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“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

Iran: Morocco’s false claims aim to please third parties

Press TV – May 24, 2018

Iran has hit out at Morocco for accusing Tehran of interference in the African country’s affairs, saying the “false claims” are aimed at pleasing certain third parties.

Morocco has close ties with Saudi Arabia which has accused Iran of meddling in Arab affairs, with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita repeating those claims in a recent interview with Fox News.

“The Moroccan foreign minister knows himself well that the unjust charges he is making are utterly wrong, false and based on delusions and fictions written by those who resort to such provocations only in line with their illegitimate interests,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Thursday.

Bourita first made the accusations against Iran early this month as he announced Morocco’s decision to sever diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic over what he called Tehran’s support for the Polisario Front.

The Polisario is a guerrilla movement fighting for independence for the Sahrawi people in Western Sahara which is claimed by Morocco after colonial Spain left the territory.

In his interview with Fox News aired on Wednesday, Bourita claimed that Hezbollah members had met with senior Polisario military leaders recently and that the Iranian embassy in Algeria was used to fund the Polisario.

“The Moroccan authorities’ insistence on repeating their false claims for cutting diplomatic ties with Iran and repeatedly raising baseless allegations against our country is merely a bid to please certain third parties,” Qassemi said.

Bourita also claimed that Iran was in part trying to destabilize the area due to Morocco’s good relations with the US and Europe.

Earlier this month, he had said that Iran and Hezbollah were supporting Polisario by training and arming its fighters, via the Iranian embassy in Algeria.

Algeria, Iran and Hezbollah were all quick to reject the claims as baseless back then.

Iranian Foreign Ministry said there was no cooperation between Tehran’s diplomatic mission in Algiers and the Algeria-backed movement.

Hezbollah also blamed the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia for the diplomatic tensions, saying Rabat had cut ties with Tehran under pressure from the trio.

In turn, Algeria summoned Morocco’s ambassador to protest the “unfounded” claims.

Rabat annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975, and has since been in conflict with Polisario, which demands a referendum on self-determination and independence.

The movement, which aims to end Morocco’s presence in the Saharan region, recently said they sought to set up a “capital” in the region, prompting Rabat to caution it would respond with force.

May 24, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraqi voters undermine Trump’s Iran strategy

Muqtadar al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri, both anti-American, finished first and second in elections held on the day Trump scrapped the Iran nuclear deal

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | May 24, 2018

In an ironic twist, May 12, which was the deadline for US President Donald Trump’s decision on the Iran nuclear deal, also happened to be the day the Iraqi parliamentary elections took place.

Yet no one seemed to take note of the symbolism. In the event, the Iraqi election results seriously hinder Trump’s agenda of rolling back the Iranian presence in the northern tier of the Middle East comprising Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Of these three countries, Iraq is arguably the most crucial theatre of contestation between the United States and Iran. The fate of the Iranian presence and Iranian capacity to influence the politics of the entire Shi’ite arc will be critically dependent on its standing and influence in Baghdad. The stakes have never been as high as they are today.

To be sure, the Iraqi election results that were formally announced on Sunday constitute a stunning setback for Trump’s containment strategy against Iran. Washington had bet heavily on the alliance led by Prime Minister Heidar al-Abadi to win, but it has been relegated to third place, winning only 42 seats in the 329-member parliament.

Anti-American tilt

Worse still, two staunchly anti-American alliances – led by Muqtadar al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri – secured first and second places respectively.

Coalition making will be a long drawn out process, but what is clear is that the next government in Baghdad will have a pronounced anti-American tilt and the probability is high that it could evict US troops and contractors totaling 100,000 in Iraq.

While Amiri leads the powerful Iran-aligned militia groups known as the Popular Mobilization Force, Sadr’s surge is really bad news for the Americans. Sadr’s Mahdi Army has the blood of hundreds of Americans and Brits on its hands.

In the expert opinion of the Washington-based think tank Brookings Institution: “His (Sadr’s) victory has turned America’s Iraq policy upside down, and Washington now faces a severe political crisis in a country where it has invested substantial blood and treasure … His movement gave rise to many of the Shiite militia groups that committed atrocities against Americans and that today dominate Iraq – as well as the front lines of the war in Syria, where they have fought US forces. These groups have been pivotal to securing the Assad regime’s survival as well as enhancing Iran’s influence in the region.”

In the coming weeks and months, Tehran will play a key role in the negotiations for the formation of the next government in Baghdad. During earlier such moments, Tehran and Washington had tacitly agreed on compromise candidates – prime ministers Abadi and Nouri al-Maliki respectively – but the scope for such accommodation is non-existent today.

Western analysts make much out of Sadr’s nationalistic outlook to give it an anti-Iranian tweak, but that betrays wishful thinking. Sadr is indeed a mercurial personality and tends to lean toward “red Shi’ism” in his outlook on Iraq’s political economy. His alliance partners are communists and secularists.

The Iran-Sadr connection

But significantly, he met Amiri on Monday and said later in a statement: “The process of government formation must be a national decision and importantly, must include the participation of all the winning blocs.”

Again, much has been made out of Sadr’s visit to Saudi Arabia last year and his meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but in reality, the warming relationship between Baghdad and the Persian Gulf states – Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar – runs only skin deep.

On the other hand, Iranians and Sadr’s family go back a long way. Sadr lived in Tehran in exile for many years. Meanwhile, reports say Tehran is bringing on board the two main Iraqi Kurdish parties – KDP and the PUK – who feel aggrieved that the US connived with Abadi’s crackdown in Kirkuk last October, to align with Amiri.

All in all, Tehran can afford to weigh the pros and cons of many options open to it.

It is entirely conceivable that Tehran might even choose to settle for another government led by Abadi as the figurehead of a staunchly pro-Iranian power structure. Ever since the regime change in Baghdad following the US invasion in 2003, Tehran has made sustained and intense efforts to cultivate wide-ranging political partnerships with Iraqi groups across the religious, ethnic and political spectrum.

It is preposterous to fantasize that Baghdad is about to move out of Iranian orbit.

The bottom line is that a new coalition government in Baghdad over which Iran enjoys political leverage may well set a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops. The Trump administration must prepare for such an eventuality since it has left Tehran in no doubt that continued US military presence in Iraq poses an existential threat of “regime change.” Trust Tehran to pull out all the stops – short of directly targeting US troops – to undermine the American influence in Iraq.

On the other hand, a well-grounded military footing in Iraq is an absolute pre-requisite for the Pentagon to conduct its operations at the present scale in northeastern Syria, given the imponderables in Turkey’s continued cooperation. In these circumstances, it is hard to see how Trump is going to realize his dream to get Iranians to vacate from Iraq or Syria.

May 24, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pompeo Claims Iran Conducts Assassinations in Europe, Bewilders Experts

Sputnik – 23.05.2018

Speaking on May 21 at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, Pompeo said some pretty strange things in his speech, “A New Iran Strategy.”

“Today, the Iranian Quds Force conducts covert assassination operations in the heart of Europe,” he said nonchalantly, between calling out Iran’s Taliban support in Afghanistan, support for Yemen’s Houthis and the holding of US citizens hostage.

He never elaborated on that passage.

These are some strange accusations, considering that for the last two decades, there have been no assassinations in Europe linked to Tehran in any way. As the Guardian points out, the last people whose violent death was in any way connected to Iran were Shapour Bakhtiar, the former Persian prime minister under the Shah, who was assassinated in France in 1991, and four Iranian Kurdish dissidents who were shot in Berlin the next year.

There was also a bombing of a bus with Israeli tourists in Bulgaria in 2012, but it was Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia, that was blamed for the incident. The former president of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, was ordered late last year to stand trial for allegedly helping cover up Iran’s alleged role in the 1994 Jewish center bombing that killed 85 people in the country. That connection has never been proven.

What were you talking about, Mr. Pompeo?

As per the Guardian, other journalists were also pretty puzzled by the statements and turned to Heather Nauert, the department’s spokesperson, for comments. That didn’t help.

“He has information and access to information that I do not,” she said during a press briefing on May 22. “I am not able to comment on that in particular but I can tell the secretary has assured me that there is a basis for that point in his speech and he stands firmly behind that.”

US diplomats specializing in Iran were equally surprised by Pompeo’s allegations.

The claim was also questioned by Iraj Mesdaghi, a Sweden-based Iranian political activist who was jailed in Iran for a decade between 1981 and 1991.

“There is no evidence to back the claim that currently they are carrying out such operations in Europe,” he said pointing out that the shooting of Kurdish dissidents in Berlin was never blamed on Quds Force or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in general.

There was one case worth pointing out, though: last year, Ahmad Mola Nissi, an Iranian dissident, was killed in the Hague. He was a leader of an Iranian separatist group, whose armed wing was responsible for several attacks in Iran.

But, according to the Guardian, the Dutch investigation has not publicly blamed the IRGC. If that is what Pompeo was talking about, then he just disclosed previously classified information.

“There is no public evidence to weigh these claims and European officials have been silent,” says Shashank Joshi, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

According to Mesdaghi, Tehran gave up on the idea of assassinating people after a 1997 court case on the Berlin shooting made it clear the EU would not tolerate the practice.

“It would be very unusual for Iran to have carried out his killing, given the relationship they have with Europe now and the fact that Nissi was not influential, nor important enough,” he said.

May 23, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 3 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 | War Crimes, Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Pullout of Iranian Forces, Hezbollah Units From Syria Out of Question – Damascus

Sputnik | May 23, 2018

The withdrawal of Iranian forces and units of the Lebanese movement Hezbollah from Syria is not on the discussion agenda, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad told Sputnik.

“This topic is not even on the agenda of discussion, since it concerns the sovereignty of Syria. We cannot let anyone even raise this issue. Those who ask for something like that — and this is definitely not our Russian friends — are considering the possibility of intervention in all parts of Syria, including the support of terrorists in Syria and elsewhere in the region,” Mikdad said.

According to the Syrian diplomat, Damascus “highly appreciates” the help of friendly forces from Russia and advisers from Iran and Hezbollah in the struggle against terrorists.

The statements by the United States about its intention to withdraw troops from Syria and replace them with Arab forces are aimed at drawing the Arab countries in direct conflict with Damascus, Mikdad said.

“The main goal of such statements is to pump the money out of the Arab countries. This will force them to pay more to the US treasury, which may be empty. As well as drawing the Arab states in direct conflict, as far as I can guess — with the Syrian government, and this is a dangerous situation,” Mikdad said.

According to Mikdad, Washington will ultimately not withdraw its troops.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo gave a keynote speech on US policy toward Iran, voicing 12 demands for Tehran to fulfill following Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has slammed the address made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the world cannot accept that Washington makes unilateral decisions for all nations.

On May 8, Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and Treasury immediately began to reimpose all sanctions against Tehran. The JCPOA — signed by Iran, the P5+1 and the European Union in 2015 — requires that Tehran allow inspections to ensure the peaceful nature of its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

US-Led Coalition Deliberately Destroyed Oil Wells in Syria

The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes in the Arab Republic since 2014 without either a UN mandate or the Syrian government’s consent.

The international coalition led by the United States has deliberately bombed oil wells in Syria, so that the government would not be able to use them, Mikdad said.

“They made it necessary to spend tens of millions of dollars to resume work at these [oil] fields,” Mikdad added.

The US-led coalition, which has been carrying out airstrikes in Syria since 2014 without Damascus’ or UN’s approval, has yet to comment on the statement.

The United States continues its support for terrorists in Syria by financing and supplying them with arms, Faisal Mekdad said.

“I believe that the oxygen for terrorist groups comes from the United States,” Mekdad said.

The Syrian minister noted that Damascus had heard “many times since the start of the crisis in 2011” the US statements on the reduction or termination of its support to the opposition in Syria.

“Meanwhile, [militant] groups are being provided with additional funding and arms,” Mekdad stressed.

According to the minister, after the liberation of Eastern Ghouta and the town of Hajar Aswad from terrorists, the Syrian army discovered large stocks of arms, recently delivered from Western countries and the United States.

“The United States must stop supporting terrorists and respect Syria’s sovereignty and choice of the Syrian people,” the diplomat underlined.

A military-diplomatic source earlier told Sputnik that militants from the Nusra Front terrorist group, banned in Russia, and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) were expanding the controlled territories in southern Syria to create an autonomy under the patronage of the United States. On April 19, Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Moscow also had this information.

The CBS TV channel reported on May 18, citing US President Donald Trump administration officials, that the administration had withdrawn all assistance from northwestern Syria, where anti-Syrian government forces and Turkey are operating. According to the broadcaster, tens of millions of dollars will be cut from previous efforts, backed by the United States, to “strengthen and stabilize the local society.”

Constitutional Commission

Syrian authorities have not finalized a list of candidates for participation in the committee on Syria’s constitution in Geneva, however there are a lot of specialists and experts, who could represent Damascus in the body, Syrian Faisal Mekdad stated.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad. The Russian leader said that Moscow welcomed and would support the decision of Assad to send his representatives to the Constitutional Commission in Geneva.

“It is too early to speak about [candidates], but there are many people, who are able to represent Syria and the Syrian government in these talks. We have many experts… in this sphere, who could participate in these talks,” Mekdad said.

The diplomat added that the constitutional amendments were the Syrian domestic issue and foreigners should not interfere in this process.

“There are several issues that are needed to be revised and we are ready to reconsider them,” the deputy foreign minister said, adding that it was necessary to understand, which “positive options” could be added to the constitution.

The settlement process for the Syrian conflict, which broke out in 2011, has been discussed on a number of international platforms, such as those in Geneva and Astana and the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Russia’s Sochi. The main result of the Sochi congress was the creation of the Constitutional Commission that would work in Geneva and focus on amending Syria’s existing constitution.

May 23, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Israeli Parliament Reportedly Considers Promoting Kurdish State

Sputnik – May 22, 2018

Israeli MPs have reportedly discussed a bill that outlines the means by which Israel may help Kurds build their state in Syria, Iraq and Turkey, which would support Tel Aviv. According to one of Israel’s radio stations, the bill had been submitted to the Knesset by two Israeli right-wing parties, namely Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu. The radio quoted Yoav Kish as saying that given the Kurdish minority living in the aforementioned countries, which are generally hostile to Israel, the proposed move would play into the hands of the Israeli state.

“There is a reason that Israel was the first to publicly congratulate moves toward Kurdish independence in northern Iraq,” Kish added.

Back in 2017, Israel became the only country to support the Kurdish plebiscite which endorsed the Kurds’ secession from Iraq – a development that was vigorously criticized around the world.

Back then, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Tel Aviv backed what he called “legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own.” Alongside political backing, Israel was reportedly a major buyer of Kurdistan’s oil and the top investor in the region in 2017.

The Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum that took place on September 25 triggered changes in the region. More than 90 percent of the voters who took part in the plebiscite backed the independence from Baghdad. Iraqi authorities declared the referendum illegal, while Turkey and Iran vehemently criticized the plebiscite and threatened to impose tough sanctions on Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital Erbil.

Read more:

Tensions Rising Between Syrian Army, Kurds Amid Creation of US Bases – Reports

May 22, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Strongest sanctions in history’: Pompeo issues 12 demands to Iran, vows ‘unprecedented pressure’

RT | May 21, 2018

Tehran will struggle to “keep its economy alive” if it does not comply with a list of 12 US demands, including Iranian withdrawal from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed on Monday.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing Washington think tank, Pompeo laid out a list of 12 “basic requirements” for Iran. The demands call on Iran to withdraw from Syria, “release all US citizens,” end support for Houthi rebels in Yemen, stop “enrichment” of uranium, and promise never to process plutonium. Iran must also allow “unqualified access to all nuclear sites throughout the country,” Pompeo said.

He promised that the US would impose the “strongest sanctions in history” if Iran failed to comply with these demands.

Pompeo said that “the sting of sanctions will be painful” and Iran will struggle to “keep its economy alive” if Tehran “does not change its course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen.”

“Thanks to our colleagues at the Department of Treasury, sanctions are going back in full effect and new ones are coming … These will indeed end up being the strongest sanctions in history,” Pompeo said.

The secretary of state also pledged that the US “will track down Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah proxies operating around the world, and we will crush them. Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East.”

Speaking directly to the Iranian people, Pompeo claimed that “President [Hassan] Rouhani and Foreign Minister [Javad] Zarif… are your elected leaders. Are they not the most responsible for your economic struggles?” He added: “The United States believes you deserve better.”

Pompeo also said he’s sure that over time, Washington’s allies will warm to the Trump administration’s now unpopular stance on Iran.

Washington’s strategy is to weaken Iran economically, rather than engage in an actual war, Dr. Said Sadik, Professor of political sociology at the American university of Cairo, told RT in response to Pompeo’s address. “What the [US] is doing now is increase sanctions trying to undermine the power of Iran regionally, economically with the hope that that would lead to unrest and disturbances in Iran, that it would make the Iranian government stop trying to help its allies or extend its influence in the area. This is basically what they want.”

Sadik added: “I don’t think they want a war because war is very expensive and dangerous in this strategic area…What they want is to weaken Iran financially, economically, with the hope that the Iranian government will not be that powerful in the area as it is now.”

The speech comes after Trump announced earlier this month that he was pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal. Europeans allies had pleaded with Trump not to withdraw from the historic accord, which put tight restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani described the US pull-out from the deal as a “historic experience for Iran,” adding that “by exiting the deal, America has officially undermined its commitment to an international treaty.”

Iran says it expects the EU to continue to honor the agreement, despite Washington’s withdrawal from the accord. Inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have repeatedly confirmed that Iran is in full compliance with its obligations under the deal.

May 21, 2018 Posted by | War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 2 Comments

EU Blocking Statute Against Anti-Iran US Sanctions May Fail to Protect Companies

Sputnik – May 19, 2018

BRUSSELS – The reinforcement and modification by EU of its Blocking Statute, which protects EU companies from the effects of sanctions by a third country, in order to prohibit companies from complying with US anti-Iran sanctions will not protect companies from fines for cooperating with Iranian projects, experts told Sputnik.

Since US President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose its sanctions against the Islamic Republic, efforts by EU leaders have been focused on preserving the status quo in relations with Iran and mitigating the effects of the US withdrawal.

On Thursday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced that the union will amend its Blocking Statute in order to include the US sanction imposed against Iran in the regulation. As soon as the amendments are adopted, EU businesses will be allowed not to comply with the US restrictions or even demand compensation for losses caused by the US sanctions.

TO AVOID US PENALTIES FIRMS SHOULD ABANDON BUSINESS WITH US

“Reactivating and even modifying the 1996 Blocking Statute will not shield EU companies, banks, and even countries from the US Department of Treasury imposing penalties. An EU company, bank, or government would have to do no business directly or indirectly with US counterparts in order to not feel the impact of US responses,” Dr. Jamsheed K. Choksy, the chair of Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University, said.

Choksy indicated that the safeguards that the EU leadership and national governments might potentially provide to the EU companies will not be able to make up for the losses caused by not doing business with the United States, which is a target market for EU firms.

Choksy explained that EU firms, in fact, had to choose between business with US entities or Iranian ones and business with US companies was far more economically viable and lucrative than business with Iran.

The head of the Europe of Nations and Freedom group in the European Parliament, Nicolas Bay, agreed with Choksy, saying that the importance of the US and Iranian markets for EU businesses was non-comparable.

POLITICAL ASPIRATIONS VS. ECONOMIC INTERESTS

According to the politician, Brussels’ attempts to demonstrate its political independence and significance by preserving the Iran nuclear deal without the United States have nothing to do with purely economic motives of the EU businesses.

“In the current state of the crisis, Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk and the European Union are only into communication to hide their weakness, because Brussels will not be able to force the banks, the car manufacturers, and all the European companies that depend on the American market to continue to trade with Iran,” Bay said.

Drieu Godefridi, a writer and former Director of the Hayek Institute, said that EU firms would not abandon pragmatic interests to appease EU politicians trying to recover from Trump’s neglect of transatlantic partnership.

“Whatever Mr. Juncker says now and the sabre-rattling by some, large and small European companies will never jeopardize their North American business to please the Brussels politicians. Europe is divided; we may be the largest world market but Europe is a political dwarf,” Godefridi said.

EUROPE WILL HAVE TO ABIDE

“My analysis when Trump announced the re-establishment of sanctions was that Europeans would have to abide. There is no way Europe could take a different path: America is the backbone of European defense in NATO, America is the first market of Germany and the third of France. No European bank can live without access to the dollar zone,” Godefridi predicted.

Jacques Leroy, a French international consultant on deals in the Middle East, believes that in the current situation, taking into account the importance of the US market for European countries, national governments will try to obtain some exemptions for their firms on an individual basis.

“Every European leader will try to obtain ‘special treatment’ from Washington, which is exactly what Donald Trump counts on. Divide to control. Europe will have to bow to US sanctions in the end,” Leroy stressed.

IRAN’S SALVATION LIES IN PARTNERSHIP WITH RUSSIA, CHINA

Since the majority of experts were convinced that the EU dependence on the United States would not allow Brussels to preserve its cooperation with Iran, they suggested that the Islamic Republic should seek refuge in partnership with more independent Russia ad China.

“I do not think [EU politicians] have the stomach to stand up to Trump. The United States wants Iran, Russia, and China to fall on their knees. These three countries must move closer to each other,” Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, recommended.

His views were fully shared by Godefridi, who assumed that Russia and China were independent enough from the US economy to go their own way and trade with Iran.

May 19, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

An Iranian Perspective on the Battle for Syria

By Rick Sterling | Consortium News | May 17, 2018

West against East on the Syrian battle-field, in the newspapers and now on film: A new, full-length action movie, titled Damascus Time, gives an Iranian perspective on the battle against ISIS in Syria.

The movie comes from Iranian screenwriter and film director Ebrahim Hatamikia. Two award-winning Iranian actors, Hadi Hejazifar and Babak Hamidian, play father and son pilots trying to rescue civilians besieged and attacked by ISIS forces in eastern Syria. The pilots have come to help the townspeople escape in an aging Ilyushin cargo plane.

Syrian and Iraqi actors play Syrian civilians and ISIS terrorists hell bent on blowing up the plane or using it on a suicide mission against Damascus.

The movie portrays sensational scenes from real ISIS atrocities with a backdrop showing the Syrian desert and famous ruins of Palmyra. The city where civilians are surrounded and besieged is similar to the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, which was surrounded and attacked by ISIS for years. During that time, the townspeople and soldiers depended on air-dropped food and ammunition to hold off the attackers, as shown in the movie.

Damascus Time’s jihadists display a human side, but they are wrapped in sectarianism, hate and violence.

Life’s complexities are demonstrated in the younger of the two Iranian pilots who has left his pregnant wife to be with his father. The mother-in-law of the young pilot bitterly criticizes him for leaving his wife. He tells her it will be his last trip.

While the story is fiction, what it portrays is all too real: Hundreds of thousands of real Syrians and Iraqis have been killed by the unleashing of the ISIS Frankenstein. Ironically, American leaders criticize Iran for being the “leading state sponsor of terrorism.” But in the Syrian war, Iran has been combatting it. Iran is more tolerant than most Westerners think too, as indeed Islam is. How many know for instance that Jews are represented in the Iranian parliament?

Western-backed Extremism

In reality, the U.S. and UK have allied for decades with extremists for short-term political gain. As documented in “Devil’s Game: How the U.S. Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam,” by Robert Dreyfuss, Britain and the U.S. promoted a violent and sectarian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood to undermine the nationalist and socialist policies of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt. Starting in 1979, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia promoted the founders of what became Al Qaeda to attack the socialist-leaning government of Afghanistan.

This policy has continued to the present. In the summer of 2012, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency outlined their strategy in a secret document : “THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR).”The U.S. looked favorably on what the document predicts will be the creation of the “Islamic State”: “THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME…”.

Then, in a leaked audio conversation with Syrian opposition figures in September, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S., rather than seriously fight Islamic State in Syria, was ready to use the growing strength of the jihadists to pressure Assad to resign, just as outlined in the DIA document.

“We know that this was growing, we were watching, we saw that Daesh [a derisive name for Islamic State] was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened,” Kerry said. “We thought however we could probably manage that Assad might then negotiate, but instead of negotiating he got Putin to support him.”

Russia began its military intervention in late September 2015 without the United States, with the Kremlin’s motives made abundantly clear by Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials. But such clear explanations are rarely reported clearly by Western corporate media, which instead peddles the line from officials and think tanks that Russia is trying to recover lost imperial glory in the Middle East.

Who sponsors terrorism?

But Kerry knew why Russia intervened. “The reason Russia came in is because ISIL [another acronym for Islamic State] was getting stronger, Daesh was threatening the possibility of going to Damascus, and that’s why Russia came in because they didn’t want a Daesh government and they supported Assad,” he said in the leaked discussion. Kerry’s comment suggests that the U.S. was willing to risk Islamic State and its jihadist allies gaining power in order to oust Assad.

The Biggest Sponsors

The true “state sponsor of terrorism” is not Iran; it is the West and their allies. Since Iran has been fighting ISIS and other extremists in Syria, it is appropriate that the first feature length movie depicting that battle against terrorism and ISIS comes from Iran.

Hundreds of Iranians have given their lives alongside their Syrian and Iraqi comrades. “Damascus Time” is not the product of Hollywood fantasy; it’s the product of actual human drama and conflict occurring in the Middle East today. “Damascus Time” is fictional but based on a real conflict with actual blood, atrocities, tragedies and martyrs.

The movie is currently being shown at cinemas throughout Iran. In recent weeks it was the second highest ranking movie. A trailer of the film can be viewed here. It should be available for viewing in the West in the near future, unless western sanctions and censorship are extended to culture.

Rick Sterling can be contacted at rsterling1@gmail.com

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Film Review | , , , | Leave a comment

US, Israel can aid coup in Iran & if it fails, let Iranians fight each other – ex-Mossad official

RT | May 17, 2018

The US, Israel and Saudi Arabia – can change regime in Iran, and Trump’s policy provides an opening for it, a former top Mossad official speculated, adding that if a coup fails, Iranians will still be fighting each other.

Haim Tomer, a former Mossad official said to lead Intelligence, Counter-Terrorism and International Divisions, explicitly talked about possible options for regime change in Tehran during an interview with the Jerusalem Post.

Claiming that the “Khomeini-ist Islamic state” wants to destroy Israel, Tomer argued: “We can deal with the threat itself: nuclear weapons, conventional Iranian missiles. We can defend against them.” The former intelligence chief went further, saying Trump’s policy on Iran “created a major opening… to carefully weigh pushing for regime change as a formal goal.”

Tomer outlined what a possible coup in Iran would look like. Israel could “clandestinely help facilitate regime change” and the US “could support it on various fronts,” while the Saudis could fund the effort.

Asked what exactly Israel could try, he said “clandestine actions can lead to change… There is a lot that the Mossad can do when it gets a mission. I cannot go into the details… but it would be clandestine.”

Tomer, who now works as investment and tech advisor, bluntly said that the Iranian government – presided over by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – is unpopular with the Iranian public, and the Supreme Leader himself is old and has health issues.

He said Mossad, widely believed to have carried out several clandestine operations on Iranian soil in the past, can play a crucial role in conspiring against the Islamic Republic. “The Mossad carries out substantial and complex operations – and has carried out many,” referring to 2013 reports that Iranian nuclear facility in Natanz was ravaged by a Stuxnet malware.

“The Mossad has done many things in Iran before. This was among the most important, but there have been operations like it, and maybe even more important,” Tomer said.

The ex-Mossad official also said that the Israeli intelligence agency is one of few which carries out targeted killings. “[Regarding] targeted killings, very few [foreign intelligence agencies] do this; Israel [is one that] does, according to foreign sources,” he added.

However, he acknowledged: “I am not saying it will be a piece of cake – The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basiji militias are very strong.” But even if it does not succeed, “it is better to have the Iranians fighting among themselves.”

Israeli leaders have at times made similar statements on the issue. “When this regime [the Iranian government] finally falls, and one day it will, Iranians and Israelis will be great friends once again,” Prime Minister Bebjamin Netanyahu said in January amid violent unrest in Iran. He praised the protesters who have rallied since Thursday, saying that they sought “freedom and justice.”

Iran has already seen a CIA-orchestrated coup which toppled the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953. The CIA and State Department had given green light on overthrowing Mosaddegh – codenamed Operation Ajax – after he nationalized major oil assets.

The coup d’etat is thought to give birth to Iranian nationalism, which, in turn, paved way to the 1979 Islamic Revolution – a major event that poisoned US-Iran relations into the 21st century.

May 17, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 4 Comments

Iran Signs Free Trade Agreement With Eurasian Economic Union

By Adam Garrie | EurasiaFuture | May 17, 2018

Iran has just signed an agreement to enter a three year provisional free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). According to EAEU official Tigran Sargsyan,

“The temporary agreement stipulates an effective dispute settlement mechanism, including arbitration… It also creates a joint committee of high-ranking officials and establishes a business dialogue”.

The EAEU’s current members are Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, while the bloc has existing free trade agreements with Vietnam, Uzbekistan and Moldova. Aside from Vietnam other ASEAN states including Indonesia and Thailand have been in early level discussions about the possibility of a free trade arrangement with the EAEU, while Serbia and Turkey have also considered joining.  Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak has said that Iran could become the sixth full member in the future. Today’s Iran-EAEU free trade agreement will function as a test to determine the viability of long term Iranian membership of the trading bloc. Novak stated,

“The move to enter into a temporary agreement making for a free trade zone to be set up between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union, which is currently at an advanced stage, will obviously trigger further development of our bilateral trade and expansion of investment cooperation”.

While many will see EAEU membership as a further means for Iran to create new economic partnerships away from regions whose financial and commercial structures are subservient to a hostile United States, in the long term, it means far more to Iran than a means of skirting increasingly ridiculous sanctions from Washington in the light of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA.

For Iran, EAEU membership represents a new opportunity to expand its economic horizons beyond its current Middle Eastern partners. In this sense, just as Iran has a long history of ‘thinking east’ in terms of economic connectivity and cultural exchange, today’s EAEU presents Tehran with a modern cooperative model to expand its peaceful economic interactions to greater Eurasia. Beyond this, with proposals to integrate Pakistan into the North-South Economic Corridor, Pakistan and Iran could cooperate in order to form two unique and mutually complimentary road corridors.

The North-South Transport Corridor is a joint initiative of nations who have built and continue to expand shipping and road links between South Asia, Northern Eurasia and Europe. The map below shows the basic route which begins with a shipping lane between India and Iran’s Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman, before travelling north through Iran to the Caucasus and into Russia, while also linking up with existing rail routes from Iran into Central Asia and west into Europe via Turkey.

While countries as diverse as Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan have embraced the North-South Corridor as a means of creating greater opportunities for economic enrichment through joint cooperative efforts, in India, the project has been sold as a rival to China’a One Belt–One Road. This has been the case even though the North-South Corridor is vastly more limited in its geographical expanse vis-a-vis the global Chinese project and perhaps even more crucially, the other partners in the North-South Transport Corridor do not share India’s zero-sum vision of the project.

In particular, India is keen to present the North-South Transport Corridor as a rival to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor linking China to the Indian ocean via a large road and rail network whose western terminus is Pakistan’s Gwadar port.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan recently announced that his country is interested in linking up with existing routes along the North-South Transport Corridor. This gives Pakistan the opportunity to link the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with the North-South Transport Corridor, which would serve the long term strategic interests of the wider region, in terms of linking Pakistan’s Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea with Iran’s Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman.

Under such a scenario, goods from China would enter Pakistan via newly built road and rail routes and could then travel in one of two directions. First of all, goods could travel south through Pakistan to Gwadar where from there they could go in multiple directions including into Africa, Europe via the Suez Canal, or the wider Middle East via the Gulf of Oman/Chabahar and the Persian Gulf. Alternatively, goods could travel north into Central Asia and ultimately into Russia via Pakistan. This second option was proposed by geopolitical expert Andrew Korybko in early 2017 when he wrote,

“The enhanced trade relations that were mentioned above [see full piece] can only occur if Russia and Pakistan are connected to one another through CPEC, no matter how indirectly due to the geographic distance between them and Moscow’s reluctance to officially endorse this trade route in order to preserve its strategic “balancing act” with India. The second part of this conditional implies that the private sector needs to drive these two countries’ CPEC connectivity since the Russian state isn’t going to do so because of delicate political reasons, which thus allows one to envision three possible solutions, all of which are inclusive of one another and could in theory exist concurrently.

The most probable of the three is that Russia could connect to CPEC via the Central Asian state of Kazakhstan, which is already a member of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and through which a lot of bilateral trade already traverses. Furthermore, the Eurasian Land Bridge between East Asia and Western Europe is expected to pass through this international corridor as well, so it’ll probably be easiest for Russia and Pakistan to trade across this route by linking up at CPEC’s Urumqi hub in China’s Autonomous Region of Xinjiang.

Considering that Xinjiang’s capital city is located closer to Russia’s southern Siberian border than to CPEC’s terminal Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, there’s also the chance that a more direct north-south trade route could be established between Russia and Pakistan via this avenue. After all, Russia’s “Pivot to Asia” (which is officially referred to as “rebalancing” in Moscow’s political parlance) isn’t just international but also internal, and it aspires to develop resource-rich Siberia just as much as it aims to chart new international partnerships. With this in mind, there’s no reason why southern Siberia couldn’t one day be connected to CPEC via the nearby Urumqi juncture.

Lastly, Russia’s already building a North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) through Azerbaijan and Iran in order to facilitate trade with India, so the opportunity exists for it to simply use this route’s overland transport infrastructure to reach Pakistan in the event that the Iranian terminal port of Chabahar is ultimately linked with nearby Gwadar. Even if that doesn’t happen, then there’s still nothing preventing private Russian businessman from using Chabahar or even the more developed port of Bandar Abbas as their base of operations for conducting maritime trade with Gwadar or Karachi. This would in effect make India’s “brainchild” the ironic basis for Russian-Pakistani economic relations”.

Both Pakistan’s willingness to embrace the North-South Corridor, thereby integrating it into CPEC which itself forms a crucial artery of One Belt–One Road and Iran’s eagerness to become a member of the EAEU, could help to speed up the process of wider inter-connectivity between China’s Pacific Coast, the Middle East and Russia’s wider economic sphere in northern Eurasia.

If all of these existing links became inter-connected, one would see Gwadar taking on the adding function of becoming Central Asia and Russia’s gateway to the wider shipping routes of the Indian Ocean, while Chabahar would act as a parallel route for goods from both CPEC and the wider Indian Ocean, into the Caucasus, Russia or the Middle East.

Iran’s membership in the EAEU would help to expedite this process as the routes from Iran into Armenia and finally, into Russia would all constitute a single market. Were Turkey to join the EAEU, this would make transcaucasian trade into Turkey and the wider Mediterranean region all the more simple, as it would also allow Iran to act as a conduit between the Caucasus and Turkey, thus avoiding the politically prickly issue of direct trade from Armenia into Turkey. Turkey and Armenia’s mutually healthy relations with Iran, means that Tehran could be a physical arbiter of trade between two nations with historically (and currently) poor relations.

Over all, a strong and southward looking EAEU will help to strengthen both Iran-Pakistan relations through enhanced South Asian-Northern Eurasian trading networks, while also helping to facilitate the smooth transport of goods along One Belt–One Road from the Pacific into the Middle East, western Eurasia and further south into Africa along Indian Ocean maritime belts.

May 17, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment