world is looking elsewhere, at missile attacks on US bases and soaring oil prices following the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, perhaps they can again be terrorized into leaving. Even the most steadfast Palestinians have families to protect and if they won’t go then the level of terror only has to be increased until they do. This is the evil calculus applied before and likely to be applied again once the opportunity arises or, more accurately, can be created.

Who wants such a war? Not the Palestinians, and not Hezbollah or Iran although they have had no option but to prepare for it. Who has set up the conditions for such a war, decade after decade to the point where it has to be regarded as inevitable unless ‘the Arabs’ and the Muslims really are the useless orientals of the western imagination, there to be kicked around endlessly? Israel has, by its disgraceful behavior.

So has the US and so has the ‘west’ in general, its governments, its media and its institutions (where has the UN Secretary-General, the moral guardian of peace in the world, been during the eight atrocious years of war on Syria? Hiding in a cupboard?). It is ‘the west’ generically which created Israel, and has allowed it to get away with wars, ethnic cleansing, massacres, assassination and occupation generation after generation.

Perhaps a shattering setback is all that will bring this utterly dangerous state to its senses. Of course, there is always the possibility that it will go completely off the edge and use its nuclear weapons, turning the central lands of the Middle East into a wasteland but at least taking its enemies down with it in the most pyrrhic of victories. These are grim possibilities but they have to be taken seriously.    

– Jeremy Salt taught at the University of Melbourne, at Bosporus University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara for many years, specializing in the modern history of the Middle East. Among his recent publications is his 2008 book, The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (University of California Press).

February 12, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 2 Comments

In ‘victory for international law’, UN releases list of firms linked to Israeli settlements

Press TV – February 12, 2020

The United Nations human rights office has released a report identifying companies with business ties to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, a move hailed by Palestinians as a victory for international law.

The office said in a statement on Wednesday that it had named 112 business entities, including 94 based in Israel and 18 others in six different countries. It said it had reasonable grounds to conclude that the firms have ties with Israeli settlements.

“I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday.

The office said, “While the settlements as such are regarded as illegal under international law, this report does not provide a legal characterization of the activities in question, or of business enterprises’ involvement in them.”

The move was hailed by the Palestinian foreign minister, who described it as a victory.

“The publication of the list of companies and parties operating in settlements is a victory for international law,” Riyad al-Maliki’s office said in a statement.

The minister also called on UN member states and the UN Human Rights council to “issue recommendations and instructions to these companies to end their work immediately with the settlements.”

The newly released report drew condemnation from Tel Aviv, with Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz saying in a statement, “The announcement by the UN Human Rights Office of the publication of a ‘blacklist’ of businesses is shameful capitulation to pressure from countries and organizations that are interested in hurting Israel.”

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.


Below is the full list of companies that do business in illegal Jewish settlements, as indicated in the OHCHR report

Afikim Public Transportation Ltd.

Airbnb Inc.

American Israeli Gas Corporation Ltd.

Amir Marketing and Investments in Agriculture Ltd.

Amos Hadar Properties and Investments Ltd.

Angel Bakeries

Archivists Ltd.

Ariel Properties Group

Ashtrom Industries Ltd.

Ashtrom Properties Ltd.

Avgol Industries 1953 Ltd.

Bank Hapoalim B.M.

Bank Leumi Le-Israel B.M.

Bank of Jerusalem Ltd.

Beit Haarchiv Ltd.

Bezeq, the Israel Telecommunication

Corp Ltd.

Booking.com B.V.

C Mer Industries Ltd.

Café Café Israel Ltd.

Caliber 3

Cellcom Israel Ltd.

Cherriessa Ltd.

Chish Nofei Israel Ltd.

Citadis Israel Ltd.

Comasco Ltd.

Darban Investments Ltd.

Delek Group Ltd.

Delta Israel

Dor Alon Energy in Israel 1988 Ltd.

Egis Rail

Egged, Israel Transportation Cooperative Society Ltd.

Energix Renewable Energies Ltd.

EPR Systems Ltd.

Extal Ltd.

Expedia Group Inc.

Field Produce Ltd.

Field Produce Marketing Ltd.

First International Bank of Israel Ltd.

Galshan Shvakim Ltd.

General Mills Israel Ltd.

Hadiklaim Israel Date Growers Cooperative Ltd.

Hot Mobile Ltd.

Hot Telecommunications Systems Ltd.

Industrial Buildings Corporation Ltd.

Israel Discount Bank Ltd.

Israel Railways Corporation Ltd.

Italek Ltd.

JC Bamford Excavators Ltd.

Jerusalem Economy Ltd.

Kavim Public Transportation Ltd.

Lipski Installation and Sanitation Ltd.

Matrix IT Ltd.

Mayer Davidov Garages Ltd.

Mekorot Water Company Ltd.

Mercantile Discount Bank Ltd.

Merkavim Transportation Technologies Ltd.

Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd.

Modi’in Ezrachi Group Ltd.

Mordechai Aviv Taasiot Beniyah 1973 Ltd.

Motorola Solutions Israel Ltd.

Municipal Bank Ltd.

Naaman Group Ltd.

Nof Yam Security Ltd.

Ofertex Industries 1997 Ltd.

Opodo Ltd.

Bank Otsar Ha-Hayal Ltd.  

Partner Communications Company Ltd.

Paz Oil Company Ltd.

Pelegas Ltd.

Pelephone Communications Ltd.

Proffimat S.R. Ltd.

Rami Levy Chain Stores Hashikma Marketing 2006 Ltd.

Rami Levy Hashikma Marketing Communication Ltd.

Re/Max Israel

Shalgal Food Ltd.

Shapir Engineering and Industry Ltd.

Shufersal Ltd.

Sonol Israel Ltd.

Superbus Ltd.

Tahal Group International B.V.

TripAdvisor Inc.

Twitoplast Ltd.

Unikowsky Maoz Ltd.

YES

Zakai Agricultural Know-how and inputs Ltd.

ZF Development and Construction

ZMH Hammermand Ltd.

Zorganika Ltd.

Zriha Hlavin Industries Ltd.

Alon Blue Square Israel Ltd.

Alstom S.A.

Altice Europe N.V.

Amnon Mesilot Ltd.

Ashtrom Group Ltd.

Booking Holdings Inc.

Brand Industries Ltd.

Delta Galil Industries Ltd.

eDreams ODIGEO S.A.

Egis S.A.

Electra Ltd.

Export Investment Company Ltd.

General Mills Inc.

Hadar Group

Hamat Group Ltd.

Indorama Ventures P.C.L.

Kardan N.V.

Mayer’s Cars and Trucks Co. Ltd.

Motorola Solutions Inc.

Natoon Group

Villar International Ltd.

Greenkote P.L.C.

February 12, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No military aspect to Iran’s satellite carriers: Defense minister

Press TV – February 12, 2020

Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami says Iran’s satellite carriers have nothing to do with its military activities and lie completely outside the country’s defensive practices.

“The satellite carriers have nothing to do with the subject of missiles, and constitute a completely non-defensive and non-military issue,” Hatami said following a government meeting in Tehran on Wednesday.

According to the defense chief, a satellite might be used for defense-related purposes, but the carriers are totally non-defensive in nature.

On Sunday, the Iranian Space Agency said the country had launched its domestically-made Zafar satellite using a Simorgh satellite carrier, but that the missile had fallen short of reaching the designated orbit.

The agency added that the data from the launch would be used to optimize future launch attempts.

As with every country that has experimented with satellites, the Iranian nation likewise has a vested right to avail itself of the technology, he added, noting that the country would, therefore, strongly pursue its relevant plans in this regard.

The Iranian defense minister was apparently reacting to claims made by France and the US about Tehran’s space program following the launch.

Reacting to the launch on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of trying to improve its ballistic missile skills through the satellite launch and vowed to exert more pressure.

A day earlier, France also criticized the launch and suggested that it was inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which “calls upon” Iran not to undertake any activity related to missiles “designed to be capable of” delivering nuclear weapons.”

Commenting on Iran’s missile activities, Hatami noted that the defense program was in complete accord with international regulations that prohibit the development of projectiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

“Nothing of the kind exists in the Islamic Republic,” Hatami said. “All of our missiles, which we take pride in and which constitute an important factor of Iran’s defense and military power, are made with conventional warheads.”

“The projectiles are high in precision, something that the Americans came in proper touch with at Ain al-Assad [Airbase],” he said.

The US airbase, which is located in Iraq’s western Anbar Province, and another American outpost in the Arab country’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region came under retaliatory ballistic missile strikes by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) last month.

The strikes were prompted by the US assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, and a number of others in a set of drone strikes targeting Baghdad’s civilian airport.

“We do not need anything beyond this. Our missiles are precision-guided and fitted with conventional warheads,” Hatami added.

The Islamic Republic, he added, was likely to launch its Zafar (Triumph)-2 Satellite in the beginning of the next year on board Simorq (Phoenix) Satellite Carrier.

The official said the country considered the vehicle and satellite technology to be one of the subject matters of its research activities.

He said the Islamic Republic would pursue the research “until it reaches a stable stage,” and the country attains the ability to “do this in the form of a sustained practice.”

February 12, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Syrian army only targets terrorists, who are still active in Idlib despite de-escalation agreement with Turkey – Kremlin

RT | February 12, 2020

The Syrian army carries out attacks against terrorists in the Idlib province, not civilians , Kremlin said after Turkey threatened Damascus with military action, accusing it of shelling its soldiers.

Turkey has failed to clear the de-escalation zone in Syria’s Idlib Province of jihadist groups, despite promising to do so under the 2018 ceasefire agreement reached by Moscow and Ankara, the spokesperson for the Kremlin Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

“These groups are still attacking the Syrian forces from Idlib, as well as conducting aggressive actions against our military sites,” he said.

Erdogan has been accusing the Syrian army of shelling Turkish soldiers and of bombing villages. On Wednesday, he threatened to strike Syrian government forces in Idlib and beyond if Turkish troops are harmed.

The Kremlin’s spokesperson denied that Damascus deliberately targets anyone except the militants. “The Syrian army’s strikes in Idlib are strikes against terrorists, not civilians,” Peskov said.

As for the shelling of Turkish forces, Moscow said that one such confirmed incident had occurred because Ankara failed to properly notify the Syrian military about its troop movements.

February 12, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | Leave a comment

New leaks shatter OPCW’s attacks on Douma whistleblowers

By Aaron Maté | The Grayzone | February 11, 2020

For the past year, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been roiled by allegations that it manipulated an investigation to falsely accuse the Syrian government of a chemical weapons attack. An OPCW report released in March 2019 lent credence to claims by Islamist militants and Western governments that the Syrian military killed around 40 civilians with toxic gas in the city of Douma in April 2018. The accusation against Damascus led to U.S.-led military strikes on Syrian government sites that same month.

But leaked internal documents published by WikiLeaks show that OPCW inspectors who deployed to Douma rejected the official story, and complained that higher-level officials excluded them from the post-mission process, distorted key evidence, and ignored their findings.

After months of virtual silence, the OPCW has responded with an internal inquiry that lambasts two veteran officials who raised internal objections, attacking their credibility and qualifications. The OPCW’s self-described “independent investigation” describes the pair as rogue, low-level actors who played minor roles in the Douma mission and lacked access to crucial evidence. In a briefing to member states, OPCW Director General Fernando Arias dismissed them as disgruntled ex-employees. The two “are not whistle-blowers,” Arias said. “They are individuals who could not accept that their views were not backed by evidence.”

But a leaked document calls Arias’s assertions into serious question. Ian Henderson, one of the two inspectors, recently addressed a special session of the United Nations Security Council with his concerns about the Douma mission. Henderson submitted a supplemental written account that was distributed among participating UN member states and obtained by The Grayzone. It offers the most extensive and detailed account of the internal dispute over the OPCW’s Douma investigation to date.

The full leaked testimony can be read here (PDF).

Henderson provides a thorough timeline that bolsters suspicions that the OPCW leadership covered up a staged deception in Douma. Combined with the available record – which includes other OPCW leaks, as well as Arias’s and the OPCW’s own statements – Henderson’s account firmly demonstrates that he and a fellow dissenting colleague occupied veteran leadership roles inside the organization, including during the Douma fact-finding mission.

Henderson also exposes key gaps in the OPCW’s inquiry, which fails to specifically address the revelations that critical evidence was kept out of the OPCW’s published reports; that key findings were manipulated – and that all of this occurred under sustained U.S. government pressure.

In addition to Henderson’s complete testimony, The Grayzone has obtained a chilling email from a third former OPCW official. The former official, who worked in a senior role, blamed external pressure and potential threats to their family for their failure to speak out about the corruption of the Douma investigation.

This official was not among the pair of dissenting inspectors targeted by the inquiry. The email corroborates complaints by Henderson and his colleague about senior management’s suppression of evidence collected by the team that deployed to Syria.

‘I Fear Those Behind the Crimes’

In his briefing about the investigation of the inspectors, Arias, the OPCW director-general, described the pair as stubborn actors “who took matters into their own hands and committed a breach of their obligations to the Organization.” He characterized their behavior as “egregious.”

But leaked documents and testimony point to an OPCW leadership that has committed egregious acts of its own, including intimidating internal dissenters.

In an email obtained by The Grayzone,a former senior OPCW official described their tenure at the OPCW as “the most stressful and unpleasant ones of [their] life,” and expressed deep shame about the state of the organization they departed in disgust.

“I fear those behind the crimes that have been perpetrated in the name of ‘humanity and democracy,’” the official confided, “they will not hesitate to do harm to me and my family, they have done worse, many times, even in the UK… I don’t want to expose myself and my family to their violence and revenge, I don’t want to live in fear of crossing the street!”

The former OPCW senior official went on to denounce the removal of members of the original fact-finding team to Syria “from the decision making process and management of the most critical operations…” This tracks with complaints expressed in leaked OPCW documents that superiors who had not been a part of the investigation in Douma marginalized those who had.

The atmosphere of intimidation was confirmed by a second member of the OPCW’s original fact-finding mission to Douma. The whistleblower, identified by the pseudonym “Alex,” spoke to the journalist Jonathan Steele and to a panel convened by the Courage Foundation in October 2019. Alex revealed that a delegation of three U.S. officials visited the OPCW at The Hague on July 5, 2018. They implored the dissenting inspectors to accept the view that the Syrian government carried out a gas attack in Douma and chided them for failing to reach that conclusion. According to Steele, Alex and the other inspectors saw the meeting as “unacceptable pressure.” In his statement to the UN Security Council, Henderson confirmed that he attended the meeting.

The U.S. intervention at the OPCW could possibly violate the chemical weapons convention, which forbids state parties from attempting to influence investigations. It would not be the first time Washington has attempted to bully the OPCW into submission. In 2002, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the George W. Bush administration engineered the ouster of the OPCW’s first director-general, Jose Bustani. The Bush administration was concerned that Bustani’s negotiations with Iraq about allowing international inspectors could undermine its plans for war.

Bustani later revealed that John Bolton, then an under secretary of state, had personally threatened him and his family with violent retaliation. The U.S. pressure on the OPCW over Douma also took place under Bolton’s watch. When the U.S. bombed Syria in April 2018 and pressured OPCW officials just three months later, Bolton was in the midst of his first months as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser. (Bustani, meanwhile, was among a group of panelists who heard direct testimony from Alex at a gathering convened by the Courage Foundation in October 2019.)

OPCW’s Inconsistency on ‘Inspector A’

The OPCW’s internal inquiry goes to great lengths to denigrate and discredit the two former staffers who challenged the official story on Douma. It refers to its two targets as “Inspector A” and “Inspector B.” The latter’s identity has not been publicly confirmed. “A” is Ian Henderson, a South African engineer and veteran OPCW official with extensive military experience.

Henderson’s written testimony to the United Nations, obtained by The Grayzone, undercuts the negative portrayal of his former managers, and offers a window into the pressure campaign and cover-up that he and his colleagues faced.

A suppressed internal study by Henderson first brought the OPCW scandal to public attention. In May 2018, an engineering assessment bearing Henderson’s name was leaked to a group of British academics, the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media. The document is a detailed engineering analysis of two gas cylinders found at the scene of the alleged attacks in Douma. Whereas the OPCW’s final March 2019 report concluded that the cylinders were likely dropped from the air, Henderson found that there is “a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed… rather than being delivered from aircraft.” The OPCW’s final report made no mention of this conclusion.

The inference of Henderson’s study is that the attack was staged by the armed opposition. At the time, Douma was under the control of the extremist Saudi-backed militia, Jaysh Al-Islam, and was on the brink of being re-taken by Syrian government forces.

From a political and military standpoint, a chemical weapons attack was the most self-destructive and unnecessary action the Syrian military could possibly take. From the standpoint of a foreign-backed militia on the verge of defeat, however, staging a chemical attack was a desperate Hail Mary operation that offered the hope of U.S. military invention in accordance with Washington’s “red line” policy. The suspected gambit by Jaysh Al-Islam appeared to have paid off when the Trump administration accepted its claims that a chemical attack had killed dozens of civilians in Douma, and initiated cruise missile strikes in response. Yet the U.S.-led attacks failed to prevent the Syrian government from retaking Douma and the whole of eastern Damascus. Within days, Western reporters had entered the area and were able to access local eyewitnesses who claimed that the chemical attack was a staged deception.

Henderson was among the first OPCW staffers to visit the site of the alleged attack in Douma. However, the OPCW inquiry dismissed Henderson’s role in the Douma probe, characterizing his engineering study as a personal, rogue operation. Henderson, the inquiry said, “was not a member of the FFM [Fact Finding Mission]” that deployed to Douma, and only “played a minor supporting role.”

There is ample evidence that contradicts this characterization. In his written UN testimony, Henderson revealed that he served in five Douma deployments as part of the FFM. This includes three instances as a sub-team leader for critical operations: visiting a suspected chemical weapons production site in Douma; conducting interviews and taking chemical samples at the Douma hospital; taking detailed measurements at one of the sites; and inspecting, itemizing, and securing the two cylinders that were removed from the sites of the alleged gas attack. The notion that he “was not a member” of the mission that he played such an active role in strains credulity.

leaked email shows that at least one of Henderson’s colleagues protested a previous instance in which the OPCW leadership attempted to minimize his role. The “falsehood… that Ian did not form part of the Douma FFM team,” the colleague complained, was “patently untrue” and “pivotal in discrediting him and his work.”

The inquiry also falsely insinuated that Henderson was a low-level official. While acknowledging that Henderson served as an OPCW team leader during his first tenure with the OPCW from 1997 to 2005, the inquiry said that he was “rehired at a lower level” when he returned in 2016, and remained there until his departure in May 2019. Yet the OPCW’s own documents from that latter period showed that Henderson was described as an “OPCW Inspection Team Leader” as late as February 2018, just two months before his deployment to Douma as part of the OPCW’s Fact-Finding Mission (FFM). According to his UN testimony, Henderson served as an inspection team leader for multiple inspections of Syrian laboratory facilities at Barzaeh and Jamrayah in November 2017 and in November 2018, after the U.S. bombed Barzeh on dubious grounds.

After casting doubt on Henderson’s status within the organization, the OPCW inquiry dismissed his engineering report as “a personal document created with incomplete information and without authorisation.” Henderson, the investigators said, defied higher-level officials’ orders and conducted a study on his own with outside contractors.

In his briefing to member states on the inquiry’s findings, OPCW Director General Fernando Arias echoed this conclusion, describing Henderson’s report as “a purported document disseminated outside the Organisation.”

But Arias’ statements today contradict his own words from less than a year ago. Just days after Henderson’s report was leaked in May 2019, Arias delivered an extensive briefing and announced that an inquiry into the disclosure was underway. Arias made no claims of Henderson going rogue, and described his report as an “internal document… produced by a staff member.” It is unclear how Henderson’s report went from an “internal document” by an OPCW staffer in May 2019 to a “purported document disseminated outside the Organisation” in February 2020. Arias has not explained this discrepancy.

In his latest missive, Arias has offered a completely new rationale for keeping Henderson’s report from the public. In May 2019, Arias stated that because Henderson’s report “pointed at possible attribution,” it was therefore “outside of the mandate of the FFM [Fact-Finding Mission] with regard to the formulation of its findings.” The FFM is prevented from assigning blame to parties involved in chemical attacks. However, the OPCW’s published conclusion suggested the Syrian government was to blame for the attack – an act of attribution – since the Syrian military (or its Russian ally) was the only warring party in Douma with aircraft. Even more curiously, by accusing Henderson of freebooting and “subterfuge,” Arias and his organization’s independent inquiry has now offered a completely different explanation than it previously had for the omission of Henderson’s report.

Why Was Critical Evidence Excluded?

In yet another highly dubious assertion, the OPCW inquiry claimed Henderson “did not have access to all of the information gathered by the FFM team, including witness interviews, laboratory results, and assessments by independent experts regarding the two cylinders — all of which became known to the team after [Henderson] had stopped providing support to the FFM investigation.”

But an important piece of context is missing from this salvo: by the time Henderson carried through on his study in summer 2018, he and other members of the FFM had already complained to the OPCW leadership that their findings were being manipulated and suppressed.

According to Henderson’s testimony, a draft interim report circulated in June 2018 was subjected to “last-minute unexpected modifications” that were “contrary to the consensus that had been reached within the team.” This included a change to “reflect a conclusion that chlorine had been released from cylinders,” which was not consistent with the findings at that stage. An intervention by one of the FFM team members, possibly Inspector B, forced FFM team leader Sami Barrek to revise the interim report before its eventual release on July 6, 2018.

Despite agreeing to hear his team’s objections, Barrek personally blocked critical evidence that conflicted with the official story of Syrian government responsibility. One email chain revealed that Barrek resisted pleas from an inspector to include the relatively low levels of chemicals found in Douma. Alex, the anonymous second OPCW whistleblower, told journalist Jonathan Steele that chlorinated organic chemicals at the scene “were no higher than you would expect in any household environment.”

Another leaked document showed the OPCW had consulted with toxicologists in June 2018 to determine whether symptoms observed in victims were consistent with exposure to chlorine. According to minutes of that meeting, “the experts were conclusive in their statements that there was no correlation between symptoms and chlorine exposure.” But these critical findings, which dramatically undercut the official narrative, were inexplicably omitted from both the interim and final report.

 ‘Core’ Cover-up Team 

One day after U.S. officials attempted to bully OPCW staff into submission on July 5, 2018, an interim report on Douma was published that reflected some of the inspectors’ key objections, albeit with watered-down language and significant omissions. A critical change then took place. OPCW officials announced that the ensuing final report would be drafted by a “core team” that was separate from the one which deployed to Douma. That left the core team without any of the FFM members who had been on the ground at the site of the supposed attack, with the exception of one paramedic. Henderson told the UN that the move deprived the core team of anyone qualified to conduct the needed engineering assessments on the chlorine cylinders that were said to have been dropped in Douma.

With superiors omitting critical information, Douma inspectors excluded from the so-called “core” team, and U.S. officials applying direct pressure, Henderson attempted to carry on with his report. Despite the inquiry’s claims, Henderson presented evidence to the UN that his work was approved by his superiors. Henderson reported that he held several meetings with top OPCW officials beginning in late summer 2018, where he informed them of his study and relayed concerns about the methodologies of the then-FFM team leader. Henderson said he was told by the then-Chief of Cabinet Sebastien Braha: “I don’t see why both studies can’t be done.” Henderson took that as a green light.

Henderson completed his engineering study in January 2019 and submitted a “detailed executive summary” for peer review. OPCW colleagues, including members of the Douma FFM, an unidentified former “core team” former inspector, and other “trusted [Technical Secretariat] staff members who had expertise in specific areas,” studied Henderson’s work and offered written feedback.

“This review was considered necessary and responsible,” Henderson wrote, “in that I knew (after the analysis had been completed) that these would be unpopular findings; therefore, I wanted to make sure there were no objections to any of the facts, observations, methodology used or findings reported in the summary.”

In its bid to portray Henderson’s engineering study as the work of a disconnected freelancer, the OPCW’s inquiry strangely made no mention of this peer review.

When he met with FFM team leader Sami Barrek the following month, Henderson ran into more obstructions. Barrek flatly rejected Henderson’s report, “stating that he had been instructed not to accept it.” Alarmed by the possibility that the OPCW would soon release a final report without a sound engineering assessment, Henderson submitted a physical copy to the OPCW’s Documents Registry Archive, and alerted management by email.

It was then that another hostile response arrived from above. Braha, the chief of cabinet, emailed back an order: “Please get this document out of DRA (Documents Registry Archive) … And please remove all traces, if any, of its delivery/storage/whatever in DRA.”

Days later, on March 1, 2019, the OPCW’s final report was released. Omitting Henderson’s engineering findings, it reached a conclusion that contradicted that of its own inspectors. According to the report, the investigation found that there were “reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place…This toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine.” For its analysis of the cylinders, the report claims it relied on “three independent analyses” without specifying them and only directly citing one.

This raises an ineluctable question: why did the OPCW rely on three unspecified “independent analyses” from outside experts who never set foot in Douma, rather than on the evidence-based reports of a veteran OPCW staffer and his colleagues who investigated the site of the supposed attack? The OPCW has yet to offer an explanation.

“I was shocked by the decision to release the report without having taken into account the engineering report, as all the FFM management knew it had been submitted,” Henderson recounted in his UN testimony. “I had expected the report to reflect the situation that had been the consensus of the Douma FFM team after the deployments, and for the assessment of the cylinders to be consistent with the findings of the engineering assessment, but found the complete opposite. I saw what I considered to be superficial and flawed analysis in the section on the cylinders.”

Henderson tried to resolve his concerns internally. He met with at least six high-level officials, and sought a meeting with Arias. A senior manager angrily rebuffed that request, telling Henderson that “you will never get to the director-general, and if you try and go around me to get to him, there will be consequences.” Henderson also submitted a detailed dossier outlining his concerns to the acting director of the Office of Internal Oversight, which was later rejected.

Perhaps most critically, Henderson sought a meeting where the drafters of the FFM report – the “core” team that had excluded all but one member of the team that visited Douma  –  “would explain what new information had been provided or new analysis conducted, that had turned around the situation from what had appeared to be clear at the end of deployments to Douma.”

Henderson also requested an opportunity to hear from the “three experts” who had conducted the engineering studies cited by the FFM’s final report. “This would be a technical discussion, comparing the information and inputs used and methodology applied, and interpretation of results, and would very quickly identify any flawed approaches and would help clarify the situation,” Henderson recalled.

“Throughout this period, I acknowledged there was a possibility that I could be wrong, but stressed that I was not the only one with concerns,” he added. “Investigating the situation would bring things to light and potentially defuse the situation.”

But Henderson’s requests were denied. “Whilst many in management were shocked and concerned, and all expressed sympathy with my concerns,” Henderson told the UN, “the responses I received included ‘this is too big;’ ‘it’s too late now;’ ‘this would not be good for the [Technical Sectrariat’s] reputation;’ ‘don’t make yourself a martyr;’ and ‘but this would play into the Russian narrative.’”

leaked memo written by Henderson to Arias, the OPCW director general, in March 2019, captures his contemporaneous objections. The final report, Henderson wrote, “does not reflect the views of all the team members that deployed to Douma,” a view he said was shared by about 20 inspectors. (Alex relayed a similar account to Jonathan Steele: “Most of the Douma team felt the two reports on the incident, the Interim Report and the Final Report, were scientifically impoverished, procedurally irregular and possibly fraudulent.”) On top of the fact the report was written by a “core” team that excluded all but one Douma inspector, Henderson complained that its authors “had only operated in Country X” – believed to be Turkey.

Arias instructed Henderson to submit his report to the newly formed Investigation and Identification Team, which had been mandated to further investigate the Douma attack. The IIT met with Henderson in March 2019 and accepted a copy of his report. But two months later, Henderson was suspended and removed from the OPCW building after a leaked copy of his engineering assessment was published on the internet. The OPCW’s inquiry does not accuse Henderson of responsibility for the leak.

Conspicuous Claims About ‘Inspector B’

Less is known about “Inspector B,” the second OPCW inspector targeted by the inquiry. It is possible, though unconfirmed, that B is the same person as “Alex,” the aforementioned Douma team member turned whistleblower. Like Henderson, B has been with the OPCW since its formation. The inquiry notes that B initially served from July 1998 to December 2011, including as Team Leader, and then again from September 2015 until August 2018.

As with Henderson, the inquiry attempted to portray Inspector B as a marginal figure in the Douma inquiry who went rogue after he had left the OPCW. While acknowledging that he was a member of the FFM team that deployed to Syria in April 2018, the report said that B “never left the command post in Damascus,” and therefore did not visit Douma.

By the OPCW’s own standards, however, that was hardly disqualifying: Sami Barrek, the FFM team leader, was only in Damascus for three days and departed before his team members – including Henderson – first reached Douma. Yet Barrek was tasked with drafting the final report, and, as leaked emails show, faced internal complaints that he excluded critical evidence.

According to the Working Group, the British academic collective that received and published Henderson’s leaked report, Barrek subsequently visited Turkey where he met with members of the White Helmets. The White Helmets are a Western government-funded organization known for carrying out rescue operations in areas under the control of foreign-backed anti-government militias. As The Grayzone has reported, the U.S.- and U.K.-funded White Helmets have operated alongside extremist militants during Syria’s proxy war, and been used for propaganda efforts to promote U.S. military intervention and sanctions on Syria. In the case of Douma, the White Helmets participated in a staged video to create the appearance that a local hospital was treating victims of a chemical attack.

Conspicuously, the inquiry offered no specifics on what “Inspector B” did in Damascus or his role in the FFM. This omission could be seen as an indication that an accurate description of his role would reveal that he played a significant one. The inquiry noted that he “was involved in the drafting of the interim report on the Douma incident” – but did not offer further details. It seems unlikely that someone with a limited role in the investigation would have been entrusted to participate in drafting the public report on its findings.

As with its portrayal of Henderson, the inquiry claimed that the FFM “undertook the bulk of its analytical work, examined a large number of witness interviews, and received the results of sampling and analysis,” in the months after Inspector B was no longer involved. But it had nothing to say about Inspector B departing only after raising concerns that the Douma team’s analytical work was manipulated and excluded, including on vital chemical samples. Accordingly, the fact that more work was done after B’s ouster did not resolve his concerns; if anything, it only raised further questions about the OPCW’s faulty final product.

Western Media Outlets Complicit in Cover-up

The OPCW’s unprecedented rebuke of two career officials has received a warm reception in mainstream media outlets that have carefully ignored the OPCW scandal to date, turning a blind eye as one explosive internal document after another appeared on WikiLeaks. 

Though the scandal was itself a product of disclosures by the OPCW’s own staff, The Guardian bizarrely described it  instead as “a Russia-led campaign” that has now “been dealt a blow” by the OPCW’s inquiry. The New York Times published reports by Reuters and the Associated Press that also aired the inquiry’s conclusions without a scintilla of critical scrutiny.

At a time when whistleblowing is supposed to be held in high esteem, the Western political and media establishment’s flagrant disinterest and disregard for the two dissenting inspectors and the explosive leaked documents is glaring. This carries significant dangers.

As the email by a “former senior official at the OPCW” – someone who was not among the pair of dissenting inspectors – made clear, fear within the organization is almost as profound as the pressure to self-censor and conform to the dominant narrative.

The experience of the OPCW’s first director-general, Jose Bustani – who was ousted from his position after direct threats from John Bolton to him and his family – attests to the threats these new whistleblowers face. When Bustani heard Alex’s testimony, he came away from the meeting firmly convinced that something had gone extremely wrong at the OPCW.

“The convincing evidence of irregular behaviour in the OPCW investigation of the alleged Douma chemical attack confirms doubts and suspicions I already had,” Bustani said after the session. “The picture is certainly clearer now, although very disturbing.” Bustani added that he hoped the Douma revelations “will catalyse a process by which the [OPCW] can be resurrected to become the independent and non-discriminatory body it used to be.”

In his statement to the United Nations, Henderson echoed this sentiment. The ousted expert called on the United Nations to allow for a scientific, peer review process to weigh his report against the three “independent experts” whom the OPCW claimed to rely on for its final report. The “method of scientific rigour,” Henderson wrote, “dictates that one side cannot profess to be the sole owner of the truth.

“Should an independent scientific panel be allowed, he concluded, “I have no doubt that this would successfully clarify what happened in Douma.”

With his explosive UN testimony and the leaks that preceded it, Ian Henderson and his colleagues have made clear that the OPCW experts who deployed to Syria are determined to bring the cover-up of an elaborate deception to light.

February 12, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment