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Informed sources: Raid on Israeli-managed vessel was retaliation for Israeli raid on Syria

Press TV – July 30, 2021

Informed sources have told Al-Alam television that an attack on an Israeli-managed petroleum products tanker off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea that killed two crew members was in response to an Israeli missile attack on Syria that killed two resistance forces.

The Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned ship, came under attack about 152 nautical miles (280 km) northeast of the Omani port of Duqm on Thursday, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which provides maritime security information.

In a statement on Friday, Zodiac Maritime, the Israeli-owned firm managing the oil tanker, claimed that two crewmen, a Briton and a Romanian, had been killed in the assault.

“Details of the incident are still being established and an investigation into the incident is currently underway. We continue to work closely with the UKMTO and other relevant authorities,” London-based Zodiac said on its website.

It also said it was “not aware of harm to any other personnel” than the British and Romanian crewmen who were allegedly killed.

According to Refinitiv ship tracking, the medium-size tanker was headed to Fujairah, a port and oil terminal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), from Tanzania. Earlier on Friday, the firm described the incident as suspected piracy, but the UKMTO categorized it as not piracy-related.

The company said the vessel was now sailing under the control of its crew and on its own power to a safe location with a US naval escort.

In recent months, several other Israeli ships have come under apparent attacks on various maritime routes across the world. Earlier in the month, a fire broke out on an Israeli-owned cargo ship after it was struck by an “unidentified weapon” in the northern Indian Ocean. Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen television network said the Israeli vessel had been on route to the coast of the UAE when it was attacked.

Back in February, an Israeli-owned ship was hit by an explosion in the sea of Oman. In April, another Israeli ship came under attack off the coast of the UAE.

The attacks come against a backdrop of the Israeli regime’s various assaults on cargo ships across the Persian Gulf region and elsewhere.

July 30, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 2 Comments

Syrian air defense units intercept Israeli missiles near Damascus, thwarting THIRD raid in a week – Russian MoD

RT | July 26, 2021

The Syrian military has intercepted two missiles fired by Israeli fighter jets at Damascus suburb of Sayyidah Zaynab over the weekend, successfully thwarting the third such airstrike in a week, using Russian-made air defense systems.

The airstrike was carried out from outside the Syrian airspace, around 5:40am Sunday morning, when two Israeli F-16 jets fired two guided missiles, targeting unspecified facilities in the town of Set (Sayyidah) Zaynab some 10km south of Damascus.

Syrian air defense units – equipped with Russian-made Buk-M2E systems – successfully intercepted both of them, the head of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria, Rear Admiral Vadim Kulit, said in a daily briefing.

On Wednesday night, two Israeli F-16 jets fired four guided missiles from Lebanese airspace at Syria’s Homs province. All of them were shot down, also using Russian-made Buk-M2Es.

On Monday night, four Israeli jets penetrated Syrian airspace through the area of At-Tanf on the Jordanian border, controlled by the US military, and fired eight missiles into Aleppo province. Seven of them were reportedly shot down by Buk-M2 and Pantsir-S systems, but the remaining one struck a scientific research facility in the town of Safira.

While Israeli officials rarely acknowledge such raids, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) warplanes routinely rained down missiles on Syrian territory over the past years, under the pretext of self-defense against the “Iranian threat.”

Damascus has always protested the repeated attacks as blatant acts of aggression, while Russia, Turkey and Iran recently jointly condemned Israeli raids as violations of sovereignty and international humanitarian laws.

July 25, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Iraqi politicians slam Turkey’s interventionist remarks, vow strong response

Press TV – July 22, 2021 

A number of Iraqi politicians and lawmakers have reacted to recent interventionist remarks by Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu during his recent visit to the city of Sirnak in southeastern Turkey, vowing a strong response to any infringement of the Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity.

According to a report by Rudaw news agency on Thursday, during his visit to Sirnak, the Turkish minister claimed that establishing peace in Muslim countries, including Iraq and Syria, was Turkey’s responsibility.

Soylu’s comment reverberated widely through social media platforms, enraging Iraqi people and politicians.

Ra’ad Hussein, representative of Saairun Alliance affiliated with Iraq’s influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said the sovereignty of Iraq is beyond all considerations and the positions of the Sadr movement in this regard are clear.

“The Sadr movement is totally Iraqi and has no links to foreign countries, and it prefers the interests of Iraq over all interests, and to this end, the head of al-Sadr’s bloc decided to withdraw from the elections,” Hussein said.

“Our position is firm, which means that we will sever ties with any of the neighboring or regional countries if they do not have a positive attitude towards Iraq,” he added.

Hussein underlined that such statements, whether made by Turkish or other officials, are unacceptable and no one will ever be able to encroach on a single inch of Iraqi soil.

Iraqi Shia cleric Ammar al-Hakim took to Twitter on Wednesday, calling on neighboring countries to respect Iraq’s sovereignty.

Hakim, who heads Iraq’s National Wisdom Movement political bloc, said, “Achieving peace in the region and the world comes through the interaction of states among themselves in accordance with international covenants and cooperation based on the foundations of mutual relations and common interest.”

He added, “It is not allowed to compromise the sovereignty of Iraq and for its land to be infringed,” without making any direct reference to Turkey.

Meanwhile, Iraqi MP and member of the Law Coalition, Kadhem Finjan al-Hamami, reacted to Turkish minister’s remarks, saying that the Turkish provocations were not the first of its kind in clear reference to Turkey’s deforestation of Kurdish areas and the continuous attacks on the Iraqi territory under the pretext of fighting Kurdish separatists.

“There have been no reactions from the Iraqi government or the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) towards all these attacks on Iraqi lands,” he said, adding that the Turkish government believes that “Iraq and the neighboring countries are a subject of the Ottoman Empire.”

July 22, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Israel Was First Nation to Skyjack A Civilian Airliner

By Donald Neff | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs | November/December 1994, Pages 71-72

It was 40 years ago that Israel conducted the first skyjacking of a civilian airliner. On Dec. 12, 1954, Israeli warplanes forced a Syrian Airways Dakota passenger craft carrying four passengers and five crewmen to land at Lydda airport inside Israel.1 The passengers were interrogated for two days before international protests, including strong complaints from Washington, finally convinced Israel to release the plane and its passengers.2

Moshe Sharett, who as Israel’s foreign minister had to explain the incident to the international community, was privately appalled by it. He recorded in his diary: “I have no reason to doubt the truth of the factual affirmation of the U.S. State Department that our action was without precedent in the history of international practice. What shocks and worries me is the narrow-mindedness and the short-sightedness of our military leaders. They seem to presume that the state of Israel may—or even must—behave in the realm of international relations according to the laws of the jungle.”3

The purpose of the unprecedented skyjacking, according to Sharett, was Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan’s ambition “to get hostages in order to obtain the release of our prisoners in Damascus.”4 The reference was to an incident that had occurred four days earlier. Five Israeli soldiers were captured retrieving tapping devices on Syrian telephone lines on the Golan Heights inside Syria. Israel expressed outrage at the imprisonment of the soldiers but Syria refused to release them. 5

Israeli passions were riled even further the next month when one of the Israeli soldiers, Uri Ilan, son of a former Mapam member of parliament, committed suicide in jail on Jan. 13, 1955. Although the Israeli press loudly charged Syria with torture, an examination by the United Nations showed “no signs of physical ill-treatment.”6

But still Syria refused to release the prisoners, pointing out that Israel was holding Syrian civilians prisoner. The impasse contributed to an even graver incident toward the end of the year. On Dec. 11, 1955, Israel sent two paratroop battalions backed by artillery and mortar batteries under the command of Ariel Sharon, later Israel’s defense minister, against Syrian military posts at Buteiha Farm and Koursi near the northeast shore of Lake Tiberias.

It was Israel’s largest military raid inside Syria up to that time and resulted in 56 Syrian deaths, including three women, and nine wounded. Significantly Israel also took 30 prisoners, whom it later used as hostages to exchange for the four Israelis held by Syria.The United States expressed its “shock” at the raid and supported a resolution by the United Nations Security Council that unanimously condemned Israel for its “flagrant violation” of the armistice agreement.8

French Ambassador to the U.N. Herv Alphand observed that the condemnation resolution of Israel was “the strongest ever passed by the council.”It was the fifth time the council had condemned, censured, called on and otherwise passed resolutions critical of Israel.

Israel insisted the raid was simply in retaliation for Syrian troops firing at an Israeli patrol boat on Lake Tiberias the previous day, in which there had been no casualties. But the explanation was widely disbelieved. Canadian General E.L.M. Burns, the chief of staff of the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization, bluntly wrote:

“No one with any knowledge of military affairs would believe that such an elaborate, coordinated attack had not been planned well before, and probably rehearsed. Certainly it was not improvised in a few hours…. The reasons given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ statement were only an excuse, and not a very good one.”10

In fact, like most major actions in the Middle East, there was far more than just retaliation behind the raid. At the time, it was widely suspected that Israel’s main motive in launching the heavy attack was primarily to punish Syria for keeping the four Israeli soldiers prisoners. But it turned out that was just one of the reasons. Israeli historian Benny Morris reports that primarily the attack was meant as a provocation to goad Egypt into attacking Israel and thus start a war. “This,” wrote Morris, “was the thinking behind the strike.”11

The timing was dictated by two events during the previous three months: Egypt and Syria had signed a mutual defense pact on Oct. 20, 1955, and on Sept. 27 Egypt had announced its historic “Czech” arms deal, shocking Israel by the fact that Egypt was about to start receiving massive quantities of Soviet weapons. In the event, Egypt did not respond to the attack on the Golan and Israel had to wait nearly another year before taking on itself the burden of attacking Egypt to start a war.

ANOTHER MOTIVE

There was also another motive behind the attack. It had to do with Israel’s long- term policy to establish exclusive control over Lake Tiberias, the biblical Sea of Galilee, which lay within Israeli territory, and the three demilitarized zones (DMZs) that lay along the Israeli-Syrian frontier in the Jordan Valley.

Palestinians and Syrians insisted on fishing in the lake and were a constant source of friction, especially during mid-November to mid-April, which marked the official fishing season. Israel denied Arabs had any rights to fish there, citing the fact that the Mandate governments over Palestine and Syria had agreed in the 1920s that the frontier followed the east shore of the lake at a distance set back 10 meters parallel to the water.

However, the Arabs countered that under Anglo-French agreements of Feb. 3, 1922, June 23, 1923 and Feb. 2, 1926, Syrians were given “the same fishing and navigation rights on Lakes Huleh and Tiberias… as the inhabitants of Palestine” and also the right to “enjoy grazing, watering and cultivations rights” and to “cross the frontier freely.”12

Nonetheless, Israel insisted on keeping Arab fishermen away from the lake, by force if necessary. It further lacerated relations with Syria by chasing Palestinian farmers out of the DMZs near the lake in violation of the truce of 1949, which held the farmers should be allowed to remain. Israel’s forceful takeover of the DMZs left the Palestinian farmers and fishermen denied access to their fields or fishing grounds embittered and angry. A later UNTSO chief of staff, Norwegian General Odd Bull, who served during the 1960s, wrote:

“I imagine that a number of those evicted settled somewhere in the Golan Heights and that their children have watched the land that had been in their families for hundreds of years being cultivated by Israeli farmers. From time to time they opened fire on these farmers. That, of course, was a violation of the armistice agreement, though I could not help thinking that in similar circumstances Norwegian peasants would almost certainly have acted in the same way. In the course of time all the Arab villages [in the DMZs] disappeared.”13

So too did the Arab fishermen. In 1967 Israel conquered the whole area, including the Golan Heights, and chased out all of the Arabs. It is Israel’s continuing occupation of this land that today remains the major impediment to peace between Israel and Syria.

Recommended Reading:

Bull, Odd, War and Peace in the Middle East: The Experiences and Views of a U.N. Observer, London, Leo Cooper, 1976.

Burns, Lt. Gen. E. L. M., Between Arab and Israeli, New York, Ivan Obolensky, 1962.

Chomsky, Noam, The Fateful Triangle, Boston, South End Press, 1983.

*Chomsky, Noam, Pirates & Emperors: International Terrorism in the Real World, Brattleboro, VT, Amana Books, 1986.

Khouri, Fred J., The Arab-Israeli Dilemma, Syracuse, NY, Syracuse University Press, 1985.

Morris, Benny, The Birth of the Palestine Refugee Problem, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Morris, Benny, Israel’s Border Wars: 1949-1956, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1993.

*Neff, Donald, Warriors at Suez: Eisenhower Takes America Into the Middle East, Brattleboro, VT, Amana Books, 1988.

Rokach, Livia, Israel’s Sacred Terrorism: A Study Based on Moshe Sharett’s Personal Diary and Other Documents, Belmont, MA, Association of Arab-American University Graduates, Inc., 1980.

Von Horn, Carl, Soldiering for Peace, New York, David McKay Company, Inc., 1967.

Notes:

New York Times, 12/13/54.

2 Associated Press, New York Times, 12/15/54.

3 Rokach, Israel’s Sacred Terrorism, pp. 20-21. For an analysis of Sharett’s lengthy diaries, see “Secrets of State: An Analysis of the Diaries of Moshe Sharett,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Autumn 1980, pp. 35-57.

4 Chomsky, Pirates and Emperors, p. 84.

5 Morris, Israel’s Border Wars, p. 366.

6 Burns, Between Arab and Israeli, p. 109.

Ibid., p. 108; Morris, Israel’s Border Wars, p. 366n.

8 Resolution 111. The text is in Tomeh, George J., United Nations Resolutions on Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: 1947-1974, Washington, DC, Institute for Palestine Studies, 1975, p. 137; the text of the U.S. statement is in Boudreault, Jody and Eric Fortin, U.S. Official Statements: The Golan Heights, Washington, DC, Institute for Palestine Studies, 1993, pp. 27-28.

9 Neff, Warriors for Jerusalem, 118.

10 Burns, Between Arab and Israeli , p. 108.

11 Morris, Israel’s Border Wars, p. 364.

12 Khouri, The Arab-Israeli Dilemma, p. 194.

13 Bull, War and Peace in the Middle East, pp. 50-51.

*Available through the AET Book Club

Donald Neff is author of the Warriors trilogy on U.S.-Middle East relations and of the unpublished Middle East Handbook, a chronological data bank of significant events affecting U.S. policy and the Middle East on which this article is based. His books are available through the AET Book Club.

July 19, 2021 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Russia’s about-face on Syria’s Idlib is the opening gambit of a larger diplomatic chess game

By Scott Ritter | RT | July 17, 2021

The Russian vote at the UN Security Council in favor of extending a humanitarian air corridor into Syria has been touted by the US government as a victory of American diplomacy. Moscow might have other ideas.

In a rare display of diplomatic cooperation, the US and Russia agreed last week on a one-year extension of the UN Security Council authorization for humanitarian aid supplies to reach northern Syria through the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the border with Turkey.

The Biden administration had made the extension of this authorization its highest priority when it came to US-Syrian policy. For its part, Russia had long been hesitant to allow such an extension, insisting it should be replaced by cross-line humanitarian deliveries.

It’s been alleged that the Bab al-Hawa crossing point was being used to resupply Islamic militant groups opposed to the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad that are operating inside Idlib province, which borders Turkey.

Russia’s vote in favor of the extension for up to 12 months took many observers by surprise, given Moscow’s past objections.

The US media called it a victory for the Biden administration, underscoring the importance of the June summit meeting between the US president and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Geneva, Switzerland. The US made Syria, and in particular the issue of continued access by humanitarian organizations to refugee camps located in Idlib, a high priority at that meeting. The fact that Moscow and Washington have reached a compromise on the operation of the Bab al-Hawa crossing, from the perspective of Russia, was a clear sign regarding the efficacy of the Geneva process.

“We hope that it might be a turning point that is indeed in line with what Putin and Biden discussed in Geneva,” Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters after the vote.

The situation, however, is far more complicated than the zero-sum diplomatic game being promoted in the US mainstream media. Idlib isn’t just a repository of internal refugees from the decade-long civil conflict that has wracked Syria since 2011 – it is the final redoubt of foreign-backed Islamic militants who have been waging a bloody fight against the Russian-backed Syrian government. The Islamic militant groups, many of which are allied with Al-Qaeda, once controlled much of the Syrian countryside and were operating in the suburbs of the Syrian capital of Damascus.

The decision by the Russian government to intervene militarily on the side of Assad in September 2015 helped turn the tide against the Islamic militant forces. Over the course of the next three years, the Syrian army, backed on the ground by Hezbollah and pro-Iranian militias, and in the air by the Russian Air Force, was able to recapture all of the militant-held territory save for the last remaining bastion in Idlib.

The situation inside Idlib is complex, with the various factions among the Islamic militants fighting among themselves to establish primacy. Many of these groups, including Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), are reportedly reliant upon foreign support for their survival and have been linked to both Turkey and the US in terms of serving as an anti-Assad proxy force. Recent claims by the exiled Turkish mafia leader Sedat Peker regarding the alleged shipment of “billions of dollars” worth of military equipment disguised as humanitarian aid to HTS and other anti-Assad groups operating inside Idlib only reinforced the concerns of the opponents to keeping the Bab al-Hawa crossing open.

There is a real humanitarian crisis ongoing inside Idlib, where millions of Syrian citizens remain housed in refugee camps that are little more than tent cities erected in open fields. The refugees are totally dependent upon international aid groups for the essentials of life, including food, water, shelter and medicine. With the restoration of central government control over much of Syria, however, and the willingness on the part of the Syrian government to resettle these refugees back in their original homes without any threat of retribution or retaliation, there is a growing sentiment among the Russian and Syrian government that the refugees have become little more than political pawns used by Syria’s many enemies, including Turkey and the US, to create the perception of a despotic regime while fostering continued instability inside Idlib that serves as an engine to motivate and recruit new anti-Assad fighters.

This reality served as the core argument underpinning the Russian objection to keeping the Bab al-Hawa crossing open. There is another reality, however, which also guided the Russian decision, namely the lack of a viable military solution to the problem of Idlib. Russia and the Syrian government are committed to a course of action that has the Syrian government asserting control over the totality of Syrian sovereign territory – including Idlib.

While Russia and Syria continue to conduct airstrikes against Islamic militant positions inside Idlib, and the Syrian army and its allies likewise exert pressure on Islamic militant forces on the ground, the feeling in both Moscow and Damascus is that the problem of Idlib cannot be resolved through force of arms unless one is willing to unleash a bloodbath that would cause more problems than it would solve.

The key to a solution in Idlib is for both Turkey and the US to recognize the futility of continuing to use it as a base of anti-Assad activity, and to finally give up on their dreams of regime change in Damascus. Such a policy change, however, will not happen overnight and will require considerable diplomatic cooperation on the part of all parties involved – including Russia. The Russian agreement to keep the Bab al-Hawa crossing open for another year, when seen in this light, represents the opening round of a lengthy diplomatic battle over the future of Idlib, Syria and the Middle East as a whole.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of ‘SCORPION KING: America’s Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump.’ He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector.

July 17, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 4 Comments

The progressive civil war over Syria and Assad exposes an astonishing lack of intellectual curiosity by some on the American Left

By Scott Ritter | RT | July 7, 2021

Truth and politics are often mutually exclusive concepts when dealing with the progressive American Left. This unfortunate fact is being driven home in spades in an ongoing spat between two lefty online personalities.

Anyone following Aaron Maté (149K followers on Twitter); The Young Turks (TYT, with 440K followers as an institution, and as many followers each tracking the activity of co-hosts Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian); the comedian Jimmy Dore (274K followers); or any number of other Twitter personalities whose online paths have crossed with any of the above; knows these left-leaning social media stars have been engaged in a vicious feud. Full disclosure, I have appeared on both Maté’s podcast, Pushback, as well as The Young Turks radio show. At issue is Syria and, more pointedly, the contention by both Uygur and Kasparian that Maté is shilling for President Bashar Assad.

A tale of two narratives

The sheer drama and vitriol which has emerged as a result of this feud has been entertaining for those who get a kick out of leftwing internecine warfare. Maté’s use of Jimmy Dore’s popular online program The Jimmy Dore Show as a platform for promoting his arguments has torn the scab off old wounds created when Dore left The Young Turks and struck out on his own, appears to underpin at least some of Uygur and Kasparian’s anti-Maté invective. However, more interesting is the fact that, as Maté pointed out in a recent interview with The Hill, the progressive wing of the American Left has hit a brick wall over the issue of Syria. Criticism of Assad has run up against the lies used to sustain US military hegemony in the Middle East.

“I think,” Maté noted, “that that meltdown reflects just like a general hostility they [The Young Turks] have towards people who are upholding actual progressive values and upholding actual journalism standards.” While the smear campaign waged by Uygur and Kasparian has been as unconscionable as it has been factually wrong, the fact that there is controversy among the progressive wing of the American political Left should not surprise anyone.

As Maté observed, “[t]he reason why they slandered me at that time is because I was in Syria and Syria is a, you know, touchy subject for many people on the Left. It has been divisive.”

Syria is a touchy subject, especially for progressives who primarily focus on notions of human rights and democratic values. Maté has come under attack for taking a contrarian stance on two of the most hot-button issues surrounding Assad: allegations of chemical weapons use, and the suppression of political free will through the conduct of elections designed to keep the reins of political power in Syria firmly in his hands. (It should be pointed out that Maté is joined by other outstanding progressive journalists, including Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Rania Khalek, and many others whose informative work predates Maté’s on the issue of Syria.)

Chemical weapons, denial and disproval

If there is a case to be made that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own population, it has not yet been made by anyone. The most widely cited incident in terms of casualties (i.e., the primary discriminator for any argument seeking to label Assad a “mass murderer”) is that which occurred in the early morning hours of August 21, 2013, in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. While the number of casualties involved remains unclear (estimates range from 281 to 1,729 people killed, with the higher figure largely agreed to be problematic), what is not up for dispute is the fact that, as the official UN report into the incident concluded, there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Sarin gas was used in the Ghouta incident.

While the UN was precluded by mandate from allocating responsibility for the attack, the US government, together with other organizations such as Human Rights Watch, aggressively asserted that the Syrian government was solely to blame. These claims, however, were not backed up by the science on the ground. A detailed forensic analysis of the rocket used in the Ghouta attack – an improvised 330mm-to-350mm rocket equipped with a large receptacle on its nose to hold chemicals—by Richard Lloyd, a former United Nations weapons inspector, and Theodore Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, undermined the claims made by the US government assigning culpability for the attack. Not only were the weapons used not included in the arsenal of chemical weapons declared by the Syrian government to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) which oversaw the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons capability between 2013-2014, but the short range of the weapon made its being fired from government-held territory impossible.

Seymor Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, published an article in the London Review of Books in December 2013 which outlined a case for Turkish complicity in helping arm the rebels with Sarin nerve agent. Hersh’s claims were vindicated by Turkish media reports, quoting Turkish members of parliament, who outlined the factual case sustaining Hersh’s key point that the Turkish government was behind the Ghouta attack. New analysis of the Ghouta attack reinforces the findings of Lloyd and Postol, assigning a 96% probability that the Sarin attack of August 21, 2013, was carried out by anti-Assad rebels. Moreover, this finding is supported by video evidence, authenticated on June 21, 2021, which shows the rebels firing the Sarin-filled rockets on the day in question. Long story short – the Sarin attack used by President Assad’s opponents as evidence of his status as a mass murderer was not the work of the Syrian government.

Allegations of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government are numerous, as is the mountain of evidence which shows these claims to be as false as the ones made regarding the Ghouta attack. Central to the ongoing TYT-Maté dispute is the Douma incident of April 7, 2018, where once again the Syrian government was accused of employing chemical weapons against civilians, killing scores. The US government used the allegations as justification to launch air strikes against the Syrian government. The US case for military action, always weak, was further undermined by reporting from Maté that exposed the lies of the OPCW in bending to US pressure to falsify evidence in order to sustain the justification for US airstrikes.

The attention Maté received as a result of his outstanding reporting on Douma considerably raised his profile – he was invited to testify at an Arria-Formula Meeting at the UN Security Council in September 2020 on the Douma controversy. But it also opened him up to attacks by TYT, with co-host Kasparian deriding Maté as “the guy who denies that Syrian children were killed with chemical attacks.”

What Kasparian and her co-host Uygur get wrong is the fact that Maté does not deny anything, he simply reports the facts, which sustain the truth about the Douma attack – that it was a false-flag incident perpetrated by the Syrian rebels. Similar to what transpired at Ghouta in August 2013 – which set up the Syrian government to be attacked by the US in retaliation.

Intellectual incuriosity

However, one of the big problems with Maté’s reporting for the progressive wing of the American Left is that, in order to embrace it, they would need to radically alter their view about the legitimacy of the Assad regime, something they are loath to do. The formulation which sustains the current policy position of the progressive Left on Assad is that he is a brutal dictator who has, and will again, use chemical weapons against those who oppose him. The simplicity of this line of argument is that, so long as one can sustain the narrative that Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people, delving into a fact-based discussion about whether or not he is a brutal dictator is avoided by the logic that any man who uses chemical weapons against his own people is, by definition, a brutal dictator.

The reporting done by Maté and others on the allegations of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government has, by proving these allegations wrong, undermined the foundational argument used to sustain the notion of Bashar Assad as a brutal dictator. Stripped of this core argument, Assad’s critics are now called upon to venture into uncharted waters (at least for them) and examine the personal biography of the man they detest, the circumstances surrounding his rise to power, and the nature of his political struggle against deeply entrenched special interest groups opposed to meaningful political reform.

They would also have to examine the complicated relationship between Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood, and the role played by the Turkish government in promoting Muslim Brotherhood activities inside Syria. Any honest evaluation of Syria under Bashar Assad would also be compelled to look at the role of the drought that ravaged Syria between 2006-2011, collapsing the agricultural industry and forcing some 1.5 million rural Syrians to seek refuge in major urban centers such as Homs, Aleppo, and Damascus. The role played by Saudi Arabia in channeling reconstruction money into Syria would also need further examination, along with how this money was used to build mosques promoting Saudi-backed Salafist Islam that ran counter to the secular ideology of the Assad regime.

Lastly, the role played by the US, both in terms of destabilizing the entire region by invading Iraq in 2003, and the role that conflict had on radicalizing Islamic resistance inside Syria would have to be considered. As would the decision, following the Arab Spring of 2010-11, to begin providing training, money, weapons and other support to anti-Assad forces backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other regional powers.

The resulting civil conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced several million Syrians from their homes. The involvement of Iran, Hezbollah and Russia on the side of Syria, when combined with the false allegations of chemical weapons use by the Assad government, made it easy for the progressive wing of the American Left to condemn these interventions. However, that ignores the reality that, unlike every other foreign military presence inside Syria, these came at the invitation of the Syrian government and, as such, have a legitimacy under international law the others cannot claim. When the chemical weapons allegations are stripped away, the moral foundation for opposing Iranian, Hezbollah and Russian intervention collapses.

The fact of the matter is that the reporting by Maté and others deconstructed the lies about the Syrian government’s role in the chemical weapons attacks alleged by the US, OPCW and Syrian opposition and, simultaneously, exposed the dearth of intellectual curiosity on the part of Assad’s critics – especially among the ranks of the progressive Left. The antics of The Young Turks in attacking Maté, Dore, and anyone else (including myself) who dares seek a fact-based discussion about the true nature of Syria and its president only highlights how far many mainstream American progressives have fallen when it comes to Syria. Their claims to embrace fact and intellectual curiosity in the exploration of complex social, political, and economic issues fall flat when it comes to who rules Damascus.

Whether they can recover from this collapse of moral authority and lack of intellectual integrity is unknown. The answer hinges on their willingness to re-engage with a clean slate that allows all arguments to be heard and discussed free of the kind of rancor shown to Maté by The Young Turks. As of this writing, I wouldn’t hold my breath. But in the end, it does not matter – if the Syrian reality could survive US-backed jihadists, it will survive the fiction based, angst-driven antics of an American political elite that has become irrelevant and inconsequential in any universe except the one it currently occupies for its own edification and entertainment.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of ‘SCORPION KING: America’s Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump.’ He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector.

July 8, 2021 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Aid to Syria should go through the recognized government NOT Al Qaeda

Syria Solidarity Movement | July 6, 2021

The United Nations Charter mandates “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.

Turkey and the USA are in violation of this commitment as they occupy sections of northern and eastern Syria. In northern Idlib province, Turkey is doing this in alliance with the Syrian version of Al Qaeda called Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (formerly Jabhat al Nusra).

In the northeast, the US has invaded and is occupying the area in alliance with local proxies and mercenaries. For public relations purposes, the puppets changed their name to “Syrian Democratic Forces” after US military officers said, “You have to change your brand.”

These occupations clearly violate Syrian territorial integrity and the UN Charter.

The USA, Turkey and their allies want the world to ignore their violations of Syrian sovereignty. On top of that, they want the world to authorize and approve international border crossings for travel to their occupied zones. The Bab al Hawa crossing is now the main crossing on the border of Turkey and Syria. On the Syrian side, the area is controlled by [al Qaeda affiliates in Syria] in collusion with Turkey.  With Syrian civilians as hostages, Al Qaeda receives 1000 truckloads of supplies and support monthly.

This crossing is a clear violation of Syria’s territorial integrity and that is why United Nations Security Council members should vote NO to further authorization of an illegal entry point.  Respecting Syrian sovereignty and the UN Charter, the aid should go through the Syrian government. If there is concern about aid being distributed fairly in Idlib, a neutral international organization such as the Red Crescent can monitor or supervise the distribution of food and supplies.

The countries which seek “regime change” in Syria use civilians as a pretext while imposing crushing economic sanctions on most Syrians. They are pouring support into the Al Qaeda zone while strangling the vast majority of Syrians who live in government zones. Under US “Caesar” sanctions, it is prohibited to support any Syrian government rebuilding of hospitals, schools, water pumping stations, electricity power stations or residential housing. Syrian civilians now lack food, medicines, electricity, [water, fuel and building materials] because of the actions of the invaders [and occupiers].

The UN Charter should be followed and enforced.

Syria Solidarity Movement calls for the removal of US and Turkish occupations of northern and eastern Syria. We call for the United Nations Security Council to NOT authorize or participate in the violation of Syrian territorial integrity at Bab al Hawa border crossing.  We call for the US and western nations to stop their violations of Syrian sovereignty and their complicity and support of Al Qaeda in Syria.

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The Syria Solidarity Movement operates a modest humanitarian aid program to which all are welcome to provide US tax-deductible donations. For further information go to www.aidforsyrians.org.

July 8, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Pressed for answers on Syria cover-up, OPCW chief offers new lies and excuses

By Aaron Maté​ | The Grayzone | July 2, 2021

Facing growing outcry, OPCW Director General Fernando Arias went before the UN and told new falsehoods about his organization’s Syria cover-up scandal — along with more disingenuous excuses to avoid addressing it.

Part one of two


In the two years since the censorship of a Syria chemical weapons investigation was exposed, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Fernando Arias, has vigorously resisted accountability.

Arias has refused to investigate or explain the extensive manipulation of the OPCW’s probe of an alleged April 2018 chlorine attack in Douma. Rather than answer calls to meet with the veteran inspectors who protested the deception, Arias has disparaged them. The OPCW Director General (DG) has even resorted to feigning ignorance about the scandal, recently claiming that “I don’t know why” the organization’s final report on Douma “was contested.”

Facing growing pressure to address the cover-up – most prominently in a “Statement of Concern” from 28 notable signatories, including five former senior OPCW officials – Arias came before the United Nations Security Council on June 3rd to answer questions in open session for the first time.

In a nod to the public outcry, Arias backtracked from a previous statement that the Douma controversy could not be revisited. But while appearing to suggest that the investigation could be reopened, Arias offered more falsehoods about the scandal, and new disingenuous excuses to avoid addressing it.

This two-part report summarizes Arias’ latest evasions and distortions, which include the following:

• Rejecting proposals for resolving the Douma controvery, Arias invoked restrictions that do not appear to exist. Arias falsely claimed that the OPCW’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) has “no authority” to examine the suppressed Douma evidence. Arias also claimed that he personally has “no authority whatsoever to reopen this investigation,” even though the OPCW’s regulations contain no such limits.

• To discredit the vast quantity of work that was done for the investigation’s original report, which found no evidence of a chlorine attack, Arias falsely stated that the “bulk” of analysis was conducted after its chief author was no longer involved. To advance this falsehood, Arias cited a fabricated figure.

• Arias tacitly retracted a previous false claim that no state has challenged the Douma report’s conclusions. But instead of acknowledging that prior falsehood, he replaced it with a new one.

• Arias did not answer direct questions about the documented scientific fraud in the Douma probe, and how he plans to address it. The DG ignored a question from the Russian delegation about why the Final Report omitted the conclusions of NATO member state toxicologists who ruled out chlorine gas as the cause of death. And for the third time, Arias did not respond to a question asking whether he will agree to meet with the dissenting inspectors.

• A recent BBC podcast interviewed a purported OPCW source who discussed sensitive information and criticized the Douma whistleblowers, as well as the organization’s first Director General, José Bustani. Arias offered an absurd excuse to avoid launching an investigation, stating that he would only probe the breach of confidentiality if the BBC’s source “is identified.”

• Arias continued to deceptively minimize the role of the key dissenting inspector, Dr. Brendan Whelan. Arias downplayed the fact that Whelan was the scientific coordinator and chief author of the team’s original report, and falsely claimed that he was only involved “in a limited capacity.”

• Arias also continued to falsely downplay the role of the second known whistleblower, Ian Henderson. Arias’ latest distortions about Whelan and Henderson are addressed in the second part of this report.

Arias’ UN appearance was the latest chapter in a saga that has upended the world’s chemical weapons watchdog. In April 2018, the US, UK and France bombed Syria after accusing its government of committing a chemical attack in Douma. In March 2019, the OPCW released a final report that aligned with the US narrative that Syria was guilty of dropping chlorine gas cylinders on a pair of apartment buildings, including one where dozens of dead bodies were filmed. But an extraordinary trove of leaks soon exposed that the OPCW had published a whitewash.

Internal OPCW documents showed that the inspectors who investigated the Douma incident had found no evidence of a chemical weapons attack. The files also revealed gross inconsistencies in the prevailing narrative that chlorine was the cause of death. These findings, if released, would have reinforced strong indications that extremist insurgents who controlled Douma had staged the incident, just as Syrian forces were set to retake control. But the Douma evidence was concealed in a multi-stage cover-up.

Unknown senior OPCW officials were caught trying to doctor the team’s original report to falsely suggest evidence of a chemical attack. A delegation of US officials also visited the Hague and, in a highly irregular move, tried to convince the team that chlorine gas was used by the Syrian government. The bulk of the original team who deployed in Douma was sidelined, replaced by officials who, for the most part, had not even set foot in Syria. The result was a deceptive final report that erased the key findings of the censored original.

Although the OPCW leaks first surfaced in May 2019, Arias did not face direct questioning about the controversy until December of last year, when he came before the United Nations Security Council. However, Arias refused to answer in open session, and reportedly gave vague, non-substantive answers in private.

The Director General’s decision to return to the UN to answer questions in open session followed growing public pressure, led by former senior UN official Hans von Sponeck, as well as Bustani, the former OPCW chief. Arias’ reliance on falsehoods and hollow excuses offered the most stark display yet that his handling of the Douma cover-up cannot be defended in good faith.

OPCW chief falsely claims “no authority whatsoever” to address Douma cover-up

Just weeks before his UN appearance, Arias told the European Parliament on April 14th that when it comes to the OPCW’s Douma scandal, “the matter is closed.”

But when he came before the UN Security Council on June 3rd, Arias changed his tune. Rather than personally closing the door on revisiting the probe, Arias now claimed that he does not have the authority to re-open it. Arias did so by citing OPCW rules and restrictions that do not appear to exist.

Arias’ fallacious excuse came in response to a new proposal to break the impasse. In April, the Berlin Group 21 – established by former UN assistant secretary general Hans von Sponeck, former OPCW chief Jose Bustani and Richard Falk, an eminent Princeton Law Professor – put forward a way to address the dispute over the Douma report. They urged Arias to allow the OPCW’s own Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) — a subsidiary body made up of 25 independent scientific and technical experts who serve in their personal capacities — to assess the claims of the dissenting inspectors.

“The SAB possesses the necessary scientific and technical expertise,” the Berlin Group 21 statement said. “[We] believe that leaving the scientific debate to the scientists, who best understand the issues at hand, would provide a more objective and rational approach to begin resolving this unfortunate and highly damaging controversy that surrounds the OPCW and indirectly endangers global security by eroding confidence in future findings relevant to alleged uses of chemical weapons.”

At the UN Security Council, Arias rejected this proposal, claiming that his hands are tied by the OPCW’s own regulations:

 The goal of the Scientific Advisory Board is written, in the terms of reference, is to enable the Director-General to render specialized advice in connection with very sophisticated, very complicated matters and issues related to chemicals and chemical weapons. Which means that the SAB has no role to assess the findings of the FFM. The FFM is entrusted to investigate and activate an investigation to produce a report. And this report—I sign the report, I don’t touch it—it goes directly to the policymaking organs, in this case the Executive Council. Which means that the SAB has no authority to reassess the investigation of the FFM or to assess any opinion of the inspectors produced on a personal basis.

In claiming that the SAB “has no authority to reassess” the Douma FFM’s findings, Arias is invoking a restriction that does not exist.

In citing the SAB’s terms of reference (ToR), Arias failed to mention that it – along with the Chemical Weapons Convention — explicitly allows for the establishment of a temporary working group of scientific experts to provide recommendations on “specific issues” – exactly as the Berlin Group 21 proposed. Paragraph 9 of the SAB’s ToR states:

In consultation with members of the [Scientific Advisory] Board, the Director-General may establish temporary working groups of scientific experts to provide recommendations within a specific time-frame on specific issues, in accordance with Article VIII, paragraph 45 of the [Chemical Weapons] Convention.

Contrary to Arias’ claim, there is nothing preventing him from convening a working group of scientific experts to review the particularly “specific issue” that is the Douma investigation – arguably the most internally contested specific issue in the OPCW’s history. Yet Arias is claiming that he is somehow hindered by regulations that, in reality, explicitly grant him the authority to do exactly what he now claims he cannot.

In stating this excuse, Arias also dismissed the work of the dissenting inspectors as having been “produced on a personal basis”, and therefore not subject to reevaluation. Yet there was nothing “personal” about the Brendan Whelan authored-original report, completed in June 2018 and reviewed and sanctioned by other inspectors, including the team leader. What remains unknown is who exactly were the senior OPCW officials who personally doctored its contents – a question that Arias has refused to investigate.

Arias also offered another hollow excuse. The OPCW chief claimed that he can no longer revisit the Douma investigation because it is no longer “in the hands” of his office, but instead the policy-making organizations of the OPCW. According to Arias, that power now lies in the hands of the Executive Council, (the rotating group of 41 member states who govern the OPCW), and the full Conference of State Parties (all OPCW member states):

 I have to say that the report of the FFM directed to Douma is in the hands of the Executive Council and the Conference. The Director-General has no authority whatsoever to reopen this investigation that concluded and was reported to the Executive Council, and through the Executive Council to the Conference. The matter is in the hands of the policymaking organs and not of the Director-General. The Executive Council was already seized of the matter in March 2019.

 This is the first time that the Director General has claimed that the report is out of his control, and instead “in the hands” of a higher body. In introducing this escape-hatch, Arias is now giving the appearance that in principle he no longer objects to a reopening of the investigation. In reality, he is skirting responsibility for that decision by passing it to executive bodies that have blocked any efforts to discuss the cover-up right from the start. Upon the release of the Douma final report in March 2019, the Executive Council immediately voted down a proposal to hear from all of the experts who worked on the Douma case. The US delegation lobbied to block the vote by reportedly arguing that such a hearing would be akin to “Stalinist trials.”

Contrary to Arias’ assertions, the Chemical Weapons Convention does not support his claim that once a final report is issued, it becomes “in the hands of the Executive Council and Conference.” The relevant passage of the CWC simply states that the “Director General shall promptly transmit the preliminary and final reports to the Executive Council and to all States Parties.” (Part XI of the Verification Annex to the CWC, Investigations of Alleged Uses of Chemical Weapons, Section D [Reports], paragraph 23.)

There is nothing to suggest here that the Executive Council – or the State Parties — becomes the custodian of these reports, or that the Technical Secretariat (TS), which the Director General oversees, somehow loses control over them.

This is indeed borne out by past practice. It is common for the TS to make amendments to final reports and issue them without the Executive Council’s permission. Such amendments, which are issued as official TS “Addendums” to published reports, can be minor technical or typographic corrections, but also major substantive additions.

This practice includes a previous OPCW investigation in Syria. After publishing a final report on alleged chemical attacks by insurgents in Syria in December 2015 (S/1318/2015/Rev.1), Syrian authorities invited the OPCW to return in order to collect further evidence that the report claimed was lacking. The FFM team paid a second visit to Syria one month later and published an Addendum to the final report — with details of its additional deployment — in February 2016. (S/1318/2015/Rev.1/Add.1).

The Addendum contains no mention of the Executive Council, and there is no record of any EC vote to authorize it. The opening paragraph reads:

 This addendum provides information further to “The Report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria Regarding the Incidents Described in Communications from the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates and Head of the National Authority of the Syrian Arab Republic” (S/1318/2015/Rev.1, dated 17 December 2015’).

In the case of Douma, no one is even proposing that the OPCW return to Syria, as it did after issuing that final report of December 2015. The OPCW is simply being asked to hear from the Douma probe’s own inspectors, and address their complaints including the doctoring of the mission’s original report. Arias is passing the buck to a concocted higher authority in order to avoid exercising his own.

Disparaging whistleblowers, OPCW chief cites a fabricated figure

In one of his few attempts to make a substantive claim in defense of the Douma investigation, OPCW Director General Ferando Arias has repeatedly asserted that “most of the analytical work took place” in the last six or seven months, when the dissenting inspectors were no longer part of the Douma Fact-Finding Mission (FFM). Because of this, Arias has claimed that the dissenting inspectors “had manifestly incomplete information on the Douma investigation,” rendering their protests “egregious.”

At the UN Security Council, Arias doubled down on this argument by adducing, for the first time, a purported figure to substantiate it. According to Arias, 70 samples were analyzed by the OPCW in the last six months of the investigation, when the dissenting inspectors were no longer involved. Arias made this claim twice:

The FFM, after Inspector B departed, worked for more than six months, during which the bulk of the results of the investigation was got by the team.  For instance, out of the more than 100 samples, around more than 70 results were brought in those last six months of the investigation.

… Of course, the bulk of the investigations related to Douma came after I arrived to the Organisation after July 2018.  Of the more than 100 samples, more than 70 good samples were analyzed after the summer of 2018.  The bulk of the investigation, the bulk of information, the bulk of analysis, of all the information that had been gathered came after the two inspectors left.”

Arias’ claim that “more than 70” samples “were analyzed after the summer of 2018” in the “last six months of the investigation” is a demonstrable falsehood. Unless the OPCW somehow failed to report dozens of analyzed samples until now, the claim of 70 samples is a fabricated figure. In reality, the final report on Douma shows that just 44 samples were analyzed throughout the entire probe. And just 13 of those samples were analyzed after the issuing of the interim report — i.e., after the dissenting inspectors were out of the picture.

With just 44 samples analyzed for the entire probe, and just 13 new samples analyzed in the final six months, this means that 70% of the Douma investigation’s total sample analysis was in fact conducted in its first month.

Completely inverting that reality, Arias has now produced a phony figure that paints a false picture of the work conducted in the six months after the dissenting inspectors were sidelined.

According to the Final Report, 70% of the total chemical samples analyzed were analyzed in the probe’s first month. Just 13 samples were analyzed in the last seven months, undermining OPCW DG Arias’ new claim that 70 samples were analyzed in that period. (Excerpt of Aaron Maté’s UN presentation, April 16 2021)

By claiming that the “bulk of the investigation” was conducted after the whistleblowers were no longer involved, Arias is also erasing other critical areas of work conducted in the first two months, and detailed in the suppressed original report.

As I recently detailed in a UN presentation, a comparison between the interim report of July 2018 and the final report of March 2019 shows that the vast majority of the investigation  was already done in the first two months in multiple key areas: 100% of the research of the scientific literature was done; 87% of the total interviews had been conducted and analyzed; a meeting with four NATO toxicologists had been convened, and 98.5% of the metadata analysis of media files from Douma was undertaken. In addition, a complete epidemiological study was reported in the original report, much of which was expunged from the final report.

This means that, contrary to Arias’ claim, the bulk of the work was in fact carried out in the probe’s first two months.

Retracting one falsehood, Arias replaces it with another

At the European Parliament in April, Arias falsely claimed that no state party has challenged any of the Douma report’s conclusions, and that Russia even “agrees” with them:

The conclusions of the report, paradoxically, have never been disputed by a state party. Even the Russian delegation agrees with the conclusions.

Arias’ implausible contention was that, despite the heated two-year public dispute over the Douma investigation, no member state has challenged it. Yet Syria and Russia have vigorously challenged the report’s findings, within the OPCW itself and in a series of UN Security Council debates.

As The Grayzone has previously reported, this phony talking point was first put forward by the NATO-tied website Bellingcat last year. Bellingcat produced excerpts of a letter that it claimed was sent by Arias in June 2019 to Dr. Brendan Whelan, the key dissenting inspector. This letter, Bellingcat declared, “reveals that at a diplomatic level behind closed doors, the Russian and Syrian governments have both agreed with the conclusions of the OPCW report.”

But The Grayzone then revealed that not only was this claim ludicrous, but based on a “letter” that was never actually sent. The Grayzone obtained and published Arias’ actual letter to Whelan, which contained none of Bellingcat’s text.

In a sign that he has now recognized the fallacy of the Bellingcat-promoted talking point, Arias tacitly walked it back in his June 3rd UN appearance. But instead of acknowledging his previous error, he replaced it with a new one. Arias now claimed:

None of the 193 Member States of the OPCW have challenged the findings of the FFM that chlorine was found on the scene of the attack, in Douma.

To support his claim about chlorine found at the scene, Arias cited a note verbal (diplomatic correspondence) from Russia:

I have here in front of me a note verbal of the Russian Embassy, dated the 26th of April 2019, note #759 that includes an attachment. It’s a Russian Federation paper, based on the conclusions of the report of the FFM in Douma. And this note required me to disseminate this report. This note, or report attached to the note by the Russian Embassy in The Hague said, “Conclusion. The Russian Federation does not challenge the findings contained in the FFM report regarding the possible presence of molecular chlorine in the cylinders, etc.” This is on the web page from the Organisation.

 Arias’ own source undermines his claim. Whereas Arias told the UN that no state has “challenged the findings of the FFM that chlorine was found on the scene,” his evidence for that statement – a Russian note verbal – simply states that Russia “does not challenge” that there was a “possible presence of molecular chlorine in the cylinders.”

The Russian correspondence goes on to explain why it explicitly does challenge the final report’s conclusion that chlorine was likely used as a chemical weapon. Responding to Arias at the UN, Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya read the relevant passage in full:

The Russian Federation does not challenge the findings contained in the FFM report regarding the possible presence of molecular chlorine on the cylinders.  However, the parameters, characteristics and exterior of the cylinders, as well as the data obtained from the locations of those incidents, are not consistent with the argument that they were dropped from an aircraft. The existing facts more likely indicate that there is a high probability that both cylinders were placed at Locations 2 and 4 manually rather than dropped from an aircraft. Apparently the factual material contained in the report does not allow us to draw a conclusion as to the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon. On that basis, the Russian Federation insists on the version that there was false evidence and on the staged character of the incident in Douma.

Therefore, the only contention that Russia did not challenge is that of a “possible” presence of molecular chlorine in the cylinders found in Douma. That is for obvious reasons.

No one has argued that there was no possibility of a chlorine presence. There were, after all, two chlorine cylinders found at the scene, so traces of chlorine could be expected. In reality, the OPCW did not even report any finding of chlorine gas on the cylinder. They found chloride, a breakdown product of chlorine gas but also a very common substance in the environment, and in household products like table salt and other chloride salts. Chloride theoretically could have been dispersed around the cylinders.

Other possible evidence of chlorine gas use came from very low traces of various chlorine-containing organic compounds (CLOCs) found at the scene — most, if not all, of which can be present in the environment. Because the OPCW failed to test background samples – an oversight or deliberate omission that Whelan later described as scientifically indefensible – it could not determine if these trace quantities of CLOCs found at the scene pointed to chlorine gas use, or if they came from benign sources.

When challenged at the UN on his misrepresentation of the Russian note verbal, Arias did not offer a rebuttal. He instead tersely stated: “The Russian note verbale is published and that is what they have to say.”

Arias’ willingness to deceive the UN on the details of the Douma probe and the OPCW’s own capacity to address it also extends to his portrayal of the whistleblowers, as we will explain in detail in the second part of this report.

July 4, 2021 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , , | Leave a comment

Envoy Rejects US Accusations against Iran as Baseless

Al-Manar | July 3, 2021

A top Iranian diplomat penned a letter to the UNSC, strongly rejecting allegations of the United States against Tehran over a recent attack near the Iraq-Syria border.

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi wrote a letter to the president of the UN Security Council, to react to anti-Iranian accusations of Washington.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has repeatedly announced that it has not had any direct or indirect role in attacks against US facilities or personnel in Iraq, reads the letter. Therefore, the letter continues, any attempt to attribute such allegations to Iran, either explicitly or implicitly, is false and baseless and lacks the most basic credible information. Tehran strongly rejects such claims and considers them legally invalid, added the envoy.

Iran vehemently rejects the arbitrary interpretation of the US of Article 51 of the UN Charter to justify its illegal June 27 attack on Syria and Iraq, said the envoy, adding that Tehran strongly condemns the aggression as violation of sovereignty of the two countries.

The US argument that such attacks were carried out to “deter” the Islamic Republic of Iran and so-called “Iranian-backed militias” from further attacks on US personnel or facilities in Iraq has no real or legal basis as it is based solely on an arbitrary interpretation of Article 51 of the UN Charter, added the diplomat.

Recent US attempts to accuse others to cover up its irresponsible and destabilizing activities and adventurous military actions in the region are doomed to failure, noted Takht-Ravanchi.

Earlier, the US representative to the UN had sent a letter to the UNSC, making accusations against Iran and claiming that the decision for attack was taken after it was proved that non-military measures were not enough.

July 4, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Syrian Kurds say ready to talk with Damascus government

Press TV – July 4, 2021 

The so-called Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, commonly known as Rojava, has said it is open to negotiations with the Syrian government which is in the final stages of purging foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants.

The foreign relations department of Rojava, in a statement issued on Saturday, responded positively to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s request for negotiations with the Damascus government, Kurdish Hawar news agency reported.

“The Syrian crisis can only be resolved through dialogue and a Syrian-Syrian understanding,” the statement read, adding that Syrian Kurds will make every effort to achieve such a goal, including talks with Damascus.

The report came a day after Lavrov said Moscow is ready to facilitate dialogue between Damascus and the Syrian Kurds provided that both sides stick to coherent positions.

“We are ready to encourage contacts and consultations but the sides need to have coherent positions,” he said on Friday, while warning that the Americans were pushing a considerable part of the Syrian Kurds towards separatism.

“I hope very much that those Kurds, who are interested in normalizing relations with Damascus, understand the provocative nature and see a big danger here,” the top Russian diplomat noted.

“Throughout the entire period of the crisis, especially after our military contingent was dispatched to Syria at the request of the legitimate government, we have been encouraging, even through our contacts on the ground, direct relations between Kurdish representatives and Damascus so that they could begin talks on how to live together in their country,” Lavrov said.

MEP: EU sanctions against Syria crime against humanity

Separately, a member of the European Parliament condemned EU sanctions against Syrian government officials, businesses and entities, terming the restrictive measures as a punishment against ordinary people in the war-battered Arab country.

Independent Irish politician Mick Wallace wrote in a post published on his official Twitter page on Saturday that the EU sanctions, with their main aim to change the Damascus government, are a crime against humanity.

“EU [countries] must end their illegal regime change sanctions on Syria. They are a collective punishment against the people; they are a crime against humanity,” Wallace said.

The MEP called upon European countries to observe international law, and respect Syria’s sovereignty.

The EU imposed the first round of its sanctions against Syria in May 2011. They include travel bans, asset freezes and measures targeting operations like oil imports, certain investments as well as technology transfer.

The Syrian government has repeatedly condemned the US and the EU for waging economic terrorism on the country through their unilateral sanctions, holding them responsible for the suffering of the Syrian people, especially now that the country is grappling with a deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Damascus has also been critical of the United Nations for keeping silent on the destructive role of the US and EU, among other parties supporting terrorism in Syria.

July 4, 2021 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Iraq PM strongly condemns US raids on PMU forces as ‘flagrant violation’ of country’s sovereignty

Press TV – June 28, 2021

Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi has strongly condemned as a “flagrant violation” of the Iraqi sovereignty an overnight airstrike by US warplanes against the positions of the anti-terror Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, in which several resistance fighters were killed.

“We condemn the US air attack that targeted a site last night on the Iraqi-Syrian border, which represents a blatant and unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty and Iraqi national security,” said a statement from Kadhemi’s office on Monday.

The statement added that the government will “study all legal options” to prevent such action being repeated.

The statement came after the Iraqi cabinet, headed by al-Kadhemi, held an emergency security meeting following the U.S. airstrikes.

In the early hours of the day, US warplanes attacked three positions purportedly belonging to the PMU along the border.

Later, the 14th Brigade of the PMU announced that four of its fighters had been killed when the warplanes hit its headquarters. The brigade is made up of the Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada anti-terror resistance group.

The PMU in general is an Iraqi government-sponsored umbrella organization composed of about 40 factions of volunteer counter-terrorism forces, including mostly Shia Muslims besides Sunni Muslims, Christians, and Kurds. The organization had a significant role in defeating the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Iraq.

Iraqi military condemns U.S. airstrikes on PMU’s positions

Separately, Iraq’s military spokesman Yehya Rasool denounced the US airstrike and said it was a “breach of sovereignty.”

“We condemn the US air attack that targeted a site on the Iraqi-Syrian border last night, which represents a blatant and unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty and national security in accordance with all international conventions.”

Rasool further called on all involved parties to exercise restraint and avoid any escalation of tensions.

He said Baghdad would work thoroughly to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.

Foreign Ministry: US attack on PMU violation of Iraq’s sovereignty

Additionally on Monday, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement, condemning the deadly strike. It was an “assault and a violation of national sovereignty and a clear departure from international norms and conventions,” the statement read.

“We affirm our adherence to Iraq’s sovereignty and unity and to rely on everything that would enhance that, through sustained coordination and communication with various parties and through diplomatic initiatives and endeavors that ensure the non-repetition of such rejected and condemned hostilities.”

Syria: US attacks prove its presence meant to serve Israel’s goals

Syria, for its part, also condemned in strongest terms the US flagrant aggression in the Syrian-Iraqi border region, describing it as a blatant violation of the sanctity of the Syrian and Iraqi territories.

An official source at Foreign and Expatriates Ministry told SANA that the US aggression, which was ordered by the highest ranks in the US leadership, proves once again “the recklessness of US policies and the need for Washington to withdraw its aggressor forces” from the region.

The Syrian foreign ministry source added that such acts of aggression only escalate the tense situation in the region and prove “what we have repeatedly said in Syria that the US military presence in our region is basically meant to serve the Israeli goals and the separatist forces contrary to the interests of its own people.”

The Syrian source concluded by saying that Damascus, once again, demands the US administration respect the territorial integrity of Syria and Iraq and to immediately stop those attacks on the independence of the two countries.

Al-Nujaba Movement: US will pay for its folly

In a relevant development on Monday, a senior member of Iraq’s al-Nujaba Movement, which is part of the PMU, said in a Twitter post that Washington would pay for its folly in attacking Iraq’s popular forces.

Ali al-Asadi said the Monday US airstrike was a desperate reaction to the latest manifestation of power by the PMU through a huge military parade, which was held to mark the anniversary of the PMU’s formation.

“This [attack] is another reason, which proves that the occupier does not care about stability of this country…. We tell the occupier: you will pay for your despicable measure and will suffer the consequences of your folly,” Asadi said.

Hezbollah: US airstrikes on PMU aimed to weaken anti-terror fight

Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement also reacted to the latest airstrikes by the occupying American forces on the PMU positions in western Iraq and Syria, strongly condemning the US act of aggression.

In a statement on Monday, Hezbollah said the air raid by American warplanes was blatant violation of sovereignty of both Iraq and Syria, which is aimed at weakening these countries’ power to fight terrorism on their soils.

Hezbollah then expressed support for the official condemnation of the US airstrike by Iraqi government and armed forces as well as various popular groups.

Yemen’s Ansarullah: US strikes aimed at supporting Daesh, al-Qaeda

In another development on Monday, the political office of Yemen’s Ansarullah movement issued a statement on the latest US airstrikes on Iraq’s PMU, expressing the movements condolences for the families of the PMU fighters killed in the US strikes.

“The US aggression is in line with its policy to provide aerial support for its criminal proxies, that is, the Daesh [Takfiri terrorist group] and al-Qaeda” in Syria and Iraq.

The Yemeni movement added that it strongly supported the powerful positions taken by Iraq’s officials and popular forces in opposition to the projects planned and carried out by the Great Satan, the United States, and Israel.

Yemen’s Ansarullah movement noted that the US act of aggression will only strengthen the determination of the Iraqi people and proves that the path chosen by the Iraqi nation is correct and should continue until complete expulsion of all occupying forces from the country.

US congresswoman: This failed policy will not make us any safer

Meanwhile, Ilhan Omar, a US congresswoman who represents Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, took to Twitter on Monday, condemning US act of aggression against Iraqi popular forces.

“This constant cycle of violence and retribution is a failed policy and will not make any of us safer,” she said.

Omar added that the US government cannot take any hostile action in other countries without the Congress’ approval, saying, “Congress has authority over War Powers and should be consulted before any escalation.”

Anti-American sentiments have been running high in Iraq since the US assassinated Iran’s anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, and the deputy head of Iraq’s PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in Baghdad on January 3, 2020.

Just two days later, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously passed a bill mandating the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq.

Iraqi resistance groups have pledged to take up arms against US forces if Washington fails to comply with the parliamentary order.

June 28, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Russian forces block US military patrol in northeast Syria

Press TV – June 22, 2021

Russian forces have blocked an American military convoy, comprising four armored vehicles, in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah province.

Russia’s RT television network reported on Monday that Russian personnel had stopped the US military patrol along the M4 highway, some 10 kilometers west of the town of Tall Tamr.

Informed sources said the US convoy was forced to return because it had violated security protocols between Moscow and Washington.

Russia said the US had not given prior notice regarding its troops’ movements in Hasakah.

Hasakah is occupied by American soldiers and the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed anti-Damascus alliance of mainly Kurdish militants. Turkey also controls areas in the province and elsewhere following military operations in northern Syria.

Russia has been helping Syrian forces in ongoing battles across the conflict-plagued state, mainly providing aerial support to ground operations against foreign-backed terrorists.

The Russian military assistance, which began in September 2015 at the request of the Damascus government, has proved effective as Syrians continue to recapture key areas from Takfiri elements.

However, the United States has deployed forces and military equipment in Syria without any authorization from Damascus or the UN.

It has long been training militants and stealing Syria’s oil, ignoring repeated calls by Damascus to end its occupation of the country.

Russia: US exacerbated humanitarian situation in Syria

In another development on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov complained that the humanitarian situation in Syria has been aggravated by the US through its illegal sanctions and occupation of the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.

“They are looting hydrocarbons and other mineral resources, and use the money they earn on that to finance projects that are seen by many as encouraging separatism and provoking dissolution of the Syrian state,” he said after talks with Helga Schmid, the secretary general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

He also warned against attempts by the United States and some European countries to hamper the return of Syrian refugees, noting that the Western assistance goes to camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon so as “to make the refugees stay there as long as possible.”

Lavrov further expressed Moscow’s readiness to discuss the humanitarian situation in Syria with the Western states if they recognize their responsibility in this regard.

“If the set of these factors is recognized as impacting the humanitarian situation in Syria, we are ready to discuss that as a whole. But our Western partners should categorically refuse from one-sided interpretations of these or those problems, and recognize their responsibility for the general situation in Syria’s humanitarian sphere,” he said.

June 22, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , | 5 Comments