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Zionist War on Palestinian Festival in Rome is Ominous Sign of Things to Come

A book reading at the Falastin Festival in Rome
By Ramzy Baroud & Romana Rubeo | Palestine Chronicle | October 12, 2020

A Zionist-led war on a Palestinian cultural festival in Rome has exposed the fragility of the Italian political system when it comes to the conversation on Palestine and Israel. The sad truth is that, although Italy is not often associated with a ‘powerful’ pro-Israel lobby as is the case in Washington, the pro-Israel influence in Italy is just as dangerous.

The latest episode began on September 24, when the Palestinian community in Rome announced plans to hold ‘Falastin – Festival della Palestina’, a cultural event that aims at illustrating the richness of Palestinian culture in all of its grandeur. The idea behind it is not to simply humanize Palestinians in the eyes of ordinary Italians, but to explore commonalities, to cement bonds and to build bridges. However, for Israel’s allies in Italy, even such unthreatening objectives were too much to bear.

The festival, sponsored by II Municipio of Rome – one of the administrative subdivisions of Rome central municipality – found itself at the center of a major – and ludicrous – controversy.

On September 25, an odd pro-Israel post appeared on the Partito Democratico II Municipio – the center-left Italian political party that controls that particular subdivision. Without any context or marking any specific occasion, the post, which displayed the Israeli flag, celebrated the friendship between the Democratic Party and Israel while condemning the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS).

The haphazardness of the post and the strange timing suggested that the Democratic Party is under attack for its sponsorship of the Palestinian festival. Overwhelmed by angry comments on social media, the Party’s Facebook page abruptly removed the anti-Palestinian post without much explanation.

But clarity followed soon when, on September 30, the Jewish Community of Rome issued a statement expressing outrage at the II Municipio for allegedly sponsoring ‘an anti-Semitic festival’. Taking advantage of the deliberate distortion between anti-Semitism and the legitimate criticism of apartheid Israel, the Community’s representatives raged on about BDS and the alleged boycott of Jewish businesses.

The statement, part of which we translate here, claimed that “… the BDS Movement will attend the initiative (The Festival), and this is unacceptable and dangerous (because) the boycott movement denies the very existence of the state of Israel and it is linked to the terrorist groups of Hamas and Fatah.”

Aside from the unsubstantiated – more accurately, completely fallacious – claims, the statement referenced the ‘IHRA definition of anti-Semitism’, further explained below, which was accepted by the Italian government as well as the French and Austrian parliaments. Based on that logic, the statement concluded that, one, “the BDS movement is anti-Semitic” and, two, “the II Municipio is legitimizing anti-Jewish hatred”.

In a clearly coordinated move, the Wiesenthal Center, which often poses as a progressive organization, also went on the attack. On the same day that the Jewish Community of Rome released its statement, the Center dispatched a letter to Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, also recounting the same false claims of BDS’ alleged anti-Semitism, the IHRA definition and so on.

The Center stooped so low as to compare the BDS movement to Germany’s Nazi program. It claimed that the Palestinian boycott movement was, in fact, inspired by the Nazis’ boycott of Jews, referencing the slogan “Kaufen nicht bei Juden” (Do not buy from Jews).

The fallout was quick and, judging by the typical gutlessness of European politicians, predictable as well. II Municipio councilor, one Lucrezia Colmayer, abruptly declared her resignation, “distancing” herself from the decision of II Municipio President, Francesca Del Bello, for sponsoring the Festival.

“With this gesture, I want to renew my closeness to the Jewish Community of Rome, with which I shared this important cultural and administrative path,” Colmayer wrote.

Del Bello soon followed with her own statement. “I apologize if the sponsorship of the II Municipio to ‘Falastin – Festival della Palestina’ … offended the Jewish community and led a councilor to resign,” she wrote, rejecting Colmayer’s resignation and inviting her to return to the Council.

Fortunately, despite all obstacles, “the Festival was a great success,” Maya Issa, a member of the Palestinian Community of Rome and Lazio, told us.

The Festival “was a way for people to learn about Palestine and to see Palestine under a different light. The atmosphere was magic – Palestinian colors, scents, food, Dabkah, art and literature”.

The good news is that, despite the well-coordinated Italian Zionist campaign, the Palestinian Festival still went ahead and, according to Issa, “many Italian politicians understood our message and they decided to participate”.

Now that the Festival is over, the pro-Palestinian groups in Italy are ready to counter the false accusations and the defamatory language lobbed at them by the pro-Israel camp.

“We will respond with the truth and we will refute all the false claims, especially the lies about the BDS Movement,” Issa said, adding “we, the Palestinian community, must resist, along with all those who support true democracy and freedom”.

There is no doubt that the Palestinian community of Italy is more than capable of achieving this crucial task. However, two important points must be kept in mind:

First, the “IHRA definition of anti-Semitism”, also known as EUMC, has been deliberately misused by Zionists to the point that a genuine attempt at curbing anti-Jewish racism has been transformed as a tool to defend Israeli war crimes in Palestine, and to silence critics who dare, not only to censure Israel’s illegal actions, but to even celebrate Palestinian culture.

Of particular significance is that the very person who drafted that ‘definition’, US attorney Kenneth S. Stern, has condemned the misuse of the initiative.

In a written statement submitted to the US Congress in 2017, Stern argued that the original definition has been greatly misused, and that it was never intended to be manipulated as a political tool.

“The EUMC ‘working definition’ was recently adopted in the United Kingdom, and applied to campus. An ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ event was cancelled as violating the definition. A Holocaust survivor was required to change the title of a campus talk, and the University (of Manchester) mandated it be recorded, after an Israeli diplomat complained that the title violated the definition,” he wrote.

“Perhaps most egregious,” Stern continued, “an off-campus group citing the definition called on a university to conduct an inquiry of a professor (who received her PhD from Columbia) for anti-Semitism, based on an article she had written years before. The University (of Bristol) then conducted the inquiry. While it ultimately found no basis to discipline the professor, the exercise itself was chilling and McCarthy-like.”

A second point to also consider is that Italian politics has reached the point that, on many issues, it has become difficult to easily distinguish between supposedly progressive parties and the populist ones. Palestine, in the new Italian political discourse, especially that of the Democratic Party is, perhaps, the most obvious case in point.

This is particularly disturbing, considering that Partito Democratico was, itself, the ideological culmination of parties that existed during the era of Italy’s First Republic (1948-1992), which were known for their strong stances in favor of Palestinian rights and self-determination and strong opposition to Israel’s violations of international law.

This is no longer the case, as the party’s stance on Palestine now hardly deviates from the stifling mantra, “Due popoli due stati” – “Two people two states”.

The new era of Italian politics makes it possible for the likes of Lia Quartapelle – a Democratic Party MP – to pose as a human rights defender on the global stage while referring to Israel as “an extraordinary exception, a plural democracy in a region that fed sectarian and fundamentalist policies”. Her statement is not only wrong and deluding, it also embodies a deep-seated form of anti-Arab sentiment, if not, arguably, outright racism.

The attempt at shutting down the Palestinian Festival is a microcosm of Italy’s foreign policy agenda in Palestine and Israel, where Rome offers Palestinians nothing but empty rhetoric, while practically remaining subservient to the chauvinistic and racist right-wing agenda of Tel Aviv.

Italians must understand that this is no longer just a conversation on Palestine and Israel, but one that directly affects them and their democracy, as well. Italy is a country that brought, then fought and defeated fascism; allied with, then fought and defeated Nazism. Once more, they are presented with the same stark options: siding with Israeli racism and apartheid or upholding the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom.

Romana Rubeo is an Italian writer and the managing editor of The Palestine Chronicle. Her articles appear in many online newspapers and academic journals. She holds a Master’s Degree in Foreign Languages and Literature, and specializes in audio-visual and journalism translation. 

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

October 12, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

Israel and Italy Cement Military Ties, Massive Arms to Be Exchanged

Palestine Chronicle | September 24, 2020

The Israeli and Italian governments concluded a major arms deal, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the Israeli Defense Ministry.

According to Israeli sources, the deal would allow Israel to sell “Spike anti-tank guided missiles and aircraft simulators in exchange for training helicopters to replace the Israeli Air Force’s aging fleet”.

Intense talks, which led to the agreement, began last February.

The military exchange is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars and its consequences are expected to last for at least two decades. According to the newly-signed agreement, Italian military contractor Leonardo will provide Israel with 20 years of aircraft maintenance.

“The agreement signed today is another expression of the close security and economic relations between Israel and Italy,” Israeli Defense Ministry Director-General Amir Eshel said in a statement, which was quoted in The Times of Israel.

Israel is currently the eighth leading weapons exporter in the world, and its military hardware, touted as ‘combat-proven’, is coveted by many countries.

September 25, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

The Senseless and Bloody Italian Campaign 1943-44

Tales of the American Empire | September 27, 2019

American society worships wars and wartime leaders. As a result, most Americans do not know that many wartime leaders were incompetent, while others sacrificed thousands of American lives to advance their career. There are several examples from World War II, like the mindless attacks through mountains up the Italian peninsula. This pointless effort also killed great numbers of Italian civilians and destroyed entire towns.

Related Tale: “The Madness of Operation Torch in 1942” – the big desert battles in Tunisia and Libya could have been skipped https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeUFL…

Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial https://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries-memor…

July 28, 2020 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

Rush to trash hydroxychloroquine exposes fundamental flaws in profit-based medical ‘science’

By Helen Buyniski | RT | June 4, 2020

As the WHO and prestigious medical journal the Lancet back away from questionable data provided by healthcare analytics firm Surgisphere, ulterior motives for the rush to demonize hydroxychloroquine become clear.

The World Health Organization (WHO) sheepishly resumed testing the off-patent malaria drug hydroxychloroquine on coronavirus patients on Wednesday after pausing that arm of its ‘Solidarity’ clinical trial based on data that appeared to show the drug contributed to higher death rates among test subjects. That data, it turned out, came from a tiny US healthcare analytics firm called Surgisphere, and calling it faulty would be excessively charitable.

Not only is Surgisphere a company lacking in medical expertise – its employees included an “adult” entertainer and a science-fiction writer – but its CEO Sapan Desai co-authored two of the damning studies that used the firm’s data to smear hydroxychloroquine, already thoroughly demonized in the media thanks to its promotion by US President Donald Trump, as a killer. All data is sourced to a proprietary database supposedly containing a veritable ocean of real-time, detailed patient information yet curiously absent from existing medical literature.

The Surgisphere-tainted study appeared to show increased risk of in-hospital deaths and heart problems with no disease-fighting benefits, confirming the suspicions of medical-industry naysayers already inclined to hate the off-patent drug due to the lack of profit potential and Trump’s incessant boosterism. Italy, France, and Germany rushed to ban hydroxychloroquine, citing “an increased risk for adverse reactions with little or no benefit.”

But such a shameless character assassination performed against a potentially-lifesaving drug – especially one with a decades-long track record of safety in malaria, lupus, and arthritis patients that came highly recommended by some of the world’s most eminent disease experts, including France’s Didier Raoult – could only be accomplished with help from industry prejudice. It required ignoring numerous existing studies showing hydroxychloroquine was beneficial in treating early-stage Covid-19 patients, as well as anecdotal reports from thousands of doctors who’d successfully used it.

It also required trusting a fly-by-night company with next to no internet or media presence to make decisions that could affect the lives of millions of people. It’s not like there weren’t warning signs Surgisphere was something other than the top-notch medical analytics firm it presented itself as. The company began life as a textbook publisher in 2008 and hired most of its 11 employees two month ago, according to an investigation by the Guardian, yet it claimed ownership of a massive international database of 96,000 patients in 1,200 hospitals worldwide. One expert interviewed by the outlet said it would be difficult for even a national statistics agency to do in years what Surgisphere had supposedly done in weeks, calling the database “almost certainly a scam.” Yet no one at the Lancet or WHO thought to look a gift horse in the mouth – not when that gift drove a stake through the heart of hydroxychloroquine as Covid-19 treatment.

And while Australian researchers found flaws in the Surgisphere data just days after the May 22 publication of the Lancet study, noting that the number of Covid-19 deaths cited by the study as coming from five hospitals exceeded the entirety of Covid-19 deaths recorded in Australia at that time, the Lancet – instead of investigating just who this Surgisphere company really was, and why it had made such a glaring mistake – merely published a minor retraction related to the Australian data and put the controversy to bed.

The full-frontal assault on hydroxychloroquine was instead allowed to continue unchecked in the media, as mainstream outlets focused their energies on fluffing up remdesivir – a costly, untested drug manufactured by drug maker Gilead that has so far produced lackluster results in clinical trials – and stumping for an eventual vaccine. Hydroxychloroquine’s off-patent status meant it was a dead end as far as profits were concerned, while remdesivir and whatever vaccine is ultimately green-lighted will make a lot of people very rich. Perhaps hoping to throw their audiences off the real reason for their hydroxychloroquine hatred, several outlets hinted that Trump stood to make money off the drug (which costs about 60 cents per pill) – but even Snopes, no fan of the ‘Bad Orange Man’, had to pour cold water on that speculation.

The Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine have – belatedly – published “expressions of concern” about the Surgisphere hydroxychloroquine study, and an independent audit is being conducted. But the problem of biased health authorities selectively embracing some trial results while rejecting others is unlikely to stop there.

The Lancet study is hardly the only one to show hydroxychloroquine lacks efficacy in treating Covid-19. Multiple studies conducted by the US National Institutes of Health on hospitalized (i.e. severely-ill) coronavirus patients have yielded poor results, but even the drug’s most ardent evangelists acknowledge it doesn’t help end-stage or very sick patients. Raoult has even claimed France banned the drug’s use in all but the most severely ill patients in order to discredit it as a treatment. The US National Institutes of Health was publishing studies in its journal Virology touting chloroquine as “a potent inhibitor of SARS coronavirus infection” as far back as 2005, yet ‘coronavirus czar’ Anthony Fauci throws shade at the drug whenever he gets a chance.

As long as deadly diseases like Covid-19 are seen as profit sources first and human rights issues second (or third, or tenth…), treatments that aren’t profitable will always be marginalized in favor of costly and frequently less-effective pharmaceuticals. Drug industry profiteering has already killed hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of people in the US alone. Taking the profit motive out of healthcare can help ensure its body count stays as low as possible.

Helen Buyniski is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

June 4, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Italy be the next country to leave EU?

By Paul Antonopoulos | June 2, 2020

On May 27, the political movement Italia Libera submitted a constitutional bill to the Supreme Court of Cassation demanding a referendum for Italy to leave the EU. After years of discussions, the foundation stone was laid for Italians to debate whether they want to remain in the EU or follow the United Kingdom out of the bloc. The draft bill presented by Italia Libera to the Supreme Court of Cassation is entitled “Call for a referendum on the withdrawal of the state from the European Union.”

Effectively, Italia Libera has demonstrated that it is possible to follow an institutional path to allow citizens to decide whether they want to remain in the EU or not – and for those who want to leave, now is the best time considering the massive decline in popularity for the bloc after their abandonment of Italy when it was at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gian Luca Proietti Toppi, a lawyer involved in the bill, said that it is necessary to reach ordinary Italians and “open their eyes to the harmful effects of participating in a Union without a soul and based only on finance. It is clear that with the filing of the 50,000 signatures necessary to start the parliamentary process of the proposal, a broad debate will open on the opportunity to exit the cage of the EU and the Euro.”

He continued to explain that “the effects of liberating the old continent from this bureaucratic and oppressive superstructure will certainly be complex to manage. However, Italia Libera, who is the first promoter of the Committee that collected the signatures needed, has already put experts and academics to work to draw up a plan that will secure the savings of Italians and from the debt.”

Although he did not mention the EU’s abandonment of Italy during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, he did emphasize how the bloc financially exploits Italy, just as it does to all of Mediterranean Europe with the exception of France.

There are many positive aspects to the EU, most notably the free movement of people and a coordinated effort to fight crime through Europol, but these multilateral agreements can exist without a European Parliament and domineering institutions based in Brussels and Strasbourg. As Toppi explained, Italy imagined the EU to be “a community of peoples and not of bankers.” It is for this reason that they announced the bill on the same day an unprecedented European Union Recovery Fund became official. This fund was only established because of the backlash received due to the bloc’s initial disinterest in assisting already struggling economies of the EU that were being further devastated financially by the pandemic.

With widespread southern European dissatisfaction with how the EU abandoned its supposed liberal ideals, particularly Germany, in favour of serving inward self-interests, bloc leaders are now playing catch up. President of the European Commission and Angela Merkel’s right-hand man in previous German governments, Ursula Von Der Leyen, and the President of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, who was also a former member of the Troika of bankers, announced the unprecedented measures to assist Europe through its financial woes. This time they promised real aid that would not completely decimate state structures and entire economies like what happened to Greece, Spain, Portugal, and to a lesser extent Italy, for the entirety of the 2010’s. The Governor of the Bank of Italy expects a 13% drop in GDP in 2020, and for this reason Toppi emphasized that Italy does not need any further indebtedness which will increasingly put Italy in the hands of international speculators.

However, Italians remember that Lagarde announced on March 13, just as coronavirus was truly beginning to overwhelm hospitals, that the pandemic was an Italian problem only. This was the catalyst that saw ordinary Italians begin to remove EU flags from public display and replace them with Russian and Chinese flags in gratitude to the significant assistance that these two countries gave to Italy when it was abandoned by Brussels and Berlin.

An “Italexit” would be a bigger blow to the prestige of the EU then Brexit. Italy, as a G20 country, uses the Eurodollar unlike Britain which maintained currency sovereignty and continued to use the pound. Therefore, to prevent the strong possibility that Italy in the coming years could leave the EU, Brussels and Berlin must take note of its political failures and work to design a new community that has respect for national sovereignty and identity, and on the basis of reciprocity. It is not acceptable that Germany remains the dominant country of the EU and effectively rules over the European Commission, the European Central Banks, the European Court of Justice and the European Parliament.

A Europe free of unscrupulous bankers, self-referential bureaucrats and inadequate politicians is at the forefront of those pushing for their respective countries to exit the EU or call for its reformation. However, for this to be achieved, a major state must lead the charge, and it appears that Italy will take on this mantle and could very well be the first Eurodollar state to leave the EU if drastic reformations are not made. And Italian exit will surely have a domino effect felt all across Europe.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

June 2, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , | 4 Comments

100 years of shame: Annexation of Palestine began in San Remo

By Ramzy Baroud | MEMO | May 5, 2020

One hundred years ago, representatives from a few powerful countries convened at San Remo, a sleepy town on the Italian Riviera. Together, they sealed the fate of the massive territories confiscated from the Ottoman Empire following its defeat in World War I.

It was on April 25, 1920, that the San Remo Conference Resolution was passed by the post-World War I Allied Supreme Council. Western Mandates were established over Palestine, Syria and ‘Mesopotamia’ – Iraq. The latter two were theoretically designated for provisional independence, while Palestine was granted to the Zionist movement to establish a Jewish homeland there.

“The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the (Balfour) declaration originally made on November 8, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” the Resolution read.

The Resolution gave greater international recognition to Britain’s unilateral decision, three years earlier, to grant Palestine to the Zionist Federation for the purpose of establishing a Jewish homeland, in exchange for Zionist support of Britain during the Great War.

And, like Britain’s Balfour Declaration, a cursory mention was made of the unfortunate inhabitants of Palestine, whose historic homeland was being unfairly confiscated and handed over to colonial settlers.

The establishment of that Jewish State, according to San Remo, hinged on some vague ‘understanding’ that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

The above addition merely served as a poor attempt at appearing politically balanced, while in reality no enforcement mechanism was ever put in place to ensure that the ‘understanding’ was ever respected or implemented.

In fact, one could argue that the West’s long engagement in the question of Israel and Palestine has followed the same San Remo prototype: where the Zionist movement (and eventually Israel) is granted its political objectives based on unenforceable conditions that are never respected or implemented.

Notice how the vast majority of United Nations Resolution pertaining to Palestinian rights are historically passed by the General Assembly, not by the Security Council, where the US is one of five veto-wielding powers, always ready to strike down any attempt at enforcing international law.

It is this historical dichotomy that led to the current political deadlock.

Palestinian leaderships, one after the other, have miserably failed at changing the stifling paradigm. Decades before the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, countless delegations, comprised those claiming to represent the Palestinian people, traveled to Europe, appealing to one government or another, pleading the Palestinian case and demanding fairness.

What has changed since then?

On February 20, the Donald Trump administration issued its own version of the Balfour Declaration, termed the ‘Deal of the Century’.

The American decision which, again, flouted international law, paves the way for further Israeli colonial annexations of occupied Palestine. It brazenly threatens Palestinians that, if they do not cooperate, they will be punished severely. In fact, they already have been, when Washington cut all funding to the Palestinian Authority and to international institutions that provide critical aid to the Palestinians.

Like in the San Remo Conference, the Balfour Declaration, and numerous other documents, Israel was asked, ever so politely but without any plans to enforce such demands, to grant Palestinians some symbolic gestures of freedom and independence.

Some may argue, and rightly so, that the ‘Deal of the Century’ and the San Remo Conference Resolution are not identical in the sense that Trump’s decision was a unilateral one, while San Remo was the outcome of political consensus among various countries – Britain, France, Italy, and others.

True, but two important points must be taken into account: firstly, the Balfour Declaration was also a unilateral decision. It took Britain’s allies three years to embrace and validate the illegal decision made by London to grant Palestine to the Zionists. The question now is, how long will it take for Europe to claim the ‘Deal of the Century’ as its own?

Secondly, the spirit of all of these declarations, promises, resolutions, and ‘deals’ is the same, where superpowers decide by virtue of their own massive influence to rearrange the historical rights of nations. In some way, the colonialism of old has never truly died.

The Palestinian Authority, like previous Palestinian leaderships, is presented with the proverbial carrot and stick. Last March, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, told Palestinians that if they did not return to the (non-existent) negotiations with Israel, the US would support Israel’s annexation of the West Bank.

For nearly three decades now and, certainly, since the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993, the PA has chosen the carrot. Now that the US has decided to change the rules of the game altogether, Mahmoud Abbas’ Authority is facing its most serious existential threat yet: bowing down to Kushner or insisting on returning to a dead political paradigm that was constructed, then abandoned, by Washington.

The crisis within the Palestinian leadership is met with utter clarity on the part of Israel. The new Israeli coalition government, consisting of previous rivals Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, have tentatively agreed that annexing large parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley is just a matter of time. They are merely waiting for the American nod.

They are unlikely to wait for long, as Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said on April 22 that annexing Palestinian territories is “an Israeli decision.”

Frankly, it matters little. The 21st century Balfour Declaration has already been made; it is only a matter of making it the new uncontested reality.

Perhaps, it is time for the Palestinian leadership to understand that groveling at the feet of those who have inherited the San Remo Resolution, constructing and sustaining colonial Israel, is never and has never been the answer.

Perhaps, it is time for some serious rethink.

May 5, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

As Russia Sends Aid, US and NATO Sneer and Smear

By Ulson Gunnar – New Eastern Outlook – 08.04.2020

When Russian military planes and trucks arrived in Italy to provide relief for communities hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, the Italian government, elected into power by the Italian people, was thankful for the assistance offered by Moscow.

Named officials within the Italian government, including the foreign minister, the minister of defense and the governor of Apulia, Michele Emiliano, publically expressed thanks to Russia for the aid.

But finding any mention of this across the Western media is difficult, often buried deep within articles aimed entirely at smearing Russia for sending aid and depicting Italians as victims of a publicity stunt.

Reutersin a smear piece published by the New York Times and aimed at vilifying Moscow, still had to admit regarding Russian aid that Italians were grateful, noting:

“There are no new geopolitical scenarios to trace, there is a country that needs help and other countries that are helping us,” Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio was quoted as saying by Italy’s Il Corriere della Sera newspaper on Thursday.

Despite Italy being capable of speaking for itself and bringing up any suspicions (if they had any), the West decided to step in and speak for Italy instead.

Sneering and Smearing 

Western headlines are flooded with scorn for both Russia and the aid they sent, completely indifferent to how Italians themselves perceived the gesture.

Articles like Bloomberg’sItaly Questions Russians Over Their Goodwill Virus Gestures,” admit several paragraphs in that officially, Italy was grateful for the aid, noting:

Our country can only be grateful” for the solidarity of many countries, including Russia, the Italian defense and foreign ministries said in a joint statement Friday.

Yet claims that “Italy questions Russia” suggest the entire nation is suspicious of the aid. Upon reading Bloomberg’s article, the only source cited is a single article in the Italian newspaper La Stampa. It is hard to believe an article in La Stampa constitutes all of “Italy.”

According to the pro-Western Moscow Times in their article, “80% of Russia’s Coronavirus Aid to Italy ‘Useless’ – La Stampa,” also entirely based on the La Stampa article, its admits La Stampa’s information came from an “unnamed source.”

Other articles, like the BBC’s “Coronavirus: What does ‘from Russia with love’ really mean?,” Foreign Policy’sBeware of Bad Samaritans,” and Forbes’From Russia With Love? Putin’s Medical Supplies Gift To Coronavirus-Hit Italy Raises Questions,” all used similarly disingenuous tactics to depict the Russian aid as somehow sinister and unwanted.

The Guardian in its article, “Coronavirus: Russia sends plane full of medical supplies to US,” explains:

Critics likely to claim Moscow will exploit goodwill gesture as public relations coup.

France 24 in headline alone makes Western criticism even clearer, claiming, “Flying aid to virus-hit Italy, Moscow flexes soft power.

So by sending aid to Italy, Russia is somehow supposedly flexing its “soft power.”

So How is the West Using Its Soft Power? 

The West faced a collective decision. They could have used their own, very substantial soft power to one-up Russia by sending even more aid to Italy and other regions of the globe impacted by the spread of Covid-19.

Instead, they mobilized the entirety of their soft power to sneer and smear Russia’s efforts with Western-funded media fronts writing entire articles doing just that.

The West’s attempts to depict the Russian media reporting on the aid as also somehow sinister rather than simply telling the world what Russia is doing is also particularly surreal.

The Western media itself spends the summation of its own time and energy promoting what their respective governments are doing abroad which usually involves illegal invasions, wars, occupations and interventions… not sending aid.

A Missed Opportunity 

Because certain special interests in the West fear some Western governments growing closer to nations like Russia and China in the spirit of cooperation and mutual benefits and derailing the Washington-led “international order” that has prevailed post World War 2, resources have been committed to attacking any development that could spur this process further.

But because these resources have been invested into attacking, even when attacking is not the best option, that is all the West appears capable of doing.

The answer to Russian aid to Italy was Western aid to Italy. The benefit would have been a flood of resources sent to where it was needed and everyone involved enjoying the benefits of lending a helping hand to those who would be grateful in return.

Instead, the West appears to be throwing rocks at a time when others are coming together to help, and throwing those rocks at those who are helping.

Rather than teaching the Italians never to deal with Russia again, it is likely this process is going to remind Italians as to why they’ve diversified their foreign relations outside the West in the first place.

April 9, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

COVID-USA: Targeting Italy and South Korea?

By Larry Romanoff | Global Research | March 21, 2020

A high-level Italian virologist, Giuseppe Remuzzi, has published papers in the Lancet and other articles in which he states facts not hitherto known. (1)

The doctor stated that Italian physicians now recall having seen:

“a very strange and very severe pneumonia, particularly in old people in December and even November [2019]. This suggests that the virus was circulating, at least in Lombardy, and before we were aware of this outbreak occurring in China.“(2)

Chinese medical authorities have determined the same underlying phenomenon, that the virus had been circulating among the population for perhaps two months before it finally broke out into the open.

Further, according to the Italian National Health Service (ISS):

“It is not possible to reconstruct, for all patients, the chain of transmission of infection. Most cases reported in Italy report an epidemiological link with other cases diagnosed in Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Veneto, the areas most affected by the epidemic.” [translation from Italian] (3)

The above statement is of crucial importance since it supports in itself the assertion of several simultaneous infection clusters and several ‘patients zero’. There are cases in Lombardy that could not be placed in an infection chain, and this must also be true for other areas. (see below) Given that the virus broke out separately in disparate regions of Italy, we can expect the identification of independent infectious clusters in those regions as well. That would mean Italy was hit by at least several individual ‘seedings’ of the virus.

China’s outbreak of consequence was primarily in the city of Wuhan but with multiple sources in the city and multiple patients zero, with a minor outbreak in Guangdong that was easily contained. China had multiple clusters in Wuhan.  There was no single source, and no patient zero has been identified which is similar to those of Italy.

The mystery of Italy’s “Patient No. 4”

Was the Italian outbreak caused by infections from China? Yes, and no.

Before February 20, 2020, there were only three cases of coronavirus infection in Italy, two tourists from Wuhan, China, confirmed on January 30th, and an Italian man who returned to Rome from Wuhan on February 6th. These were clearly imported cases with Italy experiencing no new infections during the next two weeks.

Then suddenly there appeared new infections that were unrelated to China. On February 19, the Lombardy Health Region issued a statement that a 38-year-old Italian man was diagnosed with the new coronavirus, becoming the fourth confirmed case in Italy. The man had never traveled to China and had no contact with the confirmed Chinese patients.

Immediately after this patient was diagnosed, Italy experienced a major outbreak. In one day, the number of confirmed cases increased to 20 and, after little more than three weeks, Italy had 17,660 confirmed cases.

The Italians were not idle in searching for their patient zero. They renamed the “patient 4” “Italian No. 1”, and attempted to learn how he became infected. The search was apparently fruitless, the article stating that “America’s pandemic of the century has become the subject of suspicion by Italians“.(4)

The mystery of South Korea’s “Patient No. 31”

South Korea’s experience was eerily similar to that of Italy, and also to that of China. The country had experienced 30 imported cases which began on January 20, I believe all of which were traceable to contact with Hubei and/or Wuhan.

But then South Korea discovered a “Patient No. 31”, a 61 year-old South Korean woman diagnosed with the new coronavirus on February 18. This ‘local’ patient had no ties to China, had had no contact with any Chinese, and no contact whatever with any of the infected South Koreans. Her infection was a South Korean source.

Just as with Italy, the outbreak in South Korea exploded rapidly after the discovery of Patient 31. By the next day, February 19 (Italy was February 21, for comparison), there were 58 confirmed cases in South Korea, reaching 1,000 in less than a week. After little more than three weeks, South Korea had 8,086 confirmed cases. It would now seem likely (yet to corroborated) that South Korea and Italy could have been ‘seeded’ at approximately the same time.

Like the Italians, South Korea performed a massive hunt for the source of the infection of their “Korean No. 1”, combing the country for evidence, but without success. They discovered the confirmed cases in South Korea were mainly concentrated in two separate clusters in Daegu and Gyeongsang North Road, most of which – but not all – could be related to “Patient 31”. As with Italy, multiple clusters and multiple simultaneous infections spreading like wildfire – and without the assistance of a seafood market selling bats and pangolins.

For both Italy and South Korea, I could also add that there is no supposed “bio-weapons lab” anywhere within reach (as was claimed for China), but that wouldn’t be accurate. There are indeed bio-weapons labs easily within reach of the stricken areas in both Italy and South Korea – but they belong to the US Military.

Korea is particularly notable in this regard because it was proven likely that MERS resulted from a leak at the American military base at Osan. The official Western narrative for the MERS outbreak in South Korea was that a Korean businessman became infected in the Middle East then returned to his home in Gyeonggi Province and spread the infection. But there was never any documentation or evidence to support that claim, and to my best knowledge it was never verified by the South Korean Government.

Pertinent to this story is that according to the Korean Yonhap News Service, at the onset of the outbreak about 100 South Korean military personnel were suddenly quarantined at the USAF Osan Air Base. The Osan base is home to the JUPITR ATD military biological program that is closely related to the lab at Fort Detrick, MD, both being US military bio-weapons research labs.

There is also a (very secretive) WHO-sponsored International Vaccine Institute nearby, which is (or at least was) managed by US military biological weapons personnel. At the time, and given the quarantine mentioned above, the event sequence accepted as most likely was that of a leak from a JUPITR biowarfare project. (5) (6)

The Korean path is similar with that of Italy. If we look at a map of the virus-stricken areas of Italy, there is a US military base within almost a stone’s throw of all of them. This is of course merely a case of circumstance arousing suspicion, and by no means constitutes proof of anything at all.

However, there is a major point here which cannot be overlooked, namely the fact of simultaneous eruptions of a new virus in three different countries, and in all three cases no clear epidemiology, and an inability to identify either the original source or a patient zero.

Multiple experts on biological weapons are in unanimous agreement that eruptions in a human population of a new and unusual pathogen in multiple locations simultaneously, with no clear idea of source and cases with no proven links, is virtually prima facie evidence of a pathogen deliberately released, since natural outbreaks can almost always be resolved to one location and one patient zero. The possibility of a deliberate leak is as strong in Italy and South Korea as in China, all three nations apparently sharing the same suspicions.

Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West.

He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

He can be contacted at: 2186604556@qq.com

Notes

(A) This is an aside, but Italy has experienced a fatality rate nearly twice that of Wuhan, but there may be an external contributing factor. Observations were made that, in most cases especially among the elderly in Italy, ibuprophen was widely used as a painkiller. The Lancet published an article demonstrating that the use of ibuprophen can markedly facilitate the ability of the virus to infect and therefore to increase the risk of serious and fatal infection. (YY)

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(20)30116-8/fulltext

(B) “The mean age of those who died in Italy was 81 years and more than two-thirds of these patients had . . . underlying health conditions, but it is also worth noting that they had acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) caused by . . . SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia, needed respiratory support, and “would not have died otherwise.”

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30627-9/fulltext?dgcid=raven_jbs_etoc_email#seccestitle10

(1) https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30627-9/fulltext?dgcid=raven_jbs_etoc_email#seccestitle10

(2) https://www.npr.org/2020/03/19/817974987/every-single-individual-must-stay-home-italy-s-coronavirus-deaths-pass-china-s

(3) https://www.iss.it/web/guest/primo-piano/-/asset_publisher/o4oGR9qmvUz9/content/id/5293226

(4) http://dy.163.com/v2/article/detail/F7N756430514G9GF.html

(5) https://www.21cir.com/2015/06/south-korea-mers-emerged-out-of-the-pentagons-biowarfare-labs-2/

(6) https://www.businessinsider.com/almost-200-north-korean-soldiers-died-coronavirus-2020-3

March 21, 2020 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

A Second Whistle Blown on the OPCW’s Doctored Report

By Jeremy Salt | American Herald Tribune | December 3, 2019

Another whistleblower leak has exposed the fraudulent nature of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) report on the alleged chemical weapons attack in the Syrian city of Douma, close to Damascus, on April 7 last year.

The first leak came from the Fact-Finding Mission’s engineering sub-group. After investigating the two sites where industrial gas cylinders were found in Douma and taking into account the possibility that the cylinders had been dropped from the air it concluded that there was a “higher probability” that both cylinders were placed at both sites by hand. This finding was entirely suppressed in the final report.

The engineering sub-group prepared its draft report “for internal review” between February 1-27, 2018. By March 1 the OPCW final report had been approved, published and released, indicating that the engineers’ findings had not been properly evaluated, if evaluated at all. In its final report the OPCW, referring to the findings of independent experts in mechanical engineering, ballistics and metallurgy, claimed that the structural damage had been caused at one location by an “impacting object” (i.e. the cylinder) and that at the second location the cylinder had passed through the ceiling, fallen to the floor and somehow bounced back up on to the bed where it was found.

None of this was even suggested by the engineers. Instead, the OPCW issued a falsified report intended to keep alive the accusation that the cylinders had been dropped by the Syrian Air Force.

Now there is a second leak, this time an internal email sent by a member of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on June 22, 2018, to Robert Fairweather, the British career diplomat who was at the time Chief of Cabinet at the OPCW, and copied to his deputy, Aamir Shouket. The writer claims to have been the only FFM member to have read the redacted report before its release. He says it misrepresents the facts: “Some crucial facts that have remained in the redacted version have morphed into something quite different from what was originally drafted.”

The email says the final version statement that the team “has sufficent evidence to determine that chlorine or another reactive chlorine-containing chemical was likely released from the cylinders is highly misleading and not supported by the facts.” The writer states that the only evidence is that some samples collected at locations 2 and 4 (where the gas cylinders were found) had been in contact with one or more chemicals that contain a reactive chlorine atom.

“Such chemicals,” he continues, “could include molecular chlorine, phosgene, cyanogen chloride, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen chloride or sodium hypochlorite (the major element in household chlorine-based bleach.”  Purposely singling out chlorine as one of the possibilities was disingenuous and demonstrated “partiality” that negatively affected the final report’s credibility.

The writer says the final report’s reference to “high levels of various chlorinated organic derivatives detected in environmental samples” overstates the draft report’s findings. “In most cases” these derivatives were present only in part per billion range, as low as 1-2 ppb, which is essentially trace qualitiea.” In such microscopic quantities, detected inside apartment buildings, it would seem, although the writer only hints at the likelihood, that the chlorine trace elements could have come from household bleach stored in the kitchen or bathroom.

The writer notes that the original draft discussed in detail the inconsistency between the victims’ symptoms after the alleged attack as reported by witnesses and seen on video recordings.  This section of the draft, including the epidemiology, was removed from the final version in its entirety. As it was inextricably linked to the chemical agent as identified, the impact on the final report was “seriously negative.” The writer says the draft report was “modified” at the behest of the office of Director-General, a post held at the time by a Turkish diplomat, Ahmet Uzumcu.

The OPCW has made no attempt to deny the substance of these claims. After the engineers’ report made its way to Wikileaks its priority was to hunt down the leaker. Following the leaking of the recent email, the Director-General, Fernando Arias, simply defended the final report as it stood.

These two exposures are triply devastating for the OPCW.  Its Douma report is completely discredited but all its findings on the use of chemical weapons in Syria must now be regarded as suspect even by those who did not regard them as suspect in the first place. The same shadow hangs over all UN agencies that have relied on the OPCW for evidence, especially the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, an arm of the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights).

This body is closely linked to the OPCW and while both mostly hide the sources of their information it is evident that where chemical weapons allegations have been made, the commission of inquiry has drawn on the OPCW.

As of January 2018, the commission reported on 34 “documented incidents” of chemical weapons use by various parties in Syria. It held the Syrian government responsible for 23 of them and, remarkably, did not hold the armed groups responsible even for one, despite the weight of evidence showing their preparation and use of such weapons over a long period of time.

The commission has made repeated accusations of chlorine barrel bombs being dropped by government forces. On the worst of the alleged chemical weapons attacks, on August 21, 2013, in the eastern Ghouta district just outside Damascus, it refers to sarin being used in a “well-planned indiscriminate attack targetting residential areas [and] causing mass casualties. The perpetrators likely had access to the Syrian military chemical weapons stockpile and expertise and equipment to manipulate large amounts of chemical weapons.”

This is such a travesty of the best evidence that no report by this body can be regarded as impartial, objective and neutral.   No chemical weapons or nerve agents were moved from Syrian stocks, according to the findings of renowned journalist Seymour Hersh. The best evidence, including a report by Hersh (‘The Red Line and the Rat Line,’ London Review of Books, April 17, 2014), suggests a staged attack by terrorist groups, including Jaysh al Islam and Ahrar al Sham, who at the time were being routed in a government offensive. The military would have had no reason to use chemical weapons: furthermore, the ‘attack’ was launched just as UN chemical weapons inspectors were arriving in the Syrian capital and it is not even remotely credible that the Syrian government would have authorized a chemical weapons attack at such a time.

Even the CIA warned Barack Obama that the Syrian government may not have been/probably was not responsible for the attack and that he was being lured into launching an air attack in Syria now that his self-declared ‘red line’ had been crossed. At the last moment, Obama backed off.

It remains possible that the victims of this ‘attack’ were killed for propaganda purposes. Certainly, no cruelty involving the takfiri groups, the most brutal people on the face of the planet, can be ruled out. Having used the occasion to blame the Syrian government, the media quickly moved on. The identities of the dead, many of them children, who they were, where they might have been buried – if in fact they had been killed and not just used as props – were immediately tossed into the memory hole. Eastern Ghouta remains one of the darkest unexplained episodes in the war on Syria.

The UN’s Syria commission of inquiry’s modus operandi is much the same as the OPCW’s. Witnesses are not identified; there is no indication of how their claims were substantiated; the countries outside Syria where many have been interviewed are not identified, although Turkey is clearly one; and where samples have had to be tested, the chain of custody is not transparent.

It is worth stepping back a little bit to consider early responses to the OPCW report on Douma. The Syrian government raised a number of questions, all of them fobbed off by the OPCW.  Russia entered the picture by arranging a press conference for alleged victims of the ‘attack’ at the OPCW headquarters in the Hague.  They included an 11-year-old boy, Hassan Diab, who said he did not know why he was suddenly hosed down in the hospital clinic, as shown in the White Helmets propaganda video.

All the witnesses dismissed claims of a chemical weapons attack. Seventeen countries (Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the US) then put out a joint statement (April 26, 2018) expressing their full support for the OPCW report and dismissing the “so-called” information session at the Hague as a Russian propaganda exercise. Their statement claimed the authenticity of the information in the OPCW report was “unassailable.”

Russia followed up with a series of questions directed at the OPCW’s technical secretariat. It noted that the OPCW report did not mention that samples taken from Douma were “split” in the OPCW’s central laboratory in the Netherlands and not in the Syrian Arab republic. Fractions of samples were handed to Syria only after six months of insistent pressure (OPCW response: its terms of reference provided for Syria to be provided with samples “to the extent possible” but do not specify when or where samples should be ‘split’).

Russia also referred to the collection of 129 samples and their transfer to OPCW-designated laboratories. 31 were selected for the first round of analysis and an additional batch of 13 sent later. Of the 129 samples 39 were obtained from individuals living outside territory controlled by the Syrian army. Of 44 samples analyzed 33 were environmental and 11 biomedical: of the 44, 11 (four environmental and seven biomedical) were obtained from alleged witnesses.

As remarked by the Russian Federation, the OPCW report does not explain the circumstances in which these samples were obtained. Neither is there any information on the individuals from whom they were taken; neither is there any evidence demonstrating compliance with the chain of custody (OPCW response: there was respect for the chain of custody, without this being explained; the “standard methodology” in collecting samples was applied, without details being given.  It stressed the need for privacy and the protection of witness identities).

Russia observed that the samples were analyzed in two unnamed OPCW laboratories and on the evidence of techniques and results, it raised the question of whether the same laboratories had been used to investigate earlier ‘incidents’ involving the alleged use of chlorine. Of the 13 laboratories that had technical agreements with the OPCW, why were samples analyzed at only two, apparently the same two as used before?  Russia also observed that of the 33 environmental samples tested for chlorinated products, there was a match (bornyl chloride) in only one case.

Samples taken from location 4, where a gas cylinder was allegedly dropped from the air, showed the presence of the explosive trinitrotoluene, leading to the conclusion that the hole in the roof was made by an explosion and not by a cylinder falling through it (OPCW response: the Fact-Finding Mission did not select the labs and information about them is confidential. As there had been intense warfare for weeks around location four, the presence of explosive material in a broad range of samples was to be expected but this did not – in the OPCW view –  lead to the conclusion that an explosion caused the hole in the roof).

Russia pointed out that the FFM interviewed 39 people but did not interview the actual witnesses of the ‘incident’ inside the Douma hospital who appeared and were easily identifiable in the staged videos (OPCW response: the secretariat neither confirms nor denies whether it interviewed any of the witnesses presented by Russia at the OPCW headquarters “as any statement to that effect would be contrary to the witness protection principles applied by the secretariat”).

Russia also pointed out the contradictions in the report on the number of alleged dead. In one paragraph the FFM says it could not establish a precise figure for casualties which “some sources” said ranged between 70 and 500. Yet elsewhere “witnesses” give the number of dead as 43 (OPCW response: the specific figure of 43 was based on the evidence of “witnesses” who claimed to have seen bodies at different locations).

Russia also pointed out that no victims were found at locations 2 and 4, where the ventilation was good because of the holes in the roof/ceiling. Referring to location 2, it asked how could chlorine released in a small hole from a cylinder in a well-ventilated room on the fourth floor have had such a strong effect on people living on the first or second floors? (OPCW response: the FFM did not establish a correlation between the number of dead and the quantity of the toxic chemical. In order to establish such a correlation, factors unknown to the FFM – condition of the building, air circulation and so on – would have had to be taken into account.  It does not explain why this was not attempted and how it could reach its conclusions without taking these “unknown factors” into account).

Finally, Russia raised the question of the height from which the cylinders could have been dropped. It referred to the lack of specific calculations in the OPCW report. The ‘experts’ who did the simulation did not indicate the drop height. The charts and diagrams indicated a drop height of 45-180 meters. However, Syrian Air Force helicopters do not fly at altitudes of less than 2000 meters when cruising over towns because they would come under small arms fire “at least” and would inevitably be shot down.

Furthermore, if the cylinders had been dropped from 2000 meters,  both the roof and the cylinders would have been more seriously damaged (OPCW response: there were no statements or assumptions in the FFM report on the use of helicopters or the use of other aircraft “or the height of the flight. The FFM did not base its modeling on the height from which the cylinders could have been dropped. “In accordance with its mandate,” the FFM did not comment on the possible altitude of aircraft.  The OPCW did not explain why these crucial factors were not taken into account).

In its conclusion, Russia said there was a “high probability” that the cylinders were placed manually at locations 2 and 4 and that the factual material in the OPCW report did not allow it to draw the conclusion that a toxic chemical had been used as a weapon. These conclusions have now been confirmed in the release of information deliberately suppressed by the OPCW secretariat.

As the leaked material proves, its report was doctored: by suppressing, ignoring or distorting the findings of its own investigators to make it appear that the Syrian government was responsible for the Douma ‘attack’ the OPCW can be justly accused of giving aid and comfort to terrorists and their White Helmet auxiliaries whom – the evidence overwhelmingly shows – set this staged ‘attack ’up.

Critical evidence ignored by the OPCW included the videoed discovery of an underground facility set up by Jaysh al Islam for the production of chemical weapons.   All the OPCW said was that the FFM inspectors paid on-site visits to the warehouse and “facility” suspected of producing chemical weapons and found no evidence of their manufacture.  There is no reference to the makeshift facility found underground and shown in several minutes of video evidence.

Since the release of the report, the three senior figures in the OPCW secretariat have moved/been moved on. The Director-General at the time, Hasan Uzumlu, a Turkish career diplomat, stepped out of the office in July 2018: Sir Robert Fairweather, a British career diplomat and Chief of Cabinet at the OPCW, was appointed the UK’s special representative to Sudan and South Sudan on March 11, 2019: his deputy, Aamir Shouket,  left the OPCW in August 2018, to return to Pakistan as Director-General of the Foreign Ministry’s Europe division. The governments which signed the statement that the evidence in the OPCW report was “unassailable” remain in place.

Jeremy Salt has taught at the University of Melbourne, Bosporus University (Istanbul) and Bilkent University (Ankara), specialising in the modern history of the Middle East.  His most recent book is “The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.)

December 4, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In controversial move Italy bans Mahan Air’s flights

By Max Civili | Press TV | November 20, 2019

Rome – The Italian government’s early November announcement that the Iranian first private airline Mahan Air will no longer be allowed to fly to its Italian destinations of Rome and Milan from mid-December had left many baffled in Italy.

Rome’s decision – made after a meeting between Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October – had followed that of Germany and France which had both already banned flights by the airline in the wake of US pressure.

Washington has been accusing Mahan Air of transporting military equipment and personnel to Middle East war zones – an accusation that the airline has always refuted. The attack came as part of broader US sanctions targeting Iran’s aviation industry.

Also Italy’s flag-carrier Alitalia had suspended its flights to Tehran in January this year, following US President Donald Trump’s decision to reinstate sanctions on Iran.

On Tuesday, at a meeting with a number of Italian journalists and geopolitical analysts held at Iran’s Embassy in Rome, the Ambassador to Italy Hamid Bayat stressed the importance of maintaining access to the Italian airspace.

Iranian authorities believe direct flights between countries that enjoy long-standing relations such as Italy and Iran are essential. About 10,000 young Iranians are enrolled at Italian universities and tens of thousands of Italian tourists visit Iran every year.

Some have argued that Italy’s ban on Mahan Airliner is also a breach of the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation. The convention – enacted in the depths of WWII, because people understood the key role aviation would play in connecting the world – established a specialized agency of the United Nations known as ICAO.

November 20, 2019 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Russiagate Comes to Italy

By Andrew Spannaus – Consortium News – August 5, 2019

Milan – A meeting with Russians, allegations of corruption, and a call for a leading politician to resign. Russiagate has come to Italy.

A representative of the League — the right-wing anti-establishment party now part of the country’s governing coalition — is alleged to have floated a scheme for his party to receive 65 million euros ($73 million) in illegal financing, skimmed off the top of oil sales from Russia.

Gianluca Savoini, a long-time League member, was recorded during a conversation in the public lounge of Moscow’s Metropol Hotel on Oct. 18, 2018, talking to three still-unidentified Russians about how to channel money to his political party.

Prosecutors in Milan have opened an investigation, while Deputy Prime Minister and League leader Matteo Salvini has denied any knowledge of the alleged plot.

The recording of Savoini’s conversation in Moscow was published by Buzzfeed in early July. The League and other nationalist parties in Europe, have long been subject to U.S. intelligence suspicions of getting help from Russia and Buzzfeed reporter Alberto Nardelli presents the Metropol recording as the “first hard evidence” of this. He writes that the conversation confirms suspicions that have been present for years of “Russia’s clandestine attempts to fund Europe’s nationalist movements.” (Nardelli admits that an earlier Austrian case involving a nationalist politician was “a sting,” but says the Savoini meeting “bears all the hallmarks of a real negotiation.”)

Nardelli assumes the Russian government was behind the operation — although no proof has been presented of this — and writes that “the real goal was to undermine liberal democracies and shape a new, nationalist Europe aligned with Moscow.” Nardelli presents Salvini, whom the unidentified Russians at the meeting call the “European Trump,” as under Putin’s thumb, representing a key asset for the Russian leader because of Salvini’s recent electoral victory.

A weakness in the allegation of illicit financing, however, is that the scheme allegedly discussed would have involved sales from a Russian company (Rosneft or Lukoil) to the Italian state oil company ENI, to be processed through the Russian branch of the Italy’s largest bank, Intesa Sanpaolo and both Italian companies strongly deny any knowledge of the proposed scheme. Given their importance to the country’s economy and institutions, they represent interests that go far beyond the League’s control.

Fallout for the League

The investigation is proceeding rapidly, both in the courts and in the press, and is likely to focus on the close ties developed between League operators and Russian political and economic actors. Italian investigators are seeking anything that looks suspicious, even if plans weren’t implemented.

The allegations have caused considerable political fallout in Italy, putting Salvini – a firebrand who has become Italy’s most polarizing politician — on the defensive. The opposition Democratic Party (Pd) has called for his resignation. More importantly, the League’s coalition partner, the Five-Star Movement (M5S) — which took a drubbing in the May 26 European elections, while the League doubled its vote total and became the top party in Italy — now seems intent on exploiting Salvini’s moment of weakness to regain momentum.

The two parties have not reached a full-blown crisis. But the League appears to be getting backed into a corner and the risks of a fall are raised for Europe’s only populist government that has fully supplanted traditional ruling parties, based on its sharp criticism of EU policies on limiting social spending and public investment. 

Such a result would be welcomed by the Western liberal establishment in general, but could open the door for an even more aggressive form of populism in the future. Early indications are that even the latest scandal has not cut into the League’s support, which continues to grow in the polls.

Other Cases Brought to Mind  

The case follows that of former Austrian Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, who also challenged the mainstream view of Russia as an imminent threat to the West.

In 2017, before his right-wing party entered the government, Strache was filmed, while drinking heavily, promising public contracts to a woman claiming to be the niece of a Russian oligarch in exchange for funding for his party. As Spiegel online, one of the German press outlets that published the video, reported: “The meeting was a trap.” The woman was not who she said she was, and the video ended up being used to bring about the fall of the Austrian government. Strache claims he was set up by a foreign intelligence service.

Heinz-Christian Strache in 2008. (Christian Jansky, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The film was published in May with the desired effect: Strache was forced to resign, putting pressure on rightwing political parties that have been critical of the EU’s decision to maintain sanctions on Russia, such as the League, the National Rally in France and Alternative for Germany.

Of course the prime example of discrediting by association with Moscow is Russiagate.

As former CIA analyst Larry C. Johnson has documented in detail, the numerous contacts between people around President Donald Trump and intermediaries offering damaging information on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or contacts for political or business operations in Russia, were initiated and promoted not by Trump’s side, but by individuals who in many cases have worked for the FBI, the CIA, or the British intelligence service MI-6.

Grounds for Skepticism

Read in light of that precedent, Buzzfeed’s coverage of Savoini’s conversation in Moscow gives grounds for skepticism.

Buzzfeed has been listed as a media target for reports and studies by  the “Integrity Initiative,” a British government-funded network of spies, journalists and think-tanks in the United Kingdom that has targeted politicians and other public figures who are alleged to be too pro-Russian.

Section of Integrity Initiative “handbook” published by the Anonymous hactivist group in November 2018 about the group’s media strategy where Buzzfeed is named.

At the end of 2018, British Member of Parliament Chris Williamson responded to revelations about the Integrity Initiative’s media-influence activities by demanding answers about government funding for the group’s targeting of Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, another politician who often goes against the neoconservative and neoliberal mainstream, this time on the left.

Buzzfeed also has a blemished history with other Russian-meddling allegations. In January, Buzzfeed reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier authored the bombshell article, “President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project.” Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s spokesman promptly called the report “not accurate,” but not before it had been picked up by many large media outlets.

Scandal Hits at Delicate Time

The Italian Russiagate comes at a delicate time. The League has long stated its intention to fight for the removal of sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, and in the past has even called for recognizing the 2014 referendum by which Crimea joined Russia, a move considered unacceptable by NATO countries.

From my own contacts in Italy, I know that these positions have, in recent years, worried U.S. diplomats who saw that Salvini’s party was on the rise and were wary of his pro-Russia stance. In response, they did their best to cultivate a relationship with League leaders, with the aim of cooling the party’s attitude towards Moscow in the event it made its way into government, as happened.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, on left, with U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, in D.C., June 17, 2019. (State Department/Michael Gross)

The strategy seems to have worked, for the most part: now that the League is one of the two parties governing the country, it has stopped talking about Crimea, and has not blocked continued EU sanctions on Russia. In June, the European Council, which includes the Italian prime minister, extended the sanctions for another year.

The League has also taken public steps to reassure the United States of its loyalty to the Atlantic Alliance, after concerns were raised about Italy’s position when it became the first G-7 country to formally join the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative in March. After that, Salvini and Chief of Staff Giancarlo Giorgetti moved quickly to dampen fears in Washington about Italy distancing itself from Washington.

On the other hand, a state visit to Italy by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the beginning of July showed that Italian institutions are still eager to maintain good relations with Russia.

The Italians hope to leverage Trump’s desire for a shift towards Russia, while still swearing their allegiance to whatever other line comes out of Washington.

After Salvini’s June 17 meeting with Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence in Washington, the Italian press reported that the Americans want to see more in terms of alignment not only on Russia, but also on Venezuela, Iran, and China.

Paolo Mastrolilli of the daily La Stampa wrote (in Italian) that Pompeo played the hard cop in the meetings, and intends to wait to see if Salvini will keep his promises to stay in line with the State Department before further advancing relations. Mastrolilli also reported that Pompeo is worried by reports that the League may have received help from the Kremlin.

Andrew Spannaus is a journalist and political analyst based in Milan, and the elected chairman of the Milan Foreign Press Association. His latest book is “Original Sins. Globalization, Populism, and the Six Contradictions Facing the European Union,” published in May 2019.

August 5, 2019 Posted by | Russophobia | | Leave a comment