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Why the US Puppet President of Venezuela is Toast

Photograph Source: The White House – Public Domain
By Roger Harris | CounterPunch | July 5, 2019

Even the corporate media are losing enthusiasm for the US government’s ploy to replace the democratically elected President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela with the US-anointed security asset Juan Guaidó. Reuters reports in a July 1 article, “Disappointed Venezuelans lose patience with Guaidó as Maduro hangs on,” that the US-backed “military uprising” has “unraveled.” A critical reading of the article explains why.

Reuters correctly notes that “the 35-year old (Guaidó) had risen to prominence three months before,” though a little more background information would have been helpful. For instance, Guaidó was unknown to 81% of Venezuelans a little more than a week before he got a telephone call from US Vice President Pence telling him to declare himself interim president of Venezuela, which Guaidó dutifully did the following morning at a street rally flanked with US and Israeli flags. A member of a marginal far-right Venezuelan political party, Guaidó was not even in the top leadership of his own grouplet.

For background, Reuters tells the reader that President Maduro “took office in 2013 following the death of his political mentor, Hugo Chávez,” but fails to mention that Maduro took office via a democratic national election. Guaidó has never stood in a national election. He was elected to the National Assembly but became head of that body through a mechanism where the political parties in the legislature rotate which party’s representative occupies the office.

Reuters continues that after Maduro took office, he “has overseen an economic collapse that has left swaths of the once-wealthy country without reliable access to power, water, food, and medicines.” Not mentioned by Reuters is the economic war being waged against Venezuela by the US and its allies that has employed unilateral coercive measures – sanctions – responsible for taking the lives of some 40,000 people.

This illegal collective punishment of the Venezuelan people by the US government has diverted legitimate funds of the Venezuelan government. Reuters obliquely mentions “Guaidó has gained control of some of the Venezuelan assets in the United States.” In fact, the US government seized those assets, which would have gone to preventing the “economic collapse” that Reuters supposedly laments.

Reuters reports: “The opposition’s momentum has slowed since the April 30 uprising. Attendance at Guaidó’s public rallies has dropped and the opposition has held no major protests since then.” Reuters hints why Guaidó’s fortunes are eclipsing: “the opposition says it is…seeking to build a grassroots organization.” That is, the US surrogate does not have a meaningful grassroots presence.

This is further confirmed by Reuters’ admission that Guaidó’s organization is now “focused on expanding a network of Help and Freedom Committees…to organize at the local level – something the ruling Socialist Party has done successfully.” Reuters continues, “so far the committees have gotten little traction.” That is, Guaidó lacks significant organized popular support outside of Washington and its allies.

Guaidó visited Washington shortly before his self-appointment and subsequently toured a number of Latin American countries but has “only traveled to 11 of Venezuela’s 23 states,” according to Reuters. Guaidó’s handlers have directed him to “travel to at least five more this month to motivate his supporters.”

Recent polls cited by Reuters show support for Guaidó is falling. Reuters quotes a paid political consultant for Guaidó: “We can expect Guaidó’s popularity to continue to erode the longer he is not exercising power.”

President Maduro, according to Reuters, had waged a “crackdown on the opposition.” That is, the Venezuelan government has defended itself against US-backed assets who have actively engaged in attempts to violently overthrow the democratically elected government and assassinate key government and social movement leaders.

In the alternative universe of corporate media, which ignores the economic war being waged against Venezuela, Reuters bemoans that the “crackdown” on Guaidó’s agents has failed to receive “significant retaliation from the international community.” In reality, Venezuela has massively suffered from the US-orchestrated punishments for resisting reverting to the status of a client state.

While not consulting anyone associated with the elected government of Venezuela, Reuters gives full voice to an anonymous “US administration” official as is the practice of the corporate media. The US official states: “The United States continues to execute the president’s strategy of maximum pressure to achieve a peaceful transition to democracy in Venezuela.” Not mentioned is that the “military option” is a prominent part of the “peaceful transition”; deposing a democratically elected president is part of the “transition to democracy”; and “maximum pressure” is preventing vital foods and medicines from reaching Venezuela.

The anonymous US government official further claims, “Only Maduro wishes for the US to give up now.” Reuters does not question how incredibly circumscribed is the universe occupied by that official, which renders invisible the two-decade-old Bolivarian grassroots movement in Venezuela in support of their elected government and its international allies. The Venezuelans most adversely hurt by the US sanctions are those most militantly in support of their government.

Nor does Reuters question why in the US, with the conceit of a supposedly free press, the government is allowed to hide behind a cloak of anonymity. Reuters cites the names of a Venezuelan taxi driver, doctor, former police student, and teacher to give a patina of authenticity to the article but can’t name an official US government functionary who is quoted authoritatively.

Reuters reports Guaidó’s supporters “have demanded that Guaidó shift strategy and request a US-led military intervention.” So much for democracy! “We can’t get rid of Maduro with votes. It will have to be a violent exit.” Meanwhile, the polling firm Datanalisis, according to Reuters, tells us that less than 10% of Venezuelans support such an action.

In short, a critical reading between the lines of the Reuters article confirms that Washington has failed to cobble together a united opposition in Venezuela that is popular enough to win in the polls, so the alternative is violent regime-change supposedly in the name of “democracy.” The lesson that the Venezuelans themselves are the best agents of history to address their own destiny has yet to be learned by the world’s hegemon and its media apologists.

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Roger Harris is on the board of the Task Force on the Americas, a 32-year-old anti-imperialist human rights organization.

July 5, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 2 Comments

NewsGuard: A Neoconservative Contrivance Which Promotes an Establishment View

By Philip Giraldi | American Herald Tribune | January 28, 2019

There’s a new thought policeman in town. He calls himself NewsGuard and he promises to restore “Trust and Accountability” to what one reads online. His website elaborates that “NewsGuard uses journalism to fight false news, misinformation, and disinformation. Our trained analysts, who are experienced journalists, research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism—and which are not… Our Green-Red ratings signal if a website is trying to get it right or instead has a hidden agenda or knowingly publishes falsehoods or propaganda.”

One might well stop reading immediately after running into “our trained analysts” with all that implies, but that would deny the greater pleasure derived from considering news-sites that have “… a hidden agenda or knowingly [publish] falsehoods or propaganda.” Excuse me, but hidden agendas, lies and propaganda are what the mainstream media is all about, note particularly the recent feeding frenzy over the Covington school incident at the Lincoln Memorial. Catholic racist white boys vs. elderly Native American war hero was how the story was framed all over the mainstream media before it became clear that the entire chosen narrative was upside down. Only a couple of news outlets bothered to apologize when the truth became known.

NewsGuard claims to have a staff of 50 that evaluates 2,000 websites in something like real time. How exactly it does that is not clear, but The New York Times repeats company claims that “the sites it rates account for 96% of online news and information engagement in the U.S.” NewsGuard also told The Times that it intends to quadruple its vetting of sites and seeks to make its coverage “ubiquitous.”

Make no mistake, NewsGuard is a neoconservative contrivance which promotes an establishment view of what is true and what is false. Its co-founder Gordon Crovitz is an ex-editor of The Wall Street Journal, who has enthused over the project, saying that it is “a milestone in the fight to bring consumers the information they need to counter false information, misinformation and disinformation online.” Crovitz has also been associated with the leading neocon foundation The American Enterprise Institute while the NewsGuard advisory board includes Tom Ridge, who was head of the Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush, and Michael Hayden, who directed both the CIA and NSA. It is as government-establishment in orientation as it is possible to be.

In a sense seeking to establish “accuracy” in news reporting is nothing new as the social media, to include Facebook and Twitter, have had that objective for some time, but NewsGuard defines itself as having as its target the screening of the entire media in a politically impartial fashion, as “an information resource.” And the real danger is that it will soon be appearing on your computer or phone whether you want it there or not. It is already installed on local library computers in Hawaii and Ohio and is working with university and even high school libraries to include its software on all public computers. Worse still, NewsGuard is in partnership with Microsoft as part of the latter’s Defending Democracy Program. Microsoft currently has NewsGuard on its Edge browser and it intends to install the tool on its Microsoft 10 operating system as a built-in feature. Microsoft 10 is the standard operating system on nearly all computers sold in the United States.

When you go to a news site NewsGuard has a little shield that pops up in the corner of your screen that will tell you whether that site is a reliable source or not. A green tag displays for approved and red for not compliant. Similarly, if you do a search the responses that come up will feature a green or red shield as part of the results. The site for NBC news shows green, approved, with the heading “this website generally maintains basic standards of accuracy and accountability.” It then uses what it calls a “nutrition label” to break down the nine specific areas that were assessed, each of which also receives and individual green check for NBC. Under “Credibility” appears “Does not repeatedly publish false content; Gathers and presents information responsibly; Regularly corrects or clarifies errors; Handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly; and Avoids deceptive headlines.” Under “Accountability” appears “Website discloses ownership and financing; Clearly labels advertising; Reveals who’s in charge including any possible conflict of interest; and The site provides names of any content creators along with either contact or biographical information.”

The first thing one might observe about the system is that it is designed to favor large, well-funded establishment news sources that are staffed to go through the motions of fact checks and corrections. All of the major news networks are approved, including Fox, MSNBC and CNN, all of which editorialize heavily, almost constantly, in their news coverage. Voice of America, which is a U.S. government propaganda instrument by design, also is approved. NewsGuard also has approved all major newspapers to include The New York Times, which frequently gets the story wrong, and The Washington Post, where news stories are nearly indistinguishable from editorials through the use of evocative headlines and slanted narrative. All the U.S. media currently lead off, for example, with stories about Russia that include the assertion that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election, a claim that has yet to be confirmed through actual evidence.

Russian media operating in the U.S. including RT America and Sputnik get red ratings with a warning “Proceed with caution: this website fails to basic standards of accuracy and accountability.” RT is apparently guilty of “repeatedly publishing false content,” “not gather[ing] and publish[ing] information responsibly,” “not handl[ing] the difference between news and opinion responsibly” and “not provid[ing] the names of creators.” Al-Jazeera, another news service that often criticizes the United States and its governmental policies also is rated red, suggesting that the true criterion for rejection by NewsGuard is one’s relationship to the official establishment and globalist/interventionist line being promoted by the United States.

A glaring example of NewsGuard’s political bias relates to BuzzFeed, which is an approved site. The Washington Post reported recently how a BuzzFeed story about Michael Cohen and President Trump claimed that the president had directed his lawyer to lie to Congress regarding a proposed office tower project in Moscow, which would have been both a crime and impeachable. A day later Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office intervened and described the story as untrue. The New York Times ran the first story on page one but the retraction that followed appeared on page 11.

And it was not the first major bit of fake news for BuzzFeed. The same two journalists had previously reported that Russia had financed the 2016 election.

CNN, another NewsGuard green authority, inevitably bemoaned possible consequences arising from the Cohen-Trump story by complaining that it would be used to justify “bad stereotypes about the news media,” had its own Russiagate misstep when it falsely claimed that Donald Trump Jr had had access to WikiLeaks’ DNC emails before their 2016 publication.

The BBC, yet another reliable source approved by NewsGuard, reported back in September that the U.S. government had evidence that the Syrian “regime” was continuing to develop chemical weapons. It added an assessment from the completely befuddled U.S. envoy for Syria James Jeffrey that “President Assad had ‘no future as a ruler’ in Syria… Right now [the Syrian government] is a cadaver sitting in rubble with just half the territory of Syria under regime control on a good day.”

The fact is that Jeffrey was completely wrong about developments in Syria, where the government had been extremely successful in re-asserting control over nearly all of the country, while the claims of chemical weapons use have been rebutted many times, including by actual witnesses and journalists on the ground during the alleged attack at Douma in April.

Reuters news agency, yet another NewsGuard green light, is also into the game. In November 2013 it published an article, part of a series, entitled “Khamenei controls massive financial empire based on property seizures,” which claimed that an Iranian government charitable foundation called Setad (also known as EIKO) actually exists to take control of property for the use of the government’s religious leadership.

A subsequent news report that appeared in January in the alternative media revealed that the investigative journalists who wrote the story did so from Dubai, London and New York and never visited the properties they identified, in most cases completely misrepresenting what could be seen on the ground.

Robert Fontina at Counterpunch has also rejected the depiction of Setad as anything but a charitable foundation. The truth is that Setad engages in major social projects, including rural poverty alleviation, empowering women, home and school building, and provision of healthcare. Fontina observes that American sanctions against it and similar entities hit ordinary Iranians’ lives by producing food insecurity while also restricting the supplies of needed medications. Ahmad Noroozi of the Barakat Foundation claims that numerous Iranians have already been affected by U.S.-initiated sanctions directed against his country, restricting access to cancer treatments and other pharmaceuticals.

So who gets the endorsement from NewsGuard? Those who toe the line on U.S. policy and the establishment globalist/interventionist agenda. It would be interesting to know what NewsGuard’s staff of analysts is really looking for when it researches a site or media outlet. As the examples cited above demonstrate, NewsGuard has nothing to do with taking pains to report the news accurately, nor is there any evidence of real accountability. It is all about who pays the bills and who is in charge. They give the orders and one either falls in line or goes out the door. That is the reality of today’s mainstream media.

Philip M. Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain.

January 28, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

By Ivan KESIĆ | Strategic Culture Foundation | 09.01.2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The speech applauded by Iran hawks in Washington.

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

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

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

Baha’i personal testimonies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal and human rights “experts”

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

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

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

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

Political circles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agenda unveiled

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

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

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

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

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

A Reuters Report on Iran That Fueled US Diatribes

By Ivan Kesic | Consortium News | December 27, 2018

When U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave speeches about mega corruption in Iran this year, he did not cite a Reuters’ 2013 article or give credit to its three reporters; Steve Stecklow, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Yeganeh Torbati.

Instead he presented it as the kind of specialized knowledge that only a high-ranking official such as himself might be in a position to reveal. “Not many people know this,” Pompeo told an audience gathered last July at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley, California, “but the Ayatollah Khamenei has his own personal, off-the-books hedge fund called the Setad, worth $95 billion, with a B.” Pompeo went on to tell his audience that Khamenei’s wealth via Setad was untaxed, ill-gotten, and used as a “slush fund” for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

But a comparison between the 5-year-old Reuters article and Pompeo’s speech, which was lauded by The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board as “truth telling,” shows a type of symbiosis that could only help cast a backward glow over President Donald Trump’s move, last summer, to reimpose all sanctions lifted by the Obama’s administration’s historic nuclear deal with Iran.

The imprint of the Reuters article on Pompeo’s speech was obvious in an anecdote about the travails of an elderly woman living in Europe. “The ayatollah fills his coffers by devouring whatever he wants,” Pompeo said. “In 2013 the Setad’s agents banished an 82-year-old Baha’i woman from her apartment and confiscated the property after a long campaign of harassment. Seizing land from religious minorities and political rivals is just another day at the office for this juggernaut that has interests in everything from real estate to telecoms to ostrich farming.”

The 82-year-old Baha’i woman living in Europe clearly matches Pari Vahdat-e-Hagh, a woman the Reuters team put at the very start of their extensive, three-part investigation. Here’s how the Reuters article begins: “The 82-year-old Iranian woman keeps the documents that upended her life in an old suitcase near her bed. She removes them carefully and peers at the tiny Persian script.”

While tapping the human-interest aspects of the story, Pompeo’s speech steered clear of some of the qualifications that the Reuters reporters and editors injected into their general profile of corruption. Pompeo referred to Khamenei using Setad as a “personal hedge fund,” for instance, suggesting personal decadence on the part of the Iranian leader. But the Reuters team was careful to note that it had found no evidence of Khamenei putting the assets to personal use. “Instead, Setad’s holdings underpin his power over Iran.”

While stipulating that Khamenei’s greed was not for money but for power, the Reuters team neglected something of timely and possibly greater relevance. Earlier that same year the U.S. admitted its own longstanding greed for power over this foreign country.

Final CIA Admission

In August 2013—three months before the Reuter’s article was published—the CIA finally admitted its role in the 1953 Iranian coup. “Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the National Security Archive is today posting recently declassified CIA documents on the United States’ role in the controversial operation. American and British involvement in Mosaddeq’s ouster has long been public knowledge, but today’s posting includes what is believed to be the CIA’s first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup,” the archive said.

This U.S. aggression led directly to two phases of property confiscation in Iran: first under the Shah and then under the religious fundamentalists who overthrew him. Unaccountably, however, the Reuters team ignored the CIA admission so relevant to their story.

To its credit, the Reuters article does allude, early on, to the two inter-related periods of property confiscation in Iran. “How Setad came into those assets also mirrors how the deposed monarchy obtained much of its fortune – by confiscating real estate,” the article says. But that sentence only functions as a muffled disclaimer since the team makes no effort to integrate that history into the laments of people such as Pari Vahdat-e-Hagh, who emotionally drives the story.

Dubious Figure

For anyone familiar with the history of property confiscations in Iran, this ex-pat widow is a dubious figure. In the article, she claims that she lost three apartments in a multi-story building in Tehran, “built with the blood of herself and her husband.” She also says her late husband Hussein was imprisoned in 1981 because he began working for a gas company that had been set up to assist unemployed members of the Baha’i faith, and finally executed a year later.

The suggestion is that he was killed as part of a widespread persecution of Bahai’i followers.

What the Reuters reporters and editors omitted to mention, however, is that Hussein had been a  lieutenant in the military regime of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi; the last shah of Iran who was overthrown by the uprising of 1979.

The Shah’s name has become so intertwined with UK and U.S. meddling in Iran that his role in setting a pro-western foreign policy is mentioned in the opening sentence of the Encyclopedia Brittanica entry on him. But the Reuters article places this mention at the end of the story, as deep background. By the time the team discloses the Shah’s penchant for confiscating property and flagrant corruption, the reader is in the third section of a three-part article. By that time, the elderly Vahdat-e-Hagh has come and gone. By then, she has cemented herself in the reader’s imagination as an unequivocal victim, even though some obvious questions about her should occur to anyone familiar with the country’s history.

How, for instance, did she and her husband come to own such significant property at the center of Iran’s capital city? Under the Pahlavi regime, most military personnel were provided with one apartment, not three. In the article, Vahdat-e-Hagh says that she and her husband obtained the property themselves, so presumably they did not inherit it. Could her late husband, Hussein, have been of high importance to the Shah’s U.S.-backed regime, which was famous for its lavish handouts to special loyalists?

Such questions float over the article, not only about this particular subject, but many others who are presented to dramatize the ayatollah’s misdeeds. Several sources appear as human rights “experts” and lawyers. They are all Iranians living abroad and many have controversial biographical details that go unmentioned. There are similar well-known credibility issues with people who are introduced as respectable scholars and politicians.

The article offers the story of another aggrieved Baha’i family without ever mentioning how such people, in general, had lost property during the Shah’s White Revolution of 1963 which was intended to weaken those classes that supported the traditional system, primarily landed elites.

One obvious problem with the article is the distance of the three Reuters journalists from the scene of their story. They are based in New York, London and Dubai and do not reveal their information-gathering methods about Iran, a country that admits very few foreign reporters. So far, Yeganeh Torbati, the reporter who presumably wrote the first, human-interest part of the story, has not responded to a message to her Facebook account seeking comment. Nor has she responded to an email. Torbati, now based in Washington, was based in Dubai in 2013.

Story with Long Legs  

In the years since its publication, the Reuters article has been bubbling up in book citations. Suzanne Maloney mentioned it in her 2015 book “Iran’s Political Economy since the Revolution” as did Misagh Parsa in “Democracy in Iran: Why It Failed and How It Might Succeed” published in 2016.

This year Pompeo relied on it in four speeches. Two books published in 2018 place some weight on the Reuters article: “Challenging Theocracy: Ancient Lessons for Global Politics” by David Tabachnick, Toivo Koivukoski and Herminio Meireles Teixeira; and “Losing Legitimacy: The End of Khomeini’s Charismatic Shadow and Regional Security” by Clifton W. Sherrill.

The name Setad, which means “headquarters” in Farsi, has been kicking around Washington for five years, ever since the U.S. imposed sanctions on the group. In June of 2013, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a press release about Setad and its subsidiaries, with a long list of Persian-named properties that were managing to avoid UN sanctions imposed on the country’s business dealings as a means of discouraging Iran’s enrichment of nuclear-weapon grade uranium.

Six months later, in November, Reuters published its extensive, three-part investigative package, which now tops Google searches for “Setad.”

The report was the first piece of important follow-up journalism on the U.S. Treasury press release. But in one key piece of wording, editors and reporters almost seem to be straining to move their story ahead of the government’s rendition, to the primary position it now holds in Google search-terms.

“Washington,” according to the article, “had acknowledged Setad’s importance.” Acknowledged? By journalistic conventions that Reuters editors would certainly know, an acknowledgement indicates a reluctant admission, something a source would rather not reveal. Five months earlier, however, the Treasury Department sounded eager to call attention to Setad as “a massive network of front companies hiding assets on behalf of … Iran’s leadership.”

For hardliners on Iran, the U.S. Treasury press release was important fodder. But it lacked the human drama necessary to stir an audience against the current regime.  When the Reuters article came along, with all its historical omissions, it filled that gap.

December 28, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What missile exactly? Reuters misses the target as it spreads fear on Iran expanding missile range

RT | December 5, 2018

All is fair in love and war, or when you want to do a little scaremongering. Reuters sounded the alarm on Iran’s efforts to boost the range of its missiles, while completely missing what missiles they were.

The story ran by the news agency on Wednesday cited Iran’s Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh as saying: “One of our most important programs is increasing the range of missiles and ammunition,” and “We don’t see any limitations for ourselves in this field.”

Sounds scary? Sure, because, Reuters added, the Iranian military say the range of their missiles is 2,000km and it is enough to target “US bases in Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, plus US aircraft carriers in the Gulf.” It’s so scary that the US deemed it a good reason to pull out of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.

The only problem with this leap of logic is that General Nasirzadeh leads Iran’s Air Force (which Reuters did mention) and that he was speaking about Iranian air-to-air missiles (which Reuters omitted). Air-to-air missiles are fired by aircraft and hit aircraft, not “bases in Afghanistan and aircraft carriers in the Gulf.”

And it just so happens that Iran’s Air Force is not the scariest part of its military. It mostly consists of US-made aircraft, which the country received back when it was led by Washington’s buddy, the Shah. This year’s big achievement for the military arm is that now Iran is mass producing the Fakour-90 long-range air-to-air missile.

It’s a clone of the American AIM-54 Phoenix, can be fired from Iran’s American F-14 Tomcats and has a whopping reported operational range of 150km, compared to 190km of the original, which was retired along with its platform more than a decade ago.

Iran’s Fars news agency, the source of the quotes from General Nasirzadeh, cites him this way.

“Today, we are after increasing the range of our air-to-air missiles. Therefore, one of our most important plans is increasing the range of missiles and ammunition. We are after Beyond-Visual-Range (BVR) missiles and ammunition and consider no limitations in this regard for ourselves because the Air Force should heighten the country’s deterrence power along with other (Armed) Forces.”

Sure, Iran does develop ballistic missiles too and seeks to improve their range. But General Nasirzadeh’s statements are irrelevant to this and his rhetoric seems to be a long cry from what Reuters made it out to be. Almost a day after its publication, the misleading story remains uncorrected.

December 5, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | 1 Comment

Israeli Air Force Shuns Attacks in Syria Since S-300 Delivery – Lawmaker

Sputnik – 05.11.2018

Russia has delivered 49 units of its sophisticated S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems to Syria in wake of the accidental destruction of a Russian Il-20 plane by Syrian air defenses responding to an Israeli attack.

Ksenia Svetlova, who sits on the Israeli parliament’s defense committee has confirmed that Israeli warplanes had not approached Syria’s airspace since Russia supplied it with S-300 missile systems.

“There hasn’t been a single mission since Syria received S-300s. The S-300 has changed the balance of power in the region,” she told reporters.

The statement confirmed the Al-Masdar News report, citing an unnamed military source in Damascus, saying that the Israeli Air Force (IAF) hasn’t attacked Syria since Russia delivered the S-300 air defense system to the Syrian government forces.

The source claimed that the IAF hadn’t violated Syria’s airspace from either the disputed Golan Heights or Lebanon, although it has flown close to the border.

The military insider also denied an anonymous Israeli official’s claim, reported by Reuters, that Tel Aviv had carried out attacks after the downing of the Russian warplane on September 17.

The source further told Al-Masdar that the Russian military was still training the Syrian air defense units to use the S-300s in the provinces of Latakia and Hama.

On October 29, Reuters cited a senior Israeli official as saying that the IDF had attacked Syria, “including after the downing of the Russian plane,” while Israel’s Channel 1 reported that one of the strikes had targeted an alleged Iranian shipment of equipment destined for Hezbollah.

The delivery of 49 units of S-300s was completed in early October after the Russian Defense Ministry announced that it would supply Syria with air defense systems to improve the security of Russian troops stationed there.

The decision was made in the aftermath of the inadvertent destruction of a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft by Syrian air defenses repelling an Israeli air strike.

The Russian military has blamed the wreckage on Tel Aviv, emphasizing that an Israeli fighter jet had used the Russian plane as a shield against Syrian air defense systems. Israel has dismissed the accusations, claiming that it had warned Moscow about the upcoming air raid in the area in advance.

November 5, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

China’s Uyghur Problem — The Unmentioned Part

By F. William Engdahl – New Eastern Outlook – 05.10.2018

In recent months Western media and the Washington Administration have begun to raise a hue and cry over alleged mass internment camps in China’s northwestern Xinjiang where supposedly up to one million ethnic Uyghur Chinese are being detained and submitted to various forms of “re-education.” Several things about the charges are notable, not the least that all originate from Western media or “democracy” NGOs such as Human Rights Watch whose record for veracity leaves something to be desired.

In August Reuters published an article under the headline, “UN says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps.” A closer look at the article reveals no official UN policy statement, but rather a quote from one American member of an independent committee that does not speak for the UN, a member with no background in China. The source of the claim it turns out is a UN independent advisory NGO called Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The sole person making the charge, American committee member Gay McDougall, stated she was “deeply concerned” about “credible reports.” McDougall cited no source for the dramatic charge.

Reuters in their article boosts its claim by citing a murky Washington DC based NGO, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). In an excellent background investigation, researchers at the Grayzone Project found that the CHRD gets hundreds of thousands of dollars from unnamed governments. The notorious US government NGO, National Endowment for Democracy, is high on the list of usual suspects. Notably, the CHRD official address is that of the Human Rights Watch which gets funds also from the Soros foundation.

The ‘Uyghur Problem’

The true state of affairs in China’s Xinjiang Province regarding Uyghurs is not possible to independently verify, whether such camps exist and if so who is there and under what conditions. What is known, however, is the fact that NATO intelligence agencies, including that of Turkey and of the US, along with Saudi Arabia, have been involved in recruiting and deploying thousands of Chinese Uyghur Muslims to join Al Qaeda and other terror groups in Syria in recent years. This side of the equation warrants a closer look, the side omitted by Reuters or UN Ambassador Haley.

According to Syrian media cited in Voltaire.net, there are presently an estimated 18,000 ethnic Uyghurs in Syria most concentrated in a village on the Turkish border to Syria. Since 2013 such Uyghur soldiers have gone from combat alongside Al Qaeda in Syria and returned to China’s Xinjiang where they have carried out various terrorist acts. This is the tip of a nasty NATO-linked project to plant the seeds of terror and unrest in China. Xinjiang is a lynchpin of China’s Belt Road Initiative, the crossroads of strategic oil and gas pipelines from Kazakhstan, Russia and a prime target of CIA intrigue since decades.

Since at least 2011 at the start of the NATO war against Bashar al Assad’s Syria, Turkey had played a key role in facilitating the flow of Chinese Uyghur people to become Jihadists in Syria. I deliberately use “had” tense to give benefit of the doubt if it still is the case today or if it has become an embarrassment for Erdogan and Turkish intelligence. In any case it seems that thousands of Uyghurs are holed up in Syria, most around Idlib, the reported last outpost of anti-regime terrorists.

Washington and ETIM

In an excellent analysis of China’s Uyghur terror history, Steven Sahiounie, a Syrian journalist with 21st Century Wire, notes that a key organization behind the radicalization of Chinese Uyghur youth is the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and its political front, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), which is also known as “Katibat Turkistani.” He cites a speech in Istanbul in 1995 by Turkey’s Erdogan, then Mayor, who declared, “Eastern Turkestan is not only the home of the Turkic peoples but also the cradle of Turkic history, civilization and culture…” Eastern Turkestan is Xinjiang.

ETIM today is headed by Anwar Yusuf Turani, self-proclaimed Prime Minister of a government in exile which notably is based in Washington DC. ETIM moved to Washington at a time the US State Department listed it as a terrorist organization, curiously enough. According to a report in a Turkish investigative magazine, Turk Pulse, Turani’s organization’s “activities for the government in exile are based on a report entitled ‘The Xinjiang Project.’ That was written by former senior CIA officer Graham E. Fuller in 1998 for the Rand Corporation and revised in 2003 under the title ‘The Xinjiang Problem.’”

I have written extensively in my book, The Lost Hegemon, about career senior CIA operative Graham Fuller. Former Istanbul CIA station chief, Fuller was one of the architects of the Reagan-Bush Iran-Contra affair, and a prime CIA sponsor or handler of Gülen who facilitated Gülen’s USA exile. He was also by his own admission, in Istanbul the night of the failed 2016 coup. In 1999 during the end of the Russian Yelstin era, Fuller declared, “The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against the Russians. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.” This is what the covert US weaponization of ETIM is aimed at. Like most radical Sunni Jihadist groups, Turani’s ETIM got funding as most radical Sunni Jihadist groups from Saudi Arabia.

In the late 1990s, Hasan Mahsum, also known as Abu-Muhammad al-Turkestani, founder of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, moved ETIM’s headquarters to Kabul, taking shelter under Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, ETIM leaders met with Osama bin Laden and other leaders of the CIA-trained Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to coordinate actions across Central Asia. When the Pakistani military assassinated al-Turkestani in 2003 Turani became head of ETIM, and took his roadshow to Washington.

In his own study of Xinjiang, the CIA’s Graham E. Fuller noted that Saudi Arabian groups had disseminated extremist Wahhabi religious literature and possibly small arms through sympathizers in Xinjiang, and that young Turkic Muslims had been recruited to study at madrasas in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. He adds that Uyghurs from Xinjiang also fought alongside Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Fuller noted, “Uyghurs are indeed in touch with Muslim groups outside Xinjiang, some of them have been radicalized into broader jihadist politics in the process, a handful were earlier involved in guerrilla or terrorist training in Afghanistan, and some are in touch with international Muslim mujahideen struggling for Muslim causes of independence worldwide.”

The January 2018 Pentagon National Defense Strategy policy document explicitly named China along with Russia as main strategic “threats” to continued US supremacy. It states, “Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in US national security.” Explicitly, and this is new, the Pentagon paper does not cite a military threat but an economic one. It states, “China and Russia are now undermining the international order from within the system by exploiting its benefits while simultaneously undercutting its principles and ‘rules of the road.’” The escalating trade war against China, threats of sanctions over allegations of Uyghur detention camps in Xinjiang, threats of sanctions if China buys Russian defense equipment, are all aimed at disruption of the sole emerging threat to a Washington global order, one that is not based on freedom or justice but rather on fear and tyranny. How China’s authorities are trying to deal with this full assault is another issue. The context of events in Xinjiang however needs to be made clear. The West and especially Washington is engaged in full-scale irregular war against the stability of China.

October 6, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran dismisses claims on sending ballistic missiles to Iraq

Mehr News Agency | September 1, 2018

TEHRAN – Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman has dismissed as ‘unfounded’ and ‘absurd’ some earlier report by Reuters claiming that Iran has supplied some Shia groups in Iraq with missiles.

In a Saturday statement, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghasemi dismissed as unfounded and ridiculous what has been reported by certain news outlets and media claiming that Iran has sent missiles to Iraq.

In reaction to a report that has just been released by Reuters claiming Iran has given ballistic missiles to some Shia groups in Iraq and is developing the capacity to build more there, Ghasemi said that such claims are aimed at sowing fear among regional countries in line with their policy of demonizing Iran.

The spokesman of Iran’s Foreign Ministry noted that such unfounded claims are merely aimed at affecting Iran’s foreign relations, especially with its neighbors.

September 1, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

More US Elites Calling for Sedition Against Trump Admin: For Them and America, It Won’t End Well

21st Century Wire | July 21, 2018

With every passing day, it gets worse. A new psychological disorder has swept through the halls of mainstream media, think tanks and academia. It’s called Putin-Trump Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTTSD), and it is spreading rapidly across every inch of the American political landscape.

As with any disorder or impairment, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. In the case of PTTSD, that hasn’t happened yet. As a result, many formerly well-qualified journalists and academics have fallen off the edge by willingly joining in with the hysteria.

The latest member of this unfortunate club is Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award winner, Tim Weiner, who in his recent Reuters piece, figures that because Donald Trump has questioned the official US Intelligence community (IC) conspiracy theory on Russian meddling in US politics, that the President is inviting their revenge. It’s almost as if Weiner and other IC court scribes are foreshadowing something similar to that whole “Bay of Pigs Thing” which is said to have befallen another US President many decades ago. Make no mistake, between then and now, this is the very same Establishment, or Deep State speaking to us, and it’s not a political admonishment – it’s a threat.

According to Weiner, by not accepting the biased opinion (not based on actual findings, but on opaque sources and methods) and official conspiracy theories, the claim the Russian government played some role in the US 2016 Presidential Election, the President is guilty of treason for what CNN and other media outlets have described this past week as, “throwing the US Intel and LEO agencies under the bus”.

Granted, it’s not such a big surprise to see this piece by Weiner after reading his short bio at the footer of this Reuters article which says that all of Weiner’s establishment awards have been “for reporting and writing on American intelligence.” Translated: the establishment are happy with Weiner’s depiction of their shady and highly illegal operations ‘to protect America’ and therefore he’s been rewarded by being granted ‘access’ to the dark clandestine corridors of power. Can a functionary of the establishment really call himself a journalist if his main concern to preserving the image of that institution? Weiner is not alone. Today the TV and airwaves are full of intelligence experts whose main purpose is to make the agencies look good, or at least not too bad. Maybe if Weiner could call himself a real journalist, he’d be attacking the US Intelligence monolith right now for their role in helping to launder a fictional defamation dossier on the current US President, as well as making-up a series of lies about imaginary ‘Russian plots’, or for lying about NSA Spying, or illegal US torture policy. Let’s not forget to mention a slew of fabricated intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction – all of which have been promulgated by many of the leading partisan US Intel voices currently shrieking about Trump-Russia collusion, namely James Clapper and John Brennan, and the other disgraced mandarins like FBI Director James Comey, who used informants to gather information on the Trump campaign and who presided over federal surveillance of a US presidential campaign, as well as Clinton-linked FBI deputy head Andrew McCabe, and partisan FBI operative Peter Strzok, along with the insane rhetoric of other ‘intelligence’ persons like the war-mongering lunatic Mike Morrel, and so many others. Rather than “protect and serve” the American people, these men have instead made a concerted effort to serve themselves and protect their own political interests. Like so many others in their privileged positions, if Weiner pivoted and decided to do the job of a real journalist, then he would no longer be granted the prized ‘access’ required to maintain his own inflated position within the government-military-media complex. But play the role of court scribe and you will be surely rewarded with a job for life, just ask the cast of CNN.

The problem for these elite scribes now is that after losing their collective marbles over Trump-Russian intrigue, is that many of these former intellectuals will ever be taken seriously again. They’ve sacrificed their reputations as thinkers in favor of partisan solidarity.

Below is award-winning writer Tim Weiner’s desperate lunge at Donald Trump, a veritable festival of Deep State virtue-signalling to the establishment on whom he depends on to maintain his own lofty status within the Washington’s keep:

Trump has attacked U.S. intel agencies. Expect them to strike back.

The foundations of American national security are under assault. The battle lines are drawn. On one side stand the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency. On the other: the commander-in-chief of the United States.

Donald Trump’s appalling performance in Helsinki was a subversive act. He rejected the conclusion of American intelligence that his election was aided by a hydra-headed act of political warfare controlled by the Kremlin. He did so with a wink and a smile for the smirking autocrat who led the attack.

Trump called the investigation of the Russian operation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller “a disaster for our country.” He accepted Vladimir Putin’s denial that anything of the kind ever happened. Trump likewise leapt at and embraced Putin’s cynical and empty proposal to cooperate with Mueller – “an incredible offer,” he said. The likelihood of Moscow’s spies willingly sharing secrets with the FBI is nil.

The display of fealty to Moscow was indelible. Then Trump tried to erase it. Back in the White House on Tuesday, he said he didn’t say what he meant or mean what he said.

In Helsinki it was “President Putin… said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” Disavowing himself, reading from a script the day after, Trump demurred: “I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t.’” Rather like a groom at the altar saying: “I don’t.”

It was an utterly unconvincing excuse. Trump consistently has denied everything about the “Russia hoax” and attacked the institutions and individuals investigating the conspiracy to subvert American democracy – in particular, the American intelligence community. He has compared intelligence officers to Nazis and derided FBI agents as corrupt.

But they have the power to strike back. For two years now, high-ranking veterans of American intelligence have sounded the alarm about Trump in the starkest language possible.

In August 2016 the former acting CIA director Mike Morell wrote this in a New York Times op-ed: “In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” Five days before the election, writing in the Washington Post, former CIA and NSA chief Mike Hayden used a Russian term: polezni durak, a useful fool, “manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.” Hours after Helsinki, former CIA director John Brennan described Trump’s performance as “nothing short of treasonous.” Former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired in May 2017, tweeted: “All who believe in this country’s values must vote for Democrats this fall.”  

Here, Weiner makes two fatal assumptions:

I’ve been reporting and writing about intelligence and national security for three decades. I’m convinced that the threat of an American “deep state” died with J. Edgar Hoover. The former FBI director died six weeks before the June 1972 Watergate break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters – the 20th-century precursor of the Russia hack.

Educated readers will have already picked these up, but in case you missed it, his two fatal assumptions (or obfuscations) are:

  1. There is no Deep State
  2. Russia hacked the DNC

Despite overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary, both of these two talking points keep getting passed around and recycled ad nauseam. The second point is backed-up by the long-debunked establishment lie that “all 17 Intelligence Agencies agree” that Russia hacked/influenced the outcome of the US election. As with so many like him, instead of calling out the lie, Weiner leans on it. 

Rather than acknowledge why so many Americans (and the world) have lost all faith in the so-called “intelligence community,” establishment stenographers are instead doubling-down by crowing about the IC’s impeccable credentials and patriotic virtues. This is just one example of many throughout history, of institutional depravity brought on by decades of denial and corruption. Even when caught red-handed, gatekeepers will still cry and invoke victimhood. In this case, that means blaming Trump and ‘the Russians’ for their own sordid and well-earned reputation.

Concerned with his own social desirability and career access, Weiner joins in the huddle, feigning the victimization of the poor “Intelligence Community” and thus, dutifully defending the establishment line.

You can read the rest of Weiner’s Deep State soliloquy here.

Like Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen and others, what Weiner has done here is not just declaring political war on the President of the United States. These operatives are using their privileged access to the corporate media airwaves to openly call for a sedition against a sitting US President.

So after two long years of conspiracy theorizing about Russian plots and sinister capers, it’s easy to see how on a domestic political level this culture of hysteria is mostly motivated by partisan politics; one faction lost their access to power and opportunities to another rival faction. On a wider systematic level however, this fissure has revealed the existence of a bona fide Deep State whose thread is woven right through the civil service, intelligence agencies and corporate media, and whose paid functionaries have clearly demonstrated a rigid propensity for group think. Call it what you like; ‘closing ranks’, or a collective survival reflex, but it’s difficult to deny this undeclared entity that moves in unison and with a clarity of purpose – a raison d’etre of self-preservation.

But what should really worry onlookers is the level of desperation and pure lunacy we are seeing at present. Here’s a perfect example which is by no means an isolated one – where former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks went so far as to compare the recent Trump-Putin Summit as the equivalent of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Sept 11th Attacks. Watch:

This is way beyond unhinged, with the problem now being that one cannot simply ‘walk-back’ this level of debased discourse. Rather than facing the truth of the situation, the legions of dishonest and self-serving plutocrats are showing their true faces. Where can American politics go from here? There’s really only one answer: into the ground.

An American Rapture

What we are witnessing is a political rapture which may result in a more unstable rather than stable political landscape moving forward in the short-term. It’s possible that what will emerge afterwards will not be the same establishment it was prior to 2016, and where power may be temporarily dispersed rather than consolidated. Power will no longer remain locked inside the binary two party power-sharing arrangement. Elites will have to negotiate with a whole range of splintered factions on both sides of the old paradigm. This means there will be an intense scramble for power over key nodes of the political economy, especially in government agencies, and of course in the area media and communication. Fueled by their disdain of Trump and fetish with all things Russian, partisan elites are now rummaging for the scraps of power, and they will happily cannibalize the country, its institutions, and even the US Constitution in order to take what they truly believe is rightfully theirs. This scramble for the spoils of political war may leave America worse off than it was before this current upheaval. Just look at how the phony ‘fake news’ crisis was spurred on by the corporate media and its Silicon Valley partners. Although it was based on an alarmist false premise, the ‘fake news’ crisis has still used as a catalyst to enact more control and censorship over free speech and expression on social media platforms. That censorship has triggered moves to develop other new platforms where millions of users are decoupling from Facebook and Twitter’s digital data plantations.

Those who are able to rise above the partisan hysteria will become self-actualized free agents through this American rapture. Those who cannot will remain in the stone age, relatively speaking.

As things become uglier and more disjointed, the vaunted “intelligence community” and their loyal lap-dogs in the “free press”, will only have themselves to blame for that.

Perhaps America’s only chance for salvation is to overcome its self-induced PTTSD condition.

Maybe Eli Lilly or Bayer can come up with a pill for that.

July 21, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Western Media Shorthand on Venezuela Conveys So Much

teleSUR | May 10, 2018

Over the years Western media have developed a journalistic shorthand of repetition, for conveying distortions and imperial hypocrisy about Venezuela.

A Reuters article (4/18/18) reports that the European Union “could impose further sanctions on Venezuela if it believes democracy is being undermined there.”

The line nicely illustrates the kind of journalistic shorthand Western media have developed, over years of repetition, for conveying distortions and whitewashing gross imperial hypocrisy about Venezuela. A passing remark can convey and conceal so much.

The EU’s sincerity in acting on what it “believes” about Venezuelan democracy is unquestioned by the London-based Reuters. Meanwhile Spain, an EU member, is pursuing the democratically elected president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, for the crime of organizing an illegal independence referendum last year. Weeks ago, he was arrested in Germany at Spain’s request, and other elected representatives have been arrested in Catalonia, where Spain’s federal government deposed the elected regional government after the referendum.

In July 2017, a few months before the referendum in Catalonia, Venezuela’s opposition also organized an illegal referendum. One of the questions asked if the military should obey the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which was an extremely provocative question, given the opposition’s various efforts to overthrow the government by force since 2002.  The referendum required an extremely high level of political expression, organization and participation. It allegedly involved 7 million voters.

The Venezuelan government disregarded the results—as Spain disregarded the Catalan referendum results—but unlike Spain, did not jail people for organizing it, or send police to brutally repress voters. In fact, two weeks later, Venezuelan voters (overwhelmingly government supporters, since the opposition boycotted and did not field candidates) were violently attacked by opposition militants when they elected a constituent assembly. The attacks resulted in several deaths.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has hardly failed to call attention to the hypocrisy of both the EU and Spain, but the Reuters article made no mention of it.

Reuters also reported that “the country’s two most popular opposition leaders have been banned from competing” from Venezuela’s presidential election on May 20. Reuters didn’t name the two supposedly “most popular opposition leaders,” but in the past (e.g., 4/12/18, 2/28/18, 2/19/18) the wire service has identified them as Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles. As it happens, according to the opposition-aligned pollster Datanalisis, whose results have been uncritically reported by Western media like Reuters for years, opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcón has been significantly more popular than Capriles in recent months, and barely less so than Lopez.

Mark Weisbrot (in an opinion piece for U.S. News, 3/3/18) broke the news that U.S. government officials had been secretly pressuring Falcón not to run, so that the election could be discredited as including no viable opposition candidate. Two weeks later, Reuters (3/19/18) discreetly reported Weisbrot’s scoop.

However, by far the most important thing Reuters neglects telling readers about the “two most popular opposition leaders” is that had they done in the EU what they’ve done in Venezuela since April 2002, Lopez and Capriles would both be serving long jail terms.

Capriles and Lopez together led the kidnapping of a government minister during a briefly successful U.S.-backed military coup in 2002 that ousted Venezuela’s democratically elected president, the late Hugo Chávez, for two days. Lopez boasted to local TV that the dictator installed by the coup (whom Lopez called “President Carmona”) was “updated” on the kidnapping.

Imagine what Carles Puigdemont’s predicament would be if, rather than organizing a peaceful referendum, he had participated in a foreign-backed, ultimately unsuccessful military coup against the Spanish government. Needless to say, running for public office would not be on the table. That would be the least of his worries.

In Venezuela, Capriles eventually served a few months in prison for participating in the coup, while Lopez avoided doing any time, thanks to a general amnesty granted by Chávez. Lopez was finally arrested in 2014 for leading another violent effort to overthrow the government.

I’ve reviewed before (teleSUR, 1/9/18) violent efforts to overthrow the government that Lopez, Capriles and other prominent opposition leaders have been involved with since the 2002 coup. I also described how Julio Borges and Henry Ramos (two other prominent opposition leaders) have openly sought to starve the Venezuelan government of foreign loans as it struggles with a severe economic crisis.

In August, Trump’s administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s entire economy that will cost Maduro’s government billions of dollars this year (FAIR.org, 3/22/18). It has threatened to go even further, brandishing an oil embargo or even a military attack. With sufficiently compliant media (and the collusion of big human rights NGOs like Amnesty International), such depravity becomes possible.

The Reuters article also says that Venezuela’s economic “collapse has driven an estimated 3 million people to flee the country.” No need to tell readers when the economic “collapse” began—2014—much less who made the estimates or if other sources contradict them. In fact, the U.N.’s 2017 population division numbers estimate Venezuela’s total expat population as of 2017 at about 650,000—only about 300,000 higher than it was when Chávez first took office in 1999. Even a group of fiercely anti-government Venezuelan academics estimated less than 1 million have left since the economic crisis began. (See FAIR.org, 2/18/18.)

Cherry-picked statistics aside, when Western powers want a democratically elected government overthrown, the approach is clear. Complete tolerance for violent foreign-backed subversion—which the powerful states and their allies would never be expected to tolerate—becomes the test for whether or not a state is a democracy. The targeted government fails the test, is depicted as a dictatorship, and all is permitted. Only the tactics required to bring it down need be debated.

Joe Emerberger is a writer based in Canada whose work has appeared in Telesur English, ZNet and Counterpunch.

May 11, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 3 Comments

Western Media Shorthand on Venezuela Conveys and Conceals So Much

By Joe Emersberger | FAIR | April 23, 2018

A Reuters article (4/18/18) reports that the European Union “could impose further sanctions on Venezuela if it believes democracy is being undermined there.”

The line nicely illustrates the kind of journalistic shorthand Western media have developed, over years of repetition, for conveying distortions and whitewashing gross imperial hypocrisy about Venezuela.  A passing remark can convey and conceal so much.

The EU’s sincerity in acting on what it “believes” about Venezuelan democracy is unquestioned by the London-based Reuters. Meanwhile Spain, an EU member, is pursuing the democratically elected president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, for the crime of organizing an illegal independence referendum last year. Weeks ago, he was arrested in Germany at Spain’s request, and other elected representatives have been arrested in Catalonia, where Spain’s federal government deposed the elected regional government after the referendum.

In July 2017, a few months before the referendum in Catalonia, Venezuela’s opposition also organized an illegal referendum. One of the questions asked if the military should obey the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which was an extremely provocative question, given the opposition’s various efforts to overthrow the government by force since 2002.  The referendum required an extremely high level of political expression, organization and participation. It allegedly involved 7 million voters. The Venezuelan government disregarded the results—as Spain disregarded the Catalan referendum results—but unlike Spain, did not jail people for organizing it, or send police to brutally repress voters. In fact, two weeks later, Venezuelan voters (overwhelmingly government supporters, since the opposition boycotted and did not field candidates) were violently attacked by opposition militants when they elected a constituent assembly.  The attacks resulted in several deaths.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has hardly failed to call attention to the hypocrisy of both the EU and Spain, but the Reuters article made no mention of it.

Reuters also reported that “the country’s two most popular opposition leaders have been banned from competing” from Venezuela’s presidential election on May 20. Reuters didn’t name the two supposedly “most popular opposition leaders,” but in the past (e.g., 4/12/18, 2/28/18, 2/19/18) the wire service has identified them as Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles. As it happens, according to the opposition-aligned pollster Datanalisis, whose results have been uncritically reported by Western media like Reuters for years, opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcón has been significantly more popular than Capriles in recent months, and barely less so than Lopez.

Approval Ratings of Main Venezuelan Political Leaders

Mark Weisbrot (in an opinion piece for US News, 3/3/18) broke the news that US government officials had been secretly pressuring Falcón not to run, so that the election could be discredited as including no viable opposition candidate. Two weeks later, Reuters (3/19/18) discreetly reported Weisbrot’s scoop.

However, by far the most important thing Reuters neglects telling readers about the “two most popular opposition leaders” is that had they done in the EU what they’ve done in Venezuela since April 2002, Lopez and Capriles would both be serving long jail terms.

Capriles and Lopez together led the kidnapping of a government minister during a briefly successful US-backed military coup in 2002 that ousted Venezuela’s democratically elected president, the late Hugo Chávez, for two days. Lopez boasted to local TV that the dictator installed by the coup (whom Lopez called “President Carmona”) was “updated” on the kidnapping.

Imagine what Carles Puigdemont’s predicament would be if, rather than organizing a peaceful referendum, he had participated in a foreign-backed, ultimately unsuccessful military coup against the Spanish government. Needless to say, running for public office would not be on the table. That would be the least of his worries.

In Venezuela, Capriles eventually served a few months in prison for participating in the coup, while Lopez avoided doing any time, thanks to a general amnesty granted by Chávez. Lopez was finally arrested in 2014 for leading another violent effort to overthrow the government.

I’ve reviewed before (teleSUR, 1/9/18) violent efforts to overthrow the government that Lopez, Capriles and other prominent opposition leaders have been involved with since the 2002 coup. I also described how Julio Borges and Henry Ramos (two other prominent opposition leaders) have openly sought to starve the Venezuelan government of foreign loans as it struggles with a severe economic crisis.

In August, Trump’s administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s entire economy that will cost Maduro’s government billions of dollars this year (FAIR.org, 3/22/18). It has threatened to go even further, brandishing an oil embargo or even a military attack. With sufficiently compliant media (and the collusion of big human rights NGOs like Amnesty International), such depravity becomes possible.

The Reuters article also says that Venezuela’s economic “collapse has driven an estimated 3 million people to flee the country.” No need to tell readers when the economic “collapse” began—2014—much less who made the estimates or if other sources contradict them. In fact, the UN’s 2017 population division numbers estimate Venezuela’s total expat population as of 2017 at about 650,000—only about 300,000 higher than it was when Chávez first took office in 1999. Even a group of fiercely anti-government Venezuelan academics estimated less than 1 million have left since the economic crisis began. (See FAIR.org, 2/18/18.)

Cherry-picked statistics aside, when Western powers want a democratically elected government overthrown, the approach is clear. Complete tolerance for violent foreign-backed subversion—which the powerful states and their allies would never be expected to tolerate—becomes the test for whether or not a state is a democracy. The targeted government fails the test, is depicted as a dictatorship, and all is permitted. Only the tactics required to bring it down need be debated.


Messages to Reuters can be sent here (or via Twitter: @Reuters). Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective.

April 24, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

After US Bombs Syrian Government for Third Time in 8 Months, Media Ask Few Questions

By Ben Norton | FAIR | June 2, 2017

The United States has bombed Syrian government–allied forces three times in just eight months. Major media outlets have overwhelmingly failed to ask critical questions about these incidents, preferring instead to echo the Pentagon.

For years, media have consistently downplayed the extent of US military intervention in Syria, and repeatedly propagated the long-debunked myth that Washington never pursued regime change there in the first place. The distorted reporting on these US attacks reflects this longer trend.

On May 18, the US military launched an air raid against forces allied with the Syrian government, killing several soldiers. The Trump administration claimed Syrian- and Iranian-backed militias had entered a 55-kilometer (34-mile) “deconfliction zone” around a base in southern Syria, near the borders of Iraq and Jordan, where the US trains opposition fighters.

Yet US officials also later admitted that they do not themselves recognize the legitimacy of these de-escalation zones—even while using them to justify carrying out such attacks.

No major media outlets questioned the government narrative, or the notion that the Syrian-allied forces were a “threat.” (For context, 34 miles is the distance between Aleppo and Idlib, considered two separate theaters in the Syrian civil war. It is also roughly the distance between Baghdad and Fallujah, or between Washington, DC, and Baltimore.)

In its report on the attack, Reuters‘ cartoonish headline (5/18/17) was “US Strikes Syria Militia Threatening US-Backed Forces: Officials.” The article uncritically repeated that an unnamed pro-government militia “posed a threat to US and US-backed Syrian fighters in the country’s south.”

Reuters added that, when those “threatening” government-allied forces were hit, they were allegedly still a distant 27 kilometers (17 miles) from the US-led coalition’s al-Tanf base.

USA Today (5/18/17) simply noted that the “forces came within a 34-mile defensive zone around the al-Tanf base,” and unskeptically claimed the US airstrike “targeted pro-regime forces who were threatening a coalition base.”

Fox News (5/18/17)  triumphantly declared, “US Airstrikes Pound Pro-Assad Forces in Syria.” Obediently echoing the US government, Fox claimed the Syrian forces “were near the Jordanian border and deemed a threat to coalition partners on the ground.”

The New York Times‘ report was similarly deferential (5/18/17), echoing Pentagon officials who insisted the pro-government convoy “ignored warnings.”

Unquestioned Double Standards

Later follow-up statements added a wrinkle to the US government narrative the media had parroted.

In peace talks in early May, Russia, Iran and Turkey signed an agreement to create four deconfliction zones in Syria. This deal was supposed to apply to the US as well, but the Trump administration has refused to recognize the legitimacy of these de-escalation zones—even while using them to justify attacks on Syrian government-allied forces.

The US military official who is leading the air war against ISIS, Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, insisted at a May 24 press conference (The Hill, 5/24/17), “We don’t recognize any specific zone in itself that we preclude ourselves from operating in.”

Harrigian stressed that the US carries out whatever air strikes it wants in Syria. “We do not have specific zones that we are deconflicting with them,” the general said. “When we’ve talked to the Russians, we do not talk about those deescalation zones.”

Yet media reports still went along with the narrative that US forces were “threatened” by Syrian government-allied forces miles away in a zone that the US does not even accept as legitimate.

An anonymous CENTCOM official quoted two weeks after the attack by Military Times (5/30/17) complained, “These patrols and the continued armed and hostile presence of pro-regime forces inside the deconfliction zone are unacceptable and threatening to coalition forces.”

Meanwhile, Syrian rebels applauded the US attack and called for more strikes against the government.

‘First Time’ for a Third Time

Immediately after the May 18 airstrike, media portrayed the attack as something completely new. The Associated Press published a newswire headlined “US Airstrike Hits Pro-Syria Government Forces for First Time,” which was reprinted by the  Washington Post and Yahoo NewsForeign Policy (5/18/17) similarly claimed “US Bombs Syrian Regime Forces for First Time.”

In reality, this was the third time in eight months that the US bombed Syrian government and allied forces. Some of these reports, strangely, even acknowledged the Trump administration’s April strike on a Syrian airfield, but acted as though this somehow did not constitute an attack.

In September 17, 2016, the Syrian military was leading a fight against the genocidal extremist group ISIS near the airport of Deir al-Zor, in eastern Syria. Suddenly, the US launched an hour of sustained airstrikes on the Syrian military, killing 106 soldiers in the attack, according to the Syrian government.

The US insisted the air raid was an accident and that it had meant to target ISIS militants. This has been called into question, however. A senior officer in the Syrian Arab Army said the US-led coalition had sent drones above the Syrian troops’ positions before the attack, so it knew where they were situated. The officer also recalled that the majority of the US airstrikes were not targeted at the frontline, where the Syrian soldiers were fighting ISIS.

Ultimately, it was the self-declared Islamic State that benefited from the US attack. The extremist group seized important areas around the Deir al-Zor airport. The US air raid also led to a breakdown in the ceasefire in Syria that had been agreed to just six days before.

Since President Donald Trump entered office, the US has launched two more intentional attacks on pro-government forces. In April, the US launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at Syria’s Shayrat airbase, in an attack that the Pentagon said destroyed 20 percent of Syria’s war planes. Trump claimed the strike was done in retaliation for a chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, a village in the Al Qaeda–dominated province of Idlib, although this accusation has been called into question by some arms experts.

This incident, the US’s first officially intentional attack on the Syrian government, also in effect aided ISIS, which launched an offensive near the city of Homs immediately afterward.

Unasked Questions

Many questions remain unanswered. Why can the US use deconfliction zones it does not even itself recognize to justify attacking Syrian government-allied forces? Do the US and UK have the right to tell Syria where its forces can go in its own country? How is 34, or 17, miles “close”? How can the US attack Syrian government forces without benefiting ISIS, a group that routinely threatens Western civilians?

A strong independent media should be asking these important questions. Instead, news outlets are effectively recycling government press releases.

For their part, Syria and Russia were furious after the May 18 strike. “This brazen attack by the so-called international coalition exposes the falseness of its claims to be fighting terrorism,” declared a Syrian military official on state media. The Syrian government said “a number of people” were killed, and equipment including a tank and a bulldozer were struck.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called the attack “a breach of Syrian sovereignty,” and Russia’s deputy foreign minister said it was “completely unacceptable.”

Yet the apparent presupposition shared and spread by corporate media is that Syria now belongs to the US, and the US can do whatever it wants in the country without anyone questioning it—especially not media outlets, which have been bending over backward to defend US actions.

Escalating US Military Intervention

The May 18 US air raid at the town of al-Tanf is only the latest in a string of attacks that have steadily been growing under Trump. The US has not officially declared war in Syria, although for more than 1,000 days it has waged thousands of airstrikes in the country, most of which have targeted ISIS.

Thousands of civilians have been killed in the US  air campaign, which began in September 2014.

Even the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—which is frequently cited by media as an impartial observer, even though it until recently had the Syrian opposition flag openly at the top of its website and consists essentially of one man in England—has acknowledged the massive civilian casualties.

In the month from mid-April to mid-May alone, at least 225 civilians were killed in US-led air strikes in Syria, including 44 children and 36 women, according to the Observatory. From February to March, another 220 civilians were killed.

The bombing campaign against ISIS has killed many civilians in Iraq as well as Syria. FAIR has previously detailed how media outlets have whitewashed and downplayed US complicity in the deaths of hundreds of civilians in Mosul, Iraq.

Media should be asking critical questions about US military intervention in Syria and beyond. Instead, they are downplaying US involvement and relaying Pentagon press releases.

June 4, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 2 Comments