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As US Tries to Remake Rather than Rebuild Northern Syria, Local Resistance Groups Emerge

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | May 23, 2018

RAQQA, SYRIA – A handful of groups claiming to resist the U.S.-led occupation of Northeastern Syria have sprung up throughout the region since the year began — targeting U.S. forces as well as the U.S. proxy in the area, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Since last year, the U.S. has been occupying over 30 percent of Syrian territory, as well as most of the country’s oil, gas, agricultural and fresh-water resources.

Most of the groups have sprung up in areas of Syria under U.S. and SDF control, citing the U.S.-appointed local government’s inability to tackle major issues, like restoring water supplies and stemming discrimination against non-Kurdish civilians as the main factors behind their decision to oppose U.S. occupation.

The first Syrian resistance group to target the U.S. occupation, the pro-government Popular Resistance of Raqqa (PRoR), was formed in February in the city of Raqqa, where according to monitors, a U.S.-led battle to retake the city killed over 1,800 civilians. Eighty percent of all of the city’s buildings were destroyed in the battle — including critical infrastructure and its water supply — and the area remains littered with landmines. Since the U.S.-appointed government has taken control, little has been done to improve living conditions in the city.

The PRoR announced in a video statement:

We officially declare the formation of the popular resistance in Raqqa to prevent the American aggression from taking over any part of our beloved Syria after it [the U.S.] gathered terrorists from all over the world as their proxies; who destroyed the city of Raqqa and killed its innocent people.”

The group later called on the people of Raqqa to resist the U.S. and its proxies by “engaging in demonstrations, strikes and opposing all efforts to partition Syria.”

As MintPress has reported over the course of the conflict, partitioning Syria has long been a goal of the U.S.-led coalition and is the driving force behind the U.S. military’s ongoing presence in the region.

PRoR has since attacked U.S. military assets, including a U.S.-occupied Syrian military base near Raqqa, which the group shelled in early April.  Al Masdar Newsreported at the time that the group has also had some success in covertly recruiting locals “who are opposed to the U.S.-appointed government’s policies and the U.S.-backed SDF.”

The message of the PRoR seems also to have taken hold among some of Raqqa’s civilians. Since the group encouraged local resistance in the form of protests and strikes, several civilian protests against the U.S. occupation have taken place in Raqqa, including those that have expressed support for the Syrian government and President Bashar al-Assad. The most recent of these protests took place earlier this week.

Resistance to foreign rule no surprise

Though emergence of local resistance may seem to have been an unintended consequence of the U.S.’ occupation of the area, such resistance – namely from Arabs and non-Kurds native to the area – was anticipated by the U.S. and its proxies prior to their taking control of the city.

AsMintPressreported last June, the greatest obstacle that faced U.S./SDF plans to annex Raqqa as part of the Kurdish “autonomous region” was the native population of Raqqa itself, which is historically Arab. At the time, it seemed highly unlikely that any Arab or non-Kurd would willingly choose to live as a second-class citizen under the rule of a Kurdish-dominated and U.S.-appointed council, as opposed to the equal standing they once enjoyed when the city was under Syrian government control.

These concerns were exacerbated by widespread reports of the Kurdish militia “ethnically cleansing” Arabs from villages around Raqqa, as well as the mass deaths of civilians that marked the U.S.-led coalition efforts to retake Raqqa.

However, Kurdish efforts to permanently expel Raqqa’s Arabs failed. Following the city’s liberation from Daesh (ISIS), over 95,000 native inhabitants of Raqqa – many of them Arab – returned. Since then, Russian military sources claim that “the native Arab population is subjected to repression and punishment” by U.S.-appointed leaders, many of whom are Kurdish and not native to Raqqa, causing “sharp discontent among local residents.”

The chief of staff of Russia’s military contingent in Syria, Col. Gen. Sergey Rudskoy, noted “[the commands] of the Syrian Democratic Forces and local governments, appointed by the Americans, do not cope with the need to resolve humanitarian problems.”

Indeed, given that the critical infrastructure destroyed by the U.S. coalition has yet to be restored – including the city’s water supply — and the fact that the U.S. has diverted funds for “rebuilding” the area into more weapons for the SDF, Raqqa’s civilians may soon become convinced that those resisting the U.S. occupation are more interested in their welfare than are their occupiers.

A spreading resistance

Recent events elsewhere in U.S.-occupied Syrian territory have suggested resistance to the U.S. military presence is spreading well beyond Raqqa.

On Monday, three U.S. Army soldiers were killed in the Syrian province of Hasakah, in the country’s Northeast — an area that is currently occupied by the United States and its Kurdish-majority military proxy, the SDF. While the soldiers’ deaths were largely ignored by Western media, local media noted that the deaths occurred after three military vehicles crashed while patrolling the town of Tal Tamr, and suggested a resistance group aimed at ending the U.S. occupation may be to blame.

Th deaths in Hasakah raise questions as to whether popular resistance against the U.S. occupation of the territory is spreading. Indeed, Hasakah has recently suffered from U.S. airstrikes, including one earlier this month that killed 25 civilians and injured 10 more near the town al-Shaddadi in Hasakah’s south. Other reports on the incident claimed an entire family was killed in the strike. Such atrocities are likely to spark further resistance to the U.S. occupation, as has happened on numerous occasions over the course of the U.S.’ “War on Terror.”

Time will tell if resistance to the U.S. occupation is spreading. Regardless, the growing discontent among civilians suggests that the unraveling of the U.S. occupation of Syria may come from internal, not external, forces.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

May 24, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | 3 Comments

“Skirmishes” – Israel’s Syria Blitz

Media Lens | May 23, 2018

A key ‘mainstream’ media theme in covering the Israeli army’s repeated massacres of unarmed, non-violent Palestinian civilians protesting Israel’s military occupation in Gaza – killing journalists, a paramedic, the elderly and children – has been the description of these crimes as ‘clashes’.

This has been a clear attempt to obfuscate the fact that while two groups of people are involved, only one group is being killed and wounded.

To the casual reader – and many readers do not venture beyond the headlines – a ‘clash’ suggests that both sides are armed, with both suffering casualties. One would not, for example, describe a firing squad as a ‘clash’. There was no ‘clash’ in New York on September 11, 2001, and so on.

Following Israel’s massive blitz on more than 100 targets in Syria on May 10, ‘mainstream’ coverage offered similarly questionable frameworks of understanding.

A Guardian headline read:

Israel retaliates after Iran “fires 20 rockets” at army in occupied Golan Heights (Our emphasis)

For moral, legal and public relations reasons, the issue of which side started a conflict is obviously crucial. If the public recognises that the case for war is unjustified, immoral or illegal – that a country has chosen to launch a war of aggression – they will likely oppose it, sometimes in the millions, as happened in 2002 and 2003 in relation to the Iraq war. It is thus highly significant that the Guardian described Israel as retaliating.

The BBC reported of Israel’s attacks:

They came after 20 rockets were fired at Israeli military positions in the occupied Golan Heights. (Our emphasis)

Reuters took the same line as the Guardian and BBC:

Iran targets Israeli bases across Syrian frontier, Israel pounds Syria

Iranian forces in Syria launched a rocket attack on Israeli forces in the Golan Heights early on Thursday, Israel said, prompting one of the heaviest Israeli barrages in Syria since the conflict there began in 2011. (Our emphasis)

The New York Times also reported:

It was a furious response to what Israel called an Iranian rocket attack launched from Syrian territory just hours earlier. (Our emphasis)

And yet, the report buried a challenge to its own claim that Israel had retaliated in the second half of the piece:

Iran’s rocket attack against Israel came after what appeared to have been an Israeli missile strike against a village in the Syrian Golan Heights late on Wednesday. (Our emphasis)

According to the BBC (see below), the Israeli missile strike had targeted an Iranian drone facility killing several Iranians.

So, actually, it might be said that Iran was retaliating to Israeli attacks – a more reasonable interpretation, given recent history also described by the New York Times:

Israel has conducted scores of strikes on Iran and its allies inside Syria, rarely acknowledging them publicly.

Nevertheless, the corporate media theme has been that Israel retaliated, part of a long-term trend in media coverage. In a 2002 report, Bad News From Israel, The Glasgow University Media Group commented:

On the news, Israeli actions tended to be explained and contextualised – they were often shown as merely “responding” to what had been done to them by Palestinians (in the 2001 samples they were six times as likely to be presented as “retaliating” or in some way responding than were the Palestinians).

Was Iran Skirmishing?

But was Iran even involved at all? The opening, highlighted sentence in a front-page BBC piece by diplomatic editor Jonathan Marcus left the reader in no doubt:

These are the first skirmishes in a potential war between Israel and Iran that promises a fearful level of destruction – even by the standards of the modern Middle East.

So this was a ‘skirmish’, a clash involving Israel and Iran – they were both involved in the combat. And yet, in the second half of the article, Marcus wrote:

The alleged Iranian attack last night – I say alleged because at this stage there is no confirmation from Iranian sources as to the precise authors of the attack – involved a single and relatively short-range system, what appears to have been a multiple-barrelled rocket launcher.

How can the Iranian attack be merely ‘alleged’ half-way down the article but a bald fact in the highlighted opening sentence?

In fact, not only has there been ‘no confirmation’, there has been outright Iranian rejection of the claims. Abolfazl Hassan-Baygi, deputy head of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee, commented:

Iran has nothing to do with the missiles that struck the enemy entity yesterday.

Associated Press (AP ) reported Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi commenting that Israel’s attacks were based on ‘fabricated and baseless excuses’, and were a breach of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.

AP quoted a senior Lebanese politician and close ally of Syria and Iran, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, as saying: ‘this time the Syrian retaliation was in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights but next time it will be in Israel proper. (Our emphasis)

Later in his BBC piece, Marcus wrote:

The immediate tensions stem from an Israeli air strike on what they claimed was an Iranian drone facility at the so-called T-4 air base, near Palmyra, on 9 April, which reportedly killed several Iranian military advisers.

This again challenged the idea that Israel had ‘retaliated’, but again it was not given the kind of prominence that could challenge Israel’s version of events.

So the ‘skirmishes’ may actually have consisted of Israel first attacking an Iranian drone facility killing Iranian personnel, and then launching a massive attack against Iranian positions across Syria, without Iran responding at all. And yet Marcus wrote:

It is a conflict that needs to be averted and the time to do it is now. However Israel and Iran remain on a collision course.

Despite the uncertainty on whether Iran had attacked, Marcus concluded:

Iran’s strategic intent is clear… it is unlikely to be dissuaded from its efforts.

He added:

Israel has drawn its red lines and it is clearly not going to back down either.

Obama also famously drew his ‘red line’ in Syria in 2012, threatening a massive attack in the event of Syrian government use of chemical weapons. But for Marcus, Israel’s actual launch of a massive attack merely constituted the drawing of ‘red lines’.

And again, ignoring his own doubts about what had happened, the required warmongering ‘balance’ was favoured:

For the immediate future, the pattern of strike, attempted riposte, and counter-strike is likely to continue.

If it had started at all! Marcus concluded his article with three ominous lines identifying another threat alongside the danger of Israel drawing more ‘red lines’ with more massive attacks:

One clear danger is that Iran may seek to exact its revenge outside the Middle East.

Pro-Iranian factions have in the past attacked Israeli tourists abroad or Jewish organisations, notably in Latin America.

A successful terrorist attack of this kind would inevitably alter the picture, pushing Israel and Iran to the brink of a full-scale war.

The word ‘terrorist’ thus made its first appearance in the last line of Marcus’s piece, in reference to a hypothetical Iranian atrocity.

The idea that Israel might already have committed terrorist atrocities in Syria by launching unprovoked attacks, by illegal bombings committed completely outside of international law, is unthinkable.

May 24, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

For US Congress, Running a Torture Prison Is a Good Career Move

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 24.05.2018

Gina Haspel has now been confirmed as the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) by a Senate vote of 54 to 45. She had previously been approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee by 10 votes to 5, with six Democrats joining all but three of the committee’s Republicans. Haspel seems fully qualified in terms of her experience to do the job, though it is admittedly difficult to make that judgement because her full professional biography has not been revealed by CIA. Claims by supporters seeking to enhance her record that she was “under cover” for 32 years are meaningless as many officers who serve at Agency Headquarters in Langley have that status.

Accurate information on Haspel is hard to come by. Access to a top secret memo reportedly prepared by Committee Democrats concerning her possibly illegal activities has been restricted even among Senators. Nevertheless, as the first woman to become head of the Agency one might reasonably say that Haspel has certainly broken through several glass ceilings to obtain her new position.

During the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings Haspel vowed that, if approved, she would never again permit torture to be employed by the Agency. It was, of course, a necessary though empty gesture in that it appears quite clear that she did not demur at torture being used in the past. Intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden expressed his opinion with a tweet when news of the confirmation became public, writing that “Gina Haspel participated in a torture program that involved beating an innocent pregnant woman’s stomach, anally raping a man with meals he tried to refuse, and freezing a shackled prisoner until he died. She personally wrote the order to destroy 92 tapes of CIA torture.”

Haspel did indeed do all that and possibly more, but my objection to her is somewhat different. To be sure, torture should never have been employed by any federal government agency, but the confirmation of Haspel sends the clear message that there is no accountability for anyone who is at or near the top of the bureaucracy. Haspel’s willing participation in running a black site prison where torture was carried out was illegal then just as it is illegal now, no matter what some slimy government lawyer whose job depended on pleasing his boss the president might have said. Gina Haspel could have turned the assignment down if she was bothered by what was going, but ambition drove her to accept the position and all it entails, making her current disavowing of torture a bit hard to accept.

The approval of Haspel by the Senate suggests that there is no crime that a government official cannot get away with if it is justified under the aegis of the “war on terror.” On that basis alone, Haspel should have been rejected, but instead she has been rewarded by a government that generally prefers to look the other way. Gina’s success at avoiding any consequences for her action is reminiscent of the slap on the wrist received by former CIA Director David Petraeus, who revealed highly classified information to his lover/biographer Paula Broadwell.

All of which is not to suggest that government officials never get punished. Lower level officials are fair game when the criminal justice system is seeking to demonstrate that no one is above the law. Former CIA officer John Kiriakou was sentenced to prison after he revealed that torture in secret Agency prisons was taking place. Another CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was imprisoned for allegedly revealing classified information to journalist James Risen. The government could not even prove that he had done so, but he was convicted anyway because “it had to be him.”

If it is now a matter of public record that running a torture prison is a good career move, supported by both parties in Congress. And it is also interesting to note how fiercely the CIA fought to keep from having to reveal details of Haspel’s career or even the records of the torture prison. It is unlikely that reports relating to events that took place sixteen years ago could continue to be classified because they would reveal “intelligence sources and methods.” Rather, they remain top secret because they are potentially embarrassing to the participants, to those who directed and approved the activity and to the organizations involved. In that light, the Haspel confirmation’s acceptance of zero accountability is a perfect example of precisely what is wrong with the United States government.

May 24, 2018 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Blaming the Victims of Israel’s Gaza Massacre

By Gregory Shupak | FAIR | May 17, 2018

Israel massacred 60 Palestinians on Monday, including seven children, bringing to 101 the total number of Palestinians Israel has killed since Palestinians began the Great March on March 30. In that period, Israel has killed 11 Palestinian children, two journalists, one person on crutches and three persons with disabilities.

Monday’s casualties included 1,861 wounded, bringing total injuries inflicted by Israel to 6,938 people, including 3,615 with live fire. Israel is using bullets designed to expand inside the body, causing maximum, often permanent damage: “The injuries sustained by patients will leave most with serious, long-term physical disabilities,” says Médecins Sans Frontières (Ha’aretz, 4/22/18).

On the 70th anniversary of Israel’s so-called “declaration of independence,” the United States opened its new embassy in Jerusalem—a city Israel claims as its own, despite what international law says on the matter—and Palestinians undertook unarmed protests in reaction to the move and as part of the Great Return March. Although to this point, the only Israeli casualty during the entire cycle of demonstrations has been one “lightly wounded” soldier, considerable space in coverage of the massacres is devoted to blaming Palestinians for their own slaughter.

NBC: Scores Dead in Gaza Fence Protest as US Moves Embassy to Jerusalem

NBC (5/14/18) mentions “what Palestinians refer to as their ‘right of return’”; actually, it’s what international law calls it, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Two of the first three paragraphs in an NBC report (5/14/18) provided Israel’s rationalizations for its killing spree. The second sentence in the article says that the Israeli military

accused Hamas of “leading a terrorist operation under the cover of masses of people,” adding that “firebombs and explosive devices” as well as rocks were being thrown towards the barrier.

A Washington Post article (5/14/18) devoted two of its first four sentences to telling readers that Palestinians are responsible for being murdered by Israel. Palestinian “organizers urged demonstrators to burst through the fence, telling them Israeli soldiers were fleeing their positions, even as they were reinforcing them,” read one sentence. “At the barrier, young men threw stones and tried to launch kites carrying flames in hopes of burning crops on the other side,” stated the next one, as though stones and burning kites released by a besieged people is violence remotely equivalent to subjecting people to a military siege and mowing them down.

The New York Times (5/14/18) said that “a mass attempt by Palestinians to cross the border fence separating Israel from Gaza turned violent, as Israeli soldiers responded with rifle fire,” painting Israel’s rampage as a reaction to a Palestinian provocation. Like FAIR (2/21/18) has previously said of the word “retaliation,” “response” functions as a justification of Israeli butchery: To characterize Israeli violence as a “response” is to wrongly imply that Palestinian actions warranted Israel unleashing its firing squads.

A Yahoo headline (5/14/18) described “Violent Protests in Gaza Ahead of US Embassy Inauguration in Jerusalem,” a flatly incorrect description in that it attributes the violence to Palestinian demonstrators rather than to Israel. The BBC (5/15/18) did the same with a segment called “Gaza Braced for Further Violent Protests.”

Bloomberg: Hamas Vows to Keep Targeting Fence After Gaza Bloodshed

In Bloomberg‘s account (5/14/18), the fence seemed to be the real victim.

One Bloomberg article (5/14/18) by Saud Abu Ramadan and Amy Teibel had the same problem, referring to “a protest marred by violence,” while another one (5/14/18) attributed only to Ramadan is headlined “Hamas Targets Fence as Gaza Bloodshed Clouds Embassy Move,” as though the fence were Monday’s most tragic casualty. Ascribing this phantom violence to Palestinians provides Israel an alibi: Many readers will likely conclude that Israel’s lethal violence is reasonable if it is cast as a way of coping with “violent protests.”

The second paragraph of the Bloomberg article solely written by Ramadan says that

Gaza protesters, egged on by loudspeakers and transported in buses, streamed to the border, where some threw rocks, burned tires, and flew kites and balloons outfitted with firebombs into Israeli territory.

This author—like the rest in the “Palestinians were asking for it” chorus—failed to note that Israel’s fence runs deep into Palestinian territory and creates a 300-meter “buffer zone” between Palestinians and Israeli forces, which makes it highly unlikely that the kites and balloons of the colonized will have an effect on their drone-operating, rifle-wielding colonizers, let alone on people further afield in Israeli-held territory.

The New York Times editorial board (5/14/18) wrote as though Palestinians are barbarians against whom Israel has no choice but to unleash terror:

Led too long by men who were corrupt or violent or both, the Palestinians have failed and failed again to make their own best efforts toward peace. Even now, Gazans are undermining their own cause by resorting to violence, rather than keeping their protests strictly peaceful.

The board claimed that “Israel has every right to defend its borders, including the boundary with Gaza,” incorrectly suggesting that Palestinians were aggressors rather than on the receiving end of 100 years of settler-colonialism.

Moreover, like the Times and Bloomberg articles discussed above, the editorial attempts to legitimize Israel’s deadly violence by saying that it is defending a border that Palestinians are attempting to breach, but there is no border between Gaza and Israel. There is, as Maureen Murphy of Electronic Intifada (4/6/18) pointed out, “an armistice line between an occupying power and the population living under its military rule” that Palestinians are trying to cross in order to exercise their right to return to their land.

WaPo: Hamas Has Launched Another War. Israel Needs a Better Response

The Washington Post (5/15/18) condemned the “cruel, cynical tactic” of trying to exercise the internationally guaranteed right of return.

A Washington Post editorial (5/15/18) called the Palestinians hunted by Israel “nominal civilians.” Apart from being a logical impossibility (one either is or isn’t a civilian), the phrase illuminates how too much of media think about Palestinians:  They are inherently threatening, intrinsically killable, always suspect, never innocent, permanently guilty of existing.

A Business Insider piece (5/14/18) by columnist Daniella Greenbaum described “Palestinian protesters who ramped up their activities along the Gaza strip and, as a result, were targeted by the Israeli army with increasing intensity.” Greenbaum’s use of the phrase “as a result” implies that it was inevitable and perhaps just that Palestinians’ “ramped up activities” led to Israel mowing down a population it occupies, 70 percent of whom are refugees Israel refuses to allow to return to their homes.

Greenbaum then climbs into the intellectual and moral gutter, claiming that

absent from the commentary that children have unfortunately been among the injured and dead are questions about how they ended up at the border. On that question, it is important to recognize and acknowledge the extent to which Palestinians have glorified violence and martyrdom — and the extent to which the terrorist organization Hamas has organized the “protests.”

In her view, dozens of Palestinians died because they are primitive savages who take pleasure in sacrificing their own children, not because Israel maintains the right to gun down refugees in the name of maintaining an ethnostate.

In a rare instance of a resident of Gaza allowed to participate directly in the media conversation, Fadi Abu Shammalah wrote an op-ed for the New York Times (4/27/18) that offered an explanation of why Palestinians are putting their lives on the line to march. Life for the people of Gaza, including for his three young sons, has been “one tragedy after another: waves of mass displacement, life in squalid refugee camps, a captured economy, restricted access to fishing waters, a strangling siege and three wars in the past nine years. ” Recalling the concern for his safety expressed by his seven-year-old child, Shammalah concludes:

If Ali asks me why I’m returning to the Great Return March despite the danger, I will tell him this: I love my life. But more than that, I love you, Karam and Adam. If risking my life means you and your brothers will have a chance to thrive, to have a future with dignity, to live in peace with all your neighbors, in your free country, then this is a risk I must take.

Palestinians have a right to liberate themselves that extends to the right to the use of armed struggle, yet as Shammalah wrote, the Great Return March signifies a “nearly unanimous acceptance of peaceful methods to call for our rights and insist on our humanity.” Nevertheless, based on media coverage, readers could be forgiven for concluding that it was Palestinians, not Israel, who carried out what Doctors Without Borders called “unacceptable and inhuman” violence.

May 23, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Russia Says US Demands Unacceptable for Iran, Vows to Help Maintain JCPOA

Al-Manar | May 23, 2018

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman says new US demands from Iran are totally unacceptable, vowing that Moscow will continue to work towards maintaining the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“We are concerned about the fact that the anti-Iranian campaign is on the rise in Washington. It seems that the United States has made a final decision to use the tactics of ultimatums and threats in respect to Iran. It contradicts the spirit of the JCPOA and does not fall within the normal inter-state relations,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing on Wednesday.

“Not only did the US administration withdraw from the agreement in violation of international norms, it is putting forward demands that are a priori unacceptable for Tehran,” she added.

In his first major foreign policy address since moving to the State Department from the CIA, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would increase the financial pressure on Iran by imposing the “strongest sanctions in history” on the Islamic Republic if Tehran refused to change the course of its foreign and domestic policy.

Pompeo also outlined 12 US tough demands for Iran, including halting its uranium enrichment and closing its heavy water reactor, for any “new deal” with Tehran.

The Russian spokesperson said that while the US pulled out of the JCPOA, “other participants in the deal are determined to maintain the agreement, adding, “We will continue working to that end. The important thing is that Tehran also abides by its obligations, as confirmed by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).”

Zakharova said the fate of the Iran deal would be decoded at a new meeting of the Joint Commission monitoring the implementation of the agreement in Vienna on May 25, which will not include the US for the first time.

The Russian official also once again expressed Moscow’s opposition to unilateral sanctions.

May 23, 2018 Posted by | Economics, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Anti-semitism: Israel’s get-out-of-jail-free card

By Jonathan Cook | Dissident Voice | May 22, 2018

The silencing of critics of Israel using anti-semitism as the pretext is far from restricted to the current wave of attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour party. It is now used to intimidate anyone who steps out of line on Israel. Once we raged against the conflation of anti-semitism and anti-Zionism. We have so lost that battle that it is now standard operating procedure for Israel’s apologists to conflate anti-semitism with simple criticisms of the current ultra-nationalist Israeli government.

Here is an illustration of our defeat, reported in the Israeli daily Haaretz. It concerns what would in other circumstances be a fairly standard satirical cartoon: this one published by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung about Israel winning the Eurovision song contest last week. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is shown on stage dressed as Israel’s winning singer, Netta, and proclaiming “Next year in Jerusalem!”.


After the usual outcry, the cartoonist, Dieter Hanitzsch, was sacked. No Charlie Hebdo-style concerns about free speech on this occasion, it seems.

As has become familiar in these cases, Wolfgang Krach, editor-in-chief of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, seemed unsure himself whether the cartoon was actually anti-semitic. But presumably he thought it better to fire the cartoonist just to be on the safe side. Let’s hope Hanitzsch can take Krach and his newspaper to the cleaners at a labour tribunal.

One critic, Jonas Mueller-Töwe, who sounds like Germany’s version of Jonathan Freedland, has claimed that “a Jewish star” – that would be Israel’s emblem of the Star of David – on a rocket held by Netanyahu suggests that “behind every war, Jewish interests are hiding”. Instead we could simply trust our eyes, which provide a different meaning: that Israel, a highly militarised state, won the Eurovision song contest at the same time as it was devastating Gaza – again – and will now be able to use its hosting of a popular cultural event in Jerusalem next year to whitewash its war crimes.

Before we get too exercised about the significance of every detail, we should remember that political cartoons, by their very nature, need to use symbols as shorthand for more complex ideas. We demand the impossible from a cartoonist if we expect them to offer us political satire while denying them the possibility of using symbols.

So what is anti-semitic about the cartoon? It’s not about Jews, it’s about the Israeli prime minister and his war agenda. And Netanyahu’s purportedly “oversized nose, ears and lips” are surely well within the normal bounds of a caricature. Do we really want to impose a unique demand on cartoonists when dealing with Israel’s leaders of drawing anatomically precise images?

The problem here, as with the anti-semitism “crisis” debate about the Labour party, is that it is totally divorced from any sense of proportion or reality. The question we ought to be asking in a case like this is: what kind of satirical cartoon lambasting Israel could ever satisfy the criteria being demanded by the current anti-semitism watchdogs?

And in consequence, what cartoonist is going to dare to deploy their satirical skills against Israel when the response is invariably going to lead to their being accused of anti-semitism and possibly losing their career and their reputation?

That is precisely what weaponising anti-semitism means. It hands Israel a get-out-of-jail-free card. It intimidates opinion formers – journalists, cartoonists, comedians, politicians, civil society leaders, human rights activists – by making the issue of Israel so toxic that none dare touch it. One need only look to the BBC to see the result: a mix of anaemic fence-sitting and outright censorship when covering Israel.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously reminded us: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” A submission to those who abuse anti-semitism to make Israel unassailable entails terrifying consequences for the Palestinians. It requires that, after decades of betraying them, we in the west once again turn a blind to their suffering. And, as was highlighted last week in Israel’s slaughter of Gaza’s unarmed protesters, it clears the path to a future in which Israel can and will commit ever graver outrages against the Palestinians.

May 22, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, War Crimes | , , | 3 Comments

Ex-Spy Skripal’s Mother Asks UK on Russian TV to Let Her Talk to Son

Sputnik – 22.05.2018

A frail elderly lady who presented herself as the mother of a former Russian intelligence officer, who was allegedly poisoned in England in March, made a public appeal requesting to be allowed to talk to her son.

A 90-year-old woman, who identified herself as the mother of Sergei Skripal, made an appearance on Russian state television, pleading that the British authorities let her speak with her son via phone – something that she effectively still hasn’t been allowed to do.

“I haven’t seen my son for 14 years. I want to meet him, to hug my son tightly. I’m ninety years old, I pose no threat to anyone. Please, let me make at least one phone call to my son,” she said.

The woman added that she simply couldn’t comprehend why her son wasn’t allowed to contact her.

“Why won’t they let him call me? Why? For what reason? When he was at home, we talked with each other [by phone] every week, but now we can’t for some reason. Please, grant him permission so that he and I could talk.”

She also asked the British authorities to allow Viktoria Skripal, Sergei’s niece, to visit him.

“I cry every day as I wait for a message from my son,” the elderly lady said, sobbing.

Despite the claim, there have been no official comments from the UK authorities or media reports confirming that Skripal’s mother previously asked London to talk with her son on the phone.

On May 18 the British National Health Service announced that Sergei Skripal has been discharged from Salisbury District Hospital.

The exact whereabouts and the fate of Sergei and Yulia, who were released from hospital on April 11, are currently unknown.

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer currently living in Britain, and his daughter Yulia were allegedly poisoned in Salisbury on March 4.

A week later, London blamed Moscow for the attack, which the British authorities claimed was carried out using a military-grade nerve agent called A-234 Novichok.

Moscow denied the allegations and proposed a joint investigation, which the UK refused.

May 22, 2018 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, War Crimes | | Leave a comment

A New Flotilla Steams Towards Gaza

By Elizabeth Murray | Consortium News | May 22, 2018

Al Awda (The Return): Sailing to Gaza

“Islands Bruegge,” an idyllic harbor park that stretches along the east bank of Copenhagen, was alive with a celebratory crowd on Monday as three ships were about to steam towards Gaza. The 2018 Freedom Flotilla—two ships from Sweden and one from Norway — will call at ports in Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy before traveling through the Mediterranean Sea to its final destination: Gaza harbor.

Volunteer boat guides explained the history and mission of the Gaza Flotilla movement, which has organized a number of journeys to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Gaza and break the illegal economic siege. An independent U.N. panel and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) say the blockade violates the Geneva Conventions and is illegal.

Israel dragged the last Israeli settlers from Gaza and withdrew the Israeli Defense Force in 2005. When the Palestinian Authority lost a 2006 election in Gaza to Hamas, Israel imposed the illegal blockade. A considerable number of young Danish people learned about Gaza for the first time and walked away with new political awareness of the injustices suffered by Gaza’s children, who are denied the same carefree life enjoyed by Danish children.

I feel proud and privileged to join a group of international passengers aboard the Norwegian ship “Al Awda,” (“The Return” in Arabic) as we prepared to embark on the first leg of our journey. Along our route we hope to raise awareness and educate people about the plight of Palestinians, especially in Gaza, who are denied the basic freedoms and human rights the rest of us take for granted.

Earlier this month as Gazans held The Great March of Return to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (or the Catastrophe) — in which 800,000 Palestinians were forcibly driven from their land and homes by Israel in 1948 — Israeli snipers cut down peaceful demonstrators one by one, killing hundreds and maiming thousands, generating shock and outrage around the world and providing further incentive for people to support the burgeoning Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

Targeting Athletes

Elizabeth Murray: Boarding her boat to Gaza

Israel seems to have reserved a special brand of sadism for Gaza’s athletes — several promising young cyclists and soccer players have become amputees, since Israel refused to allow them to leave Gaza to obtain the necessary medical attention that would have saved their legs. Reports of such heinous acts — documented widely in social media posts by those on the ground in Gaza — have served to further isolate Israel internationally and alienate peace-loving people around the world, who deplore the moral depravity of its government.

Reaching the harbor of Gaza (which means “jewel” in Arabic) should be as simple and straightforward as entering any harbor in Germany, France or Spain. But instead, Israel has denied Gazans use of their own harbor for commerce, trade and travel, and has bombed it on numerous occasions, along with their electric power plants and sewage systems, making life miserable for the local population and rendering 97 percent of the drinking water toxic.

As the Freedom Flotilla embarks on its peace odyssey, it is our hope to bring a light of hope and solidarity to the people of Gaza, who deserve the peaceful, dignified and joyful existence that is their right.

Elizabeth Murray served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government, where she specialized in Middle Eastern political and media analysis. She is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

May 22, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Washington Holds Gun to North Korea’s Head

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 22.05.2018

The prospects for peace diplomacy between the US and North Korea took a sudden hit after President Donald Trump issued an extraordinary threat to Kim Jong Un. It was in effect a death threat.

Trump warned last week that if the North Korean leader does not comply with Washington’s demands for complete denuclearization, then Kim would “end up like Gaddafi”. Trump added that North Korea would be “decimated” if it did not give up its nuclear weapons.

Arguably, Trump’s rhetoric of violence towards another state is a violation of international law and the United Nations charter.

It was not the time first time the American president has engaged in criminal intimidation of the northeast Asian nation. Last September, he told the United Nations general assembly that North Korea would be “totally destroyed”.

Yet US news media are spinning the latest row by blaming North Korea for being devious, and backtracking “in typical fashion” from negotiations, allegedly in order to extract more concessions.

US media are ignoring the glaringly obvious fact that Washington is holding a gun to North Korea’s head, and in Mafia-style, making an offer it thinks Pyongyang “can’t refuse”.

All of a sudden, the much-anticipated summit between Trump and Kim – scheduled for June 12 in Singapore – has been thrown into doubt. North Korean state media have cautioned that the summit will be cancelled if the US insists on unilateral nuclear disarmament by Pyongyang.

The Trump administration responded by saying it is continuing with plans for the Singapore meeting. However, American and South Korean officials are reportedly in a tizzy to ascertain North Korea’s position in order to keep the summit on track. No doubt, Trump is anxious not to be deprived of his moment of glory.

Two developments have undermined North Korea’s willingness to engage with Washington. After the apparent breakthrough of Trump and Kim putting their previous belligerent rhetoric aside and agreeing to hold a face-to-face summit, North Korea has gone cold.

Pyongyang has cited the public comments made by Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton in which the latter said that Washington was looking to the “Libya model” as a guideline for how it is preparing to deal with North Korea. Bolton was referring to when former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi agreed to unilaterally terminate his nuclear weapons program in 2003-2004 in order to appease the George W Bush administration.

It was an audacious reference point by the sinisterly hawkish Bolton given how seven years later, Gaddafi’s government was overthrown by an illegal US-NATO war which resulted in the Libyan leader being murdered on the streets.

North Korea had previously cited the case of Libya and Iraq as examples of how countries without an insurance policy of weapons of mass destruction are liable to be subjected to American regime-change attack.

Now with notorious Bush-era regime-change architect John Bolton explicitly referring to Libya as a “model” – on the cusp of supposed diplomatic engagement – it is no small wonder that North Korea has decided to snap back.

The other development is the going ahead of annual military exercises this month conducted by US forces and their South Korean ally. Currently, both militaries are carrying out “Max Thunder” maneuvers reportedly involving warplanes and warships near the North Korea border which, as usual, looks to Pyongyang like preparations for invasion. How is that supposed to be “confidence-building” for North Korea?

While warning that the meeting with Trump might not take place, North Korea also abruptly cancelled high-level talks last week with South Korean counterparts, citing the ongoing joint US military exercises as reason for the cancellation. North Korea hit out at South Korea for being “foolish and incompetent” over the continuation of military exercises.

Again, that was another dramatic reversal in diplomacy. Only a few weeks ago, North Korea’s Kim held a historic meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae In at the Demilitarized Zone separating the two countries since the end of the Korean War (1950-53). Both leaders vowed a new era of cooperation and their intention to sign a formal peace treaty to finally mark the end of the war.

Western media interpretation of North Korea’s vacillation is misplaced and unnecessarily cynical. This is not about Pyongyang playing mind games and gouging for concessions, as the media imply.

It is simply a reflection of the United States revealing its real and reprehensible agenda of expecting North Korea to unilaterally disarm without any reciprocation from Washington. In short, capitulation and surrender.

Added to that demand is the very grave underlying threat of Washington then moving on to regime change when North Korea is deemed “safe”, that is, defenseless.

Trump’s keenness to hold a “historic summit” with Kim is not about seeking a mutual peace settlement. The real-estate-tycoon-turned-president is all about glitzy spectacle and vainglorious success. He has even talked about how he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.

Of course, a globally televised handshake with Kim totally plays to Trump’s ego and the former reality TV star’s craving for ratings.

That’s why Trump appeared to slap back Bolton last week by trying to reassure North Korea the “US wasn’t using the Libya model”.

But then in the same moment Trump blundered even further by going on to say, bizarrely, that North Korea would end up like Libya if it did not give up its nuclear weapons.

The morally decrepit warmonger John Bolton and CIA torture-supporter Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State are very sound reasons for why North Korea appears to be turning its back on proposed talks.

With Trump then showing his ignorance and brutish instincts there is even more reason for Pyongyang to be wary.

Peace for the Korean Peninsula is a multilateral formula. North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons is only one part of the equation. Another indispensable part is Washington removing its military forces, signing a peace guarantee with Pyongyang, ending its economic warfare, and permitting the two Koreas to pursue reconciliation without interference.

But, as noted previously in this column, Washington’s strategic interests in maintaining military force in the Asia-Pacific towards Russia and China are such that it is anathema for the US to agree to a genuine peace settlement in Korea.

Beneath the superficial American diplomacy, Washington’s agenda is for North Korea’s surrender to Uncle Sam.

Telling North Korea to “negotiate or else” is like holding a gun to its head. No nation with any self-respect would comply.

Pyongyang is just right to give Washington short shrift due to the latter’s bad faith and arrogant ignorance about its obligations. Trump’s backsliding on the Iran nuclear deal is another object lesson for North Korea.

Ominously, though, Uncle Sam is going to get very nasty after having had his nose tweaked.

May 22, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Haspel is Not the Problem. The CIA is the Problem.

By Ron Paul | May 21, 2018

As a general rule, when Dick Cheney favors a foreign policy position it’s best to be on the opposite side if you value liberty over war and authoritarianism. The former vice president’s enthusiastic endorsement of not only Gina Haspel as CIA director but of the torture program she oversaw should tell us all we need to know about Haspel.

Saying that Haspel would make a great CIA director, Cheney dismissed concerns over the CIA’s torture program. Asked in a television interview last week about the program, Cheney said, “if it were my call, I’d do it again.”

Sadly, the majority of the US Senate agreed with Cheney that putting a torturer in charge of the CIA was a good idea. Only two Republicans – Senators Paul and Flake – voted against Haspel. And just to confirm that there really is only one political party in Washington, it was the “yes” vote of crossover Democrats that provided the margin of victory. Americans should really be ashamed of those sent to Washington to represent us.

Just this month, the New York Times featured an article written by a woman who was kidnapped and sent to the secret CIA facility in Thailand that Haspel was said to have overseen. The woman was pregnant at the time and she recounted in the article how her CIA torturers would repeatedly punch her in the stomach. She was not convicted or even accused of a crime. She was innocent. But she was tortured on Haspel’s watch.

Is this really what we are as a country? Do we really want to elevate such people to the highest levels of government where they can do more damage to the United States at home and overseas?

As the news comes out that Obama holdovers in the FBI and CIA infiltrated the Trump campaign to try and elect Hillary Clinton, President Trump’s seeming lack of understanding of how the deep state operates is truly bewildering. The US increasingly looks like a banana republic, where the permanent state and not the people get to decide who’s in charge.

But instead of condemning the CIA’s role in an attempted coup against his own administration, Trump condemned former CIA director John Brennan for “undermining confidence” in the CIA. Well, the CIA didn’t need John Brennan to undermine our confidence in the CIA. The Agency itself long ago undermined the confidence of any patriotic American. Not only has the CIA been involved in torture, it has manipulated at least 100 elections overseas since its founding after WWII.

As President Trump watched Gina Haspel being sworn in as CIA director, he praised her: “You live the CIA. You breathe the CIA. And now you will lead the CIA,” he said. Yes, Mr. president, we understand that. But that’s the problem!

The problem is not Haspel, it’s not John Brennan, it’s not our lack of confidence. The problem is the CIA itself. If the president really cared about our peace, prosperity, and security, he would take steps to end this national disgrace. It’s time to abolish the CIA!

May 21, 2018 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

Head of Portugal’s national theatre endorses BDS, cancels Israel cultural event

Portuguese director and playwright Tiago Rodrigues [PACBI/Twitter]
MEMO | May 21, 2018

A Portuguese director and playwright who was scheduled to take part in next month’s Israel Festival, has announced that he is officially joining the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement (BDS).

According to the Israeli Haaretz, Tiago Rodrigues was supposed to perform in Israel twice in the beginning of June but decided to reverse his decision after learning that the festival was part of Israel’s 70th Independence Day celebrations.

In a Facebook post explaining his decision, the artist said he had initially agreed to take part because he believed that the festival was being organised by “non-profit organisation that presents itself as an artistic project”. Once he realised that the event was tied to the government and to the celebration of Israel’s founding he declined the offer saying he does “not accept the use of [my] artistic work for political purposes without my agreement.”

Rodrigues added that he decided not to perform in the Israel Festival because he believed “that it is the only guarantee that my artistic work will not be used to condone and promote a government that deliberately violates human rights and is currently violently attacking the Palestinian people.”

Rodrigues admitted that given the fact the he also serves as the director of Portugal’s national theatre his “decision might originate diplomatic discomfort.” But he insisted he needed to “remain true, above all, to [my] conscience”.

He concluded by saying that having seen the terrible violence perpetrated by the Israeli government he had “decided to join the cultural boycott of Israel, convinced that global and collective pressure might produce similar results to the boycott of South Africa during apartheid”.

May 21, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Hamas: Israel’s rejection of UN probe “evidence against it”

Palestine Information Center – May 21, 2018

GAZA – The Hamas Movement on Sunday said that Israel’s rejection of an investigation ordered by the UN Human Rights Council into the recent mass murders of unarmed protesters in the Gaza Strip was evidence that its forces committed war crimes against innocent civilians.

“The Israeli occupation’s rejection of the UN inquiry commission emphasizes its brutality, and insistence on terrorizing and killing our people, disrespecting UN and international institutions and flouting their resolutions,” Hamas spokesman Abdul-Latif al-Qanoua said in a brief press release.

Israel’s foreign ministry railed against the UN Human Rights Council last Friday after it voted to set up a probe into recent killings in Gaza and accused Israel of excessive use of force.

The ministry said it would not allow or cooperate with such inquiry, calling the UN body as “made up of a built-in anti-Israel majority, and guided by hypocrisy and absurdity.”

May 21, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment