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‘US Creating Huge Amount of Antagonism Toward Itself in Iran’

Sputnik – August 13, 2018

Last week the US reimposed its first round of sanctions on Iran with more economic sanctions aimed at Iran’s oil industry to follow in November. This comes after US President Donald Trump announced his decision in May to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement.

Professor Seyed Mohammad Marandi, from the University of Tehran, told Sputnik that the US will isolate itself on the international stage by introducing more anti-Iranian sanctions.

Sputnik: I’d like to begin by asking you about the effect these new sanctions are likely to have on Iran, on Iran’s economy?

Seyed Mohammad Marandi: They will have a substantial effect, especially in November. The sanctions that take effect today (last week) have a more limited impact and the psychological impact has already shown itself over the past two weeks. So I don’t think that today is a major event, but in general I think, though, that the United States is miscalculating because by trying to strangle the Iranian economy and by trying to make ordinary Iranians suffer: men, women, children, young, old, the United States is creating a huge amount of antagonism towards itself.

Contrary to what the Americans would like to think it has unified not only the political establishment but the population as a whole. There is, of course, dissatisfaction among people because of the economic situation, the fall of the Iranian rial but a lot of blame is being directed towards Trump.

I also think that at the international level the United States has isolated itself because the international community sees the United States weaponizing financial institutions and the dollar. This is the sort of new way the United States carries out warfare.

In the past, they would bomb countries, they’d destroy countries, they’d kill hundreds of thousands of people through airstrikes, and through invasion. Now they no longer have that capability because of the sheer amount of money that they have to spend and the damage that it causes to the US economy, so they’re using financial warfare, but financial warfare has its own problems, and that is that gradually countries begin to create defense mechanisms.

The more they’re used, the more countries are encouraged to move away from the US dollar and to use alternative methods of trade and financial transaction to become less vulnerable.

Sputnik: When the November sanctions hit, what do you see happening? What industries will be affected the most?

Seyed Mohammad Marandi: Well it depends, I think that in some respect some industries will benefit because one of the mistakes that the Iranian administration, the current administration made, and it’s not just their mistake, previous administrations have done the same, (is to depend on oil revenues).

Because of Iran’s addiction, the addiction of all oil-producing countries to oil and oil wealth, they regularly use oil money to boost up the local currency, and the Iranian currency has always been boosted or supported by this oil wealth. So while people’s wages increase and liquidity rises, the rate between the Iranian currency and the dollar stays about the same, and this gradually creates a bigger and bigger bubble. Not only does it create a bubble, it also makes local production very difficult.

Many factories over the past few years, because of this bubble in Iran, have been shut down or they’re facing major problems. Iranian goods have been becoming more expensive than imported goods, so the fall of the rial to a more realistic rate does have its benefits, it hurts Iranians, obviously, and it creates inflation but it has made Iranian products more competitive, much more competitive. So if the government manages the situation, there could be a rise in employment and the local industries could benefit enormously from it.

The industries that will be hit are those that are linked to foreign investment, especially, from Europe and South Korea, and Japan, but their investments really haven’t been all that great, because ever since the JCPOA was signed, the United States never really implemented it. So the JCPOA, the nuclear deal, wasn’t even implemented under Obama.

So, for example, in the last three years, if I wanted to send you a single dollar to your bank account or you wanted to send me a single dollar, you couldn’t, even though Iran was supposed to be re-integrated into the global banking system. Obama prevented this from happening. So the JCPOA was never implemented in full and therefore it was very difficult for foreign investors to come in, and the United States behind the scenes was also putting pressure on foreign companies not to do trade or business, or to carry out investment in the country. So there wasn’t a great deal of investment in the first place, but this is one sector that will be hit.The second, of course, is the oil industry, where the United States will attempt to prevent Iran from exporting oil. I’m not sure how this is going to play out, but the Iranians are trying to devise mechanisms where they will continue to be able to export oil, and that is by selling oil to private companies.

As oil goes through these companies it would be more difficult for the United States to monitor where it goes and also the Iranians will be using, I think, the yuan more extensively, so they will not be reliant on the US dollar, and probably to a degree they’ll be trying to be less reliant on the euro as well, because to the Europeans it’s not clear how capable they are in standing up to the United States.

I think the Iranians will, probably, be trying to keep their oil production as high as possible, or they will probably will be able, to a large degree, to keep exporting oil at a relatively significant high amount, perhaps, closer to the current levels, but they’ll probably have to give discounts to those private companies who want to take the oil.

For more information listen to this edition of Weekend Special with Professor Seyed Mohammad Marandi:

READ MORE:

China’s Energy Giant CNPC Takes Over Total’s Share in Iran Gas Project — Reports

August 13, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Building a Russian Bogeyman

Washington Intentionally ‘Overcharged’ Relations with Moscow for Strategic Advantage

By Robert BRIDGE | Strategic Culture Foundation | 30.07.2018

Last week, we considered how the Bush and Obama administrations worked in tandem – wittingly or unwittingly, but I’m betting on the former – to move forward with the construction of a US missile defense system smack on Russia’s border following the attacks of 9/11 and Bush’s decision to scrap the ABM Treaty with Moscow.

That aggressive move will go down in the (non-American) history books as the primary reason for the return of Cold War-era atmosphere between Washington and Moscow. Currently, with the mainstream news cycle top-heavy with 24/7 ‘Russiagate’ baloney, many people have understandably forgotten that it was during the Obama administration when US-Russia relations really hit rock bottom. And it had nothing to do with Hillary Clinton’s home computer getting allegedly compromised by some Russia hackers.

The year is 2008; welcome to the international peace tour – although ‘farce tour’ would be much more accurate. Fatigued by 8 long years of Bush’s disastrous war on terror, with over 1 million dead, maimed or on the run, the world has just let out a collective sigh of relief as Barack Obama has been elected POTUS. Due to Obama’s velvety delivery, and the fact that he was not George W. Bush, he was able to provide the perfect smokescreen as far as Washington’s ulterior motives with regards to Russia were concerned; the devious double game America was playing required a snake-oil salesman of immeasurable skill and finesse.

Just months into his presidency, with ‘hope and change’ hanging in the air like so many helium balloons, Obama told a massive crowd in Prague that, “To reduce our warheads and stockpiles, we will negotiate a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Russians this year. President Medvedev and I began this process in London, and will seek a new agreement by the end of this year that is legally binding and sufficiently bold (Applause!).”

It would take another 8 years for the world – or at least the awakened part – to come to grips with the fact that America’s ‘first Black president’ was just another smooth-talking, Wall Street-bought operator in sheep clothing. In the last year of the Obama reign, it has been conservatively estimated that some 26,000 bombs of various size and power were duly dropped against enemies in various nations. In other words, nearly three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day.

But more to the point, US-Russia relations on Obama’s watch experienced their deepest deterioration since the days of the US-Soviet standoff. In fact, with the benefit of hindsight, we can say that the 44th US president picked up almost seamlessly where Bush left off, and then some. Initially, however, it looked as though relations with Russia would improve as Obama announced he would “shelve” the Bush plan for ground-based interceptors in Poland and a related radar site in the Czech Republic. Then, the very same day, he performed a perfect flip-flop into the geopolitical pool, saying he would deploy a sea-based variety – which is every bit as lethal as the land version, as then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted – instead of a land-locked one.

Following that announcement, Obama appeared intent on lulling Moscow into a false sense of security that the system was somehow less dangerous than the Bush model, or that the Americans would eventually agree and cooperate with them in the system. In March 2009, a curious thing happened at the same time relations between the two global nuclear powers were hitting the wall. A meeting – more of a photo opportunity than any significant summit – took place between then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva. To the delight of the phalanx of photographers present, Clinton, in a symbolic gesture of “resetting relations” with Russia, produced a yellow box with a red button and the Russian word “peregruzka” printed on it.

“You got it wrong,” Lavrov said to general laughter. “It should be “perezagruzka” [reset],” he corrected somewhat pedantically. “This says ‘peregruzka,’ which means ‘overcharged.’”

Clinton gave a very interesting response, especially in light of where we are today in terms of the bilateral breakdown: “We won’t let you do that to us, I promise. We mean it and we look forward to it.”

As events would prove, the US State Department’s ‘mistaken’ use of the Russian word for ‘overcharged’ instead of ‘reset’ was far closer to the truth. After all, can anybody remember a time in recent history, aside from perhaps the Cuban Missile Crisis, when US-Russia relations were more “overcharged” than now? In hindsight, the much-hyped ‘reset’ was an elaborate ploy by the Obama administration to buy as much time as possible to get a strategic head start on the Russians.

It deserves mentioning that the fate of the New START Treaty (signed into force on April 8, 2010), the nuclear missile reduction treaty signed between Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, hung in the balance on mutual cooperation between the nuclear powers. Nevertheless, it became clear the Obama sweet talk was just a lot of candy-coated nothing.

What is truly audacious about the Obama administration’s moves is that it somehow believed Moscow would radically reduce its ballistic missile launch capabilities, as prescribed in the New START treaty, at the very same time the United States was building a mighty sword along the entire length of its Western border.

The Obama administration clearly underestimated Moscow, or overestimated Obama’s charm powers.

By the year 2011, after several years of failed negotiations to bring Russia onboard the system, Moscow’s patience was clearly over. During the G-8 Summit in France, Medvedev expressed frustration with the lack of progress on the missile defense system with the US.

“When we ask for the name of the countries that the shield is aimed at, we get silence,” he said. “When we ask if the country has missiles (that could target Europe), the answer is ‘no.’”

“Now who has those types of missiles (that the missile defense system could counter)?”

“We do,” Medvedev explained. “So we can only think that this system is being aimed against us.”

In fact, judging by the tremendous strides Russia has made in the realm of military technologies over a very short period, it is apparent the Kremlin understood from the outset that the ‘reset’ was an elaborate fraud, designed to cover the administration’s push to Russian border.

As I wrote last week on these pages: “In March, Putin stunned the world, and certainly Washington’s hawks, by announcing in the annual Address to the Federal Assembly the introduction of advanced weapons systems – including those with hypersonic capabilities – designed to overcome any missile defense system in the world.

These major developments by Russia, which Putin emphasized was accomplished “without the benefit” of Soviet-era expertise, has fueled the narrative that “Putin’s Russia” is an aggressive nation with “imperial ambitions,” when in reality its goal was to form a bilateral pact with the United States and other Western states almost two decades ago post 9/11.

As far as ‘Russiagate’, the endless probe into the Trump administration for its alleged collusion with Russia in the 2016 election, not a shred of incriminating evidence has ever been provided that would prove such a thing occurred. And when Putin offered to cooperate with Washington in determining exactly what happened, the offer was rebuffed.

In light of such a scenario, it is my opinion that the Democrats, fully aware – despite what the skewed media polls erringly told them – that Hillary Clinton stood no chance of beating the Republican Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential contest, set about crafting the narrative of ‘Russian collusion’ in order to not only delegitimize Trump’s presidency, possibly depriving him of a second term in 2020, but to begin the process of severely curtailing the work of ‘alternative media,’ which are in fact greatly responsible for not only Trump’s victory at the polls, but for exposing the dirt on Clinton’s corrupt campaign.

These alternative media sites have been duly linked to Russia in one way or another as a means of silencing them. Thus, it is not only Russia that has been victimized by the lunacy of Russiagate; every single person who stands for the freedom of speech has suffered a major setback one way or another.

Part I of this story is available here.

July 30, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Western Collapse… Scapegoating Trump & Putin

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 29.07.2018

Former US President Barack Obama was in South Africa last week for the centennial anniversary marking the birth of the late Nelson Mandela. Obama delivered a speech warning about encroaching authoritarianism among nations and the “rise of strongman politics”.

Coming on the heels of the summit in Helsinki between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, media reports assumed that Obama was taking a swipe at these two leaders for supposed growing authoritarianism.

Obama’s casting of the “strongman” as a foreboding enemy to democracy is a variant of the supposed threat of “populism” that Western political establishments also seem concerned about.

Trump, Putin, Turkey’s Erdogan, Italy’s Salvini, Victor Orban in Hungary and Sebastian Kurz in Austria, among many others, are all lumped together as “strongman politics”, “populists” or “authoritarians”.

Here we are not trying to defend the above-mentioned political leaders or to make out that they are all virtuous democrats.

The point rather is to debunk the false narrative that there is some kind of dichotomy in modern politics between those who, on one hand, are supposedly virtuous, liberal, democratic, multilateralists, and on the other hand, the supposedly sinister “strongman”, “authoritarian”, or “populist”.

In Obama’s pompous depiction of world political trends, people like him are supposedly the epitome of a civilized, democratic legacy that is now under threat from Neo-fascists who are darkly rising to destroy an otherwise happy world order. That world order, it is presumed, was up to now guided by the magnificence of American political leadership. In short, the “Pax Americana” that prevailed for nearly seven decades following the Second World War.

Following the Helsinki summit, the Western media went full-tilt in hysterics and hyperbole. Trump was assailed for “embracing a dictator” while repudiating Western democratic allies.

In a Washington Post article, the headline screamed: “Is Trump at war with the West?” It was accompanied by a photograph of Trump and Putin, bearing the caption: “The New Front”.

Meanwhile, a New York Times piece editorialized: “His [Trump’s] embrace of Putin is a victory dance on the Euro-American tomb.”

Another NY Times op-ed writer declared: “Trump and Putin vs. America”.

The Western establishment political and media commentary promulgates the notion that the US-led Western order is breaking down because of “populist”, “strongman” Trump. In this alleged assault on the pillars of democracy and rule of law, Trump is being aided and abetted by supposedly nasty, like-minded authoritarians like Russian leader Vladimir Putin, or other nationalistic European politicians.

The premise of this establishment narrative is that all was seemingly salubrious and convivial in the US-led order until the arrival of various renegade-type politicians, like Trump and Putin.

That premise is an absolute conceit and deception. If we look at Obama’s presidency alone, one can see how the supposed guardians of democracy and international order were the very ones who have actually done the most to decimate that order.

Obama, you will recall, was the US president who notched up seven simultaneous overseas wars conducted by American military, arguably without a shred of international legal mandate. Under international law, Obama and other senior officials in his administration should face prosecution for war crimes. He also greatly expanded the executive use of assassination with aerial drones, reckoned to have killed thousands of innocent civilians in several countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia, merely on the suspicion of being terrorists.

It was Obama who ramped up the covert war policy of his predecessor GW Bush in Syria, arming and directing terrorist proxies in a failed bid to overthrow the elected government of President Assad. That US-backed covert war in Syria, along with Obama’s overt regime-change war in Libya, largely contributed to the refugee crisis that has destabilized the politics of the European Union.

So here we have the supremely bitter irony. Obama now lectures audiences with his pseudo-gravitas about the specter of strongman politics and xenophobic populism, when in fact it was politicians like Obama who created much of the refugee problems that have given rise to anti-immigrant politics in Europe.

It really is a conceited delusion among US and European establishment politicians, pundits and media that somehow a once virtuous, law-abiding US-led Western order is being eroded by rabble rousers like Trump, Salvini, Orban and so on, all being orchestrated by a “strongman dictator” in the Kremlin.

For the record, Putin, the supposed “strongman” in the Kremlin, warned more than a decade ago in a seminal Munich speech that the international order was being eroded by rampant American unilateralism and disregard for law in its pursuit of illegal wars for US hegemony. That was at the height of US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which killed more than one million civilians and forced millions more into infernal destitution.

In truth, the Pax Americana that is presumed to have prevailed over the past 70 years was never about order, peace or justice in the world. The notion that the US guided the world with its “moral authority” and maintained stability throughout is one of the most fatuous delusions of modern history.

From the atomic holocaust in Japan and during subsequent decades, the US has waged wars non-stop in almost every year, whether from covert operations in Latin America and Africa, to full-on genocidal wars in Indochina. The past quarter-century has seen an acceleration and expansion of these US wars, sometimes with the assistance of its military axis in NATO, largely because Washington viewed that its license to kill for mass murder was unchecked after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This is the real dynamic underlying why the Western order is now seen to be collapsing. The US and its minions among European allies have destroyed any foundations of international order from their unabated wars and campaigns of mass murder. Their corporate-capitalist plunder has eviscerated the planet.

The chaos from these wars, including economic impacts of gargantuan costs to Western populations, has created social conditions which engender politics of protest, anti-establishment, anti-austerity, anti-war, anti-immigration, and so on.

If the supposed order is shaking for the establishment political class and its flunkies like Barack Obama it is because of their own criminal depredations – depredations which have been going on for decades under the guise of Pax Americana.

The writers at Monthly Review had it so presciently right years ago, when they analyzed the actual Western order as “Pox Americana” – a diseased affliction.

This is the historical context which accounts for why US and European establishments are decrying “strongmen” and “populists”. They are essentially scapegoating others for the historic failure of institutionalized Western criminality led primarily by “democratic” regimes in Washington.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stands out as the one international leader who put a brake on the US-led criminal assault on global peace. Putin’s stand first emerged with his landmark speech in Munich in 2007, and then came into clear expression when he helped put an end to the US-led covert criminal war on Syria.

That is why Putin is so vilified and demonized by the Western establishment. The poachers have been stopped from raiding the globe, and in their exasperation, they have whipped up all sorts of disparaging epithets like “strongman” and “authoritarian”.

No one has practiced more fascist-style criminality and brutality towards law and peace than the polite-sounding pseudo-democrats who have been in office for the past 70 years in the US and Europe.

The Western political establishment and its elite-driven capitalism is rotten to the core. Always has been. Its own erosion and oozing corruption is the source of the putrid smell that it now wishes to waft away by scapegoating others.

July 29, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, War Crimes | , , | 3 Comments

The Myth of US ‘Inaction’ in Syria

By William Van Wagenen – The Libertarian Institute – July 8, 2018

Introduction

When the Russian military intervened in the Syrian war in October 2015, many in the Western press complained bitterly, demanding that US planners intervene directly in Syria on behalf of the anti-government rebels in response. Reuters alleged that “The Middle East is angry and bewildered by US inaction in Syria,” arguing that “The question on everyone’s mind is: will the United States and its European and regional Sunni allies intervene to stop President Vladimir Putin from reversing the gains made by mainstream Syrian rebels after more than four years of war? Few are holding their breath.” The Washington Post similarly argued that Russian president Vladimir Putin was “exploiting America’s inaction,” while the Guardian lamented the “western inability to care enough about the plight of Syrians.” As Russian and Syrian forces battled rebels one year later in Aleppo, more dramatic accusations of US inaction emerged, with Foreign Policy describing US policy in Syria under Obama as “inaction in the face of genocide.”

The idea that the United States has not intervened in Syria and is guilty of “inaction,” is a myth however. The United States and its Western and Gulf Allies have intervened in the Syrian conflict from early on. US planners have been fighting what the New York Times described as a “$1 Billion Secret C.I.A. War in Syria” while providing weapons to rebels through a program considered “one of the costliest covert action programs in the history of the C.I.A.” Starting in the fall of 2012, the US and its Gulf partners, under the direction of then CIA director David Petraeus, were openly sending “a cataract of weaponry” into Syria. It is likely that such shipments began much earlier without public acknowledgment, via the “rat line” from Libya, as reported by journalist Seymour Hersh. US Special Envoy to Syria Michael Ratner, in a meeting with members of the Syrian opposition, explained that “The armed groups in Syria get a lot of support, not just from the United States but from other partners,” while Secretary of State John Kerry added in the same meeting, “I think we’ve been putting an extraordinary amount of arms in,” and “Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, a huge amount of weapons [are] coming in. A huge amount of money.”

Also a myth is the idea that any US intervention in Syria would seek to protect civilians. While allegations that Syrian and Russian forces were committing genocide in Aleppo proved baseless, US planners have themselves supported rebels intent on committing genocide and sectarian mass murder. This was clearly evident in the Syrian city of Latakia, which by the time of the Russian intervention in October 2015 was on the verge of falling to a coalition of Syrian rebel groups including al-Qaeda (known in Syria as the Nusra Front) and the US-armed and funded Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Robert Worth of the New York Times writes that “In Latakia, some people told me that their city might have been destroyed if not for the Russians. The city has long been one of Syria’s safe zones, well defended by the army and its militias; there are tent cities full of people who have fled other parts of the country, including thousands from Aleppo. But in the summer of 2015, the rebels were closing in on the Latakia city limits, and mortars were falling downtown. If the rebels had captured the area — where Alawites are the majority — a result would almost certainly have been sectarian mass murder. Many people in the region would have blamed the United States, which armed some of the rebels operating in the area. . . Andrew Exum, who worked in the Pentagon at the time, told me that the military drew up contingency plans for a rapid collapse of the regime. The planning sessions were talked about as ‘catastrophic success [emphasis mine].’”

Alawite civilians in Latakia faced the prospect of being massacred if rebels had been able to capture the city, due to the virulently anti-Alawite views of Nusra Front members. Nusra religious clerics draw on the writings of the fringe 14th century Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyya to argue that Alawites are “infidels” deserving of death. Syria analyst Sam Heller described Nusra clerics as promoting “toxic — even genocidal — sectarianism.” Rebels from the FSA, which have fought alongside and “in the ranks” of the Nusra Front throughout the conflict, also posed a threat to Alawite civilians in Latakia. While typically considered moderate in the Western press, many FSA battalions have been armed and funded by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Thanks to the influence of Brotherhood ideologue Said Hawwa, the Syrian Brotherhood strongly promoted the anti-Alawite sectarian views of Ibn Taymiyya from the 1960’s until the 1980’s. This anti-Alawite sectarianism re-emerged in segments of the Syrian opposition, including in elements of the FSA, when peaceful protests and armed insurrection against the Syrian government simultaneously erupted in Syria in the spring of 2011.

While the Syrian and Russian militaries managed to protect Latakia and prevent a massacre of the city’s Alawite civilians, the broader effort to prevent the fall of the country to al-Qaeda and its FSA allies exacted a huge toll on Syria’s Alawites. The Telegraph noted that already by April 2015, “The scale of the sect’s losses is staggering” and that of some 250,000 Alawite men of fighting age “as many as one third are dead” and that “Alawite villages nestled in the hills of their ancestral Latakia province are all but devoid of young men. The women dress only in mourning black.”

While arming rebels threatening the massacre of Alawite civilians in Latakia, US planners were at the same time welcoming the potential massacre of Syrian civilians in Damascus. The Syrian capital was on the verge of falling to the Islamic State (ISIS) in the summer of 2015 after ISIS, with the help of Nusra, captured all of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the southern Damascus suburbs. The New York Times acknowledged the ISIS threat to Damascus at this time, observing that “By seizing much of the camp” ISIS had “made its greatest inroads yet into Damascus,” while the Washington Post noted that “Their new push puts [ISIS] within five miles of the heart of the capital . . . even as they are on the retreat in Iraq.”

In a private meeting with members of the Syrian opposition, Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that US planners had actually welcomed the ISIS advance on Damascus, in an effort to use it as leverage to force Assad to give up power. Kerry explained that, “the reason Russia came in is because ISIL [ISIS] was getting stronger. Daesh [ISIS] was threatening the possibility of going to Damascus. And that is why Russia came in. They didn’t want a Daesh [ISIS] government and they supported Assad. And we know this was growing. We were watching. We saw that Daesh [ISIS]was growing in strength. And we thought Assad was threatened. We thought we could manage that Assad might then negotiate. Instead of negotiating, he got Putin to support him [emphasis mine].”

Because the US was bombing ISIS in defense of its Kurdish allies in Northeastern Syria and its Iraqi government allies in Northwestern Iraq, the fact that US planners at the same time welcomed the ISIS push on Damascus against the Syrian government was largely obscured.

Had Damascus fallen to ISIS, it is clear that many civilians in the city, including Christians, Alawites, Shiites, members of the LGBTQ community, and pro-government Sunnis, would have been killed. While commenting on the Russian intervention, Michael Kofman of the Wilson Center acknowledged that “Assad may be irredeemable in the eyes of the United States, but it is equally clear that a high human price would be paid when the Islamic State [ISIS] or al-Nusra seizes the major population centers in Syria that he still controls.”

It is also clear that US planners were deliberately supporting al-Qaeda (Nusra), despite its genocidal intentions towards Syria’s Alawites, by flooding Syria with weapons. Because FSA brigades that received funding and weapons from the US and its Gulf Allies were fighting side by side with militants from Nusra throughout the country, in practice much of the money and weapons sent to the FSA ultimately benefited al-Qaeda.

For example, US-made TOW anti-tank missiles sent by US planners to FSA groups in Idlib played a crucial role in helping Nusra conquer the entire province in the spring of 2015. Syria analyst Hassan Hassan observed in Foreign Policy during this period that “The Syrian rebels are on a roll” and that “The recent offensives in Idlib have been strikingly swift — thanks in large part to suicide bombers and American anti-tank TOW missiles,” which the FSA and Nusra deployed in tandem. Syria analyst Charles Lister, also writing in Foreign Policy, described how US planners explicitly encouraged the FSA groups they were arming to fight alongside Nusra in Idlib. Rebel victories in Idlib, in particular the town of Jisr al-Shughour, allowed Nusra and the FSA to then threaten the massacre of Alawites in Latakia.

When Russia intervened militarily in Syria in October 2015, US planners responded by immediately increasing shipments of TOW anti-tank missiles to FSA groups, some of which then helped Nusra capture the strategic town of Murek in central Syria one month later in November 2015.

This prompted Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) to observe that “it is impossible to argue that U.S. officials involved in the CIA’s program cannot discern that Nusra and other extremists have benefited” from CIA weapons shipments to Syrian rebels, “And despite this, the CIA decided to drastically increase lethal support to vetted rebel factions following the Russian intervention into Syria in late September.”

Nusra did not only benefit from fighting alongside FSA rebels armed with US-supplied weapons, but acquired many of these weapons themselves. That Nusra regularly purchased weapons from the Western-backed military councils supplying the FSA was confirmed in October 2014, when the New York Times reported that Shafi al-Ajmi, a Nusra fundraiser, told a Saudi news channel that “When the military councils sell the weapons they receive, guess who buys them? It’s me.”

That al-Qaeda was purchasing US supplied weapons seemed of little concern to US planners. When journalist Sharmine Narwani asked why US-supplied weapons allegedly meant for FSA groups were showing up in Nusra hands, CENTCOM spokesman Lieutenant Commander Kyle Raines responded: “We don’t ‘command and control’ these forces—we only ‘train and enable’ them. Who they say they’re allying with, that’s their business.”

Obama administration officials themselves acknowledged tacit US support for al-Qaeda, admitting in November 2016 to the Washington Post that they had struck “a deal with the devil,” years before, “whereby the United States largely held its fire against al-Nusra because the group was popular with Syrians in rebel-controlled areas and furthered the U.S. goal of putting military pressure on Assad,” thereby confirming long standing Russian accusations that the US had been “sheltering al-Nusra.”

More recently, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor under the Obama administration, acknowledged providing military support to Syrian rebels, even though it was clear that Nusra comprised a good portion of the Syrian opposition as a whole. Rhodes explained that “there was a slight absurdity in the fact that we were debating options to provide military support to the opposition at the same time that we were deciding to designate al-Nusra, a big chunk of that opposition, as a terrorist organization.”

Despite designating Nusra as a terror group already in 2012, US planners nevertheless provided weapons to the Syrian rebels, of which Nusra comprised a “big chunk,” for the next 7 years. As Sharmine Narwani observes, “U.S. arms have been seen in Nusra’s possession for many years now, including highly valued TOW missiles, which were game-changing weapons in the Syrian military theater. When American weapons end up in al-Qaeda hands during the first or second year of a conflict, one assumes simple errors in judgment. When the problem persists after seven years, however, it starts to look like there’s a policy in place to look the other way.”

US planners welcomed rebel gains in Syria, including by rebel groups advocating genocide against Syria’s Alawite population, such as ISIS and Nusra, because these gains bolstered the broader US goal of toppling the Syrian government, in an effort to weaken its close allies, Iran and Hezbollah. US planners wished to see rebel gains in Syria, in spite of the obviously catastrophic consequences for Syrian civilians, including for Syria’s Sunnis, which rebel success would bring. US support for the rebels belies the myth of US “inaction” in Syria, and the myth that any US intervention would be for the sake of preventing massacres and even genocide, rather than in support of it.

In the remainder of this essay, I will review the US support for rebel advances in the spring and summer of 2015 in Idlib, Latakia, Palmyra, Yarmouk, and Homs. I will describe how these rebel advances nearly led to the massacre of Syrian civilians in two of the country’s main population centers, Latakia and Damascus, if not for the Russian intervention which halted the rebel advance.

Idlib

In March of 2015, rebels from the Jaish al-Fatah coalition, which included Nusra and the jihadist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham, launched a coordinated assault along with brigades from the FSA on Idlib province, leading to the capture of the province as a whole from Syrian government forces two months later.

Rebels captured Idlib city itself on March 29. Al-Jazeera quoted the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) as declaring “Al-Nusra Front and its allies have captured all of Idlib,” in a battle that led to some 130 deaths. Al-Jazeera also quoted representatives of the Western-backed Syrian National Council (SNC) as declaring the capture of Idlib city as “an important victory on the road to the full liberation of Syrian soil from the Assad regime and its allies,” showing the close relationship between the US-supported Syrian political opposition in exile and al-Qaeda affiliated militants on the ground in Syria. Rebels captured the last major Syrian army base in the province on March 19 near the town of Mastouma. Rebel control of Idlib was completed with the ouster of the Syrian army from the town of Ariha at the end of May, causing government forces to retreat to bases on the coast in Latakia.

The rebel offensive in Idlib succeeded largely due to the lethal combination of Nusra suicide bombers and US-provided TOW anti-tank missiles. FSA commander Fares Bayoush from the Fursan al-Haq brigade explained to the LA Times “that his group’s TOW missiles played an important role in repelling government tanks during a March offensive in Idlib province spearheaded by an Islamist coalition called the Army of Conquest, which includes Al Nusra Front.” It was during this period that Syria analyst Hassan Hassan observed in Foreign Policy that, “The Syrian rebels are on a roll,” and that “the recent offensives in Idlib have been strikingly swift — thanks in large part to suicide bombers and American anti-tank TOW missiles,” as well as that,“For the first time since the conflict began, Assad’s heartlands in the Western region [Latakia] seemed exposed.”

The close cooperation between FSA brigades and rebels from the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front in Idlib was encouraged by US planners. Syria analyst Charles Lister, also writing in Foreign Policy, observed that “The involvement of FSA groups, in fact, reveals how the factions’ backers have changed their tune regarding coordination with Islamists. Several commanders involved in leading recent Idlib operations confirmed to this author that the U.S.-led operations room in southern Turkey, which coordinates the provision of lethal and non-lethal support to vetted opposition groups, was instrumental in facilitating their involvement in the operation from early April onwards. That operations room — along with another in Jordan, which covers Syria’s south — also appears to have dramatically increased its level of assistance and provision of intelligence to vetted groups in recent weeks [emphasis mine].”

Lister, who has testified several times before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee to make policy proscriptions for US planners in Syria, argued at that time that US cooperation with al-Qaeda (Nusra) is the best option: “[T]here still remains no better alternative to cooperating with al Qaeda, and thus facilitating its prominence. If the West wants a better solution, it must broaden and intensify its engagement with Syria’s insurgent groups and considerably expand its provision of assistance to a wider set of acceptable groups” echoing a popular view among Western and Gulf think tank analysts that al-Qaeda was worthy of US support.

Predictably, US efforts to help al-Qaeda conquer Idlib had grim consequences for many of its residents, large numbers of whom fled after rebels took control of the city and province. The Guardian reported that while under Syrian government control, Idlib city, with a population of some 165,000 before the war, “had been swollen by hundreds of thousands of displaced people, who had fled there to escape fighting elsewhere.” In contrast, when the rebels came, many civilians fled. The New York Times reported that although “some Idlib residents celebrated Saturday, cheering as fighters ripped down posters of Mr. Assad or embracing insurgent relatives who returned to the city for the first time in years, others streamed out of the city, with convoys of loaded cars and trucks blocking roads.” Citing the United Nations, the NYT reported that already by April 1, just two days after the rebel arrival, at least 30,000 residents had fled the city. One Idlib resident who fled when the rebels arrived explained that “The rebels that attacked Idlib at the end of March 2015 came from all sorts of countries. I even saw children carrying weapons. The rebels had a list of names of people who were to be killed, in the majority of cases because they held pro government views. One of my friends, a teacher, was on the list and was shot. . . . I left Idlib with my cousin who had a car. Afterwards, my house was occupied and looted by the rebels. I had planned to sell my house to enable my daughter to study medicine. Now it’s too late. I also worry about our old Christian neighbors. I am a Muslim but the religion of these rebels is not my Islam. I detest Salafism, and do not want to live under it.”

On April 25, rebels from the Jaish al-Fatah coalition, which included the jihadist rebel groups Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, and Jund al-Aqsa, captured the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughour, which lies on the highway connecting Latakia to Aleppo. The rebel capture of the town came one month after the capture of Idlib city. The Guardian quoted one senior opposition member who had supplied weapons to the rebels taking Jisr al-Shughour as noting, “I would put the advances down to one word . . .Tow,” referring to missiles made in the US and purchased by Saudi Arabia for supply to the rebels. The opposition member noted as well that “Saudi is not as concerned as it was by who among the rebel groups is winning, as long as it’s not [Isis]. They’ve convinced everyone involved in Syria that the real enemy is Iran,” suggesting Saudi comfort in militarily supplying jihadist rebels from al-Qaeda. Rebel media posted video of civilians fleeing Jisr al-Shughour after its capture, claiming they wished to escape in anticipation of a pending regime bombardment now that the city had fallen. The Guardian also quoted one resident as noting that FSA groups participated alongside the Nusra-led Jaish al-Fatah coalition in taking the city, in accordance with the familiar pattern: “There were people from the normal opposition there. They were strong too, but the jihadists were stronger.”

Though the city fell on April 25, hundreds of Syrian army soldiers and some women and children fled to the National Hospital complex, which remained under siege by rebels for the next month. The soldiers managed to repel multiple suicide car bombs, targeting them with rocket propelled grenades. Rebels then began preparing to detonate a large tunnel bomb below the hospital to destroy it and kill the soldiers inside. The soldiers then attempted to flee the hospital under air cover from the Syrian air force. Of this incident, the Telegraph reports, “Syrian rebel leaders have described massacres of hundreds of Assad troops and fighters in grim detail as the regime’s defenses begin to crumble in the face of revived attacks on several fronts. President Bashar al-Assad had promised to rescue hundreds of his men who were surrounded in a last stand at a hospital in the key north-western town of Jisr al-Shughour. Eventually, the men tried to run for it under the cover of a regime aerial attack, pre-empting a final assault by rebels including Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, and other Islamist groups. Instead, many of the soldiers were shot down as they were cornered in orchards on the edge of town, a rebel spokesman said.” Rebels claimed to have killed 208 Syrian soldiers, including several high ranking officers, while pro-government sources claimed up to 80 soldiers managed to escape. One soldier who managed to escape alive described the ordeal to Chinese state media, adding that a number of civilians escaped with the soldiers.

Jisr al-Shughour fell four years after rebels initially attempted to take the city in June 2011, just three months after the beginning of anti-government protests. Several hundred rebels attacked the local police station with dynamite, killing a number of soldiers inside, and then ambushed and killed as many as 120 Syrian army soldiers sent as reinforcements. This event was known as the “massacre” of Jisr al-Shughour. The killings were widely attributed to the Syrian army itself at the time, as activists implausibly blamed the Syrian army for the killing of its own soldiers. The story of government responsibility for the killings was widely believed, and reported as such in the Western press, as the rebel attacks took place at a time before armed rebel activity in Syria was widely acknowledged. This was despite correct reporting on the killings at the time by Syria expert and University of Oklahoma professor Joshua Landis. Rebel responsibility for the killings was later confirmed by journalist Rania Abouzeid, who was able to return to Jisr al-Shughour years later and interview witnesses who confirmed rebels had killed the soldiers, as recounted in her book, “No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria (pages 55-60).”

Latakia

The defeat of government forces in Idlib, in particular in Jisr al-Shughour, allowed rebels to then push on toward Latakia province on the Western coast of Syria, and to threaten the massacre of the large Alawite population there, as discussed above. A representative from the rebel group Ahrar al-Sham explained to Reuters that “Jisr al-Shughour is more important than Idlib itself, it is very close to the coastal area which is a regime area [Latakia], the coast now is within our fire reach.”

Alawites, which comprised some 50% of the population in Latakia, faced the prospect of being massacred if rebels from Nusra had been able to capture the city, due to the virulently anti-Alawite views of Nusra members, who draw on the writings of the fringe 14th century Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyya in order to deem Alawites “infidels” deserving of death.

Syrian analyst Sam Heller cites the views of the supreme Nusra religious official Sami al-Oreidi to show that Nusra promotes “toxic — even genocidal – sectarianism” against Syria’s Alawite population. Heller writes that “[T]he verdict on Syria’s Alawites, Oreidi makes clear, is death. Oreidi cites medieval Islamic jurist Imam al-Ghazali, who wrote, ‘Proceed with [the Alawites] as you would with apostates…. The land must be purged of them.’ He also quotes Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, himself Syrian and among the formative influences on modern Salafism: This people called the ‘Nuseiriyyah [Alawites] . . . are more infidels than the Jews and the Nasara [Christians]; more infidels, in fact, than many polytheists. Their harm to the nation of Muhammad, peace be upon him, is greater than the infidels waging war on it.’”

But it was not only jihadist fighters from the Nusra Front that held strongly sectarian, anti-Alawite views, but also many fighters from the FSA as well, due to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (MB) roots of many FSA battalions. Thanks to the influence of Brotherhood ideologue Said Hawwa, the Syrian MB promoted the anti-Alawite sectarian views of Ibn Taymiyya from the 1960’s until the 1980’s.

Islam scholar Itzchak Weismann of the University of Haifa writes that “In defining his attitude toward the ‘Alawis, Hawwa alludes to a fatwa of Ibn Taymiya, which although it concerns a particular Ismal’ili sect can be applied, in his opinion, to any analogous sect in the Muslim world. According to this fatwa jihad against this sect precedes jihad against polytheists (musbrikun) or against ahl al-kitab, as it belongs to the category of jihad against murtaddun [apostates]. Thus, in Hawwa’s view, Syria is a unique case of a Muslim state that is ruled by a heretical batini government, and in such a case he sees no escape from a violent confrontation. The Sunni majority, led by the Islamic movement, must wage an uncompromising war against Assad’s regime and against ‘Alawi dominance in Syria.”

This view helped inspire some Brotherhood members, such as Marwan Hadid, to split from the broader Syrian MB organization and initiate an armed insurrection against the Syrian government in Hama in 1964. Upon Hadid’s death in government custody in 1976, his followers, known as the Fighting Vanguard, initiated an assassination campaign targeting Alawite members of the Syrian government bureaucracy and security forces. As part of this campaign, Fighting Vanguard militants massacred 83 Alawite army cadets in Aleppo in June 1979, while attempting to assassinate President Hafez al-Assad himself in June 1980. In response, Assad ordered the massacre of some 500 MB members then being held in Tadmur prison. The Syrian MB joined the Fighting Vanguard in launching an armed insurrection (which they called a jihad) against the Syrian government in Hama in 1982. Islamist militants attacked police stations, Ba’ath party offices and Syrian army units, forcing the army to withdraw from the city. The army regrouped however, and (in)famously suppressed the insurrection, with the use of considerable violence, leaving thousands dead and much of the city in ruins (for a review of this period, see “Ashes of Hama” by Rafael Lefevre and “The Struggle for Power in Syria” by Nikolaos van Dam).

While the Syrian MB has espoused more moderate positions after the group was defeated in Hama, anti-Alawite sectarianism which colored its conflict with the Syrian government in the 1980’s re-emerged in some segments of the Syrian opposition at the outset of anti-government protests in 2011, and was taken up by some FSA rebel groups.

In some anti-government protests in the spring of 2011, protestors chanted the slogan “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the grave,” while in June 2011, Syrian opposition cleric and FSA supporter Adnan Arour threatened to put Alawites supporting the government in “meat grinders” and “feed their flesh to the dogs.”

In the summer of 2011, Lebanese Sunnis from the city of Tripoli were entering Syria to fight for the FSA-affiliated Farouq Brigade in Homs, with encouragement from Lebanese cleric Masen al-Mohammed, who insisted that “Assad is an infidel,” because he is a member of the Alawite faith and that “It is the duty of every Muslim, every Arab to fight the infidels.”

FSA groups inquired of Islamic scholars in March 2012 whether it was allowed to raid Alawite villages and kill their women and children in response to alleged crimes committed by the Syrian army.

On April 10, 2011, just weeks after the first anti-government protests in Syria, anti-government activists loyal to local Salafi cleric and protest leader Anas Ayrout murdered an Alawite farmer in Banias named Nidal Janoud. Video emerged of the activists stabbing Nidal to death in the street. In July 2013, Ayrout, by then a rebel commander and member of the Western-backed Syrian National Council (SNC) told Reuters that “We have to drive them [Alawites] out of their homes like they drove us out. They have to feel pain like we feel pain,” and that “(Alawites) are relaxed while areas that have slipped out of regime control are always under shelling (by government forces), always in pain. . . If you do not create a balance of terror, the battle will not be decided.”

Similarly, in September 2013, Zahran Alloush, a Salafi preacher and founder of the Saudi-supported opposition rebel group Jaish al-Islam, called for “cleansing Damascus” of all Alawites, while calling Shiite Muslims, of which Alawites are considered an offshoot, “unclean” and threating to “destroy your skulls” and “make you taste the worst torture in life before Allah makes you taste the worst torture on judgment day.” Proof that Jaish al-Islam was welcomed by the mainstream and Western-backed political opposition became clear when Zahran’s cousin and co-founder of Jaish al-Islam, Mohammad Alloush, was appointed as the lead negotiator for the Syrian opposition at the Geneva peace negotiations in January 2016.

The anti-Alawite incitement promoted by opposition clerics such as Alloush, al-Mohammed, Arour, and Ayrout was at times translated into action. In December 2012, FSA battalions carried out a mass kidnapping of Alawite civilians in the town of Aqrab. Alex Thomsen of Channel 4 News reported that according to residents of the town who had escaped, “rebels wanted to take the women and children to al-Houla to use them as human shields against bombardment from government forces, and they believed they would kill the remaining men.”

In August 2013, one month after Ayrout’s threats against Alawites, fighters under the command of FSA head Salim Idriss participated alongside Nusra and ISIS in the massacre and kidnapping of Alawite civilians in 10 villages in Latakia, according to the BBC. Human Rights Watch (HRC) investigated the massacre further, and reported that on August 4, rebels overran a Syrian army position, killing some 30 Syrian soldiers. Rebels then massacred 190 civilians, including 57 women and 18 children and 14 elderly men. Rebels also kidnapped and held hostage some 200 additional civilians, the majority women and children. Many of the hostages were released 9 months later as part of a ceasefire deal to end fighting between the Syrian army and rebels in Homs, and victims were able to recount horrific details of their captivity to the pro-Syrian government Lebanese newspaper, al-Akhbar.

The massacre came as part of a rebel offensive, led by ISIS, to capture Tartous, a port town crucial for the Syrian army receiving weapons shipments by sea from its Iranian allies. The Telegraph reported that Western-backed Syrian National Council (SNC) denied that rebels were targeting civilians based on their religious identity, but that the SNC nevertheless “praised” the ISIS led-offensive “stating that the villages had been used as launching posts from which pro-government militias had shelled rebel held villages in the north of the province.” At the same time, the Telegraph reported that “Video footage posted showed rebel groups indiscriminately launching rockets in the direction of Qardaha, the Assad village, and many of the comments made in the footage were clearly sectarian.”

In November 2015, Jaish al-Islam placed Alawite prisoners, both kidnapped civilians and captured Syrian soldiers, in metal cages in public squares. The Telegraph cited SOHR reporting that “Jaish al-Islam is using these captives and kidnapped people – including whole families – as human shields,” allegedly in an effort to prevent Syrian government bombing.

Christians in Latakia also feared the rebels. In March 2014, the Armenian Christian village of Kassab in northern Latakia province was overrun by rebels crossing the Syrian border from Turkey. Saudi owned al-Arabia reports that “Kassab’s residents fled after rebels seized their village on March 23, as part of a rebel offensive in the coastal Syrian province of Latakia, Assad’s ancestral heartland.” One resident who fled when the rebels came told al-Jazeera that “There was no obvious reason to invade, no heavy Syrian military presence. . . But that morning, shelling was pouring down like hail.” Once the residents fled, rebels looted their homes and farm equipment. “They have taken the televisions, radios and microwaves to Kassab Square, and they’ve gathered all the tractors at the Kassab Tourist Resort,” a media representative for the Armenians in the town told al-Jazeera. The Washington Post reported that a “mother of three said that after she arrived in Latakia with her children, she called home, and a man who identified himself as a member of Jabhat al-Nusra answered” and told her “Come back, why did you leave your home? We have come here to protect you,” before also telling her “she should convert to Islam before returning.” The mother described how “I pleaded with him, ‘Eat and drink whatever you like, but please don’t destroy the house.’” American celebrity personality Kim Kardashian, herself Armenian, attempted to bring attention to the plight of Kassab’s residents and the danger they faced from al-Qaeda rebels. In response, the Daily Beast published an article making light of her concerns, suggesting Kardashian was simply an apologist for dictators.

Despite rebel attacks on various villages in Latakia province as described above, Latakia city and its some 400,000 residents had largely been spared the violence engulfing much of the country, with some 200,000 displaced persons finding refuge in Latakia, many of whom were housed in tents and pre-fabricated homes in the city’s sports stadium complex.

By the spring of 2015, however, rebels were encroaching closer and closer on Latakia city. In March 2015, Saudi-owned al-Arabiya reported that rebels had detonated a car bomb in Qardaha, President Assad’s hometown, located just 30 kilometers Latakia city, and that the Syrian army was conducting operations in an effort to “put to an end the frequent shelling of loyalist villages and towns on the coasts. Morale is reportedly cracking in the regime strongholds due to repeated artillery shelling.”

When Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib province fell to the rebels in April 2015, pro-opposition Orient News reported that the coming rebel advance on Latakia would be considerably more difficult and complicated, not just for military reasons, but due to demographic ones as well, as Latakia is primarily populated by supporters of the government. Orient News also acknowledged that many towns and cities in Latakia taken by the rebels would be depopulated, explaining that the “entry of the opposition to these regions will cause a large wave of displaced persons, as occurred when the opposition took control of the villages of Ishtabrak and al-Rasmania and Ghania, which are villages surrounding Jisr al-Shughour and whose residents support the government,” noting as well that the capture of these towns by the opposition “led to residents of these towns fleeing to areas under government control in the Sahel [Latakia].”

In June 2015, one Latakia resident told Syria Deeply that, the “opposition’s proximity to Latakia is what everyone talks about these days. People expect that Latakia is next, after Idlib and Jisr al-Shughour. When the opposition took over Idlib, people in Latakia were disappointed, but when they took over Jisr al-Shughour, people were scared.” The resident noted that many young men from Latakia had already died fighting with the Syrian army against rebels elsewhere in Syria: “Many Latakians were killed fighting with the army and serving their country. More than 150 people from my neighborhood were killed in service. Their pictures are hung along the main street. All streets in Latakia are like this.” Despite the fear of a rebel takeover of Latakia, the resident suggested many were encouraged by the fact that prominent Syrian general Suhail al-Hassan, who had had considerable success in defeating rebels elsewhere, had been appointed to re-take Jisr al-Shughour. The resident concluded his comments by stating that “The army is our only hope that Syria would become peaceful again.”

While the threat of the massacre of Alawite civilians in Latakia city loomed in the summer of 2015, Syria’s Alawite community had already suffered terrible losses at the hands of the rebels elsewhere. In April 2015 the Telegraph had noted that “The scale of the sect’s losses is staggering: with a population of around two million, a tenth of Syria’s population, the Alawites boast perhaps 250,000 men of fighting age. Today as many as one third are dead, local residents and Western diplomats say. Many Alawite villages nestled in the hills of their ancestral Latakia province are all but devoid of young men. The women dress only in mourning black [emphasis mine].” The Telegraph quotes a Latakia resident as explaining that “Every day there at least 30 men returned from the front lines in coffins. In the beginning of the war their deaths were celebrated with big funerals. Now they are quietly dumped in the back of pick-up trucks,” which caused some Alawite mothers to “set up ‘road blocks’ at the entrances to some of the mountain villages to prevent the army from forcibly taking their sons to the military draft” and to tell military commanders to “Go and bring the sons of the big shots to war and after that we will give you our children.” Resentment due to the high casualties among Alawite army conscripts had begun years before. The Telegraph reported in October 2012 that “as families see their young soldiers coming home in body bags ‘everyday’ that support [for Bashar al-Assad] is cracking” in his hometown of Qardaha, where “The walls are covered in posters showing the faces of the young men that have been killed.”

On September 2, 2015 rebels detonated a car bomb outside a school in Latakia city, killing 12. In providing context for the bombing, the BBC noted that “Latakia has largely escaped the conflict that has devastated most of Syria and left 250,000 people dead. But a rebel alliance that includes al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, al-Nusra Front, has been advancing on the city and within its surrounding province after driving government forces out of much of neighboring Idlib province earlier this year.” The BBC chose not acknowledge the threat to civilians of the rebel advance, characterizing it instead as simply “the latest in a series of setbacks for the president.” Al-Jazeera cited SOHR as reporting this was “the biggest car bomb attack in Latakia since the war began” and that “This is rare for Latakia city, which is usually hit by rockets.” Al-Jazeera added that “Rebel fighters entrenched in the hilly terrain around Latakia regularly fire rockets and other missiles into the city.”

Robert Worth of the New York Times writes of this period that “the rebels were closing in on the Latakia city limits, and mortars were falling downtown. If the rebels had captured the area — where Alawites are the majority — a result would almost certainly have been sectarian mass murder. Many people in the region would have blamed the United States, which armed some of the rebels operating in the area. . . Andrew Exum, who worked in the Pentagon at the time, told me that the military drew up contingency plans for a rapid collapse of the regime. The planning sessions were talked about as ‘catastrophic success [emphasis mine].’”

The phrase “catastrophic success” is an odd one. Presumably, the rebel takeover of Latakia and possible collapse of the Syrian government would be catastrophic, given the large numbers of people that would have been massacred. Such an outcome would have nevertheless constituted a success, from the perspective of US planners, as the fall of the Syrian government was long a strategic US goal, due to the desire to weaken Syria’s close allies, Iran and Hezbollah.

For example, Flynt Leverett, the former Middle East specialist for the State Department, CIA and National Security Council during the Bush Administration described how, “The unrest in Syria started in March 2011. . . . and by April of 2011, just one month into this the Obama administration was backgrounding David Sanger from the New York Times and other sympathetic reporters that they were looking at the situation in Syria as a way of pushing back and undermining Iran. That if you could bring about regime change in [Syria] the argument was that this would really weaken Iran’s regional position and reignite the Green Movement and produce regime change in Iran. . . This has been very much the real strategic driver for American policy toward the situation.”

Central Syria (Homs and Hama)

In late March 2015, ISIS fighters moved south and west from their stronghold in Raqqa to initiate an offensive to take control of territory in central Syria, in Homs and Hama provinces. Both provinces are strategically important as the M5 highway, which connects Damascus to the major population centers in the north, in particular Aleppo, runs directly through both Homs and Hama and constitutes Syria’s economic and military lifeline. ISIS gains in Homs and Hama, in particular in the ancient city of Palmyra, also helped open the road toward Damascus.

On March 23, 2015 ISIS fighters assaulted the town of Sheikh Hilal, in an effort to control the larger Salamiya area in Hama. Reuters cited the SOHR as reporting that ISIS had killed 74 Syrian government soldiers during the assault, which according to Syrian government officials were either off-duty soldiers or members of the locally formed defense groups. ISIS released photos of five Syrian soldiers its militants had beheaded. On June 27, ISIS raided Sheikh Hilal once again. Al-Arabiya quotes SOHR as reporting that ISIS fighters killed “40 government loyalists, including soldiers and members of the National Defense Forces,’ a local pro-regime militia.” Sheikh Hilal was an important target for ISIS because according to SOHR, “If they seize control of this road, they’ll cut off the regime forces in Aleppo, since the government won’t be able to send reinforcements or supplies there.”

On March 30, 2015 ISIS fighters assaulted the town of Mabouja, 30 km west of Sheikh Hilal. Al-Jazeera cites the SOHR as reporting that “ISIL [ISIS] had killed entire families and that the dead included people who were burned alive. The population of Mabouja includes Alawites and Ismailis — sects deemed heretical by the radical brand of Sunni Islam espoused by ISIL [ISIS], said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory. But he said that Sunni residents were among the dead, too [emphasis mine].” Al-Jazeera also observed that, “ISIL [ISIS] fighters have mounted numerous attacks in government-held areas in the provinces of Hama and Homs in recent weeks, even as it has lost ground in the north and northeast under pressure from a Kurdish militia backed by U.S.-led airstrikes.” The New York Times reports that according to a journalist from the area near Mabouja, “48 bodies had been buried on Wednesday, and that residents were angry that the government had not sent ‘real army, tanks and heavy weapons’ to back up lightly armed pro-government militias” from the National Defense Forces (NDF) which had been tasked with protecting the town. According to pro-Syrian government al-Masdar News, fighters from the NDF were able to finally repel the ISIS assault with help from the “Syrian Arab Air Force’s (SAAF) Hind Helicopters,” while the “NDF was successful in retaking all lost territory in Al-Maba’ouji, while also killing over 40 enemy combatants from ISIS, including a number of foreigners from Tunisia, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bosnia,” while the NDF suffered 31 dead and 23 injured.

On May 20, 2015 ISIS conquered the city of Tadmur at the site of ancient Palmyra, famous for its Roman ruins, and which lies in Homs province on the road between Deir Ezzour and Damascus. CNN reported of the ISIS assault to take Palmyra that “After at least 100 Syrian soldiers died in fighting overnight, Syrian warplanes carried out airstrikes Thursday in and around Palmyra.”

Shortly after capturing the city, ISIS released video of its fighters throwing two allegedly gay men from the top of a building, and then stoning them. CBS News cites an eyewitness as claiming that “ISIS militants blared on loudspeakers for men to gather. Then a black van pulled up outside the Wael Hotel, and Mallah and Salamah were brought out. The first to be thrown off was Mallah. He was tied to a chair so he couldn’t resist, then pushed over the side. He landed on his back, broken but still moving. A fighter shot him in the head. Next was Salameh. He landed on his head and died immediately. Still, fighters stoned his body, Omar said. The bodies were then hung up in Palmyra’s Freedom Square for two days, each with a placard on his chest: ‘He received the punishment for practicing the crime of Lot’s people.’” ISIS also released video of teenage boys carrying out the mass execution of 25 captured Syrian soldiers in the city’s ancient amphitheater. Agence France Presse (AFP) reported that ISIS executed as many as 200 people after taking the city. ISIS militants also murdered Khalid al-Asaad, the 83 year old retired director of antiquities for Palmyra. The New York Times reports that “After detaining him for weeks, the jihadists dragged him on Tuesday to a public square where a masked swordsman cut off his head in front of a crowd, Mr. Asaad’s relatives said. His blood-soaked body was then suspended with red twine by its wrists from a traffic light, his head resting on the ground between his feet, his glasses still on, according to a photo distributed on social media by Islamic State supporters.”

CNN commented that despite these atrocities, “there’s no indication that Syrian ground forces will try to take back the city, 150 miles northeast of Damascus, the capital. Nor that any other countries such as the United States will come to the rescue. ‘The world does not care about us,’ the Palmyra resident said. ‘All they are interested in is the stones of ancient Palmyra.’”

US planners could have indeed bombed convoys of ISIS fighters moving across the open desert from Raqqa to assault Palmyra, but chose not to. The LA Times reported of this period that “as Islamic State [ISIS] closed in on Palmyra, the U.S.-led aerial coalition that has been pummeling Islamic State in Syria for the past 18 months took no action to prevent the extremists’ advance toward the historic town — which, until then, had remained in the hands of the sorely overstretched Syrian security forces. The U.S. approach in Palmyra contrasted dramatically with the very proactive U.S. bombardment of Kobani during 2014-15 on behalf of U.S.-allied Kurdish militias fending off a furious Islamic State offensive [Emphasis mine].” US planners were willing to come to the aid of their Kurdish allies in northeastern Syria against ISIS, but refused to do the same for residents in Palmyra, as the city had been under Syrian government control.

One year later, in March 2016, Russian and Syrian forces were able to retake Palmyra and liberate it from ISIS, to the displeasure of US planners. The LA Times noted that White House officials have “difficulty publicly lauding advances against Islamic State by Assad and his allies, including the Russians and Iranians, after years of calling for Assad’s fall” and that the Russian success in combating ISIS created a “dilemma” for US planners, because “Washington has endeavored to portray the battle against Islamic State as a project of the United States and its allies, while accusing Moscow of attacking ‘moderate’ rebels instead of the extremists. Palmyra seems to embody an alternative narrative.” US dissatisfaction at the defeat of ISIS in Palmyra was also expressed by State Department spokesperson Mark Toner at a press briefing in March 2016, when Toner refused “to laud” the Syrian and Russian effort to liberate the city.

The fall of Palmyra in May 2015 resulted in ISIS control of some 50% of Syrian territory, and constituted “another strategic defeat that could expose Homs and Damascus to the terror group’s advances,” according to the Guardian. Al-Jazeera acknowledged the same, explaining that the “fall of the city potentially opens the way for ISIL [ISIS] to advance towards key government-held areas, including the capital and Homs.”

After capturing Palmyra, ISIS militants attempted multiple times to assault the nearby T4 airbase, located 40 km west to the west of the ancient city in Homs province. Crowd-sourced journalism site Bellingcat reported that “The Islamic State’s [ISIS] offensive in Central Syria has not only allowed the fighters of the Islamic State [ISIS] to expand their operations into areas previously out of reach, but it now also threatens the regime’s gas supplies, its presence on numerous fronts, its control over the only road leading to the vitally important T4 airbase and the airbase itself, the largest of its kind in Syria.”

On August 6, 2015 ISIS advanced further toward the Damascus by capturing the town of al-Qaryatain, which lays roughly half way between Palmyra and the Syrian capital. United Press International (UPI) reports that “37 pro-government forces were killed, as were 23 IS militants. The battle began with suicide bombings at checkpoints of the town of about 40,000; the population of the community, a mix of Sunni Muslims and Christians, has been reduced by the flight of refugees. The capture of al-Qaryatain indicates IS [ISIS] can move troops and supplies across central Syria without interference, from Palmyra in the east and southwestward to al-Qaryatain.” CNN cited SOHR as reporting that “The Islamic extremists [ISIS] have abducted more than 200 people, said Rami Abdurrahman, the observatory’s executive director. Up to 500 people are unaccounted for, but Abdurrahman said the observatory has confirmed that at least 230 people have been taken hostage. He said that ISIS militants targeted Christians, some of whom were abducted from the town’s Dar Alyan monastery, as well as people believed to have alliances with the Syrian regime.” To be considered a collaborator or as having “alliances with the regime” by ISIS, it was often enough to simply have a picture of Bashar al-Assad on one’s phone, despite the fact that “lots of people have a picture of Bashar on the phone because it helps them get through checkpoints,” according to one former ISIS captive. ISIS militants then bulldozed the 1,500 year old monastery and its church, while the senior priest, Father Jacques Mouraud, was among the kidnapped.

The capture of Qaraytain also allowed ISIS forces to threaten to take control of the strategic M5 highway on month later. Patrick Cockburn of the Independent reported in September 2015 that “Islamic State (Isis) forces in Syria are threatening to capture a crucial road, the loss of which could touch off a panic and the exodus of several million refugees from government areas, in addition to the four million who have already fled. Isis fighters have advanced recently to within 22 miles of the M5 highway, the only major route connecting government-held territory in Damascus to the north and west of the country. . . The four million Syrians who are already refugees mostly came from opposition or contested areas that have been systematically bombarded by government aircraft and artillery, making them uninhabitable. But the majority of the 17 million Syrians still in the country live in government-controlled areas now threatened by Isis. These people are terrified of Isis occupying their cities, towns and villages because of its reputation for mass executions, ritual mutilation and rape against those not obedient to its extreme variant of Sunni Islam. Half the Syrian population has already been displaced inside or outside the country, so accurate figures are hard to estimate, but among those particularly at risk are the Alawites (2.6 million), the Shia heterodox sect that has provided the ruling elite of Syria since the 1960s, the Christians (two million), the Syrian Kurds (2.2 million), and Druze (650,000) in addition to millions of Sunni Arabs associated with the Syrian government and its army [emphasis mine].”

Yarmouk

By April 2015, ISIS and Nusra had also captured the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, known as the capital of the Palestinian diaspora, in the southern suburbs of Damascus, and just kilometers from the presidential palace. This allowed ISIS and Nusra to control territory that could be used as a base to assault the heart of the Syrian capital itself.

Flush with newly delivered weapons supplied by the CIA and its Saudi partners, rebels from the FSA and Nusra had invaded and occupied Yarmouk camp two and a half years previously, on December 15, 2012. Rebels entered the camp against the will of Yarmouk’s resident’s, despite explicit requests from the PLO that the rebels not invade, as Palestinians wished to remain neutral in the conflict.

Some 800,000 Yarmouk residents, both Palestinian and Syrian, fled the camp to escape the dangers of the subsequent fighting. Residents, fearing both the rebel mortars and Syrian government MiG airstrikes, sought refuge in other Damascus neighborhoods, in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, in Turkey, and even in Europe, with the scale of the displacement numerically rivaling that of the 1948 Nakba.

Rebels soon began looting homes, taking over hospitals and stealing medicine. The Syrian government imposed a siege on Yarmouk, which prevented the rebels from advancing further toward Damascus, but which made food, water, and basic necessities scarce, forcing residents to depend heavily on intermittent UNRWA humanitarian aid deliveries. Government and rebel use of heavy artillery and mortars while fighting one another led to significant destruction in the camp, and scores of civilian deaths.

The few remaining civilians, roughly 20,000, became trapped in the camp because, as one Yarmouk resident told the Guardian, “rebel groups were eager to keep people in the camp, she said, particularly men and boys. Their departure was seen as defection from the opposition cause as well as potentially making it easier for government troops to enter the camp by force and regain control.” While the Syrian government encouraged civilians to leave, many nonetheless feared being detained by the Syrian security forces which were screening exiting civilians for fighters. The rebel occupation and government siege continued for years, causing hundreds of deaths due to starvation and lack of medical care.

In April 2015, Nusra fighters facilitated the entry of ISIS fighters into Yarmouk. The BBC reported that “Monitors say IS [ISIS] and the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, who have fought each other in other parts of Syria, are working together in Yarmouk.”

Several thousand residents who managed to escape the camp and take shelter in a school in an area under Syrian army control told of ISIS atrocities, including one boy who saw ISIS fighters using a severed head as a soccer ball, and a woman who described how “’Daesh’s [ISIS] arrival meant destruction and massacre. Their behavior’s not human and their religion is not ours.”

Clashes between ISIS and local Palestinian rebels (who were loyal to Hamas and had previously supported Nusra’s initial invasion of the camp) exacerbated the humanitarian situation, forcing UNRWA to cease the already limited aid deliveries to Yarmouk. The Guardian quoted one Yarmouk resident as stating, “There is no food or electricity or water, Daesh [ISIS] is killing and looting the camp, there are clashes, there is shelling. Everyone is shelling the camp. . . As soon as Daesh entered the camp they burned the Palestinian flag and beheaded civilians.”

The Syrian government tightened the siege, reaffirming their concern that ISIS fighters controlled territory so near the heart of the Syrian capital. Al-Jazeera reporter Stefanie Dekker explained that “It is a complex situation. The government forces control the northern part [of the camp] towards Damascus. It is their priority to keep the capital safe. . . The fact that ISIL [ISIS] fighters are less than 10km away is of a huge concern. If they allow a humanitarian corridor, who will be coming out?” Despite these concerns, al-Jazeera reported that the Syrian government did indeed allow residents to leave, as some 2,000 were able to be evacuated at this time, with many finding shelter in government schools in neighboring areas.

Fighters from the pro-government Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) confronted ISIS fighters at the northern edge of the camp to stop their advance, while the Syrian military bombed ISIS positions. Foreign Policy quoted one PFLP-GC fighter originally from Yarmouk as saying “I will not stop until they [ISIS] leave the camp. . . I have no problem staying here in this position, not sleeping, digging out tunnels, and fighting. We need to do this,” while quoting another PFLP-GC fighter who felt that “If we weren’t here fighting, [the militants] would be able to access Damascus. . . We’re here to protect the camp and Damascus.”

The New York Times acknowledged the ISIS threat to Syrian capital at this time, observing that “By seizing much of the camp” ISIS had “made its greatest inroads yet into Damascus,” while the Washington Post noted that “Their new push puts [ISIS] within five miles of the heart of the capital . . . even as they are on the retreat in Iraq.”

As a result of this threat, 14 Palestinian factions agreed to form a joint operations room with the Syrian army to try defeat ISIS militarily and purge its militants from the camp. PLO Executive Committee member Ahmed Majdalani told a press conference that “The decision will be jointly made by the two sides to retake the camp from the obscurantist terrorists who seize it now.” However, the PLO soon reversed course, claiming the Palestinians should not be dragged into any conflict, allegedly as a result of pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The US preference for the advance of ISIS toward Damascus, even as US warplanes were bombing the terror group in Eastern Syria and Iraq, was explained by Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry shockingly admitted that US planners actually welcomed the ISIS push toward Damascus, which they felt they could leverage to put pressure on Assad to give up power to the US-backed opposition. As discussed above, Kerry explained that, “We were watching. We saw that Daesh [ISIS]was growing in strength. And we thought Assad was threatened. We thought we could manage that Assad might then negotiate. Instead of negotiating, he got Putin to support him.” The New York Times reported in detail on the meeting, an audio recording of which was leaked, as did the Guardian and CNN. Despite Kerry’s shocking comments, none of these three news outlets mentioned his admission that US planners welcomed the ISIS advance on Damascus, presumably due to requests by US intelligence officials. CNN initially posted the full audio of the leaked tape, but later took it down, claiming in an editor’s note to have done so for the safety of participants in the meeting.

Russia Intervenes

The Nusra/FSA advance on Latakia and ISIS advance on Damascus and the M5 highway provides the context in which Russian forces intervened in Syria in September 2015. Writing in the New York Review of Books, Charles Glass confirmed Secretary of State Kerry’s view that Russia intervened in the conflict to prevent the fall of the Syrian government to jihadists from Nusra and ISIS. Glass quoted “one analyst familiar with Russian decision making” as noting that by autumn 2015, “it was clear Damascus could fall,” which was a “red line” that “Russia could not abide.” As a result, Russia “increased air support and sent ground forces to guarantee the survival of Syria’s government, army, and institutions. Its action saved Damascus from an insurgent onslaught and gave the Syrian army the upper hand in the long seesaw war.”

US planners responded to Russian efforts to save Damascus and Latakia from Nusra and ISIS respectively by immediately increasing shipments of TOW anti-tank missiles to the FSA, despite their knowledge these weapons had helped Nusra conquer Idlib and threaten Latakia.

The New York Times reported on October 12, 2015, just two weeks after the start of the Russian intervention, that rebels were now receiving as many TOW missiles as they asked for. One FSA commander explained, “We get what we ask for in a very short time,” while another rebel official in Hama called the supply “carte blanche,” suggesting, “We can get as much as we need and whenever we need them.” The NYT also acknowledged that FSA cooperation with Nusra constituted a “tactical alliance that Free Syrian Army commanders describe as an uncomfortable marriage of necessity, because they cannot operate without the consent of the larger and stronger Nusra Front.”

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) observed that “at this point it is impossible to argue that U.S. officials involved in the CIA’s program cannot discern that Nusra and other extremists have benefited” from CIA weapons shipments to Syrian rebels, “And despite this, the CIA decided to drastically increase lethal support to vetted rebel factions following the Russian intervention into Syria in late September.”

TOW Missiles Just “Rhetoric”

Understanding that TOW shipments were benefitting al-Qaeda, US planners stopped short of also providing anti-aircraft missiles to FSA groups. US planners have strongly supported Syrian rebel groups, but not at any cost. The New York Times noted that the Russians “appear to be using techniques honed in Afghanistan, where the occupying Soviet Army fought insurgents who were eventually supplied with antiaircraft missiles by the United States. Some of those insurgents later began Al Qaeda. That specter hangs over American policy, and has kept Syrian insurgents from receiving what they most want: antiaircraft missiles . . .”

Opposition supporters, including many oddly identifying as socialists, complained bitterly that US planners were not willing to take the step of providing anti-aircraft missiles to the FSA, for the ultimate benefit of al-Qaeda. Author and opposition supporter Leila al-Shami bizarrely suggested the US refusal to provide anti-aircraft missiles to the rebels proves that “The United States support for Free Syrian Army militias on the ground has never really been any more than rhetoric. It’s never really given any serious support to them.” Al-Shami ignores the over $1 billion of weaponry and assistance provided by the CIA to the rebels directly, not to mention the much larger amounts of aid provided by America’s Gulf partners to both the FSA and Salafi rebel groups Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam since the start of the Syrian conflict, with US approval. Some opposition supporters expressed to Secretary of State Kerry that they would not be satisfied unless the US military intervened directly on behalf of the rebels to depose Assad, despite the illegality of doing so under international law, and potential that such an intervention could trigger a direct conflict between the US and Russia. Rebel-affiliated media activists tweeting under the guise of the young girl, Bana al-Abed, suggested the US should come to the aid of the al-Qaeda-dominated rebels in Aleppo even at the risk of starting World War III with Russia.

Conclusion

US planners welcomed rebel gains in Syria, including by jihadist groups advocating genocide against Syria’s Alawite population such as ISIS and Nusra, because these gains bolstered the broader US goal of toppling the Syrian government, in an effort to weaken its close allies, Iran and Hezbollah. US planners wished to see rebel gains in Syria, in spite of the obviously catastrophic consequences for Syrian civilians that rebel success would bring. US support for the rebels belies the myth of US “inaction” in Syria, and the myth that any US intervention would be for the sake of preventing massacres and even genocide, rather than in support of it.

The Syrian government is an authoritarian police state that has long been in need of drastic reform. Like all governments fighting a war, the Syrian government has killed civilians and committed crimes against innocent people during the course of the Syrian conflict (though the extent of these crimes has been massively inflated and often even fabricated in the Western press). Similarly, the Russian military deserves harsh criticism, as it has undoubtedly killed civilians unnecessarily during air strikes against the rebels. The deaths of these civilians are tragic, as are the deaths of civilians in Raqqa and Mosul killed by US bombs in the effort to defeat ISIS in those cities.

It is unclear however, how Syrian civilians generally would have benefited if US planners had succeeded in accomplishing their goal of helping the predominantly jihadist Syrian rebels, including al-Qaeda and ISIS, topple the Syrian government. One Syrian fighting for a pro-government militia articulated why he and many Syrians in general oppose the rebels and the Syrian political opposition which supports them: “At first, my family sympathized with the protesters. But then it became obvious that the hardliners among the secular opposition work in the interests of Turkey and the Arab monarchies. Plus the course for Islamization was visible early on, and that was a concern. Like pretty much all normal people, my family, my friends and everyone I know in Syria are strongly against Wahhabis and religious extremism in general [emphasis mine],” with Wahhabism referring to the state ideology of Saudi Arabia, from which al-Qaeda and ISIS draw much of their inspiration.

In Syria’s major population centers, civilians are terrified that the rebels will come, and look to the Syrian army to protect them. Large numbers of civilians leave any city where rebels gain a foothold and seek refuge primarily in government controlled areas of the country or outside of Syria itself. The threat of Syrian and Russian bombing certainly plays a role in this, but it is clear that rebel looting, the murder of minorities and those sympathetic to the government, and the imposition of extremist religious rule do not endear the rebels to Syria’s civilian population.

Contrary to most reporting on Syria, which suggests the civil war has pitted Syria’s entire Sunni population against its Alawite, Christian, Druze, Shia and other minorities, in fact many Syrian Sunnis support the government and oppose Salafi-Jihadism, the extremist religious ideology undergirding most rebel groups in Syria. The Syrian government would have fallen long ago, if not for Sunni support. For example, the rebels were hated even in the majority Sunni city of Aleppo and many Sunnis continue to fight in the Syrian army against the rebels, while many Syrian Sunnis have been killed by the rebels for this support of the government. For this reason, describing the rebels as “Sunni” is misleading. A more accurate description of Syria’s rebels would be “Salafi-Jihadi” or “Wahhabi,” or “Takfiri,” or “religious fundamentalist” rather than “Sunni.”

Had Damascus and Latakia fallen to the rebels, not only Alawites and Christians, but also pro-government Sunnis and Sunnis opposed to Salafi-Jihadi ideology would have been massacred, not to mention members of Syria’s LGBTQ community. The Russian intervention in Syria then, by all indications, prevented this horrific outcome for Syrians of all ethnic and religious identities, despite the best efforts of US planners to achieve the “catastrophic success” in Syria they had hoped for.

July 23, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker Serves Up A Doozie

The Polemicist | July 15, 2018

On July 8th, The New Yorker published a short piece by Adam Entous, under the graphic above, titled “The Maps of Israeli Settlements That Shocked Barack Obama.” In the article, Entous purports to tell us the heretofore unknown inside story of how the Obama administration came to the surprising realization that Israeli settlements were taking over the West Bank. In the kind of irony The New Yorker might best appreciate, the magazine’s latest promotional tag line is: “Fighting Fake Stories With Real Ones,” and this Adam Entous article is the epitome of fake.

As Entous narrates it, in 2015, the third year of Obama’s second term, as his “Presidency was winding down,” a gentleman called Frank Lowenstein—who was, and still is, the Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations and Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State—stumbled upon a map of West Bank settlements “that he had never seen before.” Though Lowenstein—as, you know, Special Envoy for Palestinian Negotiations and all—had seen “hundreds of maps of the West Bank” and had one “adorning” his office, this “new map in the briefing book” was a revelation to him. It showed clearly that “not only were Palestinian population centers cut off from one another but there was virtually no way to squeeze a viable Palestinian state into the areas that remained.”

Shocked, shocked, Lowenstein scurried off to show the map to Secretary of State John Kerry, telling him: “Look what’s really going on here.” After studiously having the map’s information “verified by U.S. intelligence agencies,” Kerry then unfurled the map on a coffee table in the White House for President Obama to see. As Ben Rhodes, “one of Obama’s longest-serving advisers,” recounted, Obama, too, was “shocked” at Israel’s “systematic” use of settlements to “cut off Palestinian population centers from one another.”

All of this shock was then translated into action. Of the rhetorical sort. Kerry “incorporated [the key findings] into … speeches and other documents, and Lowenstein “walk[ed] [the Israelis] through” those findings—though he “didn’t show the maps to the Israelis.” (Because what? He didn’t want to “shock” them? Didn’t want to make the case to them too strongly, lest it upset them? Didn’t want to have to apologize? [see below] Pause for a moment, or more, to consider that demurral, which remains unexplained by Entous or Lowenstein. It’s the kind of withholding of information one would do in the face of an innocent child one wants to protect, or in the face of a more powerful superior one does not want to annoy. What is the place for such reticence in the relation between the United States and Israel?)

Capping off this new wave of decisive rhetorical action, driven by the “alarm” over what he saw in the “maps” (now plural), President Obama “decided to abstain on a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the settlements.” In the true punchline of the article, Entous presents this abstention as “Obama’s final act of defiance against Benjamin Netanyahu… before Donald Trump took office and put in place policies that were far more accepting of the settlers.”

All in all, this article presents a perfect exemplar of ideological production: it produces without recognizing the bizarre, nearly delusional aspects of liberal ideology in its current state; for the author and his likely readers, it shows the faults of that mindset but does not see them, and in fact turns them into a story re-confirming the virtue of those—whether author, reader, or subject of the story—who hold that mindset. It’s not only fake; it’s a fake-out.

Let’s walk through all the possible meanings of this article.

Either:

1) The story is true. Entous, using his reliable, inside-the-room sources and direct quotes, has accurately reported something that actually happened. Harvard-educated Barack Obama and his team of oh-so-smart and-well-educated foreign-policy wonks—Yale-educated Secretary of State Kerry and Special Envoy for Palestinian Negotiations Frank Lowenstein, and Rice- and NYU-educated Ben Rhodes (whose brother, David, is President of CBS News)—were completely unaware of what the Israelis had been doing for the 48 years before they just happened to see that map. Neither Barack Obama nor John Kerry during their careers as senators and presidential candidates, nor Obama, during over six years as President, had ever imagined any such thing.

They must have missed this UN map, showing in red all the West Bank areas inaccessible to Palestinians, which has been around since 2009:

And they must have missed this one, also widely available since 2009, showing Israel’s relentless theft and pulverization of Palestinian land. This is the map that MSNBC apologized for showing to its viewers:

So, in this case, if this story is true, Obama and his team are as politically stupid as Trump and his, regarding Palestine at least. If this story is true, it means that years of studying in the highest academies of the empire and working in the highest levels of political power may only yield abysmal ignorance regarding one of the most important issues in the world.

Which is, in fact, quite possible.

In a meeting at the Left Forum last year, Andy Trimlett, who produced and directed the fine new documentary, 1948: Creation and Catastrophe (which I supported on Kickstarter), told of how he was able to get a Master’s degree in Middle East Studies from the University of Washington while learning virtually nothing about what the creation of Israel entailed. He’s not the only person I’ve heard that from.

So, in his acerbic tweet, the excellent British journalist Jonathan Cook may be (probably is) right in his skepticism regarding this New Yorker story, but he may also be underestimating the political vacuity of the “educated” American, especially regarding Palestine and Israel:

The New Yorker insults its readers’ intelligence with this article claiming that Obama officials only worked out – accidentally – in 2015 that Israeli settlements had taken over 60% of the West Bank. Who could have guessed what Israel was up to?! — Jonathan Cook (@Jonathan_K_Cook) July 10, 2018

 Or:

2) The story is not true. Obama and Co. knew very well, all along, what Israel was doing, and they are now putting out this story—a flat-out lie–because… Well, maybe because after the Gaza massacre, with the tide turning among the Democratic constituency, to exacerbate the image of Trump as the absolute villain, etc., the Obama team, as an exemplar of establishment Democratic liberalism, wants to pose as naive innocents rather than the conscious collaborators with ethnic cleansing they were and still are. They really want The New Yorker’s readership to have that image of Obama as the one who continually “defied” Netanyahu, versus Trump who is now capitulating to him.

That, too, is a flat-out lie, as anyone who isn’t mis-educated into political stupidity by the media, the politicians, and the highest academies of the empire knows. The whole “Obama’s final act of defiance” punchline, which is in Entous’s voice, makes the story fake, even if it’s true. There was no series of “acts of defiance” by Obama, of which the lame-duck abstention on the Security Council resolution was the “final” one.

It’s fair to say, and to his credit, that Obama acted against Netanyahu’s wishes in accepting the Iran deal, which Trump has abrogated. And Obama made good noises, from early in his administration, about the dangers of Israeli settlement construction—which, of course, indicates that he knew about all those “systematic” problems before he discovered The Map. But he, like his predecessors, did nothing about it. He, like they, enabled and supported the systematic, two-state-destroying settlement of the West Bank, and continually supported Israel in whatever violence it wanted to do to the Palestinians—including bombing the crap out of them in Gaza, twice.

No slouch in that regard, Obama was the first American President to give bunker-buster bombs to Israel—secretly, precisely because he had publicly said Israel had to curtail settlement construction in exchange for such gifts and didn’t want it to be known that he was capitulating. He was also the first American President to demand that “Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state”—a new, gratuitous, and excessive demand, insisted upon by Netanyahu. The lame-duck abstention on the Security Council resolution cost Israel nothing. Overall, Obama’s Palestine-Israel policy, consistent with American policy over decades, was one of continual capitulation to the will of Israel–including specifically on settlements. That is not some new policy “put in place” by Donald Trump.

And, if the story is not true, then

Either:

2A) Adam Entous and The New Yorker—that oh-so-intelligent, sophisticated, and “reliable” journal—fully and sincerely believe the fake story the Obama people are putting out, and are communicating that bullshit to you in good faith, as what they think is true, in-depth knowledge of an important aspect of American foreign policy that you should have. In which case, Entous and The New Yorker are as stupid and gullible as any Trump supporter.

Or,

2B) Entous and The New Yorker know very well this is a fake story that Obama and his people are putting out, and they are consciously collaborating with them to get you to believe something they know to be untrue. (And the lite, bad faith version of this—that they can deny that they “know,” even if they suspect, the story is not true, because they take these— i.e., their—people at their word, share their objectives, and don’t ask too many questions—is no less deceptive and pernicious.)

Why would they do this? Because it’s the tortured-humanitarian version of Obama’s and the liberal Democrats’ implication in the colonization of Palestine that they want you to have. And because it helps enforce the fairy tale of how the good, progressively-intentioned American presidency under Obama has been completely overturned by the bad, anti-American-values presidency of Trump.

So, in any possible reading of this article, it’s a damning indictment of the liberal ideology embodied by Obama Democrats and/or by an iconic media outlet of highbrow culture. In any possible reading, someone’s a political fool. In option 1, it’s a true story, and Obama and his team were terribly ignorant fools who should not have been allowed near the responsibilities of the Presidency; in option 2, it’s a fake story, and Entous and The New Yorker have themselves either been fooled by, or are complicit in trying to fool you with, the Obama team’s mendacious attempt to create a false image of themselves, and a phony nostalgia about American politics. There is no option 3.

In all options, of course, the target of the tomfoolery is the audience, the likely reader of The New Yorker. Indeed, in option 2B, which gets Jonathan Cook’s vote (and mine) and is at least as likely as any other, the reader is the only one being fooled. The article, and the ideology, counts on the reader not noticing that these are its only possible—and all quite damning—meanings. Any reader who doesn’t notice this is totally captured within, and faked-out by, the ideology the article reproduces.

There’s no bigger problem in the United States today than the citizenry’s widespread mis-education into political gullibility, not to say stupidity, and it’s the height of foolishness to think this is only a problem of Republicans and rightists, of those who read Breitbart and not those who read The New Yorker, or of those who finish their education at high school and not those who get it finished off at one of the higher academies of the empire.

As I’ve said before, America is now a ship of fools, with a thousand captains barking fake orders. Reader, beware.

July 15, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Myth of Barack Obama as the Great and Noble Nobel Global Statesman

By Martin SIEFF | Strategic Culture Foundation | 27.06.2018

It is no coincidence that the Sword, Sorcery and Dragons Fantasy Games of Thrones – filmed in large part on location in my native Northern Ireland – has entranced the American viewing public over the past decade: For the early 21st century has seen US policymakers and opinion-shapers plunging ever deeper into one fantasy after another. But even Game of Thrones pales in incredibility and absurdity next to the fantasy still believed by most Americans — That Barack Obama was a wise and responsible, peace-loving statesman.

In truth, Obama, casually and with evident self-satisfaction, unleashed series of catastrophic foreign national security policies that sent the world careening to the brink of nuclear war and inflicted needless suffering on scores of millions of people. No Game of Thrones villain ever did anything like that damage.

I have no doubt that the ludicrous award of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to Obama will go down in history as the most ridiculous such award in the entire history of the institution.

What in reality was Obama’s record as President of the United States?

He authorized a totally unnecessary and strategically meaningless $1 trillion nuclear build up over the coming generation that will play a major role in bankrupting the United States. It was also a move guaranteed to set off a ruinous global thermonuclear arms race with Russia, China and other powers who understandably fear being made defenseless before a succession of ever more unilateral and unpredictable US leaders.

Obama claimed to be deeply concerned about nuclear nonproliferation and hosted a Nuclear Safety Summit in Washington whose only real achievement was to feed his already enormous and delusional appreciation of his own self-worth.

However, as analyst Rebecca Heinrichs of the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington concluded, “If one actually looks at the risks of nuclear war as well as the likelihood of proliferation at the start of the President’s term compared to now, the Obama’s nonproliferation record earns a failing grade.”

In 2011, Obama a fecklessly allowed his warmongering, hyper-aggressive secretary of state Hillary Clinton to arrange with Britain and France the use of NATO air power to destroy the state of Libya by giving tactical support and protection to rebels against veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Gaddafi’s previous decade of consistent cooperation with the US and its allies in the struggle against extreme Islamist terror and his monitored compliance with demands to scrap Libya’s nascent nuclear [program] were all for naught. Obama and Clinton’s reckless and even clownish policies ensured the complete disintegration of Libya, creating an infernal anarchy in which Islamist terror groups could thrive and metastasize throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Far from encouraging nations to scrap their nuclear programs as Gaddafi in fact had done, Obama’s childish approval of the destruction of Libya sent precisely the opposite message to nations around the world: “Scrap your nuclear deterrents and there will be nothing to stop the United States from destroying you whenever its leaders feel like it.”

It was the same story in Syria where Obama and Clinton eagerly approved the flow of half a billion dollars a year to such groups including, incredibly the Nusrah Front, the Syrian franchise of al-Qaeda, heirs to the conspirators who [are said to have] killed nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001.

Obama’s utter ignorance and his clueless ignorance of diplomacy and the conduct of international relations was memorably exposed in his casual approval of the absurd and clownish Michael McFaul as US ambassador to Moscow.

The idea that an accredited ambassador could pass his days in sending out public abusive Twitter messages insulting the head of the state to which he was accredited was ludicrous even if that state was Mauritius, Lichtenstein or Tahiti let alone one of the world’s two thermonuclear superpowers.

McFaul openly worked overtime to give aid and encouragement to domestic opposition to the undermine the legitimate government of Russia: His activities would have provoked calls for full-scale war from the US Congress had any Russian envoy to Washington, DC presumed to act in such a way. None of this bothered Obama for a second.

Even worse was to follow: In 2014, US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, the wife of leading neocon ideologue Robert Kagan and also the favored subordinate of Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state openly paraded in the streets of Kiev, handing out cookies to violent protestors as they overthrew with mob riots and terror the constitutionally democratically elected government of a European nation of 45 million people. Obama fully – albeit, as usual, passively approved.

East-West relations were reduced to a state of chaos and distrust unseen in 52 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Obama does not appear to have noticed or even been concerned.

Obama was not totally ignorant and uninterested in international relations. During his casual and ill-attended, poorly documented student years at Columbia University in New York City, he attended only one course in international relations. It was given by none other than Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter.

Brzezinski was a descendant of the displaced minor Polish aristocracy who through his long career consistently fought to lock the United States into a set policies designed to weaken, disintegrate and encircle Russia with hostile powers and alliances. He was a major foreign policy influence on US Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Brzezinski was Obama’s personal guide and guru to what little the 44th US president dimly grasped of strategic orientation and world affairs. Obama’s near-total ignorance of non-American history and diplomacy gave Brzezinski full scope to manipulate him into accepting all his own most virulent anti-Russian prejudices.

Thanks to Obama, superpower diplomatic relations collapsed to their most parlous state in the entire Nuclear Age. When Obama took office in January 2009, the Doomsday Clock of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists journal was set at two minutes to midnight and the journal soberly warned: “The world stands at the brink of a second nuclear age.”

Yet after eight years in power, when Obama left the White House in January 2017, as ignorant, complacent and filled with unearned self-regard as when he came to Washington, the Doomsday Clock stood at three minutes to midnight – two minutes closer than when he had taken office.

We do not need to wait to know the Verdict of History on Barack Obama’s eight years as a global statesman. That verdict is in and it is damning: The Nobel committee should rescind his 2009 Peace Prize. Perhaps it can be given instead to a harmless fantasy TV show like Game of Thrones.

June 27, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

How Corporate Media Got the Trump-Kim Summit All Wrong

By Gareth Porter | truthdig | June 11, 2018

For weeks, the corporate media have been saying that the Trump-Kim summit could have only two possible results: Either Trump will walk away angrily or Kim Jong Un will trick him into a deal in which he extracts concessions from Trump but never commits to complete denuclearization.

The idea that North Korea could not possibly agree to give up its nuclear weapons or its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) has become an article of faith among the journalists covering the issue for big media. Two themes that have appeared again and again in their coverage are that the wily North Koreans are “playing” Trump and that previous administrations had also been taken by North Korea after signing agreements in good faith.

But the media have gotten it all wrong. They have assumed that North Korea cannot live without nuclear weapons—without making any effort to understand North Korea’s strategy in regard to nuclear weapons.They have invariably quoted “experts” who haven’t followed North Korean thinking closely but who express the requisite hostility toward the summit and negotiating an agreement with the Kim regime.

One of the few Americans who can speak with authority on North Korea’s calculus regarding nuclear weapons is Joel S. Wit, who was senior adviser to the U.S. negotiator with North Korea, Ambassador Robert L. Gallucci, from 1993 to 1995, and who from 1995 to 1999 was coordinator for the 1994 “Agreed Framework” with North Korea. More importantly, Wit also participated in a series of informal meetings with North Korean officials in 2013 about North Korea’s thinking on its nuclear weapons.

At a briefing on the Trump-Kim summit last week sponsored by the website 38 North, which he started and still manages, Wit made it clear that this dismissal of North Korea’s willingness to agree to denuclearization is misguided. “Everyone underestimates the momentum behind what North Korea is doing,” he said. “It’s not a charm offensive or a tactical trick.”

Wit revealed in an article last month that the North Koreans had informed the American participants in those 2013 meetings that Kim was already anticipating negotiations with the United States in which North Korea would agree to give up nuclear weapons in return for steps by the United States that removed its threatening posture toward North Korea. Wit said his North Korean interlocutors had pointed to a June 2013 statement by the National Defense Commission of North Korea—the nation’s highest policymaking body—which they stated emphatically had been ordered by Kim himself to indicate a readiness to negotiate with the United States on denuclearization. The statement declared, “The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the behest of our leader” and “must be carried out . . . without fail.” And it went on to urge “high-level talks between the DPRK [North Korea] and the U.S. authorities to . . . establish peace and security in the region.”

The statement came a few months after Kim had resumed nuclear testing in an intensive effort to establish a credible nuclear deterrent. In part that was because of the young Kim’s conviction that the United States believed it could “bully” his regime in the transition after Kim father, Kim Jong Il, died in December 2011, according to Wit’s North Korean interlocutors.

But those same North Korean officials also told Wit that the new buildup would be of limited duration—only until it became possible to improve relations with the United States. That explanation suggested that Kim was pursuing a military capability primarily to serve as an incentive for Washington to come to the negotiating table and as a set of bargaining chips to obtain what it really wanted—an end to the hostile policy toward the regime by the United States.

Wit revealed that in the private meetings with Americans, North Korean officials presented a concrete plan for a three-phase agreement with the United States on denuclearization in which each side would undertake a set of related steps simultaneously.The American participants were told that the first stage of North Korea’s implementation would be a freeze on its nuclear weapons development, followed by disabling key facilities and finally dismantling the facilities as well the nuclear weapons. The U.S. steps would include diplomatic recognition, ending economic sanctions and removing the U.S. military threat to North Korea, in part by finally bringing the Korean War to a formal conclusion.

It was the same approach to a denuclearization agreement to which North Korea had agreed in 1994 and again in 2005 and 2007, but which had failed primarily because of the reluctance of the Clinton and Bush administrations to commit to entering into a normal political and economic relationship with North Korea.

The political context for U.S.-North Korean negotiations has changed dramatically since 2013. The most obvious change is that North Korea has an ICBM capable of reaching the United States for the first time. Although it provoked threats by the Trump administration in 2017 to attack North Korea if it completed work on the ICBM, it also has prompted the White House to consider going further than previous administrations in meeting North Korean diplomatic demands.

Furthermore, in 2013, the South Korean government was hostile to diplomacy with the North, and the Obama administration was unwilling to consider any major political or security concessions to North Korea until after it had given up its nuclear weapons. Now South Korean president Moon Jae-in has gone further than any previous government in pushing to end the 70-year military tension and formal state of war between North and South. Moon’s commitment to a Korean peace agreement appears to be the single biggest reason that Kim switched gears so dramatically in a New Year’s Day speech that presaged dramatic diplomatic moves in 2018.

Reflecting the new political-diplomatic situation, in April Kim put forward a new strategic line calling for the bulk of the state’s resources to go to economic development. That replaced the bjungjin line that Kim had introduced in March 2013 putting economic rebuilding and military needs on an equal footing.

Kim has made major adjustments in the North Korean negotiating posture that prevailed when the 2013 meetings were held with nonofficial Americans. The North Koreans had insisted then that the United States would have to remove their troops from South Korea as part of any agreement, according to Wit. But that demand has now been dropped, as Moon told Trump in mid-April.

Kim also has frozen his entire nuclear weapons and ICBM programs by suspending testing and blowing up facilities and tunnels at its nuclear test facility in front of foreign journalists in advance of negotiations with the United States. What gives the freeze far-reaching significance is the fact that North Korea still has not shown that it has mastered the reentry technology or the guidance system necessary to have a convincing deterrent capability, as Defense Secretary James Mattis observed last December. And then CIA Director Mike Pompeo agreed in January that it would take a “handful of months” for North Korea to be able to master the remaining technological challenges—but that would require additional testing. The willingness to freeze the program before it had reached its goal indicates the predominance of Kim’s diplomatic aim over North Korea’s military ambitions.

Contrary to the idea relentlessly repeated in media coverage that there is no objective basis for a denuclearization agreement, it has become clear to Pompeo that Kim is serious about reaching such an agreement. Pompeo noted in his press conference that he had spent “a great deal of time” discussing the prospective deal in two meetings with Kim himself and three meetings with Kim’s special envoy, Kim Yong-chol. And based on the many hours of discussion with them, Pompeo said he believes “they are contemplating a path forward where they can make a strategic shift, one that their country has not been prepared to make before.”

Trump and Kim will be able to agree only on a broad statement of principles that reflect Pompeo’s meetings with the North Koreans, leaving significant differences remaining to be resolved in negotiations over the coming weeks. But this summit between what is surely the oddest couple in modern diplomatic history may well launch the most serious effort yet to end the U.S.-North Korean  conflict.

June 11, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

Trump takes ‘Criminal Deep State’ to task amid claims FBI spied on his campaign

By Robert Bridge | RT | May 24, 2018

Hounded by claims of ‘Russian collusion’ for most of his presidency, Trump is now calling out the Obama administration over claims it had the FBI spying on his campaign. Can the Republican leader turn the tables on his accusers?

In a series of rapid-fire Tweets, Trump called upon the Justice Department to investigate claims that the FBI infiltrated his campaign for political purposes, possibly at the direct order of former president, Barack Obama.

“I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

Needless to say, those are Watergate-level allegations, and it seems Trump may even possess the one thing the Mueller investigation has conspicuously lacked to date: hard-core evidence.

This month, it was revealed that Professor Stefan Halper, a foreign policy scholar at Cambridge University until 2015, was serving as an FBI mole inside of the Trump campaign.

The operation, started in July 2016 and codenamed ‘Crossfire Hurricane’, is a stunning revelation because for the last two years the FBI denied it was spying on the Trump campaign. Now there is the obvious question as to why the federal agency had infiltrated the Trump team in the first place. Was it simply to find evidence of ‘Russian collusion,’ or, as Trump has suggested, was it politically motivated?

Aside from the high creep factor of academics moonlighting as actual spies, Halper allegedly arranged meetings with campaign advisers Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, and Sam Clovis in an apparent effort to build the case for Russia collusion, the Washington Post reported.

As one example of his covert work, Halper reportedly “reached out to George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign-policy adviser for the campaign, inviting him to London to work on a research paper.”

Those efforts to dig up dirt on Trump, however, failed to give Robert Mueller his much-anticipated ‘gotcha!’ moment. Indeed, from Paul Manafort (indicted for corruption in Ukraine) to Stormy Daniels (former American porn star) to Evgeny Freidman (New York ‘taxi king’ and tax cheat), and every other shady character in between, Mueller has failed to make anything more than a tenuous connection to Russia.

Now, combine this ‘nothing burger’ with the debunked claims put forth in the Clinton-funded ‘Steele dossier,’ complete with “golden showers” in Moscow, and you have a very good case to “wrap up” the investigation, as Vice President Mike Pence recommended.

Here is why the Trump administration believes they have finally got the deep state blocked in with the latest findings: the FBI and DOJ must have known that there was zero evidence of Russian collusion since their mole (or moles) would have revealed that information long ago. At the same time, Halper is said to have begun his covert activities inside of the Trump campaign before Crossfire Hurricane began, which also complicates matters for the Democrats.

Thus, the entire Mueller investigation, Republicans argue, has been an elaborate farce, designed to tarnish Trump and the Republican Party in the run-up to the monumental midterm elections. Trump is already claiming that the tables have been turned on the Mueller investigation and the deep state.

“Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State. They go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before! What goes around, comes around!” he tweeted triumphantly Wednesday morning.

Naturally, Trump’s announcement triggered howls of pain from the Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) accused the White House on Tuesday of putting “extraordinary, unusual and inappropriate pressure on the Department of Justice and the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.”

Schumer then lashed out at House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who subpoenaed the DOJ for all documents related to the FBI informant earlier this month.

“A man like Devin Nunes, who, I hear privately from my Republican colleagues — they think he’s off the deep end,” he said in a personal affront.

That’s right. Schumer thinks it is Nunes who is “off the deep end” because the Republicans have a solid case for proving high-level political manipulation inside of the Trump campaign. The Senator doth protest too much, methinks. Meanwhile, members of the political right have suggested that Barack Obama, who was the Commander-in-Chief at the time of Trump’s campaign being infiltrated, should be forced to explain what prompted such a decision.

“If he doesn’t know, then it would seem a public explanation is also in order — about his management, and about just how far the ‘deep state’ went without specific presidential approval,” argued James Freeman, assistant editor of the Wall Street Journal.

On Thursday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy will meet with DOJ officials, who are expected to turn over documents detailing the federal intrusion of the Trump campaign.

I reached out to Lionel, legal analyst at lionelmedia.com and regular RT commentator, for some insight into Trump’s chances for emerging successful as he attempts to gain information from the Department of Justice and FBI.

First, there is the composition of the DOJ, which Lionel described, as only Lionel can, as a “Lernaean Hydra with many facets, divisions, jurisdictions and levels of loyalty.”

“There are lifetime, career prosecutors and agents not necessarily committed to an administration or party and there are the targeted, viz. the politically corrupt, biased, partisan and ‘Deep State’ swamp critters whom President Trump has so affectionately titled,” he explained.

Lionel says “the plot now thickens” as Attorney General Jeff Sessions tapped US Attorney John Huber, a Republican from the red state of Utah, to investigate all matters and issues the Republicans have been demanding.

“Huber is a federal prosecutor with plenary powers to empanel grand juries, obtain indictments and secure results that make those of a Special Prosecutor pale by comparison,” he explained. “Sessions has further ordered Huber to work in coordination with DOJ Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz and his staff of 470 that dwarfs any of that of a Special Prosecutor.”

“Moreover, the fact that this [US Attorney] is based in Utah means that he’s far from the fetid swamp that is Washington DC. Far from a potential grand jury pool that is anti-Trump, anti-Sessions and (ahem) anti-justice. The move tactically was brilliant.”

As far as the investigation against Trump, which just entered its second year, “Mueller’s status is an unconstitutional hybrid that normally would require Senate confirmation,” the legal analyst explained via email.

“The good news (or bad news, depending on one’s vantage) is that with a Huber-Horowitz team in place, Mueller’s outgunned, outmatched and outmanned.” In short, with the Huber-Horowitz team in place in distant Utah, this means “checkmate” for team Trump, Lionel believes.

Whether or not that prediction comes true, it will be very interesting to see what move the Democrats and the Mueller investigation makes next, because the available spaces on this chessboard of extremely high stakes are diminishing at a breathtaking pace.

Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. Former Editor-in-Chief of The Moscow News, he is author of the book, ‘Midnight in the American Empire,’ released in 2013.

@Robert_Bridge

Read more:

Spygate: Trump slams ‘criminal deep state’ over reports of informants in campaign

‘Obama already did it to the French’: WikiLeaks weighs in on Trump’s ‘Spygate’ claims

May 24, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , | 1 Comment

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

By Ron Paul | May 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 21, 2018 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 5 Comments

Talk on “Extreme Weather and Extreme Politics”

By Roger Pielke jr. | The Climate Fix | May 1, 2018

Earlier this month I gave a talk at the University of Minnesota. It was my first public talk on climate since being “investigated” by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) in 2015.

It is also the first and only invitation I’ve received to give a public talk on climate at a US university since 2015.

Before that I received about 2-3 invitations per month.

Delegitimization works.

You can see my slides from Minnesota at:

Twitter

PDF

Much of what I presented (and more) will appear in the 2nd edition of Disasters and Climate Change.

Below I document a key episode in my own experience that I have never looked back on in detail. The timeline is of use to me, shared here for anyone else who might be interested.

A Look Back at the Holdren-Pielke Debate of 2014

  • One of the more bizarre experiences I’ve had in the climate debate was when President Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren, posted a weird, 6-page screed about me on the White House web site.
  • Here is a reconstruction of and look back at those events, and an evaluation how they look from vantage point of 2018.
  • This look back is mainly just for me, as when you are in the spin cycle it can be hard to see what has happened at the time.
  • The Holdren episode ultimately led to me being investigated by a member of Congress with a major impact on my life and career.
  • I’ve not taken a close look back at this episode, it’s time for me to document exactly what transpired. If you are not interested, this would be a good place to take the exit ramp.
  • In July 2013, I testified before the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on extreme events.
  • You can see my 5 minute statement below and read my full written testimony here in PDF. That testimony was widely discussed.
  • I followed that testimony up with similar testimony before the US House a few months later, in October 2013.
  • I wrote a blog post explaining that the science on these issues was solid. Even so I argued that “zombie science” (to the contrary) would always be with us.
  • On February 14, 2014, Holdren was quoted as saying: “We really understand a number of the reasons that global climate change is increasing the intensity and the frequency and the life of drought in drought-prone regions. This is one of the better-understood dimensions of the relationship between global climate change and extreme weather in particular regions. . . There are other, more subtle, ways climate change may be affecting the prevalence of drought; scientists are still arguing about those. The three I just described are more than enough to understand why we are seeing droughts in drought-prone regions becoming more frequent, more severe and longer.”
  • Two weeks later Dr. Holdren was asked about these statements by Senator Jeff Sessions before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the same committee that I had testified before the previous July.
  • The full exchange between Sessions and Holdren can be found here, but below are the key excerpts.
  • After some sparring on what Dr. Holdren said or didn’t say a few week previous, Senator Sessions said:
    • “Well, let me tell you what Dr. Pilkey (sic) said, who sat in that chair you are sitting in today just a few  months ago, he is a climate impact expert, and he agrees that  warming is partly caused by human emissions. But he testified “It is misleading and just plain incorrect to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or  droughts have increased on climate change time scales either in  the United States or globally.”
  • Holdren replied with a delegitmization effort, saying that I was
    • “not  representative of the mainstream scientific opinion on this  point. And again, I will be happy to submit for the record recent articles from Nature, Nature GeoScience, Nature Climate  Change, Science and others showing that in drought-prone regions droughts are becoming more intense.”
  • Of course, Holdren was incorrect.
  • My views are 100% consistent with those of the IPCC, the very definition of “mainstream scientific opinion.”
  • Holdren promised to submit scientific evidence for the hearing record in support of his views, Sessions said he looked forward to it.
  • Three days later Holdren’s missive about me was posted on the White House website, titled Drought and Global Climate Change: An Analysis of Statements by Roger Pielke Jr ” (here in PDF).
  • Holdren singled out just 2 statements that I had made in my testimony:
    • “It is misleading, and just plain incorrect, to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally.”
    • Drought has “for the most part, become shorter, less, frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U.S. over the last century”. Globally, “there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years.”
  • The quotes in blue above are from the US National Climate Assessment (former) and a Nature paper (latter) on global drought trends.
  • Holdren explained his objections:
    • “I replied that the indicated comments by Dr. Pielke … were not representative of mainstream views on this topic in the climate-science community; and I promised to provide for the record a more complete response with relevant scientific references. “
  • The slide below shows the entirety of my discussion of drought in my 2013 Senate testimony, which consisted only of quotes from the IPCC, the US CCSP and an image from the CCSP report.PielkeUMN04182018
  • Holdren did not mention hurricanes, floods or tornadoes in his 6 pages of response.
  • Holdren’s response blew up the internet (or at least the tiny part of it involving issues related to climate).
  • When the White House posts 6 pages about you, it gets noticed.
  • For my part, in response I wrote a blog response which you can read here.
  • In that post I noted:
    • “It is fine for experts to openly disagree. But when a political appointee uses his position not just to disagree on science or policy but to seek to delegitimize a colleague, he has gone too far.”
  • This was, as far as I am aware, the first time that a Science Advisor to the US President used his platform to seek to delegitimize an academic with whom he disagreed.
  • I am aware of no such comparable use of the authority and reach of the White House against a researcher.
  • The fact that I was singled out by the president’s science advisor was not reported on or commented on by the mainstream scientific media. Leading scientific organizations said nothing.
  • I found this pretty amazing, but c’est la vie.
  • If John Marburger, say, had gone after James Hansen, it’d have been a story.
  • I responded more forcefully in an article in The New Republic a few days later.
  • None of this mattered, I quickly learned that a lone academic is no match for the bully pulpit that is the White House and the powerful echo chamber of the online climate debate.
  • A few weeks later the campaign to have me removed as a writer for 538 was underway and 11 months later the investigation motivated by Rep. Raul Grijlava (D-AZ), which he indicated was the result of Holdren’s missive, was launched.
  • One of my close colleagues said to me at the time: “I’d love to come to your defense, but I don’t want them coming after me.”
  • Fair enough.
  • Let’s quickly take a look at the state of the science in 2018 on drought.
  • The 2017 US National Climate Assessment, prepared under the direction of John Holdren in the last months of the Obama Administration and released after Donald Trump became president concluded the following about drought:
    • “drought statistics over the entire CONUS have declined … no detectable change in meteorological drought at the global scale”
    • “Western North America was noted as a region where determining if observed recent droughts were unusual compared to natural variability was particularly difficult.”
  • Right.
  • It was an interesting experience.
  • I’m still here.

May 6, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

Ex-DNI Clapper leaked Steele dossier info to CNN, then tried to deny it in Congress – House report

RT | April 28, 2018

James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence-turned CNN pundit, first denied and then admitted to discussing the anti-Trump ‘Steele dossier’ with a CNN journalist while in office, an intelligence report reveals.

The 253-page US House Intelligence Committee report on the alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections outlines Clapper’s “inconsistent testimony to the Committee about his contacts to the media, including CNN.” Pages 107-108 feature the record of how Clapper “flatly denied” discussing the dossier compiled by Christopher Steele with the media during a congressional testimony in July, but then “subsequently acknowledged discussing the dossier with CNN journalist Jake Tapper.”

Tapper co-authored a breaking CNN report on a briefing that US President Donald Trump received from senior intelligence officials on a Steele Dossier.

The heavily-redacted House report notes that Clapper discussed the topic with Tapper around the same time that Trump and outgoing President Barack Obama received their respective briefings on the Steele dossier. The conversation took place in “early January,” which runs counter to Clapper’s own account of events, in which he previously insisted that he had not leaked any info to the media about the infamous dossier before he left office on January, 20.

The House report also says that the CNN article served as a trigger for all the subsequent dossier-related publications, becoming a “proximate cause of BuzzFeed News’ decision to publish the dossier for the first time just a few hours later.” The report notes that the dossier had long been circulating in the intelligence community and among the media, but only following the CNN release that cited “multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings” in its report, Pandora’s box was opened.

Ironically, a day after CNN published its report, which it now turns out could have been sourced by Clapper himself, the former DNI chief publicly denounced the leaks, voicing his “profound dismay,” and saying that he does not “believe the leaks came from within the IC [ intelligence community],” the report notes.

The Steele dossier features unverified, salacious details about Trump’s stay in Moscow, sparking speculations that Russia might be in possession of compromising material, which it could use to blackmail the US president.

Topping off the Clapper-CNN controversy is the fact that soon after leaving office, he was hired by none other than CNN as its national security analyst. The timing is mentioned specifically in the House report, which says Clapper started working for CNN “shortly after his testimony to the committee.”

This is not the first time that Clapper has been caught red-handed lying to lawmakers. Last month marked five years since he told the US Select Committee on Intelligence how the National Security Agency (NSA) was not collecting the data on millions of Americans. Three months later, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden uncovered a mass surveillance program that had been run by the agency for years.

April 28, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whether it’s Russiagate, Skripal or Syria, the Media Have Lost Their Grip on Reality

Despite a series of collapsing mainstream narratives, the establishment can’t help but doubling (and tripling) down on their official conspiracy theories.

By Paul Mansfield | 21st Century Wire | April 26, 2018

The “Blame Russia” for absolutely everything world we currently occupy has reached a point almost beyond return and is scaling heights that would turn Joseph McCarthy green with envy. Whether it is internally produced political turmoil and scandal, or because of generally reckless and failed foreign policy endeavours, the US and UK governments are more wiling than ever to pin the blame on Russia without fail.

The instant blame on Russia for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, or “highly likely it was Russia”, as Theresa May put it, proved grossly premature, graduating onto maybe not so likely at all – thanks to dedicated alt media and social media researchers and activists uncovering the development of Novichoks in multiple countries, making it entirely plausible that some country other than Russia may be responsible for the improbable Salisbury event.

No sooner did the Skripal Affair wind up, than another supposed ‘chemical attack’ unfolded, this time in Syria, where an alleged chemical weapons airstrike was said to have taken place in Douma on 7 April. Accounts of this incident were reliant entirely for its evidence on two dubious sources, the US and UK-backed White Helmets and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS). It didn’t take long before the official story started springing leaks though. The hilarity of seeing chlorine cylinders laying on a bed, rather than smashing through it, numerous witness statements there was no chemical attack, the testimony of over a dozen medical personnel at the medical centre concerned that the White Helmets caused a panic by shouting chemical attack when there was none and the interview of 11 year old Hassan Diab, who was not a chemical weapon victim, but certainly was a victim of an unwarranted drenching as part of a staged event, have all demolished yet another false flag instigated by western intelligence agencies and their White Helmets operatives. All this was irrelevant however to the criminal Troika, the US, UK and France, who bypassed the United Nations and bombed Syria in the early hours of 14 April, provoking Russia into an instant reaction which never came.

Some are of the opinion that the Troika and Russia reached an agreement beforehand and so therefore there was never the threat of outbreak of conflict which could escalate to a catastrophic WWIII.

Here is the White Helmets ‘hose-down’ video which triggered a western military intervention:

Faced with rapidly dwindling legitimacy and credibility, the UK government in particular set their attack dogs in the mainstream media on to alt media and social media activists. The result is a coordinated and intensive smear campaign against independent journalists, academics and social media activists with large followings. The gutter press of the UK have demonstrated that in terms of propaganda and disinformation, they are without peer. US media Russophobes almost look like babes in the woods in comparison.

What we are witnessing is a war on truth, vicious intimidation of dissenting voices, the negating of fierce independent voices as Russian puppets and bots and Assad apologists, and ad hominem attacks all designed to shut down a powerful narrative which shines a light on the warmongering narrative propagated by the mainstream media.

The campaign reached a level of absurdity beyond comprehension when Twitter activist @Ian56789 was asked by Sky News hosts if he was a bot as he was being interviewed live on air!

As disinformation against Russia soars off the fake news Richter Scale and independent journalists and activists are being personally targeted, one only has to revisit the recent Devon Nunes Memo story as an example of a real domestic US political scandal which the derelict US mainstream media attempted to transform into yet another Russian disinformation campaign.

You would have to be living under a rock to not know of the salacious, but unverified dossier on US President Donald Trump, which purportedly started out as a piece of opposition research during the 2016 election campaign, but quickly became the driving force behind allegations that Trump colluded with the Russian government in order to win the presidential election. In the mind of many a deep state adoring Democrat and mainstream media journalist, it is beyond dispute that Trump colluded with Russia. The major questions are how extensive the collusion was and does it amount to having committed federal crimes. To answer these questions, the Mueller investigation must continue expanding as far and wide as necessary.

Many Republicans believe the widely ridiculed and discredited dossier prepared by a former British spy, Christopher Steele, was the catalyst for the FBI decision to investigate allegations of Trump campaign collusion with Russia. A mocked and debunked dossier, which looked like it was concocted in a teenagers bedroom bought down on CNN and Buzzfeed a truck load of embarrassment when they decided to run with a story other media outlets balked at.

So how did it transform into such a vital document that initiated the Mueller probe into suspected Trump collusion with Russia?

We have had the mainstream media pumping this story 24/7. They will not let it go, determined that it bring about the downfall of Donald Trump. By gleefully accepting any lead from their highly coveted ‘sources’, the MSM begs to be subverted by the intelligence community, thereby subverting any prospect of a properly functioning US democracy and informed citizenry.

However, the revelations of #ReleaseTheMemo which alleged shocking FISA abuses by the FBI has raised the spectre of another alleged collusion; the FBI and the Obama DOJ colluding against Trump. The major accusation is that the FBI hid from the FISA court judge the fact that it was heavily relying on the dodgy Trump Dossier to obtain a surveillance warrant to spy on Trump, the man who was to become the future President. What is even more explosive is that it was not revealed to the judge that the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign paid for the dossier. Dirty partisan politics has gone a step too far in this sordid affair, with the DNC and FBI duping the FISA court into unwittingly assisting them in their campaign against Trump.

And let’s be clear here; this is the work of the Obama administration and any rigorous investigation would pursue whether or not the collusion against Trump went all the way to former president Obama himself.

Republicans were outraged and demanded the release of the memo.

This is hardly a surprise, being shocked and alarmed at possible internal interference in the election by US intelligence agencies, the very agencies that told us it was Russia that undermined US democracy by its electoral interference.

It is crucial to grasp the fact that this affair is a case of internal interference in the election campaign and has generated intense reaction within the US political establishment and among many in the general public.

One may question then the spin the Hamilton 68 propaganda organ placed on the interest whipped up by the memo. It attempted to reframe calls to release the memo as yet another so-called Russian influence operation, using trolls and bots to amplify the message across cyberspace.

Hamilton 68, a banal and comical operation, is projecting on to Russia the very thing it is doing itself; spreading disinformation aimed at undermining and destabilizing Russia, but also the US political system. On the strength of CNN’s dumpster diving, Hamilton 68 likes to tell us all about how the cryptic ‘Internet Research Agency’ in St. Petersburg is one big giant troll factory. Sorry, Hamilton 68, but you are one big NATO/Deep state cyberspace troll factory yourselves.

The Democratic Party Russophobia icons, Dianne Feinstein and Adam Schiff, quickly took the opportunity to deflect from the emerging memo scandal, pulling out the playbook of Russian subversion through social media for the umpteenth time. Quite comfortable with the fact that they have secured the social media giants as appendages of the US deep state, Feinstein and Schiff wrote to Twitter and Facebook asking them to investigate what they claimed are Russian bots spreading the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag. The letter reads in part:

“… Several Twitter hashtags, including #ReleaseTheMemo, calling for release of these talking points attacking the Mueller investigation were born in the hours after the Committee vote. According to the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, this effort gained the immediate attention and assistance of social media accounts linked to Russian influence operations. By Friday, January 19, 2018, the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag was “the top trending hashtag among Twitter accounts believed to be operated by Kremlin-linked groups.” Its use had “increased by 286,700 percent” and was being used “100 times more than any other hashtag” by accounts linked to Russian influence campaigns. These accounts are also promoting an offer by WikiLeaks to pay up to $1 million to anyone who leaks this classified partisan memo.

If these reports are accurate, we are witnessing an ongoing attack by the Russian government through Kremlin-linked social media actors…”

Nice sleight of hand Hamilton 68, Schiff and Feinstein, but this is a scandal that whipped Republicans, not Russians into a frenzy. It is a stand-alone scandal that raised questions about the ethics, partiality and possible illegal acts of the US intelligence community and the Obama DOJ. It does not need any Russian trolls to inflate the gravity of the situation.

Florida Republican Rep. Ron Desantis tweeted, “Yesterday, I viewed a deeply troubling report compiled by House Intelligence that raises questions about Obama DOJ & the so-called collusion investigation.”

Desantis said it right there: collusion between the Obama DOJ and the FBI. If true, it is a shocking indictment on deep state interference in US politics, going all the way to the top in attempting to subvert the US presidential election.

So we have at least 2 allegations of collusion; the longstanding and tiresome Russiagate story, which the mainstream media will not give a moments rest and the newer, but equally shocking FBI/DOJ collusion emerging from the woodworks with the news of the classified memo.

You can read and watch RussiaGate stories in both US/Western MSM and Russian media. Fair enough, it was a big story, newsworthy and deeply concerning if it was true (the US media has overplayed their hand though to put it mildly). As time goes on and without a shred of evidence produced, it is time to put the whole issue to bed and move on. It is only the absurdity of the MSM insistence that collusion has been proved beyond doubt and any who question it are conspiracy theorists, that maintains the interest of the reasonable person, even if only to mock media figures and politicians who are the true conspiracy theorists.

The calls to release the Devon Nunes compiled memo also attracted huge coverage in both US and Russian media. However, US media framed it in terms of a partisan struggle between Democrats and Republicans; detracting from the implications of the abuse of the FISA system and placing the scandal into the realm of normal everyday, if somewhat dirty party politics.

There is nothing everyday about the possibility that this whole Russia investigation is in reality a conspiracy by top FBI officials and the DOJ to sabotage Trump and install Hillary Clinton (remember her?) as president. Look at Peter Strzok and Lisa Page as examples, whose texts made no secret of their contempt for Trump and their desire to see him lose the election.

So why did CNN, the New York Times and the supposedly reputable Business Insider deem it newsworthy to claim Russian influence networks were spreading the release the memo hashtag like wildfire across the social media landscape. Business Insider even implied the Nunes memo has been given wings by being amplified by Russian trolls and bots across the social media landscape.

The compiling of the memo by Republican aides on the House Intelligence Committee that led to the unfolding scandal was not initiated by Russia. The angry calls for action came from Republicans, not Russians.

We can’t even be sure if these so-called Russian networks of trolls are Russian at all. But let’s assume for a minute they are. Big deal if they spread the story. It is fascinating, very interesting and could have huge consequences of DOJ and FBI heads rolling. It also serves to relieve some of the pressure on Russia, so why wouldn’t they promote it heavily. They are merely acting in the interests of Russia, which no reasonable person could complain about.

Many people believe Americans are simply apathetic victims and that these supposed Russian trolls or bots are drowning them in disinformation, and that western media figures and politicians are powerless to stop it. That’s the mainstream’s moderate narrative. However, a look at the number of followers of some US media celebrities on Twitter should dispel that misinformation in a heartbeat. Rachel Maddow, with 9 million followers, retweeted a tweet by NBC reporter Ken Dilanian, a tweet which itself got 6K retweets and 19K likes. His tweet, included, “your #ReleaseTheMemo is the top trending hashtag among the Russian bots and trolls over the last 48 hours, and you might want to ask yourself why.”

So a media figure from NBC is clearly muddying the waters, throwing us a red herring in implying the nefarious hand of Russia is at play. Maddow gave Dilanian huge impetus in his attempt to try to flip the story to turn it into yet another opportunity to attack Russia. Deeply troubling allegations which could rock the foundations of the intelligence and justice communities are made a mockery of by a disreputable journalist who sees it as another chance to Russia bait. Before you know it, they will be telling us the #Memo was a joint venture put together by the FSB and Republicans, thus proving the collusion is still going as strong as ever. This level of hysteria is way beyond Cold War McCarthyism.

And when Rachel Maddow retweets something, how many likes and retweets does that generate. Enough to turn the Russian bots and trolls green (or should that be red) with envy.

Maddow herself is capitalizing very nicely on the Russophobia being generated by the whole Russiagate affair to boost her own ratings and affection within the political establishment. She has not got a single progressive bone in her body and epitomizes the dumbed down, hyped up claims about Russian interference in American political and social life. The spectacle is the theatre of the absurd, as Americans are subjected to Hollywood type entertainment to titillate and shock with the never ending “revelations” which roll out like clockwork. And, true to Hollywood style fiction, the more outrageous and sensational the better.

This is why Maddow is able to get away with calling Jill Stein a Kremlin puppet, and to feign seriousness and solemnity as she continues to call Trump a Putin puppet, putty in his hands, even as Trump has clearly embarked on a path which has plummeted US/Russian relations to their lowest point since the darkest days of the Cold War.

Maddow uses a technique for these claims which may enthrall Never-Trumpers and fill Le Resistance with fear, but it is straight from the neocon playbook. It is that any sign of Trump not being totally committed to overt and outright hostility to Russia proves that he is a Russian puppet. He must adopt the neocon attitude of Russia being the eternal enemy, the biggest threat the US faces and that it must be confronted and made to pay a price for its aggression, expansionist ambitions and meddling in US affairs.

Putin has Trump in a vice like grip with the “compromat” on him, using it to blackmail him in to doing Russia’s bidding according to Maddow. Putin is forcing Trump to declare war on the intelligence community, fomenting chaos in a crowning glory of undermining US national security. How better to leave the US vulnerable to the rapacious desires of Russia than by shattering the institutions of US national security.

Maddow believes Putin blackmailed Trump with the Golden showers tape to hire Paul Manafort as his campaign manager, to hire Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, and to pressure him to withdraw US forces in Eastern Europe and the Baltics, (which hasn’t happened).

“Is the new President gonna take those troops out? After all the speculation, after all the worry, we are actually about to find out if Russia maybe has something on the new President? We’re about to find out if the new President of our country is going to do what Russia wants once he’s Commander-in-Chief of the US military starting noon on Friday. What is he gonna do with those deployments? Watch this space.”

In Maddows demented mind, anything less than the Trump administration universally standing poised to unsheathe their swords and land a mortal blow on Russia is proof of collusion with the Kremlin. Any conciliatory overtures are met by howls of derision by the Maddow/Hillary Clinton led “resistance.” Amid this red hot rhetoric and witch hunt for internal traitors, Maddow and her ilk are the ones to claim it is Russia sowing discord and discontent.

“This is international warfare against our country,” Maddow said on her show.

Maddow says she goes to bed every night wondering what new Russia scandal awaits the country the next morning, propelling the Russia hysteria all the way to election 2020 and bankrolling her show and career almost exclusively on one issue threadbare of any evidence. The McCarthy of the modern mainstream media some say. It’s Clickbait applied to cable TV you could also say:

“If the presidency is effectively a Russian op, if the American presidency right now is the product of collusion between the Russian intelligence services and an American campaign — I mean, that is so profoundly big, we not only need to stay focused on figuring it out. We need to start preparing for what the consequences are going to be if it proves to be true.”

‘If it proves to be true.’  That’s right, and we’re still waiting for the evidence.

Maddow and her fellow military industrial complex media mouthpieces don’t need evidence to believe Russia interfered in the election, as she spreads her poison to millions of viewers night after night. She sees Vladimir Putin as pure evil, the embodiment of the terrifying KGB and tells her viewers this repeatedly. She has become the torchbearer for an ever wilder conspiracy theory, whipping her audience into a frenzy, baying for Russian blood.

It is extraordinary that anyone listens to a word Maddow says after she produced her only evidence on Trump; his tax return which revealed he paid $38million in federal taxes on more than $150 million in income in 2005. Bombing out big time on alleged Trump tax cheating has clearly not stopped Maddow proceeding full steam ahead in accusing him of being a Kremlin installed puppet.

So who is running an influence campaign here, Moscow, or the US military industrial complex media?

What is never discussed outside of alt-media circles is how far were the FBI, the DOJ, and the Hillary Clinton campaign involved in what is increasingly looking every day more like FBIgate than Russiagate? What about the roles of powerful deep state actors like John Brennan and James Clapper, who are bound to have played a hand in concocting and promoting the official conspiracy theory? Clapper, who thinks it is in Russian DNA to hack things and Brennan who sees Russia as a long term threat intent on attacking US democracy, sternly warning the incoming President Trump not to ignore the huge threat Russia poses.

What was also not overtly acknowledged is that by pressuring for the release of the memo, Devon Nunes and other Republicans actually carried out a duty they were elected to perform; holding the intelligence community accountable. As former CIA analyst Ray McGovern of Consortium News said:

At this point, the $64 question is whether the various congressional oversight committees will remain ensconced in their customarily cozy role as “overlook” committees, or whether they will have the courage to attempt to carry out their Constitutional duty. The latter course would mean confronting a powerful Deep State and its large toolbox of well-practiced retaliatory techniques, including J. Edgar Hoover-style blackmail on steroids, enabled by electronic surveillance of just about everything and everyone. Yes, today’s technology permits blanket collection, and “Collect Everything” has become the motto.

The take-away from all of this is that no sin is too great, and no scandal can’t be flipped to pin the blame on Russia.

Meanwhile, any criminal or unethical conduct of Democrats and deep staters will not be plastered across the newspapers and cyberspace.

Don’t worry about it. Just say its Russian disinformation. Works every time.

April 26, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , | Leave a comment