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Moscow Rules Out Destroying 9M729 Missile Complexes, Says They Fit INF Treaty

Sputnik – 19.03.2019

MOSCOW – Russia will not destroy its 9M729 missile complexes that Washington believes to be in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

“We can not go for destroying our 9M729 missile that Washington groundlessly believes to violate the treaty”, the ministry said.

According to the ministry, the United States is actively developing medium-range missile systems and Russia has to be ready for Washington’s potential deployment of such systems.

The ministry also stressed that extension of another arms control document, the New START, would be in the interests of the entire international community.

“Unfortunately, Washington prefers to create an atmosphere of uncertainty, sending negative signals [about the possibility of extension]”, the ministry said.

The US has repeatedly claimed that Russia is violating the treaty by testing 9M729 (NATO reporting name SSC-8) missiles at ranges banned by the agreement. Russia has refuted the accusations, insisting that the missile’s maximum range of 480km is in line with the INF Treaty’s requirements.

On 2 February, the United States formally suspended its obligations under the INF Treaty and launched the withdrawal process, which will be completed within six months unless Moscow remedies its alleged violations of the bilateral arms control deal. The same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied the accusations, announcing that Moscow had also suspended its obligations under the treaty in response to the US move.

March 19, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

Brazilian President visits CIA before visiting Trump on first US visit

Press TV – March 19, 2019

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has made an unprecedented visit to the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters in Langley, Virginia, in his first US visit before a meeting with US President Donald Trump scheduled on Tuesday.

Eduardo Bolsonaro, a lawmaker and son of the Brazilian president confirmed the visit on Monday, calling the intelligence agency one of the “most respected” in the world.

“Going now with president Jair Bolsonaro and ministers of the CIA, one of the most respected intelligence agencies in the world. It’ll be an excellent opportunity to speak about international relations topics in the region with experts and the technicians of the highest level,” he said in a tweet.

Eduardo Bolsonaro claimed the meeting was to discuss “international themes in the region”.

Leading Brazilian daily O Globo reported that Bolonsaro visited the agency along with Brazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro, noting that the visit had not been published in the president’s public agenda and that press was not allowed to accompany Bolonsaro in the event.

The CIA had no comment on the visit.

Observers believe the unusual visit further signals Bolsonaro’s shift towards Washington. The move is, however, expected to be received controversially in Brazil.

In 2013, American whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the American National Security Agency (NSA) had wiretapped the conversations of then-President Dilma Rousseff, leading to suspicions towards the US and its spy agencies.

Former Brazilian Foreign Minster Celso Amorim has also slammed the meeting, saying that “no Brazilian president had ever paid a visit to the CIA.”

“This is an explicitly submissive position. Nothing compares to this,” he added.

Bolsonaro originally arrived in the US on Sunday, stating that the trip marked the first “pro-America Brazilian president” recently visiting the country.

“It’s the beginning of a partnership focused on liberty and prosperity, something that all of us Brazilians have long wished for,” he said.

Bolsonaro is an ardent admirer of US President Donald Trump and the White House’s policies, particularly those with regard to opposing left-wing governments in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The Brazilian president, who is also known as “Tropical Trump,” has sparked controversy by following Trump on calling for the relocation of his country’s embassy to the occupied city of Jerusalem al-Quds.

Bolsonaro personally made the promise to Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu while he attended the Brazilian president’s inauguration ceremony on January 1.

Last week, however, reports emerged that Bolsonaro may fail to carry out the move following opposition from military officers in his cabinet.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao also objected to the embassy move last month, claiming that the measure would hurt Brazilian exports to Arab countries which include an estimated $5 billion in halal food sales.

Bolsonaro has also said that he is open to considering the establishment of a US military base in Brazil as a way to “counter Russian influence” in neighboring Venezuela.

The move was rejected by Brazilian Defense Minister General Fernando Azevedo e Silva a week later.

March 19, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

US Wants India to Stop Oil Trade With Venezuela – Special Envoy Abrams

Sputnik – 10.03.2019

US Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams confirmed that Washington is pressing India to stop buying Venezuelan oil.

“We say you should not be helping this regime, you should be on the side of the Venezuelan people”, Abrams told Reuters, adding that the White House had given the same message to other governments.

Previously, Bloomberg suggested that Caracas shipped 620,000 barrels a day to India in the first half of February, which is 66% more than the average daily shipments a month earlier.

In response, Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Raveesh Kumar stated that New Delhi would ignore US pressure and continue its trade with Venezuela.

Addressing the political crisis in the Latin American country earlier in February, US National Security Adviser John Bolton had warned that “nations and firms that support Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s theft of Venezuelan resources will not be forgotten”.

Washington introduced sanctions against Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA in January, blocking $7 billion in PDVSA assets and pressuring companies to cut ties with the firm until 11 March. The deadline, however, was later extended until 10 May.

The decision was made after opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself the country’s interim president. The United States immediately recognised him as head of Venezuela, with many of its allies following the suit; however, Russia, China, Mexico, Turkey and a number of other countries have supported Nicolas Maduro as Venezuela’s only legitimate president.

March 10, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

US military truck carrying missiles crashes in Idaho

Press TV – March 10, 2019

Police in the US state of Idaho were forced to close down a highway after a semi-truck carrying missiles for the military crashed.

According to state police, the truck veered off the main road at a rest stop along I-90 in northern Idaho on Friday night as the driver attempted to use the interstate on-ramp.

The 50-year-old man at the wheel lost control of the truck and accidentally drove into a hazardous materials containment area and disabled his vehicle by driving over a snowbank at the end of the hazmat area.

No one was hurt in crash but police had to completely shut down the road for four miles as a precaution, because the truck was transporting 16 missiles, each one weighing 900kg (2,000lbs).

The driver was cited for inattentive driving.

The US military has a long history of botched transportation of dangerous weapons and military equipment.

In November 2015, an astonishing video surfaced showing an armored escort vehicle colliding into a nuclear warhead loaded into a truck near Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

The escort vehicle was speeding behind the truck but the driver failed to react in time and ended up driving into it.

More recently, in February this year, a truck hauling a shipment of US Navy-owned military munitions crashed into two commercial trucks on US Highway 212 in southeastern Montana.

The US Air Force sent a six-member disposal unit to the scene, who then used 58kg of explosives to detonate 60 hazardous munitions that were damaged. The unit recovered 420 other projectiles.

In late January, two US military vehicles crashed in New Mexico, injuring all 9 personnel onboard, two of them critically.

The US military has been blamed for similar incidents abroad, notably in Germany and Japan.

March 10, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

US Embassy Employee Tried to Carry Mortar Shell in Luggage at Moscow Airport

Sputnik – 09.03.2019

The Russian Foreign Ministry has announced that it expects the US Department of State to explain the actions of one of its employees after a mortar shell was found in the luggage of a US embassy worker in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.

Following the discovery of a mortar shell in the luggage belonging to a US embassy employee at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry described this incident as an attempt to stage a provocation.

“It seems that the United States is trying to test Russia’s security capabilities not just from without, by regularly sending their warships and aircraft on provocative raids near our borders, but from within as well, even by using their embassy employees”, the ministry officials told Sputnik.

The incident occurred in the morning of 9 March when an object resembling a mortar mine was found during the screening of luggage belonging to a US embassy employee at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow.

“Bomb disposal experts who arrived at the scene confirmed that the object is indeed a mortar shell fitted with a detonator but devoid of explosive material, even though traces of explosives were present inside its casing”, the ministry explained.

The culprit himself reportedly claimed that he bought the dud shell as a souvenir for his “private collection”.

According to foreign ministry officials, the man managed to board another flight to New York and safely left Russia, without the mortar shell.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also noted that the American embassy was immediately notified of this incident by police and expressed hope that the embassy will explain the actions of their employee.

The ministry also remarked that considering the level of attention airport security gets in the United States after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the embassy worker had to realize that “a mortar shell in the luggage is very serious”, which means that he “made this move deliberately”.

March 9, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Robert Fisk Exposes Israel’s Hidden Role in the Brewing India-Pakistan Conflict

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | March 4, 2019

Well-known British journalist Robert Fisk recently wrote a very telling and troubling article in The Independent regarding the outsized role of the state of Israel in the burgeoning tensions between India and Pakistan, two nuclear powers. The story — despite its importance, given the looming threat of nuclear war between the two countries — was largely overlooked by the international media.

The tit-for-tat attacks exchanged between India and Pakistan last week have seen long-standing tensions between the two countries escalate to dangerous proportions, though Pakistan helped to deescalate the situation somewhat by returning and “saving” an Indian pilot whose plane had been shot down in retaliation for India’s bombing of targets in a disputed area administered by Pakistan.

That bombing was retaliation for a car bomb attack launched by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militants, a group that both India and Pakistan recognize as a terrorist organization, against Indian forces. Some analysts have speculated that India’s decision to bomb this area was made by Indian President Narendra Modi, a Hindu ethno-nationalist, in order to rally his base ahead of upcoming Indian elections in May.

Yet, whatever the reason, the bombing has revealed the close ties that have formed between Modi’s India and Israel, particularly between their militaries. As Fisk notes, following the bombing, Indian media heavily promoted the fact that Israeli-made bombs — specifically, Rafael Spice-2000 “smart bombs” — had been used in the attack. Fisk writes:

Like many Israeli boasts of hitting similar targets, the Indian adventure into Pakistan might owe more to the imagination than military success. The ‘300-400 terrorists’ supposedly eliminated by the Israeli-manufactured and Israeli-supplied GPS-guided bombs may turn out to be little more than rocks and trees.”

Recently released satellite images seem to corroborate what Fisk predicted, as the bombing failed to hit its intended target and instead damaged a nearby forest.

Image courtesy of Planet Labs, Google Earth and Digital Globe

Arguably the most important aspect of Fisk’s report is his detailing of the very close ties that have been forged between the Israeli and Indian militaries in recent years. For instance, according to Fisk, India was Israel’s arms industry’s largest client in 2017, spending nearly $700 million on Israeli air-defense systems, radars, ammunition and missiles. Many of those weapons had been promoted as “combat tested” after being used against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the world’s largest open-air prison. That same year, India represented 49 percent of Israel’s arms export market.

In addition to arms purchases, many Indian soldiers have traveled to the Negev desert to be trained by Israeli “special commando” units, and at least 16 elite Indian “Garud” commandos were recently based at two separate Israeli air bases.

Exporting oppression

Just as troubling as this military cooperation is that ethnonationalism and anti-Islam rhetoric are increasingly becoming the basis for the relationship between the two countries.

For instance, a recent Haaretz article, written by Shairee Malhotra and cited by Fisk, noted that “the India-Israel relationship is also commonly being framed in terms of a natural convergence of ideas between their ruling BJP and Likud parties.” Other reports have noted that this has translated into more “aggressive” policies from Modi targeting Kashmir and Muslims elsewhere in India and that continued Israeli goading of Modi’s anti-Islam tendencies could make life much more difficult for the estimated 180 million Muslims living in India.

Indian police beat a Kashmiri Shiite Muslim for participating in a religious procession in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 19, 2018. Dar Yasin | AP

While some analysts and reports have warned about this danger, Fisk notes that it will be difficult to prevent the Zionist, fascist nationalism of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party from influencing India’s ruling party, writing:

It is difficult to see how Zionist nationalism will not leach into Hindu nationalism when Israel is supplying so many weapons to India – the latest of which India, which has enjoyed diplomatic relations with Israel since 1992, has already used against Islamists inside Pakistan.”

Fisk goes on to note that “[s]igning up to the ‘war on terror’ – especially ‘Islamist terror’ – may seem natural for two states built on colonial partition.” Indeed, India’s actions in the disputed Kashmir region share many similarities to Israel’s neocolonial occupation of Palestine. For instance, the Muslim majority of Kashmir are treated as second-class citizens on their own land and their push for self-determination has been brutally suppressed by Indian forces. As of 2016, 500,000 Indian military personnel were present in the region, roughly equating to one soldier for every 25 civilians. As Al Jazeera noted at the time, there have been more than 70,000 killings, about 10,000 enforced disappearances and 7,000 mass graves found since 1947 in Indian-administered Kashmir.

There are many other parallels between Kashmir and Palestine, including the fact that the British government shares a large share of the responsibility for both. Indeed, the British-brokered partition creating the current states of India and Pakistan in 1947 is the root of the current conflict in Kashmir much as the Britain-mandated creation of the Israeli state in 1948 is the root of the current conflict in Palestine. As far as Kashmiris and Palestinians are concerned, the governments of India and Israel picked up where their colonial master of years past left off.

If a deadly conflict ultimately breaks out between India and Pakistan, it will hardly be the first time Israel has armed controversial governments. Israel sold arms to the Rwandan government during the Rwandan genocide and, more recently, to the government of Myanmar during its “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya Muslims. Yet, as Fisk notes, Israel’s export of Zionist nationalism and neocolonialism — and the accompanying oppression that in practice actually helps to create many of the very terrorist groups they fight against — is just as dangerous as its export of arms.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and has contributed to several other independent, alternative outlets. Her work has appeared on sites such as Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire among others. She also makes guest appearances to discuss politics on radio and television. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

March 4, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 3 Comments

Guaido returns to Venezuela to the welcome of foreign ‘bodyguard’ envoys

RT | March 4, 2019

Self-declared “interim president” of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, returned from his South American tour on Monday, arriving into the loving (and protective) arms of ambassadors from the foreign governments backing him.

Despite Venezuelan authorities making it clear he could face 30 years in prison for attempting to overthrow the government and violating a travel ban, Guaido chose to arrive directly to an airport in Caracas.

The risk of arrest was notably mitigated by the presence of ambassadors from Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands and several other countries which gathered at the arrival gate to huddle around him like a high-profile human shield. While Guaido was all smiles, his Western-world entourage seemed a bit on edge.

While the media fretted that Maduro might make good on threats to arrest Guaido, the opposition leader passed through customs without incident and headed straight to a rally in central Caracas.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence warned the Venezuelan government that Washington protects its investments, stressing how important Guaido is to them, and threatening a “swift response” if anyone tries to bully him.

Shortly after moving unhindered through the airport, Guaido arrived at a demonstration he called for on Twitter the week before. Addressing crowds in the country’s capital city, he called on his supporters to take to the streets for continued demonstrations next Saturday.

While Guaido toured South America and met with his most critical support base – foreign governments – the US ramped up pressure on Maduro’s government, imposing intensified sanctions and revoking visas for state actors.

March 4, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Russian oil expert detained at Kiev’s request in Greece, lawyer calls arrest ‘politicized’

RT | March 3, 2019

A Russian national has been arrested in Greece and faces extradition to Ukraine on tax-crime charges. His lawyer said he is being persecuted for supporting the former Ukrainian president who was ousted in a Western-backed coup.

Evgeny Kalinin, a Russian energy expert, was arrested by the Greek authorities at Athens International Airport on Thursday, his lawyer, Yannis Rahiotis, told Sputnik.

Kalinin is a well-known oil industry expert, Rahiotis said, noting that his client was on a routine business trip to the country at the time. Kalinin appeared in court on Friday, when he was sent to prison until Ukraine’s extradition request is delivered to Athens.

According to Rahiotis, Kalinin faces unspecified tax-crime charges, which allegedly arise from his past work as a top executive in Ukraine’s oil company.

Kalinin served as vice president of TNK-BP Commerce, a Kiev-based company that specializes in producing and selling crude oil products in Ukraine and Russia, until 2011. The company, which was founded in 2003, also operates a network of gasoline and filling stations in Ukraine.

While the essence of the charges Kalinin is facing are not yet clear, Rahiotis believes they are politically motivated. The lawyer pointed out that Kalinin’s name has been included in a database of the notorious Ukrainian website Mirotvorets (Peacekeeper). The ultra-nationalist site contains a blacklist of ‘traitors’ who it says must be dealt with. On the list, Kalinin has found himself in the company of such big foreign political names as former German chancellor Gerhard Shroeder, who was added to the ‘hit-list’ in November, prompting the German Foreign Ministry to reprimand Kiev for not taking down the website.

“This case is a political one. Kalinin is included into the Mirotvorets list. He is being persecuted because he was a supporter of former president Victor Yanukovich,” Rahiotis said.

Russian diplomats have been in contact with Kalinin, and have been providing him “with all necessary consular assistance,” the Russian Embassy in Greece said, as cited by Sputnik.

Kalinin’s arrest has already drawn condemnation from a senior Russian lawmaker.

The deputy head of the Russian Senate Defense and Security Committee, Franz Klintsevich, has said that by playing into the Kiev’s hands, Athens is undermining its centuries-old relationship with Russia, which has traditionally been an ally.

“It’s still not late to stop. Russia will do everything to free Evgeny Kalinin,” he wrote on Facebook.

Another State Duma MP, Natalia Poklonskaya, argued that Kalinin’s arrest is likely to be politicized and exploited in the ongoing Ukrainian presidential campaign. She also warned Greece against becoming a pawn in a third party’s hands by simply following formal legal guidelines.

March 3, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Russia and China offer the SCO platform for India-Pak de-escalation

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 2, 2019

Saudi Arabia is pushing forward as mediator between India and Pakistan with a messianic zeal that patently enjoys US backing. The Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir is arriving in Delhi tomorrow. He was to have visited Islamabad on Friday but rescheduled his plan so that he can touch base with Modi first and thereafter meet the Pakistani leaders, including army chief Gen. Qamar Bajwa.

Modi and Bajwa will be Adel’s key interlocutors. How far the Saudi waltz will advance remains to be seen. How Modi handles the piquant situation will bear watch.

Certainly, the Saudi mediation makes India look rather immature and that becomes willy-nilly a reflection of Modi’s foreign policy legacy. The point is, no matter what Modi may boast about “new India”, the geopolitical reality is that India’s stature diminishes when it needs a small country like Saudi Arabia under an autocratic ruler to help out with what is arguably one of the most critical templates of its diplomacy.

Saudi Arabia has no track record as a peacemaker. On the contrary, it has a notorious reputation the world over as a promoter of terrorist groups.

Meanwhile, India does not have to be beholden to the Saudis to ease its tensions with Pakistan. The indications are that Russia and China are jointly sponsoring an initiative in this regard. China is deputing a special envoy to visit India and Pakistan to discuss the crisis situation. The Pakistani FM Shah Mehmood Qureshi disclosed this in Islamabad.

To be sure, Russia and China, which actively coordinate on the foreign policy front, are in consultation each other on the India-Pakistan tensions. We may also factor in that the foreign ministers of Russia and China had an opportunity last Wednesday to meet EAM Sushma Swaraj at the RIC ministerial.

Following that, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi also briefed Qureshi in a phone conversation where the latter had expressed the hope that “the Chinese side will continue to play a constructive role in easing the current tension.”

Equally, at the height of the India-Pakistan crisis, on February 27, Russian Foreign Ministry also had issued a statement expressing “grave concern over the escalating situation along the Line of Control and the surge in  tensions” between India and Pakistan “which are Russia’s friends.” It took a neutral stance and called on both sides “to show restraint and redouble efforts to resolve existing problems by political and diplomatic means.”

It is entirely conceivable that the Chinese special envoy’s visit is a related development signifying a coordinated effort by Beijing and Moscow and in consultation with Islamabad and New Delhi. This is of course a major shift in the tectonic plates of Eurasian politics and it has an added significance insofar as it is taking place in the New Cold War conditions.

Indeed, it does not need much ingenuity to figure out that a US-sponsored Saudi mediation between India and Pakistan must be a worrisome development for both Russia and China, from the geopolitical perspective.

At any rate, on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin telephoned Modi. According to the Kremlin readout, they discussed the “crisis in relations between India and Pakistan” and the Russian leader “expressed hope for a prompt settlement.” The careful wording hinted that Putin offered to lend a helping hand, jointly with China, to ease the tension.

Curiously, the very next day, the Russian Foreign Minster telephoned Qureshi in Islamabad — presumably to follow up on the Putin-Modi conversation — and offered help to “de-escalate” the tensions. The Russian Foreign Ministry readout, cited by state news agency TASS, says: “Moscow expressed its readiness to contribute to de-escalating tensions and that there is no alternative to settling all differences between Islamabad and New Delhi by political and diplomatic means.”

Importantly, Lavrov also outlined to Qureshi how the de-escalation process can be achieved — via the mechanism of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

A Xinhua report since highlighted this aspect — that Lavrov told Qureshi about the “possibility of using the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s Regional Anti-terrorist Structure for this purpose.”

Alongside, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova outlined in an important statement on Thursday Moscow’s broad approach. Zakharova said:

“We are worried about the escalation of tension in relations between India and Pakistan and dangerous manoeuvres of both states’ armed forces along the Line of Control that are fraught with a direct military clash.”

“We are urging the sides to display maximum restraint. We continue to assume that contentious matters should be resolved by political-diplomatic methods on a bilateral basis in line with the provisions of the 1972 Simla Agreement and the 1999 Lahore Declaration.”

“We reaffirm our readiness to provide all-out support to the Indian and Pakistani efforts in countering terrorism.”

From the Indian perspective, this adds up to an extremely positive outcome of EAM’s consultations in Zhejiang with her Russian and Chinese counterparts. This must be EAM Swaraj’s finest hour in international diplomacy, as the curtain begins descending shortly on her scintillating stint as India’s foreign minister.

No doubt, the urgency of “de-escalation” of the tensions with Pakistan is self-evident. The “de-escalation” is far from over with the return of the Indian pilot. In fact, the tensions on the Line of Control can spiral out of control anytime in the present supercharged atmosphere.

Without doubt, the international community — read the US and NATO allies — is closely watching. The Afghan endgame is at a most sensitive stage and any eruption of tensions between India and Pakistan will negatively impact the peace process.

India should wholeheartedly welcome the Sino-Russian proposal, cast within an SCO framework as far more preferable to the dalliance with the Saudis and the Emiratis — or, for that matter, any UN intervention.

The fact of the matter is that both Russia and China are stakeholders in India-Pakistan normalisation and neither has any hidden agenda in this regard. Of course, Russia and China are like-minded partners for India in the fight against terrorism. On the other hand, unlike in the Cold War era, Pakistan is keen on Eurasian integration, too.

March 2, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Do not barter away India’s national security interests

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 1, 2019

There has been an avalanche of reports in the international media quoting western diplomats and security officials to the effect that India’s “intelligence-led… non-military preemptive strike” on a big terrorist camp in Pakistan on February 26 was all baloney. Apparently, these reports say, there was so such terrorist camp in existence in Balakot.

Incredibly enough, no one in the government cares to set the record straight. The Foreign Secretary had claimed earlier that the strike killed “a very large number of Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists, trainers, senior commanders, and groups of jihadis who were being trained for Fidayeen action were eliminated.”

But surprisingly, the day after the FS spoke, Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor said it was “premature” to provide details about casualties. He would only say that the Indian armed forces had “fairly credible evidence” of the damage inflicted on the camp by the air strikes.

It is important for the government to clarify, because what happened was a defining moment in India-Pakistan relations and in India’s fight against terrorism. The nation has a right to know. No doubt, crossing another country’s borders and attacking its territory is a major escalation. What is the rationale behind such escalation?

Prime Minister Modi says he’s given a “free hand” to the armed forces. Are we to assume that the IAF suo moto acted on February 26? That is inconceivable.

This calls for deep introspection: What is it that the government achieved through the 60-odd hours between the early hours of Tuesday and the evening of Thursday? There is no shred of evidence that Pakistani side is cowed down in fear.

On the contrary, Pakistan insists that it will retaliate against any act of Indian aggression. Prime Minister Imran Khan disclosed in the National Assembly in Islamabad yesterday that in the night of Wednesday-Thursday, the Pakistani military was in a state of readiness to fire missiles into India.

Some of our self styled experts say we’ve “sent a message” to Pakistan that we’ll hit them hard if terrorism continued. How can they be so sure? The Pakistani retaliation with an attack on India the very next day — an act of war by targeting our military installations — discredits their thesis.

The most unfortunate part is that after precipitating the crisis situation on Tuesday, the government ducked and took help from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to “de-escalate” the situation.

Make no mistake, this fateful move has grave implications. The whole world knows that these two petrodollar states are the principal sponsors of terrorist groups who destroyed Syria.

Importantly, how can we possibly overlook that Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and other terrorist organisations in Pakistan have received direct support from these Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia? There is plentiful evidence of it.

An action request cable archived by Wikileaks, documenting the illicit finance activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, stated that “it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.” The cable continues, “Still, donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” It describes Saudi Arabia as “a critical financial support base” for Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other terrorist groups.”

By the estimation of the US state department, LeT and JeM are all but synonymous! As far back as in 1993, the LeT became part of the United Jihad Council, an umbrella group for militant Islamists operating in J&K, and in doing so, it formed a direct alliance with the JeM (which claimed credit for the Pulwama attack recently.)

In fact, another Wikileaks cable confirmed that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been funnelling money not just to LeT but to JeM directly. It says:

“Locals believed that charitable activities being carried out by Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith organizations, including Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Al-Khidmat Foundation, and Jaish-e-Mohammed were further strengthening reliance on extremist groups and minimizing the importance of traditionally moderate Sufi religious leaders in these communities. Government and non-governmental sources claimed that financial support estimated at nearly 100 million USD annually was making its way to Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith clerics in the region from ‘missionary’ and ‘Islamic charitable’ organizations in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ostensibly with the direct support of those governments.”

Saudi Arabia has quite openly held out assurances to Pakistan that it need not go after JeM directly.

Indeed, the most dangerous part of the gambit by the Modi government to let in Saudi Arabia and the UAE into its matrix over Pakistan and Kashmir is that this policy shift is completely of sync with the wider geopolitical struggle unfolding in the region.

Quite obviously, Saudi Arabia wants to win Pakistan over in a tug-of-war game with Iran and is doling out to Islamabad generous financial help and a $10 billion investment plan to to build an oil refinery in the Gwadar port project (which actually puts a major Saudi project on Iran’s border.) The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) recent visit to Pakistan has essentially cemented Pakistan’s inclusion in anti-Iran Arab NATO.

Against this backdrop, how could the Indian policymakers blithely overlook the far-reaching, dangerous implications of consorting with Saudi Arabia and the UAE as partners in its fight against terrorism in J&K fomented by Pakistan?

The most intriguing part is the newfound bonhomie between the Indian elite  and the sheikhs. Put differently, you don’t take help from the wolf to guard the sheep, right? What explains the Faustian deal to allow them to enter the sanctum sanctorum of India’s foreign policy — Kashmir and the matrix of India-Pakistan relations?

Beware of the lure of green money. The Saudis and Emiratis are great operators in Washington, DC. Their fierce lobbying and charm offensives are legion. If they could manipulate the American political class so brilliantly, our oligarchy must be chicken feed.

March 2, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

US Urges ‘Calm’ While Stoking India-Pakistan Conflict

Strategic Culture Foundation | 01.03.2019

International powers this week anxiously urged India and Pakistan to avoid further escalation of military confrontation. Given the two nations have gone to war on three occasions during the past seven decades and are both nuclear armed, the international concern is palpable.

The US has lately joined calls by Russia, China and Europe appealing for restraint, and for the Indian and Pakistani leaderships to negotiate a resolution to avert a catastrophic slide towards conflict.

American President Donald Trump, while in Vietnamese capital Hanoi for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, claimed that the US was mediating to defuse the crisis between India and Pakistan.

“We’ve been in the middle trying to help them both out,” said Trump.

Incongruously, however, the Trump administration has in fact acted in an opposite fashion, to inflame the recent tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have both issued statements which “support India’s right to self-defense against terrorism”. The US officials have also laid the blame on Pakistan for sponsoring acts of terrorism by militant groups in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The northern territory of Kashmir has been the cause of bitter dispute between India and Pakistan ever since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.

The massacre of over 40 Indian troops earlier this month on February 14 in the Indian-side of Kashmir has sparked outrage among the wider Indian population demanding revenge. The suicide bomb attack was claimed by Kashmiri militant group Jaish e-Mohammed (JeM). India claimed that Pakistan had a hand in the atrocity through its support for JeM, which the Pakistani authorities denied.

The mounting of air strikes by India this week deep inside Pakistani territory on a militant training camp – purportedly in retaliation for the Kashmir massacre of its troops – represented a dramatic escalation. If India had limited its strikes to Pakistani-controlled Kashmir the retaliation could perhaps have been argued as being proportionate. But the violation of Pakistani territory – some 50 kms west of the historical Line of Control – was arguably an act of war. The last time Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistan was in 1971 during the two countries’ third and last war.

Not surprisingly, Pakistani fighter jets have subsequently launched strikes on Indian-controlled Kashmir. There were also further alleged incursions by Indian warplanes, two of which were reportedly shot down by the Pakistani side. Pakistan also lost one of its jets in a shoot-down but the aircraft apparently crashed inside its territory.

Tensions have boiled over further with the capture of an Indian pilot by the Pakistanis who released video footage of him apparently injured with a bloodied face. That led to outcry in New Delhi that Islamabad was in breach of the Geneva Convention concerning treatment of prisoners of war. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to return the Indian pilot as a gesture towards de-escalation.

Nevertheless, the tensions and danger of an all-out war continue to mount. There have been several reports of heavy artillery cross-border exchanges between Indian and Pakistani forces. While both governments say they don’t want a war, the dynamic could explode beyond their control.

The Kashmir dispute is certainly fraught with enormous historical difficulties bestowed by baleful British imperialist legacy of partitioning land and people with such contempt for indigenous rights and traditions, as well as from cynically playing partisan politics for imperial advantage. Washington’s contemporary meddling in Indian-Pakistan affairs has echoes of past British subterfuge.

Pakistan’s relations with Kashmiri militant groups whom India denounces as “terrorist” is only part of a complex equation. Another part of the equation is India’s intensive militarization of the province and its alleged abusive occupation of territory and people who aspire to be part of Pakistan. The region is predominantly Muslim.

If a peaceful resolution is to ever succeed there must be an earnest process of demilitarizing the entire Kashmir area. That onus is primarily on India.

One thing that is certainly not constructive is the simplistic and clumsy way that the United States has intervened recently by pointedly taking the Indian side of the narrative. For senior Trump administration officials to proclaim India’s “right to self-defense” against implied Pakistani-sponsored terrorism is in effect a green light for New Delhi to launch air strikes against its neighbor.

That reckless advocacy by Washington is predictably leading to a spiral of violence which ultimately could result in an all-out war between two nuclear states.

President Trump’s self-congratulatory tone about supposed mediation between India and Pakistan is far off the mark from reality. The Trump administration’s belated words appealing for “restraint” and “calm” are belied by the earlier words from Bolton and Pompeo giving India a license to commit acts of war.

Of course, what would one expect from the American side? The Trump administration is currently in the throes of violating the sovereignty of Venezuela with threats of military invasion against that South American nation. Washington has completely lost its compass on international law and norms of conduct.

There are indeed deeper reasons for why Washington would like to see a conflict between India and Pakistan blow up. Such a confrontation would cause major geopolitical problems for China, which is historically an ally of Pakistan but which has also recently endeavored to build a rapprochement with India. Stoking a confrontation in South Asia would serve Washington’s interest in destabilizing China and Russia’s strategic plans for economic integration of Eurasia.

India and Pakistan’s political leaderships must keep cool heads and think of the bigger global picture. Only recently, India’s Narendra Modi and Pakistan’s Imran Khan were expressing an aspiration for improving ties between the two South Asian states. They must resist playing politics for internal political gains, and they must resist being manipulated by external powers which seek to gain advantage at the expense of Asian divisions. The historical thorn of Kashmir can be resolved if India and Pakistan entered into a genuine and mutual compromise.

March 1, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Militants Continue to Prevent Refugees From Leaving Rukban Camp – Russian MoD

Sputnik – 26.02.2019

Militants are still preventing refugees and their families from leaving Syria’s Rukban camp, head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Syrian Reconciliation Lt. Gen. Sergei Solomatin said on Monday.

“Illegal armed groups operating in the area [spanning] 55 kilometers [34 miles] are preventing the civilians from leaving the Rukban camp”, Solomatin told a briefing.

According to earlier statements, two checkpoints were opened last Tuesday to facilitate the refugees’ withdrawal from the Rukban camp, which lies in the area controlled by the United States. Soldiers from the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria and crews of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are working at the checkpoints, and are prepared to provide assistance for those who want to leave the camp.

The Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Syrian Reconciliation has called on the United States to put pressure on the leadership of opposition groups and prevent them from disrupting the evacuation of civilians from the camp.

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said refugees from the Rukban camp should have long been evacuated, but the United States and the militants under its control forbade them to leave. The US Department of State spokesman Robert Palladino has replied that the United States had not prevented people who live in the camp from leaving the facility and called on Russia to help facilitate deliveries of humanitarian aid.

The situation in the Rukban camp, which is situated within the US-controlled zone surrounding its military base in At-Tanf, has become increasingly dire as refugees residing there have not been regularly receiving sufficient amounts of humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Syrian Reconciliation also reported Monday that a number of ceasefire violations had been registered within the Idlib de-escalation zone in past 24 hours. According to Solomatin, more than 55,200 Syrians who evaded from military service were granted amnesty by Damascus. He added that as of Sunday, 224,424 Syrian refugees had returned home.

Syria has been in a state of civil war since 2011, with the government forces fighting against numerous opposition groups and militant and terrorist organizations. Russia, along with Turkey and Iran, is a guarantor of the ceasefire regime in Syria. Moscow has also been providing humanitarian aid to residents of the crisis-torn country.

February 26, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment