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Mistrial declared in case of anti-coup activists arrested in DC police raid on Venezuelan Embassy

RT | February 15, 2020

Jurors who heard the case of the four activists who were invited by Caracas to protect the Venezuelan Embassy in the US capital – only to be nabbed in a police raid on the compound – failed to reach a verdict due to a hung jury.

Four members of the ‘Embassy Protection Collective’ – Adrienne Pine, Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers and David Paul – are each facing a year in prison and a $100,000 fine if found guilty of interfering with the US State Department’s attempt to seize the compound and hand it over to the “ambassador” of Venezuela, “appointed” by opposition leader Juan Guaido.

However, the jurors selected to hear the case apparently were not convinced by the regime-change narrative on Venezuela championed by the Trump administration and adopted by the prosecution team, and as the time came to deliver a verdict on Friday, they failed to do so.

Journalist Max Blumenthal, who reported from the courtroom, said that the prosecution put forward a series of dubious arguments – such as that the Guaido-appointed “ambassador” was seeking a “return” of the embassy, despite the fact it had never been controlled by the US-backed opposition in the first place.

According to Blumenthal, Judge Beryl Howell, who presided over the case, argued that since Trump was president, it was his right to recognize or un-recognize foreign heads of state at will. Ironically telling the courtroom that “elections matter,” she appeared to ignore the fact that incumbent Venezuela leader Nicolas Maduro was reelected for a second six-year term in May 2018, while Guaido – who declared himself ‘interim president’ one year ago – was ousted as the head of the opposition-led National Assembly last month in a vote by fellow MPs.

With the jury unable to come to a consensus, a new trial date will be decided on February 28. It’s so far unclear whether the case will proceed at all, however.

The activists themselves, meanwhile, welcomed the news: “Needless to say, we are quite pleased with this outcome. #HandsOffVenezuela,” Adrienne Pine tweeted.

The development drew praise from 2020 Green Party presidential nominee Howie Hawkins, who commended jurors for standing up to the Trump administration push for the regime change in the Latin American country.

“It shows that the overreach in foreign policy of the Trump Administration is not popular among the American public,” Hawkins said.

Two of the activists, Zeese and Flowers, are prominent Green Party members.

The showdown at the embassy last May saw DC police armed with battering rams break into the compound with the last four activists holed up inside. In the run up to the SWAT-style raid, US authorities cut water and electricity in the building in a bid to make the anti-coup activists surrender after spending over a month in the embassy. The activists insist they were there at the invitation of Venezuela’s legitimate government and have denounced the US takeover as a breach of the 1961 Vienna convention on diplomatic relations.

February 14, 2020 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

Erdogan’s Long-Coming Reality Check

By Ghassan Kadi | The Saker Blog | February 14, 2020

It is hard to say if Erdogan is running out of choices, friends, time, or all of the above; and his stands on various issues and the contradictions he ploughs through are making his situation increasingly untenable.

For the benefit of readers who haven’t heard this before; Erdogan is juggling being a Turkish Muslim reformer who parades under the photos of Turkish secular anti-Muslim nation-builder Mustafa Kemal; an EU-aspiring member and also an aspiring global Sunni leader; an ally of Israel as well as Hamas; an Islamist who is also at odds with the Wahhabi Islamists; a nationalist Turk who wants to curb Kurdish aspirations not only in Syria and Iraq but also in Turkey; a Sunni leader who wants to restore the Sultanate and Caliphate and the fundamentalist Sunni version of anti-Shiite Islam but is also a friend of Shiite Iran; a NATO member with a special relationship with America, and a special friend and ally of Russia.

Ironically, despite all the contradictions and conflicts of interest, he has thus far managed to get away with wearing not only all those hats, but also turbans and fezzes in between. Clearly however, this maneuvering cannot last forever and, sooner or later, he is going to end up painted into a tight corner. I certainly would like to believe that he is already in this space.

Erdogan however believes that he has a mandate from God. Following his November 2015 election win, in an article titled “Erdogan the Trojan Horse of Terror”, I wrote:

“With this win, Erdogan felt invincible. For an Islamist, and this is what Erdogan is, feeling invincible takes on a whole new meaning.

This is a simplistic translation of a Quranic verse: “If God is by your side, no one can defeat you” (Quran 3:160).

Erdogan believes he is invincible because he believes that he is on a mission and that God is by his side. If he had any reason to doubt this divine role he believes he has, the November election results put that doubt to rest.”

Ironically, Erdogan is able to comprehend the contradictions of others. Whilst America for example does not give two hoots about the Syrian Kurds and is only using some vulnerable leaders to dig a wedge between the Syrian Government and the Syrian Kurdish population, Erdogan has most vehemently stated to both the Obama and Trump administrations that America cannot be an ally of Turkey and the Kurds at the same time.

Yet, this same Erdogan justifies for himself the supplying of Idlib terrorists with state-of-the-art weaponry to attack not only Syrian Army units with, but also the Russian Hmeimim Air Base. The Russians have thus far thwarted countless attempted drone attacks on the base, and if Turkey did not directly supply the weapons, it definitely facilitated their transport.

Remember that the Idlib area that is controlled by Tahrir al-Sham (formerly known as Al-Nusra) lies between the Syrian-Army controlled area and the Turkish border. It has an open highway to Turkey where all arms and fighters move freely from Turkey into Syria.

And even though Erdogan has signed an agreement with Russia to end the terrorist presence in Idlib, according to veteran Palestinian journalist Abdul Bari Atwan, he does not want to understand why Russia is fed up with him and his antics and why President Putin is refusing to meet with him. In his article written in Raialyoum, Atwan argues that the Russians refuse Erdogan’s call for a new disengagement negotiation meeting and that Turkey must adhere to the existing Sochi agreement; which it has broken on several occasions by Erdogan.

Atwan adds that:

Firstly: “the Turkish gamble and reliance on Syrian opposition and the Free Syria Army in particular have failed because those forces abandoned their positions and the Syrian Army entered the towns of Khan Sheikhoun and Maarra Al-Numan unopposed without suffering a single casualty

Secondly: The 12 Turkish surveillance posts that were established in the Idlib district have turned into a liability because seven of them are under siege by the Syrian Army with a hundred Turkish soldiers trapped in each and can easily be destroyed by the Syrian Army in case Turkey launches a major offensive against Syria.

Thirdly: Russian support to the Syrian Army has reached an unprecedented level after the Russians shot down two drones launched by Tahrir Al-Sham yesterday” (ie the 10th of February 2020).

In addition, according to Atwan, “Erdogan missed a golden opportunity when he refused the (recent) Iranian initiative proposed to him by Iranian FM, Zarif, to find a political resolution for the impasse with Syria, and this was perhaps the last opportunity to reach a diplomatic resolution before a direct open confrontation with Syria”

In a Financial Times article titled “Testing Times for Erdogan and Putin”, the author is a tad short of saying that the relationship between Erdogan and Putin is irreconcilable. According to him, “If Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was looking for a way to convey his anger at Russia over the death of eight of his country’s troops in Syria, a visit to Ukraine provided the perfect opportunity.

At a guard of honour at the presidential palace in Kyiv on Monday, Mr Erdogan shouted “Glory to Ukraine”, a nationalist slogan deeply associated with anti-Russia sentiment and the country’s fight for independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

His carefully chosen words — to an army battling Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine — were a clear rebuke to President Vladimir Putin”.

In all of this, what Erdogan needs more than anything, is a long-coming reality check, and it seems more forthcoming than ever.

He may believe that he is a president for life who deserves the purportedly one thousand room palace he built for himself. He may hope to rebuild the Ottoman Empire and resurrect the Caliphate. He may imagine that, having been able to build up the Turkish economy to a level that has earnt a position in the G20, he has become the leader of a super power; but he has not. Turkey is at best a regional power, but it is only powerful if it has more powerful friends and allies to back it up. For as long as Turkey has to literally beg the Russians and/or the Americans to buy state-of-the-art weapons to defend itself with, then it is not in a position that allows it to stand on its own feet; not in the manner that Erdogan wishes it to stand. He should take heed and look at history. Mehmet Al-Fatih built his own guns to breakdown the defence walls of Constantinople. Even though the engineer who built them was from the Balkans, but they were Mehmet’s guns and they were the biggest in the world at the time.

I am not advocating that Erdogan should build his own nuclear arsenal, fighter jets and defence and attack missiles. In the ideal world, no one should. But to add to his list of contradictions, if Erdogan wants to wear the Turban of the Sultan, huff and puff at Russia, he cannot be riding Don Quixote’s donkey at the same time.

And if he thinks that he can now make a U-turn and be the loyal NATO leader and dump Russia, he will find himself again facing the same impasse he had with the Americans over the Kurdish issue. Furthermore, what will this do to his trade deals with Russia and his gas supplies?

And if Erdogan also thinks that America would come forward to save him in Idlib, one would have to remember that the illegal American presence in North East Syria is hundreds of kilometres away from Idlib and separated by the Russian-backed Syrian Army. Why would America, even Trump’s America, risk a confrontation with Russia to save his hide?

Erdogan has thus far evaded Karma because he has been hedging his bets in all directions, working up his enemies and allies against each other. But unless one is powerful enough to stand on his own feet when he needs to, then such a strategy in the long run can only leave one with no friends, a long list of enemies and a hoard of untrusting onlookers.

Above all, what do Turkish people want from the Turkish presence in Syria? Turkey hasn’t been at war for a whole century. The leader that once promised “zero problems” with neighbours is digging in his heels and seems determined to engage in an all-out war with Syria. The average Turkish citizen may ask why and to what end?

Erdogan has hopefully finally wedged himself into a corner that he cannot weasel his way out of without losing face. He will either have to bolster his military presence in Syria and fight the Syrian Army and Russia, or back off. If he takes the former option, he will not find any international supporters, and possibly the support of his own people will become questionable. But if the psychopathic, megalomaniac feels that he has to retreat, he will be scrambling for a face-saving exit, and the options are running out.

Russia was prepared to put the deliberate Turkish downing of the Su-24 in November 2015 behind and move forward. A lifeline was given to Erdogan back then, based on the promises he made and the later agreements he signed. But time proved that he was only looking for buying time, and that window with Russia is up.

Body bags have already been sent to Turkey and there are unconfirmed figures of how many Turkish soldiers have been killed defending Al-Nusra fighters. What is pertinent here is that, in the event of an all-out war with Syria, Syrians will be fighting an existential battle, aided by Russia and regional allies. Turkey however, will be fighting a different type of existential battle; one for Erdogan, not for Turkey itself.

Turkey has no reason for having a military presence and fight in Syria. It is only Erdogan’s ego and dreams that do.

February 14, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

NYC Taxpayers Spending Millions on Cyber Center with Controversial Ties to Israeli Intelligence

Graphic by Claudio Cabrera
By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | February 14, 2020

Early last week, the city of New York launched — with little media scrutiny — one of two new massive cybersecurity centers that will be run by private Israeli firms with close ties to Israel’s government, the so-called “Mega Group” tied to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and prominent pro-Israel lobby organizations operating in the United States. The centers were first announced in 2018 as was the identity of the firms who would run them: Israel-based Jerusalem Venture Partners and SOSA.

As MintPress has reported on several occasions, all three of these entities have a history of aggressively spying on the U.S. federal government and/or blackmailing top American politicians, raising concerns regarding why these companies were chosen to run the new centers in the heart of Manhattan. The news also comes as Israeli cybersecurity companies tied to Israeli military intelligence Unit 8200 were revealed to have access to the U.S. government’s most classified systems and simulating the cancellation of the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

The new cybersecurity centers are part of a new New York City public-private partnership called “CyberNYC” that is valued at over $100 million and officially aims to “spur the creation of 10,000 cybersecurity jobs and make New York City a global leader in cyber innovation.” CyberNYC is an initiative of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation.

However, the companies that will be responsible for creating those cybersecurity jobs will benefit foreign companies, namely Israeli and most of the jobs to be created will go to foreigners as well, as media reports on the partnership have quietly noted. Those reports also stated that, while the stated purpose of the centers is to create new jobs, the Israeli firms chosen to run them — Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) and SOSA — view it as an opportunity to provide Israeli cybersecurity companies with a foothold into the American market and to see Israeli cybersecurity products adopted by both small and medium-sized American businesses, not just large corporations and government agencies.

For example, the founder of JVP and former Knesset member, Erel Margalit, told the Jerusalem Post that “the center we are setting up [in New York] will assist Israeli hi-tech companies in collaborating with customers and companies in the US and around the world.” More recently, ahead of the opening of the cybersecurity center that Margalit’s firm will manage, he told the Times of Israel that “New York is about something else, it’s about the drama of taking investors from Israel and Spain or Paris and other places and taking them to the next business level.” In other words, the companies set to benefit from these new centers will be foreign and mainly Israeli, as JVP invests the vast majority of its funds in Israeli start-ups.

Given that Wilson Lin, the head of CyberNYC, explained the reason behind the initiative is the fact that “there are not enough well-trained people in cyber security to fill the jobs that are required for a safer, more thriving commercial sector,” the statements of JVP’s founder strongly suggests that those “well-trained people” will not be Americans in New York, but will be brought in from abroad, namely Israel’s cybersecurity sector.

Of the companies chosen by CyberNYC to run its new cybersecurity centers, both have clear and demonstrable ties to Israel’s government and military intelligence as well as controversial groups of pro-Israel donors with considerable political clout in the United States.

For instance, Jerusalem Venture Partners was founded by Erel Margalit in 1993, with funding from the Yozma Program, an Israeli government program to “incentivize venture capital investment” in Israel. Since then, it has been a driving force in the development of Israel’s hi-tech sector and regularly collaborates with the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry and the EISP (Entrepreneurship and Innovation Support Program) alumni organization of Unit 8200. Today, it is the second largest venture capital fund in Israel.

JVP was also the sole venture capital fund chosen to partner with Israel’s government and military to establish the public-private “cyber hub” in Beersheba. This “hub” not only houses the IDF’s technology campus, but also the Israel National Cyber Directorate, which reports directly to Israel’s Prime Minister, as well as a high-tech corporate park that mostly houses tech companies with ties to Israel’s military intelligence apparatus. The area has been cited in several media reports as a visible indicator of the public-private merger between Israeli technology companies, many of them started by Unit 8200 alumni, and the Israeli government and its intelligence services.

A composite image of the future JVP-funded New York City cyber center. Photo | JVP Press Release

In addition to JVP’s close ties to Israel’s government and its key role in the merging of Israel’s private cybersecurity sector with Israeli military intelligence, JVP also has close ties to the Bronfman family through its Chief Operating Officer and general partner, Fiona Darmon. Prior to working with JVP, Darmon worked for Claridge Israel, the investment arm of the Bronfman family that was founded by Charles Bronfman in 1987.

Charles Bronfman was a one-time business partner of Mossad agent Robert Maxwell, father of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell, and co-founded the “Mega Group”, a group of pro-Israel oligarchs with clear and direct ties to organized crime, alongside Leslie Wexner, the main financier of Jeffrey Epstein’s operation that involved the sex trafficking of minors on behalf of Israeli military intelligence.

SOSA was founded much more recently than JVP, yet also has close ties to Israel’s government and military. Created in 2014, SOSA has grown rapidly by connecting mostly Israeli start-ups with investors and through its partnerships with the IDF. This partnership first became clear in 2018, when SOSA created the Homeland Security (HLST) Innovation Hub, which the Times of Israel described as “a first of its kind program that aims to create a defense and security innovation community that will match homeland security and defense industry firms with startups, to help industry giants maintain their leading edge.”

Last year, SOSA became one of two companies to manage the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s program INNOFENSE, an innovation program for civilian tech start-ups in the country’s defense industry. SOSA’s collaboration with the IDF also involves the creation of “joint business activities between international companies, [government] security organizations, investors and startups,” making SOSA a key player in the blurring of the line between Israeli military intelligence and its private tech sector.

SOSA is also directly partnered with two of Israel’s top weapons manufacturers, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, as well as defense electronics companies ELTA Systems and Elron Electronics, the former parent company of another Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems. It is also partnered with the Unit 8200 alumni-founded tech company CheckPoint Systems and Leumi Tech, the hi-tech subsidiary of one of Israel’s largest banks, Leumi. Leumi Tech exists only in the U.S. and specifically aims to “provide a comprehensive suite of products and services to Israeli high-tech companies operating in the US.” The bank was recently forced to pay $400 million to the U.S. government for assisting U.S. citizens, most of them dual U.S.-Israeli citizens, in preparing false tax returns and hiding their assets in offshore accounts.

SOSA’s General Manager Guy Franklin is of particular interest, due to his close ties to the Israeli American Council (IAC), a pro-Israel lobby group created by convicted felon and ultra-Zionist millionaire Adam Milstein and largely funded by Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. The Adelsons are also the largest donors to both President Trump and the Republican Party in the United States.

In this photo posted on SOSA’s Facebook page, SOSA execs Uzi Scheffer and Guy Franklin pose in New York’s Time Square

Of the $100 million in funding for the CyberNYC initiative, $30 million comes from New York taxpayers and the remaining funds coming from the program’s partners, which includes Goldman Sachs and the Israeli military intelligence Unit 8200 incubator Team8, a start-up accelerator which has been discussed at length in several past MintPress News reports, including the recent MintPress investigation into the Israeli company Cybereason — a partner of Team8.

Team8, particularly its presence in New York, has long been associated with the push by pro-Israel political donor and American hedge fund manager Paul Singer and Israel’s government to make Israel the global cybersecurity leader as a means of preventing countries from boycotting Israel over human rights violations and war crimes. Team8’s role in CyberNYC will see them not only finance part of the initiative but also training cybersecurity workers who will be hired as part of the partnership.

Singer, who is based in Manhattan, created Start Up Nation Central in 2012 to specifically outsource American tech jobs to Israel in collaboration with top AIPAC officials and Israel’s government. Meanwhile, in parallel, Israel’s government and intelligence apparatus began a policy that same year that involved outsourcing intelligence and military intelligence operations to private companies created for that very purpose, particularly in the field of cybersecurity.

Thus, much as Israel’s cybersecurity industry has long been fused to Israel’s military and intelligence apparati, the Paul Singer-funded and Israel-backed policy has openly sought to bring American companies and government agencies into the fold in order to prevent boycotts of Israel. Though the so-called “anti-BDS laws” that have been passed in several U.S. states are one facet of this push, the use of Israeli tech, namely cybersecurity, sector to pursue this same end has received decidedly less coverage.

New York City has long been a major focus on this policy, with the growth of Israel hi-tech start-ups present in New York and run by former members of Unit 8200 exploding since this policy officially began in 2012. Indeed, Haaretz noted that, between 2013 and 2017 alone, the number of Israeli tech start-ups in New York City grew by fivefold and the number of Unit 8200 alumni working in NYC tech start-ups has also spiked in that same time frame.

The number of Unit 8200 alumni working in NYC’s tech sector has grown so much that they host an annual gala closed to the press where the goal, per Haaretz, is “to try to connect startups and early stage entrepreneurs from 8200 EISP (the Israeli accelerator for Unit 8200 alumni) with clients and venture capital funds in the United States.” One of the main players at that gala is Guy Franklin, the CEO of SOSA, which was chosen to run the other NYC cybersecurity sector.

The decision to create expensive, new cybersecurity centers run by JVP and SOSA, two Israeli firms with clear ties to controversial pro-Israel lobby organization and donors as well as Israel’s government and intelligence apparatus, reveals that not only is this Singer and Israel-backed policy continuing to develop and expand at a rapid pace, but now the money of New York City taxpayers is now being used to propel it to new heights even though that very policy benefits Israel’s economy at the U.S.’ expense.

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 14, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 7 Comments

Conservative Friends of Israel urge UK to oppose ICC’s war crimes investigation

Conservative Friends of Israel's August 2015 delegation to Israel. Lead by Eric Pickles MP, participants included Guto Bebb MP, Bob Blackman MP, John Howell MP, Matthew Offord MP, Andrew Percy MP, Chloe Smith MP and Heather Wheeler MP

CFI’s August 2015 delegation to Israel: Eric Pickles MP, Guto Bebb MP, Bob Blackman MP, John Howell MP, Matthew Offord MP, Andrew Percy MP, Chloe Smith MP and Heather Wheeler MP
MEMO | February 14, 2020

The Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) has urged the UK government to directly oppose the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s decision to open an investigation into war crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Writing to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, senior CFI officials MP Stephen Crabb, Lord Pickles and Lord Polak, argue that “as a non-state actor the Palestinians do not meet the legal requirements of the Rome Statute”, according to a CFI press release.

In the letter, the Westminster lobby group acknowledges that “the ICC is an important institution that the UK should continue to support”, but then goes on to claim that “the Court does not have jurisdiction over the territories”.

“We would urge the UK Government to join our close allies the United States, Australia and Germany in publicly cautioning against the politization of the ICC,” CFI continued.

“The Palestinian request for ICC intervention seeks to exploit the Court, involving it in alleged crimes that do not meet the legal requirements of the Rome Statute,” the CFI stated. “This undermines the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by incentivising the demonisation and vilification of each side.”

Another argument used by CFI is to suggest that the ICC probe into war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territory could have implications for UK armed forces.

“An inquiry of this nature would also set a dangerous precedent that could lead to prosecutions against the brave men and women of our armed forces who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, initiated in the ICC by non-state actors,” the CFI letter states.

Today marks the deadline for the UK, and other governments, “to request leave to file a written observation to the ICC”, CFI notes, urging the UK to do so, and “raise important concerns about the ICC’s lack of jurisdiction over this matter and the dangerous precedent it would set”.

“The UK [should] stand with Israel against this dangerous probe.”

February 14, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , | 15 Comments

Saudi Arabia launches new campaign of arrests against Palestinian expats

MEMO | February 14, 2020

Saudi Arabia has launched a new campaign of arbitrary arrests against several Palestinian expatriates living in the kingdom for supporting the Islamic resistance movement, Hamas.

The Prisoners of Conscience Twitter account which monitors the conditions of prisoners in Saudi Arabia said it has received “confirmed information” that the Saudi authorities have launched a new campaign of arbitrary arrests against Palestinian ex-pats. It adds that a number of the Palestinians targeted in the new campaign are relatives or sons of Palestinians who had been arrested during the first campaign in April, last year for the same reason.

In April, last year the Saudi authorities launched a campaign of arrests against Palestinian ex-pats including a senior leader in Hamas movement, Muhammad al-Khudari, 81, and his eldest son Hani.

The Twitter account defended the Palestinian detainees saying that supporting the (Palestinian) resistance is not a crime that requires arrests and demanded the Saudi authorities “to immediately release all detainees from the last campaign, and stop the trials of those detained last year which will begin early next month”.

Earlier this month, the Twitter account said the Saudi prosecution accuses the Palestinian detainees of illegally transferring funds (to the Palestinian resistance factions) and establishing unlicensed organisations to defend Palestinian and Jordanian detainees in the kingdom.

The Palestinian detainees will be tried before the Saudi Specialized Criminal Court on March 8.

On September 6, 2019, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said that Saudi Arabia is forcibly hiding 60 Palestinians.

February 14, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli delegation visits Saudi Arabia for first time

Press TV – February 14, 2020

A high-ranking Israeli delegation from an umbrella US Jewish group has visited Saudi Arabia this week, a sign of increasing warmness between Tel Aviv and Riyadh as the two sides look to forge closer informal ties and expedite normalization efforts.

Israel’s English-language broadsheet newspaper The Jerusalem Post reported on Friday that members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations visited Saudi Arabia this week, a move believed to be the first official visit to the kingdom by an American Jewish organization since the Oslo peace process in 1993.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency said the visit, which took place from Monday to Thursday, included meetings with senior Saudi officials as well as with Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Karim bin Abdulaziz al-Issa, the secretary general of the Muslim World League.

Issa is regarded as a close associate of Saudi Crown, Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The New York-based news agency said the focus of the talks between the Conference constituents and Saudi officials was on countering terrorism and the instability in the Middle East region.

The Conference’s leadership, executive vice president Malcolm Hoenlein, and CEO William Daroff, are expected to have been present during the visit.

Saudi Arabia has expanded secret ties with Israel under the crown prince, the son of King Salman, who is viewed by many as the Kingdom’s de facto ruler. The young prince has made it clear that he and the Israelis stand on the same front to counter Iran and its growing influence in the Middle East.

Back in 2018, Saudi Arabia opened its airspace for a commercial flight to Israel with the start of a new Air India route between India and Israel, although El Al Israel Airlines might not use Saudi airspace for eastward flights.

Critics say Saudi Arabia’s flirtation with Israel would undermine global efforts to isolate Tel Aviv and affect the Palestinian cause in general. They say Riyadh has gone too far in its cooperation with the Israelis as a way of deterring Iran as an influential player in the region.

Israel has full diplomatic relations with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, but the latest reports suggest the regime is working behind the scenes to establish formal contacts with Persian Gulf Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

In another sign of warming ties between the regimes of Israel and Saudi Arabia, last month Tel Aviv officially allowed Israelis to travel to Saudi Arabia for the first time.

The move comes against the backdrop of a so-called peace plan unveiled by US President, Donald Trump, that supposedly aims to resolve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump unveiled the scheme’s outlines on January 28. The plan features the recognition of Jerusalem, al-Quds, as Israel’s “capital,” although Palestinians want the city’s eastern part as the capital of their future state.

The US president also said that under the plan, Israel would be annexing the settlements that it has been building in the West Bank since occupying the Palestinian territory in 1967.

This is while all previous foreign-mediated draft agreements between the Palestinians and Israelis as well as repeated United Nations resolutions have mandated Tel Aviv to withdraw behind the 1967 borders.

Palestinian leaders, who severed all ties with Washington in late 2017 after Trump controversially, recognized Jerusalem, al-Quds, as the capital of the Israeli regime, immediately rejected the plan, with President Mahmoud Abbas saying it “belongs to the dustbin of history.”

Palestinian leaders also said the deal is a colonial plan to unilaterally control historic Palestine in its entirety and remove Palestinians from their homeland, adding that it heavily favors Israel and would deny them a viable independent state.

Meanwhile, senior Arab diplomatic sources said last week that the Saudi crown prince might meet Netanyahu on the sidelines of a potential summit in Cairo as the Israeli premier was seeking talks.

Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, however, asserted on Thursday that there are no plans for a meeting between Salman and Netanyahu.

Speaking to al-Arabiya English, he also claimed that Saudi Arabia’s policy toward Palestine remained “firm.”

This is while Riyadh has welcomed Trump’s plan, saying “the Kingdom appreciates the efforts made by President Trump’s administration to develop a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli peace plan.”

It has urged “direct peace negotiations between the sides under US sponsorship, in which any dispute regarding details of the plan will be settled.”

Saudi government media have also urged the Palestinians not to miss “this opportunity” and to approach the so-called US “deal of the century” with a positive mindset.

February 14, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israel sets up new Iran command for action against Iran: Report

Press TV – February 14, 2020

The Israeli military has set up a new “Iran command” amid Tel Aviv’s anti-Tehran confrontational rhetoric, according to Israeli media.

According to The Jerusalem Post, the multiyear “momentum plan” was presented by Israeli chief of staff lieutenant general Aviv Kochavi to all military commanders on Thursday.

The plan, despite awaiting an official approval by the Israeli cabinet, has been endorsed by military affairs minister Naftali Bennett and presented to prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The new “Iran command” will be led by a major general and will seek to “bolster” the “attack capabilities” and “intelligence gathering on the Islamic Republic”, including by means of cyber and satellite operations.

The plan will also set up a new “rapid-maneuvering” infantry division to “penetrate enemy territory”.

Among other provisions in the plan, Israel will seek to double the number of its precision weapons and further increase the number of its missile interceptor systems across the occupied territories.

According to the report, the creation of an “Iran command” comes as the Israeli military is worried that its opponents are gradually growing stronger, with the “gap” between them “closing quickly”.

Tel Aviv has adopted an open policy of provocative military action against Iran and certain regional states allied with Tehran.

Following the defeat of foreign-backed terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, Israel has stepped up its military aggression against the two countries in fear of an emerging Iran-led alliance against terrorism and foreign occupation forces.

On Saturday, Bennett said that Tel Aviv and Washington had divided up the fight “against Iran” in Syria and Iraq respectively.

In October, Kochavi said that despite knowing that its enemies are not interested in war, the Israeli military has “increased its pace of preparations” for confrontation.

‘Searching for an excuse to level Tel Aviv’

Iran’s support, provided chiefly under the command of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, had had a major role in empowering Syria and Iraq to fight against foreign-backed terrorists and foreign occupation in their countries.

Anti-terror commander, Lt. Gen. Soleimani was assassinated by US forces in early January while on an official visit to Iraq at Baghdad International Airport.

According to recent remarks by Major General Mohsen Rezaei, a top IRGC general and the secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, Israel had a direct role in the assassination by informing Washington of Soleimani’s flight to Baghdad International Airport.

“We were searching for the Americans to give us an excuse to hit Tel Aviv just as we hit Ain al-Assad,” Rezaei said. “We would have leveled Tel Aviv no doubt,” he added.

Speaking on Thursday, Chief Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Major General Hossein Salami responded to Bennett’s remarks about dividing roles with the US against Iran.

“We tell them that you are making a mistake, as always,” he said, adding that “if you make the slightest error, we will hit both of you”.

“We have told them repeatedly; do not rely on the United States, they may not able to help you,” he said. “If you want a reliable plan, look towards the sea as it is your final resting place,” he added.

The IRGC chief made the remarks during a ceremony marking the 40th day since the assassination of General Soleimani.

During the ceremony, Salami said that Soleimani’s efforts had greatly emboldened Palestinian resistance against Israel.

“When he entered the battlefield against the Zionists, the Palestinians were fighting with stones, but due to Soleimani’s efforts, Gaza, the West Bank and north of Palestine have become fields of fire against the Zionists,” Salami said.

“They have consequently concealed themselves behind walls; Soleimani put the Zionists in prison,” he added.

Salami added that Soleimani had defeated Washington’s plans for a “new Middle East”, noting that due to the general’s efforts, a multi-national force has emerged in the region to resist US and Israeli plans.

“General Soleimani generated so much power that if the Zionists only listen slightly next to the their borders, they can hear the languages of Pakistanis, Iranians, Hijazis, Lebanese…,” he said.

The IRGC chief lauded Soleimani’s legacy of defending “the downtrodden, wherever they were”, adding that the “deserts knew him more than the streets”.

“The Hindu Kush ranges, the Bamiyan and Panjshir valleys in Afghanistan knew him better than the Afghans,” Salami added.

Salami concluded his remarks saying that “the final and ultimate slap will continue until the last American soldier leaves the Muslims land” despite Iran’s military retaliation against Washington following the assassination of Soleimani.

Iran fired a volley of ballistic missiles at the Ain al-Asad airbase and another US-occupied outpost in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan on January 8, a few days following the assassination.

Despite the Trump administration initially denying any casualties, the Pentagon has since gradually revealed that at least over 100 US soldiers have suffered from “brain injuries” in the operation.

Speaking on Thursday, IRGC spokesman Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif said that Washington has sought to conceal the number of its killed soldiers by using the term “brain injury” to describe casualties.

Sharif added that the assassination of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis – who was the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units – “marked the beginning of the end of US presence in the region” and that it will lead to the liberation of Jerusalem al-Quds.

February 14, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Washington is paranoid about Huawei

By Alex Lo | South China Morning Post | February 12, 2020

The past illuminates the present. This bombshell of a story dropped by The Washington Post certainly explains a lot about America’s current war against Chinese 5G supplier Huawei.

For more than half a century after the second world war, the Swiss company Crypto, whose products the governments of more than 100 countries have relied on to send secure encrypted messages, was secretly owned and operated by the CIA and its West German intelligence counterpart, the BND.

This has enabled American intelligence to read the top secrets of friends and foes alike, and to share them with other members of the ­ so-called Five Eyes, the intelligence services of four other English-speaking countries.

But given the close working relationship with West German intelligence, maybe it should have been called the Six Eyes, despite the language differences.

Washington has kept insinuating that Huawei poses a security risk to all companies and governments that use its 5G infrastructures. Yet, it has never provided actual evidence despite having searched high and low for it, including illegally hacking into Huawei’s mainframes at its Shenzhen headquarters.

What Americans are afraid of, or paranoid about, is that the 5G pioneer will be to Chinese intelligence what Crypto was to the CIA. It takes one to know one.

As George Yeo, former minister of foreign affairs for Singapore, said in a recent speech, “a key reason for the US campaign against Huawei is the fear that China may not only develop a similar surveillance capability but Chinese equipment and Chinese systems will make it harder for the US to maintain the same surveillance reach.”

Americans are afraid if Huawei is dirty. But as Yeo explains, it’s just as bad for US intelligence if it is clean: it won’t have flaws and back-door vulnerabilities so readily available to exploit.

And of course, thanks to Edward Snowden, we know that other US agencies such as the FBI and National Security Agency have exploited such back doors with large US tech companies, including Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and others.

Yeo makes a third important point: “The only safe assumption is that all systems expose us to external intelligence penetration. We have to find ways to protect ourselves and accept that nothing is foolproof.”

If all systems are penetrable, the only answer is to be extra vigilant. Picking on one company or one country just distracts you from being alert to threats from elsewhere.

Alex Lo has been a Post columnist since 2012, covering major issues affecting Hong Kong and the rest of China. A journalist for 25 years, he has worked for various publications in Hong Kong and Toronto as a news reporter and editor. He has also lectured in journalism at the University of Hong Kong.

February 14, 2020 Posted by | Deception | | 1 Comment

Last Week’s Cyberattack Against Iran Originated in the US – Iranian Civil Defence Chief

Sputnik – February 14, 2020

The United States government reportedly carried out a number of cyberattacks targeting Iran’s internet infrastructure over the past year, in response to Tehran’s shootdown of a US drone over Iranian airspace in the Hormuz Strait, and other actions in the Middle East which Washington has blamed on the Islamic Republic.

Iran foiled a ‘large-scale’ attack on the country’s cyber infrastructure on February 8, with the denial of service (DDOS) attack believed to have been launched by the US, Brig. Gen. Gholam Reza Jalali, chief of Iran’s Civil Defence Organization, has said.

“It’s very difficult and time-consuming to trace the source of a cyberattack. The Telecommunication Infrastructure Company is currently studying and looking for the source of the recent cyberattack against the country… but our analysis is that the US was the origin,” Jalali said, his comments cited by Press TV.

“The Americans’ cyberattack has been foiled by our cyber defence unit,” the commander said, but warned that the attack may be just a test ahead of larger planned attacks.

The February 8 DDoS attack caused widespread internet outages across Iran. Deputy Information and Communications Technology Minister Hamid Fattah said Sunday that the attack targeted communications infrastructure, and called it “the biggest attack” of its kind in Iran’s history. The disruption was said to have continued for about an hour before being dealt with by Iran’s DEJFA ‘Digital Fortress’ system.

“Since Americans failed to give a military response to our recent shoot-down of their unmanned aerial vehicle in Iranian waters as well as our missile attack on the [al-Asad Airbase in Iraq], they are responding to our country through continued economic pressure and cyberattacks,” Jalali suggested.

According to Jalali, the US attack failed to cause any damage.

He noted that last week’s attacks were further cause for Iran to accelerate its efforts to complete the construction of a National Information Network (NIN) in case further attacks are impending. The national infrastructure project, to which the Iranian government has already committed the equivalent of about $200 million, foresees the creation of a secure and stable communications internet network serving as a backup national intranet, providing information services, government e-services and other crucial data to citizens.

Last year, Iran’s Information and Communications Technology Ministry reported that the country had thwarted some 33 million cyberattacks against sensitive sites last year. In November, Jalali accused the US of declaring a cyberwar against Iran.

February 14, 2020 Posted by | Deception | , | 2 Comments

Gen. Soleimani assassinated to sabotage Iran’s talks with Saudis, UAE following Israeli briefing: NYT

Press TV – February 14, 2020

Washington ordered the assassination of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani to sabotage de-escalation talks between Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates following a report by Israel’s Mossad spy agency, according to the New York Times.

The paper reported on Thursday that General Soleimani had been arranging talks in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates in order to de-escalate tensions with Tehran.

The Times wrote that the talks happened after Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are central to the Trump administration’s so-called regional alliance seeking to pressure Iran, began to question the efficiency of Washington’s anti-Iran campaign.

According to the report, one such meeting took place last September in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates where a plane carrying “senior Iranian officials” landed for talks.

News of the meeting, which reached Washington only after it was notified by reports from American spy agencies, “set off alarms inside the White House”, according to the report.

The report added that a similar mediation attempt, also arranged by Gen. Soleimani, was underway between Tehran and Riyadh using Iraqi and Pakistani intermediaries.

The report wrote that the developments had greatly concerned Israel, which had been trying to push the Trump administration to exert more pressure on Tehran.

According to the Times, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Mossad chief Yossi Cohen on October during a trip to Israel where he was briefed on Iran’s attempted de-escalation talks with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Cohen warned Pompeo that Tehran was effectively on the verge of achieving its “primary goal” of breaking up the so-called “anti-Iran” alliance.

A few months later in early January, General Soleimani was assassinated by Washington’s order while on a formal visit to Baghdad.

According to former Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, General Soleimani was due to formally meet the Iraqi premier during the trip and was carrying Tehran’s response to a message from Riyadh regarding the de-escalation talks.

Following the attack, the Trump Administration claimed that the assassination had taken place after a reported rocket attack on a US base in Iraq killed a “US civilian contractor” and that Gen. Soleimani was an “imminent threat” to US citizens.

Many US political figures have rejected the claims and have questioned why the Trump administration has failed to provide any evidence backing its actions.

The New York Times’ Thursday report, however, reveals that entirely different considerations, such as Israel’s push to undermine Iran’s attempts at peace with its regional neighbors, were behind the assassination.

‘Months of miscalculations’

According to the report, the assassination marks yet another miscalculation by the Trump administration which has failed to bend Iran through its “maximum pressure” campaign.

Following its unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018, the US imposed unilateral sanctions against Tehran in a bid to goad Tehran to accept new terms dictated by Washington.

The Times, however, reported that a recent analysis conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) shows that the sanctions have had little effect in fulfilling Washington’s goals.

The US has also sought to pressure Iran militarily by deploying troops to the region and creating a regional anti-Iran alliance in the region as part of if its anti-Iran campaign.

Washington called for the formation of a naval coalition in the region following a string of suspicious attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.

Iran has vehemently denied the accusations, saying the incidents appear to be false flag operations meant to frame the Islamic Republic and push US interests.

Citing instances such as the major Yemeni attack on Saudi oil facilities last September and Iran’s downing of a US Global Hawk spy craft in June, the New York Times report said stepped-up US military presence also failed to achieve its objectives.

Witnessing the Trump administration’s faltering policy in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were convinced to open direct talks with Tehran, the report noted.

February 14, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments