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Final Steps in Syria’s Successful Struggle for Peace and Sovereignty

By Federico PIERACCINI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 17.01.2019

The situation in Syria evolves daily and sees two situations very closely linked to each other, with the US withdrawal from Syria and the consequent expansionist ambitions of Erdogan in Syria and the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) takeover in Idlib that frees the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Russian aviation to liberate the de-escalation zone.

Trump has promised to destroy Turkey economically if he attacks the Kurds, reinforcing his claim that Erdogan will not target the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) once the US withdraws from the area. One of the strongest accusations made against Trump’s withdrawal by his opponents is that no Middle Eastern force will ever trust the US again if they abandon the SDF to its fate, that is, to its annihilation at the hands of the Turkish army and its FSA proxies. This, however, is not possible; not so much because of Trump’s economic threats, but because of Damascus and Moscow being strongly opposed to any Turkish military action in the northeast of Syria.

This is a red line drawn by Putin and Assad, and the Turkish president likely understands the consequences of any wrong moves. It is no coincidence that he stated several times that he had no problems with the “Syrians or Syrian-Kurdish brothers”, and repeated that if the area under the SDF were to come under the control of Damascus, Turkey would have no need to intervene in Syria. Trump’s request that Ankara have a buffer zone of 20 kilometers separating the Kurdish and Turkish forces seems to complement the desire of Damascus and Moscow to avoid a clash between the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the SDF.

The only party that seems to be secretly encouraging a clash between the SDF and Turkish forces is Israel, criticizing Ankara and singing the praises of the SDF, in order to try and accentuate the tensions between the two sides, though naturally without success. Israel’s continued raids in Syria, though almost constantly failing due to Syrian air defense, and the divide-and-rule policy used against Turkey and the SDF, show that Tel Aviv is now weakened and mostly irrelevant in the Syrian conflict.

In Idlib, the situation seems to be becoming less complicated and difficult to decipher. Russia, Iran and Syria had asked Erdogan to take control of the province through its “moderate jihadists”, sit down at the negotiating table, and resolve the matter through a diplomatic solution. Exactly the opposite happened. The HTS (formerly al-Nusra/al-Qaeda in Syria) has in recent weeks conquered practically the whole province of Idlib, with numerous forces linked to Turkey (Ahrar al-Sham and Nour al-Din al-Zenki) dissolving and merging into HTS. This development puts even more pressure on Erdogan, who is likely to see his influence in Idlib fade away permanently. Moreover, this evolution represents a unique opportunity for Damascus and Moscow to start operations in Idlib with the genuine justification of combating terrorism. It is a repeat of what happened in other de-escalation areas. Moscow and Damascus have repeatedly requested the moderates be separated from the terrorists, so as to approach the situation with a diplomatic negotiation.

In the absence of an effective division of combatants, all are considered terrorists, with the military option replacing the diplomatic. This remains the only feasible option to free the area from terrorists who are not willing to give back territory to the legitimate government in Damascus and are keeping civilians hostages. The Idlib province seems to have experienced the same playbook applied in other de-escalation zones, this time with a clear contrast between Turkey and Saudi Arabia that shows how the struggle between the two countries is much deeper than it appears. The reasons behind the Khashoggi case and the diplomatic confrontation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia were laid bare in the actions of the HTS in Idlib, which has taken control of all the areas previously held by Ankara’s proxies.

It remains to be seen whether Moscow and Damascus would like to encourage Erdogan to recover Idlib through its proxies, trying to encourage jihadists to fight each other as much as possible in order to lighten the task of the SAA, or whether they would prefer to press the advantage themselves and attack while the terrorist front is experiencing internal confusion.

In terms of occupied territory and accounts to be settled, two areas of great importance for the future of Syria remain unresolved, namely al-Tanf, occupied by US forces on the Syrian-Jordanian border, and the area in the north of Syria occupied by Turkish forces and their FSA proxies. It is too early to approach a solution militarily, it being easier for Damascus and Moscow to complete the work to free Syria from the remaining terrorists. Once this has been done, the presence of US or Turkish forces in Syria, whether directly or indirectly, would become all the more difficult to justify. Driving away the US and, above all, Turkey from Syrian territory will be the natural next step in the Syrian conflict.

This is an unequivocal sign that the war of aggression against Syria is winding up, and this can be observed by the opening of a series of new embassies in Damascus. Several countries — including Italy in the near future — will reopen their embassies in Syria to demonstrate that the war, even if not completely over, is effectively won by Damascus and her allies.

For this reason, several countries that were previously opposed to Damascus, like the United Arab Emirates, are understood to have some kind of contact with the government of Damascus. If they intend to become involved in the reconstruction process and any future investment, they will quite naturally need to re-establish diplomatic relations with Damascus. The Arab League is also looking to welcome Syria back into the fold.

Such are signs that Syria is returning to normality, without forgetting which and how many countries have conspired and acted directly against the Syrians for over seven years. An invitation to the Arab League or some embassy being reopened will not be enough to compensate for the damage done over years, but Assad does not preclude any option, and is in the meantime demonstrating to the Israelis, Saudis and the US Deep State that their war has failed and that even their most loyal allies are resuming diplomatic relations with Damascus, a double whammy against the neocons, Wahhabis and Zionists.

January 17, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pompeo Turns Reality Upside Down

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 17.01.2019

The speech made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the American University in Cairo on January 10th deserves more attention than it has received from the US media. In it, Pompeo reveals his own peculiar vision of what is taking place in the Middle East, to include the impact of his own personal religiosity, and his belief that Washington’s proper role in the region is to act as “a force for good.” The extent to which the Secretary of State was speaking for himself was not completely clear, but the text of the presentation was posted on the State Department website without any qualification, so one has to assume that Pompeo was representing White House policy.

Pompeo immediately set the stage for what was to follow, asserting in his first several paragraphs that “This trip is especially meaningful for me as an evangelical Christian… In my office, I keep a Bible open on my desk to remind me of God and His Word, and The Truth. And it’s the truth, lower-case ‘t,’ that I’m here to talk about today. It is a truth that isn’t often spoken in this part of the world, but because I’m a military man by training, I’ll be very blunt and direct today: America is a force for good in the Middle East.”

Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence are quite likely the two most prominent Evangelical Christians in the Donald Trump Administration. Further, the two are Christian Zionists, which means that the return of the Jews to the Middle East is an essential precursor component of their belief that certain steps must be taken to bring about the second coming of Christ. Some Christian Zionists believe that the second coming is imminent, but whether or not that is true of Pence and Pompeo, they nevertheless share the conviction that the state of Israel must be protected at all costs, a view that certainly shapes their policy recommendations regarding the Middle East. And that view also has an impact on policy towards Israel’s neighbors, with Iran in particular being vilified as the purely evil foe, a “cancerous influence,” that will be destroyed in the great battle of Armageddon which will lead to the second coming and the rapture of all good Christians into Heaven.

Beyond that, Pompeo sought in his speech to disparage the Middle Eastern policy of Donald Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama and to make clear that something fresh and exciting has arrived in its place. He said that the United States had been “absent too much” to help friends in the Middle East. “Why? Because our leaders gravely misread our history, and your historical moment. These fundamental misunderstandings, set forth in this city in 2009, adversely affected the lives of hundreds of millions of people in Egypt and all across the region. Remember: It was here, here in this city, that another American stood before you. He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from an ideology. He told you that 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East. He told you that the United States and the Muslim world needed, quote, ‘a new beginning,’ end of quote. The results of these misjudgments have been dire.”

Along the way Pompeo trots out a lot of half-truths and even completely fabricated lies, saying that America’s “timidity” had let to the rise of ISIS, had enabled Iran’s government to crush the “Green Revolution,” had freed Tehran to interfere all over the region, had allowed Hezbollah to accumulate a massive arsenal to threaten Israel, and had permitted Bashar al-Assad to kill his own people with chemical weapons. And worst of all, there was a false desire for peace that led to “a [nuclear] deal with Iran, our common enemy.”

Pompeo concludes from the record of calamities that “So today, what did we learn from all of this? We learned that when America retreats, chaos often follows. When we neglect our friends, resentment builds. And when we partner with enemies, they advance… The good news is this: The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering. Now comes the real new beginning. In just 24 months, actually less than two years, the United States under President Trump has reasserted its traditional role as a force for good in this region.”

Apart from the histrionics, the speech was clearly intended to deliver a simple political message to the audience and particularly to the Egyptian and Gulf governments. By asserting a “force for good” mandate, Pompeo was actually telling all the autocratic regimes in the Middle East that they can do whatever they want as long as they hate Iran.

To be sure, Pompeo’s speech contained a number of lines that might be considered attempts at humor given the absurdity of some of the claims being made. He said “For those who fret about the use of American power, remember this: America has always been, and always will be, a liberating force, not an occupying power. We’ve never dreamed of domination in the Middle East. Can you say the same about Iran?” Actually, you could say exactly that about Iran, which hasn’t occupied anyone since the seventeenth century. It is the US that has land, sea and air power based all over the region while also fighting wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. It is America’s best friend and ally Israel that is occupying Palestine.

But the best line was towards the end, “And in Yemen, we will continue to work for a lasting peace. And I think this is clear, but it is worth reiterating: The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against the Iranian regime’s aggressive adventurism. We will continue to ensure that Israel has the military capacity to do so decisively.”

As Yemen is achieving peace through American bombs supplied to the Saudis while “ally” Israel is the most persistent aggressor in the Middle East second only to Washington, it is ludicrous to think that America in some way has become a “force for good.” Tell that to the Libyans whose prosperous state was reduced to anarchy by American bombing and support of terrorist groups. Visit Fallujah or Raqqa, or what’s left of them. US forces and sanctions have killed 1.7 million Iraqi civilians, including 500,000 children. By one estimate, as many as 4 million Muslims have died as a direct or indirect consequence of America’s wars in Asia since 1990. US ally Saudi Arabia meanwhile bombs Yemeni schools, buses, and hospitals, starving children as part of a major humanitarian catastrophe, while Israel attacks Syria nearly on a daily basis.

It should be terrifying to learn that Mike Pompeo has an open Bible on his desk, particularly as he seems disinclined to read the New Testament part with its message of love and forgiveness. Now the White House appears to be entering into a new America as a “force for good” phase that relies on naked aggression and collective punishment for those who do not choose to submit. And, per Pompeo, God is on our side.

January 17, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , | 2 Comments

The moral travesty of Israel seeking Arab, Iranian money for its alleged Nakba

By Ramzy Baroud | Ma’an | January 15, 2019

The game is afoot. Israel, believe it or not, is demanding that seven Arab countries and Iran pay $250 billion as compensation for what it claims was the forceful exodus of Jews from Arab countries during the late 1940s.

The events that Israel is citing allegedly occurred at a time when Zionist Jewish militias were actively uprooting nearly one million Palestinian Arabs and systematically destroying their homes, villages and towns throughout Palestine.

The Israeli announcement, which reportedly followed “18 months of secret research” conducted by the Israeli government’s Ministry of Social Equality, should not be filed under the ever-expanding folder of shameless Israeli misrepresentations of history.

It is part of a calculated effort by the Israeli government, and namely by Minister Gila Gamliel, to create a counter-narrative to the rightful demand for the ‘Right of Return’ for Palestinian refugees ethnically cleansed by Jewish militias between 1947-1948.

But there is a reason behind the Israeli urgency to reveal such questionable research: the relentless US-Israeli attempt in the last two years to dismiss the rights of Palestinian refugee rights, to question their numbers and to marginalize their grievances. It is all part and parcel of the ongoing plot disguised as the ‘Deal of the Century’, with the clear aim of removing from the table all major issues that are central to the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

“The time has come to correct the historic injustice of the pogroms (against Jews) in seven Arab countries and Iran, and to restore, to hundreds of thousands of Jews who lost their property, what is rightfully theirs,” said Gamliel.

The language – “.. to correct the historic injustice” – is no different from language used by Palestinians who have for 70 years and counting been demanding the restoration of their rights per United Nations Resolution 194.

The deliberate conflating between the Palestinian narrative and the Zionist narrative is aimed at creating parallels, with the hope that a future political agreement would resolve to having both grievances cancel each other out.

Contrary to what Israeli historians want us to believe, there was no mass exodus of Jews from Arab countries and Iran, but rather a massive campaign orchestrated by Zionist leaders at the time to replace the Palestine Arab population with Jewish immigrants from all over the world. The ways through which such a mission was achieved often involved violent Zionist plots – especially in Iraq.

In fact, the call on Jews to gather in Israel from all corners of the world remains the rally cry for Israeli leaders and their Christian Evangelical supporters – the former wants to ensure a Jewish majority in the state, while the latter is seeking to fulfill a biblical condition for their long-awaited Armageddon.

To hold Arabs and Iran responsible for this bizarre and irresponsible behavior is a transgression on the true history in which neither Gamliel nor her ministry are interested.

On the other hand, and unlike what Israeli military historians often claim, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1947- 48 (and the subsequent purges of the native population that followed in 1967) was a premeditated act of ethnic cleansing and genocide. It has been part of a long-drawn and carefully calculated campaign that, from the very start, served as the main strategy at the heart of the Zionist movement’s ‘vision’ for the Palestinian people.

“We must expel the Arabs and take their place,” wrote Israel’s founder, military leader and first prime minister, David Ben Gurion in a letter to his son, Amos in October 5, 1937. That was over a decade before Plan D – which saw the destruction of the Palestinian homeland at the hands of Ben Gurion’s militias – went into effect.

Palestine “contains vast colonization potential,” he also wrote, “which the Arabs neither need nor are qualified to exploit.”

This clear declaration of a colonial project in Palestine, communicated with the same kind of unmistakable racist insinuations and language that accompanied all western colonial experiences throughout the centuries was not unique to Ben Gurion. He was merely paraphrasing what was, by then, understood to be the crux of the Zionist enterprise in Palestine at the time.

As Palestinian professor Nur Masalha concluded in his book, the ‘Expulsion of the Palestinians’, the idea of the ‘transfer’ – the Zionist term for “ethnic cleansing’ of the Palestinian people – was, and remains, fundamental in the realization of Zionist ambitions in Palestine.

Palestinian Arab “villages inside the Jewish state that resist ‘should be destroyed .. and their inhabitants expelled beyond the borders of the Jewish state,” Masalha wrote quoting the ‘History of the Haganah’ by Yehuda Slutsky. .

What this meant in practice, as delineated by Palestinian historian, Walid Khalidi was the joint targeting by various Jewish militias to systematically attack all population centers in Palestine, without exception.

“By the end of April (1948), the combined Haganah-Irgun offensive had completely encircled (the Palestinian city of) Jaffa, forcing most of the remaining civilians to flee by sea to Gaza or Egypt; many drowned in the process, ” Khalidi wrote in ‘Before Their Diaspora’.

This tragedy has eventually grown to affect all Palestinians, everywhere within the borders of their historic homeland. Tens of thousands of refugees joined up with hundreds of thousands more at various dusty trails throughout the country, growing in numbers as they walked further, to finally pitch their tents in areas that, then were meant to be ‘temporary’ refugee encampments. Alas, these became the Palestinian refugee camps of today, starting some 70 years ago.

None of this was accidental. The determination of the early Zionists to establish a ‘national home’ for Jews at the expense of the country’s Palestinian Arab nation was communicated, openly, clearly and repeatedly throughout the formation of early Zionist thoughts, and the translation of those well-articulated ideas into physical reality.

70 years have passed since the Nakba’ – the ‘Catastrophe’ of 1948 – and neither Israel took responsibility for its action, nor Palestinian refugees received any measure of justice, however small or symbolic.

For Israel to be seeking compensation from Arab countries and Iran is a moral travesty, especially as Palestinians refugees continue to languish in refugee camps across Palestine and the Middle East.

Yes, indeed “the time has come to correct the historic injustice,” not of Israel’s alleged ‘pogroms’ carried out by Arabs and Iranians, but the real and most tragic destruction of Palestine and its people.

January 15, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 3 Comments

Bolton’s Radical Reshaping Plan for Mideast Included “Mind Boggling” Strikes on Iran, Syria, and Iraq

By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | January 14, 2019

WASHINGTON — In 2017, less than a year before he became national security advisor, John Bolton promised a gathering of the Mujahedeen Khalq (MEK) that:

The declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran. … The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change and, therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself. … And that’s why, before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran!”

While some may have thought Bolton’s statements of regime change in Iran before 2019 were just more bellicose rhetoric from a well-known Iran hawk, a report published Sunday in the Wall Street Journal has revealed that Bolton did everything within his power to push for President Donald Trump to launch a military attack on Iran.

According to the Journal, Trump’s national security team – which is led by Bolton – requested that the Pentagon develop “far-reaching military options to strike Iran” last September after Shia militias in Iraq fired three mortars at the U.S. embassy and diplomatic compound in Baghdad. As the report noted, the shells “landed in an open lot and harmed no one,” but the group that fired them is alleged to have ties with Iran.

This incident, though minor, notably took place amid considerable unrest in the Iraqi city of Basra and during competing efforts by the U.S. and Iran to influence the formation of Iraq’s next national government.

Nevertheless, the minor nature of the incident was apparently the perfect pretext for Bolton and others on the national security team – which Bolton has been stocking with war hawks for much of the past year – to push for a military strike on Iran, something Bolton himself has long sought, as evidenced by his numerous speeches and editorials calling for preemptive bombing of the Islamic Republic.

For instance, in one meeting, Mira Ricardel – then serving as Bolton’s ultra-hawkish deputy national security advisor – described the attacks in Iraq as “an act of war” and said the U.S. had to respond decisively. Ricardel is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former executive of U.S. weapons-maker Boeing but left her post last November as result of friction with First Lady Melania Trump.

In addition, during those meetings, the Journal noted that Bolton did not even attempt to hide his real motivations, as he “made it clear that he personally supports regime change in Iran, a position he aggressively championed before joining the Trump administration, according to people familiar with the discussions.”

As a result of those meetings, the Bolton-led National Security Council pushed for an attack plan on Iran so brazen that it deeply concerned Pentagon and State Department officials. One former senior U.S. administration official told the Journal that the request “definitely rattled people” and added that “people were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

In other words, using a remarkably minor incident as a pretext, the Bolton-led group of hawks that compose the majority of Trump’s National Security Council (NSC) was preparing to launch a full-scale regime-change war on Iran. To make matters worse, the Journal also reported that the Pentagon had “complied with the NSC’s request to develop options for striking Iran,” meaning that Bolton and his team now have a range of Pentagon-developed strategies for bombing Iran at their fingertips.

Bolton’s obsession and unkept promise

Bolton‘s push to bomb Iran last September over such a minor incident may seem strange, but Bolton’s history makes it clear that he has long sought any excuse – from the minor to the non-existent – to justify waging war against Iran’s current government.

As MintPress reported last year, Bolton’s past indicates a near obsession with clearing the way for U.S. military action against Iran. As journalist Gareth Porter has noted, while Bolton was the Bush administration’s key policymaker on Iran, he — by flouting State Department protocol and taking several unannounced trips to Israel — “actively conspired … to establish the political conditions necessary for the administration to carry out military action” against Iran.

Not only that, but Bolton’s behind-the-scenes dealings — using fabricated evidence, provided to him by an Iranian terrorist group that Bolton still openly supports, to convince the United Nations that Iran was secretly developing a nuclear weapon — led Iran’s nuclear program to become a matter overseen by the United Nations Security Council, as opposed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Since becoming national security advisor, Bolton has continued to make this claim — as recently as last week — despite its having been rejected by the U.S. intelligence community repeatedly since 2007.

The terror group relied on by Bolton, Mujahedeen Khalq (MEK), was listed as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” by the United States government from 1997 and 2012 and, in the past, has conducted terror acts to accomplish its goals, killing Iranians as well as Americans in the process. More recently, MEK has worked with Israeli Intelligence to murder Iranian scientists. Since its removal from the government’s terror group list after an extensive lobbying effort that targeted prominent U.S. politicians, MEK has sought to reinvent itself as a “moderate” Iranian opposition group even though it has next to no support within Iran and has consistently been characterized as both “cultish” and “authoritarian.”

It was to this very group that Bolton had promised regime change in Tehran in 2019, a promise he ultimately failed to keep, but not for lack of trying.

“Sunni-stan,” partition, and a Middle East rebuilt to suit

Another highly significant revelation of the Journal’s report, which has been largely overlooked, is that the plans for “military options” that Bolton and his team requested from the Pentagon also included strategies for launching strikes, not just in Iran, but in Syria and Iraq. As the report noted, “the National Security Council asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with options to respond with strikes in Iraq and Syria as well, according to people familiar with the talks.”

Bolton’s willingness to bring Syria and Iraq into the fray betrays the fact that he is not just seeking regime change in individual countries but seeking to remake the Middle East as a whole. Indeed, both Syria and Iraq have long been in Bolton’s crosshairs, as evidenced by his 2015 editorial in the New York Times where he calls for the partition of both countries in order to benefit the United States, Israel and “friendly Arab” states like Saudi Arabia.

Bolton’s partition plan involves the creation of a Sunni state out of northeastern Syria and western Iraq, which he nicknames “Sunni-stan.” He asserts that such a country has “economic potential” as an oil producer, would be a “bulwark” against the Syrian government and “Iran-allied Baghdad,” and would help defeat Daesh (ISIS).

Bolton’s mention of oil is notable, as the proposed area for this Sunni state sits on key oil fields that U.S. oil interests, such as ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers, have sought to control if the partition of Iraq and Syria comes to pass. Also notable is the fact that the area of Syria Bolton mentions is the area currently being illegally occupied by the United States. This could well be a driving factor in Bolton’s desire to delay or prevent the U.S. troop withdrawal in northeastern Syria.

However, the most notable part of the Bolton’s editorial calling for the creation of “Sunni-stan” is that he mentions exactly who would benefit from this partition, and it certainly isn’t the Syrians or the Iraqis. “Restoring Iraqi and Syrian governments to their former borders,” Bolton writes, “is a goal fundamentally contrary to American, Israeli and friendly Arab state interests.” In other words, allowing the Syrian government to return to its former borders is “contrary” to the interests of the nations that Bolton supports and that he seeks to make the dominant powers in the Middle East through his aggressive policy for the region.

With Bolton and his team on the National Security Council armed with the tools to bomb both Syria and Iran, it’s only a matter of time before Bolton finds the perfect pretext to begin enacting his vision for a “new” Middle East, most likely starting with Iran.

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

January 14, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | 4 Comments

Curious Bedfellows: The Neocon and Progressive Alliance to Destroy Donald Trump

By Philip Giraldi | American Herald Tribune | January 14, 2019

The Roman poet Ovid’s masterful epic The Metamorphoses includes the memorable opening line regarding the poem’s central theme of transformation. He wrote In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora, which has been translated as “Of shapes transformed to bodies strange, I purpose to entreat…”

Ovid framed his narrative around gods, heroes and quasi-historical events but if he were around today, he would no doubt be fascinated by the many transformations of the group that has defined itself as neoconservative. The movement began in a cafeteria in City College of New York in the 1930s, where a group of radical Jewish students would meet to discuss politics and developments in Europe. Many of the founders were from the far left, communists of the Trotskyite persuasion, which meant that they believed in permanent global revolution led by a vanguard party. The transformation into conservatives of a neo-persuasion took place when they were reportedly “mugged by reality” into accepting that the standard leftist formulae were not working to transform the world rapidly enough. As liberal hawks, they then hitched their wagon to the power of the United States to bring about transformation by force if necessary and began to infiltrate institutions like the Pentagon to give themselves the tools to achieve their objectives, which included promotion of regime change wars, full spectrum global dominance and unconditional support for Israel.

The neocons initially found a home with Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, but they moved on in the 1970s and 1980s to prosper under Ronald Reagan as well as under Democrat Bill Clinton. Their ability to shape policy peaked under George W. Bush, when they virtually ran the Pentagon and were heavily represented in both the national security apparatus and in the White House. They became adept at selling their mantra of “strong national defense” to whomever was buying, including to President Obama, even while simultaneously complaining about his administration’s “weakness.”

The neoconservatives lined up behind Hillary Clinton in 2016, appalled by Donald Trump’s condemnation of their centerpiece war in Iraq and even more so by his pledge to end the wars in Asia and nation-building projects while also improving relations with the Russians. They worked actively against the Republican candidate both before he was nominated and elected and did everything they could to stop him, including libeling him as a Russian agent.

When Trump was elected, it, therefore, seemed that the reign of the neocons had ended, but chameleonlike, they have changed shape and are now ensconced both in some conservative as well as in an increasing number of progressive circles in Washington and in the media. Against all odds, they have even captured key posts in the White House itself with the naming of John Bolton as National Security Adviser and Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. Bolton’s Chief of Staff is Fred Fleitz, a leading neocon and Islamophobe while last week Trump added Iran hawk Richard Goldberg to the National Security Council as director for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction. Goldberg is an alumnus of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which is the leading neocon think tank calling incessantly for war with Iran.

Meanwhile, the neocon metamorphosis is nearly complete as many of the neocons, who started out as Democrats, have returned home, where they are being welcomed for their hardline foreign policy viewpoint. Glenn Greenwald reports that, based on polling of party supporters, the Democrats have gone full-Hillary and are now by far more hawkish than the Republicans, unwilling to leave either Syria or Afghanistan.

The neocon survival and rejuvenation is particularly astonishing in that they have been wrong about virtually everything, most notably the catastrophic Iraq War. They have never been held accountable for anything, though one should note that accountability is not a prominent American trait, at least since Vietnam. What is important is that neocon views have been perceived by the media and punditry as being part of the Establishment consensus, which provides them with access to programming all across the political spectrum. That is why neocon standard-bearers like Bill Kristol and Max Boot have been able to move effortlessly from Fox News to MSNBC where they are fêted by the likes of Rachel Maddow. They applauded the Iraq War when the Establishment was firmly behind it and are now trying to destroy Donald Trump’s presidency because America’s elite is behind that effort.

Indeed, the largely successful swing by the neocons from right to left has in some ways become more surreal, as an increasing number of progressive spokesmen and institutions have lined up behind their perpetual warfare banner. The ease with which the transformation took place reveals, interestingly, that the neocons have no real political constituency apart from voters who feel threatened and respond by supporting perpetual war, but they do share many common interests with the so-called liberal interventionists. Neocons see a global crisis for the United States defined in terms of power while the liberals see the struggle as a moral imperative, but the end result is the same: intervention by the United States. This fusion is clearly visible in Washington, where the Clintons’ Center for American Progress (CAP) is now working on position papers with the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

One of the most active groups attacking President Trump is “Republicans for the Rule of Law,” founded by Bill Kristol in January 2018, as a component of Defending Democracy Together (DDT), a 501(c)4 lobbying group that also incorporates projects called The Russia Tweets and Republicans Against Putin. Republicans Against Putin promotes the view that President Trump is not “stand[ing] up to [Vladimir] Putin” and calls for more aggressive investigation of the Russian role in the 2016 election.

DDT is a prime example of how the neoconservatives and traditional liberal interventionists have come together as it is in part funded by Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire co-founder of eBay who has provided DDT with $600,000 in two grants through his Democracy Fund Voice, also a 501(c)4. Omidyar is a political liberal who has given millions of dollars to progressive organizations and individuals since 1999. Indeed, he is regarded as a top funder of liberal causes in the United States and even globally together with Michael Bloomberg and George Soros. His Democracy Fund awarded $9 million in grants in 2015 alone.

Last week, the Omidyar-Kristol connection may have deepened with an announcement regarding the launch of the launch of a new webzine The Bulwark, which would clearly be at least somewhat intended to take the place of the recently deceased Weekly Standard. It is promoting itself as the center of the “Never Trump Resistance” and it is being assumed that at least some of the Omidyar money is behind it.

Iranian-born Omidyar’s relationship with Kristol is clearly based on the hatred that the two share regarding Donald Trump. Omidyar has stated that Trump is a “dangerous authoritarian demagogue… endorsing Donald Trump immediately disqualifies you from any position of public trust.” He has tweeted that Trump suffers from “failing mental capacity” and is both “corrupt and incapacitated.”

Omidyar is what he is – a hardcore social justice warrior who supports traditional big government and globalist liberal causes, most of which are antithetical to genuine conservatives. But what is interesting about the relationship with Kristol is that it also reveals what the neoconservatives are all about. Kristol and company have never been actual conservatives on social issues, a topic that they studiously avoid, and their foreign policy is based on two principles: creating a state of perpetual war based on fearmongering about foreign enemies while also providing unlimited support for Israel. Kristol hates Trump because he threatens the war agenda while Omidyar despises the president for traditional progressive reasons. That hatred is the tie that binds and it is why Bill Kristol, a man possessing no character and values whatsoever, is willing to take Pierre Omidyar’s money while Pierre is quite happy to provide it to destroy a common enemy, the President of the United States of America.

January 14, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Clinton Memo That Killed Half a Million People

By Daniel Lazare | Consortium News | January 11, 2019

A Hillary Clinton memo that Wikileaks made public in 2016 has not gotten the attention it deserves.

It takes us back to 2012 and the early phase of the Syrian war.

At that point, it was largely an internal affair, although Saudi arms shipments were playing a greater and greater role in bolstering rebel forces. But once the Obama administration decided in favor of intervention, the conflict was quickly internationalized as thousands of holy warriors flooded in from as far away as western China.

The 1,200-word memo by then-Secretary of State Clinton begins with the subject of Iran, an important patron of Syria.

She dismisses any notion that nuclear talks will stop Iran “from improving the crucial part of any nuclear weapons program—the capability to enrich uranium.” If it does get the bomb, it goes on, Israel will suffer a strategic setback since it will no longer be able to “respond to provocations with conventional military strikes on Syria and Lebanon, as it can today.” Denied the ability to bomb at will, Israel might leave off secondary targets and strike at the main enemy instead.

Consequently, Clinton argues that the U.S. should topple the Assad regime so as to weaken Iran and allay the fears of Israel, which has long regarded the Islamic republic as its primary enemy. As the memo puts it:

“Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel’s security, it would also ease Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly. Then, Israel and the United States might be able to develop a common view of when the Iranian program is so dangerous that military action could be warranted.”

This document making the case to arm Syrian rebels may have been largely overlooked because of the dates, which appear to be inaccurate.

One line gives the time as “2001-01-01 03:00” even though Clinton was still a New York senator-elect at that point. That date is also out of synch with the timeline of nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

Another contains a State Department case and document number and a date of Nov. 30, 2015. But that’s incorrect as well since it postdates Clinton’s resignation as secretary of state by better than two and a half years.

Central to the Great Debate

Consequently, anyone stumbling across the memo in the Wikileaks archives would have no idea of how its rather loopy logic figures in the great debate about whether to use force to bring down Syrian President Bashir al-Assad.  But textual clues provide an answer. The second paragraph refers to nuclear talks with Iran “that began in Istanbul this April and will continue in Baghdad in May,” events that took place in 2012.  The sixth invokes an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour conducted with then-Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak “last week.” Since the interview took place on April 19, 2012, the memo can therefore be dated to the fourth week in April. This is shortly before Clinton joined forces with then-CIA Director David Petraeus to push for an aggressive program of rebel military aid.

Needless to say, Clinton’s skepticism about negotiating with Iran proved to be unwarranted since Iran eventually agreed to shut down its nuclear program.  The memo thus illustrates her hawkishness along with her conviction that Israeli security trumps all other considerations even if it means setting fire to a region that’s been burned over more than once.

But the memo illustrates much else besides: Clinton’s recklessness, her lack of realism and her almost mystical belief that everything will fall neatly into place once the United States flexes its muscle. Overthrowing Assad would be nothing less than “transformative,” she writes:

“… Iran would be strategically isolated, unable to exert its influence in the Middle East. The resulting regime in Syria will see the United States as a friend, not an enemy. Washington would gain substantial recognition as fighting for the people in the Arab world, not the corrupt regimes. For Israel, the rationale for a bolt from the blue attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be eased. And a new Syrian regime might well be open to early action on the frozen peace talks with Israel. Hezbollah in Lebanon would be cut off from its Iranian sponsor since Syria would no longer be a transit point for Iranian training, assistance and missiles.”

It was “a low-cost high-payoff approach,” she writes, that would eliminate one enemy, weaken two more, and generate such joy among ordinary Syrians that peace talks between Damascus and Tel Aviv will spring back to life. The risks were nil. Since “the Libyan operation had no long-lasting consequences for the region,” the memo says, referring to the overthrow of strongman Muammer Gaddafi six months earlier, the Syrian operation wouldn’t either:

“Some argue that U.S. involvement risks a wider war with Russia. But the Kosovo example [in which NATO bombed Russian-ally Serbia] shows otherwise. In that case, Russia had genuine ethnic and political ties to the Serbs, which don’t exist between Russia and Syria, and even then Russia did little more than complain. Russian officials have already acknowledged they won’t stand in the way if intervention comes.”

So, there was nothing to worry about. Sixty-five years of Arab-Israeli conflict would fall by the wayside while Russia remains safely marginalized.

How it Turned Out

Needless to say, that’s not how things turned out. At that moment, Libya seemed under control. But three or four months later, it would explode as Western-backed Islamist militias blasted away at one another, imposing strict Sharia law, re-instituting slavery and rolling back decades of social progress. Once President Barack Obama approved a modified version of the Clinton-Petraeus plan, Syria would plunge into the same abyss as jihadis funded by Saudi Arabia and the other oil monarchies spread sectarian violence and fear.

Clinton’s assumption that the U.S. could neatly and cleanly decapitate the Syrian government without having to worry about broader consequences was little short of deluded.

The notion that ordinary Syrians would fall to their knees in gratitude was ludicrous while her disregard for the intricacies of Syrian politics was astonishing.

Then there’s the memo’s blithe suggestion that Washington “work with regional allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to organize, train, and arm Syrian rebel forces.”

In late 2009, Clinton wrote in another diplomatic memo made public by Wikileaks that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” So what made her think two years later that the kingdom would not fund Syrian jihadis of precisely the same ilk?

The 2009 memo slammed Qatar for allowing Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups to use the sheikdom “as a fundraising locale.” So what made her think that a pro-Al Qaeda autocracy would now help Syrians “fight for their freedom,” as the memo puts it? Wouldn’t Qatar be more likely to remove what little freedom Syrians had left? Of course, it would.

There is a remarkable continuity between the Syria policy that Clinton was proposing and earlier policies in Afghanistan and Libya. In the first, U.S. military aid wound up flowing to the notorious warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a religious sectarian and raging anti-western xenophobe who nonetheless was “the most efficient at killing Soviets,” as Steve Coll put it in “Ghost Wars,” his bestselling 2004 account of the CIA’s love affair with jihad.

Hekmatyar’s cutthroats wound up with the lion’s share of American arms. More or less the same thing happened in Libya once Clinton persuaded Qatar to join the anti-Gaddafi coalition. The sheikhdom seized the opportunity to distribute some $400 million to various rebel militias, many of them Islamist. The Obama administration said nothing in response.

British Fighters with International Freedom Battalion in northern Iraq. (Wikimedia)

British Fighters with International Freedom Battalion in northern Iraq. (Wikimedia)

Once again, U.S. arms and materiel flowed to the most reactionary elements. The same would happen in Syria where U.S. and Saudi arms went to the local Al Qaeda affiliate, known as Jabhat al-Nusra, and even to ISIS, as a meticulous report by Conflict Armament Research, a Swiss and EU-funded study group in London, has shown. (See “Did Obama Arm Islamic State Killers?” Consortium News, Dec. 21, 2017.)

Insurgency Mix  

By August 2012, a secret Defense Intelligence Agency report found that Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Al Qaeda were already “the major forces driving the insurgency” and that the U.S. and Gulf states backed them regardless. Speechwriter Ben Rhodes summed up the problem of “moderate” rebels who were indistinguishable from Al Qaeda in his White House memoir, “The World As It Is.” In that, he writes that “Al Nusra was probably the strongest fighting force within the opposition, and while there were extremist elements in the group, it was also clear that the more moderate opposition was fighting side by side with al Nusra. I argued that labeling al Nusra as terrorists would alienate the same people we want to help, while giving al Nusra less incentive to avoid extremist affiliations.”

The problem was how to separate the “good” Al Qaeda fighters from the “bad.” Rhodes later complained when Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he and his fellow Obama officials were “trying to climb a spruce tree naked without scratching our ass.” This was “smug,” Rhodes says. But Putin was merely using a colorful expression to say that the policy made no sense; which it didn’t.

The cost, half a dozen years after the Clinton email, is staggering. As many as 560,000 people have died, half the population has been displaced, while the World Bank has estimated total war damage at $226 billion, roughly six years’ income for every Syrian man, woman, and child. A cockeyed memo thus unleashed a real-life catastrophe that refuses to go away. It’s a nightmare from which President Donald Trump is struggling to escape in his confused and deluded way and that the Deep State – everyone from arch-neocon John Bolton to “liberal” Nancy Pelosi– is determined to renew.

January 11, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making Sense of Trump’s Foreign Policy

By Federico PIERACCINI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 11.01.2019

As was to be expected, the announcement that the US was withdrawing troops from Syria has served to provoke numerous reactions in the Middle East and beyond. Following the removal of Mattis, Pompeo and Bolton embarked on a whirlwind Middle Eastern tour of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait to reassure regional allies.

The idea of withdrawing US troops from Syria was based on Trump wishing to fulfil one of his most important electoral promises. Trump knows that he needs to demonstrate to his electoral base that he has kept the most significant promises he made during his 2016 election campaign in order to have any chance of being reelected in 2020. People voted for change, and that includes preventing new wars and getting out of the ones the US is already embroiled in, especially in the Middle East.

If Trump betrays his constituents by not delivering on his campaign promises, then he would simply be like any other politician who, upon being elected, soon forgets about those who put him in office. Trump is aware that such a perception would cost him the possibility of a second term.

We live in a time where Western elites completely ignore the consequences of their actions, manipulate information, lie to their citizens and spread fake news. While we may not always believe what Trumps says in his bombastic remarks, we can rest assured that MSNBC/CNN are even less reliable in terms of facts and unbiased news. Keeping oneself correctly informed is a difficult and demanding task, involving the constant comparison and weighing up of a lot of different sources and constantly researching and learning through the process. Most people do not have the time for this and usually do not care, preferring to rely instead on the mainstream media. This obviously exposes such people to manipulation, lies and distorted facts, clouding the truth and making it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is fake. Alternative media — the real media — are riding to the rescue, but the overhauling process will require a full generation or even two.

This is why it little matters whether the wall will really built or whether it will only start to be built as a PR stunt or whether it even makes sense in the first place to build it or not. Democrats watching MSNBC/CNN will agree that it is a dumb idea and should not be funded. Republicans watching Fox News will call it a brilliant idea and demand a government shutdown (as Trumps is doing) to force the Democrats to concede. The point is that Democrats or Trump supporters, feeding on news sources based on propaganda and lies, will only have their respective biases confirmed without the need for any real debate.

What is important for us to understand is how Trump operates in order to gain the support of his base. That is what guides him in domestic, foreign and economic affairs. In the case of the wall, Trump’s battle is against the Democrats, and the actions he has taken to fight his opponents is by using the government shutdown to provide himself with a win-win outcome. If the Democrats fund the wall, they lose in the eyes of their voters, as Trump ends up getting his wall. If the Democrats do not fund the wall, Trump will blame them and point to the government shutdown to demonstrate how he valiantly struggled against the Democrats in an effort to keep his promises.

The same is the case with the economic warfare employing the US dollar and imposing tariffs and duties on allies and enemies alike. MSNBC/CNN will tell you that this is damaging the American economy. The Democrats will say that it is a failed strategy, without admitting that they hate Trump’s “economic war” because it undermines US dollar hegemony and thereby their ability to prosecute the neoliberal imperialism to which they are so addicted.

Fox News, on the other hand, will spin the news to show how Trump is battling against Xi Jinping and China in the interests of American farmers. Self-proclaimed experts will go on about the success of the White House’s economic strategy, declaring it a brilliant idea. Trump voters will enjoy the coverage of Fox News and accordingly praise the “commercial war”. Democrats will love the coverage of MSNBC/CNN and will worry about how various policies will either restore or further diminish US global leadership.

The announcement of the withdrawal from Syria follows the same logic as the examples given above. Trump announced the withdrawal only in order to keep an electoral promise. The entire Washington foreign-policy establishment is opposed to Trump’s decision. The purpose of the announcement was to convey to his voters a simple but clear message: I am trying to do what I promised you, but I have everyone against me in Washington as well as in the media.

The same logic is employed with the government shutdown in order to fund the wall. Whenever Democrats, Republicans or talking heads condemn Trump’s withdrawal from Syria/Afghanistan, his effort to build the wall, his imposition of tariffs and duties, his sanctions on Iran, they reinforce the beliefs of Trump’s supporters, showing that Trump is really trying to keep his promises in the face of tremendous opposition.

Every time they bash him they provide free advertisement for Trump and his political line, and this has been going on from the first time he announced he would run in the primaries in 2015. It is a win-win situation for him, even if he does not really build the wall, pull out of Syria, or effectively reduce the trade imbalance between China and the US. If he succeeds, he can declare that he has kept his promises. If he fails, then he can lay be blame squarely at the feet of his political opponents. People elected him on the basis of his words and promises. If he can demonstrate that he at least tried to keep his promises (even if he never actually does), then that should be enough to give him a second term.

Trump understands very well how the media works and how much Washington detests him. He does not want to change the status quo and revolutionize Washington. He does not want to openly challenge the foreign-policy establishment by following a realist-isolationist policy. That was what he said in 2015/16 during the campaign trail, but his presidency has been much different from what he promised, especially in foreign policy. Nevertheless, Trump seeks re-election, and he cannot entirely break with the Washington establishment if he hopes to succeed. Indeed in 2016 he demonstrated this by appointing a staff of generals whose credo over the span of several decades has been that of American exceptionalism, the governing religion of Washington. He used the military to protect himself from the media-intelligence community, shielding himself with four generals (Kelly, McMaster, Mattis and Flynn), in the full knowledge that none of them would support a realist-isolationist policy.

For this reason, the ructions that have followed the announcement of the withdrawal from Syria are part of normal US political theater, such as was the case with the resignation/dismissal of Mattis. It is no surprise that the deep state immediately dispatched Bolton and Pompeo to sooth the concerns of dozens of US allies, in particular Israel and the Arab states. It was a PR exercise to reassure them of the real intentions of the US in the area (i.e., enduring imperialism).

In practice, it makes little difference whether the US has 2,000 or 200 men in Syria. They will not be able to change the course of the war of aggression against Damascus in their favor. It is therefore not surprising that Bolton was not fired for publicly contradicting Trump on the question of withdrawing troops from Syria. Such contradictions play in Trump’s favor. His supporters will say that Trump is so anti-establishment that even his closest collaborators are against him.

If Trump were to fire Bolton as he did Mattis, none of his faithful voters will remember the ill-considered choice to appoint him in the first place, and will be struck instead by Trump’s determination to stick to his guns and rid himself of internal saboteurs who stand in the way of his electoral mandate. As long as Trump, in our scenario, were not to name someone worse than Bolton, the imperialist wheel will continue to turn.

Just look at North Korea as an example. Trump threatened to destroy Pyongyang, even knowing the US could not really do so. Then he meet with Kim, did an epic PR exercise that presented Trump as solving a major international problem that had eluded all his predecessors. After conveying this triumph to his base, he simply forgot all about Kim, Pyongyang and Seoul. In the meantime, the two Koreas are nonetheless speaking, advancing reconciliation and preparing for historical changes. As for Trump, he has already moved on, North Korea no longer holding his interest, the drama having served its purpose for a certain time but no longer being of relevance. (This, thankfully, is to the benefit of the Korean people.)

It seems the same playbook is being employed in Syria. Trump announced the withdrawal, while leaving a few hundred soldiers behind who continue to be unable to change the situation on the ground; Bolton and Pompeo are dispatched to reassure allies/financiers, though Trump cannot wait to forget about Syria, proclaiming the falsehood that US, under his leadership, defeated ISIS (thereby fulfilling one of his electoral promises).

As I wrote following Trump’s election, The Donald’s victory only served to accelerate the transition to a multipolar world, as we saw in the first two years of his presidency, with Trump’s focus on his base translating into a perennial electoral campaign that uses all the tools at his disposal (domestic, foreign, economic, financial, and currency policy). This creates distrust and concern amongst historical allies and pushes Washington’s enemies closer together, serving in the process to smooth out any tensions that may have hitherto existed between these countries.

Just think of the Astana format of Turkey, Iran and Russia concerning Syria, Inter-Korean talks in Asia, a peace treaty to be signed between Russia and Japan, Indian-Iranian cooperation on trade in oil, a European stance against Iranian and Russian sanctions, and, to top it off, coordination between the Russians and the Chinese on almost everything. All this is in the name of opposing US imperialist policies or trying to directly score a political win against Donald Trump and his policies.

Trump’s enemies have learned to ignore US decisions, which have now become irrelevant in certain parts of the globe. America’s historical allies cling hopefully to the words of Bolton and Pompeo, well aware that the US will not soon change their basic neoliberal and imperialist approach towards the world. Nevertheless, Washington is losing military and economic influence due to the transition into a multipolar world order, where power is shared among multiple countries (China, Russia, Iran, India). The unipolar moment is over and is not coming back, especially not with Donald Trump as president. And that is a good thing for the rest of the world.

January 11, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Lebanon president warns of the consequences of Israel threats

MEMO | January 10, 2019

Lebanese President Michel Aoun yesterday warned of the “Israeli threats” which could lead to new wars, displacement and ethnic cleansing.

Speaking before members of the diplomatic corps accredited to Lebanon in the capital Beirut, Aoun said that “peace does not take place while deals are made at the expense of the refugee who was expelled from his land and his identity was stolen”.

“Peace does not come at the expense of manipulating demography and changing the geographical and social parameters of countries. Peace does not result from deepening racism and rejecting the other.”

The Lebanese president was referring to US President Donald Trump’s proposed Middle East peace plan dubbed the “deal of the century”.

In regards Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Aoun said the international community’s position is not clear about whether they should return to their country, warning that the proposed positions which link the refugees’ return to finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis is “worrying” because a solution could take a long time.

More than 1.2 million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon, a majority of them in areas that experience economic, political and security crises.

January 10, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | 4 Comments

President Bolton? Or Worse?

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | January 10, 2019

President Trump excited many non-interventionists when he publicly announced that he was ordering an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Quite quickly, however, Trump bent to pressure and agreed to extend the withdrawal deadline to four months. That caused me to write an article on January 2 entitled “It’s Too Soon to Celebrate Trump’s Syria Withdrawal.”

Then came the stunning announcement by National Security Advisor John Bolton declaring that no U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Syria until ISIS has been totally defeated and only after Turkey has promised not to attack Kurdish forces, which have assisted Trump with his Syria intervention. Bolton’s announcement necessarily means that Trump’s deadline has now been extended far beyond the four-month extension. Indeed, for all practical purposes it implies that U.S. troops are going to remain in Syria indefinitely, the very thing that Trump initially said he was going to end immediately.

The question naturally arises: Who’s in charge here — Trump or Bolton? Wouldn’t one ordinarily think that it’s the president, not the person working for the president, who gives the orders with respect to U.S. troops?

The real answer is that neither Bolton nor Trump is in charge. The entity in charge of U.S. foreign policy is the national-security establishment, which consists of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. They, not Trump or Bolton, decide whether and when U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Syria or anywhere else. They are clearly the ones who have decided that U.S. troops shall remain in Syria.

I highly recommend a book entitled National Security and Double Government by Michael J. Glennon: professor of law at Tufts University. The book explains how the national-security branch is where the real power of the federal government lies. The Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA permit the other three branches to maintain the veneer of power and permit them some latitude but in the final analysis, it is the national-security branch that is actually calling the shots.

It never really made sense that Trump would hire Bolton. He’s one of the fiercest foreign interventionists in the conservative movement. While Trump never professed to be a principled non-interventionist during his presidential campaign, his perspectives on foreign interventionism were extremely at odds with those of Bolton.

By the same token, the fact that Trump immediately surrounded himself with generals after taking office didn’t make much sense either, given Trump’s anti-foreign-wars, America First campaign rhetoric.

So, why did Trump do it? Why did he hire Bolton and all those generals rather than hire people whose views more closely resembled those of Trump?

There exists the possibility that Bolton and those generals weren’t hired by Trump — that they were instead hired by the national-security establishment and sent to work in the White House to keep a tight rein on Trump. That would certainly explain why Bolton would feel comfortable issuing an order contradicting the president. If he was placed in his White House position by the Pentagon and the CIA, he wouldn’t have to concern himself with upsetting the president by issuing a contradictory order. He would simply be carrying out the orders of his real boss, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA.

It is extremely difficult for any of us to realize the tremendous pressure that the national-security establishment can bring against a president to ensure that he doesn’t go off the national-security state reservation.

Consider the federal judiciary. It wasn’t long after the U.S. government was converted into a national-security state after World War II that the judiciary caved and adopted a policy of extreme deference to the national-security establishment. That’s why we have ended up with a government that wields the totalitarian powers of kidnapping, indefinite detention, torture, coups, regime-change operations, and even assassination, all legal thanks to the federal judiciary, which simply decided to overlook the fact that none of those actions are authorized by the U.S. Constitution.

Consider the members of Congress. They don’t dare take on the national-security establishment. The military will threaten to cancel projects or close bases in their districts, which will cause the local media to go ballistic and label that member of Congress as ineffective.

The only president who has had the courage and fortitude to take on the national-security establishment directly was President Kennedy. Not only did he reputedly vow to tear the CIA into a thousand pieces after its Bay of Pigs fiasco, he also threw down the gauntlet at his Peace Speech at American University in June 1963, where, without consulting or advising the Pentagon or the CIA, he publicly declared an end to the Cold War and then proceeded to enter into secret negotiations with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban President Fidel Castro to normalize relations between the United States and the communist world. He also ordered a partial withdrawal of 1,000 troops from Vietnam, which was considered much worse than Trump’s Syria withdrawal, and told close aides that he intended to pull all of them out after winning the 1964 election.

It’s not difficult to understand the extremely adverse reaction of the national-security establishment to Kennedy’s actions. They considered him to be an incompetent, foolish, cowardly, and even treasonous president who was leading America to disaster at the hands of the communists. Take the U.S. national-security establishment’s current anti-Russia mindset with respect to Trump and multiply it by about 1,000 to see how they felt about Kennedy. Also, see FFF’s ebook JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne.

Kennedy was fully aware of the danger of taking on the national-security establishment in such a direct way, especially with respect to foreign policy and its official attitude toward Russia and the rest of the Soviet Union. For one thing, he had listened to President Eisenhower’s Farewell Address, where Ike warned about the dangers that the “military-industrial complex” posed to the liberties and democratic processes of the American people. Kennedy had also played a major role in causing the novel Seven Days in May, which posited a military takeover by the Pentagon, to be made into a Hollywood movie. He wanted the movie to serve as a warning to the American people. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, his brother Robert Kennedy told a Soviet diplomat that the president was facing the possibility of a military coup over his handling of the crisis. And Kennedy had once told a friend that if the national-security establishment were to conclude that he was unable or unwilling to take a strong enough stand against the Soviet Union, they wouldn’t hesitate to remove him from office. And, of course, the CIA had done precisely that to the prime minister of Iran in 1953, the president of Guatemala in 1954, and the president of Congo in 1961.

While Trump is periodically willing to make waves, he clearly does not want to go as far as Kennedy did in confronting the national-security establishment. Just look at how he has folded on Syria.

January 10, 2019 Posted by | Book Review, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

How Mainstream Media Join the US Government Offensive Against Iran: Case Study of Reuters

By Ivan KESIĆ | Strategic Culture Foundation | 09.01.2019

Summary: A 2013 news investigation of Iranian corruption by Reuters news service has been cited by at least four books published one after another, the most recently in 2018. 

It has also been cited by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2018 speech. Given the article’s ongoing influence, this article will scrutinize flaws in the reporting techniques and raise reasonable questions about several of its findings. The article will also mention, a piece of important historical context, that was long assumed, but made official in 2013 – the same year the story was published – when the US government released classified documents about its involvement in the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected leader in 1953 and the establishment of the Shah. The purpose of this article is not to stain the reputation of an entire news agency – but to simply lay out an alternative context for interpreting a single, influential story. 

Ever since the beginning of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, the United States has been leading a propaganda campaign against Iran, minimizing own harmful role in key historical events, justifying an ousted monarchist regime, and demonizing the new political system. Frequently it is done in lighter forms, for example by claiming that new government is far from perfect or even the same as a previous one, but the methods can sometimes be so radical that the characteristics of the two systems are completely inverted.

While the Reuters claims Iran is active in spreading disinformation online, the history of the agency’s reports about Iran shows the opposite. The latest of such reports is a false report about Iran’s missile program. The falsehood of the article has been dissected here. The case which I have dissected is a 2013 article authored by Steve Stecklow, Babak Dehghanpisheh, and Yeganeh Torbati. The article represents a perfect example of such radicalism and disinformation reporting about Iran.

The Reuters report has been cited by at least four books published one after another, the most recently in 2018. The books are Iran’s Political Economy since the Revolution by Suzanne Maloney (2015); Democracy in Iran: Why It Failed and How It Might Succeed by Misagh Parsa (2016); Challenging Theocracy: Ancient Lessons for Global Politics by David Tabachnick, Toivo Koivukoski, and Herminio Meireles Teixeira (2018); and Losing Legitimacy: The End of Khomeini’s Charismatic Shadow and Regional Security by Clifton W. Sherrill (2018).

The chorus doesn’t stop there and it’s not limited to academic publishing or book industry. The 2013 report lays the ground for an ongoing war of words and decisions to impose more sanctions on Iran. Speaking at Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in July 22, 2018, Secretary of State Mark Pompeo used the ­2013 Reuters report to attack Iran; he said:

“And not many people know this, but the Ayatollah Khamenei has his own personal, off-the-books hedge fund called the Setad, worth $95 billion, with a B. That wealth is untaxed, it is ill-gotten, and it is used as a slush fund for the IRGC. The ayatollah fills his coffers by devouring whatever he wants. In 2013 the Setad’s agents banished an 82-year-old Baha’i woman from her apartment and confiscated the property after a long campaign of harassment. Seizing land from religious minorities and political rivals is just another day at the office for this juggernaut that has interests in everything from real estate to telecoms to ostrich farming. All of it is done with the blessing of Ayatollah Khamenei.”

The speech applauded by Iran hawks in Washington.

The year 2013 was the year of big news about Iran. Four months before the release of the Reuters’­ ­article, CIA finally admitted its role in 1953 Iranian coup. “Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the National Security Archive is today posting recently declassified CIA documents on the United States’ role in the controversial operation. American and British involvement in Mosaddeq’s ouster has long been public knowledge, but today’s posting includes what is believed to be the CIA’s first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup.” Disinformation is dangerous. It used once to oust democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, and has been leveraged again to bring back the Shah of Iran, William David Pear writes. He continues, “Since Iran was a developing democracy, an excuse had to be found for a US intervention. Churchill accused Mossadegh of being a communist. There was no evidence that he was. Mossadegh was an anti-colonial nationalist who cared about the welfare of the Iranian people, and that was all the evidence that Eisenhower needed. Mossadegh had to be punished for standing up to the British and demanding Iran’s natural resources for the benefit of the Iranian people.” The 2013 article of Reuters reminds us of the same pattern of disinformation about Iran.

The ­2013 Reuters story claims that the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO), also known as Setad, a little-known organization created to help the poor, morphed into the $95 billion financial empire controlled by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. More precisely, they uncovered something unknown to Western intelligence services, economists and most prominent scholars of Iranian studies, even to the Iranian leadership themselves. In fact, much to the contrary, among ordinary Iranians the organization is known for their social programs, helping the poor families and doing charity works.

According to the Reuters article, the Iranian president’s office and the Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment. Iran’s embassy in the UAE issued a statement calling their findings “scattered and disparate” and said that “none has any basis,” but it didn’t elaborate. Hamid Vaezi, the Setad’s then director general of public relations, said that the information presented is “far from realities and is not correct,” but he also didn’t go into specifics. Their short denials are understandable, considering that the same response would be received from a scientist if asked to make a serious review of a fantasy book. For the same reason, there is no scientific review of Reuters‘ article. Fortunately, this review will go deeply into the details, focusing on personal testimonies and claims of several groups of informers, thus developing a linear counter-story.

Baha’i personal testimonies

First, there’s the story of Pari Vahdat-e-Hagh, an 82-year-old Baha’i woman living in Europe, who claims that she lost family’s property, more precisely three apartments in a multi-story building in Tehran, allegedly “built with the blood of herself and her husband.” She further claims that her husband Hussein was imprisoned in 1981 because he began working for a gas company that had been set up to assist unemployed members of the Baha’i faith, and finally executed a year later. All of this happened, as the article claims, just because they were Baha’i.

The article does not mention the fact that her husband, alleged philanthropist, was actually a lieutenant in Pahlavi regime’s military. It neither mentions the conditions for obtaining such amount of property in Iran’s capital city center at that time. Ordinary military personnel were provided with an apartment, but not three apartments, nor was it possible to earn such vast properties with a salary of a lieutenant and teacher, no matter how hard you work. Miss Vahdat-e-Hagh explicitly stated that all had been obtained by herself and her husband, so it’s very easy to exclude the possibility of inheritance.

The only way of being awarded with three apartments was, in fact, an extraordinary and obedient service to the Pahlavi’s regime, and taking into account that Hussein Vahdat-e-Hagh’s career was military as well as the only war that Shah led was one against his own people, his merits to the dictatorship become crystal clear. This also perfectly explains why Hussein Vahdat-e-Hagh was imprisoned and executed, while tens of thousands of other Baha’is and hundreds of ordinary lieutenants, those without ‘special merits’ and three apartments, were not. In other words, the only blood that Vahdat-e-Hagh mentioned can be the blood of the people and the blood on her husband’s hands. Fake philanthropy and contradictions do not stop here.

Pari Vahdat-e-Hagh, also known as Paridokht Khaze, lives in Berlin where she earns a living by giving interviews and selling memoirs about the Baha’i victimhood. In the preface of her 2014 book titled In Search of Justice, Vahdat-e-Hagh claimed that before the 1979 revolution she had hoped to one day fulfill her dream of serving the needy in Africa. Before selling fictitious biographies, according to her own personal testimony to Reuters, during the 1980s she was living in one of the above-mentioned three apartments and was earning by renting other two. During these years of war the country was full of orphans and the poor, but giving any free accommodation was obviously out of the question for a self-proclaimed philanthropist.

Her lucrative rental business continued in the 1990s when she was living in Germany, taking the rental income out of all three apartments. According to the Reuters article, she left Iran in 1993 and it took six years before Iranian authorities realized she was no longer living in the country. This information contradicts her other statement that government representatives came to her apartment and threatened to beat her if she did not leave, while she bravely opposed them and yelled: “You can come and kill me.” So this old lady, allegedly under constant pressure and control, indeed left her apartment and was further able to leave the country, and the government, allegedly so greedy for her properties that it sent thugs at her doors, did not even notice that she’s out of the country and renting the same properties for six years. Makes perfect sense, isn’t it?

In both the Reuters article and the Vahdat-e-Hagh’s memoirs, her departure from Iran is described as some sort of “courageous escape” typical for a dissident genre, from books to Hollywood movies. In reality, she was free to leave the country and there was no any ban, no control, no chase at the airport. In the Reuters article, her false courage and principles are additionally enhanced by claims that government finally discovered her absence and demanded to pay rent on the unit, but she refused. The reality is again quite the opposite: she was actually refusing to pay tax on the rental income profit for six years, and in the meantime, she did not even report the change of address i.e. living abroad. Putting aside the controversial origin of properties, the consequences of such long-term lawbreaking are pretty much identical all over the world.

The Reuters‘ caricature story of courage and injustice ends with a claim that Vahdat-e-Hagh’s “stolen” building appears to be vacant, most of the windows are broken, and property’s ownership isn’t clear. This rumors allegedly came from merchants in the neighborhood, but how three Reuters journalists based in New York, London and Dubai managed to obtain the information in the streets of Tehran, also isn’t clear. Even less clear is their message, which may imply either that the building remains unused since Vahdat-e-Hagh stopped renting it, or it is basically worthless. Both possibilities make the whole story even less credible than it already is. Most likely, it is only a dystopian allegory or their own fantasy conception of post-revolutionary Iran.

Besides the story of Vahdat-e-Haghs, the Reuters article also offers the story of Katirais, yet another Baha’i family, whose narrative is similar in terms of structure. Again, there’s a rented three-story building in central Tehran, owner’s emigration to Canada, controversial ties to the Pahlavi regime, and of course, “just because they’re Baha’i” cliche. Apart from the building, there’re also 750 hectares of land around the city of Hamedan in northwest Iran. The Iranian official version says that owner had left the country and had abandoned properties, as well as that prior to 1979 he collaborated with the Pahlavi government, while owner’s daughter Heideh Katirai claims that he was being targeted solely because of his religion and never had any ties to the Shah’s government. Now, who to trust?

Making a choice on this question is much easier if we consider there was the Shah’s White Revolution of 1963 which its purpose was to weaken those classes that supported the traditional system, primarily landed elites. Virtually all landlords lost their possessions, with only a few exceptions, i.e. just those with close ties to the government were spared. Taking also into account that the general status of Baha’is during the Pahlavi period was far from thriving, the claim that a Baha’i person without any connections to the Shah’s regime could keep 750 hectares of land and stay intact by land reforms, is clearly an insolent lie.

Instead of sticking to the facts known to every historian and Iranian, Reuters journalists use logically fallacious methods like appeals to emotion through empathy, false dilemmas, and good ol’ victimhood. For example, an article quotes Katirai’s daughter saying “I took my kids there every Friday to see the family” and “each corner of that house is a memory for us.” One may wonder whether these trite phrases can be applied in the same way to their former land holdings, perhaps “every single square meter is a memory for them” also, out of 7,500,000 square meters in total. Such colossal amount of land was highly uncommon even for the richest landlords, and since Katirais weren’t historically attested among noble or wealthy merchant families prior to the Pahlavi period, it is clear that they did not just keep the property due to the ties with the Shah’s regime, but they also gained it.

Other statements are less subtle and bear aggressive religious and political messages. “We know that Islam is a religion of peace, but how can a government that claims to be an Islamic government allow this to happen?” Katirai’s daughter had asked, and thus offered the false dilemma: either the Iranian government is not Islamic, or Islam is not a religion of peace. The third option, unoffered in the article but the most realistic one, is that she is a liar and demagogue. Additional evidence for it is yet another claim of hers that legal representatives refused to consider her father’s case solely because he did not belong to any of three constitutive minorities: Zoroastrians, Jews or Christians. This implies that all others, from Iranian Hindus to foreign-born East Asian communities, have no any legal rights. Utterly bizarre.

Legal and human rights “experts”

Another group of people used as a reference in the Reuters article are self-proclaimed human rights “experts” and lawyers, all Iranian-born and living abroad. The first one is Naghi Mahmoudi who in the introduction claimed that Khamenei as the Supreme leader oversaw the creation of a body of legal rulings and executive orders that enabled and safeguarded asset acquisitions, as well as that no supervisory organization can question its property. The article represents him as a “lawyer” and uncritically accepts his allegations which serve as the basis for further elaboration.

In reality, Naghi Mahmoudi is only a petty political activist who has a history of lying and manipulating. Back in mid-2010, Mahmoudi and his colleague Javid Hustan Kian claimed to be defectors and “lawyers” of an Iranian woman sentenced to lapidation, but the whole case turned out to be a well-organized hoax, while they were disclosed as impostors and members of the MEK terrorist cult. In the meantime, he almost completely vanished from the media, held several pro-MEK speeches in Germany, and sometimes shared a propaganda material on Twitter, including ridiculous pan-Turkist claims that “40% of Iranians are Azeri Turks deprived of basic human rights.” Ironically, even Ali Khamenei was born into an Azeri family, as the Reuters article correctly mentions.

The biographical details of other informers are no less controversial. Ottawa-based Hossein Raeesi is a legal advisor to the IHRDC, a US government-sponsored organization blacklisted as subversive by the Iranian Interior Ministry, and London-based Mohammad Nayyeri is a close associate of Shadi Sadr, an anti-Iranian activist who publicly advocated Arab separatism in Iran. It is interesting that both of them, along with certain Beverly Hills-based Reghabi couple, complain about legal complications over the return of property, but at the same time, they confirm it is actually possible and feasible. It only takes time, and money, as everywhere.

However, the informers could not agree on a precise legal fee, some of them claiming it is 20% while others even over 50%. Since both amounts are obviously extremely exaggerated and hardly provable, for this purpose two anonymous sources jump into the story and Reuters journalists use their testimonies as evidence. The first is an Iranian Shi’ite Muslim businessman now living abroad who put fee at 55%, and the second is alleged Nayyeri’s client who recovered the house but had to pay 20% of the property’s assessed value, a religious payment called “khoms” mandated under Islamic law. No names, no documents, and no sense. To fill such logical gaps and inconsistent claims, journalists also used orientalist cliché of ubiquitous corruption.

Political circles

Finally, the last group of informers consists of individuals more deeply involved in politics, comparing to the previous activists who operate under the guise of human rights. The Reuters article intentionally conceals the organizations they represent and introduces them as respectable scholars and politicians, allegedly authoritative on the subject. For example, three journalists first claim that they had identified “about $95 billion in property and corporate assets controlled by Setad” and that amount “surpasses independent historians’ estimates of the late shah’s wealth,” and as an evidence for such comparison they further used statements by Abbas Milani who believes the estimate of the Shah’s fortune was “extremely exaggerated” and stood at “a billion dollars.” In other words, about $3 billion in today’s money, or only a fraction of the worth of Setad’s holdings, Reuters concluded.

It is hard to enumerate how many manipulations this escapade contains. First of all, there are no “historians” here, but only one, namely Abbas Milani, who is far from “independent” because he is a member of the neoconservative Hoover Institution, an advocate of multilateral crippling sanctions against Iran in the US Congress. His books are full of revisionist portrayal of the US role in the 1953 coup, support of the Pahlavi regime’s oppression, the 1979 Revolution and afterward, and he offers other contorted interpretations like a claim that “Iran went from politically moderate Monarchy to totalitarian Islamic Republic.” Milani’s statement about the Pahlavi fortune does not represent a historical consensus, nor a serious scholarly assessment, only utter whitewashing of the Shah’s financial crime.

Already in January 1979, the New York Times reported that the Pahlavi wealth is rivaled in the Middle East only by the holdings of the Sauds of Saudi Arabia and the al‐Sabah dynasty in Kuwait, and according to bankers, the Shah’s personal portfolio is worth “well over $1 billion.” New York bankers told journalists that “a substantial part of the $2 billion to $4 billion belongs to the Pahlavi family,” speaking only of the sums that have been “transferred from Iran to the United States during last two years” [1977 and 1978]. The NYT article further states that “the accumulation of immense sums was made possible through the blurring of state funds and royal funds in Iran,” primarily the Pahlavi Foundation which the Shah controlled absolutely.

In 1958, the Shah formed the Pahlavi Foundation, declaring at the time that he was transferring 90% of his holding to the new institution, a combination of charitable organization and family trust. Documents proved the royal family’s penetration of almost every corner of the nation’s economy, including among other things 17 banks and insurance companies, an 80% ownership in the nation’s third-largest insurance company, 25 metal enterprises, 8 mining companies, 10 building materials companies, 45 construction companies, 43 food companies, and 26 enterprises in trade or commerce, and a share of ownership in almost every major hotel in Iran, or 70% of the hotel capacity. Some of these holdings are joint ventures with American corporations.

Behind a facade of charitable activities, the NYT article continues, “the foundation is apparently used in three ways: as a source of funds for the royal family, as a means of exerting control over the economy through the foundation’s holdings in key sectors, and as a conduit for rewards to supporters of the regime.” The transfer of billions of dollars out of Iran had started already in 1974, partly in the form of loans to members of his family that were never repaid, and numerous transactions from Iran were made through American corporations and banks as well as some New York investment houses. The additional uncounted resources were deposited in banks in Switzerland and other countries with strictly enforced bank-secrecy laws.

In the autumn of 1978, during the revolutionary turmoil, 64 members of the Pahlavi family have gone abroad. Like other wealthy Iranians, they all have made substantial deposits in Swiss bank accounts and bought luxury residences in Europe and North America. Of course, the court never revealed the true extent of its wealth, but Iranian and Western estimates place the fortune accumulated by the royal family, both inside and outside Iran, far above Abbas Milani’s “a billion dollars” claim. As New York bankers, Ervand Abrahamian and Michael Axworthy, both highly critical of the Islamic Republic but still regarded as authoritative historians of modern Iran in the West, offer a completely different picture.

According to Abrahamian’s monographies, the royal family’s total assets were estimated “anywhere between five and twenty billion dollars” (1982:437) or “in excess of $20 billion” (2008:131). With inflation, that would equal up to $60 billion by today’s currency. In Axworthy’s book, the capital that had been sent out of the country was “estimated around $120 billion” (2013:297). This figure includes the comprehensive wealth of all Iranian emigrants, but there is no doubt that the majority was concentrated in hands of the ruling family.

In January 1981, the Iranian government filed a $36 billion lawsuit in New York against 65 defendants, most of them relatives of the Shah, in an attempt to recover stolen wealth. Reuters journalists mentioned this fact but in the context of denying figures. “The suit was dismissed,” their paragraph ends, and therefore imply that “claimed” figure must be false. It is again a gross manipulation because the New York courts did not deny the amount of money, they dismissed the proceedings on the ground of ‘forum non conveniens’ though they admitted that there was no alternative forum. According to the book by Trevor C. Hartley, Emeritus Professor of Law at the LSE, this was an abuse of the doctrine, for political reasons, the courts were determinated to shield the Shah, and ‘forum non conveniens’ was the tool they chose (2009:238). After all, those are the same courts which recently ordered Iran to pay billions to relatives of 9/11 victims.

In addition to Abbas Milani, the Reuters article also quotes Mohsen Sazegara, introduced as a co-founder of the Revolutionary Guards who is now in exile in the United States, and David S. Cohen, then undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence who also served as deputy director of the CIA. The former is a member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a subsidiary of the notorious American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), while the latter is a member of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a hawkish and neoconservative organization led by Mark Dubowitz that was intensively lobbying for the anti-Iranian and anti-Setad sanctions for years.

Agenda unveiled

All of the above-mentioned lobbyists and their advocacy groups, along with three Reuters journalists, have the same agenda and are trying to convince the world that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the same as Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, while Setad is no different than the Pahlavi Foundation. There is, however, a serious problem with this picture. More precisely, there are no Khamenei’s jewels, crowns or designer clothes, no luxury cars or art collections, no luxurious villas or expensive estates, either in Iran or abroad. There are no rich members of the family, no foreign bank accounts, no documents, no independent experts, no New Yorker or Swiss bankers. There is absolutely nothing which proves their claim.

There is, indeed, the Reuters “investigative” article with fancy charts and listed properties. Only a few months before the publication of Reuters‘ article, Washington imposed sanctions on Setad and some of its alleged corporate holdings, and the Treasury Department issued a press release containing boring numbers, hard charts, Persian-named properties and other dull text, incomprehensible for wider audiences. And that’s why the Reuters article jumped out.

Investigative journalism is when a report is built on the basis of the collected data, but here is an opposite case, all the details serve as buttress or decoration of the central point. In other words, when you take off all worthless tree charts, personal testimonies, stories of poor old ladies, allegations by fake human rights activists and lobbyists, and numerous other cliches, the only thing left standing is the official US press release and accompanying political rampage against the Iranian leadership. Nothing more.

Regarding Setad itself, as seen through the eyes of the US government, it serves as a useful bogeyman and has multiple purposes. Its first dimension is political-ideological because it follows the old discourse of bashing Iranian leaders and veterans, equalizing them with corrupt royal elites. Second, the economy of Iran is now being discussed under the guise of “Setad” name, a sort of trade name which sounds less offensive in public debates and official documents. Third and most important, it is a perfect tool for further targeting Iran’s economy and expanding sanctions, because any new emerging company can easily be declared as a Setad holding.

January 9, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Islamophobia, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

What Happened To the Billions Germany Gave Israel?

By Hafsa Kara-Mustapha | American Herald Tribune | January 8, 2019

The Holiday season as December is now referred to, is a time for parties, family gatherings, gift sharing and all the lovely things associated with the end of year festivities.

As the party season bids farewell and the cold weather intensifies it is also a time to reflect on those less fortunate.

In this context, charities work particularly hard to raise funds for the category of people they chose to support. Across social media, which have become major advertising platforms, appeals for funds are now a regular fixture on users’ feeds.

A recent request for donations that was of particular interest was one for money to help elderly Holocaust survivors in their twilight years.

The touching images of frail-looking men and woman are undoubtedly moving and force all those who see them feel much empathy towards a group of vulnerable people who suffered major trauma. Yet as the details of requested donations emerged it became increasingly odd to see these adverts. Of all the vulnerable groups existing today Holocaust survivors are, thanks to reparations paid by Germany, aptly provided for.

Claims Conference

In 1951, just under six years after the end of the Second World War, an organisation was set up called the Claims Conference.

It was tasked with obtaining reparations from Germany in order to compensate Jews for the persecution they suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime. It has to be noted however that Roma, gay, disabled as well as Communist activists who were equally interned in concentration camps, were not offered financial reparations.

Never the less the Claims Conference, set up by a group of Jewish organisations, has been working tirelessly to seek ‘a small measure of justice for Jewish victims’ as stated on its website.

This ‘small measure,’ obtained from Germany, has totalled over $70bn over the past seventy years.

This eye-watering sum that amounts to the state budgets of several countries would have been used to assist Jewish victims following the collapse of Hitler’s rule.

Yet the regular appeals for further donations, from ordinary citizens, implies that Holocaust survivors are still in need of monetary assistance, despite ongoing negotiations with the governments of Germany and Austria to pay further damages to Jewish claimants.

So the question is if Germany –and Austria – have released over $70bn to compensate survivors yet survivors are still in need of assistance, where has the money gone?

In July 2018 the German government agreed to release a further $88m towards care cost for the elderly.

Yet by Christmas adverts appealing for support for the very few survivors left were circulating again.

According to Claims Conference auditing is undertaken by KPMG however the body is regulated by the organisations that form it.

In 2013, a Holocaust survivor called Dora Roth made headlines when she accused the Israeli government of siphoning money destined for victims such as herself.

In April 2016 Haim Katz, Israel’s welfare minister, released a report revealing that more than 20,000 survivors in Israel had never received financial assistance owed to them.

The money, however, was regularly delivered by Germany yet it appears it never reached those it was intended for.

While Germany is only too happy to deliver the funds it is silent on who should be their recipients. According to one former German politician, now working in the financial sector, German politicians cannot stand up to Israel. ‘They know Israel will shout anti-Semitism at the first opportunity and are too terrified with being labelled with that fateful word.’ Asked if German media and politicians are not concerned about where these vast sums of money are ending, he added that issues relevant to compensation and Israel are taboo in his country.

‘Despite the economic downturn, we continue to be milked like cash cows, knowing full well it’s beyond reason to continue to demand such sums, yet there are no brave politicians or journalists willing to ask the questions.’

The Israeli minister who exposed the problem also went on to say that the problem is far worse than it appears as his report only took into account the surviving victims as of 2016 explaining that many more died throughout the years without ever seeing the money Israel claimed on their behalf.

Israel for its part blames the delay in delivering the funds to issues relating to heavy bureaucracy but many find that argument laughable.

Simon, an ex Israeli now living in Paris laughs at this excuse: ‘it didn’t take them 70 years to fleece the Germans but they –Israeli authorities- need 70 years to distribute the money.’

Disillusioned with Israel and its founding ideology Zionism, Simon is scathing towards his former country: ‘To get a permit to destroy a Palestinian home, they took 7 minutes, adding that his rejection of the country was a result of the abuse he received from other Israelis because he was a Holocaust survivor.’

We were viewed with absolute contempt by our ‘fellow countrymen’ (he insists on the brackets). They would tell us we were weak and went to the camps like ‘sheep to the slaughter’.

They would even make sheep noises when I used to walk in the streets when neighbours found out I was a survivor.

Confirming how unimportant Holocaust survivors are in Israeli society, and how oblivious the public is to their plight, Roth’s outburst had little consequences. From a European or American perspective, the fact survivors who have obtained so many reparations –unlike any other group in history- should be left to die in poverty should be major news and yet the money continues to be delivered while the victims continue to die destitute.

Ironically it is their legacy that is used as a justification for the existence of the nation that continues to neglect and despise them.

Who will dare ask the question?

Despite all the evidence of legitimate questions being raised, no one is raising them.

Where is this money ending up? Who is tasked with distributing and why is it failing?

Why should so much of it go through the Israeli government when not all survivors are or have remained in Israel?

Some claim Israel uses it as part of its nationwide budget others still say it is going to fund the military.

It is ironic that money made available to victims of war should now be invested in furthering wars by a country itself often accused of Nazi-like policies and routinely committing war crimes.

The spectre of being labelled an anti-Semite is, of course, a genuine concern no politician or journalist can ignore.

The mere fact of holding to account Israel over the possibility some are extorting funds would be spun as the ‘age-old accusations Jews love money.’

Anti-semitic ‘tropes’ as these bizarre semantic twists are called are casually thrown about wherever Israel or a Zionist person or organisation face questions.

If questions arise about misinformation from an Israeli source then claims of ‘Jews run the media’ will soon surface and bring the subject to a close.

Should claims of embezzlement surround an Israeli or Zionist body then its accusations of ‘Jews love money.’

Even high-profile cases of child abuse involving notable Zionist figures are inevitably spun as ‘Jews are using the blood of goyim children.’

For every Israeli/Zionist crime, there is its accompanying ‘anti-Semitism’ protection policy.

This time, however, victims of Israeli dishonesty are Jewish.

Who will speak up for them?

No one is the simple answer. According to varying reports, most if not all Holocaust victims will have died by 2025.

Israel is therefore just buying time. Meanwhile, now that Germany can no longer be ‘legally’ fleeced, Arab money is the next target for Israel’s appetite for easy ‘guilt money,’ as Simon puts it.

Israel- who expelled Palestinians from their ancestral homeland in 1948 yet refuses to compensate them- is going after Arab states in the hope of obtaining some $250bn in reparations. Though the overwhelming majority of Arab Jews left their Arab nations voluntarily and were never subjected to any treatment remotely equivalent to concentration camps, Israel, knowing it can manipulate international institutions, is launching its latest money-making scheme.

The only question that remains is who will be made to pay up next?

Gamblers are betting on Italy. After all the Roman Empire has a lot to answer for.

January 8, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | 23 Comments

With Golan at Stake, Netanyahu, Bolton Set Trump Straight on US Syria Withdrawal Plan

By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | January 7, 2019

The state of Israel seems to share at least some of the responsibility for the latest shift of U.S. Syria policy — as National Security Adviser John Bolton announced on Sunday that President Donald Trump’s call to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria would now be “coordinated” with Israel, after meeting with top Israeli officials including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel’s main motivation in preventing a swift U.S. exit from Syria was also made explicit by Netanyahu, who openly stated on Twitter that Israel’s push to obtain sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights – which is internationally recognized as part of Syria – was the driving factor behind Israel’s recent efforts to dramatically slow down Trump’s plan for an “immediate” withdrawal of U.S. troops currently occupying Syrian territory illegally.

As MintPress noted at the time of Trump’s withdrawal announcement, Israel’s influence on Trump’s Middle East policy and Israel’s push towards containing “Iranian influence” in Syria would mean that Trump’s plan to withdraw troops over the alleged defeat of ISIS would likely never materialize if it was opposed by Tel Aviv.

This was apparently and not surprisingly the case as, soon after Trump’s announcement that he planned to bring U.S. troops home from Syria last month, Israel’s government announced that it would dramatically rev up its direct involvement in the Syrian conflict in the U.S.’ absence. That involvement had so far been limited to hundreds of unilateral airstrikes on Syrian government and military targets over the course of the nearly eight-year-long war. Israel’s threat of escalation revealed Israel’s unwillingness to see foreign pressure on Damascus reduced.

Israel’s military — currently headed by Netanyahu, who is also serving as Israel’s defense minister — made good on this promise to increase its military involvement in Syria soon after, using civilian airplanes as cover to launch airstrikes on Syria on Christmas Day.

However, Israel’s reaction to Trump’s announcement appears to have been much more extensive than its decision to increase its airstrikes targeting Syrian territory. After meeting with Netanyahu and the director of Israeli intelligence, Bolton noted on Twitter that the “U.S. drawdown in Syria” would now be “coordinated” with Israel. Also on Sunday, Bolton announced that the U.S. had no timetable for troop withdrawal from Syria and that the troop withdrawal was also conditional.

This is just the latest indication that the state of Israel is acquiring unprecedented influence over U.S. troop deployments in the region, as the commander of U.S. European Command (EURCOM) noted last year that Israeli generals — not American generals — have the power to deploy U.S. troops to Israel to fight on Israel’s behalf. Now, Bolton — after meeting with Israeli officials — has stated that Israel’s government will also wield tremendous influence over whether or not U.S. troops will be leaving Syria.

Spotlight on the Golan Heights

In publicly discussing his meeting with Bolton on Twitter, Netanyahu noted that a key topic of ongoing discussion with Bolton regarding Syria would involve Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights, a plateau bordering Israel, Lebanon and Syria that Israel has occupied since 1967 and later annexed in 1981.

Netanyahu announced that he and Bolton would be traveling together to the area on Monday and added:

The Golan Heights is tremendously important for our security. When you’re there you’ll be able to understand perfectly why we’ll never leave the Golan Heights and why it’s important all countries recognize Israel’s sovereignty over it.”

As MintPress has noted in the past, understanding the significance of the Golan Heights is in many ways key to understanding why the Syrian conflict was engineered by foreign powers in the first place. This is because, with the Golan Heights in mind, Israel hatched a plan in 2006 to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by creating sectarian strife in the country with the hopes that whoever succeeded Assad would be willing to relinquish Syria’s claim to the territory.

Yet, this plan was never designed to be enacted by Israel but instead by the United States. The U.S. eventually adopted the plan and the communications of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed it was a driving factor in U.S. policy leading up to the genesis of the Syrian conflict. One of her leaked emails, published by WikiLeaks, stated that “the best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad.”

That same email also noted that “a successful intervention in Syria would require substantial diplomatic and military leadership from the United States.” It added that “arming the Syrian rebels and using Western air power to ground Syrian helicopters and airplanes is a low-cost high-payoff approach.”

Unsurprisingly, official recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Golan was prominent among the regime-change promises touted by Syrian “rebels.” Over the course of the war, rebels have,  in their bid to overthrow Assad, offered to “trade” or sell the Golan Heights to Israel in exchange for military aid or an Israeli-imposed “no-fly zone.”

This also helps explain why Israel was so eager to fund, arm and aid “rebel” groups along the Syria-Israel border, as it offered the justification for the Israeli occupation of a “buffer zone” that, according to Syrian opposition sources and Israeli-American NGOs, was “intended to keep the Syrian army and its Iranian and Lebanese allies as far away from Israel’s border as possible, as well as solidify Israel’s control over the occupied Golan Heights.” However, the success of the Syrian military’s efforts in southern Syria forced Israel to abandon its buffer zone and seek other means to strengthen its claim to the territory.

The Golan: What’s in it for Israel?

Israel created this plan to weaken or overthrow the Syrian state largely because it is eager to cement its claim to the Golan Heights. In order to accomplish that, regime change in Syria is essential, as the international community still refuses to recognize Israel’s seizure and continued occupation of the Golan as legal. This bars Israel from commercially developing the area’s rich resources, which explains Israel’s willingness to go to war over a seemingly small and insignificant tract of land. However, a new Syrian government, one more “friendly” to Israeli interests, could officially relinquish Syria’s claim to the Golan, paving the way for the complete and official annexation of the territory by Israel.

At the time the plan was created, the main motivator for Israel was the Golan’s freshwater reserves, as the Golan is one of three sources of freshwater available to the Israeli state — and is the largest in size and most abundant, as it includes the mountain streams that feed Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) and the headwaters of the Jordan river.

This makes this area even more important to Israel, given that Israel is in its sixth year of a drought so massive that a NASA study called it the worst drought in the region in nearly 900 years. Thus, the water resources of the Golan Heights are essential to Israel’s existence as well as its expansionist ambitions.

Though recent Israeli investment in desalination plants have since reduced its dependence on Golan water resources, the discovery of oil in the Golan in 2015 dramatically strengthened Israel’s resolve to gain complete sovereignty over the occupied territory.

The oil reserve discovered in the Golan Heights is estimated to contain “billions of barrels” of crude oil that could turn Israel – which currently imports the vast majority of its fuel – into a net oil exporter. Yet, because the Golan Heights are internationally recognized as being under occupation and not an official part of Israel, the commercial extraction and export of this vast oil reserve cannot move forward — until this status changes.

As a result, only exploratory wells have been drilled, mostly by a division of Genie Energy Co., a U.S.-based oil company connected to Rupert Murdoch, Jacob Rothschild, Dick Cheney and former CIA Director James Woolsey, among other powerful individuals in the U.S. and the U.K. The involvement of such influential figures in future oil extraction endeavors in the Golan Heights – dependent as they are on Israel acquiring sovereignty over the territory — likely explains why the U.S., as well as the U.K., has been so willing to help initiate and then perpetuate the Syrian conflict, which is soon to enter its eighth year.

Geopolitics First: The America-Israel Mideast axis

While Netanyahu’s statements show that the Golan Heights is a key driver for Israel in its refusal to let the Syrian conflict wind down, it is important to note that Israel and its allies abroad are also interested in the partitioning of Syria in order to keep the country weak and conflict-ridden for the foreseeable future. This call to partition Syria as well as other countries in the region, such as Iraq, dates back to the Yinon Plan that was developed in 1982 and seeks to partition and weaken other regional states through the engineering of sectarianism, in order to allow Israel to emerge as the region’s sole superpower.

This is worth pointing out, given Israel’s recent effort to take control of the U.S. troop pull-out (or lack thereof) from Syria, as the U.S. State Department is also promoting a plan as of this past weekend that would push for the partition of northeastern Syria were U.S. troops to begin to withdraw from Syrian territory.

Thus, the announcement that the troop “withdrawal” will now be coordinated with Israel and that the U.S.’ new policy for northeastern Syria will involve partition shows that another “America First” Trump policy has quickly morphed instead into an “Israel First” plan.

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

January 8, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment