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US Diplomats in Cuba May Have Become Ill Due to Chemicals in Pesticide Fumigation – Report

Sputnik – 20.09.2019

US and Canadian diplomats in Havana, Cuba, may have become ill due to a neurotoxin used in pesticide fumigation and not by alleged sonic attacks, a clinical study commissioned by Global Affairs Canada revealed.

In August 2017, the US State Department said nearly two dozen diplomats working at the US embassy in Cuba were affected in an incident involving a mysterious audio device and some of the diplomats suffered permanent hearing loss and possible brain injuries.

“While proving the source of exposure and cause of injury is difficult, if not impossible at this time point, embassy records show a significant increase in fumigation in recent years with weekly exposure to high dose records show a significant increase in fumigation in recent years with weekly exposure to high dose pesticides in and around many diplomats’ residences,” the report, published on May 24, said.

Fumigation in Cuba increased in 2016 as the government mobilized to fight the spread of the Zika virus, the report said.

Canadian diplomats may have been more exposed to the neurotoxic agents during the routine fumigation going on around and often inside their houses, the report also said adding that the symptoms experienced by the diplomats and their families were low-dose exposure.

The clinical study consisted of a team of researchers from Halifax with the Brain Repair Center, Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia Health Authority, the report noted.

Twenty-five “exposed” individuals participated in the study including 11 who others who have never lived in Havana, the report said.

September 20, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Venezuela says it would make sense for US to restore ties

Press TV – September 19, 2019

Venezuela says it would make sense for the United States to restore diplomatic ties with the elected government in Caracas as Washington has failed to install an opposition figure as Venezuela’s leader.

Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez told reporters in Caracas on Wednesday that it would be reasonable for the US “to restore diplomatic contacts and dialog with the government” of President Nicolas Maduro.

Washington is left with “a single path,” having failed to remove Maduro from power, and that is “negotiation and diplomatic communication,” Rodriguez said.

In January, obscure opposition figure Juan Guaido unilaterally declared himself the “interim president” of Venezuela, winning the recognition of Washington.

Later, he attempted an abortive coup against Maduro’s government, again with support from the United States.

However, even the opposition groups that had sided with Guaido have been breaking ranks with him, joining talks that the government has opened to resolve differences peacefully.

On Monday, the representatives of several opposition parties concluded an agreement with Maduro’s top aides, including Rodriguez.

Meanwhile, an increasingly isolated Guaido has ruled out continuing talks with the government that Norway has been brokering.

Venezuela broke off relations with the US after Washington recognized Guaido as “interim president” on January 23.

The US has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Venezuela, confiscated its state oil assets based in the US, channeled revenue from them to Guaido, and has hinted at the use of force to remove Maduro.

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 2 Comments

Exhibition of Houthi military-industrial achievements

The Saker | July 8, 2019

Exhibition of the achievements of the Houthi military industry (with a heavy Iranian accent).

New ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as new reconnaissance drones were presented.

It is expected that these weapons, including new ones, will be used by the Houthis both on the territory of Yemen against the interventionist troops and local collaborators, as well as against infrastructure facilities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE (airports, military bases, ports, oil pipelines).

For Iran, the entire Yemeni war has become an excellent training ground, where in real combat conditions (via the hands of the Houthis) the latest samples of Iranian ballistic missiles, adjustable artillery shells, and reconnaissance and attack drone vehicles are being tested.

It is worth remembering that in the event of the start of a fully-fledged war against Iran, all of this can be used against tankers in the Red Sea in order to block oil exports through Jizan.

Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
Source: https://colonelcassad.livejournal.com/5118206.html

September 18, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

Israel Spies and Spies and Spies

This time the target was Donald Trump

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • September 17, 2019

Here we go again! Israel is caught red handed spying against the United States and everyone in Congress is silent, as are nearly all the mainstream media which failed to report the story. And the federal government itself, quick to persecute a Russian woman who tried to join the NRA, concedes that the White House and Justice Department have done absolutely nothing to either rebuke or punish the Israeli perpetrators. One senior intelligence official commented that “I’m not aware of any accountability at all.”

Only President Donald Trump, predictably, had something so say in his usual personalized fashion, which was that the report was “hard to believe,” that “I don’t think the Israelis were spying on us. My relationship with Israel has been great… Anything is possible but I don’t believe it.”

Ironically, the placement of technical surveillance devices by Israel was clearly intended to target cellphone communications to and from the Trump White House. As the president frequently chats with top aides and friends on non-secure phones, the operation sought to pick up conversations involving Trump with the expectation that the security-averse president would say things off the record that might be considered top secret.

The Politico report, which is sourced to top intelligence and security officials, details how “miniature surveillance devices” referred to as “Stingrays” imitate regular cell phone towers to fool phones being used nearby into providing information on their locations and identities. According to the article, the devices are referred to by technicians as “international mobile subscriber identity-catchers or IMSI-catchers, they also can capture the contents of calls and data use.”

Over one year ago, government security agencies discovered the electronic footprints that indicated the presence of the surveillance devices around Washington including near the White House. Forensic analysis involved dismantling the devices to let them “tell you a little about their history, where the parts and pieces come from, how old are they, who had access to them, and that will help get you to what the origins are.” One source observed afterwards that “It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible.”

The Israeli Embassy denied any involvement in the espionage and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adroitly and predictably lied regarding the report, saying “We have a directive, I have a directive: No intelligence work in the United States, no spies. And it’s vigorously implemented, without any exception. It is a complete fabrication, a complete fabrication.”

The Israelis are characteristically extremely aggressive in their intelligence gathering operations, particularly in targeting the United States, even though Trump has done the Netanyahu government many favors. These have included moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, withdrawing from the nuclear deal and sanctioning Iran, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and looking the other way as Israel expands its settlements and regularly bombs Syria and Lebanon.

Israel’s high-risk spying is legendary, but the notion that it is particularly good at it is, like everything having to do with the Jewish state, much overrated. Mossad has been caught in flagrante numerous times. In 2010, an undercover Mossad hit team was caught on 30 minutes of surveillance video as it wandered through a luxury Dubai hotel where it had gone to kill a leading Hamas official. And the notion that Mossad and CIA work hand-in-hand is also a fiction. Working level Agency officers dislike their reckless Mossad counterparts. Newsweek magazine’s “Spy Talk” once cited a poll of CIA officers that ranked Israel “dead last” among friendly countries in actual intelligence cooperation with Washington.

The fact is that Israel conducts espionage and influence operations against the United States more aggressively than any other “friendly” country, including tapping White House phones used by Bill Clinton to speak with Monica Lewinski. Israeli “experts” regularly provide alarmist and inaccurate private briefings for American Senators on Capitol Hill. Israel also constantly manufactures pretexts to draw the U.S. into new conflicts in the Middle East, starting with the Lavon Affair in Alexandria Egypt in 1954 and including the false flag attack on the U.S.S. Liberty in 1967. In short, Israel has no reluctance to use its enormous political and media clout in the U.S. to pressure successive administrations to conform to its own foreign and security policy views.

The persistent spying, no matter what Netanyahu claims, is a very good reason why Israel should not receive billions of dollars in military assistance annually. Starting in 1957, Israel’s friends stole enriched uranium from a Pennsylvania refinery to create a nuclear arsenal. More recently we have learned how Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood producer/billionaire born in Israel, arranged the illegal purchase of 800 krytron triggers to use in the production of nuclear weapons. The operation also involved current Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The existence of a large scale Israeli spying effort at the time of 9/11 has been widely reported, incorporating Israeli companies in New Jersey and Florida as well as hundreds of “art students” nationwide. Five “dancing” Israelis from one of the companies were observed celebrating against the backdrop of the twin towers going down.

While it is often observed that everyone spies on everyone else, espionage is a high-risk business, particularly when spying on friends. Israel, relying on Washington for billions of dollars and also for political cover in international fora like the United Nations, does not spy discreetly, largely because it knows that few in Washington will seek to hold it accountable. There were, for example, no consequences for the Israelis when Israeli Mossad intelligence officers using U.S. passports and pretending to be Americans recruited terrorists to carry out attacks inside Iran. Israelis using U.S. passports in that fashion put every American traveler at risk.

Israel, where government and business work hand in hand, has obtained significant advantage by systematically stealing American technology with both military and civilian applications. The U.S. developed technology is then reverse engineered and used by the Israelis to support their own exports. Sometimes, when the technology is military in nature and winds up in the hands of an adversary, the consequences can be serious. Israel has sold advanced weapons systems to China that incorporate technology developed by American companies.

The reality of Israeli large-scale spying in the United States is indisputable. One might cite Jonathan Pollard, who stole more highly classified information than any spy in history. And then there were Ben-Ami Kadish, Stuart Nozette and Larry Franklin, other spies for Israel who have been caught and tried, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. Israel always features prominently in the annual FBI report called “Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage.” The 2005 report states “Israel has an active program to gather proprietary information within the United States. These collection activities are primarily directed at obtaining information on military systems and advanced computing applications that can be used in Israel’s sizable armaments industry.” It adds that Israel recruits spies, uses electronic methods, and carries out computer intrusion to gain the information.

A 1996 Defense Investigative Service report noted that Israel has great success stealing technology by exploiting the numerous co-production projects that it has with the Pentagon. It says “Placing Israeli nationals in key industries … is a technique utilized with great success.” A General Accounting Office (GAO) examination of espionage directed against American defense and security industries described how Israeli citizens residing in the U.S. had stolen sensitive technology to manufacture artillery gun tubes, obtained classified plans for reconnaissance systems, and passed sensitive aerospace designs to unauthorized users.

The GAO has concluded that Israel “conducts the most aggressive espionage operation against the United States of any U.S. ally.” In June 2006, a Pentagon administrative judge ruled against a difficult to even imagine appeal by an Israeli denied a security clearance, saying that “The Israeli government is actively engaged in military and industrial espionage in the United States.” FBI counter intelligence officer John Cole has also reported how many cases of Israeli espionage are dropped under orders from the Justice Department., making the Jewish state’s spying consequence free. He provides a “conservative estimate” of 125 viable investigations into Israeli espionage involving both American citizens and Israelis that were stopped due to political pressure.

So, did Israel really spy on Donald Trump? Sure it did. And Netanyahu is, metaphorically speaking, thumbing his nose at the American president and asking with a grin, “What are you going to do about it?”

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is https://councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

September 17, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News, Deception | , , | 3 Comments

Rapprochement with Russia?

By Gilbert Doctorow | September 16, 2019

Starting in July and running to the present day, there have been repeated calls from mainstream media, from leading statesmen and from diplomats, in the United States and in Europe, for some kind of rapprochement with Russia to be put in place. This is remarkable given the continually escalating informational, economic, military confrontation between Russia and the US-led West over the past five years. That confrontation has emerged in two waves of anti-Russian hysteria: the first, after the daring (or brazen) Russian reunification with (or annexation of) Crimea in March 2014, and the second, with still greater momentum towards war, following the November 2016 election of Donald Trump to the presidency, which was accompanied by allegations of Russian collusion with candidate Trump and other meddling in the U.S. election processes.

Since the United States initiated the New Cold War, it is only fitting that the first steps towards its resolution are coming from there. And it is not in the least surprising that these steps were taken in the aftermath of the April 2019 release of the Mueller Report, which showed that the allegations of Russiagate were without merit or not actionable. Trump’s political enemies were compelled to move on to other issues of contention that would serve better in the next presidential campaign, which is quickly approaching.

That is the context in which I place the fairly amazing editorial of The New York Times dated 21 July 2019 entitled “What’s America’s Winning Hand if Russia Plays the China Card?” The NYT, which along with The Washington Post, had been among the most fervent disseminators of Russiagate theories and of poisonous characterizations of the “Putin regime” now was calling for… re-establishing civilized relations with Russia in order to draw the country back from its growing alliance with China.

While the editorial opens by citing a recent Defense Department report on the serious security threat to the U.S. from any Sino-Russian alliance, the fact of such alliance in formation has been obvious to anyone following the growing cooperation between these two countries in energy, aviation, military exercises, common positions taken in the UN Security Council and much more. It was also obvious for years that a major factor encouraging the Russian-Chinese embrace was the political, military and economic pressure each was receiving from the United States going back to the administration of George W. Bush and running through the Obama and Trump administrations. What is new is only the Times’ using this impending geopolitical tectonic shift to justify an extensive reversal of U.S. policy towards Russia. Now we read that “… President Trump is correct to try to establish a sounder relationship with Russia and peel it away from China.”

This is not to say that the NYT raised the white flag and abandoned its identification of Russia as a malevolent rival: “America can’t seek warmer relations with a rival power at the price of ignoring its interference in American democracy.” Nor did it abandon its identification of Russia as a “declining power” which it very inaccurately ranks as “not even in the top 10” economies, when in fact Russia is close to taking the fifth largest economy slot when purchasing power parity is applied.

Specifically, The Times called for cherry-picking topics for cooperation with Russia such as space travel, managing the Arctic and arms control “especially by extending the New Start Treaty.”

I have taken time with this editorial because the reasoning did not come from nowhere. Moreover, the same logic underlies most, though not all of the calls for rapprochement with Russia that  have punctuated the past two months on both sides of the Atlantic.

As for where it came from, I would put forward the name of Henry Kissinger, who exerted considerable influence on candidate Trump in 2016 and continued to have his ear in the early days of the new administration. There can be little doubt that Kissinger urged Trump to reach out to Putin precisely to halt the dangerous drift of Moscow towards Beijing under pressure from successive US administrations. After all Kissinger was Nixon’s man who drew China into an informal alliance with the United States, implementing the policy whereby Washington was closer to both Moscow and Beijing than either was to the other.  He did not need to wait for Pentagon white papers in 2019 to know what was afoot and what had to be done to avert the worst, which spelled the destruction of his single greatest achievement during his time in power.

At the same time, Kissinger would have been advising only selective cooperation with Moscow, not full-blown détente. This is precisely the position that he and other ‘wise men’ from the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations urged upon both candidate Barack Obama and candidate John McCain during the electoral campaign of 2008, when relations between Russia and the United States were fraught with danger relating to the August 2008 war in Georgia. Their recommendations eventually became the “re-set” policy approved by Obama and implemented by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton early in 2009.

“Re-set” achieved progress on the various select issues for cooperation chosen by the Americans, in particular on arms control, resulting in the New START that today faces expiration. However, the ‘’re-set,’’ like what the New York Times editors now call for, did not begin to address the overriding issue driving the Russian foreign and military policy which the U.S. finds so unacceptable: Russia’s exclusion from the security arrangements that the Europeans have put in place together with the U.S., an architecture that is in fact directed against them. That very issue was the subject of the single most important diplomatic initiative of Russia’s President in 2008, Dmitry Medvedev: his call for negotiations to establish new security arrangements for Europe, outside of NATO, where Russia could be an equal member. That initiative met with no response whatsoever from either the United States or its European allies, and so the days of ‘’re-set’’ were numbered.

* * * *

In the period just before, during and after the G7 meeting in Biarritz on 24—26 August 2019 there have been several widely noted remarks from senior Euro-Atlantic statesmen on the need to improve relations with Russia.

A week before the summit, French President Emanuel Macron received Vladimir Putin for talks at his summer residence on the Côte d’Azur. Macron “played up efforts ‘to tie Russia and Europe back together’ and underscored his belief that ‘Europe stretches from Lisbon to Vladivostok.’…. In his Facebook post [after the meeting] Macron said …. ’I’m convinced that, in this multilateral restructuring, we must develop a security and trust architecture between the European Union and Russia…” (The Moscow Times, 20 August 2019).

Before and during the G7, Donald Trump told reporters that Russia should be there with them. At the summit’s conclusion, he indicated he was thinking of inviting Russia to the meeting when he hosts the group in Florida next year. Implicitly this means reviving full lines of communications with Russia which were cut at the insistence of Obama to punish Moscow for its misbehavior in Ukraine.

On 27 August, the day after the G7 closed, in the course of a speech to the assembled ambassadors of France in the Elysée palace, President Macron spoke at some length about the need to ‘reconsider’ ties with Russia within the context of facing up to the major challenges of a world in which the West had lost its hegemony. He called the exclusion of Russia from the New Europe following the fall of the Berlin wall a ‘’profound mistake.” He insisted that “if we do not know how to do something useful with Russia, then we will remain with a profoundly sterile tension, we will continue to have frozen conflicts everywhere in Europe, to have a Europe which is the theater of a strategic struggle between the United States and Russia, thus to have the consequences of the Cold War on our soil.” (http://www.liberation.fr ).

Several days later, on 4 September, in an interview with the Financial Times,  Finnish Foreign Minister, Pekka Haavisto used his country’s current position as rotating president of the EU to make a similar point, saying “It’s very difficult to imagine a solution [to global crises] without Russia – or a solution that Russia is not somehow an active partner on.”

The FT deemed it worthwhile to quote him extensively:

“Mr Haavisto also said that the uncertainties created by Brexit and statements by US president

Donald Trump’s administration ‘distancing themselves from European affairs” meant EU states

needed to do more themselves to maintain stability in Europe. ‘It creates a space where

European countries need to think … ’how can we guarantee security here and what can we

do… together?’ he said.”

It went on to note: “Finland’s thinking is significant both because of its EU presidency and its unique relationship with Russia.”

Finally, in this listing of statements by public figures advocating better relations with Russia, I call attention to another article in the Financial Times, dated 15 September setting out the contents of an internal diplomatic note written by EU ambassador to Russia Dr. Markus Ederer. Dated 3 September, the addressees of the report were Ederer’s senior colleagues, the managing director for Asia Pacific at the EU’s External Action Service, and the acting managing director for Europe and Central Asia. The paper sets out arguments and options for engaging with Russia ‘taking into account the political environment, but also Russia’s natural relevance for EU-Asia connectivity.” It was drafted in preparation for the forthcoming 27 September meetings in Brussels on EU-Asia links to which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been invited and in which European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is expected to take part.

Among the choice quotations from the report which the FT shares with its readers we find:

“[The EU] would have everything to lose by ignoring the tectonic strategic shifts in Eurasia.”

“Engaging not only with China but with Russia, selectively, is a necessary condition to be part of the game and play our cards where we have comparative advantage.”

The FT article calls attention to five areas for prospective cooperation with Russia: the Arctic, digital, the Eurasian Economic Union, regional infrastructure and the ‘Northern Dimension’ joint policy between the EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland. In these areas, the EU could ‘’engage effectively, on concrete, technical matters’’ with Russia. The paper concludes that ‘’[t]he aim would be to set up a ‘framework of exchanges with Russia on longstanding issues in the EU interest’ involving European business and commission officials.”

* * * *

Considering where we stand today in relations with Russia, at a low point more dangerous than any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, all of the aforementioned calls for improving relations made by very prominent and influential heads of state, public officials and media deserve a round of applause. The wise saying “jaw–jaw is always better than war–war” attributed to Winston Churchill applies with equal relevance today.

Looking at all the calls for better relations cited above, I believe the leitmotiv of them all is geopolitical considerations rather than fear of war, particularly nuclear war between the major world powers. Arms control is cited as only one of several objectives for cooperation. Concerns about the future alignment of those powers around the global board of governors are predominant. If humankind is said to be driven by the contradictory emotions of fear and greed, it would seem that our global leaders are presently acting in the spirit of greed rather than fear.

In his 27 August speech to the French diplomatic corps, President Macron called for an “audacious” foreign policy, effectively one that would move outside the box of conventional thinking. Correspondingly, thus far he is the only advocate of improved relations with Russia from among world leaders who had broached the subject of a comprehensive détente with Russia rather than cooperation in selective areas of greatest convenience to us. He is the only leader to have raised the question of revising the architecture of security in Europe to accommodate the fellow Europeans to the East.

Those who follow closely the political démarches of President Macron will object that his thinking about Russia has been all over the place since taking office. And I am among the first to consider him a shallow opportunist rather than the tower of intellect that he styles himself. The summit meetings he called with both Presidents Putin and Trump soon after moving into the Elysée palace had only one objective: to position himself as a prospective power broker in resolving the New Cold War in formation; they had no material content.

In the two years that have passed since he assumed power in France, Macron has been unlucky in domestic politics when his ill-considered fuel tax sparked the Gilets Jaunes movement. But he has been very lucky in foreign policy, because the dominant personality in European politics for the past decade or more, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, entered into the twilight period of her reign and the path opened for Macron to take the lead of EU politics with what he now calls an audacious roadmap.

The specific concept that emerges from Macron’s recent statements is an entente between Russia and the European Union based on shared values and creating a third force in global affairs alongside the United States and China. The alternative, which is looming absent any initiative such as Macron is proposing, will be for the EU to remain a junior partner to the USA and for Russia to be a junior partner to China while their two principals square off. Let us hope that in the days and months ahead Macron can muster the consistency of purpose and powers of successful execution to see through to conclusion what he has begun.

Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. His latest book, “Does the United States Have a Future?” was published on 12 October 2017.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2019

September 16, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Winners and losers from Saudi Aramco’s travails

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | September 16, 2019

The US President Donald Trump’s tweet Sunday regarding the attack on two Saudi Aramco plants says as follows:

“Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”

It’s a cleverly-worded tweet with multiple audiences in view. Trump took time to react. And he’s stopped short of blaming Iran. The US lacks hard evidence. Therefore, “verification” is needed and it is Riyadh’s call to estimate “the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed.”

Trump boasted that the US is “locked and loaded” to go to Saudi Arabia’s aid. Yet, only the previous day, when Trump telephoned Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the latter had “underscored the Kingdom’s willingness and strength to thwart such a terrorist aggression and deal with its consequences.”

In fact, this has become the Saudi refrain — that it is within Saudi capability to handle the crisis. During a phone call from UAE Crown Prince condemning the drone attacks, MbS stressed that “the Kingdom has the ability to confront and deal with this terrorist aggression.” King Salman also told the Emir of Kuwait that “the Kingdom has the ability to confront such terrorist attack and deal with its fallout.”

None of the regional states — Egypt, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Turkey, etc. — or any foreign power has blamed Iran for staging the drone attacks on the Saudi Aramco plants. That leaves US states secretary Mike Pompeo as the solitary exception.

Interestingly, MbS received the Russian ambassador Sergei Kozlov for a one-on-one Sunday. No details have been divulged; the Saudi readout merely said, but highlighted that “a number of issues of mutual concern to the two friendly countries were discussed.”

Of course, the Russian interest lies in de-escalating regional tensions and Moscow and Tehran are in close touch. President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani later today on the sidelines of the trilateral summit in Turkey of the Astana troika. Putin is also due to visit Saudi Arabia in October.

However, it is improbable that Saudis would want US to get involved. The trust deficit is palpable. (The Trump administration has decided to reveal the identity of the Saudi official who allegedly helped the 9/11 terrorists.)

The Saudi confidence in the US’ grit and commitment to stand by Saudi Arabia’s defence when the crunch time comes is shaky. Riyadh’s clout in the Washington Beltway has significantly diminished, especially after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The mood in the US Congress is hostile.

Again, there are highly sensitive aspects, which Riyadh would want to handle by itself. The Houthis claim to have had “intelligence and cooperation” from within Saudi Arabia for staging the drone attacks. If so, Houthis have contacts inside Saudi Arabia’s eastern province where the Shi’ite majority is agitating for empowerment and autonomy.

Riyadh will want to dig deep, but by itself without the CIA holding searchlights — since this ultimately concerns the Kingdom’s internal security and unity and the destiny of the royal family.

Saturday’s attacks have shown that Saudi defence is highly vulnerable. Any escalation by the US may lead to military confrontation with Iran and is fraught with the grave danger of the destruction of the Kingdom.

The UAE (and other GCC states) would also be averse to any further escalation. In the recent weeks, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have made overtures toward Iran aimed tamping down tensions.

Yet another wrinkle is that differences have appeared between the Saudis and Emiratis over Yemen, with the latter projecting power in southern Yemen through proxy militia groups, undercutting the government headed by Mansur Hadi (whom Riyadh mentors.)

Over and above, Aramco’s IPO now hangs by a thread — and the Saudi Crown Prince’s Vision 300 programme to restructure the country’s economy and initiate much-needed reforms loses traction.

Saturday’s events have shown that the roof will come down on the world economy if any regional conflagration erupts leading to destruction of the petrodollar states. Brent Crude jumped 20% higher Sunday night.

If the Saudi outage could last for months, as seems likely, expect the Brent onslaught to continue until the price hits $80, and keeps moving higher. Suffice to say, Iran’s threat that it won’t be the only loser in a military confrontation with the US must be taken very seriously. The IRGC has reiterated this on Sunday.

In sum, the US has run out of options on Iran. If the intention behind Trump’s tweet is to unnerve Tehran and compel it to agree to a meeting between him and Rouhani in New York, that is sheer naivety. Nonetheless, the chances are there that a Trump-Rouhani meeting is likely.

Tehran never misses an opportunity to highlight that: a) it can be a factor of stability in the Persian Gulf; and, b) regional security is best handled by the regional states exclusively, through dialogue.

Rouhani’s first detailed remarks Sunday on these lines are significant. Some sort of contacts between and amongst Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Iran cannot be ruled out.

The bottom line is that the Saudis and Emiratis egged on Trump to take to the path of ‘maximum pressure’ against Iran, but as they look down the abyss today, they don’t like what they’re seeing.    

The Houthis have been behind a number of assaults on Saudi pipelines, vessels and other energy infrastructure. A Houthi spokesperson explained, “We promise the Saudi regime that our future operations will expand and be more painful as long as its aggression and siege continue.” The focus should be on winding down the war in Yemen, where it becomes crucial for Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to engage with Tehran.

September 16, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Saudi says unclear when oil output will return to normal after ‘massive’ damage

Press TV – September 15, 2019

An informed Saudi source says the damages inflicted on the Aramco oil facilities in the recent Yemeni drone attacks are so massive that it is not clear when the country’s oil output can return to normal.

Attacks by 10 Yemeni drones on Saudi Arabia’s key oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais have shut down about 50 percent of the kingdom’s crude and gas production, cutting the state oil giant’s crude oil supply by around 5.7 million barrels per day.

An oil industry source briefed on the developments said on Sunday it is unclear how long the oil production shutdown will continue, as it is impossible to fix the “big” damages overnight.

Aramco has given no timeline for output resumption. However, a source close to the matter told Reuters the return to full oil capacity could take “weeks, not days”.

Another source briefed on the developments said the kingdom’s oil exports would continue to run as normal this week thanks to large storage in the country.

High-resolution satellite photos of the damaged facilities “declassified” by the US administration on Sunday show the drone attacks have hit at least 19 points with great precision.

A senior US official, asked not to be named, has claimed that evidence shows the launch area was west-northwest of the targets – the direction of Iran and Iraq – not south from Yemen.

The official has also quoted Saudi officials as saying that there are signs that cruise missiles were used in the attack.

This comes as Yemen has clearly stated it used 10 drones for Saturday’s operation, which was one of their largest retaliatory attacks ever inside the kingdom.

Earlier in the day, Tehran dismissed the US’ claim of Iranian involvement in the drone attacks, saying “futile allegations and blind statements as such are incomprehensible and meaningless within the framework of diplomacy.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said such remarks “seem more like a plot being hatched by secret and intelligence organizations aimed at tarnishing a country’s image and setting the stage for future actions.”

He also criticized Saudi Arabia for fueling the flames of war in the region by committing various war crimes in Yemen for about five years, and hailed Yemen for putting up resistance in the face of the aggression.

Iraq has also denied reports alleging that the country was the site from where Yemeni drones were launched to attack Saudi oil installations.

The statement came from Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s office on Sunday. It said Iraq would act “decisively” if anyone tried to use its territory to attack other countries, AP reported.

September 15, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 7 Comments

Iraq Denies Report Drones Attacking Saudi Oil Facilities Were Launched From Its Territory

Sputnik – September 15, 2019

On Saturday Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities were attacked by two drones, causing major fires and disrupting oil production in Abqaiq in the eastern part of the country and in Khurais, northeast of Riyadh. The attacks were claimed by Yemen’s Houthi movement but the US put the blame on Iran. Tehran has refuted the allegations.

Iraq has denied media reports claiming that its territory was used to launch the drones that attacked Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities on Saturday night, a statement from the Iraqi Prime Minister’s press-service released on Twitter says.

“​Iraq denies reports in the press and on social media that its territory was used to attack oil facilities in Saudi Arabia using drones”, the statement reads.

It also says that the constitution of Iraq does not allow the use of its territory for aggressive actions towards its neighbours. The Iraqi authorities have set up a committee to monitor reports and the latest events relating to the drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities.

Iraq also urges the warring sides in Yemen to find a peaceful solution to the conflict and refrain from “mutual attacks that cause a huge damage to facilities and claim people’s lives,” according to the statement.

Two drones attacked Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities on Saturday night, causing major fires and disrupting oil production. Yemen’s Houthis claimed responsibility for the attacks but the US has blamed Iran for the incident. Tehran has rejected the allegations.

September 15, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 3 Comments

Yemen Revolutionaries: 10 Drones Hit Saudi Aramco Oil Facilities, Range of Targets to Be Expanded

Al-Manar | September 14, 2019

Yemeni revolutionaries claimed responsibility on Saturday for drone attacks on two major facilities run by Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant.

Spokesman of Yemeni armed forces Brigadier General Yahya Saree announced that ten drones hit Abqaiq – home to the company’s largest oil processing plant – and Khurais facilities.

The attack is “one of the most large-scale operations in the Saudi depth,” and dubbed “Balance of Deterrence-2,” the spokesman said.

“These attacks are our right, and we warn the Saudis that our targets will keep expanding.”

“We have the right to strike back in retaliation to the air strikes and the targeting of our civilians for the last five years,” Saree said, referring to Saudi-led aggression taking place against Yemenis since March 2015.

The Saudi regime has no choice but to halt aggression and lift the blockade imposed on Yemeni people, Saree added in a statement carried by Yemen’s Al-Massirah TV channel.

Earlier on Saturday, Saudi interior ministry said fires broke out at two Saudi Aramco oil facilities after they were struck by drones.

September 14, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Canada sells Iran’s properties, gives money away to ‘terror victims’

Press TV – September 13, 2019

Canada has gifted some $30 million worth of Iranian assets to the victims of terrorist attacks in which Iran says has not been involved, Canadian media reported.

The victims have received their share of the money earned through the sale of two Iranian-owned buildings in Ottawa and Toronto, according to a document filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in August.

The valuable Ottawa property, sold for $26.5 million, was used as the Iranian Cultural Center, and the Toronto building, sold for $1.85 million, served as the Center for Iranian Studies, the Global News reported.

In addition to the $28 million earned from the sale of the two properties, the victims were also awarded a share of some $2.6 million seized from Iran’s bank accounts. Documents also list a Toyota Camry and Mazda MPV.

The recipients include several American families who have filed claims in the Ontario and Nova Scotia courts, seeking a share of Iran’s assets seized by the Canadian government.

In particular, they include the family of Marla Bennett, a US citizen killed in a 2002 bombing that rocked the Hebrew University in Jerusalem al-Quds.

The attacks are mostly blamed on Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements Hamas and Hezbollah. The families claimed that the Iranian government supported the two organizations and was therefore responsible for their actions.

The complaints were first filed in the US but the claimants turned to Canada after finding out that the Iranian government had more properties and bank accounts there.

In July 2017, a Canadian court required the Islamic Republic to pay around $1.7 billion in damages to “American victims of terrorism.”

Iran has denied any role in the attacks which the courts have based their cases on to appropriate the country’s frozen assets.

Tehran had argued that the victims had to prove Iran’s role in each attack instead of just repeating the US government’s baseless allegations.

The seizure and sale of Iranian assets in Canada come as the country has turned into a center of fraud and a safe haven for embezzlers who manage to escape justice in the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to Iran’s prosecutor general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri.

Mahmoud Reza Khavari, a former Iranian banker, fled to Canada after a $2.6 billion financial fraud came to light in 2011. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison and the Interpol issued a warrant for him in December 2017.

Marjan Sheikholeslami, accused of embezzling public funds in Iran in two separate cases, has also fled to Canada. In 2010, amid the international sanctions on Iran, she founded various companies in Iran and Turkey to help Iran bypass the sanctions and sell its petrochemical products, but has reportedly refused to pay back the government’s money.

September 13, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 2 Comments

Australians detained in Iran were nabbed for flying drone in military area – reports

RT | September 12, 2019

An Australian couple in Iran were detained for breaking a law forbidding the flying of drones without a proper permit, according to new details that have emerged about the incident.

The couple, an Australian-British woman and her Australian boyfriend, were arrested some 10 weeks ago in Iran, British and Australian media have reported. On Wednesday, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) confirmed that it has been providing consular assistance to the families of three Australians detained in Iran, and it is believed that the duo is among those three.

While Canberra refused to disclose the identities of its citizens, and has not revealed the reason for their arrest, the mainstream media feasted on the reports, portraying the couple as innocent tourists thrown into a “notorious Tehran prison” after they camped out at a military area around Jajrood.

Fresh reports suggest that the couple was detained specifically for flying a drone near the capital, Tehran, thus violating an Iranian law banning the operation of this type of device without a government-issued license.

London-based Persian-language Manoto TV reported that the couple “were unaware” of the law, and their family blames a “misunderstanding” for their arrest.

The pair, identified in media reports as Jolie King and Mark Firkin, were prolific travel bloggers who had traveled through Asia documenting their journey on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Their last stop before Iran was Pakistan.

One of the goals the couple had reportedly set for the themselves was to “break the stigma around traveling to countries which get a bad rap in the media,” the Australian reported.

With mainstream media taking the bloggers’ side and using the incident to take yet another shot at Tehran, some pointed out that ignorance of the law has never been an excuse, no matter the country.

“Is there a stigma around following laws of the nation you’re traveling to? Or a stigma around doing research?” a tweeter wrote.

“A cautionary tale about breaking laws you didn’t know about,” another tweeted, noting that it’s standard practice for a country to regulate the use of drones, as they can be used for surveillance purposes and disrupt air traffic.

“Wouldn’t you get arrested in Sydney if you flew a drone without approval and inappropriately?” a commenter chimed in, while another called the spin that media put on the affair an example of “the usual West hypocrisy for propaganda.”

September 12, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | | 2 Comments

Trump Didn’t Start the War in Afghanistan, But He Owns It

By Thomas L. Knapp | Garrison Center | September 11, 2019

National Security Advisor John Bolton became the latest American casualty of Washington’s 18-year war in Afghanistan on September 10, fired by US president Donald Trump shortly after Trump announced that he had planned, but was canceling, a meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David to ink a “peace deal.”

Firing Bolton is a good start. Nobody sane wants a guy who looks like Captain Kangaroo but talks like Dr. Strangelove whispering foreign policy advice in a president’s ear. The main effect of his departure from the White House is to shift perceived responsibility for America’s ongoing fiasco in Afghanistan back where it belongs: Squarely on the shoulders of Donald J. Trump.

Before Trump became a presidential candidate, his views on the war made sense. “We should leave Afghanistan immediately. No more wasted lives,” he tweeted on March 1, 2013. In November of that same year, he urged Americans to “not allow our very stupid leaders to sign a deal that keeps us in Afghanistan through 2024.”

Unfortunately his position on the war became “nuanced” (read: pandering and weaselly) as he became first a presidential candidate and then president.

As president, he increased US troop levels in Afghanistan and dragged out the war he once said he wanted to end. In fact, the notional Camp David “peace deal” would merely have reduced those troop levels back to about where they were as of his inauguration. Some “peace deal!”

Throughout Trump’s presidency, his non-interventionist supporters have continuously made excuses for his failure to end US military adventures in Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere.

It’s always John Bolton’s fault, or Mike Pompeo’s. It’s always this general, or that bureaucrat, or the “fake news media,” or the “deep state” undermining poor, powerless little Donny Trump, thwarting his sincere desire to do the right thing and bring the troops home.

Oddly, those same supporters would have us believe that Trump is a bold and commanding genius, scattering his opponents before him as he  maneuvers 5D chess pieces around their tiddlywinks with his abnormally small hands, Making America Great Again.

It can’t be both. Nor is it necessarily either of those things. Whatever it is, this is necessarily part of it:

“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States …” — Article II, Section 2, US Constitution

Trump can pick up his phone any time, call the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and order the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. If his order is disobeyed, he can relieve the generals who fail to follow it and replace them with others who’ll do their jobs.

John Bolton didn’t stop him from doing that. Mike Pompeo can’t stop him from doing that. The “fake news media” and the “deep state” don’t get to countermand presidential orders to the armed forces.

Donald Trump owns this war. If he doesn’t end it, that’s on him and no one else.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).

September 11, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment