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Regional states muscle in to seek a bigger ‘say’ in Afghan conflict

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | July 19, 2018

A new strategic fault line appeared in the Afghan conflict last week when Islamabad hosted an unusual meeting of the heads of the intelligence agencies of Russia, China and Iran on July 11.

Moscow thoughtfully publicized the event both for its optics as well as to pre-empt misperceptions that some sort of zero-sum game might be afoot.

The focus was on joint measures to stop the terrorist group Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-K) from threatening the territorial boundaries of the four regional states. In the Russian estimation, there could be up to 10,000 fighters in IS-K’s ranks already and the group is already active in nine of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan.

The four participating countries “reached understanding of the importance of coordinated steps to prevent the trickling of IS terrorists from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan, where from they would pose risks for neighboring countries.” But they also “stressed the need for a more active inclusion of regional powers in the efforts” to end the war in Afghanistan.

Clearly, the leitmotif is in the latter claim by the regional states seeking a greater say in Afghan peace-making. Three related developments over the weekend also signal the new churning. One, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, General Mohammad Baqeri, started a three-day visit to Islamabad on July 15 at the invitation of Pakistani army chief General Qamar Bajwa.

This is the first time since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that a chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces visited Pakistan. No doubt, the visit signals Tehran’s appreciation that Pakistan is no longer in the US orbit. General Bajwa visited Tehran in November.

According to the Pakistani readout, General Bajwa noted that Pakistan’s military cooperation with Iran would have a “positive impact on peace and security in the region.” Later, General Baqeri told the Iranian media that the US and its allies seek to weaken security in the region and Iran and Pakistan are “duty-bound to take actions” to safeguard regional peace and security.

There is a history of cross-border terrorism from across the porous Pakistani border in which Tehran suspected the hidden hand of hostile powers. Therefore, today, the Iranian calculus prioritizes the “return” of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to the Afghan chessboard recently, after a prolonged absence, given the geopolitical rivalries playing out in a diverse theatre across the Greater Middle East.

Curiously, although the newfound Saudi-Emirati pro-activism in Afghanistan is coinciding with the steady expansion of IS-K, the two Gulf states today are preoccupied with weakening the Taliban, whom they had mentored in an earlier era in the 1990s. The Kabul government approved on June 6 the deployment of UAE Special Forces to Afghanistan.

On July 11-12, Saudi Arabia hosted an Ulema conference in Jeddah and Mecca, which issued a ‘fatwa’ against the ‘jihad’ waged by the Afghan Taliban. Washington encouraged these parallel Saudi-Emirati moves, which implies a concerted attempt to weaken the Taliban whom the US military failed to defeat, with a view to force it to compromise.

However, on the contrary, a paradigm shift is under way in the regional perceptions regarding the Taliban. The special envoy of the Russian president on Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, disclosed on the weekend that Moscow proposes to invite the Taliban to the second round of the Russian regional initiative on Afghanistan, which is expected to be held sometime late in the summer.

Kabulov characterized the Taliban as a force that has “integrated” with the Afghan nation, and therefore, having a legitimacy, which in some respects even exceeds the Kabul government’s, and controlling more than half the territory of Afghanistan. Kabulov implicitly doubted the representative character of the present Afghan government.

Suffice to say that the Russian policy is incrementally redefining the battle lines in Afghanistan from ‘Taliban versus the Rest’ to ‘Afghanistan versus the IS-K.’ Conceivably, Iran, China and Pakistan are in harmony with the Russian thinking.

The heart of the matter is that while these regional states regard the Taliban as an Afghan movement indigenously rooted in traditional Islam and with a political agenda confined to their homeland, they abhor the IS-K as a brutal terrorist group weaned on Salafi-Wahhabist teaching which casts a seductive appeal to misguided Muslim youth worldwide.

However, in the final analysis, the above interplay needs to be juxtaposed with recent reports that President Trump may order a policy review of his one-year old Afghan strategy. In fact, the sudden visit of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Kabul on July 9 only reinforced that impression in the region. Unsurprisingly, Pompeo maintained while in Kabul that the Trump administration’s “strategy is working.”

But then, instead of heaping praise on the US military, he instead stressed the urgency of a peace process with the Taliban. Pompeo offered that the US will “support, facilitate and participate in these peace discussions.” He then added meaningfully: “We expect that these peace talks will include a discussion of the role of international actors and forces.”

July 19, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘US Needs Russia More Than Russia Needs US’ – Academic on Trump-Putin Summit

Sputnik – July 16, 2018

In a historic bilateral summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin met his US counterpart Donald Trump in the Finnish capital. In an interview with Sputnik, Dr. Denis Rancourt, a civil rights advocate and social theorist, provided his insight into the importance of the meeting.

Sputnik: Could you share your feelings as to how significant this is; how significant is the timing of this? What do you expect to be accomplished?

Dr. Denis Rancourt: I don’t think the timing is that important, I mean it had to happen because Trump and the US want it to happen and also Russia wants it to happen. It’s going to happen anyway. The US wants things from Russia and to some degree, the US needs Russia more than Russia needs the US, because the United States in the world has lost a lot of credibility and Russia has credibility. It has a coherent diplomacy, which the US no longer has.

So it needs that credibility… Trump uses the expression “We need to run the world”: what he means by that is that he wants to be able to acquire the benefits of having a collaboration with Russia on certain issues. I think that credibility is one; but there is another important issue that clearly is of concern to Trump and the United States and that is the question of weapons; the democratizing of missiles, especially.

The US would have a lot to lose if more and more nations acquire the possibility of defending themselves against US threats and attacks. And so, the possibility of missiles being given to people who need them, by Korea or by Iran, or even indirectly, or directly, by Russia itself, is a great threat to the United States, because the US system relies on military intimidation and its projection of power in the world.

So, for that to be removed would take away many of its acquired territories and ability to coerce and intimidate economies and large parts of the world. I think those are the things, it’s in that sense that the United States wants kind of a weapons management and understanding that they are going to limit this […] spread of weapons; because it’s not just nuclear weapons. Technology is advancing, and we now have more and more accurate missile that can hit cities that are estimated to be the source of military intimidation. For example, Tel Aviv can be hit by missiles and so on. It’s illustrated by what’s happening in Yemen now.

The Yemenis have rudimentary missiles that are able to hit targets in Saudi Arabia and have demonstrated their ability to take our ships. So, the US is more and more vulnerable to this advancing technology. It relies on projection of power through aircraft carriers, which are themselves, by their nature, vulnerable to missile attacks and to the kind of technology that can easily hit large ships. They need to be able to protect themselves and they’ve lost credibility, especially after the total destruction that they have made in Iraq and Libya. The world has seen this and understands how vicious NATO and the United States can be. I think it’s a combination of those two things that brings Trump and the US to the table, to try to negotiate with Russia.

Sputnik: […] Trump has virtually dismissed reports, even from his own intelligence, on the alleged Russian meddling. What do you think about this?

Dr. Denis Rancourt: […]Of course this is a global war. Of course, RT and Sputnik exist now and that’s a reality, and it influences opinions and outlooks in the world, and that’s not going to change, it’s not going to go away. This is all largely a domestic issue, whether it’s true or not, it’s still just a domestic issue.

July 16, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

NATO Wants to Use Turkish Territory to Encircle Iran – Turkish Analysts

Sputnik – 15.07.2018

It is the Kurdish YPG forces and their US sponsors, not the Syrian army, that pose the main threat to Turkey’s southern borders, Turkish political analysts told Sputnik when commenting on the parts of a NATO declaration directly pertaining to their country.

In a statement released on Wednesday following its summit in Brussels, NATO vows to protect Turkey’s southern border.

The statement also says that NATO “continues to monitor and assess the ballistic missile threat from Syria,” and that “tailored assurance measures for Turkey to respond to the growing security challenges from the south contribute to the security of the Alliance as a whole, and will be fully implemented.”

“We have increased the strength of the NATO Response Force, and the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) is ready to deploy on short notice,” the statement adds.

In an interview with Sputnik, Hasan Unal, a foreign relations expert at Atylym University in Ankara, criticized the vague notion of “threat” mentioned in the declaration, adding that the main threat to Turkey comes from Kurdish YPG forces and their “sponsors in the US.”

“There is no threat to southern Turkey coming from the Syrian army. The missiles launched at our territory from Syria came from territories controlled either by Daesh or militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party even before the start of the Turkish military operation in Afrin. This means that the biggest threat to Turkey in the south comes from the Kurdish units and their US supporters. Turkey should have rejected such a vague description of this threat contained in the NATO summit’s declaration,” he said.

He added that by approving the declaration’s provisions, Turkey finds itself in the position of a country which supports NATO’s plans of encircling and pressuring Iran.

Cahit Armagan Dilek, a political scientist and the head of the university “Turkey in the 21st Century,” pointed to the declaration’s openly anti-Turkish slant, aimed at “encircling Iran and bringing pressure to bear on it by using Turkish territories and the introduction of an additional military contingent into Turkey.”

“In future, we may see NATO forces deploying along our southern border with Syria. It looks like NATO and Turkey look differently at what a ’terrorist threat’ is all about. The declaration says that at least three missiles fired at Turkey from Syria had actually been launched by the Syrian army and Iran. In the final account, the ‘terrorist threat,’ as it is termed in the NATO declaration, may transform into an ‘Iranian threat,’” the expert noted.

Dr. Dilek said that the Rapid Response task force that NATO plans to deploy, ostensibly to ensure Turkey’s security in the south, may in fact target Iran.

He added that to consolidate its positions in the region, NATO could deploy its forces east of the Euphrates and use them as a buffer between Turkey and YPG units.

READ MORE: Turkey’s Presidential Candidate Says NATO Fails to Ensure Nation’s Security

“Some of the NATO forces may be stationed to the west of the Euphrates, inside Turkey. With the Syrian army poised to advance on Idlib in August, the local jihadists may move towards Turkey and Afrin, thus destabilizing the situation in the region. In this case, NATO is likely to offer us help. However, we should also bear in mind the fact that the NATO forces deployed inside Turkey may be used against Iran. Turkey should take its time before it agrees to let foreign forces in, because we have absolutely no idea exactly when these forces will move out,” he explained.

He mentioned NATO’s naval forces deployed in the Aegean Sea as part of an EU-Turkish agreement on refugees in order to stem the tide of Syrian refugees fleeing to Europe.

“If, in addition to this, we have NATO land forces coming in, we may eventually have problems sending them back. We have a similar situation with the Incirlik base. But this time there may be more foreign troops stationed on our territory. Before the start of Operation Euphrates Shield, the Americans kept saying they needed 30,000 soldiers to secure the border between the [Syrian cities of] Jarabulus and Azaz,” Dr. Dilek noted.

July 15, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Dr. Mohammad Marandi: Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE Have Been Cooperating Closely for Many Decades Now

American Herald Tribune | July 13, 2018

Mohsen Abdelmoumen: What is the immediate impact on the Iranian people of the Trump administration’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal?

Dr. Mohammad Marandi: Obviously, it is going to have a short term negative impact. People are concerned about the effect it will have on the economy and Iranian currency has dropped significantly. However, I believe that in the midterm the economy will stabilize, and as Iran reorientates its economy, trading partners and strategic partnerships things will stabilize. In the long term, I think Iran will probably even benefit because the US will no longer have any leverage that it can use against the country and its people.

Are not the economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration intended to provoke disturbances within the Iranian population in order to change the power in Iran?

Without a doubt. Actually, just recently in a speech in France to the MEK terrorist organization, a cult group which has killed 17 thousand Iranians through assassinations and bomb attacks and has also fought for Saddam Hussein, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer and close friend, admitted that the disturbances in Iran are not spontaneous and that they are carried out by their people. That does not mean there are no ordinary people who protest here and there, but the foreign role is obvious and we can see it through the western, Israeli, and Saudi, funded Persian media outlets like BBC Persian and VOA among others that attempt to create tensions and fear among Iranians.

Do you think there is a special program to assassinate Iranian scientists as was the case with Iraqi scientists where some sources have spoken of the existence of a special CIA unit responsible for assassinating scientists?

I have no idea about that, but we do know that Mohammad bin Salman has said in public that he wants to take the war into Iran and after that we saw the terrorist attacks on Tehran and an increased number of attacks alongside the Pakistani-Iranian border as well as the border between Iran and Iraq Kurdistan.

What is the exact role of the Zionist entity of Israel and its services in the assassination of Iranian scientists?

Israeli intelligence and the MEK terrorist organization worked together in this regard. In addition, Western intelligence agencies have in the past passed on IAEA information on Iranian scientists to the Israelis thus helping them carry out a number of murders.

What do you think of the alliance between the Saudis and the Israelis? In your opinion, is it tactical or strategic?

The alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE among others is not new at all. They have been cooperating closely for many decades now, but these Arab regimes have always been afraid to make this alliance public. However, Trump is putting a lot of pressure on these regimes to come out of the closet, especially because he wants to impose his so called deal of the century on the Palestinian people in order to destroy the Palestinian nation.

In your opinion, can Europe play a role in maintaining the nuclear agreement?

It’s possible. However, I am skeptical about the EU’s intentions and I am even more skeptical about their ability to grow a backbone in face of persistent American violations of their sovereignty and threats against their businesses and citizens.

In your opinion, why is it that Israel that massacres the Palestinian people has never been subjected to sanctions?

I think it is widely known that the Israeli regime is allowed to implement apartheid policies, carry out ethnic cleansing and colonization, the bombing of neighboring countries, the killing of civilians, the arrest children, and the confiscation of land.Western countries will give them blanket support no matter what the regime does.

What is your analysis of the situation in Syria? Can we say that Daesh is defeated definitively or is it moving towards reorganization?

The extremist groups including Daesh that were supported by western intelligence services and regional client regimes have been severely weakened and the Syrian Arab army and government have gained the upper hand. But the war is not over, al-Qaeda and other extremist groups continue to get foreign support and Western countries and media outlets have been trying to give cover to these extremist groups by calling them “moderates” and “rebels”, whereas in reality their ideologies are very similar to ISIS.

What do you think of the position of Morocco that has just cut off its relations with Iran by accusing Hezbollah of having armed the Polisario Front? Don’t you think that this maneuver bears the signature of the Saudis, Israelis and Americans?

I think it is quite clear especially taking into account the timing of the accusations that the Saudis and probably countries like the US and the UAE are behind this. But I do not have any specific information.

Why do you think Westerners are silent, both the media and the political institutions, in the face of the carnage that Saudi Arabia is committing in Yemen?

It is because of Saudi oil wealth, and because the destruction of Yemen is in the interest of the Saudi and Israeli regimes. Therefore, Western governments and western media outlets will not do anything meaningful to prevent the massacres or starvation. This is just one example of many. They did the same thing in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, and Afghanistan.

Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen

Who is Dr. Mohammad Marandi?

Born in 1966 in Richmond, Virginia, Mohammad Marandi is the son of Professor Alireza Marandi, a former Iranian Minister of Health and a former member of the Iranian Parliament. Mohammad Marandi lived until he was 13 in the United States before joining Iran. He is a political analyst and expert on American studies and postcolonial literature. Dr. Marandi is a graduate of the University of Tehran and the University of Birmingham where he received a PhD in English Literature. He teaches English Literature and Orientalism at the University of Tehran where he is head of the graduate program in North American Studies.

July 14, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Iran Foreign Ministry dismisses US implicating of Iranian embassies in terror acts

Press TV – July 11, 2018

Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi has dismissed as ludicrous a recent US allegation that Iranian embassies are involved in terror attacks in Europe.

Qassemi on Wednesday rejected the allegation by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as baseless, preposterous and part of a targeted propaganda campaign and psychological warfare against the activities of the Iranian embassies, which he said were in line with international conventions and aimed at promoting bilateral friendly relations with other countries.

Qassemi said that bringing up such allegations was “another attempt by the United States to destroy our country’s foreign relations.”

Pompeo on Tuesday accused Iran of using its embassies to plot terrorist attacks in Europe.

“Just this past week there were Iranians arrested in Europe who were preparing to conduct a terror plot in Paris, France. We have seen this malign behavior in Europe,” Pompeo said in an interview with Sky News Arabia during a short trip to the United Arab Emirates.

“Pompeo levels such groundless claims against our country while different types of evidence of spying and acts of sabotage by the American embassies with hundreds of military and security personnel [involved]… have been published in various sources, and contemporary history is full of such types of illegitimate activities which are in contravention of international regulations,” Qassemi said.

This came after Belgian authorities claimed earlier this month that an Iranian diplomat had been arrested along with a 38-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman, suspected of plotting a bomb attack on a meeting of the notorious anti-Iran terrorist group the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) in the French capital Paris. The meeting was attended by US President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and several former European and Arab ministers.

The authorities added that Belgian police had intercepted the two suspects in Belgium on June 30 with 500 grams of the homemade explosive TATP and a detonation device found in their car.

The diplomat, 46-year-old Assadollah A, was arrested in Germany, suspected of having been in contact with the two arrested in Belgium.

Three other people were also arrested in France in connection with the case, two of whom were released.

Iranian officials have denied any involvement in any plot to blow up the MKO meeting and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has condemned the arrests as a “sinister false flag ploy.”

The allegations about the involvement of the Iranian diplomat in the suspected bomb attack on the MKO meeting were designed as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani paid a visit to Switzerland and Vienna and held talks with senior officials of the two European countries.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said the allegations aimed to damage Iran-Europe relations during the visit.

July 11, 2018 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , | 2 Comments

Iran will import goods only from countries that buy its oil – MP

RT | July 4, 2018

The Energy Committee of Iran has announced that Tehran will buy goods only from those nations which purchase Iranian oil. This follows the US demand from its allies to stop buying Iranian crude.

“We will carry out barter exchange of oil and goods, which means the purchase of goods will depend on the sale of oil,” representative of Iran’s Energy Committee Asadollah Karekhani told ILNA news agency.

“We want to inform our target markets and countries that buy oil from us that we’ll purchase goods from them only if they purchase our oil,” he said, noting that a working group is being formed on barter deals.

Last week, a senior US State Department official told reporters that Washington would try to convince its allies to completely stop buying oil from Iran by early November. Discussions are also being held with other countries, including China.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned that if the country’s crude oil exports were threatened, the rest of the Middle East’s would be as well.

“Assuming that Iran could become the only oil producer unable to export its oil is a wrong assumption … The United States will never be able to cut Iran’s oil revenues,” he said.

Iran is OPEC’s second-largest crude exporter with more than 2 million barrels a day.

Rouhani is currently in Europe to gather support ahead of a meeting later this week between Iran and the five global powers that are still party to the 2015 nuclear deal.

July 4, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | 1 Comment

Iran rejects allegation of training Taliban

ISNA | July 4, 2018

Tehran – Iran’s embassy in Kabul rejected allegations of providing military training to Taliban militants, stressing on contribution to strengthen peace and stability in the war-torn country.

Iran’s embassy in Kabul rejected a report by some Western media, which claimed that members of Afghanistan’s Taliban militant group are being trained in Iran, saying such accusations are meant to harm close relations between the two neighbors.

The embassy said in a statement on Wednesday, “Terrorism and extremism are a common threat to all countries in the region and joint efforts and collective actions are an inevitable necessity to confront such a threat”.

“The goal of such unrealistic and baseless allegations is to wage a psychological war and damage friendly relations between the Iranian and Afghan governments,” it added.

The embassy reaffirms Tehran’s strong commitment to peace and stability in the friendly and neighboring country of Afghanistan.

“Instead of leveling baseless accusations against Afghanistan’s neighbors, the Western media should focus their attention on the real reasons behind the failures of the Afghan governments in combating terrorism in Afghanistan and avoid diverting public opinion. ” the statement said.

“As the Islamic Republic of Iran has repeatedly said, it has never extended its rifts with other countries to Afghanistan’s domestic affairs and seeks an increase in global efforts to reinforce the Afghan government and decrease its people’s suffering,” the statement added.

July 4, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

30 Years Ago Today, U.S. Shot Down a Passenger Plane Killing 290 Civilians and Covered It Up

By Rachel Blevins | The Free Thought Project | July 3, 2018

On July 3, 1988, the United States killed 290 innocent Iranian civilians when it shot down Iran Air Flight 655—a tragic event that is not mentioned in history textbooks in school, and that is widely ignored in the context of current relations between the U.S. and Iran.

The scheduled flight was traveling from Tehran to Dubai, and there were 66 children on board, all of whom were killed, as no passengers or crew members survived the attack. The plane was shot down by the USS Vincennes, which was operating within Iranian territorial waters. It targeted the large Airbus A300 and then insisted that crew members mistook it for an F-14 fighter jet, despite the obvious difference in size.

At the time, Iraq and Iran were engaged in a bitter war that was declared by Saddam Hussein on Sept. 22, 1980. The United States’ support for Iraq in the conflict is notable because it would later go on to overthrow Hussein in 2003.

The Iraq-Iran War was horrific, and in the eight years that it lasted, estimates claim that “at the very least half a million and possibly twice as many troops were killed on both sides, at least half a million became permanent invalids.” The cost of the war was around $228 billion and it resulted in more than $400 billion in damage.

The United States’ involvement stemmed from its support for Iraq, at a time when the Reagan Administration considered Iran to be a bitter enemy, and so it instead chose to support Hussein, in order to influence the conflict. As reports have noted, the U.S. used Iraq as “its surrogate for policy in the Persian Gulf region,” as it prevented the United Nations from imposing economic sanctions on Iraq, and defended the use of chemical weapons on Iranian civilians.

Then in 1988, the U.S. did the unthinkable by shooting down Iran Air Flight 655, which Iran claimed was a scheduled flight that was transmitting all of the necessary signals to show that it was a passenger plane and not a military aircraft. William C. Rogers III was the captain of the USS Vincennes during its first time at combat on that fateful day, and while he was controlling the U.S. Navy’s most expensive surface warship—which reportedly was powerful enough to shoot down up to 200 incoming missiles at once—he instead targeted a passenger plane.

An investigation from Newsweek and ABC News referred to the tragedy as “the story of a naval fiasco, of an overeager captain, panicked crewmen, and the cover-up that followed,” which should never have happened, due to the fact that the U.S. was breaking international law with its presence in Iranian territorial waters when it shot down the plane:

“… Still lacking a clear target, Rogers radioed fleet headquarters and announced his intention to open fire. In Bahrain, Admiral Less’s staff was uneasy. Captain Watkins quizzed Rogers on his position and the bearing of the gunboats. Finally, he asked, ‘Are the contacts clearing the area?’ The question could have been a show stopper. Judging from later testimony, few in the Vincennes CIC that day believed that the ship was under attack. In fact, the gunboats were just slowly milling about—evidently under the impression that they were safe in their own territorial waters. Through the haze, it is doubtful that the low-slung launches could have even seen the Vincennes. Rogers, however, continued to argue for permission to shoot.”

To say that Captain Rogers was overeager in his quest to take down a target is an understatement, and reports later revealed that the “F-14 fighter jet” he claimed was descending was actually an Iranian airliner filled with innocent civilians that was ascending, and was well within the commercial air corridor.

The cover-up was executed by U.S. military officials who failed to interview key witnesses, and then later lied to Congress about the location of key military warships at the time of the attack. As the investigation from Newsweek noted, the U.S. Navy had mostly gotten away with covering up the incident until the Iranian government filed a lawsuit which “forced Washington to admit, grudgingly, that the Vincennes was actually in Iranian waters—although Justice Department pleadings still claim the cruiser was forced there in self-defense.”

The United States and Iran agreed to a settlement in the International Court of Justice in 1996. While the U.S. did recognize that “the aerial incident of 3 July 1988 as a terrible human tragedy and expressed deep regret over the loss of lives caused by the incident,” the U.S. was not required to admit legal liability or to formally apologize to Iran, and it later paid around $61.8 million—$213,103 per passenger—to the families of the victims.

Instead of firing or charging the U.S. military officials who were responsible for shooting down Iran Air Flight 655, the U.S. awarded Capt. Will Rogers III and Lt. Cmdr. Scott E. Lustig with special commendation medals for their “meritorious service” on the USS Vincennes in a display that completely ignored the tragedy they created and the nearly 300 innocent civilians they killed.

Rachel Blevins is an independent journalist from Texas, who aspires to break the false left/right paradigm in media and politics by pursuing truth and questioning existing narratives. Follow Rachel on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Steemit and Patreon.

July 3, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Israeli Occupation Forces Appoint First Iran ‘Project Director’

Israeli Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon
Al-Manar | July 3, 2018

Israeli Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot has appointed Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, who recently left his role as head of the military’s Operations Directorate, as the first director of a special project to coordinate all issues related to Israeli battle against Iran.

Alon accompanied Eisenkot on his recent trip to the United States last weekend and participated in meetings with American military leaders, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford.

This is the first time that Israel has appointed a “project director for Iran issues,” who is meant to coordinate all areas of Israeli battle against the Islamic Republic: with respect to its nuclear program, coordinating intelligence gathering with other countries, and in countering Iran’s presence in Syria, the Jerusalem Post reported.

In the past, the head of the Mossad Meir Dagan was responsible for the “Iran file” under Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, but at that time the battle was restricted to intelligence spheres.

Now that the war between the Zionist entity and Iran has come into the open and includes military confrontation, the appointment of a “special project head” underscores the overwhelming importance that Tel Aviv sees for these developments, according to the Israeli paper.

July 3, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 3 Comments

US’ Iran Regime-Change Plan: Hit Economy, Orchestrate Protests, Engage MEK Cult to Chant “Democracy”

By Elliot Gabriel | Mint Press News | June 28, 2018

Iran’s latest wave of protests against the suffering state of the economy and the plunging value of the rial appeared to have come and gone by Wednesday, as crowds dissipated and businesses opened up shop following a two-day strike. While clashes between security forces and protesters during the protests were far from widespread, the very fact that the protests broke out hints at the extreme duress Iran is undergoing thanks to President Donald Trump’s renewed economic war on the country.

Judging by the enthusiastic response to the demonstrations in the U.S., Saudi, and Israeli press, anti-Iranian forces are clearly banking on the possibility that the sanctions that will soon be reimposed in the next several months could dislodge the Islamic Republic, clearing the way for a regime friendly to the West.

Thus we have witnessed anti-Iran publications like the Israeli Jerusalem Post frothing over with excitement over scenes of alleged Iranian citizens chanting “Death to Palestine,” “Let go of Syria – think about us,” and the much-beloved anti-Ayatollah Khamenei mainstay “Death to dictator.”

While videos from Iran depict what could very well be an organic groundswell of social protest against government policies, photos published in papers like the Post show a different story: middle-aged Persian men gripping English-language signs and the flags of the toppled Iranian monarchy, along placards bearing the portrait of an unlikely figure: the mustachioed, mysterious and long-disappeared charismatic cult leader who is considered an outlawed terrorist and traitor to the nation — Massoud Rajavi.

Rajavi was the leader of the group that lies at the center of the anti-Iran alliance’s “regime change” dreams: Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), or the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). A fanatical militant group whose title translates literally to the “The People’s Holy Warriors,” this eccentric left-nationalist, pseudo-religious cult has been led by Massoud’s wife, Maryam Rajavi, since the 1980s.

Formed in 1965, the group’s tortured history has seen it transformed from a movement of communist-influenced, Islamist-tinged anti-imperialists who carried out attacks on U.S. military officers in Iran into an authoritarian de facto mercenary army serving anyone opposed to the Islamic Republic – be it Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Israel, or the United States.

The group wields major PR clout and outsized influence in Western capitals through countless front groups like the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), through which it depicts itself as “a political coalition that represents all of Iran’s religious, ethnic, and political groups proportionately;”  stresses feminist, Islamist, free-speech and pro-free-market values; and is firmly “committed to a secular, democratic, non-nuclear republic” in Iran.

The RAND Corporation described the group as “skilled manipulators of public opinion,” but a cursory look at its publications shows a rather ham-fisted and self-celebratory pile of cultish jargon. Throughout the past week, publications like Iran Focus or Iran News Update – the latter of which bills itself as “Insider News & Analysis in Iran” – have pumped out articles boosting NCRI as “the only viable alternative to the Iranian regime” and claiming:

As protests in Iran continue to multiply and intensify, the regime’s claim to power is looking more and more tenuous. If the people were to overthrow their tyrannical government, the only democratic organization in the position to take over governance would be the NCRI … The regime’s reign of terror is at its close.”

The MEK was one of the first groups to be named a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department, but its extreme opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran and generous donations to politicians has led to its eventual delisting. The roster of politicians and influential figures tied to the MEK and its fronts spans much of the U.S. political spectrum, from the far right to the left-of-center.

Trump’s White House is a virtual all-star cast of MEK associates – explaining the administration’s frenzied push to scrap the nuclear deal and push to topple Tehran. Among the top supporters of MEK is White House National Security Advisor John Bolton, whose hatred of Iran’s government verges on the pathological.

A congressional foreign-policy aide who attended an Iranian New Year celebration hosted by an MEK front group told Foreign Policy magazine:

Bolton is positively predisposed to the MEK …  they will have some access to this White House, [to say] the least.”

From revolutionary anti-imperialists to bizarre mercenary cult

The MEK once enjoyed a decently-sized support base within Iran and even played a role in the 1979 Iranian Revolution that overthrew U.S.-loyal Shah Reza Pahlevi and opened up a new period of national independence for the nation. Following the revolution, the group’s political struggles with the faction led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and failure to secure widespread support led it to deploy its Shah-era “armed struggle,” or terrorist tactics, against officials and clergy loyal to Khomeini, claiming the lives of dozens of key figures in the newly-formed government.

The Mojahedin (jihadists), whom the Islamic Revolution’s leader regularly derided as monafeghin (hypocrites) – an allusion to those in the Quran who conspired against the Prophet while feigning loyalty – became the top enemies of the Islamic Republic.

Faced with the full brunt of the Islamic Republic’s retribution, the group fled to Iraq in the 1980s and became a virtual “Iranian Legion” for Saddam Hussein, who equipped the group with heavy armor, uniforms, and artillery so that it could fight alongside Iraqi forces during the Iran-Iraq war. Following the war, the self-styled “national liberation army” launched a series of cross-border raids against Iranian civilian and military targets, sacrificing nearly all of its remaining support among Iranians.

The drop in Iranian support led to a push to replenish MEK ranks by targeting family members, wealthy potential donors, and expatriate Iranians in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. True to their form as a cult, the group promised to connect prospective recruits with a lifeline of assistance as the trade-off for their enlisting in the group.

According to the RAND Corporation:

Many were enticed not with promises of an opportunity to fight the IRI, but rather through promises of paid employment as translators, assistance in processing asylum requests, free visits to family members, public-health volunteer opportunities, and even marriage. All ‘recruits’ were brought into Iraq illegally and then required to hand over their identity documents for ‘safekeeping,’ effectively trapping them at MeK compounds. These findings suggest that many MeK recruits since 1986 were not true volunteers and have been kept at MeK camps in Iraq under duress.”

Watch | Cult of the Chameleon 

Tens of thousands of the group’s members remained under the protection of the Iraqi dictator, even participating in the bloody massacres that followed the Shia Arab and Kurdish uprisings of 1991, until the fall of the Ba’athist regime in 2003 when the U.S.-led coalition bombed the Saddam loyalists’ camps.

Seeing continued use for the MEK for their own anti-Iran efforts, however, the U.S. placed 3,800 members of the group under protective custody at Camp Ashraf, the sprawling city-sized base built for them by Saddam. Those who escaped the group had to undergo cult deprogramming.

Watch | Introducing Camp Ashraf

According to RAND, the group – which claims to uphold women’s equality – ensured that lines were “painted down the middle of hallways separating them into men’s and women’s sides” at the camp, prior to their expulsion by Iraqi forces in 2013. Many were shipped by the U.S. to Albania, the only country willing to accept them.

Yet while a major portion of the group’s membership spent over three decades imprisoned in Ba’athist Iraqi camps near the border with Iran, a significant chunk of the group – such as leader Maryam Rajavi – nestled into the Iranian expatriate communities in Paris, Washington, and other capitals. The group spent decades relentlessly lobbying Western governments and lawmakers to support its attempts to bring “reform” to Iran, and has even furnished intelligence to U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies in hopes to provide a casus belli for hostile policies and even military actions versus Tehran.

The “Iranian Resistance” wags the dog in Washington

In the U.S. capital, the group was enormously successful in its efforts to recruit an auxiliary brigade of highly influential top politicians to its cause. Even the far-right Washington Times, owned at the time by charismatic cult leader Reverend Sun Myung-Moon, issued glossy “special report” inserts hailing the militaristic group as the bringers of “freedom” to Iran. The publication included words of praise from Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the late Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal al-Saud, and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), among many, many, others.

A brief list of these MEK supporters in the Republican Party reads like a who’s-who of anti-Iran officials from the neoconservative administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump:

  • In 2000, future Bush administration attorney general and Republican then-Senator John Ashcroft intervened on behalf of MKO military commander Mahnaz Samadi, who has been detained by immigration authorities due to her failure to disclose past terrorist ties — hailing the former anti-Iran combatant as a “highly regarded human-rights activist” and a “powerful voice for democracy.”
  • Former Pennsylvania Governor and first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge praised the National Council of Resistance in Iran as “the single most visible, most credible, and most effective democratic movement with a clear and specific program to bring a democratic Iran to existence,” led by the “steady hand and inspiring leadership” of cult leader Maryam Rajavi.
  • Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, Florida, who served as Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has been a major leader in legislation calling for regime-change measures against Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela, and even called for Fidel Castro’s assassination in 2006. In 2003, she came out in defense of MEK as a group that “loves the United States” and is an ally in the “war on terrorism.”
  • Tea Party leader, Bush confidante and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey promoted the MEK while working for lobbying firm DLA Piper. Armey also represented Saeid Ghaemi, an Iranian expatriate in the U.S. who paid almost $910,000 to the lobbying firm “for Armey’s services bringing issues relating to Iran to the attention of Congress, the State Department, the Department of Defense, the White House, the National Security Council and the Department of Treasury.”

Watch | Giuliani Leads MEK “Regime Change” Chant

And then we have the top luminaries from President Donald Trump’s circle, including:

  • Former New York City Mayor and top White House lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who co-signed a letter along with various bipartisan officials urging a newly-inaugurated Trump to “establish a dialogue” with NCRI, and was revealed to have been a paid advocate for the removal of MEK from the State Department terror group list. Giuliani has been an almost annual guest at MEK functions in Paris and a regular anti-Iranian voice on television.  In 2015, Giuliani stood before a crowd of MEK supporters in Paris and shouted:

The ayatollah must go! Gone! Out! No more! I will not support anyone for president of the United States who isn’t clear on that slogan behind me. What does it say? It says regime change!”

  • Trump adviser and GOP elder Newt Gingrich, who ripped on former President Obama for bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia, but was caught on camera bowing to Maryam Rajavi – whom the conservative ultra-patriot sees as an Iranian version of U.S. founding father George Washington.
  • Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the elite Taiwanese-American wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has received honoraria in the amounts of $50,000 and $17,500 to speak for MEK front groups like the Iranian-American Cultural Association of Missouri and the NCRI. At the same Paris event attended by Giuliani, Chao sat as guest of honor alongside “president-elect” cult leader Rajavi before delivering a feminist-themed speech slamming Iran’s government.

And then, of course, there’s John Bolton, a ravening ultra-hawk with a nearly obsessive hatred of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Speaking to Foreign Policy magazine, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace senior fellow Karim Sadjadpour commented:

I suspect Bolton’s interactions with the MEK were above all motivated by financial interests … The MEK may be a backward cult with little to offer, but they are the enemy of his enemy. And they pay handsomely.”

The same can likely be said about the rest of the elected “representatives”-for-hire in Washington, whose belief in the MEK’s ability to lead a post-IRI Iranian state is no doubt on par with their trust in the late Rev. Moon’s claims to be the one and only messiah.

While the hard-hit Iranian economy is likely to continue reeling, driving more protesters into the streets, one shouldn’t mistake their social demands or financial pain for a desire to subject themselves to a totalitarian cult with hardly a fraction of the support enjoyed by the Shia clergy helming the Islamic Republic — no matter the extent to which Washington and the Saudis attempt to foist the Rajavi group on the Iranian nation.

Yet despite the group’s dearth of political legitimacy, the congressional aide who spoke to FP understands why they remain a mainstay in the U.S. Capitol:

They’re useful as provocation … They’re useful as a signal to the Iranian government that we’re coming to get you.”

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador.

June 28, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Video | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ATR gives up delivering planes to Iran: Report

The first four of the 72-600 ATR turboprops landed in Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport in May 2017
Press TV – June 27, 2018

Regional aircraft manufacturer ATR says it must give up delivering the remaining aircraft ordered by Iran because of new US sanctions and that it will try to reclassify 12 aircraft if it does not obtain a waiver.

“In 2018, our delivery target could be impacted given the Iranian context,” ATR CEO Christian Scherer said in an interview published on LaTribune.fr.

IranAir, the national flag carrier, signed a contract to buy 20 planes from turboprop maker ATR in April 2017. The deal came after Iran signed contracts with Europe’s Airbus and US rival Boeing to purchase about 180 jets.

“Of the 80 planes we expected to deliver in 2018, there were 12 for Iran, that’s a lot,” said Scherer whose company is joint-owned by France-based Airbus and Leonardo of Italy.

Iran took delivery of the first four ATR aircraft last May, two more in September, beside another two in December, with the rest due to be handed over to the country by the end of 2018.

Scherer said the Iranians want to take delivery of the planes, “but ATR will not take any risk of falling out with US authorities and exposing our shareholders Leonardo and Airbus to US sanctions.”

He said two aircraft have already been completed, six are being assembled and the last four have been launched and “customized” for Iran, particularly with pressurization devices, to fly over mountainous areas.

As a result, “these devices will be harder to reclassify,” he continued. “We are working hard but we have no firm tracks yet.”

To still deliver to Iran, ATR is trying to get a waiver from the Americans, but Scherer said he was “not entirely confident” about it.

“The Americans have promised a three-month period (from May to August) to allow companies to deliver the materials that were in production” after US President Donald Trump’s announcement to reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

“For the aviation industry, this three-month period is ridiculously short,” Scherer said.

ATR, Scherer said, intends to rely on the help offered by the French government to protect companies.

“We want to use the help of the French government to negotiate the best possible licenses during this period of three months to be able to deliver the aircraft manufactured or being manufactured to cushion this shock, which in any case will hurt us a lot.”

He also hoped to continue business in Iran with “a new license to support our customer, and we want to play our role as an after-sales service provider.”

“Here too, the Americans have made a declaration of intent explaining that they will not endanger the public,” Scherer said.

“The Iranians were in discussion with us to continue to develop their fleet; we were not going to stop at the first 20 aircraft” ordered in total by Iran, he said. “It was just the beginning of a story,” he lamented.

IranAir’s deal with ATR includes options for a further 20 aircraft and a training program for Iranian pilots and engineers.

The 70-seat planes are aimed at underserved local economies, used in flights over a maximum distance of 1,528 kilometers.

Iran has also received three Airbus jets – one Airbus A321 and two Airbus A330s – and will get another by year-end, but US sanctions have put further deliveries in doubt.

The first Boeing was due in Iran around May 2018, but the company said early this month that it will not deliver any aircraft to Iran in light of US sanctions.

Boeing in December 2016 announced an agreement to sell 80 aircraft valued at $16.6 billion to IranAir. It also announced a contract in April 2017 to sell Iran Aseman Airlines 30 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft for $3 billion, with purchase rights for another 30 aircraft.

“We have not delivered any aircraft to Iran, and given we no longer have a license to sell to Iran at this time, we will not be delivering any aircraft,” a Boeing spokesman said.

June 27, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

Javier Solana refused visa waiver to US because of Iran trip

Press TV – June 25, 2018

Javier Solana, a former secretary general of the NATO military alliance and foreign policy chief of the European Union, has been refused a visa waiver to enter the US because of his trip to Iran in 2013.

Solana, who played a central role in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program when he was the EU’s foreign policy chief, said on Monday that his renewal application on the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) had been rejected for the first time.

ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.

The Spanish-born politician and physicist had been due to speak at an event at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.

Solana, 75, said that he considered the issue “to be more bureaucratic than political.”

“It’s a bit of a mean decision,” Solana told Spain’s Antena 3 TV channel. “I don’t think it’s good because some people have to visit these countries to keep negotiations alive.”

“I’ll see what I can do to fix this. It’s a computer – an algorithm – and if you’ve been in Iran lately, they take you out of the system. It’s like you don’t exist visa-wise, because you can’t visit the country.”

Solana, who received his US doctorate in physics in 1971 from the University of Virginia, said he would apply for a US visa instead, a more cumbersome and expensive process. “I need to go because I need to work there and I’m a professor at various universities,” he said.

Solana, who has also served as Spain’s foreign minister, said he had been invited to Iran in 2013 to attend the inauguration ceremony of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Solana had no official government post at that time.

The US Visa Waiver Program allows people from 38 high-income countries, namely EU states, Australia, Japan and South Korea, to travel to the US without applying for a visa.

However, in 2015, the administration of former US President Barack Obama signed a law that would require foreign citizens eligible for the waiver program to obtain a US visa if they had traveled to Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen after March 1, 2011.

Such travelers are required to go through the full vetting process required to get a visa, including an in-person interview at a US Embassy or Consulate.

But visa waivers can also be granted on a case-by-case basis for those who have traveled to Iran as government representatives, journalists or aid workers.

The rule predates US President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban on five Muslim-majority countries and North Korea. The Trump administration has been especially hostile to Iran. Trump announced in May that the US would withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

See also:

US visa waiver program violates JCPOA

December 20, 2015

… US President Barack Obama on Saturday signed a USD-1.1-trillion funding bill that aims to exclude from the VWP all dual nationals from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan, and anyone else who has traveled to those countries in the past five years. Such foreign nationals are now required to obtain a visa through standard measures, including face-to-face interview at a US consulate.

Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy Alaeddin Boroujerdi told reporters on Sunday that the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), stipulates that Washington should set no new restrictions on Iran. …

June 25, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 1 Comment